So, in my game of AW 2e, it's pretty common that I push reading a sitch and everyone rolls for it. This often presents a few issues to me:

  1. Pacing: I often have 5 players at the table, so figuring out who got what rolls, answering all of their questions, and figuring out ways to "make a hard move" against specific players when one of them fails can take a lot of time!

  2. Making hard moves: I don't want to punish players who rolled well, but I want to reverse people's moves against them when they failed (ie: "What should I be on the lookout for?" "Gam's knife at your throat") - if I put someone in a spot due to their bad roll, I kind of punish players who rolled well - if I hit it with a 10, why didn't I notice Gam's attack when I asked "what's my greatest threat"?

  3. Order: related to the previous issue, if I establish something while responding to one player, that has to be true when the other players ask their questions. But since these turns are simultaneous, I have to ensure that subsequent questions don't retcon previous questions; this gives the players who happened to ask first a lot of power in comparison to those who ask later.

How should I handle this? Should I just not let players make moves simultaneously unless they're acting against each other? This simultaneous stuff also tends to hurt in combat, since before conflict everyone tends to want to a) read a sitch and then b) make a tactical support move before combat begins, which leads to weird nesting / ordering problems, especially when some of them fail.

If I can't allow for simultaneous moves, how should I handle situations where all of my players want to do stuff simultaneously?

I can't think of an in-fiction reason why all the characters can't think about the situation at the same time (say, they hear the engines of the highway clan in the distance and want to think about what's up).

Combat follows a narrative, so it makes sense for them to take turns. But in preparation for a conflict, everyone wants to do stuff / think about stuff at the same time. Should I just be pushing "read a sitch" on single characters?

up vote 19 down vote accepted

OK - I've been chewing on this issue and I think I've ferreted out what the source of the disconnect is.

The MC Rules are RULES

So - you're not bound to some kind of simulation where "all of the PCs are thinking about the situation." You're bound to the rules, which say that you're having a conversation.

In that conversation, you're hearing one player at a time. Because everyone talking over each other ceases to be a conversation and the game doesn't operate on a shouting match. So someone has to read the sitch first.

Now, this doesn't reduce the whole question to whoever's quickest on the draw, it doesn't mean that they who hesitates is lost, because, remember, we're having a conversation.

So let's say your party is going to meet an ambitious operator, Macy, at a joint in the hardhold. At some point, in response to "what do you do?" someone has said, "Well, I'm scoping out the joint, trying to get a read on Macy's intentions. Is this just a sit-down or is something else happening here?" The conversation isn't just, you know, over. If someone else says, "Hey, yeah, that's what I was going to do!" and especially if you get a chorus of similar responses, you've now got to work out (as a table) who's reading the sitch right now, who's helping out (and you know...how), what exactly "scoping out the joint" looks like, etc. and you'll end up with one and only one move being chosen.

Why?

Two reasons:

  • First of all - that's what the MC Rules say you do. When a move is triggered, it is your job to resolve it, that's the rule. It's not a guideline. It's not about simulating reality, where things happen simultaneously, it's about responding to an event in the conversation - even though there may have been some back and forth about it, some clarification while everyone got into the same fictional space.

  • Second - one of the key things about AW and PbtA is that no roll ever boils down to "nothing happens." Something is going to happen as a result of this move and because of that, every other "read a sitch", had you tried somehow to wrangle them all simultaneously, would be immediately invalidated - because the sitch they'd read would no longer exist, having been altered, irrevocably, by the outcome of the first move. Where this really shows itself is on a miss, of course, where you, again, are required to make a move, but because moves snowball, and the fact that no roll ever resolves to "nothing happens", once again, the situation should be sufficiently in flux to make the extraneous reads irrelevant.

Play should continue and if really, genuinely, the sitch stays charged long enough for someone else to read it, I'd go ahead and resolve that one - but there's a good chance that the +1 for acting on the information from the first one is gone now, because, you see, that sitch is also going to change as a result of the new roll.

