I’ve been reading the rules for Apocalypse World, since my favorite RPG system (guess which) is a derivative of it.

I’ve been reading the rules for Apocalypse World, since my favorite RPG system (guess which) is a derivative of it.

I’ve been reading the rules for Apocalypse World, since my favorite RPG system (guess which) is a derivative of it.

As I read through the book, I notice a lot of things that are really different, such as HP versus harm track, and how stats are handled differently.

I suspect that most of these changes are made to make the game feel more like old school D&D.

However, I still like how AW handles stats more than how DW does. It is not because I am dissatisfied or anything, it just “feels” better.

To be honest, I don’t like the 3-18 stat array from DW, mainly because it feels a lot like a “ability tax” system. If you have 13 in a stat, then you must spend three levels worth of attribute points in order to go from a +1 bonus to a +2 bonus. Anything in between has no tangible effect.

You can’t even compare the stats against monsters since they have none. Each time you want to see if you’re stronger than a monster in some way, you Defy Danger using strength, since this form of stat comparison is unsupported.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the simplicity of monsters, it is not because I wanted them to be more complicated. I just dislike the “tax”.

I might also just be perceiving this the wrong way. Is there something I’m missing here? What is the point of the “in-between” values?

If Adam Koebel or Sage LaTorra would give an answer to this, I’d be most happy, although I suspect it is merely because the stats are a sacred cow to D&D.

35 thoughts on “I’ve been reading the rules for Apocalypse World, since my favorite RPG system (guess which) is a derivative of it.”

  1. I kind of agree.  I think that in the original (“red book” i think it was called), early versions of DW it just used the -3 – +3 spread like AW.  The 3-18 seems to serve little purpose other than to give you stats like you’d have in D&D, and to cause it to take multiple levels of investment to increase your effective score.

  2. There definitely is very cool stuff there… though I’m not sure much of it is relevant to this particular issue?  But I could be wrong… I’ve only seen a few of the “non-official” AW playbooks.

  3. At first I felt that the 3-18 spread was a forced bit to make it seem more like D&D.  But, I’ve come to feel it’s actually a really elegant method of progression.  I mean, maybe you have to spend three levels to get a +1, but actually, those are freebies.  You don’t have to spend your improvements to improve your stats, like you do in AW.

  4. Kasper Brohus: it’s a deliberate D&D-ism for nostalgia value, same as the five-point alignment system and the races being “default D&D” in tone. It’s part-and-parcel of the whole “Dungeon World is oldschool D&D with newschool mechanics” angle, because it pretty strongly contributes to the “feel” of D&D.

    If you’re not interested in taking bits of D&D for the sake of taking bits of D&D, the six full stats are basically pointless except for this:

    1) they’re nearly untapped design space. As in, Charisma has a very minor impact on prices, but aside from that Constitution is the only one in use. A fair few people have mentioned they thought of making a base class that uses mana points to cast spells, with Mana based Wisdom in the same way that HP is based on Constitution. This is their main redeeming feature.

    2) they’re a pacing mechanism. You get a point a level so you feel like you’re improving constantly, even though the net mechanical effect only occurs every 2-3 levels. Constant rewards generally keep people engaged.

    If neither of those is something you care about, there’s nothing stopping you from hacking them out of the game – precisely because they’re nearly untapped design space. All it would take is figuring out when player stats should go up and how much HP each class needs to have.

    I don’t think this is worth doing, though – see below for my attempt at hacking stats out.

  5. The 3-18 spread makes sense in a system where you have lots of stat vs D20 checks, in this case the difference between a 13-14 is important, even if it does not give a bonus to other rolls.

  6. Assuming players want to specialise in two of the six stats as they level up and be merely okay in the rest, players would probably end up doing the following:

    Level 2: increase lowest stat (8) by 1 (mods: -1 goes to +0)

    Level 3: increase secondary stat (15) by 1 (+1 to +2)

    Level 4: increase third lowest stat (12) by 1 (+0 to +1)

    Level 5+6: increase primary stat (16) by 2 (+2 to +3)

    Level 7+8: increase secondary stat (15+1) by 2 (+2 to +3).

    Level 9+10: doesn’t matter, you can’t raise any mods with two points.

    This leaves you with a final stat array of +3, +3, +1, +1, +0, +0. This makes you very good at whatever your primary and secondary lets you do, okay at whatever you chose as your tertiary/quaternary, and middling at everything else.

    Alternatively, you could put those two points from level 2 and 4 into your tertiary and end up with +3, +3, +2, +0, +0, -1. Unless I got basic maths wrong that’s five +1s over ten levels.

    There’s a couple of choices here:

    1) tell the players what to increase at what level (i.e. “at level 2 increase your lowest to +0”). This is probably going to end up being clunkily worded, but keeps the pacing intact. 

    2) just let players pick where they want those +1s. The disadvantage here is that this doesn’t map directly to the pacing you get from upping your stats directly, because it doesn’t take as long to go from -1 to +0 as it does to go from +1 to +2. In this case, you can just give the players a +1 every other level (2, 4, 6, 8, 10) to put wherever they want.

    I’d be interested in knowing if Sage/Adam did any mathing around this, and if there’s a significant difference between the two options; I can’t tell at a glance. I’d personally err on the side of elegance and go for the second option.

    This leaves us with estimating the typical HP for a given class based on what score you’d normally put in Constitution.

  7. Excuse the word vomit, but here comes more (skip this if you have nightmare flashbacks to optimising D&D characters and go to the next post):

    The problem with HP is a bit more complicated, since you’re going to have to give out fixed HP values. If you don’t, you’d have to either:

    1) allow the mod as an additive (e.g. Class X’s HP is 10+Con), which means that Con has a disproportionately lower effect on HP either way than Constitution does (the difference between Con +2 and Con +1 in DW could be 3HP, but it’s 1HP in this case)

    2) do something really clunky like use X+Y*Con to calculate HP. This is a pain because DW uses the pre-3.x stat progression instead of the newer one. Post-3.x, your mod is always equal to (stat-10)/2, so the stat progression from one point of mod to another is linear. This is obviously not the case in DW.

