The featured image doesn’t fully load so here’s what I did with the cover:
Yeeeeeeeep it’s finally fucking here.
The most charitable description I can muster for Apocalypse World is that it’s a pretentious indie hipster storygame that I was ASTONISHED to learn was released in 2010, making it at LEAST 10 years too late (at the time of its initial release) to excuse how unnecessarily dense and convoluted and just fucking BAD it looks. I’m not just talking about the layout but also what only Vincent would willfully mislead you into thinking was art:
Yes those are both pages from the Kickstarted, ahem, “2nd Edition” and yes the page has a black bar at the top for some reason. Also yes that’s what ALL the “art” looks like. Basically from what I’ve found Vincent takes creative commons photos and runs them through photoshop filters until you can barely tell what the fuck they’re supposed to be anymore. I don’t know if it’s an ironic hipster thing or what, taking the time to make something look objectively WORSE.
I gave Jiz Gordan shit for his art but jesus fucking christ its MILES better than anything Vincent could ever do. Compared to Zak and Crap Princess it’s about equal, which is funny because it doesn’t take Vincent nearly as long to shit it out AND he probably makes more money than both of them combined. Another funny thing is that Zak begged Vincent to let him do the art but Vincent declined so I wonder if he’s still sucking up to him or not. If either Zak or Crap were even barely passable artists it would be kinda depressing but they aren’t so it’s not.
Speaking of money I should mention that despite Vincent raking in over 150k from dumbasses on Kickstarter, the new one looks basically the same as the old one except the page count is all of ONE higher. There might be tweaks to the text and some of the “moves” (god I fucking HATE that term), but that could have easily been done by someone with a fraction of Vincent’s motivation or freely downloadable errata. But then Vincent couldn’t swindle hipster half-wits that think they’re playing some underrated underground roleplaying masterpiece out of a shitload of money.
I’m kidding of course: none of these elitist faggots actually PLAY RPGs. They just talk about them and occasionally shit out their own lazy hacks so they can pretend to be famous and successful and interesting.
What I’m getting at is that it’s VERY clear that this did NOT need a Kickstarter to pull off (to be fair something that could be said of pretty much EVERYTHING I’ve seen come lurching out of KS), NONE of the budget went into improving this in ANY discernible way, and Vincent doesn’t give a fuck because like all social justice indies he just wants money and attention.
Fun fact: apparently Vincent quit his job in 2001 so that Meguey could keep her job, but the only job I could find listed for her was “quilt historian”. Now I’m not sure if that’s sillier than a Gender Studies degree, I’m not convinced that such a job actually exists, and if it does I can’t imagine it paying much or anything at all.
So, I can only surmise that Vincent pretended to need a Kickstarter so that he could blow all the money on a huge stack of WAAAAAAAAAAAAAY overdue bills and/or debts. Not that ennies have ever meant anything but the only gold medal this game deserves is one for the Worst Shit-To-Funding Ratio. I haven’t heard of Vincent catching any flak for taking a fuckload of money and doing fuckall with it, which should say quite a bit about his audience.
Normally I’d say that if the game is fun then I can forgive the art and layout up to a point, but there’s a fucking limit to how charitable I can be and not only does this game LOOK like complete and utter shit it doesn’t look fun (or playable) AT FUCKING ALL.
The book opens up with The Basics, which tells you in pompous prose that an apocalypse happened but despite it being so recent that old people have childhood memories of it happening NO ONE KNOWS WHY. There’s also a psychic maelstrom from which “we none of us have shelter”. No that’s not a typo that’s exactly what it says in the book.
You need at least three players, one of which is the “Masters of Ceremonies” or MC, because pretentious indie hipster game gotta be pretentious. The book actually says this:
“Choose one player to be the Master of Ceremonies. Since this is the Master of Ceremonies’ playbook, that’s you.”
This would be like reading Rules Cyclopedia, and it saying on the FIRST FUCKING PAGE that you need x players and a DM, and since “this is the DM’s book that’s you”, even though it has all the rules and shit needed to play the game AND make a fucking character!
It THEN says “once you’ve got your group together, start the game with character creation. Before that, though, you have some prep to do. Read through the first part of this book, the basics, the playbooks, character creation, the MC, and the first session, and skim the rest, to get a handle on your job as the MC.”
What. The. FUUUUUUUUUCK.
