Dogs in the Junkyard
Example of Play
Marie the brainer goes looking for Isle, to visit grief upon her,
and finds her eating canned peaches on the roof of the car shed
with her brother Mill and her lover Plover (all NPCs).
“I read the situation,” her player says.
“You do? It’s charged?” I say.
“It is now.”
“Ahh,” I say. I understand perfectly: the three NPCs don’t realize
it, but Marie’s arrival charges the situation. If it were a movie,
the sound track would be picking up, getting sinister.
RULES OF PLAY: She rolls+sharp and hits with a 7–9, so she gets to ask me one
question from that move’s list. “Which of my enemies is the
biggest threat?” she says.
“Plover,” I say. “No doubt. He’s out of his armor, but he has a
little gun in his boot and he’s a hard fucker. Mill’s just 12 and
he’s not a violent kid. Isle’s tougher, but not like Plover.” (See me
misdirect! I just chose one capriciously, then pointed to fictional
details as though they’d made the decision. We’ve never even
seen Mill onscreen before, I just now made up that he’s 12 and
“Hm, now I want an escape route. Can I read the situation
“Of course not.” Once is what you get, unless the situation
“Okay. I do direct-brain whisper projection on Isle.”
“Cool, what do you do?”
“Uh — we don’t have to interact, so I’m walking past under their
feet where she can see me, and I whisper into her brain without
looking up.” She rolls+weird and hits a 10+.
“What’s your whisper?”
“Follow me,” she says.
“Yeah,” I say. “She inches her butt forward to drop down behind
you, but then tips her head like she’s thinking of something—”
“Don’t do it,” Marie’s player says.
“She forces your hand,” I say. “She takes 1-harm, right? Loudoptional,
right? So, loud or not?”
“Isle, god damn it. Not loud.”
“Sweet. Plover thinks she’s just leaning her head on his shoulder,
but she’s bleeding out her ears and eventually he’ll notice his
shirt sticking to his shoulder from her blood. Do you stick
around?” I’m telling possible consequences and asking.
“Where do you go?”
“I go home, I guess.”
“So you’re home an hour later?” See me setting up my future
move! I’m thinking offscreen: how long is it going to take Plover
to get a crew together?
“Hold on, it was only 1-harm—”
“I know. She’ll be okay. It’s Plover who’s the biggest threat.”
This is what honesty demands. “Are you home an hour later or
“Shit. Yes, home.”
“Having tea?” Ask questions like crazy!
“No tea. Pacing. I have my gun and my pain grenade and the
door’s triple-locked. I wish Roark were here.”
“Cool. Keeler—” turning to Keeler’s player “—you’re passing by
your armory and you hear people in there. It’s Plover, Church
Head and Whackoff, arming themselves. What do you do?” I’m
announcing future badness.
“Hey, what’s up?” Keeler’s player says.
“Marie attacked Isle,” I say, in Plover’s blunt, heavy voice. And in
my own: “he stops what he’s doing and looks square at you, he’s
still got a shotgun in his hand. Church Head and Whackoff, you
know they’re going to back him up.”
Here’s my big plan, by the way. Isle’s listed in the cast for a threat
called Isle’s family, which is a brute: family (naturally enough).
Its impulse, accordingly, is to close ranks and protect their own.
What’s most fun is that I’m acting on that impulse but I’m using
Plover, Church Head and Whackoff — members of Keeler’s gang!
— as Isle’s family’s weapon. It’s just like when Keeler uses them
to go aggro or seize by force, only I’m the one doing it.
If Keeler lets me, that is. Keeler thinks about imposing her will
upon her gang to stop them, her player thinks about it too. She
twists her mouth around, thinking about it.
Finally, instead, “knock yourself out,” she says.
Marie’s player: “damn it, Keeler.”
“So, Marie: at home, pacing, armed, locked in, yeah? They arrive
suddenly at your door with a solid kick, your whole door rattles.
You hear Whackoff’s voice: ‘she’s expecting us I guess.’” I’m
announcing future badness.
“I go to the peep hole,” she says. “There are three of them?”
“Yep,” I say. “Whackoff on your left, Plover and Church Head are
doing something on your right, Plover’s back’s to you — and you
hear a cough-cough-rrrrar sound and Plover’s at the door with a
chainsaw. What do you do?” I’m putting her in a spot.
“I read the situation. What’s my best escape route?” She
rolls+sharp and — shit — misses. “Oh no,” she says.
I can make as hard and direct a move as I like. The brutes’ threat
move I like for this is make a coordinated attack with a coherent
objective, so here it comes.
“You’re looking out your (barred, 4th-story) window as though it
were an escape route,” I say, “and they don’t chop your door all
the way down, just through the top hinge, and then they lean on
it to make a 6-inch space. The door’s creaking and snapping at
the bottom hinge. And they put a grenade through like this—”
I hold up my fist for the grenade and slap it with my other hand,
like whacking a croquet ball.
“I dive for—”
Sorry, I’m still making my hard move. This is all misdirection.
