[AW] Seize by Force is a Peripheral Move

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

It took me 80+ sessions of Apocalypse World for it to sink in, but there it is. Seize by force is a peripheral move, not a basic one.

It's one of the least-used moves in the game (or it should be). The fictional actions it represents are unusual to the point of almost never happening. Virtually every situation where seize may come up is better covered by a combination of act under fire and go aggro (plus some of the optional battle moves, occasionally).

In the rare case where a character really is just charging forward to their goal with no concern for their own safety, the move works great. Maybe it should be called walk through the fire or something.

Seize also muddies the waters really badly for some players. Any time a character goes after a goal, it's interpreted as "seizing" a thing, and the move is rolled -- even when the outcomes and effects of the move make no sense for the fictional situation. The last AW game I played in was plagued by repeated discussions about whether an action was seize by force or go aggro. It was go aggro, every time (with some acting under fire sprinkled in), but the fact that the seize move was there in front of everyone turned a simple action into a rules debate. It was tiresome.

Bits in the text about "seizing the moment" or "seizing a life" confused things all the more. I know what Vincent was going for there, but in practice it's confusing as hell.

So, goodbye, seize by force! You're getting cut from the basic moves sheet. Enjoy your new company with the peripheral moves. I'll see you around some time.



Anonymous Anonymous says:  

Huh. We've had a lot of at-the-table rules headaches over the "SBF or Go Aggro" question as well, and in most cases, yep, it was Go Aggro. We've barely used Act Under Fire, which I, as MC, lament. I like this. Even if I won't officially move it to a different sheet, I'll be looking to use AUF more in the future when SBF/GA questions come up.

Anonymous Anonymous says:  

I'm one of those having problems grogging going aggro vs seize by force.
Vincent said on the AW forums:
"Going aggro is for when you care what your enemy does, and seizing by force is for when you care what your enemy has."

I'm still confused.

Blogger Matthew says:  

Hmmm I've read the completed rules four times along with virtually every forum post about Apocalypse World and you're one of the people from whom I learned how to run AW. I don't know that I agree and count myself confused by this post as well. Maybe I just need to play 50 more times.

Curious to hear more from you and others.

Blogger Christian Griffen says:  

I personally draw the line at "is the enemy shooting back or not." To me that's pretty straight forward.

On the other hand, I can see this being done with go aggro as well, where the PC only gets shot on a failed roll rather than by default. Then reserve "seize" for Mexican standoffs. I guess it's a matter of preference.

Blogger Marshall says:  

For me, Go Aggro is all about aggression and, more importantly, posturing. Perhaps the real conflation is between going Go Aggro and Manipulate as they both involve influencing the target. For me:
Seduce or Manipulate = Showing them the carrot
Go Aggro = Showing them the stick
Seize by Force = Using the stick

Blogger John Harper says:  

@Christian: The trouble is, when you make the Seize by force move, you automatically get shot (you suffer the enemy's harm when you make the move, succeed or fail). This rarely matches what the character is doing in the fiction. Usually, they're trying to take cover, move around, stick their head out and shoot when they can, etc. That's acting under fire and going aggro, IMO.

Blogger John Harper says:  

For what it's worth, I don't think I'm saying anything very controversial.

p. 197 of AW ("Acting With Violence") is pretty much how I run it. It's just that "harm for harm, toe to toe" is not how the savvy wastelander -- with limited access to medical care -- does her violence. So, seize is pretty rare in play (not absent, just rare).

Blogger Brand Robins says:  

I've done 20 or so sessions now and I think we've seen Seize by Force twice. Once resulted in a bloody disaster for the seizer, the other lead into a series of follow up rolls that resulted in most of an entire holding being killed.

The thing about it is that for a well maxed gunlugger, Seize (especially advanced Seize) is the tac nuke of the game. For anyone else its more like a total nuke, with yourself at ground zero.

Blogger John Harper says:  

Yeah, the well-armored Gunlugger is a seizing machine. Scary and fun.

Blogger Jonathan Walton says:  

I like your thinking here, especially invoking p197. That's good stuff and something we haven't always been careful about.

Even Lafferty seizing the cannibal island would probably have made a lot more sense as a series of Go Aggro rolls than the series of Seize rolls that we did. Because then he would have forced the cannibals to barricade themselves in and/or suck it up (which is basically what you had them do anyway).

That said, Seizing is really for well-armored people of any variety, not just Gunluggers, who don't really care if the other side does their normal harm.

Blogger John Harper says:  

Huh. I don't remember any seize rolls on Cannibal Island. Maybe one? There was a lot of acting under fire (sneaking around the buildings and getting ambushed) and going aggro (Dusk going all reaver-tastic on their asses, especially). When they barricaded themselves in the last building, that was a choice from a 7-9 aggro roll.

Blogger Customer says:  

One consequence of this is it means a cold as ice(?) battlebabe, with Cool rather than Hard for go aggro, is superdeadly for all npc harm - they're maxed out on Going Aggro AND Cool under fire (especially if they've taken their Cool to +3), and never need to use their nominally weak Hard to Seize by Force.

I don't know if this is a problem, but it's definitely different - and relevant to me, as I've just started MCing a game with a Battlebabe of precisely that profile.

Blogger jenskot says:  


In my "Running Apocalypse World for the first time" post on Story Games, almost immediately I write that before the first session the GM should...

"Take special note of Acting with Violence p197 (which clears up do I Go Aggro or Seize By Force) and Reading a Sitch or a Person p203."