This is everything that should have gone into a PREVIOUS section, BEFORE the basics. That’s like reading a What is D&D section and then it telling you nothing about the nonexistent world, how many people you need to play, that EVERYONE reading it is the DM, get your group together, but oh before you get your group together read the What is D&D section that you’re ALREADY SEVERAL PARAGRAPHS INTO plus a bunch of other shit.
The ENTIRE book looks like Vincent just wrote it down stream-of-consciousness style, and then didn’t go back to edit it, but he MUST have gone back and edited which makes it even worse. In the basics there’s a paragraph on Playbooks, which are just classes by a stupid name, but when you go to the Playbooks section there’s NO text describing what a playbook is. Instead it mentions every playbook along with some with some flavor text that reads like it was written by someone straight out of an entry-level college writing course (which of course is repeated AGAIN in each class to eat up space and further pad the already heavily padded wordcount).
Let’s compare this to an objectively superior game, Dungeon Crawl Classics.
After the table of contents and some admittedly silly instructions/requirements, you get the introduction, which tells you the core mechanic: roll a d20, apply a modifier, beat a number. Easy. Straightforward. Then there’s some explanation of how this differs from other D&D games, because the guys know that you’ve probably played others and they want to make it very clear what the differences are right away.
After that it drops you right into character creation: here’s how you do it, character creation funnel, the dice, the dice chain, what your stats mean, saving throws, languages, 0-level PCs. Sure it could be better arranged but it’s still MILES above Apocalypse World: the player shit is in the first part of the book, and the Judge shit is in the rest. Easy, clear division. No bullshit. WAAAAAAAAAY better art. It looks like the book was made by someone that actually cares about the game and hobby in general.
Dragging myself back to the AWful PDF, the basics talks about “the conversation” which is basically a VERY tryhard verbose way of saying “the players say stuff, then you say stuff, and then they roll to do stuff sometimes”. He tries to make it sound all artsy and deep, but like almost everything else he just comes across like a overblown ass.
Here’s an example right out of the next section, Moves and Dice:
“The rule for moves is to do it, do it. In order for it to be a move and for the player to roll dice, the character has to do something that counts as that move; and whenever the character does something that counts as a move, it’s the move and the player rolls dice.”
And here’s another example of how he writes:
“The moves cascade very naturally. Holds overlap, outcomes nest and double
up and flow seamlessly into new moves. Just remember the rule—if you
do it, you do it; to do it, you have to do it—and see their logic through.”
So deep. Much profound, right? WAAAAAY better than, “If the player says they want to do something, then you can have them roll dice to see what happens.” The book hasn’t even shown you what a move looks like, so I just imagine some poor naive player thinking “oh okay so if I say I shoot a guy, then I just shoot a guy”. I mean, to do it, DO IT, right?
The flipside is that if you SAY the name of a move, you actually DON’T “do it”. Instead, the GM is supposed to be a fucking disingenuous smartass and say “cool, what do you do?” So not so much “to do it do it” but “describe what you’re doing and hopefully I have you roll to do the thing you wanted to do in the first place”.
It also mentions that sometimes the player will “take action that counts as a move, but doesn’t realize it or doesn’t intend for it to be a move”. If a player shoves someone out of their way, then “they’re going aggro” apparently no fucking matter what.
I just gotta AGAIN compare this to d20. A player says “I attack the orc” they know to roll, and if they hit they roll damage. There’s no “KEWL WHAT DO U DO?!?!??!?” I don’t make them elaborately describe their fucking action just to arrive at what we BOTH know they want to do in the first place. This just sounds obnoxious AND time consuming.
But ANYWAY lets fast-forward to the part where the player actually rolls. I was originally exposed to the core mechanic when I reviewed the goddawful rip-off of a rip-off, Freebooters. Basically when you want to do something you roll 2d6 and add a modifier. A little odd but okay sounds easy enough. At least the player doesn’t have to describe the dice to the GM or some other bizarre shit. Where it gets incredibly clunky is how you interpret the results.
If you get a 6 or less you “miss” (which is almost always a misnomer) and REALLY means to just “the GM gets to do whatever”, a 7-9 means you kind of mostly maybe do it (why no stupid word that rarely applies here?), and a 10 or higher means you probably do it, though something bad might still happen anyway (sometimes this is called a hit, which like miss is almost always a misnomer).
Unlike something like D&D you can’t just say “I want to do that” and then the DM thinks about it, says okay, no, or rolls if they aren’t sure. No, EVERYTHING has to be shoehorned into a “move”. Let’s say you’re walking through a canyon and decided to scope everything out. Well that’s “read a sitch”. Maybe. It specifically says “when you read a charged situation”. There’s no move or rule for asking these questions outside of a “charged situation”. Maybe the GM just dicks you around until you finally give up and do something else that’s a move.
