I recently ran my first game of Apocalypse World. Generally, I had a fun time coming up with cool ways to make my MC moves and manage the negative effect of player moves.

However, during a very low-threat social interaction (talking to a pacifist), one player made the Seduce/Manipulate move. All good so far. But someone else had used the Help Move on that Manipulate, and got an 8.

My problem here, is that I could not figure out how the drawbacks from the move (expose yourself to fire, danger, retribution or cost) could possibly apply to this situation.

How do I adjudicate the downside of the Move?

To clarify the specifics of the situation, the NPC being manipulated was a complete pacifist (and not pretending to be so), with no intention of overtly or secretly exacting retribution on anyone. So no Retribution. No Fire or Danger, present or future. I can't see a Cost to be paid. Any threat would have to be external, which seems more like an MC Move than the specific list of results from the Help Move, and AW is very specific about how the MC should go around running the game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It would be useful to know what narrative triggered Seduce/Manipulate and what triggered Help. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 11:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Even more detail would be useful. The moves are often very situation-dependent, and Help is no exception. I can make an answer, but at the moment it would be really general. ALSO, should I assume you're using 1st ed? Help appears slightly different in 2nd ed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Longspeak
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 14:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I'm using 1st. The Chopper had a Gang member wander off into a little cult of Pacifists, and wanted to get her back without going Aggro. Manipulated the apparent leader to do so, Angel Helped. Didn't really get any description on the Help, since I was just happy to have the Angel's player engage. That said, the scene has passed, I just want general guidelines as to how to work with the move later. \$\endgroup\$
    – Frezak
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 15:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ If there's not much downside, should you even really be rolling? This seems like it might be closer to asking nicely. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 16:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ There wasn't a downside per se, but the NPC was not going to agree without the PCs making her, one way or another. Not 'arbitrarily', but because the NPC was being led by her... Huge Caring Heart. As AW instructs me to have NPCs behave. \$\endgroup\$
    – Frezak
    Commented Oct 5, 2016 at 16:20

2 Answers 2


Help or Interfere is the move with the most breadth. It can be applied to virtually any situation, to aid or hinder any move. As such it's not possible to list every possible consequence of success or failure. So what's most needed here is as much detail as possible. However, there are a few general ideas for using Help on both Seduce and Manipulate (which are similar, but different; really Seduce is just Manipulate with a much more narrow focus.).

I'm a fan of using "Yes, but..." to build consequences of a limited success. "Yes" you succeed, "but..." something else happens. In this case we're looking for that something else. Also, keep in mind we want that something else to affect the Helper, or both the helper and the primary actor.

Help with Seduce

Imagine a Wingman on any TV show. Your job is to help your buddy attract the attention of his quarry. Now imagine all the ways your help might complicate matters while still technically 'helping.'

Yes, the target is interested, but...

  • ...in both of you... at once.
  • ...what about her really annoying friend?
  • ...an aggressive third party approaches you.
  • ...an aggressive third party approaches the target.
  • ...your target really wants to... something your friend can't provide, but you can. Dance? Get into the VIP lounge? engage in kinky and/or borderline legal activity?

The idea here is always to find the correct 'but...' to go with that yes.

Help with Manipulate

Manipulate is also a pretty broad move, given there are many ways and reasons to manipulate someone. However, the goal is generally always to get someone to do what you want. Advice here is even more generic than with Seduce. First, always consider the 'but...' In this case, its harder to come come up with generic consequences for the helper, but here's a few ideas.

The target will do what you want, but...

  • The target will remember you later.
  • too slow. Maybe guards arrive? or the next shift? or the company's CEO?
  • too noisily/visible. People will remember you.
  • has second thoughts/regrets afterward.

General Helping Thoughts

One thing you can always do is apply the main Move's consequence or complication to the helper.

  • If the main move was pushed to a 10+ by the helper, the the helper suffers the consequence or complication alone.
  • If the main move is only pushed to the 7-9 range, then the consequence or complication affects both.

Hopefully this provides some guidelines. If you can provide a more detailed description of the scene, more specific ideas might be possible.


"Cost" could be anything at all, not necessarily related to physical conflict or threat in any way.

Maybe the Seduction works but the seducer gets a STD.

Maybe the Manipulated party has "no intention" of giving the gang a negative outcome, but it happens anyway, due to, as you mentioned, external facts which aren't under the control of the Manipulated party.

You seem to resist imposing a made-up, MC-defined Cost because of perception that it's the player's move, not the MC's move, but, this is one of those moves which has 2 sides: No matter what, the MC is the one who has been triggered here and must respond by following the instructions in the Move.

So, make a Cost up. It's OK if it isn't a Cost imposed by the will of the pacifists. It's OK if it isn't a Cost which proceeds directly from the interaction between the gang and the pacifists. It could be coincidental, peripheral, or even completely unrelated. How about: The Gang member has "gone pacifist" due to exposure to the cult?


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