In Apocalypse World, is it possible to try the same action more than one time? Let's say Bob is trying to sneak on an enemy's base, and fail to Do Something Under Fire - after I make as hard and direct a move as I like (let's say I put him in a spot), can he try again to do something under fire to be furtive?

If the answer is yes, I can see a problema with some actions where success in the second attempt turns the previous failure irrelevant - in the exemple above, when Bob succeeds in his second attempt, he is now unseen and the fact that he was put in a spot changes nothing in the fiction. Worse yet, the fact that we now had two dice rolls instead of one results in a loss of our time at the table (maybe not so much for one retried action, but if lots of actions are retried, well...).

If the answer is no, the problem I see is with the fact that players will start avoiding actions based on attributes they are not so good, because failure means they are definitely screwed.

This problem is upgraded when multiple players want to try the same test, simultaneously or one after the other (if the first one fails) - only now the chances of one of them succeeding is greater, and the penalty for failure is even greater: if I deny other players to (re-)try the same action, the whole group will suffer.

How am I supposed to deal with this in Apocalypse World, where more directly than other systems I've known, failure must be relevant?


3 Answers 3


Well, in Apocalypse World the moves flow from the fiction. So if he fails that first roll, and you "put him in a spot" - what is that? What does it look like? Is it just something "more sneak" can get him out of? If so, then sure, that's fair for him to do. So don't do that...

If he's sneaking and fails, he comes around a crate and there's a guy standing there who sees him and points his gun at him! "Sneak better" isn't a solution to that. Of course, he doesn't have to have the solution, I would assume you're letting the lead flow throughout the group, and that's usually a good time to say "oh no some goon has Sneaky McSneakerton dead in his sights... BattleBabe what can you do to save him from perforation?"

If "as hard as you like" is super wimpy, and his failure means "some guard comes by and might see you... What do you do" then of course, "get in that crate like Solid Snake and sneak harder" is a legitimate move trigger.

Your concern about people avoiding things they're bad at is a completely separate problem. To a degree it's not a problem, because in real life I avoid marathons and prefer technical challenges because I know I suck at the former. But of course, by using fiction that makes certain resolutions more feasible, you can influence what moves get triggered - remember, they don't choose the move, you do, based on their description of a reasonable fictional act. If it's infeasible, "no" instead of triggering a move is fine.

If a whole group thinks they can all make the same rolls several times, your hard moves are kinda on the flaccid side. Roll harder. Fail #1, oh another group of guards shows up, it must be shift change. Fail #2 someone gets spotted. Fail #3 here comes the grenades. Et cetera.


If the player uses the same move twice in a row, that's fine. Why not? Nothing in the rules says they can't. But when they make a move, the fiction is already supposed to change right there and then, whether they "succeed" or "fail".

Say we're in your example and the PC is sneaking around. He tries to act under fire and gets a 4, so it's your move, and you want to put someone in a spot. So you say "a guard shows up but doesn't see you." Is that putting them in a spot?

I claim it isn't. It's just embellishing the spot they're already in, right? They were already sneaking around because there was a threat that someone, guard or otherwise, might spot them being somewhere they shouldn't be. They're still somewhere they shouldn't be, and there's still a risk someone might spot them, and the only difference is now we have a particular someone instead of the vague threat of someone. So they can just say "I keep sneaking," sure. Doesn't matter if they succeed or not - the previous failure was already irrelevant.

On the other hand, you could say "A guard shows up and doesn't see you, but she's staring at the door you were heading for." If they try to sneak up to the door and open it while the guard's looking right at it, they aren't acting under fire, they're handing you a golden opportunity on a platter. This time, they can't just keep doing the same thing as before. They have to react to the situation somehow. THAT'S putting someone in a spot.

Or you could say "A guard shows up and starts actively searching for you." Now they can say "Okay, I try to slip past while the guard's back is turned," which I guess is sort of the same thing they were doing before, but you'd be well within your rights to say "They aren't turning their back. They're heading straight for you. Maybe you made a noise, or maybe it's just a lucky guess, but they'll be on you in a moment." Or else you could say "Okay, that's act under fire again," and they ace it and get away. Fine, but the guard is still out there searching for them. The situation has still changed.

Or you could announce offscreen badness instead: "As you duck behind some crates, you hear an explosion nearby. There are shrieks and the sounds of stampeding feet. What do you do?" "Uh... but nobody spots me, right? I just keep sneaking." Sure, if they want! They'll probably come face to face with whatever just happened soon enough. In fact, maybe this time they're not even acting under fire because the guards are too distracted to notice them.

Or remember, you get to make as hard a move as you like, and your job isn't to punish the players or make them lose. Maybe you offer an opportunity without a cost: "You duck behind a stack of crates and your foot hits a trunk on the floor. It has a label on it that says 'guard uniforms'." Maybe you think if the PC poses as a guard, that's tons more interesting than all this sneaking around, and you want to find out what they do if they can move freely around the enemy base. (Or maybe the uniform comes with strings attached! Maybe it's from before the guards' uniforms were redesigned, or maybe there's a nametag with the name of someone important, or maybe just whoever wore it previously had a nasty skin disease.)

The point is, if you make a move, something should change. If something changes, then the fiction has gone somewhere new. If the fiction goes somewhere new, then the die roll wasn't irrelevant, no matter what happens next or if the players "try again".


"Two players want to try the same thing" is a pretty prominent use case for the aid or interfere move. Roll aid first, then the move it was aiding.

If they're 100% in the same place trying the same thing in the same way, if the aid hits a 6- I'd suggest offering the aiding player a choice of prices to pay to give the acting player the +1.


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