Last post I wrote had me talking about the Agenda and Principles I’d adapted from Apocalypse World to use in my Star Wars: EoE game. I’d left that post off by saying that Moves are really where it’s at. This is the Moves post.
Moves Like Jabba
In Apocalypse World, if you do something that includesÂ picking up the dice and rolling, it’s called a Move. (FYI, that’s the last time I’m gonna capitalize that word, as it’ll get excessive if I keep it up).
That’s the most straightforward definition to start with. From that perspective, moves can be pretty granular. In traditional gaming spaces, you’d probably just call them “actions.” That’s not how I’m using them in Star Wars. Star Wars already has actions and maneuvers and such. What I use moves for is the more complicated definition.
GMs (MCs) in Apocalypse World also have moves. Their moves don’t involve dice, though. They’re narrative and reactionary. They always happen in response to what a player/character does, and they snowball from one to another.
For example, when a player flubs a roll in Apocalypse World, The GM often has the option to “make a hard move.” One of the moves the GM has available is “Separate Them.” There’s nothing to do with dice in that move, just narrative action.
“You take your shot and Grinder dives out of the way [this is where the player flubbed the roll]. He rolls to the side and knocks into the flimsy beam supporting the ceiling. It comes crashing down between you and Mook. You’re cut off [that was the Separate Them move]. What do you do?”
So the move doesn’t involve dice, and adds a narrative complication. The ending line “What do you do?” puts the ball back in the player’s corner and prompts them to make a move. Moves snowball.
Lightsabers Move It, Move It
Star War EoE has a whole bunch of mechanics to engage at any point in time. When you’re running a game, you need to have all these mechanics come into play when it makes sense for them to. For me, that’s what moves do.
Let’s take an example NPC that could show up in my game.
Base K’llon – Gamorrean Bounty Hunter
Act Dumber Than I Look
Shoot First, Maybe Ask Questions Later
Reach for More Than is Wise
And that’s it. When I make NPCs for this game, that’s what I put down on the index card. If you think back to my previous article when I said that character is more important than mechanics, this is what I meant. For me to do a good job of running an NPC, I need to know who the person is, and what they’ll do in a given situation.
If you’re familiar with Fate, you might also notice that those moves look a lot like Aspects. Just, rather than describing the character directly, they instead describe courses of action for that character. I have no idea what Base will do in a given situation, necessarily, but I do know that he’ll play dumb to get an advantage, always reach for his blaster with little remorse, and he’ll always be reckless when it comes to getting what’s his.
For me, moves give me the information I need to engage the mechanics. I honestly don’t care one bit what Base’s stats or abilities are. Fantasy Flight has helpfully made decks of generic NPCs that I’m lucky to have access to because one of my players owns all of them. When I get to game night, I take out my NPC index cards and I pull a stat card for each of them. I know the mechanics of the game enough to run it. The stats I need are on the cards. The moves I write for each of the NPCs let me know when to engage them.
(Game) Night Moves
Having ready access to the stat cards for a bunch of NPCs makes this method a lot easier than it otherwise would be, I’ve got to admit. I don’t have to worry about any of the crunchy bits when I sit down on game night to run. However, if you know how to build characters for whatever game you’re playing, or have ready access to pre-statted NPCs, you can use this method.
What I’ve described above is a really direct application, too. You can broaden the use of moves like this and apply them to whatever you’d like to do in a game. I recently ran a haunted ship adventure for Halloween, and I gave the areas of the ship itself some moves so I could have a good idea of what to do and when.
This all might seem like an extra layer of abstraction that doesn’t really help you. For me, when I think about a game from a mechanics-first perspective, I get lost in the numbers, abilities, attributes, etc. By focusing on theÂ who and what of a character, I can figure out how to use them during a game session in ways that escape me when I start with the mechanics.
If you’re in the same boat as me, give this a shot. I’d love to hear how it goes.
I really like the idea for the NPC; it refined the idea of aspect to NPC to more actionable elements which is nice.
The other GM moves is an interesting concept, I think the whole idea of good GM moves is to not just provide challenges but also reinforce the setting. So, for example, I think an interesting GM move for Star Wars would be “Bring the Storm Trooper” where some storm trooper show up to force the PC to change the balance or retreat in a fight, sneak around patrolling Storm Trooper or simply come to spice thing up when everything is calm.
Nice article – I’ve kind of conceptually done this before, but codifying it will help me use this on a regular basis in games.
While I’m neither a big fan of Fate or AW, I find this approach fascinating. I love how the idea conveys the motives and personality of the NPC but in a non-passive way. As neither of the games that inspired this idea are really good at building on this idea, I really wish you’d offered more examples. Maybe a follow-up article is in order.