“Nope. They cooked it off and it goes off practically at your feet.
Let’s see … 4-harm area messy, a grenade. You have armor?”
“Oh yes, your armored corset. Good! You take 3-harm.” She
marks it on her character sheet. “Make the harm move. Roll+3.”
She hits the roll with a 9. I get to choose from the move’s 7–9 list,
and I decide that she loses her footing.
“For a minute you can’t tell what’s wrong, and you have this
sensation, it seems absurd now but I guess it makes sense, that
you hit the ceiling. Maybe you tripped on something and fell,
and hit it that way? Then gradually you get your senses back, and
that noise you thought was your skull cracking is actually your
door splitting and splintering down, and that noise you thought
was your blood is their chainsaw. What do you do?”
“I set off my pain-wave projector.”
“Sweet,” I say. “That’s…”
“1-harm area loud ap.”
“The loud is their screaming,” I say. “They’re like—” and I hold
my hands over my ears. On a whim, looking through crosshairs,
I add, “Church Head isn’t. He looks paralyzed, he’s rigid and
silent, his eyes are rolling around in their sockets but otherwise
he’s not moving.” Taking 1-harm is much worse for NPCs than it
is for PCs. “What do you do?”
“I have my violation glove on,” she says. I don’t dispute: of course
she does, she always does. “I pick my way over to Plover and
put my hand on his cheek. I do in-brain puppet strings to him:
protect me.” She rolls+weird, hits a 10+, and smiles sweetly and
A subtle thing just happened. I’ve been saying what they do
and then asking Marie’s player what Marie does, but here she’s
seized initiative from me. It isn’t mechanically significant, we’ll
still both just keep making our moves in turn. It’s just worth
“Hot,” I say. “Whackoff grabs you from behind to pull you off of
him, but Plover jumps on her.” (I hadn’t mentioned before that
Whackoff’s a woman, but she has been all along in my head. Ha
ha, gotcha.) “He’s punching her in the face, she’s falling back,
she’s like, the fuck? This uses up your hold over Plover, right?”
“Right,” Marie’s player says. “That’s okay. I pick up his chainsaw
and chop into them both.”
Damn. I’m impressed.
“That’ll be seizing something by force. They’re, um, meat. Roll it,”
I have absolutely no interest in saving these NPCs, none. I’m
looking at them through crosshairs, and much as I like them, I
do not make them safe.
She rolls+hard and hits a 7–9. “How much harm will I inflict?”
she says. She has to decide which seize-by-force option to
choose, and first wants to know what’s what.
“With a chainsaw? 3-harm. Messy, so you might hit one or both
of them. They’re wearing armor, though, 1-armor.”
“And I’ll suffer…?”
“Well, none from Plover, you’ll hit him first and since he dropped
the chainsaw he’s unarmed anyway. Whackoff still has her
handgun, it’s just a 9mm, so 2-harm from her.”
“That’s fine. I’ll choose to inflict terrible harm, and to impress,
dismay or frighten my enemy.”
“You got it,” I say. 3-harm for the chainsaw, 1.”
She misses the roll. Remember that missing the roll+harm is
good for her. I get to decide whether to inflict my 1-harm or else
choose something from the harm move’s 7–9 list. I choose to
have her lose her grip on what she’s holding.
“Don’t mark the harm,” I say. “Instead, she shoots you while
you’re trying to jerk the chainsaw out of Plover’s ribs, it feels
like a baseball hitting your chest, and you lose your grip. Plover’s
carcass falls with the chainsaw still wedged in it.” I’m taking
away her stuff. “What do you do?””
“I grab her arm—”
“You’re going for violation glove on skin?” I’m about to say that
Marie is acting under fire, but at the last second I remember
that Whackoff is impressed, dismayed or frightened. “She’s just
staring down at him, covered in gore, she’s not even thinking,”
“Oh, yeah, instead I just lay my hand on her face. So gently. I do
in-brain puppet strings. ‘Whackoff. Go to sleep.’” She rolls+weird
but gets a 3 on the dice, so even with her weird+3 it’s a miss.
“What happens with that move on a miss?” I say. She has her
playbook open and is looking right at it.
“I inflict 1-harm to no benefit, it says.”
“That puts Whackoff at 2-harm,” I say. For NPCs, 2-harm is
usually fatal, occasionally immediately fatal, and I’m looking
through crosshairs. “She has a massive catastrophic stroke.
You’re touching the left side of her face? So it’s in the left side
of her brain. The right side of her body collapses, utterly and
suddenly. She falls. She’s covered in Plover’s blood. She can’t talk
but she looks terrified, absolutely terrified, on the left side of her
face. She’ll live for like 10 minutes, if you want to try to help her.
Otherwise she’s dead.” I’m telling consequences and asking.
“I let her die.”
Okay! Scratch Plover, scratch Whackoff. Keeler’s player is
scowling and shaking her head — they were both members of
“What do you do with Church Head?” I say.