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One of the PCs in my Apocalypse World game is holding another character at gunpoint, demanding their service and property by violence.

Which move should this trigger? Go Aggro seems like a natural candidate.

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This answer applies equally for both the first and the second edition of Apocalypse World.

In the event a Go Aggro roll is successful, the MC or the PC playing the targeted character may always choose for the target to suffer the damage: "Force your hand and suck it up". This means to Go Aggro roll should not be treated as the default roll whenever demanding something by force, but only when the PC making the demands actually intends to carry on with the violence if their demands are not met.

But what to roll if they're simply bluffing, and won't actually try to harm the target character if they don't yield? In such cases, go for Seduce or Manipulate. While it's not explicitly stated in the reference sheets, violent threats are explicitly mentioned as possible leverage for the move in the book:

To seduce or manipulate an NPC, the character needs leverage, a reason: sex, or a threat, or a promise, something that the character can really do that the victim really wants or really doesn’t want. (AW2e book, page 143, Basic Moves: Seduce or Manipulate)

However, if the PC is not really capable of mustering enough force to really serve as a proper leverage - eg. an unarmed skinner trying to threaten a warlord with twenty armed goons at hand, no move should be triggered:

Absent leverage, they're just talking, and you should have your NPCs agree or accede, decline or refuse, according to their own self-interests. (AW2e book, page 143, Basic Moves: Seduce or Manipulate)

Against other PCs, seduce/manipulate doesn't require any particular leverage, so the move can be triggered with much more freedom. The move works differently between PCs, but can be still used to represent coercion by empty threats. The other player will know there is no solid intent to deliver punishment, but will also receive a reward for having their character fall for the bluff, a penalty for disbelieving it or both.

When uncertain whether a player actually intends for their character to carry out any violent threats they're making, ask them before deciding which move to roll.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ One caveat to this - the question's not clear if this is an MC character or another PC. Seduce/Manipulate works a little bit differently on PCs, and it's always the target of a PC Go Aggro move who decides what to do, not necessarily the MC. The MC picks the response if it's one of their characters being threatened, and that's usually the case, but not always. \$\endgroup\$ – Glazius Nov 4 '17 at 15:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Glazius Good point, I'll make the necessary adjustment \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Nov 4 '17 at 15:53

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