Apocalypse World Burned Over Vs. 2e for Star War Saturdays

Rich,

I’m really curious about the choice of “Burned Over” instead of Apocalypse World (as in past SWS games). Was this a careful and deliberate choice, based on design features? Just an excuse to try something different? Or something in between?

How do you expect it to play differently?

Oh gosh, you give me too much credit, Paul! I don’t do much in gaming that’s careful and deliberate, especially when I post games on the calendar two months ahead of time. Often, I’ll post a game I’m interested in as a challenge to learn it in the next month or so.

That said, I do a podcast on PbtA games and felt compelled to learn the Burned Over rules. I’m terrible at learning games simply by reading, so I decided to post it up!

  • The Basic Moves overhaul are clearer on combat for me, I’m interested in seeing how slick it works in play.
  • I LOVE the revised Help and Interrupting rules, it’s really cool (Cartel’s probably still my favorite help rules) that two players can both roll for an action, it’s something I’ve never before, quite exciting.
  • The approach of taking some of the playbook-specific moves (dealing with a gang and workspace moves) and making them Basic Moves is super interesting. Makes sense with all the new playbooks.
  • AND ALL THE NEW PLAYBOOKS! I’m stoked to see these in play, they’re wild and evocative.

I spent some time last night pestering @Ferret about the Environ rules (he’s really got AW:BO down!). I’m excited to see those in play, they’re a sharp new approach to abstracting rules for disasters.
I haven’t gotten to Hard Zones yet, which is next on my list.

I’ve had so much fun digging into these rules that I’m working with @William_Nichols on a full-on Star Wars hack of them for April.

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I’m currently in a AW:BO campaign (3rd session) and I can tell you, it’s really worth it! I really like the new playbooks over the old ones. I feel they make the game more about belonging to some place or people. For instance I’m playing the Medic, with a place and a cult (of Death, because playing the “opposite” of a playbook is quite fun, right?). It’s hard not to care about anything with the new playbooks. And the hard zones are pretty cool too!

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Great answer, Rich! I heard the discussion about Burned Over on the podcast, and decided to come here to ask you some questions. I also like some of the minor changes in these rules - like the Helping rules, which, along with Cartel and Freebooting Venus (and maybe my own ‘The Bureau’), are some of the best PbtA helping rules yet.

Do the interrupting rules work only for highly interruptible moves, or anything that’s happening?

I’m a bit torn on Burned Over, because I appreciate the improvements and generally greater elegance of the rules compared to AW2, but I don’t really want a softer or less “adult” version of the game. It’s a bit unfortunate, from my perspective, that they “come together”, as a package. Not too sure what to do about that, but perhaps someone else will, sooner or later!

Will you come back here to give your thoughts on Hard Zones and other elements particular to BO?

I really like this tradition you have made out of doing Star Wars in different game systems. I hope you will write about and/or share the hack you’re working on when it’s done! That sounds like exciting stuff.

Did you ever publish anything about your Cartel Star Wars hack? Any playbooks, writeups, etc? It’s something I’m quite curious about trying myself.

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Interrupting works for everything, but on the moves marked as “highly interruptable”, the digital zine says:
“When you make a highly interruptible move, marked with *, you should announce that you’re making it and explicitly give everyone a chance to interrupt you. Otherwise, they can call a do-over and retroactively interrupt you if they want, even after you’ve finished your move and play’s continued on.”

Sure, as I explore further, I’ll try to come back and add some thoughts here.

I’m glad you like the SWS approach, it’s been helpful for me to learn more about game designs. I’m pretty sure @William_Nichols and I will share some progress on Burned Over Star Wars once we’ve gotten the hack to a playable state (goal is APRIL!)

As for Hutt Cartel, it’s such a light reskin, that anything I put out would just be @MagpieMark 's work reprinted. It really is Cartel with pew pew words.

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That’s great, Rich. I’m very keen to hear about all that as it happens. I hope you will share with us!

I can expand a bit on my questions:

I’m curious about the design of the Interrupt move because the materials I have don’t explain how and and when to use it. (Maybe the Zine does?)

It seems, on paper, highly effective and desirable as a move (even on a miss, nothing really bad happens), so I’m curious what limitations are in place for using it. In terms of the conversation at the table, when is it appropriate to use? Perhaps this will be something to discuss after you play, but I figured that since part of the goal of this series is to learn new games and systems, you might enjoy engaging in some discussion now.

Of course, I’m also curious about your experiences with other games in the series. It looks like you did Star Wars via DitV recently! How did that go?

For Hutt Cartel, did you find it difficult to make the kind of story and characters fit into a Star Wars universe? Did you end up with something that felt like a game of Cartel with some Star Wars gloss, or did it manage to feel more Star Wars-y than that?

