A lot has been said about how Vincent’s prose in Apocalypse World is colourful and evocative. Still, at least for me and those in my social circle (as well as for a significant number of people online, see basically any “New GM” threads in the PbtA reddit), trying to wrestle how to actually play the game from the text was quite challenging.
Apart from my own intellectual limitations, I think a major reason for this is the somewhat misguided introduction of fancy new terminology. +1 Forward/Ongoing aside, I feel the game term I had the most problem with is move. Years later, I now see that there is good reason to be confused here:
First of all, the word is used to reference two mechanisms, namely player moves and GM moves, which are fundamentally irreconcilable:
Not everything a player does is a move. Many games state this explicitly, usually in the context of combat: “If the enemy isn’t prepared for your attack […] then that’s not hack and slash” (DW).
Everything the GM does, however, is a move. This is RAW.
To make matters worse, there’s a third problem that hits hardest the people that are not acquainted with rpgs at all:
- Both concepts resemble, but are ultimately very different from, the canonical notion of a move in a traditional game. In any “traditional” game (chess, checkers, boardgames, whatever), a move is one of a very specific set of actions a player can take when their turn comes up. This, I think, is partially responsible for the very common misconception that moves in PbtA games are a set of prescriptive actions the player can take at any given moment.
I feel as if this was meant to reproduce the feel of a move in chess, the back-and-forth motion of player makes a move, GM makes a move in response, player makes another move and so on.
Still, taking all of the above into consideration, I think this is far from ideal communication, which leads me to the points I’d like to discuss with all you PbtA designers out there:
- Why have most of the PbtA games that came out afterwards reproduced this terminology? Am I missing something?
- How could we iterate on these terms and concepts to make our own designs better?
(Fellowship comes to mind as a game that changed this, framing GM moves as “Reactions” and “Cuts”, which I think is much clearer).
Anyway, new to the forums and would love to hear your opinions on this.