Asymmetric, post-apocalyptic gameplay centered around scarcity



If this sounds familiar, you’re right: It’s the heart of what I enjoy about Apocalypse World. What I’m curious about is how well ICRPG can facilitate that experience, namely:

  • Asymmetric roles (loners who need work, vendors who provide services, gang leaders whose power is externally mainfest, and settlement governors in charge of tens to hundreds of people)
  • An economic environment which meaningfully conveys the impact of day-to-day living in the presence of scarcity (relational as well as resources: Sanitation, food, shelter, fuel, bartering) > Maybe including a Red Markets-type bidding system, but more abstracted

Does anyone have experience with these two areas in the context of a non-narrative system like PbtA–asymmetric roles in particular?


I think I also need to add “PvP”: How can you mechanically render the rhythm and resolution of social conflict in a way that is satisfying and doesn’t unnecessarily remove player agency? The system of Apocalypse World is so fundamentally different in that it focuses on a broad community brought together by circumstance, and one where PC aren’t necessarily fighting for the same goals. There may be alliances and working together toward common aims and interests, but they aren’t family. The alignment of characters may not match that of the players… they may in fact find themselves directly opposed.


I have a lot of experience of asymmetric roles not working, and some of it working. As far as I can tell, the difference between the two are

  1. Incentives for interaction
  2. Play structured by a hub

If you have asymmetric roles the way aw has, player-characters will push in different directions. Therefore, you need to have something counter-balancing this push. This is what I mean by incentives for interaction: some mechanical or other benefits to including other characters in your plans. Extreme specialization, buddy-bonuses, synergy actions, xp, etc.

In addition you need something that pulls the characters stories together, so that their actions are relevant to each other even when they don’t interact. This is why you need a hub of some sort: a shared base, space ship, bank account, well, or somesuch. By centering the game around a hub, you effectively create a upper limit to how far player-characters can be separated - everyone needs to get back to the well before their water runs out, or they die.


Awesome breakdown! How were these elements handled correctly, the times where it worked out?


My best non-aw example would be VtM.
In the campaigns I’ve played, there’s been incentives to interact because, through clan affiliations, characters have access to different resources, information, etc, but also to different powers.

In addition, the successful campaigns have centered on some joint venture, such as a financial enterprise, that tied charactes’ fates to each other.

So my character would perhaps need information, and go seek out the Nosferatu. Meanwhile, the Nosferatu needs firepower and seeks out the Bruja, who in turn contacted me to get a large loan, quick. And each Saturday, we’d meet in our office for a board meeting.

Obviously, everyone didn’t interact all the time. But through this setup, we never had a session where someone went entirely solo and most of the time there would be at least one major thing were all characters took part each session, like incapacitating a rival.

What does not work is “adventuring”. That’s why aw has fronts (ie, external threats to the thing you have in common) instead.


Ahh, the utility and design decision of Fronts (having threats brought to bear against the group) makes a lot more sense, now!

How do the mechanics of the system facilitate meaningful but comparable differences in the types of power wielded by the different characters?

Relatedly, any experience with how the concept of clans (VtM) or factions (BitD) could be rendered within ICRPG? Categories, levels of influence and power, nature of relationship with PCs, etc?