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As one of the players, I think it felt very much like Star Wars even if the drug dealing theme is a little bit on the edge of that experience for me. It still fits with the Star Wars universe but it doesn’t aim for the core Star Wars experience, if that makes sense?

I haven’t played Cartel before so I can’t compare it to this, but to me this felt like a Star Wars game with an unusual theme rather than a narcofic game with a pasted on Star Wars theme.

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The zine does cover interrupts with more depth. I’m not entirely sure how it will play out at the table, but I’m excited to see it happen!

As for the Hutt Cartel question, I’ll go with @Anders answer there, it mirrors my own experience. Also, Anders was such an awesome Trandoshan Assassin! I think @Blaise would be proud!

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That sounds very cool!

I just saw the Rise of Skywalker a few hours ago, so I have some Star Wars on my mind at the moment. Thanks for engaging in this conversation.

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I’m glad that someone else has taken a stab at incarnating the most misunderstood creatures of the Star Wars Universe. #TrandoshansUnite

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NOTE: This topic was split off from SWS: Apocalypse World - Burned Over (Saturday mornings EST in March)

I have a question for those familiar with Burned Over:

Do you know what differences, if any, exist between the Patreon preview of the game (PDF) that Vincent put out and the version published in the zine?

Are people missing out if they play the rules from the Patreon preview?

(Edit: I haven’t looked carefully at the specifics of the playbooks and moves - or other such minutiae - but I am looking at the zine, and the text there is quite thorough, and quite good. I highly recommend it to anyone who’s interested in playing this!)

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Following up on this further, do you (Rich; or any other readers) have any special thoughts or advice on adapting Burned Over to Star Wars play?

Are there playbooks, moves, or rules that you want to omit? Change? Add? Why?

How will you deal with Hard Zones and other aspects of the rules?

Do any of the changes in the rules from AW2e seem particular well suited - or poorly suited - to the Star Wars genre/setting?

What jumps out at you?

For example, I find the omission of the “hot” stat interesting. In AW, you can be sexy and charming and persuasive without necessarily being alert and quick on the draw. In BO, though, you’re always both: if you’re charming and sexy and persuasive, you’re also cool under fire. That’s interesting.

I had a chance to play a nice, long session of Burned Over in Star Wars yesterday, so I’m going to write a quick report on it here. (@funkaoshi was one of the players, if he wants to chime in.)

This got fairly lengthy; read as much or as little as you want - I get into the playbooks and rules details in some detail later one (after the quick session summary).

I took a pretty heavily front-loaded approach, by throwing all kinds of prompts at the players, including a few questions about Star Wars characters (a framework I put together for creating something like a “opening” Star Wars film, a la New Hope or A Force Awakens) and a sort of “playset” about a town on a desert planet (originally for Apocalypse World), which includes some Love Letters (each player chose one). There was a lot of stuff, and we trimmed down (ignoring unnecessary bits) rather than building up.

The results were very successful. We ended up with two really neat characters:

  • An ex-Imperial military droid that had been reprogrammed by someone a long time ago. This person had a portion of their own brain removed and inserted into the droid, to give it a sort of semi-human sentience, and the droid was now living on Tatooine, working for Teemo the Hutt (thanks to Rich for the Teemo character - I don’t normally do much character voices, but doing the throaty Hutt laugh was strangely satisfying!).

  • In flies an offworlder - a smuggler wearing ill-fitting bounty hunter armour (clearly not his own!). He’s a force sensitive pilot with a destiny tied to the Dark Side (though he is not aware of that himself), with unconscious Force talents allowing him to manipulate people. Mechanically, he is a Brain-Picker using “in-brain puppet strings”, but the character thinks he is just the beneficiary of quick thinking and good luck.

  • It turns out that he is bringing cargo with him: a large, coffin-like, black floating slab. What’s inside? He doesn’t know, and hasn’t ever looked… until the droid tells him that the man he is supposed to find (the buyer) is a mysterious figure rumoured to be both a slaver and a cannibal (thanks to my Apocalypse World starter material!).

  • When Teemo the Hutt, with his Gamorrean guards (and, it seems, everyone else!) comes sniffing around this mysterious cargo, the droid takes advantage of the tense situation to open up the black coffin… and inside is a young woman, dressed like royalty, frozen in carbonite.

The smuggler, torn and uncertain (clearly struggling with moral questions here, in very Star Wars-appropriate manner), begins to try to unravel the situation, and blaster fire and exciting chases ensue, ending with the mysterious “buyer” cutting his way onto his fleeing ship with a lightsaber.

The session went well, with lots of great, creative ideas from the players (they established most of the background details above in response to my prompts), and the rules worked quite smoothly.