But let’s just ASSUME that something happens where you roll to read a sitch. You get to ask one to three questions depending on if you hit, miss, or kinda-sorta-do-it even though here it just means you get two questions, but they MUST be from a specific list. If you “miss” you can ask one but must be “prepared for the worst” (ie, GM does whatever).
In something like D&D the player would describe where they’re looking, and the DM would tell you what you see, maybe secretly roll some sort of stat or skill check if there’s something there and they want to surprise you, or just keep you on your toes. But that’s too intuitive and straightforward and how’s the GM going to inject fake DRAMA if you “miss” while looking around?
Often what triggers a move isn’t clear, or is contradicted later. Go Aggro says “when you go aggro on someone, make it clear what you want them to do and what you’ll do to them”. But what does go aggro MEAN? Well later, during ONE of the times when the book repeats all of the moves (and says Introducing the Basic Moves even though it’s ALREADY done that awhile back) it says that going aggro means attacking someone when they aren’t expecting it, or if they are expecting it, when they’re not ready for it.
What? So you go aggro when they aren’t expecting it or when they are but aren’t ready for it. Sounds like the same thing to me but whatever. Another example is Act Under Fire, where you’re trying to do something where there’s danger going on but then there’s Seize by Force which is stated to be a basic combat move that works for almost any situation, even though later it’s for when “someone wants something that someone else has, and both are able and willing to fight for it”. So even though both moves seem to fit the bill the book tells you to use Seize by Force for fighting…except when doing something while impressed, dismayed, or frightened and THEN you use Act Under Fire.
Got it? No? Ah well welcome to Apocalypse World!
Oh wait you still gotta make a character. The book doesn’t explain the process until AFTER you’ve seen all the class– er I mean PLAYBOOKS because that makes sense. For some reason instead of writing out the class information like a normal person Vincent just put the character sheet in the the book:
Each class follows an identical format: you get a character sheet, then on the next page there’s an introduction paragraph (I guess D&D playing CONFORMISTS would put the intro at the start) that repeats the same text you already read like 10 pages ago where they mentioned all the classes, battlebabe specific moves (which include abilities that let you change which stats you use when doing something, doesn’t sound like a “move” but hey it’s a pretentious indie hipster game), a whole section on a custom weapon, including blank boxes (does…does Vincent think you’re actually going to write IN the book?), and finally how to create a battlebabe. Again, because only stuffy fatcat conformists would put this stuff at the start where you’d logically expect.
Quick note Vincent is so woke and progressive and definitely not a skeevy white male so I’m pretty sure ALL of the looks are man, woman, ambiguous, transgressing, and occasionally something else like concealed.
Now it’s not until AFTER you’ve read the classes in a completely different section that the game tells you how to make a character. Each class can only be chosen once, and I have to point this out because the book is riddled with weird shit like this, but it tells you to print out the reference sheets (whatever those are), and then put them on the table where everyone can reach them and THEN to pass them around. It also tells you, the MC, to print out a single threat sheet, and that “you can print more threat sheets as you need them”, as if the typical AW player is so retarded they need to be told to do that.
Where it mentions stats (maybe for the first time, maybe not I have no idea) it explains via some more VERY clunky terminology: if it says “you get hard+3” then your “hard” stat is set to +3 no matter what, but if it says “you get +1hard” then you hard just goes up by one. No idea why there isn’t a space between the +1 and hard, but the whole thing is written so badly I’m never sure what’s a typo, though I’m sure Vincent would never admit to typos and pretend it was all SUPPOSED to be that way.
For the THIRD TIME time it brings up the basic “moves”. These were mentioned after all of the classes in their brief descriptions for some reason as a list, and then elaborated on after the classes instead of being in a “how to play the game” section for some reason, and then AGAIN it sort of explains them all without mechanics. This is all shit a competent designer would put in ONE spot: you’d explain what they’re about, then the mechanics. You wouldn’t break them up and scatter lists, mechanics and then descriptions throughout the book in the fucking CLASS section of all places.
After basic moves (AGAIN) it says “introducing the special moves”, but it ONLY MENTIONS THE SEX MOVE that each class gets, which makes me wonder why not just call that section “introducing the sex moves”.
