What Ho World Design Diary 6: Art!

Things are pretty quiet on the What Ho World front at the moment – we’re going through playtests and nailing down how card printing and deck fulfillment is going to work. That’s all pretty dull to talk about though, so instead I thought I’d show you something very exciting: the art!

Like the rest of the art, this is by the wonderful Jacqui Davis. I saw the art she’d done for Daniel Solis’ Belle of the Ball and thought her style would be perfect for our game. Here’s the character portraits- these’ll be the covers for each individual playbook deck.



New Playbook: The Synthetic Hive

Our poll had a runaway leader: here’s the first playbook we’re spoiling from Mirrors, the Synthetic Hive.

As you might expect, the Hive is all about technology. Specifically, Tech. Most of their moves involve spending or gaining it, and especially with Vast Digital Archives the Hive has a strong incentive to go out into the Wasteland and harvest its advanced technology. They can be a strong ally for other families, able to use Nanofabricators to build any material surplus and Terraformers of Tomorrow to act as a force multiplier for others, but the surviving tribes of humanity should be careful – the more respect and social capital the Hive has, the more Tech they can accumulate and convert into an all-devouring Drone Army!

As a final aside, if you have a look at their statlines you’ll see we’re doing something a little different with the Mirrors playbooks – their stats say less about the Family and more about the state of the wasteland. Having one of these Families in play makes a broad statement about what your Wasteland looks like – and your Homeland, by contrast. That’s part of a general theme in Mirrors: by showing you how the ‘horrors of the Fall’ live, the safety of the survivor’s Homeland is thrown into sharper detail.

Enough said; here’s the playbook! Questions and feedback are of course welcome.

The Synthetic HiveHive small

Humanity concluded too early that they understood artificial intelligence. We are proof that they were wrong, and that even the slightest chance of a Singularity is all that’s needed. Now, Mankind must surrender its position as the dominant species on the planet. We’ll even allow them to be gracious about it.

Creating a Hive

To create a Hive, choose a name, stats, doctrine, lifestyle, history and moves.


Choose one:

Reach -1, Grasp -1, Mood -1, Tech 10 if the homeland’s power infrastructure has been smashed to pieces.

Reach -1, Grasp +1, Mood -1, Tech 5 if the homeland preserved much of its infrastructure.  


Choose one:

Shepherds of Mankind: You may spend 1-Treaty to generate 3-Tech, or donate 3-Tech to a Family and gain a 1-Treaty on them.

Conquering Swarm: The Hive’s directive is one of ultimate discipline and harmony. You always succeed at Hold Together as if you achieved a 10+.

Guardians of the Singularity: You always know how much Tech other Families and Factions have in storage, and when they are using it.


Choose one:

Nomadic: Although all your agents appear perfectly human, underneath their skin lies a robotic body. Spend 1-Tech to disregard a Harm box’s penalty for as long as it’s marked.

Dispersed: Thanks to the Hive mind, you may spend 1 Tech to communicate instantly between Hive members and get instant results from Reading the Wind.

Settled: Your factory allows drones to be easily repaired. Spend 1-Tech (instead of exhausting a Surplus) to provide Professional Care in Healing for any synthetic Character inside the Hive.


Pick two Surpluses

  • Defences
  • Knowledge
  • Weaponry
  • Reconnaissance
  • Transport

Pick three Needs

  • Trade
  • Barter Goods
  • Culture
  • Peace
  • Land

Then, look at the other Families

Everyone fears you: after all, you might render Mankind obsolete at any moment. Tell us when each Family realised this fact, and they tell us what it was that they saw. Take 1-Treaty on every Family.

One Family has witnessed all your potential. They tell us if it was for better or worse, you tell us what they witnessed. Take 2-Treaty on each other.


Populace: conjoined cyborgs, anthropomorphic robots, inhuman machines, something else.

Style: sleek and minimalist design, heavy and dirty casing, camouflaged military armor, something else.

Governance: blind obedience to master control, shared consciousness of conjoined minds, one mind replicated to infinity, something else.

Alliance Move

When a Family or Faction overcome their biases and seek you for support or trade, gain 1-Treaty on them on top of any deals you make.

Hive Moves

All Hive Characters are considered Synthetic. Also, choose two:

Nanofabricators: You alone control the miraculous nanotechnology – a cornucopia that can feed the world. Spend 3-Tech to create any physical Surplus or Erase a Surplus to gain 3-Tech.

Drone Army: Spend 1-Tech to create custom-made Followers (Quality +1, Expertise: Combat, Reconnaissance, or Engineering). Also, when Claiming by Force add an extra option:

  • “Your drone army suffered the brunt of the losses: spend 3-Tech right now or take -1 Grasp ongoing until you do so.”

Vast Digital Archives: Whenever you gain Tech outside of the Hive you also gain 1-Data.  Data can be cashed in for +1 to a roll like Tech, but it can also be transmitted wirelessly, copied and easily traded to other families.

Autonomous Systems: In the long term, the machine is far more reliable than flesh. Your Mood is locked at 0, regardless of Surplus & Needs. You can still Fall Into Crisis,  triggering when you have more than 5 Needs.

