With my prep done, I was ready to start this week’s game, not knowing how it would turn out.
Previously on Apocalypse World:
In the desert settlement of Shanty Town, Colonel Allison reigns as chief of a weapons factory, making her the de facto lord of the local economy. With the cooperation of cycle gang leader Thunder, she organizes lucrative raids on the nearby, much richer Fortress-City. Along with bodyguard Eternity and her sinister director of Security Smith, she runs Shanty Town as a relatively safe and profitable corner of apocalyptic Hell, She also keeps a close eye on masked newcomer, Raven.
After a successful raid on Fortress-City, Thunder’s gang was ambushed by a bunch an unruly squad of misfit commandos from the very town they raided. While the skirmish distracted everyone, an explosive charge blew up in the factory. As the various badass heroes of Shanty Town rose up to the challenge, they celebrated and decided to launch a retaliatory strike, once Allison made sure it was properly planned…
Dramatis Persona (reminder)
Thunder: Male Chopper (Cycle gang leader, played by Eric)
Raven: Female Faceless (Masked semi-mystical Brute played by Franky)
Smith: Male Brainer (Psychic Mindfucker played by Mike)
Eternity: Female Battlebabe (Waif-fu Kill-Bill-esque badass, played by Math)
Future Badness derailment
Before we get in the whole game report, please note that none of the scenes were pre-scripted. I had “Agendas” and “threat countdown clocks”, but pretty much everything was shaped by player choices/input.
We start the game with the PCs getting ready to leave for the counter raid, setting objectives for it and making seating arrangement on cycles. Thunder got himself a new recruit from Shanty Town’s dregs, a female hardass named Nutcrusher (complete with the crude joke this name generated).
As they started the 2-3 hour trek to Fortress-city on very bad roads, I made the “announce future badness” move and described how something to the north of the Shanty Town raider was raising a hell of a lot of dust and sand. Thunder ordered his men to rustle up their saddle bags and lo and behold, A pair of binoculars were found in Rot’s things!
After an ineffective use of the unfamiliar object by Rot, Eternity snatched it away and marched northward to get a better vantage point. She was able to inform the gang that a column of all terrain vehicles and what looked like armoured vehicles were headed towards Shanty Town!
Of course, as she relayed that info, a huge gust of wind struck them and Eternity lost her crew! (i.e. I imposed this because she got a soft success for the “spot check” and I made the “Separate them move” as my retaliatory action). She was “saved” by a friendly masked biker who rode up to her and asked her if she needed a ride back to the City. She accepted gratefully and got on the bike.
NPC: I’m Franky BTW, what’s your name?
Eternity: Uh… Gill.
Frankie: Right. You think we can become good friends?
Eternity: I’m sure we will!
And so my “Dark Agenda Countdown clocks” started ticking.
Plans crumblin’, Loyalties frayin’
At this point, the players really got into what Vincent Baker told me Apocalypse World was all about: Loyalties in the face of crises. With the column of Hummers and APCs heading for Shanty Town, Thunder ordered his whole gang around to go defend the home base. Raven, sitting behind Thunder on his Hog, didn’t see it in the same light and we were subjected to a spat about the importance of protecting the many against going to help the truly meaningful.
It ended up in an awesome stunt where Raven got up from the still moving cycle, jumped and side-kicked poor Drim (the one giving Smith a ride) off his bike, taking control of it before it fell down and turning around toward Fortress-City.
Since she got a soft success on that roll I gave her 2 choices for a worse outcome (as established by the move she used: Act under Fire) and I offered her to either arrive too late in the City to help Eternity directly (we already knew she was in trouble by then, see below, I’m reordering scenes for readability) or get there in time but cause Thunder to fall from his bike because of her jump.
Raven chose to get to the city late.
Danger in the City… I call thee Eternity.
During that time Eternity rode into Fortress-City and noticed immediately that a group of rag-tag thugs, wearing military uniforms with a Sun emblem on them, were following them, getting ready to ambush them.
Frankie (getting his helmet off, revealing a mask made of stitched flesh of many colours): So Gill, you feel like, ummm, having a coffee or somethin’?
Eternity: Sure luv, but do we invite all those other guys along?
Frankie: Huh? Hey! I told Sun that if I were to separate her from her gang, she was MINE!