But really - there is a limited number of things that can happen after the sitch gets read:

  • The PC who read the sitch gets a miss - now you have to make a move that will change the sitch
  • The PC who read the sitch gets a hit and makes a move based (presumably but not necessarily) on what they learned - that'll change the sitch
  • Nobody does anything concrete (reading the sitch isn't concrete) in which case they are looking to you to find out what happens and then you have to make a move - that will change the sitch

Addressing specific issues from comments

The crew is eating in their hardhold, when they hear the buzzing of the Highway Clan in the distance. Jomes reads a sitch...

How? What does that look like? What does Jomes do even? And, I'm going to ask this a lot - how is this a charged situation? Where's the tension here? Where is the dynamic? "you hear a thing" is not a charged situation. "Jomes, you're standing atop the wall next to the gate while Uncle tries to get Bacon to turn the Highway Clan around. They're gunning their engines but no guns are out yet." - that's charged, something is on a knife edge, something is going to happen now. Hearing the Highway Clan sounds like a charged situation is coming up like you've advertised future badness but it's not here yet.

how should we figure out, as a table, who is reading the sitch "right now", when Stitch and Lucy both just want to think about the oncoming attack from the highway clan?

I suggest you do it like grown ups. "Thinking about" isn't the same as "thinking something through". The one is basically instantaneous (and frankly, I don't think should trigger the move, because then everyone is doing it all the time which is your exact problem) and one takes considerable time and someone's attention, it's deep consideration. Figure out who's putting something at stake here and come to an agreement. If both are putting something at stake, let the table decide who's stake is more interesting.

the entire squad is going through a warehouse together and all of them are looking around and keeping a look out...

Again - what's charged about this sitch? How does walking through this warehouse mean that something is going to happen? I'm getting the sense that you think "read a sitch" is the "perception roll" of Apocalypse World and it just plain isn't.

I think I've addressed the rest of the comments so I'm going to leave this for now.

You don't try to resolve simultaneous actions because there's no such thing as simultaneity. That's a rule too.

  • Would you mind resolving this example I have in my mind? The crew is eating in their hardhold, when they hear the buzzing of the Highway Clan in the distance. Jomes reads a sitch and figures they have two minutes before they're upon them. Now can Papa also read a sitch? It doesn't seem like the moves really snowballed or should have snowballed here, since it was a success; there are still two minutes to go, and Papa can still read a sitch and prep for the fight, right? I'm still struggling with understanding how preparing for a fight can be modeled in this game. – Daniel Paczuski Bak Aug 30 at 0:43
  • Also: how should we figure out, as a table, who is reading the sitch "right now", when Stitch and Lucy both just want to think about the oncoming attack from the highway clan? How can I prioritize thinking? Not scoping out, not having a conversation, but thinking? – Daniel Paczuski Bak Aug 30 at 0:45
  • I'm having a lot of trouble parsing this into fiction. If the entire squad is going through a warehouse together and all of them are looking around and keeping a look out, I can't allow them all to do it? When one of them does it, I have to immediately do something in response so everyone else can't just do the same thing right after? – Daniel Paczuski Bak Aug 30 at 0:48
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    I want to double upvote this. The point that AW rules operate on the conversation, not on a simulated world, is what I've been trying to articulate to myself since I first read the question. Kudos, @gomad! – Trip Space-Parasite Aug 30 at 20:08
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    This gets at something that does seem to be happening: moves are being triggered too quickly, before their triggers are actually matched. – SevenSidedDie Aug 30 at 20:41

… it's pretty common that I push reading a sitch and everyone rolls for it.

I think you may be missing a critical premise of the *world games.

To do it, do it. If you do it, you do it. — Vincent Baker

A move isn't called or pushed. It is only and only triggered. And you should always start and end with the fiction.

If someone says "I read a sitch", that's not fiction, so it doesn't trigger anything. If you want to be nice about it, you may ask how, and hopefully they will answer with something like "Oh, I focus hard over the map markers to understand what Keeler's up to, moving his gangs west", which is fiction, so it properly triggers the move ("to do it, do it").

