What Ho, World! Design Diary 2: Stats and Moves

Thanks for joining us again for another look at the What Ho, World! design process! This time, I’m looking at the basic nuts and bolts of the game’s system.


Once you have the archetypes you want sorted (see part 1)  you’re most of the way to deciding on the stats you want. I tend to do this by looking at the different characters and working out what sets them apart from each other, what sort of things they’re all reasonably competent in and what things none of them are good at. In the source fiction for What Ho, World! people’s interaction with society and social mores is the key focus, so we needed to frame stats in relation to that with each character having some way of succeeding in society. The main distinction comes in whether you excel through perfect charm, quick thinking, roguish contempt, or knowledge of connections and etiquette – giving us our four stats.

Stat images are courtesy of game-icons.net

Wits (♦)

The intellect to guess other people’s choices, the quick thinking to take advantage of a momentary opportunity, and the insight to spot the tells others would want to keep hidden.

Grace (♥)

That combination of poise, elegance and charm that makes people pay attention to your words, desire your love and respect, and overlook your faux pas.

Knowhow (♣)

Knowledge is power, and with high Knowhow you’re able to use that power to know the right people for the job, the correct etiquette for a marriage proposal, and the perfect quote or fact to drive your point home.

Skulduggery (♠)

While society is bound by rules of convention and class, there is much to be gained by going outside the lines. You use Skulduggery to get leverage on people, to pick pockets, to sneak about and to avoid attention.

Using Stats

In a standard Powered by the Apocalypse game your character would then have a rating in each stat between -1 and +3, and added to a 2d6 roll such that a 6 or below is a failure, a 7-9 is a mixed success and 10+ is a complete success. For What Ho, World! we wanted to make the game completely card-based, though, so a different setup was in order. Taking inspiration from Avery McDaldno’s Dream Askew, the basic idea is that if someone is attempting something the default is a partial success, boosted to a full success by spending a limited resource. Failures, on the other hand, occur when the player wants them to and give the character more of that limited resource.

To adapt this for What Ho, World! characters will have a pool of ‘tokens’, represented by double-ended cards that count as a token for one stat or another. The cards a character has available to them vary according to their starting moves, because you flip the unchosen move cards to get your pool. Once you’ve chosen your two moves, you’ll have three of these token cards, giving you 6 different tokens to use and 0-3 of each stat. When you spend a token, it’s tucked under the relevant move card and unusable until you can trigger your archetype’s refresh condition to free it up again (in exchange for introducing some complication into your character’s life).

This leads to three types of moves; the first, where you spend tokens to get an additional benefit:


When you pull the wool over someone’s eyes with fast talk and misdirection, choose one:

  • They come away suspicious of your motives.
  • Your extravagant patter attracts further attention.
  • They repeat your story to others with their own embellishments.

They’re so entranced you can take something from them or place something on them.
Say where they go when you stop talking to them.

The second, where the default is to spend tokens and there’s worse results if you don’t:


When you’re convinced that two other people would be a good match in business or romance and let everyone know about it, spend:

To convince society at large that they would be a good match.
To convince them to give your proposal a shot.

If you spend no tokens, the match gains traction so long as you accept a match for yourself proposed by the target’s player(s).

And the third, where the move can only be activated if you spend a token:

Steely Glare
When you fix someone with your glare and spend ♦, they must choose one:

  • Stumble their words and reveal a secret motive or plan.
  • Flee the scene.
  • Offer to perform a task for you.

One side benefit of this way of doing things is that you can choose to spend multiple tokens on a move if you want to activate multiple effects of it. This system still has a few rough edges, but I’m looking forward to seeing it work in play – playtesting documents should be available soon if you’re interested!

Next Time: Character Creation and Game Setup