Most of our games, where the fiction allows, is Read the Sitch (to have an escape and pick the must vulnerable target to go aggro on) -> Act under Fire (to position yourself to be able to go aggro) -> Go Aggro. It felt like playing a first person shooter / stealth video game in a really satisfying way!

Blogger Jamie says:  

So in our game I wanted to take an NPC's knife from them. I just wanted to grab her by the arm and take it. That's Seize by Force, right?

@Marshall - I'm pretty sure Going Aggro is not about posturing, because you have to back up your threat. If you're bluffing, if you have no intention of doing harm, that's Seduce/Manipulate, with the leverage being your threat. (So seduce/Manipulate can show them the stick too.) With Going Aggro, you're committed to using the stick because they can always Suck it Up. p197 again, third paragraph.

Blogger John Harper says:  

@Alex: Yes, that's how the Battlebabe kicks ass! Don't try to minimize it. Be a fan of that character. The Gunlugger with battle-hardened is similarly awesome.

@John: Word.

@Jamie: It depends greatly on the details of the situation. If the person with knife is trying to stab you, and you're fighting back by grabbing it (while they stab you), then yes, it would seize. But, snatching a knife might be acting under fire, seizing, or even going aggro, depending on what you do and what they're doing.

Anonymous Anonymous says:  

I think seize by force is the everything-on-the-line move: it´s the easiest way to do harm to someone and most of times kill him/her, but it also means exposing to harm yourself, most of times, and harm is a big thing in this game.
While you´re doing harm with seize by force on 7+, with going aggro you can only do SURE harm on a 10+ (on 7-9, there´s the possibility that they´ll pick something else instead, like getting the hell out of your way).
In Actual Play, I´ve seen seize by force used only by the gunlugger, in whose hands it is deadly as hell. But it also meant that he took serious harm over time, getting crippled or something like that in the second session.
So I like it as it is: huge power in your hands, but you pay, sometimes, a big price for it. Player´s call.


Blogger John Harper says:  

Yep, Khimus, that's it exactly. It's a good move.

It's just not... fundamental... to play, in my experience. It's used very much like the optional battle moves.

Anonymous Anonymous says:  

Having thought about this for a while, I have to say I strongly disagree. Nowhere in the rules does it mention that Seize By Force is associated with "just charging forward to their goal with no concern for their own safety."

In my game, I had a Battlebabe and a Gunlugger- the Battlebabe was certainly all about striking first, taking cover, striking again- Go Aggro, Act Under Fire, Go Aggro. But on a soft hit, sometimes the move I make puts him in a situation where he's in a direct fight, and that's a place where he either needs to Act Under Fire to get out of it and change it (which is usually what he did at first) or Seize By Force (which is what he favored once he bought his Hard up to +2- more direct.)

Whereas the Gunlugger did lots of things that could only be interpreted as Seize By Force:
"I wrench the weapon away from him."
"I want to get into the Burger Boy" (with a cannibal between her and it.)
"I kick in the door" (This is my subjective- sure the door isn't, and can't fight back, so the harm she'll take is 0, but the move is really against the person behind the door, not the door itself. If said person had a gun out and at the ready, harm would be on the table. My opinion is Harm doesn't have to be strictly involved for Seize in all situations- it just means a 7-9 is a little better.

@Jamie. No, John is wrong. If you are Seizing a knife by Force, you are Seizing By Force.

Blogger Unknown says:  

Willow: No, John is wrong. If you are Seizing a knife by Force, you are Seizing By Force.

No, John is really, really right. Is the guy trying to fight you with a knife? Then it's seize. If not, then it's not.

Seize is for a stand up fight where both parties know what they are getting into.

It seems like this doesn't happen in John's games as much. I think that's a style thing for his MC style and his players.

In mine, we seize a lot. The player fight a lot. They square off and they go to town. It's dumb on their part, but what can you do? :)

Blogger John Harper says:  

Willow gets a little thrill every time she says I'm wrong. You should see the shark-look she gets. All teeth.

For what it's worth, I don't disagree with what you say in your comment, Willow. That's how I'd do it, too. But I still think seize is peripheral. :)

Blogger Matt Wilson says:  

"Seize by force is a dumb move and nobody should ever use it ever, and if you do you suck."

Jeez John, I can't believe you would write something like that.

Blogger Unknown says:  

Question. Since going aggro gives the opponent a chance to "cave" or "yeild", if you were chasing down an opponent, they can't yeild or give ground. They're either caught or not. These are areas where "going aggro" sounds like your intent but SBF has more relevant results.

In fact, going aggro seems to apply more when you want to intimidate as opposed to actually accomplish a particular action.

Acting under fire only seems to make sense if... You're under fire. Or in two sided combat.

Am I misreading that?

Blogger Wilson says:  

I don't know exactly how I came to this interpretation or whether I use SBF as intended, but I use it dependent on the intended result in the fiction rather than the action itself, similar to what Felix wrote.

For example, I had a player who, when he and his NPC guide were confronted by a giant mutant lynx about to pounce on them, said "When it pounces I push Aslan (the guide) in front of it." His intention was that while the lynx was mauling Aslan, he could escape. I ruled that as "seizing the situation." It wasn't "sucker," because there was a high probability of failure, it wasn't "do battle" or "go aggo," and I didn't feel like it was "act under fire" because the goal wasn't to "succeed at the push," it was to gain control of the situation.

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