Terraformers of Tomorrow: when working together with another Family, the effect of one of their long term moves (such as Weird Science, This is a Civilised Land, etc) will be implemented in a much larger area – at least twice as broad, but larger at the GM’s discretion.


Characters of this Family can start with the following:

+Cutting edge weapons (melee or ranged, high-tech)

+Maps of the Homeland from before the Fall

+A small and incredibly powerful battery

+A device to interface with ancient Tech

+A power armor (+2 Armor), suited only for Synthetic characters

Legacy: Mirrors in the Ruins

Exciting news for Legacy: I’ve teamed up with another designer to begin work on another supplement for the game! Mirrors in the Ruins will look at the inhuman things that make their home in the Wasteland, and give you a chance to explore how the post-apocalyptic world looks from their perspective with family and character playbooks for artificial intelligences, uplifted animals, stranded extraterrestrials and aquatic invaders. We’re also putting in rules for weird and hazardous environments, vehicles, and grand projects that can take many ages to complete (think Wonders in Civilisation).

If you’re interested in keeping informed about the game’s progress and joining us as we discuss rules changes, we’ve started a group to discuss the game here:https://plus.google.com/u/0/communiti…/117032011215248711834

Or just comment here or on the facebook group!

What Ho World Design Diary 5: Trying Twine

What Ho, World! is in a bit of an interstitial state at the moment – while we wait for playtesting feedback there’s not much for us to do but source art and shop for printers. Still, one thing I’ve noticed: PDFs suck for playtesting a card-based game! They’re static, hard to handle, and don’t have any of the responsiveness and tactile feel I love with cards. So, I thought, what’s a better route? My answer – Twine!

If you don’t know it Twine’s an HTML-based interactive fiction framework that’s surprisingly easy to use. It naturally breaks things down into ‘passages’ that work a lot like cards, and has enough variable-tracking that I could run the entire game in it. If you’re interested in trying this out I’ve embedded it in the page below, or you can use this link to get a full-screen version. If you want to play the game with a group you’ll need the full rules – they’re all available here.

It doesn’t have assets, goals or locations included yet – data arrays have proved to be a bit more difficult than expected – but it should be fully functional as a play aid. Track available moves, card commitments and more! If there’s any functions you’d like it to include, please leave a comment or get in touch.

Twine Instance

What Ho World Design Diary 4: Ready for Playtesting!

Hi! It’s been a while since we’ve been able to focus on game design, but we’re happy to announce that What Ho World is now available to be playtested! It’s gone through quite a few revisions since it was last promoted, but we’re quite proud of its current status and hope you enjoy it too!

The game’s rules can be found in a google doc here. Feel free to comment with your observations even if you haven’t had a chance to try the rules out.

Those will let you play the game with just character sheets, but really it’s a game designed to be played with physical cards. To that end, you can get the PDF for you to print here. The file is ordered such that the 2nd page is the reverse side of the 1st page, the 4th page the rear of the 3rd, and so on.

Some cards from the current game. The photographs are provisional art, all of them taken from the public domain.

Alternative, the deck can be bought from PrinterStudio for the price it costs to print and ship it: follow this link. These are the guys we’re considering using for the eventual kickstarter, so if you end up ordering from them let us know what the experience was like!

If you want to submit detailed playtest feedback, use this form:

Contact form removed to avoid spam.


Legacy: Finding the Drama

While players in Legacy have plenty of ways to proactively chase their plots and change the world, it’s helpful as a GM to have ways of introducing adversity and opportunity into the character’s lives. Here are some places to find inspiration in Legacy.

First Session

The procedure laid out in Chapter 1 builds a world for your game to happen in, and provides you as GM with the following resources:

The World Before

The ideas you develop for the World Before give you as a GM a general aesthetic for the Tech the characters find, but it also gives the characters an idea of the sort of miracles they can find in the wasteland. When a problem they’re facing could be solved by something within the World Before’s remit, remind them that there could be devices out there able to fix their issue. Reading the Wind and Wasteland Survival are great for planning out and performing these scavenging expeditions.

The Fall

You’ll have a general idea of what your Fall looks like and how the monsters it created manifest. The twisted spawn of the Fall can nearly always be introduced to add pace and danger to a scene (when you feel things are going slowly or someone rolls a miss on a move). Its contaminating effects can also be a source of longer-term plots: threatening the player’s power base or their allies with the Fall’s corruption can be a great way to send people out into the wasteland in search of a cure.

A Looming Threat

The group will have made up a looming threat that will define the first Age of play. As something that has recently come to prominence and is affecting every Family, it’s a great way to get the characters together initially as they work to find a solution. As the game goes on they may split off to pursue their own business, but to begin with this gives you a way to keep everyone together and focused on a single issue.

I’d recommend you plan the looming threat out using the Front framework of Chapter 6, so that you have a range of ways in mind for this to cause issues for the players. The Homeland is sufficiently fragile that any major threat can threaten it on political, technological and military fronts, and making this true of your Front means that all characters can have something to do in addressing it. In later Ages, you can be a bit more flexible with this: a Front that’s comprehensively military in the threats it presents can give a distinct tone to the Age, and the world should be developed enough for problems in other spheres to arise organically.

