I've given Apocalypse World, and story games in general, quite a bit of love recently. Tonight's session was fun, as always, but we came across an apparent limitation in the system which bears a bit of discussion - namely player versus player conflict. I'll have to go into a bit of detail about an arcane rules point here, but bear with me: it'll be worth it. Maybe.
Anyway, a situation arose in play in which two characters (one of which was mine, as it happens) nearly came to blows, and ended up embroiled in a social conflict of a kind, in which my character was trying to persuade the other to stop pinning him against a wall and the other guy was trying to persuade mine not to do something he deemed foolish. AW has a resolution system comprising a set of "moves", such as "going aggro" or "reading a person", where you roll the dice and successes allow you to either get meta-game knowledge or achieve something in-game - usually with quasi-narrative-control consequences either for you or the GM. This works swimmingly when it comes to NPCs; if (for example) you are "reading a person" your character engages him in conversation and rolls the dice, with a minor success indicating you get to ask a question about the NPC which the GM has to answer truthfully, and a major success indicating you get to ask three. (Failures allow the GM to turn the result around on the player, though we don't need to go into that in detail.)
In the situation described, both players were essentially relying on a seduction/persuade roll. The way this works on an NPC is that your character rolls the dice, with success indicating that the NPC will be persuaded (although only after extracting a promise in return) and failure indicating that he/she will only be persuaded from going against the PC through some sort of significant sacrifice. (I'm simplifying a little.) Fine. But when it comes to PC-on-PC conflict, the mechanism works differently: you roll, and if you get a success you force the other player to choose - they can either be persuaded, in which case they get XP, or they can refuse, which means they have to make a different roll of their own to see if they manage to resist the seduction/persuasion (failure resulting in negative consequences).
All well and good, but there is a subtext, or underlying assumption, to all of this: the players have to be willing to play along. This isn't what happened in our session: I rolled to persuade the other PC to let mine go and succeeded, whereupon he refused and rolled to see if he could do so. Which he did. Whereupon, duly, he rolled to persuade my PC to go along with what he wanted. Whereupon I refused, and rolled to see if I could do so - which I did.
This resulted in a clear impasse, which could technically have gone on for the entire session if we had continued to roll successes, with both of us persuading and resisting back and forth ad infinitum. The system seems to rely on players, at some stage, being willing to sacrifice "winning" for the good of the "story", which cannot be guaranteed. The designers seem not to have realised that, well, lots of people (myself included) are obstinate fuckers who want to get their own way all the time.
We managed to get a resolution through using other mechanisms (the GM forced us to try to "read" each other to work out how our respective characters could be persuaded to back down and reach a compromise, which came good in the end), but there was still something fundamentally unsatisfactory about the whole affair. There is something to be said for the traditional D&D approach, which would simply have involved the two players inhabiting their characters and talking/arguing things through without rolls; if you have to bend the rules and negotiate a compromise anyway, why bother with a mechanism for social conflict in the first place?
Although maybe we were all being too D&D-ish in the first place and conceptualising things in terms of winning/losing, rather than what would turn out to be interesting in narrative terms.
Or, alternatively, maybe we just don't understand the rules properly and somebody is reading this and frothing at the mouth, ready to open the comments and start typing: YOU UTTER MORONS, THIS IS NOT HOW THE SYSTEM WORKS!!!!!!!!!!1