Session 3: I Wuz Wrong, So Wrong
Tonight we’re getting back to our Apocalypse World game. And I’ve had time to complete my for-realsies prep.
I am a prep hater. And I’ve specifically called out conventional PbtA fronts as ehhhh I kind of don’t bother. And I usually don’t. But I wuz wrong, so wrong, probably on lack-of-time grounds that I then rationalized into a well-reasoned “argument.”
Well so I have time, now that my kid’s on a swim team and I have a lot of sitting around not doing much. And what can I say, my mind has turned toward the apocalyptic since, oh, exactly one year and a day ago.
For second session, I had kind of half-assed my way through ye olde “everyone and everything not a PC is a threat” stuff. Mostly just listed assets, figured out how to map ’em to the seven threat types. That wasn’t that interesting to me, mostly just hooking up fictional assets to GM move subsets and those kind of wear me out anyway. No, where it got very interesting for me was forcing myself through the whole process. I added clocks to the “big and/or interesting” problems and started cooking up custom moves.
Jason D’Angelo has been writing a series of really thorough discussions of the AW2E text. I’ve been following on and off for a bit but his latest one was super revelant so I wanted to call it out. I read it the day after I doodled up my threat clocks and it was interesting! For me, the clock process is a very interesting sort of uh…guided meditation. Yeah. It’s not traditional prep-prep, you know, stats and shit. It’s more like…let’s figure out the worst case scenario, accept that that’s the worst case, put it on a shelf, and take away the ladder so I can’t get to it again. It’s interesting! It’s like tricking yourself into granting your own text authority that overrides whatever whim may come to me later. Which, as a practical matter, it probably doesn’t. Not really. But if I’m taking “be true to your prep” super-seriously, well, that’s a very neat logical/rhetorical trick.
Doing up custom moves relative to my threats drives that effect home. It turns out I’ve developed a talent for writing moves, what with my various in-progress projects and a few throwaways over the years. What’s the done thing on those, anyway? Kosher/cool/expected to share those out for everyone, or to unleash them when the fiction dictates? I’m leaning toward the big reveals. But I’m really proud of a few of them and kind of want to show off. Maybe next week I’ll show the ones that got used and keep my powder dry for the ones I didn’t.
So anyway, yeah. I started out by dreaming through the stages my worst-case scenarios might pass through, keeping in mind I’ll have to live up to that later — it’s like how a responsible parent really can’t make empty threats to their kid, you know? Then if I add a move, well, that’s a rule. A capital-r Rule! Now I can’t back out. Very interesting process.
Building custom moves into prep is also interesting to me because it seems to break the sanctity of the official moves, in a way. This is a related topic that probably deserves its own thread at some point, but the tl;dr in my head is: Given the intense struggle we designers go through to nail down a common move set that captures our genre or theme juuust right, isn’t it interesting that the source document kind of doesn’t give a shit about moves that work juuust right? It’s pretty cavalier. And, sure, in a practical sense probably either most folks don’t do custom moves or if they do, they suck. And yet the game probably doesn’t suffer even in the face of sucky moves. Meanwhile it’s teaching MCs what makes for good moves.