The smuggler is a Brain-Picker, with the low Aggro score inspiring the player to portray him as a bit nervous and non-confrontational, relying on his “in-brain puppet strings” to get what he wants. The droid is a Vigilant, which fit really nicely with his role as an ex-Imperial military droid working as a sort of guard/technician. He didn’t get to use the Vigilant moves much, but they suit the character well. (I didn’t get to work in the “wolves of the maelstrom” just yet, but if we play again, that seems to suggest all kinds of fun Star Wars weirdness.)

We treated the psychic maelstrom kind of like an eerie emanation of destiny and Dark Side fuckery, somewhat like in the Rise of Skywalker. It didn’t come into play a whole lot in our session, but everyone liked the implications.

Overall, the design is a little bit slicker/more polished than AW2e, which I enjoyed. I don’t find the playbooks as evocative or easy to grasp than AW’s - perhaps because they seem a bit more abstract in nature - but that worked really well for reskinning (since they can be interpreted more loosely/creatively). So, this could be a good tradeoff for our purposes.

Some specific notes:

  • I liked the “1st Impressions”, instead of “look”: both players seem to take inspiration from these to give their characters more personality (the Vigilant was “calm, thoughtful, and unhurried”, whereas the Brain-Picker was “cold and nervous” - suiting his mysterious connection to the Dark Side well).

  • The new Brain-Picker gear is written somewhat ambiguously (compared to the original Brainer), relying on precise wording to be interpreted. We struggled with how the “in-eye brain lenses” interact with the moves, for example (the player thought “taking the time to study them” is equivalent to “time and opportunity to work on someone”, which makes total sense, but I’m pretty sure it’s the Bakers’s intention here for that wording to be so precise for a reason - i.e. the lenses apply to “deep brain scan”, but not “in-brain puppet strings”, with the descriptions of the gear and moves corresponding exactly).

  • The moves are fairly loose and abstract in comparison to AW’s in places; this can make you feel like you have less support, but allows greater flexibility. So far, that worked well for us.

  • The triggers for Confront Someone and Charm or Deceive Someone are a little ambiguous, but we got by by looking at the consequences of each move and choosing the right move accordingly. For example, “bluff someone” (“Confront…”) and “deceive someone” (“Charm or Deceive…”) aren’t all that different, so it’s easy to think you should be using one move instead of the other if you’re just reading the written trigger. We had a situation where the droid pretended to “power down”, turning himself off, which was clearly an attempt to “deceive someone”, but the outcomes of that move didn’t suit the situation very well (so we went with “acting under fire”, instead). [Edit: I later found a little footnote on this in the “Tags” section, under Stealth, which basically helps you reconcile those two moves - if you look at its advice, the outcomes are pretty similar. So that’s worth looking up!]

  • There is no longer any option to “interfere” with someone else’s move. Personally, I didn’t miss it! Interrupting someone’s move feels much more vivid and real in the fiction. I still find it odd that interrupting “always works” (“on a miss, you still interrupt them”), but I’ll have to play more to get a sense of how that shakes out. The new Helping rule is great!

  • For someone playing for the first time, it’s good to note that the Harm moves aren’t part of the Standard Moves reference, which seems like a bit of an oversight (digging them up in the zine isn’t obvious!). And I think that the MC has to roll Vehicle harm for NPC vehicles, in combat situations, which is also kind of an odd departure from how most things work.

  • The Vigilant says that the character starts with Devotion, but we had no idea why. An error, maybe?

  • The vehicle moves are simplified (compared to AW2e), and I see that as a very welcome redesign. Sleeker and easier to use. “Deal with bad terrain” is perfect for Star Wars. “Outdrive another vehicle” also works well, although it assumes that the vehicles are bumping into and damaging each other. We used the v-harm numbers to interpret them shooting at one another, and that seemed to work OK for now (assuming that a bigger ship has more guns and can take more punishment seems reasonable enough!). It’s really hard to actually destroy another vehicle, though, so don’t expect to be blowing up TIE fighters one after the other!

  • I’m not 100% sold on all the “secret spend” moves, like Do Battle and Outdrive… - they work fine in practical terms, but I’m not sure I like the aesthetics of it. A purely personal thing, though! You may feel differently. I do feel a lot more confident handling PvP combat with the Do Battle move (compared to Seize by Force), so that’s a big plus. (And the ‘seize initiative’ clause worked well to represent an ambush, simply by assuming that the attacker already “seized the initiative” before the Battle began. That felt at once obvious and inspired, when the idea popped into my head.)

  • The “psi” rating seems like a good match for Star Wars, although I don’t know if psi-harm is. (It didn’t come up yet in our game! I think it would “feel” right for Dark Side psychic stuff but not Light Side Jedi things, but that’s just my guess so far.)

