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Feb 27

Better Action Through Currency

One area of play that I am conscious of streamlining or avoiding in The Sprawl is the planning paralysis phase that often seizes groups, particularly in Modern/Near Future/Sci-Fi settings. Another important Apocalypse World hack currently under development is The Regiment by Paul Riddle and John Harper (check it out, it’s awesome!). In considering how to adapt their idea of Battle Plans to streamline mission planning in The Sprawl,@dmgallo, SoCal game collaborator extraordinaire, inspired the idea of a kind of hold currency that could be earned during legwork:

There are two special types of hold: +intel and +gear. Characters in The Sprawl are all professionals; they may not always act like it, but they prepare like it and they have the experience you’d expect from professionals. You as a player, on the other hand, are probably not a professional shadow operative. These two currencies, +intel and +gear, allow you as a player to retroactively narrate that professionalism and planning into the action when it becomes relevant, rather than spending hours of game time planning every contingency. Do some legwork; find out the story; get some +intel and +gear; act boldly. The Sprawl is about action, not planning.

So +intel and +gear allow the player to add fictional positioning in terms of, respectively, some piece of information or of gear that would give them an advantage at whatever point they spend it. What I haven’t yet decided on is whether they should automatically come with a +1 forward towards completing the action, or whether the player would have the choice of changing the fiction or taking +1 to complete some established action.

At any rate, this has implications for three important moves in particular. The two main legwork moves, Hit the Street and Research, and the basic mission set-up move, Get the Job. Accordingly:

Hit the Street (Style)

When you go to a contact for help (including finding specialists, street doctors, new cyberware, buying gear and fencing hot items), roll+Style, on a 10+, choose 3, on at 7-9 choose 2:

  • They have what you want, immediately.
  • You get a little something extra… (+intel or +gear)
  • It doesn’t attract unexpected attention, complications or consequences.
  • The price is fair.
  • You can pay them later.

Research (Mind)

When you investigate a person, place, object, or service using some sort of library, dossier or database, ask a question from the list below and roll+Mind. On a hit, take +intel; the MC will answer your question. On a 10+ the answer your question generously, and answer a follow-up question as well. On a miss, the MC will answer your question… then make a move.

  • Where is ______?
  • How secure is ______?
  • What people or places are related to ______?
  • Who owned or employed ______?
  • What is the value of ______?
  • Who else has an interest in ______?

Get the Job (Edge)

When you negotiate about a jobs pay or conditions, or accept a job without negotiation: Roll+Edge, 10+ choose 3, 7-9 choose 1:

  • The employer provides useful information (+intel).

  • The employer provides useful assets (+gear).

  • The job pays well.

  • The meeting doesn’t attract attention.

  • The employer is identifiable.

One big advantage here is that it gives some mechanical teeth to Get the Job, which was previously rather loose. I’m less sure how I feel about the interaction between +intel and the list question format of Research. I like the restricted question list, especially now that the questions on it are both thematically focused and cover just about every relevant situation. Certainly it’s been some time since a player couldn’t access the information they wanted through the available questions. Is one list question (plus follow ups on a 10+) better for the game than one list question (plus two list questions on a 10+)? It seems worth playtesting at least.

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