    Assuming you therefore give out fixed HP amounts (which is going to feel weird since players don’t get to influence their HP totals, but at least there’s only one of each class in play at a given time):

    Bard: Cha primary, then it’s a toss-up between Dex/Str and possibly even Int/Wis as secondaries. I’d say the typical Bard has a Constitution of either 9 or 12 under the normal system, so 15 or 18 HP. I think it’s easier to err on the side of the upper number, as there’s nothing inherently wrong with making the PCs a tiny bit tougher, so 18 HP seems right.

    Cleric: Wis primary for sure, Constitution would probably be 13 (+1 to H&S is more important than 2HP, IMO). 21 HP.

    Druid: Wis primary. Judicious use of Shapeshifter alleviates the need for high Str, and I’d err on the side of assuming a less physical Druid in general. Constitution 12-13; 19 HP.

    Fighter: Str primary, Con secondary (or possibly Con/Str if defensive). Constitution 15-16; 26 HP.

    Paladin: Strength/Charisma or Charisma/Strength. Constitution 13; 23 HP.

    Ranger: Dexterity/Wisdom (possibly Dex/Str if you don’t care about tracking and want to dual-wield; Str/Wis possible, but that would be gimping your Called Shot – is it me or does it seem like the Ranger should have the choice between Called Shot and something melee-oriented for its starting moves?). Probably Constitution 13, so 21 HP.

    Thief: Dex/Cha, Wis as tertiary for perception, possibly Int as quaternary to not play a dumb Thief. Constitution 9-12; 18 HP.

    Wizard: Int, and who cares about the rest. We’ll assume something like Wis or Dex as secondary/tertiary for perception/DD, and Constitution not being given the short end of the stick because the Wizard is already made of paper. Let’s go for Constitution 12 and 16 HP.

    Bonus round: Shaman: moves fuelled by HP, so Constitution is high priority. Cha/Con or possibly Cha/Str (or Wis)/Con if you’re feeling dangerous. Constitution 13-15; 21 HP.

  8. As you can see, with fixed HP, the range of numbers is sort of all over the place and is very arbitrary:

    Bard 18 HP; *Cleric* 21 HP; Druid 19 HP; Fighter 26 HP; Paladin 23 HP; Ranger 21 HP; *Thief* 18 HP; Wizard 16HP; Shaman 21 HP.

    That said, since I assumed the higher of two values whenever there was a choice, you could probably get away with rounding to the nearest multiple of five, like so:

    Bard 20 HP; Cleric 20 HP; Druid 20 HP; Fighter 25 HP; Paladin 25 HP (poor Fighter, there goes your very slight toughness advantage); Thief 20 HP; Wizard 15 HP; Shaman 20 HP.

    Rounding to the nearest multiple of three would probably work as a compromise (looks less arbitrary, preserves differences between classes).

  9. What about an Dex/Int Elf fighter with con tertirary? I think you are making a lot of assumptions that are really guided by the systen. Since all the basic moves are effective (only H&S and Volley depend on Class Damage) you can make a character in a lot of ways and still be effective. 

  10. There is a pretty big difference between roll+0 and roll+2; damage doesn’t have much to do with what a given class will or won’t be good at, especially since as you pointed out, only  H&S and Volley inherently care about your damage die.

    And yes, this makes assumptions; omelette, eggs, etc. The Dex-Fighter is certainly a trope, but it turns out there are no ranged Signature Weapon options (seriously, why not?). Even then, there’s nothing wrong with assuming Fighters will end up with high HP most of the time.

  11. Tim Franzke: a weapon you pick up is not the same thing as your Signature Weapon! Mind you, fixing this literally only requires adding “bow” to the list of basic looks and Near to the possible ranges.

    Anyway, as far as I’m concerned that maths-thinking above pretty much shows there’s no point in trying to remove the full stats from the game; it’s too hacky and takes away from the elegance of the system.

  12. I wish we had done a slightly better job of using the full scores more! That said, they’re used in various places in the game, and hopefully that serves to inspire people to use them more. Intelligence as Spell Points, Strength as a non-rolled megadamage, Constitution as a mass damage threshold—those are all easy uses that we didn’t touch on, but are easy to do.

    We wanted to keep them because of compatibility with other games, but we weren’t willing to just have no use for them. Constitution sets HP, Strength gives you a limit on 0 weight items, Wisdom is how long your soul stays on the mortal plane, Charisma makes things cheaper.


    Attention, big realisation. 


    You can get -1 STR and still have your +2 bonus. Or it could drop you down to a +1 depending on your full ability score. …

    rechecked the text

    No, debilities don’t work that way, they give you -1 to your modifier…

  14. Actually, after reading this thread I actually stopped disliking it. I have a tendency to over think rules when not actually playing. The rules for stats work excellent as written, and that’s actually all that really matters.

    However, you could easily make some custom moves that relied on the stat in question, and not the modifier. Diseases that dealt (X – Constitution) damage on a missed roll+CON could be an effect. Sure, it rapes low Con characters doubly since your chances for a miss i bigger, as well as the damage, but if it’s what you’re going for, then it’s a possibility.

    Disclaimer: Do not use above idea at home. Use at own peril.

  15. For what it’s worth, I like way using the old-school stat/bonus breakpoints encourages specialization, because it’s more efficient to raise your 16 to 18 than your 13 to 16 or your 9 to 13.  Makes it less likely that all the characters will have the same blandly good stats in everything.

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