On apocalypse world 2nd edition:

One player on the table made a gunlugger specialized on his assault rifle, with ap ammo, and a silencer, also he picked bloodcrazed and NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH. So far so good. He has a rifle with 4 harm, and 2 armor.

The problem comes when he fights any kind of gang, any kind of vehicle or forces other player to do his will. Unless he blows the roll he can literally obliterate everything.

For example. He decides to wipe out the biggest hold, one with 2-armor walls, 400 souls, a decent armory, etc. They're a large gang 2-harm 1-armor +2 when defending the hold.

So the gunlugger "seize the hold by force" and he hits the roll with a 7, he choose to inflict terrible harm for a total of 5 harm against their 5 armor (1 armor base, +2 from the hold, +2 from the gang size), which means it deals 0 harm, but his rifle has AP, so he deals the full 5 harm.

The hold exchanges harm with him, so he has 2 armor, against their 4 harm (2 base, +2 for gang size) for a total of 2.

He got a superficial shot while killing nearly everyone in the hold.

This also happens when he tries to destroy a building or a vehicle, and he can bully other players into submission every time.

I have the feeling that AP ammo breaks some game rules (especially the gangs and buildings rules).

Is this how AP is supposed to work, or can I say as a MC that AP only works with base armor, or that it doesn't work against X or Y?


2 Answers 2


It's not clear, but it sounds like you are letting the players call out moves instead of letting them trigger from descriptions.

Apocalypse World breaks badly when this happens. It's playing the game backwards.

The AP ammo works exactly as you describe, yes, and doesn't break anything. Gunluggers are absolute beasts and they will wreck anything they point their gun/anger at. This is fine and doesn't cause any problems by itself. (Well, not rules problems. It may cause the Gunlugger “poor life choices” problems.)

But Apocalypse World doesn't just let players do moves whenever they want. They have to work for them and actually do the trigger, not just say the move. If you're letting your players call out the moves, as if they are D&D 4e powers, then the game is breaking, and you will wonder how the Gunlugger isn't totally overpowered.

For example, you can't seize an entire hardhold by force just by saying “I seize the hardhold by force.” That's like saying “I seize the Moon by force” — it's not going to happen just by saying so.

The player can't (i.e., is literally not allowed by the game) to just name moves. Nothing happens just by saying a move. Instead, the player has to actually describe their Gunlugger doing real things: running up to the hold, sniping people on the top of the wall, charging the front gate, throwing explosives, opening fire on a whole mob of hold citizens, throwing grenades at the hold's gang, headbutting the giant wearing car doors for armour, shoving their assault rifle in the hardhold leader's face, and shouting “YOU ARE ALL MINE NOW”.

Maybe, at that last moment, the character has touched the trigger for seize (the hold) by force and the player is allowed to roll for the move. (Of course, many, many other moves would also have triggered on the way in. Possibly even some other seize by force moves, seizing smaller, more concrete things like people or defensible positions. It would have been an utterly epic event, assuming the Gunlugger survived the whole way.)

Go back to the Basics (2nd edition, p. 10) and review the most important rule for how moves work:

The rule for moves is to do it, do it. In order for it to be a move and for the player to roll dice, the character has to do something that counts as that move; and whenever the character does something that counts as a move, it’s the move and the player rolls dice.

So when a player says “I seize the hold by force!”, your job is to say “Cool, okay. What does that look like?” so that the player has to actually say what the character is doing. And if what they do doesn't trigger the move — no move happens (same page, emphasis mine):

Usually it’s unambiguous: “dammit, I guess I crawl out there. I try to keep my head down. I’m doing it under fire?” “Yep.” But there are two ways they sometimes don’t line up, and it’s your job as MC to deal with them.

First is when a player says only that her character makes a move, without having her character actually take any such action. For instance: “I go aggro on him.” Your answer then should be “cool, what do you do?” “I seize the radio by force.” “Cool, what do you do?” “I try to seduce him.” “Cool, what do you do?”

Eventually, maybe a move happens, but in the meantime, the character is doing things, all kinds of things, and the game is there. The gameplay is not pushing moves like buttons, it's everything that happens around the moves.

So yeah, the Gunlugger can wreck things and the AP rules make them able to wreck some really strong things. This is normal, and it's part of why the Gunlugger is worth being a fan of for the MC. But Apocalypse World is not a nice place, and carelessly doing angry things to it doesn't always go well. If the game isn't being played backwards, then the Gunlugger will eventually upset or break someone or something that can't be solved by shooting it, and suddenly things will get very interesting.

  1. I see the assault rifle doing 4 harm (3-harm weapon base +1 harm from bloodcrazed).
  2. The gang inflicts +2 harm against him because of the reason in 1.
  3. Rules as written no armor is exempt from ap ammo. It just ignores all armor. It also makes sense realistically: If the steel plates that make up your hold wall or your vehicle are too thin to stop your bullets then they may as well be made out of cardboard.
  4. The ap ammo and rifle help the character in no way to bully other players into submission. He can only get at them via Hx and his (naturally high) hard. With that he can seize by force and go aggro. In the first case he will shred any other PC and in the second case they can just force his hand so we end up with the first case again.

Now for the actual base question: Is this gunlugger too powerful?

Answer is no because in Apocalypse World being able to kill everyone you want is not that useful. In the end if he just kills everyone and takes all their stuff he will be king of ash and bones. Because everyone will just refuse to cooperate with him and let themselves be killed or flee.

Being a machine of death and destruction is what the Gunlugger is in Apocalypse World. (Don't forget, he isn't a Gunlugger. He is the Gunlugger) When used cleverly he can be a very powerful tool. When left unchecked, he leads to more problems then he solves because violence is the only answer a Gunlugger has to the world. That's exactly how it is supposed to function.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Um, I just check and the manual says each step of difference between the size of a gang gives +1harm and +1armor. I don't know if this is a 1st edition related thing, I edited the post for 2nd edition rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trolleitor
    Dec 23, 2016 at 17:29
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Escroteitor Ah, there is a new edition out. Ok, the specific answers are out of date then but the general advice stands. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zalktis
    Dec 23, 2016 at 17:32

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