Something’s wrong with the world and I don’t know what it is.
It used to be better, of course it did. In the golden age of legend, when there was enough to eat and enough hope, when there was one nation under god and people could lift their eyes and see beyond the horizon, beyond the day. Children were born happy and grew up rich.
Apocalypse World, Second Edition - Rules SummaryCollapse
Character Creation [ edit ]
Unlike most games you can't create a character on your own in Apocalypse World: character creation is a group process. To begin you first select a "playbook", and then decide on your character's name, look, etc.
Playbooks are essentially what would be called a "class" in other RPGs, but crossed with a character sheet. Each playbook includes all of the character's powers (ie. "moves") and their advancement options, as well as more traditional character sheet bits (like a place to write your stats, or the damage you've taken).
Apocalypse World offers a wide variety of interesting choices, such as the Brainer ("weird psycho psychic mindfucks"), the Driver (think Mad Max) or the Skinner (an attractive artist/entertainer). Each one is unique: no player can choose the same playbook.
Next everyone goes around the table and decides which other characters they have the most history with (ie. which characters their character knows well). Different playbooks offer different ways of doing this. For instance, the Driver picks one character that spent time with them on the road, and one character who helped get them out of trouble, while the Skinner instead picks a friend, a lover, and someone who is in love with them. Meanwhile the Brainer has a more unique (and secret) process for determining history.
History can be positive or negative, and when a character reaches either 4 or -4 Hx with a character they gain a point of experience and reset their Hx back to 1/-1. History can change at the end of an adventure (each player selects the character they learned the most about), or when two characters sleep together in-game.
Next the player has to decide on their character's stats. There are five stats in AW: Cool (how composed they are), Hard (ie. how violent they are), Hot (their physical attractiveness), Sharp (their intelligence/wits), and Weird (their luck/psychic connection).
Each playbook provides different options for picking stats. For instance, the Skinner has the following stat choices:
• Cool+1 Hard-1 Hot+2 Sharp+1 Weird=0
• Cool=0 Hard=0 Hot+2 Sharp=0 Weird+1
• Cool-1 Hard=0 Hot+2 Sharp+2 Weird-1
• Cool+1 Hard+1 Hot+2 Sharp+1 Weird-2
As part of character creation the character will have two of their stats "highlighted". If a sta is highlighted, and the character make a roll with that stat, they earn an experience point.
To decide which stats are highlighted the player whose character has the highest Hx score with the first character gets to highlight one of that character's stats. Next, the MC ("Master of Ceremonies", ie. game master) highlights another stat.
At the start or end of each game session the players can opt to highlight stats again, following the same process.
Each playbook has a set of unique "moves" that character can learn. Some playbooks (eg. Driver) get one fixed Move and the choice of a second, while others (eg. Skinner) get the choice of two moves.
For instance the Skinner can select the "An arresting skinner" move, which let's them remove an article of clothing to distract everyone in the room. The Driver can instead select the "Daredevil" move, which lets them get a point of armor for them and any convoy they lead ... if they are driving straight into danger.
Most moves are actions the character can take, but some simply provide in-game benefits. For instance, the Driver can select the "Collector" move, which provides them with two extra vehicles.
Core Mechanics [ edit ]
As with most RPGs, a player can have their character take many actions simply by describing them. However, for everything else they have to make a "move".
As mentioned previously each playbook has a set of unique moves, but there are also generic moves that every character can take. For instance, the Act Under Fire let's a character do something while under pressure, while the Seize With Force, Seduce/Manipulate, or Read a Person moves are fairly self-explanatory.
To make a move a player needs to make a 2d6 roll, adding the appropriate stat score to the roll. A roll of 6 or less is considered a failure (and the MC typically gets to make a move), a 7-9 is considered a partial success (the action succeeds, but some detrimental side effect happens), and a 10+ is a complete success.
Helping (or Hurting)
If a character wants to assist another character they can make a roll using their History (Hx) score with that character. If it succeeds they get to add +1 to the roll ... or subtract 2, if they are trying to stop them.
Master of Ceremonies Moves
The MC can also make moves, either in response to a failed player move, or simply whenever the game stalls. The MC has a wide variety of moves that they can make, and they don't have to roll to make them (they automatically succeed).
For instance, the MC can separate the party, take away their stuff, offer them an opportunity (with or without a cost), inflict harm, or announce off-screen badness (among many others).
Also after every move the MC gets a "what do you do" move. This is intended to focus the player on the story, and describing what their character actually does, rather than simply making abstract moves.
Combat [ edit ]
Because Apocalypse World is highly narrative-focused, there are no separate combat rules, such as rules for determining initiative. Instead players generally go first, but ultimately the MC decides who acts first in any situation.
Then, once combat starts, everyone involve can choose to make moves, and those moves are handled the same way as moves outside of combat.
Characters can takes "harm" (ie. damage) either as a result of others' actions, or their own (eg. a character who takes an Act Under Fire move and rolls a 7-9 may take harm as a result). The amount of harm taken is equal to the weapon's harm rating, minus the defender's armor rating (unless the weapon was an armor piercing one).
Each character has a "harm clock" (somewhat akin to hit points). When a player takes a point of harm they mark off a section (eg. 12:00 - 3:00, or 3:00 - 6:00) of the clock. There are three normal sections, and then the final (9:00-12:00) section is divided into three sub-sections.
Harm gets progressively worse. Harm up to 6:00 heals on its own over time, while harm from 6:00-9:00 won't improve over time, but won't get worse either. Harm in the final (9:00-12:00) section requires medical attention to heal, and a character who takes the 11:00-12:00 section is in fact dead (although they can still be revived).
When a character receives harm beyond 9:00 they can op to take a permanent injury known as a debility instead of taking any damage past 9:00. There is one debility for each stat, and each lowers that stat by one.