[RPG] As a player, am I allowed to say the name of the move I want to make

movespowered-by-the-apocalypse

I've heard it differently from different MCs or MC-equivalents in the various games I've tried at cons. To pick one as an example, if I'm playing Apocalypse World, is this fine?

MC: So you were probably wondering when that 6- on the love letter was going to come due, Keeler? Well, it's right now. You're up top piloting the boat when the hatch to the bridge gets violently kicked open. It's Dremmer! And he's got a shotgun! And he says, "Hard to port, Keeler. Right. Fu[nn]ing. NOW!" What are you doing?

ME: Are we in danger if I let go of the wheel?

MC: Not for a little while. What are you planning?

ME: Okay, so I make like I'm gonna play along, and then let go of the wheel and dive for cover. I'm hoping I have enough time to get my gun out and make this a little less one-sided. That's acting under fire, surely.

Sometimes I've been told it's against the rules to say the name of the move I think I'm making like that.

Best Answer

As a player, you are absolutely* allowed to say the name of the move you want to make.

*Yeah, okay, TECHNICALLY Powered By The Apocalypse is the biggest tent which welcomes everyone in, and it's possible the rules I'm about to lay down are going to be explicitly contravened by something claiming that label. But they really shouldn't be.

The ideal for your part of the conversation, as a player, is that you have a course of action in mind and, when needed, a move to match it. When you have a move in mind you both name that move and describe that course of action to frame it as well as possible, because moves don't happen unless everyone at the table is clear on what's going on.

Here's the basics on it from page 10 of Apocalypse World 2e:

The rule for moves is to do it, do it. In order for it to be a move and for the player to roll dice, the character has to do something that counts as that move; and whenever the character does something that counts as a move, it's the move and the player rolls dice.

Usually it's unambiguous: "dammit, I guess I crawl out there. I try to keep my head down. I'm doing it under fire?" "Yep." But there are two ways they sometimes don't line up, and it's your job as MC to deal with them.

First is when a player says only that her character makes a move, without having her character actually take any such action. [...] Second is when a player has her character take action that counts as a move, but doesn't realize it, or doesn't intend it to be a move.

-- "Moves and Dice", Apocalypse World 2e

Even just leading with the name of the move you want to make shouldn't be regarded as "against the rules" somehow - by that logic, just narrating your actions without saying the move name is also "against the rules" because it needs MC intercession. If you're not sure about how to frame your part of the conversation, you can approach the question of what your character does from whatever angle you have the surest handle on, whether that's the move you want to make, the results you want to achieve, or the actions that make the most sense to narrate.

But this is a very common impression among people who read the rules - that players shouldn't be able to say the name of the move they want to make - and while there are plenty of play examples in the text that show things happening differently, I think people come away with that impression for two reasons. The first is that it shoulds up as the first counterexample in the moves section, and the second, probably larger one, is that it's different for the MC.

Why It's Different For The MC

Make your move, but never speak its name.

-- The Principles, Apocalypse World 2e, "The Master of Ceremonies"

You may notice this one at work in your example above - the MC doesn't say "Keeler, I'm using the Put Someone In A Spot move on you", even though that's totally what they're doing. The reason they don't is that saying the name of their move would be all downside, no upside.

All downside in that the thing the MC wants you to react to is Dremmer kicking down the door with a shotgun and barking orders. That's the most direct and precise thing that's happening - saying "I'm using the Put Someone In A Spot move" doesn't clarify anything and might just make it more confusing.

No upside in that the MC's choice of move doesn't participate in the game at all. Nothing about the choices available to you changes because the MC chose to describe their move as a Put Someone In A Spot move. More importantly, the MC's move doesn't have to be a topic of discussion, at least in that the MC doesn't have to justify their choice of move to you the way you have to justify yours to the MC.

So let's talk about that. Let's talk about

The Negotiation

You can object to the MC's moves, really for the same reasons the MC can object to yours - they don't make sense in the plot. Suppose last session you wrapped Dremmer in chains and threw him off the side of the boat, as a hedge against this precise scenario. Or, more happily, suppose you've hit a point where you've advanced the basic moves and last session you crit a roll to fast-talk Dremmer, and now he's your right hand and the MC isn't supposed to have him turn on you like this. It's not wrong to bring either of those up to the MC - they're only human, after all. Maybe they grabbed last month's threat map by accident. But the MC has authority to make the world act as they want it to, and they can smile and nod and say, sure, you did that, but here Dremmer is all the same. (Though they better have something real good planned if Dremmer's your right hand, is all I'm saying.)

In the same way, the MC needs to understand the kind of plot you're trying to create - which is why it's important to say it along with the name of your move when you know it, and why they try and find it out when you start with the move. The only objection they have to your moves is that they don't make sense in the plot - in your example, suppose you tried to charge Dremmer and seize the doorway by force. The MC can say, no, Dremmer's got the drop on you, you'll need to bait out a shot before you can struggle with him like that, and that's acting under fire. (Or, oppositely, suppose as a design compromise your boat bridge wound up tiny and sparse and there is no cover to dive to - but that also means Dremmer isn't so far away and you can seize the doorway by force.)

But crucially, within the space of possibility, you have control of your character, just as much as the MC controls the world. Not only that, the moves you make matter more in the game than the moves the MC makes. You're sharp but not cool, weird but not hard, and that matters for the success of what you're trying to do. (And maybe somebody wanted to see you go hard this session anyway so it's highlighted, which is another layer of decisions about what to do.) And the consequences of your moves shape what the MC can say about the future. There's every reason for you to have at least as much voice in what moves you make as the MC does, and you can't have that voice if you're not allowed to say what move you're intending to make. If you know, you should always say.

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