So after special-moves-but-it’s-actually-just-the-sex-moves it goes to character moves and crap (it actually says character moves and crap), where it tells you to go to page 136 for the basic moves and when I go there I see that it’s the basic move mechanics PLUS elaborate descriptions so WHY the fuck are there at least two other basic move text walls explaining this shit?! I’m very curious what the book’s ACTUAL page count would be if you organized it and remove all the repetition.
Just to give you a better idea of what the fuck is going on, imagine cracking open the D&D Player’s Handbook. There’s like 3-4 pages where it devotes a badly written paragraph kind of explaining each class, and then has a list of shit you can do in the game: fight, explore, search an area, talk to monsters, etc.
Then imagine that AFTER all of the classes there is a section that tells you the mechanics for each activity that were mentioned before. THEN even later there’s a section that explains what they’re about, when you should do them, etc, and THEEEEEEEN there’s ANOTHER fucking spot where it does that plus the mechanics.
Two classes get vehicles, but anyone can start with one if the MC lets them so whats the point, and I gotta say that the rules for making them are possibly worse than what I’d expect to see out of something like Crap Hack or even Indie Hack: EVERY vehicle has a speed stat of 0 (it writes this as speed=0), whether it’s a bike or fucking farm tractor. You then choose one or two strengths, your call, and I have no idea why you’d ever just choose one, but the strengths are just words like fast, rugged, aggressive, tight, and so on. You also have to choose 1 or 2 weaknesses, dunno why you’d ever choose 2 but there ya go.
The last bit of character generation is to highlight stats. Basically you pick a stat that you find the most interesting and “highlight” it and…that’s it. It doesn’t tell you why in this spot, but I was eventually able to discover in another spot that rolling a highlighted stat for ANY reason gives you an experience point.
Okay so we’re out of the Character Creation-section-that-doesn’t-tell-you-how-to-create-a-character and into The Master of Ceremonies. It opens up by saying:
“That’s you, the MC, Apocalypse World’s GM.”
Even if, in all likelihood, you aren’t going to run the game but are just trying to learn how everything goes because nothing is where you’d expect it to be. It then says:
“There are a million ways to GM games; Apocalypse World calls for one way
in particular. This chapter is it. Follow these as rules. The whole rest of the
game is built upon this.”
Then it lists three agendas:
“Make Apocalypse World seem real.
Make the players’ characters’ lives not boring. (Which would sound better written as “Make the PCs’ lives exciting.)
Play to find out what happens”
After THAT it gets into some GMing advice. Some of it is reasonable, such as it’s not your “agenda” to make the PCs lose or pre-plan a storyline. Okay, sure, I can get behind that. The part where I roll my eyes is when Vincent claims that there’s “a certain discipline you need” in order to run his shitty RPG, which he immediately follows up with this middling word-salad:
“You have to commit yourself to the game’s fiction’s own internal logic and causality, driven by the players’ characters.”
Basically what I THINK Vincent is deliberately trying to obfuscate in yet another attempt to sound smarter than he is, is that what happens in the game should make sense based on what the PCs do. Problem is the game’s inherent mechanics DO NOT permit this. Partially because trying to do something and getting a “miss” can result in consequences that are COMPLETELY unrelated to what they were trying to do, partially because some things ONLY happen because the PCs did anything at all.
It reeks of Matt Colville-grade forced/fake “drama”, where a PC only gets dragged off by bad guys because someone else tried to shoot or steal something and “missed”, where the only reason your car got a flat tire was because you were driving across the desert and failed a roll to shoot at the bad guys, instead of well, just missing, which is what would normally happen. You could say “well yeah then why not just have the PCs gun jam or something like that” to which I would say “why the fuck would failing to shoot someone make your gun jam? Guns don’t jam because you have bad aim”.
But its Vincent and he’s an indie hipster that shit out a shitty indie hipster storygame after a pretend Kickstarter, so there’s needlessly over-complicated bullshit so Vincent can keep trying to trick people into thinking he’s smarter than he is. In one spot he says “make your move, but misdirect”, because Vincent thinks you should always just choose what you do from a list of what he calls moves. So in his example someone tries to grab a gun, misses, and then another character gets beat up and then another gets dragged off because you were too slow or clumsy to grab a gun. Doesn’t make any sense but hey it’s Vincent’s stupid example for his stupid non-game.
He tells you not to say the name of the move, but then “make like it’s the game’s fiction that chooses the move for you”, as if the players are going to believe that you didn’t choose the move from a preset list like the game fucking tells you to. But wait there’s more! In the next section he AGAIN tells you not to say the move’s name. Dunno why because he already told you not to do that. But HERE tells you it again and THEN follows it up with:
“The truth is that you’ve chosen a move and made it. Pretend, though, that there’s a fictional cause; pretend that it has a fictional effect.”
