There's some subtleties about how the rules interact but let's just sorta focus on the big picture…
Congrats on your new pain cult!
You're sitting at the table narrating, "We sit around cutting each other in pursuit of some kind of self-knowledge." Then you add,
- "We spend a few days zonked out on drugs and repeat the process."
- or "We walk around in constant pain, I guess."
- or "We plumb the depths of the psychic maelstrom and then just cut each other some more."
Congratulations, you've formed a weird pain cult, complete with an affliction driving it. That's a thing. It's a very, very big thing, for the MC to react to.
The MC's goal isn't to shut you down, but to "ask provocative questions," "barf forth," "make the world seem real," &c. What happens to the world around you while you're "blissed out on chillstabs?" Where do you find the meds to just keep doing this constantly — and, uh, is it addictive? What do you find in the psychic maelstrom while constantly using it to reweave your body? How does your lover Rolfball feel about all these nasty-looking scars you're collecting? That's what the "play to find happens" philosophy is all about.
Now, if players try to dodge that by establishing "we have no responsibilities or attachments and pursue our love of cutting each other with knives in perfect isolation and safety," it falls on the MC to:
- Make sure we're on the same page about the point of this game, so they're not wasting time trying to treat the rules as a source of mechanical challenges like it's D&D.
- Demonstrate, in the fiction, all the ways their little bubble is fragile, as all things are.
At that point, if they really want to establish some kind of foothold of stability in order to pursue their love of cutting each other with knives in perfect isolation and safety, they know how to work for it, and now you have a goal to drive your game.
The other thing to address here is that moves are about fiction, not simulation.
Yes, "if you do it, you do it" — for example, if you describe a moment of sexual intimacy between characters, then, yeah, your special moves apply without question.
But the intent of the moves isn't to represent the logistics of every moment of your lives "off-screen." They follow the logic of scenes and narrative consequences, not the simmy logic of counting every minute that goes by and every bullet spent. (If you want to play out resource stress, check out "Afflictions" and "Countdown Clocks," pp. 110 and 117 in 2nd Edition, respectively.)
Like, if the Skinner shacks up with the Hardholder, and then we skip ahead six months to explore what happens once a bunch of long-term projects we've set up in play bear fruit, I'm not going to sit there and say, "How many times have you had sex?" and then tell the Skinner they now have 100-barter worth of stuff. Maybe fire the move once or twice to represent the totality of their relationship's development, give them some stuff that matches the hardholder's wealth established by the fiction, and keep going.
(Likewise, if you've got a captive and you say, "I'm going to torture them for information," it's legit for the group to decide that's go aggro but we'll put all the details "off screen.")
So, uh, I don't think I'd ever sit there and actually work through the numbers on "we spend months just cutting ourselves and/or having sex, exactly how much XP is that." That's just not what the moves are for.
For ideas of how to make moves that work with time-skips and telescoping action, I recommend looking at the "Love Letters" section (pg. 275 in 2nd Edition).
Don't stress about XP
It's really easy to sit down to your first game of Apocalypse World and figure, "my character's gonna be amazing once I level up a bunch!"
In my experience, how it actually works is that really you're a total badass right out the gate, the first 2-3 advances will pretty much put you at the top of your ability, and the rest after that mostly just represent further fictional development.
It's not wrong to aggressively chase XP, but it's not necessary, either. Nothing particularly bad will happen if you get too much or too little. (That said, I do think the game flows a bit smoother with a variant XP rule that no longer counts individual highlighted rolls, see post #6 here.)
It's okay for players to "feed" each other a bit of XP. It leads to more interaction, more give-and-take, more violence, and more sex between the protagonists. Play moves forward as a result.
Note also that it's okay to put stuff on a character sheet for reasons other than advances earned with XP. It'd descriptive, too. Follow the fiction. (See p. 258 in 2nd Edition.)
Also, just speaking from personal experience, the world won't end if you just say, "Hey, the situation has changed a lot, so everyone feel free to take an advance to represent all the stuff that you did for three months." Even if they didn't spend three months having orgiastic sex, taking hardcore narcotics, or carving little holes in their bodies and then pouring the broken world's inhuman, howling id into those little holes.
But if they want to say they did any of those things? Especially the third one? Embrace it. Make it awesome. Put your "bloody fingerprints" all over it.
To be honest, I've just been handing out entire moves on occasion — not just de-facto fractions of an XP — to characters who are willing to drown themselves in the psychic maelstrom and, uh, it has worked fine so far.
- Make sure everyone understands the point and feel of the game, and what they're getting into.
- Because what they're getting into is some serious stuff rife with apocalyptic weirdness and dramatic potential, and it's your duty to bring that out in play.
- Rules-wise, if you're in a situation where it feels like you'll have to play accountant to figure out what's going on, read up on custom moves and "love letters" instead.