  • We didn’t play long enough for me to get a good sense of the experience rules - we missed highlighting a bit, and I’m not sure repeatedly checking off and erasing all the bubbles is worth the trouble, compared to marking experience on a miss, but I liked them in principle - the encouragement to use a variety of things on your sheet is a great feature. (The rules aren’t super clear on whether you get XP for using a playbook move, but I’d say that’s the most logical interpretation of “rolling the stat”, so we did.)

  • Hard Zones weren’t used (since we already had a setting and situation), but they seem like more of a detail/prompt/setting aid than something structurally important. (If I’m wrong, I’d like to hear about it! None of our character had Hard Zone-based prompts, so it’s possible the game would feel different if they had.) Most of the Hard Zones would fit well in a Star Wars setting, however! (I suppose that, in Star Wars, they would actually describe planets…)

  • Gamechangers didn’t come up (we’re not planning to play more than two sessions at the moment). I like them a lot in principle!

  • I feel like the Lawmaker’s Forbidding Presence move could use a “your call” clause, like the Operator’s Reputation. Otherwise, it’s a bit hard to gauge. Same goes for the Volatile’s Dangerous Presence, I suppose.

  • As I mentioned above, some of the playbooks’ ties to people and communities could work against a lot of typical Star Wars situations or plots, so that’s good to be aware of. (For instance, if your game is about a small band of smugglers flying around in the Millenium Falcon, you might have trouble with the Medic playbook.)

  • I really liked that there fewer (almost no!) purely mechanical moves, like AW’s stat substitution moves. Every move says something about the character, which I prefer. I don’t know about the "add an automatic question to read a situation; it seems to go against the idea of a “charged situation” in some cases, but it didn’t come up in play, so I should hold off on judgement in this case - maybe it plays just great! Also, Rewired Reflexes is a particularly interesting move in this respect.

  • The concept and moves for the Undaunted seem to be screaming out for a Jedi character (seriously, just look at that!), but the other character details don’t necessarily fit (being a protective parent, being unarmed, etc). The Vigilant has hints of a Ben Kenobi-type character, as well.

  • The Weaponized is a bit of an odd playbook, and I’m not sure if it could work in the Star Wars context without some thinking. However, its “molecular-edged long blade” seems like a good candidate for lightsaber stats.

  • Pinpoints and Terrain are a very natural fit for Star Wars - of course! A great tool for this purpose. Pinpoints are all over the place in Star Wars stories.

(@lumpley, if you’re looking for feedback on Burned Over, here you go! I apologize for the Star Wars focus - obviously not likely what you intended. Ha!)

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Another note that rather suprised me:

Although the naming conventions are so wildly different, we found that a LOT of AW/Burned Over names actually sound pretty fitting in a Star Wars universe. A happy discovery! Somehow I didn’t expect that, but there are a lot of single-syllable names and nicknames that seem pretty apposite. We had a Dustwich and an Ambergrease, for example, and (picking from the two character playbooks) Marsh, Lively, Burroughs, Gritch, Iris, Marie, Cybelle, Brace, Sundown, Zand, Vann, Cezar, Rowan, Greta, Zeus, Hanna, Orion, Fenris, Zmeya, Gargoyle, Vulture, Raven, Peregrine, Mongoose, Widow all seem like they “work” in the setting, especially for human characters (the proper name-sounding ones) and aliens (the nickname-like ones). Other good names from the NPC list include Preen, Crine, Ik, Shan, Isle, Ula, Ba, Roark, Rum, Wisher, Partridge, Krin, Grome, Clarion, Haridan, and many others. It was a pleasant surprise to see that playing this even without a list of Star Wars names didn’t leave us hanging. You - the truly devoted Star Wars fan and GM - probably DO have such a list on hand, but it’s good to see that you can easily get by without it!

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Somehow I got confused and continued writing about this in another thread. I’ll copy the text here:

And then the final session:

And a note:

I didn’t notice at first, but Burned Over has the harm move rewritten as a positive roll - that is, you want to roll high, unlike in AW. You subtract the harm done from your roll.

This is an odd change. It’s certainly nice that the roll doesn’t invert the desired outcomes (high is good, as usual!), but the side effect is that the harm rolls are much worse for you - depending on the exact numbers, it’s often the equivalent of rolling at -2 (compared to AW). For instance, 2 harm in AW means 2d6+2, giving you a 1/6 chance (roughly) of the best possible outcome on the harm move. In Burned Over, though, you’re rolling 2d6-2, so your odds of the best possible outcome are now only 1/36! Quite a change, and it applies to all the variations (e.g. vehicular harm).

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