The second edition of Apocalypse World was recently released, and I'm unclear what's significantly different about it from the first edition. I've even been told it's substantively identical, by someone who was nonetheless very excited about 2e.

The Kickstarter says, "You'll see a couple of obvious, big changes—-streamlined Hx, a whole new set of battle moves, a threat map instead of fronts," and then mentions a number of very minor tweaks without identifying them. That sounds one modified mechanic, one new mechanic, and one replaced mechanic. Is that the extent of the difference between editions? What are the minor tweaks? What's the effect of these changes on the game?

What's the difference between Apocalypse World 1e and 2e?


1 Answer 1


New and changed moves

There are several new moves, with the largest additions being

  • Road war moves (vehicular combat)
  • Subterfuge moves (cat and mouse -style tracking)
  • Tactical and support moves (laying down fire, standing overwatch and keeping an eye out)
  • Single combat (plain 1-on-1 duking it out)
  • Seize by Force receives clarifications for use in varying combat situations, like assaulting a secure position

Many moves have been clarified or have slight changes in wording: for example, the "new" move Sucker someone basically spells out the rule from 1st edition that one-way surprise violence should be handled using Go Aggro move. The changes to moves make gameplay somewhat more intuitive, as things formerly explained only in the rulebook are more clearly spelled out for the players too.

Road war moves give the Driver and other characters with cars a lot more to do with their steel steeds and a high Cool stat. Where first edition completely lacks vehicle-specific moves, the second edition's new moves give the sucker behind the wheel a lot more options to take instead of just "Acting under fire". New moves for shouldering cars, boarding moving vehicles, T-boning, chasing/escaping another vehicle and maintaining control in harsh terrain makes it much easier to have an exciting, interesting motorized chase scene.

The Optional battle moves of first edition have been removed, as they're pretty much in the niche of the new Tactical and support moves.

With the amount of added moves, the feel of the game changes notably. While various situations now have more specific moves, it is also far more difficult to remember all the moves by heart. This can work against the general "lightness" of Apocalypse World experience and I recommend having move prints handy at all times when playing 2e, or culling down the move set closer to first edition for those who value the simplicity.

New and changed playbooks

In the basic reference book, there's one new playbook, The Maestro'd who runs a social establishment (bar, casino, brothel, you name it). Maestro'd was originally a limited edition playbook for 1st edition but is now a part of the core package.

There are also extended playbooks as extras:

  • The Faceless is a mean, masked brute
  • The Waterbearer controls a source of water, possibly with special properties
  • Quarantine is a former special operative from before the Apocalypse, just awoken from stasis
  • The Child-thing is a creepy, semi-feral child
  • The News hosts a media outlet, eg. a radio station
  • The Show is a musician capable of impacting entire crowds with their playing

The Faceless and Quarantine previously existed as limited edition playbooks for the first edition.

Only one playbook of the 1st edition core package, The Operator, has been removed from the second edition. Their shtick, gigs, has been simplified and made accessible to almost all playbooks. Some of the Operator moves were given to The Driver.

The playbooks contain minor changes to remove references to the Operator's Moonlighting ability, and to include references to new content like prosthetics and new battle and subterfuge moves. Most playbooks give starting out with a vehicle or prosthetic as an option to be discussed with the MC.

Hx assignment has been made somewhat simpler, with each player only filling their own character's sheet instead of telling other players what values of Hx to mark.

Gigs and lifestyle

While in 1st edition characters would spend roughly 1-barter per in-game month for living, 2nd edition instead ties lifestyle to sessions. Players can choose to have their characters pay 1-barter for stingy living or 2-barter for secure comfort at the beginning of each session to cover for their lifestyle, for most playbooks.

This change tends to cause more barter getting spent for lifestyle - in 1e, a single point of barter would suffice for roughly a month, which could translate to dozens of sessions, but in 2e, the steady expense per session makes sustenance a more pressing issue for most playbooks. Tying the barter to sessions instead of in-universe time reduces the need for timekeeping, which simplifies play in longer campaigns.

If PCs need jingle during the sessions, their players can ask the MC to let them work gigs. Most playbooks have suggestions for gigs for the character to work. Working gigs is the player's own call, giving them more control over their character and providing something easy to do in downtime - but they're also a way for the MC to provide them with new kinds of challenges and trouble. The MC can decide how much to "zoom in" on a gig - things may go quite well without an incident, or the gig could go totally south and get the PC in serious trouble that becomes the new focus of action.


Characters in 2nd edition no longer have the option to accept debilities (exchanging all incoming harm to a permanent -1 to one stat). However, they're not fully subject to death either, anymore. When a character's harm reaches 12:00, their life instead becomes untenable: they have the option to die, but can also choose to survive with -1 hard, +1 weird, or playing a different playbook.

Prosthetics are implemented as a flavor mechanic, without readymade moves. Players can ask the MC to have their characters start out with prosthetics, or may wind up having one after being treated by an Angel when their life was untenable.

d-harm (deprivation) is given as a flavor mechanic, and induces effects varying on the type of the deprivation. For example, d-harm (food) causes irritability, hunger, weakness, lethargy et cetera when inflicted on an individual. When inflicted on a population, it causes rationing and hoarding, desperation, infighting, eventually cannibalism. Essentially, d-harm gives the players an idea on how different types of scarcity impact people, and also helps the MC roleplay these needs appropriately.

Psi-harm (stylicised as ψ-harm) is also included in the core rules, being originally a special feature in the 1st edition limited edition playbooks. Psi-harm has the ability to wrench NPCs into total lunacy and put the PCs out of player control for brief moments. Psi-harm is a pretty solid option as a hard move for PCs opening their brains.

V-harm (for Vehicle harm) describes effects from having one's car hit by something substantial enough to cause loss of control. Possible effects range from minor swerves to full-blown crashes. Unusually for Apocalypse World, V-harm suffered is rolled by NPCs too and is computed based on two stats, the vehicle's massive and handling.

Building harm, also from 1st edition limited edition playbooks, has descriptions of larger-scale harm on structures, up to 9-harm and more. This makes it clearer on how a fortified position in a structure protects the people within, and for how long can it last.

MC prep

Fronts have been replaced by a threat map, a rough visualization of where the different threats are in relation to the players. The map is divided into eight directions: North, East, South, West, Up, Down, In and Out. The first six correspond to actual directions while "In" means threats inside local landscapes and populations and "Out" means threats originating from the Psychic Maelstrom or further out still. Each direction is divided into "close" and "far" areas, for threats that are within immediate vicinity and ones that are a substantial distance away, respectively.

The Threat map can seem quite unintuitive for games that lack a solid, static home base, but more often than not the division into direction and distance is granular enough to get the idea. Apart from the map, the countdown clocks, stakes and threats remain the same and provide for the same type of threat-driven plots as the first edition.

There are some changes to the threat types. In particular, Vehicles and Terrain are new threat types with their associated threat moves.

Do I need to get the 2e book to play 2e?

The changes are mainly to the playbooks and rules reference that can be downloaded for free on Apocalypse World's homesite (pdf link). The bulk of the advice given to the MC in 1e's book is still equally valid in 2e, so upgrading to the 2e book is not strictly necessary. You will miss out on the developer commentary on the new features. The rules for creating a prosthetic part for characters are also only found in the 2e book, not the rules reference.


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