Transneptune Games

warm games, cold nights

AW as the new D20

So, we played Night Witches recently, and the experience has really bolstered my confidence in AW hacks.

Night Witches is a game made by this big-name indie designer about something they find cool, and while not everything in it jives with me personally, it works.

AW is like the new D20 in that respect, it lets people legitimize a thing they want to play by drawing on a tool everyone else is familiar with. AW happens to be a really good tool, and its spectacular modularity is a huge boon to people who’ve wanted a particular game but don’t want to spend (possibly) years making it from scratch.

It’s fun to be elitist about it (hur hur, another AW hack, hur) but honestly I think it has democratized the game design process to a certain point and I think that’s ultimately a good thing.

7 responses to “AW as the new D20”

  1. I’ve seen this idea before, I don’t really agree with that. It’s a non-trivial workload to make something in the AW engine, compared it is to adapt d20 (or even Fate). And the vibe around the subcultures of those games is radically different.

    It’s more elitist to make an AW hack than it is to make a hack for an explicitly open license. That isn’t a bad thing, but a permission-based pseudo-license isn’t as genuinely open, because it involves insertion into the community. Which again, isn’t a bad thing, but it does mean there’s a different sense of growth in the design space because of that social contract and construct.

    1. You’re absolutely right that it takes work to make an AW hack, but my point is that making an AW hack is a lot less work than making a functional game from scratch. It’s definitely more work than D20, but if you’re an indie gamer you’re not even looking at that. Though good point! I say “AW is the new D20” but really what I mean is, “AW is the OGL for indie gamers”. Your right to call out a culture blindness there.

      But for an indie gamer who wants to make a reasonably functional game, and for whom Fate may not be the right answer, I think having AW around is a huge help for that person. And I think the number of AW hacks in the ecosystem (and out of it, as personal projects and group artifacts) speaks to that.

      Interesting point about elitism. I only meant that there’s a lot of attitude about the game system’s ubiquity, I hadn’t really considered the licensing issue!

      1. How much time have you spent on making a genuinely functional, for-other-people AWE game? Because from where I’m sitting, your assertion about it being easier than making a system from scratch is play untrue and simultaneously dismissive.

        Yes, there is a lingua franca element of AW in indieland. That is not that same as understanding its design elements. Communication is not mechanics.

        1. I think we might be talking about two different products for two different audiences.

          For someone who isn’t a designer, I think it is 90% easier to make a functional-enough AW hack than it is to homeroll their own functional-enough system, playtest that system, write it, and then make its elements common understanding for the five people who are going to be playing it.

          For someone like yourself, an AW hack is serious business if you plan on bringing it to print, because yeah AW is optimized a certain way and only works (and by works, I mean works great from all angles) if you know what you’re doing.

          I start the post talking about Night Witches, but this post is mean to be about the people with pet AW projects that will never see the light of day. More because of how unlikely I considered the premise of NW itself, than anything else. That’s kind of my angle wrt democritization.

          1. You’ve dodged my question on if you’ve personally been making AWE games for other people.

          2. You’ve got me there, I haven’t been making them for other people.

          3. Do that, if you like, and then revisit this post to see what you think of it.

            And we can also compare notes, which would be fun! I have four dead AW hacks in notes-form. I have learned a lot from each of them, to where AW has influenced Fate Core and other games I’ve made/am making sense.