A House Askew

So, I’ve recently been rather taken with Avery McDaldno’s new game Dream Askew. If you’re not aware[*], it’s an Apocalypse World hack[**] which takes at least three interesting and innovative steps: first, to distribute MCing between the players and assign each a Situation (like a Front) to play; second, to give the players Principles to play their characters by (like MC principles in AW, but directed at running player characters); third, to convert the usual dice-based system to tokens – spend a token to make a Strong move, gain a token when you make a Weak move.

I am so impressed, in fact, that I’m thinking of making House on the Border a DA hack rather than an AW hack. DA’s mechanisms could solve some design problems I’ve been grappling with and meshes quite well with what I’ve written so far.

Just as before, each House would have a number of Values, things the House, uh, values in its own right – like Justice, Truth, Killing Nazis and such. I had been using an elaborate Value-specific XP system, but with the token-based approach this gets easier:

  • Whenever you do something that strongly accords with a Value, put a mark against it. When you do something that strongly opposes that Value, erase a mark against it.
  • When you have at least (say) 3 marks against a Value, you can make strong moves without paying a token, provided the action in question strongly accords with that Value. If you do, you don’t get to put a mark against it. In addition, when you take an action that strongly opposes that Value, erase 2 marks against it.
  • When you have at least (say) 6 marks against a Value, in addition to the above, you can make strong moves without paying a token, provided the action in question accords with that Value. And when you take an action that opposes that Value, erase 1 mark against it.
  • You can’t get more than (say) 7 marks against a Value.

The more virtuous your actions, the easier it is to act with virtue, but the more pressure you’ll be under to keep on the straight and narrow. Plus the token economy fixes two issue created by the previous system: first, that there was no generalised reward system; and second, that actions not according with any virtue lacked any mechanical support.

Of course, this will involve a significant rewrite of the game, with lots of custom moves needing amendment. And I really ought to play Dream Askew before going any further – at the moment I’m going on the way it works in my head rather than the way it works at the table. Which is fine, as I am very keen to give the game a try.

[*] If you’re not aware then you should definitely check it out. It’s not for everyone, I suspect, but there’s plenty of great ideas to chew on.

[**] Although, the more AW hacks I read the broader the definition of an AW hack seems to become. Eventually all games will be defined as AW hacks, including games created earlier than AW.