Last night I had a long overdue first in my history of role-playing. I ran Apocalypse World. It is not that I am a stranger to these games as I have played and run Dungeon World in the past. Of course Apocalypse World is its own kettle of fish though. I apparently backed the Kickstarter on the second edition and it arrived in the mail for me a few weeks back. Others about the store saw me reading it and wanted to give it a run. Please note at this point that Apocalypse World is full of MATURE content. I will be talking about that here so please do not read on if you are say mid teens or less.
So last night, the third week in a row where I had nobody show for the Modern Magic tournament, I contacted a couple of the interested and printed out the playbooks. I had read the book over a few days in the previous weeks and loved the style of the game. It had the familiarity of Dungeon World but the Threat system made so much more sense to me than the Fronts of Dungeon World. It did not make my head spin after reading the section and I got it straight away. I still have no real understanding of Fronts from Dungeon World.
Starting the game
The game at its heart is simple. The characters exist in a world after an apocalyptic event (which is left vague). They choose a playbook which details a kind of character. It is not truly a class based system though. Once you have chosen that type of character, nobody else can have one! This is an awesome point – I hate games where you have 6 players choose the fighter and then they moan about not being able to be healed (for example).
Each kind of character has a bunch of different things to do in creation and they each have a number of “moves” that they can do in game. The moves are spelled out on the sheet and they allow the player to get a feel about what they are special at. Some get to choose from some moves – others have them all initially. There are a bunch of other moves available (basic, battle, vehicle, etc.) to every character. These moves are the backbone of the game.
Moves are the heart of the game. They are used to progress the story. If a player is going to do something and it matters they will roll a move for it. Rolling a move generally is rolling 2d6 and adding a stat (sometimes other stuff). A roll of 10+ will generally get you what you want, 7-9 what you want with some M.C. fuckery (M.C. is explained in a bit). If you get less than 7 expect some major shit to hit the fan. Statistically, most of the rolls are going to fall into the 7-9 range and this is where the M.C. gets to really push the players into more moves and actions.
The Master of Ceremonies (M.C.)
This is the person that would traditionally be called a Game Master. In this game they are not really. In fact this game is totally awesome in that (and it says this many times) it states DO NOT DARE MAKE UP A STORY. This game involves the M.C. getting ridiculously curious and letting the shit hit the fan to see what happens. To illustrate this let me show you the three agendas as prescribed for the M.C.
- Make Apocalypse World seem real
- Make the players’ characters’ lives not boring
- Play to find out what happens
This is a powerful game. The points I make above are just the short end of the stick on the advice for the M.C. in the book, but everything that comes after supports these points.
History. At the end of character creation the players work out their history with one another. The M.C. asks some more questions and the players really get a feel for who the other players are and why they like, hate or don’t care less about them. Furthermore, history changes during games and it is actually built into the system from a mechanical perspective. This is on several levels too so it makes the characters actions matter. It is awesome!
This game, throughout the entire book, is filled with adult language and concepts. drug fucked junkies having sex with animals – sure. Sex moves (and by moves I don’t mean actual actions – I mean moves as detailed above) for the players to use in their favor – of course. Because of this the game may not be for everyone. The fact that the tone of the book is set up like this actually flows into my game. I swear and sometimes say off things, but nothing like when I am the M.C. for this game. I surprised myself a few times last night.
So, as the M.C. I got curious. That is after all part of the job. I asked a shitload of questions and mapped some of the stuff into a Threat Map. It is a tool designed to help the M.C. keep track of stuff. The thing is that most – if not all, of the stuff on this map came from the players. I may have gone a little too far with the questions but man I came up with one hell of a map. From aggressively territorial vegan mutants through to a religious cult that live in caves below them that worship The Bile. The bile is an incomplete damaged version of the Bible and one of the characters is the Preacher who has his armor piercing Magnum (Redeemer) and his MG (Crucifix). Just as I had gotten enough stuff to start the “Day in your life” beginning the player who runs the Preacher said the following words;
Pansexual gender fluid koala people
I am not 100% sure what this is – but it is something. It will happen – I just need to wrap my head around it.
We ran through a day in the life of the characters which on the most part is how most games of Apocalypse World will start. One of the players feeling a little beset on with only 2 barter (in our Apocalypse World barter is in cigarettes) so he wanted to do a gig. Gigs earn you barter – barter means you do not starve. Being a Gunlugger the boss of Behemoth (their refuge) Deacon Yamaho wanted himto go and kill one of the Vegan Mutants (Preen) who had taken one of his gangs legs off on a raid in their corn fields (Rufé). For proof the Deacon asked;
Bring back two of his six dicks!
So we explored that. The Gunlugger, the Driver (Charlie driving Julia the Vicious Fucker) out west in the badlands. He got the dicks in the end after a bunch of fuckery and got his hands on his carton of smokes. They say that the game really kicks in around the sixth session. If I am having this much fun now – what the hell am I going to be thinking then!
This game is not for everyone. Some will like clean games that don’t touch on the ugliness in the world. They are welcome to continue playing those games that cater for it – slay that dragon and rescue the princess. In fact, do it in Dungeon World and you basically get the clean version of Apocalypse World. But for those that are adventurous and not prone to fainting at bad language and aberrant situations (there is a guy lives close to Behemoth to the South. Nice guy, Rabbit Fucker is his name and he did not get that name by shooting rabbits) then this is the game for you. You do not need to role play everything. Fade to Black and all that – but play this game. If you are the one that often runs most games – RUN THIS GAME. It is awesome and you will have as much fun as your players learning what happens next. Well made D. Vincent Baker and Meguey Baker. Well made indeed.