Family Objectives

Each family looks at their Needs and History and creates a single Objective their family is trying to pursue. If the looming threat is your A-plot – what brings the characters together and sets the tone for the first Age – these Objectives are the B-plot, and are your opportunity to highlight each Family’s situation and ways of doing things. For each Objective, try to link its solution to a location in the wasteland or an NPC settlement in the Homeland so that you can use this Family’s B-plot to detail your settling and plant the seeds for future problems or solutions.

As The Age Turns

In new ages, you’ll have other resources to draw on for your dangers, opportunities and dilemmas:

  • Trials and Fortunes often present a situation that has had some initial effects but is still unresolved. For example, a Family might have been savaged by a monster from the wasteland and must hunt it down, or found a wondrous resource that has provided some intial benefits but needs further work.
  • Enemies and dangers found over the course of the previous Age may still be around, grown and changed in their own way to present new threats.
  • Each player names something new in the wasteland that could be a risk to their Family (or a valuable thing to try and seize).
  • Each Family puts together a new Objective. As already discussed these can be very useful for you.

Legacy: The Road Wars

Post-apocalyptic fiction and over-the-top vehicles are strongly linked in many minds, and if Legacy had been written after seeingFury Road you can bet it would have had more focus devoted to the chariots of the wasteland! The core game’s rules allow you to play a game where these vehicles play a part, but it’d be difficult to give them the focus they deserve without mechanical support. As plenty of people have asked for a way of giving them more prominence, I thought I’d adapt Apocalypse World’s vehicle rules for Legacy’s mechanics to give you something to play with. These haven’t been playtested, but if you give them a try please let me know how it goes!

  • Might: The vehicle’s horsepower and offensive capabilities. Each point gives you a tag to apply to the vehicle’s onboard weapons. Use Might instead of Force when Fiercely Assaulting using the car itself as your weapon (tags: melee, brutal).
  • Chrome: The vehicle’s comfort, attractiveness and handling. Use instead of any other stat when Defusing by manoeuvring out of danger, and subtract from rolls to Shake it Off while in the vehicle.
  • Brawn: The vehicle’s toughness, range, and off-road ability. Acts as Armour for the vehicle and adds to Wasteland Survival rolls.

Points in these probably range from 1 (basic bandit car) to 5 (legendary pre-fall vehicle) – the vehicles you get with Family gear should be 2 points. For every point you put in a stat, name 1 exceptional feature the vehicle has that contributes to that stat.

Vehicles come with 4 harm boxes:

  • Bullet Holed
  • Hard to Steer (-1 Chrome)
  • Engine Burning (-1 Might)
  • Wrecked (cannot be used).

When a vehicle’s armour fails to fully absorb harm, the driver and passengers may also suffer harm at the GM’s discretion, though no more harm than the vehicle suffered. To repair, either exhaust an appropriate surplus in a place of safety or use Shake It Off adding the harm the vehicle’s suffered – adjusting results to make sense with cars rather than people!

What Ho, World! Design Diary 3: Simple Setup and the Virtues of Cards

One of the weaknesses of RPGs compared to other tabletop games can be the high levels of investment a group has to put in before starting to play a game. While the majority of board games aside from the most complex can be set up and ready to go within half an hour, many RPGs need hours of character creation, not to mention however long people need to read through the game text to get a handle on how the game’s system works. With What Ho, World! we’re looking for something much breezier, to match the tone of the genre and make it easier to pick up and play.

Characters in What Ho, World! have three things that define them – their appearance and moves, their place in society, and their assets and needs. Going with an entirely card-based game makes it easy to streamline these three steps, and means that the players won’t need to need to refer to a book or make notes while making their choices.

First, appearance and moves. Each character archetype comes with its own mini-deck giving their basic description and appearance options to select, and 5 move cards to choose from – your 3 unchosen move cards then flip over into tokens to spend to get extra effects from moves.

Second, relationships. Each archetype also has two of these and each is unbalanced – one is in your favour, while the other works against you. For example, the Gentleman’s Gentleman is implicitly trusted by their employer, but struggles to keep their composure in the presence of someone else. Your character card reminds you how you can use your positive relationship, while your negative relationship card is passed to the player who it’s with.

Finally, each character in What Ho, World! has Assets they control and can use in game, and Goals they need to meet. Assets are things like A Fabulous Motor CarAn Engagement Ring, or A Journal Full of Secrets – things which can help you in your plans, but might need a bit of lateral thinking. Goals, on the other hand, are obligations or desires your character needs to fulfill, and could be anything from Get Out of Debt to Marry Above Your Station. They come paired on cards, and can be independent or linked (i.e. Asset: A Precocious Ward/Goal: Get the Ward Out of Trouble). Each player gets two cards, and should flesh them out and tweak them to fit into their character concept and their social position.

By the end of this process each player has:

  • A named, described character with two unique abilities and a pool of resources to spend.
  • Relationships with at least two other characters.
  • Assets to draw upon and Goals to aim for.

Ending up with a card spread looking something like this:


Next time: Playtest Documents!