|This is what it's all about.|
Okay, so in my last post, on Why Apocalypse World rocks, I wrote that "[the] game is fluent, fast-paced, involving and fun."
Why is that? Let's take a look with the steps outlined in The Flow-er Model.
1. Player investment
I've got to admit, I was pumped as hell before diving into this game. Reading it, I felt that this is my idea of how improv roleplaying should be designed - So it had better work, or I would be wrong. I also got a group together I thought would be right for the game and my improv playstyle.
Okay, so that was a huge boost of energy for the game "for free". But there is also a way to increase player investment in your game design, by making a good first impression, and here Apocalypse World shines - When the players picked up the playbooks, they got invested. This was a game we wanted to play!
2. Sense of security
I think AW makes a very, very important point when establishing that the characters are sexy, the MC should be a fan of the characters, and that the MC should play with the other players, not against them.As I wrote in The Flow-er Model, if you make the players feel safe in their control, they will let go of control. If you try to yank their control out of their hands, they will just hold on firmer to it. Without this, I don't think AW would work, at least not in the way it does now. Apocalypse World is such a harsh place, it requires trust in your game group.
3. Shared vision
Here is where the benefits of a distinct style for your game comes in full force, and of course the fact that it is an improvised game.
The book specifically states that for first session prep, you should "day-dream some apocalyptic imagery", without committing to anything in particular. As the world is created through play and pre-play, the vision is shared. No-one knows anything anyone else doesn't know.
The game also has one move and one principle for the MC to ensure everyone is the same page: Tell consequences and ask ("This is what you think would happen, do you still want to do it?") and Draw maps like crazy. Basic advice, but very sound.
Nothing happen that the characters doesn't make happen.
Except for fronts. Fronts are these clusterfucks of badness to be managed before they end in catastrophe. That guy raising an army to take over your hardhold, the army itself, and your rival holds, that's a front.
What is neat about this is, as long as the characters creates trouble for themselves, you don't have to touch the fronts - But if you want to ramp the game up, or if things are slowing down, you bring in the fronts, they do something that brings them closer to fulfilling their agenda. And this in turn, encourages agency.
What I love about Apocalypse World is, every time you do something, you stick your neck out. You risk getting burnt, but if you don't do anything, then your guaranteed to sink and drown when trouble catches up with you. That's what the apocalyptic world is like - You can not be safe, unless you carve that safety out with tears, sweat and blood.
If you manage to convey the idea that there is no right or wrong, no story, and make both triumph and defeat interesting, the players will just keep acting. Great agency, great game.
This is interesting. In a way, Apocalypse World has the ultimate blocking - When you fail a roll, you are punished by an MC move. It doesn't feel like blocking though - Because even if you fail, you get something, something interesting that adds to the story.
Again, for this to work, the players needs to feel secure in the game, and be interested in exploring their character rather than playing to win. This is of course not a unique stance, most story games share it.
This game is so simple. Whenever a player says they want to do something, it should be pretty obvious which move that is. Make that move. Roll 2d6 plus one of the five stats. Miss, bad things happen. 7-9 good things happen, but maybe trouble too, 10+, perfect.
MC'ing just consists of following the to-do-list in the Master of Ceremonies chapter.
7. Yes, and...
I define Yes, and... techniques in roleplaying as a point where a player or the game says something, and then hands this over for another player to build on and interpret. It's a very inspiring and productive technique, and to my knowledge, AW uses three Yes, and... techniques:
1) There are lists to pick from everywhere, both in character generation, resolution you get to pick from lists and interpret just what that means.
2) Making a dice roll opens up for new story contributions.
3) The MC is constantly asking the players questions, which means the MC starts something that the player finishes/interprets. There is a balance here: The questions run from open, vague questions that leave a lot to the player; and strong questions that really are more of statements for the player to interpret. ("You killed his brother. Why?")
Does it work?
Oh hell yes
This analysis might be a little unfair even, as I built The Flow-er Model to map out and explain flow in roleplaying games such as Apocalypse World, Lady Blackbird and Berättelser från Staden. Of course it's going to "score" in a test constructed on itself.
Nevertheless, I feel Apocalypse World brings a great clarity to a design philosophy used by story games for some time now, and this model really stresses clarity throughout it's steps. Clarity both opens up this design philosophy for trad gamers, and makes a good design, really.