That covers "calling" moves, now onto "pushing" them: Just don't. As the MC, it is neither in your agenda, nor your principles to push moves. All you have to do is resolve them when a player triggers one. And when they do, then it is not in your power to skip the move or do something else. ("if you do it, you do it"). If it isn't clear what they are doing, just ask questions (like crazy) until it is.

Technically, just observing this basic premise should take your problems away, just because that move comes from a specific action as described by a single player. There's no ordering or pacing needed, and a miss cannot shadow a hit because there is just one roll.

If some other player is involved, that isn't probably the same move. It is either just "Aid" (the move that involves Hx) so use that, or the other person is doing something else in the fiction that also happens to trigger "read a sitch", which has its own details, risks and consequences, so it should be handled separately.

  • "Push reading a sitch" is a threat move for two of the threat types (brutes, afflictions). So I find it strange that your advice is to never do so. – Daniel Paczuski Bak Aug 30 at 21:33
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    Oh, I wasn't aware of the exact wording in there. Thanks for the heads-up. In any case I doubt it means "make everyone roll read-a-sitch". I would read that as "present them with enough charge/fishiness/weirdness so that one of them is compelled to read it". Still the same. You just give them something irresistible to read, but it is just one of them that hopefully attempts to read it, triggering the move. (and if they don't, then they don't, but then that's probably handing you an opportunity on a golden platter) – edgerunner Aug 30 at 21:40
  • Remember, all the MC moves (incl. threat moves) are just soft/hard facts in the fiction. They do not involve rolls. – edgerunner Aug 30 at 21:48

Everything follows a narrative.

When PCs make a move they do the things the move is about. If players just say they're making a move by name, the canonical response is "Cool, what's that look like?"

Some fictional scenarios might preclude moves: maybe Rolfball kicks in the door and starts shooting wildly, and you're caught out and haven't got time to study anything. Maybe Rolfball's banners are off on the far horizon in a cloud of dust and you can't see well enough to work out what's going on.

But you shouldn't just let people roll without a clear idea of what they're doing. Not only will you not be able to make your own moves follow on failures, you won't be able to give people answers suiting their actions on success.

To aid each other, Aid each other.

If, after you know what everyone's doing, you find out that people are doing things in the same ways, you can line things up such that, say:

Sounds like you're taking point on securing this ruin, Dremmer. Keeler, Chaplain, Joe's Girl, roll your +Hx with Dremmer to help out. You'll get the highest bonus from all of those to your roll to read the sitch, Dremmer.

Make sure and review the rules for Aid so you know how it operates (highest bonus, no aiding other aids). Generally on a failure you can pitch a consequence at whoever failed after the aided move resolves:

So, Joe's Girl. Nice 4. How would you say this search pattern leaves you vulnerable?

When time is counting down, time should count down.

If you want to impose some kind of looming and known time pressure, the easiest way to do it is with a countdown clock. Make six segments, trade segments for important actions (tell people the requirements or consequences), if multiple people are teaming up to coordinate an action you can make it take more time.

Probably not as much as everybody splitting up to do something different, but like +1 segment for every full two people helping?

Players can't read the same sitch more than once

Reading the same situation second (and more) time does not trigger the Read A Sitch move.

It is explicitly stated in the 2e rules, see the move description, page 144:

A character can't read the same charged situation more than once

I assume this applies to several people trying to read the same sitch as well. Asking other players for the same roll is not intended by the rules and leads to unneeded complications. When all players announce something like "I'm examining the situation closely", as a MC, you give other players the same information you gave to the first player, who has triggered the move.

  • This isn't what I'm asking about. – Daniel Paczuski Bak Aug 29 at 19:30
  • @DanielPaczuskiBak does the question boil down to "who goes first"? – enkryptor Aug 29 at 19:36
  • @DanielPaczuskiBak or do you want to keep triggering the move for the same situation multiple times, and want to know, how to handle arising circumstances? – enkryptor Aug 29 at 19:47
  • I am not sure what you are asking. I am asking about how to handle, in the game rules, an in-fiction situation where all of the characters are analyzing or preparing simultaneously. – Daniel Paczuski Bak Aug 29 at 19:56

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