Hackaway!

So, a long time ago there was a game called Everway. It used cards! and no dice! and pictures! and was written by Jonathan Tweet!

Everway was influential in the GNS theory, the cornerstone of indie games (some say their de-facto agenda); this didn’t stop some in the Story Gaming crowd proclaiming it didn’t work or at least only served as a vehicle for the GM to push story on to the players (naughty!).

Everway isn’t a story game. GM autocracy is maintained, roles are clearly defined. You might not care for the slightly ethereal game world or the cards or the way PCs are painted with a broad brush, but it’s a traditional RPG.

Now the current darling of the indie scene is Apocalypse World, and it’s not bad at all. Notably it’s designed to be “hacked” into other worlds and settings to make complete new games.

ApoWo conversions are called “hacks” because they require system-level modification to work, as opposed to the lick of paint we might slap over GURPS or D20 or BRP. The result should be a completely new game that expresses the genre through mechanics, which is the GNS/Big Model way. I have no doubt that the best and brightest of the hacks achieve that; Monsterhearts looks especially coherent to me and appeals more than AW does. Yet even for those efforts I find it hard to imagine players able to completely forget that they are playing a system derived from another game, which must colour their experience; they are still playing the AW way (and don’t you forget it). Ironic, given the way GNS rails against generic system.

But as for hacking… you know, that could have been Everway. For a brief while there was interest in converting Everway into all manner of games–supers, steampunk, even Amber and Final Fantasy.

…if the game had been created ten years later…

…if Jonathan Tweet had the mixture of internet charisma and good fortune to fall in with the right crowd that Vincent Baker evidently has…

…we might see all manner of Everway hacks with custom, fan-made vision cards and fortune decks. You might think that’s way more effort than simply hacking the AW “moves” but I believe AW presents a barrier of system comprehension that doesn’t exist in Everway. Effort must be spent either way, especially if you want decent playbooks.

Everway and AW are diametrically opposed mechanically; much more than Everway and D&D ever were. Both can achieve hacking goals and provide new games on their foundations; Everway does this because it’s a blank canvas, AW because it’s moves-focused. AW may have the edge with its community and its ability to integrate mechanics and genre, but there’s one game it cannot emulate–that’s Everway.

(I dare you to make an EverWorld hack.)

Post Script

I witnessed the absurd thread on RPG.net that concerned itself with “defining the OSR” in the way one might fit wheels to a tomato. The only consensus I could spot was the one claiming that OSR players liked “bullshitting and making up rules” because they eschewed the refinements and more granular mechanisms of D&D’s latest and greatest. I don’t know about that; but given Everway is so heavily reliant on GM Fiat, I’ve got to wonder when that game is going to be considered “old school”. It is nearly 20 years old, after all.

Post Post Script

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p>I just realised. EW and AW. EW-AW. Why did Edward Woodward have so many letter d’s in his name?

Never mind.

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  • Lovely, blisteringly passionate post. Over at The Everwayan, I am working on something called “Otherway” that is starting as a setting but will eventually live mechanically as a retroclone or a WaRP or FATE Core-driven multiplanar game. That game will be designed aroun using different Tarot-like decks – even competing ones.

    • Thanks man. I’ll take a look!

      WaRP… good stuff. Although a retroclone would be nice. It’s difficult to point people to the core game without directing them to ebay.