As opposed to, what? Pretend that there’s a NON-fictional cause and effect? I want to say it’s ironic but it’s really not, it’s games like Apocalypse World, Freebooters, Dungeon World and so on where you do shit that DOESN’T have a “fictional” cause and effect. You do shit where the actions are unrelated. You pull shit out of your ass and it’s SOOO clear you’re pulling it out of your ass. You’re not simply revealing the wizard behind the curtain, you’re grabbing your players by the collar and FORCING them to look at the wizard behind the curtain, who is autistically shrieking while shitting and pissing himself.
This is a game that was originally crapped out in 2010 (before Vincent devoured it and shit it out all over again), and not only were people so, SO fucking stupid enough to think it was good and that Vincent has even a handful of brain cells rattling around in the vast void between is ears, not only were these people stupid enough to pay for it, AGAIN, to the sum of over $150k, but even NOW they’ll still try to defend it as anything more than a mediocre pre-alpha build re-labeled and re-sold by a mediocre manlet.
Of course besides the unnecessarily convoluted nonsense GM advice there’s ALSO terrible GM advice, like “always give the characters what they work for”. Yep, if they want something, they get it. Simple as that. Don’t do any of this Mad Max shit where in the end he doesn’t get what he wanted. I mean if I was a blithering retard I’d probably think this game would be good for Mad Max. It’s not. It’s not good for anything. I guess you could use it as an example of how not to make a game, but it would be equally as subtle as taking a dump on a stack of paper and telling people to also not do that (though the latter would require more effort).
It’s like Vincent thinks that players are dumbasses and GMs in other games are inherently dishonest assholes who are ONLY out to kill the players, cheating if necessary, because maybe those are the only so-called “friends” he’s ever had?
Skipping ahead to Threats.
There’s another batch of words that basically translate to creating things to challenge the players including but not limited to people and then flesh them out between sessions. Sounds like stock DM advice BUT like a lazy high school student with an essay due the next day he stretches it out for most of a page.
There’s a list of “essential threats”, but there aren’t any other types of threat lists so I dunno why they’re called that. As with all things Apocalypse World you pick from a list: you got warlords, afflictions, brutes, etc. You then pick ONE Impulse (from a list_ because Vincent thinks you can boil down someone’s motivation to a single thing. Actually not even people and creatures but also INANIMATE OBJECTS. For example one Terrain “threat” is a wall, which has an “impulse” of “to bring someone up short”. I know what you’re thinking: what the fuck?
For everyone that’s never played a real RPG and/or never interacted with a person, when you’re playing something like D&D you don’t look at a wolf and think “okay what is it’s impulse”, you think “there are wolves here or the PCs can run into wolves, and they will do what I’d expect a wolf to do”. I don’t need an impulse like “hunt for food” or whatever in order to justify why they do what they do, not that you can distill even a wolf’s actions to just the ONE thing anyway. Similarly I don’t need a fucking impulse for a fucking disease or vehicle. Vehicles don’t have impulses: they don’t somehow feel the need to “keep moving” or “protect what it carries”. They are completely beholden to whoever the fuck is using them.
Everything, EVERYTHING about this stupid fucking game reinforces the fact that it is simply a game, and a poorly designed one at that. It’s like a video game that not only has a HUD with a life bar, ammo, map, etc, but IN THE GAME your character and NPCs constantly say and do things that remind you that you are JUST PLAYING A GAME. I’m barely a third of the way into it (though to be fair most of the second third are repeats of basic moves AND the class moves) but what more can I say at this point? What more NEEDS to be said? It’s pretentious. It looks like shit. It’s written like shit. Based on everything I’ve seen I’d be willing to bet anything that it PLAYS like shit. Honestly I’d rather play d20 Modern, or fuck, FOURTH EDITION Dungeons & Dragons AS-IS and converted on the fucking fly to that d20 Modern post-apocalypse splat they did.
The only POSSIBLE target audience I can think of are wannabe-punk hipster douchebags who only pretend to enjoy it because even after nearly a decade it’s STILL understandably not mainstream/are jealous that D&D is STILL more popular. That or people singing its imagined and hyperbolic praises so they can trick you into buying YET ANOTHER Powered by the Apocalypse hack (basically what supposed Crap Hack fans do). Probably both and I’m guessing its the latter milking the former.