Sunday, 27 April 2014

Reap What You Sow: Debt and Payback in The 'Hood

Getting by in the 'hood isn't just about what you owe, it's about who you owe: at almost every step in every scheme, you've got to be thinking who is this gonna piss off? And how can I sweeten things with them again? It's about more than just money, there's the complex tangle of favours and the the history of trust and betrayal to work through.

Debt began life as just a placeholder name for the standard Hx rules from Apocalypse World: one of the underlying principles of The 'Hood is that it's all about the money, so it seemed natural to reflect that in the terms used where possible. Whereas history says you know each other, debt says you owe each other, but to begin with there wasn't more to it than that shift in emphasis for colour purposes. Debt first became an alternative advancement track when I was still playing about with the relationship between heat and experience; it struck me that part of growing up in the 'hood was learning tricks from your friends, or just dropping them right in it and taking advantage of them. Debt advancements are all about getting something back from another PC for all the trouble they've caused you: it might be a small favour, like getting the best deal possible from them, or it could be a big thing like getting them to take the rap for you when you're close to being burned. The debt advancement track makes it easier to get moves from other playbooks, but it limits your choices to the playbooks your friends have: you can't just learn stuff out of thin air, you've got to have been watching someone else at work before you can do it.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Agent Down

I watched Skyfall for the first time yesterday and, my brain working the way it does, I'd had an idea for a game by the end of the opening credits, so here it is. I really recommend watching some opening credit sequences from a bunch of James Bond films just before you sit down to play this.

This is a short(ish) game for 3-5 players and it starts when a secret agent dies in action; in order to play, you'll need a standard deck of playing cards and some poker chips; one of the players takes on the role of the Agent, the others are his memories of the past, though one of those is also the Dealer. The Agent starts with 5 poker chips and is dealt one card, which only they should look at, it must not be shown to any other player.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Nasty, Brutish & Short: Living & Dying in The 'Hood

There's no gain without pain and the 'hood holds a lot of pain: expressing that kind of lifestyle in my hack was a tricky balancing act between keeping the players hooked for more but also being honest about the lives of their characters. The PCs couldn't face a smackdown every time they stepped outside the bounds of the law, but nor could they act with impunity: there always had to be a chance that they would face the music, otherwise there was nothing stopping them from doing whatever the hell they wanted.

Heat was always intended as the mechanic for measuring just how much trouble each PC was in, right from the very beginning of Pond Life, the aborted precursor to The 'Hood. In that game, heat was a waste product of the jobs you did: you gained it as you took actions and having too much penalised you, especially in the end-game scenario of working out your character's ultimate fate. There were a couple of jobs that allowed you to lose heat, the most basic one being 'Go to jail', where you chose to take your PC out of play for a round and have them serve time for their crimes.

Friday, 18 April 2014

After the Fact

This is another mini-game/storygaming exercise suitable for two or more players, which focuses on finding out what happens before explaining how it happens; the GM is a capricious god who has almost total control over the fates of the characters, whom we only learn about as we play.

Before you start play, agree a suitably heroic or action-packed genre that you will play in, whether that is high fantasy, superheroes, spy thriller or whatever you like: one player is the GM, the rest are Protagonists. The GM creates a setting with a clear goal, the Protagonists each name themselves and why they are here, but give no other details; the Protagonists then take turns to say what they are doing to advance themselves towards the goal.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Ordinary World: Things Get Serious in The 'Hood

Apocalypse World is a very hackable system,  as there are some clear modular components to be changed for whatever type of game you want to create:

  • Stats
  • Moves
  • Playbooks
Creating an urban crime hack meant making decisions about what form those modules would take in the game I was looking for and I already had a clear idea about what I wanted some of them to be:

  • There was always going to be a reputation-style stat, for measuring how well known and respected you were.
  • There had to be a move for doing things aggressively and one for doing things on the sly.
  • I definitely wanted a gang-leader and a bent police office in the mix.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Pond Life: The Primordial Soup of The 'Hood

As I mentioned previously, the game that became The 'Hood started life in a very different form and went through a number of other iterations before I settled on the AW hack it is now. I can unreliably trace the roots of the design process (i.e. I can't actually remember, but this seems likely) back to around 2010, when I wrote Never to Die for Game Chef that year: I really liked the setting of that game and wanted to explore it further, taking it beyond the single, dramatic night out in the city that N2D focuses on.

There were a number of influences on my line of thinking at the time: in part, there was the housing estate I lived on, which was notorious for its rough reputation and higher-than-the-national average number of drug users and other crime statistics. I'd also had a discussion with friends at the MKRPG about the tendency for otherwise quite ordinary games to stick in something gonzo simply to attract potential players and how we were fed up with 'laser sharking': why couldn't a game with a realistic setting be as engaging as a game with a fantastic one?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The 'Hood: Now on Drivethru

As the title says, you can now buy digital copies of The 'Hood on DrivethruRPG, with a package that includes:

  • A home printer friendly version of the rules in landscape format (the freely available playbooks are taken from this)
  • A tablet optimised version so that you can read the book on the device of your choice.
You can grab both these goodies for the low price of £3.00 or $5.00!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

My Character Wouldn't Do That

This is a short storygame you can play with as few as two players as a brief exercise for roleplaying skills: the inspiration comes in part from reading spoilers for TV shows, where you find out "Next week, Character X kills the rest of their family" or something that sounds equally implausible, but then in context makes a lot more sense. This game is about finding the context that makes the implausible explicable.

Friday, 4 April 2014

The 'Hood: Getting to Know the Neighbours

To help facilitate playing The 'Hood, Tommy has put together this excellent pack containing versions of the playbooks that are easily printable at home, as well as some other resources to help you play or MC the game.

The 'Hood: Now Open for Business

This is it: my first published book. As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been working on this Apocalypse World hack now for a couple of years, ably assisted in the last year or so by Tommy Rayburn, who has brought his considerable graphic design skills to bear on putting my words into shape and presenting the whole thing in a visually agreeable way.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Warning: May Condone Nuts

Let's make some assumptions:

  1. You have some vague idea of who I am.
  2. You're interested in what I do.
With that in mind, here's what I've been doing recently: