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The Apocalypse World world creation process has the GM create several fronts. Each front is a series of linked threats, such as a parasitic disease, a nomadic group that spreads it and a mob that tries to find scapegoats to take the blame for the spreading illness. Each front also has some countdowns that portray the progression of the situation of the front, for example 0:00 could be relative tranquility while 9:00 would perhaps mark infections breaking out of quarantine. The front and countdown sheets are included as a part of the basic playbook.

Are these front and countdown notes meant as notes for the GM or as public information also accessible to the PCs players?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

There are events happening in Apocalypse World that the players don't know about (yet), and fronts are how the GM collects these happenings and reasons about them. Fronts' details fall under the GM principles of Think offscreen too and Sometimes, disclaim decision-making. The players don't even need to know that fronts exist mechanically, but they're absolutely something that also exist in play that they can be concerned about. “Is Tum Tum's gang going to be a problem?” “Well, Dou says their waterhole dried up, so what do you think?”

If the players want to know more, let them go investigate. AW has lots of ways for the players to get more information.

Your fronts will tell you things to say, too. When a player’s character opens her brain to the world’s psychic maelstrom, for instance, the rules might tell you to reveal something interesting. Something interesting? Look to your fronts: Joe’s Girl has joined the water cult, I’ll bet they didn’t know that. So say that, and of course say it according to the principles. Maybe “deep under the brain-howling, you come to hear ... is it chanting? A list of people’s names, chanted over and over by a hundred subliminal voices. ‘Tum Tum ... Gnarly ... Fleece ... Lala ... Forner ... Joe’s Girl ... Shan ...’” (Player: “wait, Joe’s Girl? Shit FUCK.”) [page 121]

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None of the material or mechanics that are handled just by the MC are meant to be public. Fronts and Front countdowns are both "behind the curtain" mechanics that are for the MC's eyes only. As the Principles say:

  • Make your move, but misdirect
  • Make your move, but never speak its name
  • Address yourself to the characters, not the players

The substance, movements, and faces of a Front are revealed via your MC moves, which themselves should never be revealed to be merely moves. Revealing your prep material directly does an end-run around the conversation and most of the important game rules that the MC is asked to obey.

Now, this is not to say that revealing these things won't work, since there are as many ways for an RPG to work as there are roleplaying groups. But since you're asking whether these are meant to be public: no, nothing in the MC's hands is meant to be public knowledge. As designed, everything the players know comes to them via the eyes and ears and brains of their character during an MC move, and never are the MC's mechanics revealed.

If you reread the Fronts chapter with an eye for this, you'll find that it's assumed all through the text (emphasis mine):

  • "The purpose of your prep is to give you interesting things to say." (p. 136)

    That's the most important quote. The purpose of Fronts is to give you things to say, not to be a map of the future that the players can study.

  • "As MC you're going to be playing your fronts, playing your threats, but that doesn't mean anything mechanical. It means saying what they do." (p. 136)

  • "A countdown clock is a reminder to you as MC that your threats have impulse, direction, plans, intentions, the will to sustain action and to respond coherently to others'." (p. 143)
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Up to you, but I like it when they're visible.

The rules don't come down one way or another, but when I played in a Dungeon World long con game, the Front countdown was visible on the wall in front of us, and it added a great bit of tension to the game. Unless it interferes with your enjoyment of the game, I'd recommend making it known to the players. (That's as distinct from the PCs, who don't necessarily know how far the fronts have progressed.)

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In essence, Jadasc's answer is correct. There is no set yes/no, and it is left up to the DM to decide.

However, as an alternative, do not make the actual times visible to them, but describe things that their characters could pick up on. People in Shantyville have started falling ill. An angry mob burned a "witch" because she was supposedly spreading the disease. Mayor Bob declared martial law in Shantyville to try and stop the spread. The players do not need to know the actual timers to feel the tension, but you have to make certain their characters understand that things are heating up.

Players do not need to know how close to doom they are, just that things are getting heated up and if they don't act soon, whole villages might be put to the torch to try and stop the disease from spreading.

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Everything here is great except the first line, since the opposite is true in Apocalypse World (and which has an MC, not a DM). – SevenSidedDie Jul 17 '14 at 15:05
MC, DM, just a term. And it is never specifically stated for fonts that it is one of the "offscreen" MC resources, hence why I agree with Jadasc about it being left up to the DM to decide. The second part of my answer is answered more as I see how it was intended to work, but it is not how it is ruled. Hell, I personally feel that the most important rule to any RPG is "the DM decides". If you feel that some DM information should be visible to players, go right ahead, it's your game. – Theik Jul 18 '14 at 7:43
"MC" is a term that means the one specific style of GMing that AW demands; see pages 108–9. They're not interchangeable. Page 111 is pretty explicit that the MC's toys are supposed to be revealed only through description. So you can wave your hands around and say "but people can GM however they like!" but you can't claim that's what AW itself says—it is (in)famous for saying the opposite, that you must GM its way. – SevenSidedDie Jul 18 '14 at 15:29

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