Eternity: Of course I am!
As Eternity got ready to cripple 6 or 7 people, she was unable to overtake everyone and got herself captured as Frankie was sent away, cursing. Of course, Eternity saw him slunk behind them, a scalpel in hand.
Eternity finally found herself on the battleship wreck adjoining Fortress-City, finding herself tied to a dancing pole in the ruins of a shipboard bar. After a short scene, (including her player performing a mimed pole dance) she managed to free herself by cracking the skull of the last standing thug with her thighs… (you read that right)
…as the ship’s gun were loaded and fired a test salvo that shook the much damaged structure.
Thunder reached Shanty Town before the armoured column did and staged a guerrilla ambush on it, sending Nutcracker to act as Sniper to create confusion up front while he and his gang assaulted the last Armoured Personnel Carrier at the tail. Succeeding on his “Seize by Force” move, Thunder managed to capture and hold the vehicle, losing a few of his gang members, including his new Sniper.
He thus moved the captured APC into Shanty Town as the confused column reformed and spread to block all the roadways into Allison’s compound.
That’s when they all heard the Battleship shooting its first salvo…
A Loaded Smith & Raven, a shooting (big) gun
When the unlikely duo reached Fortress city, I offered them to make a custom Move I created for the Fortress (which is another “Threat” mechanic) where they got to try to sneak in the city without being spotted. They got yet another “soft hit” and I announced that they were “spotted” while sneaking in, and that they were now being followed by a weird, patched up guy yielding a scalpel.
At that point, I noticed the Raven and Smith duo had had limited camera time so far, it’s always hard to properly spread “action time” in a game that assumed the party is split most of the time. Not knowing what to do, I voiced the question “what would be needed here to make Raven happy?”
(I must confess that I had not quite realized at that time that Smith had done even less).
Raven: I need to fight! I want to kill stuff soon!
So that’s how Frankie the Grotesque (Skin Collector) got distracted from chasing Eternity and focused on the much more mysterious Raven
Frankie (Off Screen): Ohhh, I must find what she hides behind that mask… NO! I must HAVE it!
And so when Smith and Raven chased after Frankie, who sent some of his skinned dolls after them to slow them down, I managed to disarm Raven (who went Berserk) and separate both PCs. Frankie managed to corner Raven in his skin studio (using the “Expose the content of the Grotesque’s environment” move to freak Raven out) where multiple skin suits were shown like a “Galerie Macabre”. Poor, unlucky Smith was forced to climb the building Frankie had barricaded himself in with Raven.
Player comment: Man, this game is really for those who like PCs to be in deep shit all the time!
Of course, that’s when an unarmed Raven opened a can of whoopass, went for the scalpel, got a nasty scalp wound and turned Frankie into pulp with her fists, knees, floor and walls. When the red mist parted in her mind, she heard Smith calling her urgently from the top of the building.
As she climbed, they saw the wreck’s gun turret rotate slowly and the guns fired, sending a shockwave through the city. As the smoke cleared, they noticed a man all dressed in gold standing on deck, surrounded by tough looking men and women.
Smith: That’s got to be Sun…
Chatty: The boat’s main deck is a few hundred yards from where you stand, you feel you’d be able to hop over the roofs to get there… but that’s going to be for the next session.
I decided to end the session there (at barely 9h30 PM!) so that Yan (Allison’s player) could participate in the next seesion which would focus on Shanty Town’s defence.
Post Game Analysis
What the players liked:
- The Quick and Dirty (literal and figurative) approach to gaming
- Succeeding in some key conflicts (taking the APC, Eternity freeing herself)
- We can do so much in so little time
- The evocative post-apocalyptic imagery we were able to muster.
What players liked less:
- Complete lack of control on situations where they “fail”
- The vagueness of what constitute a move and how much one can accomplish in one
- Unequal camera time (more vocal players get more attention, story as old as RPGs)
- Improvising rocks when you have the proper tools to drive it like a unified front of threats (NPCs, Places and agendas)!
- Putting PCs into trouble is really fun, cheering them to pull out on top becomes more awesome.
- Fundamental: I’m starting to feel that this game does not allow me to interact with it’s crunch. I roll no dice, I make no outward combos (except “story combos by setting up narrative moves”)
Did I mention I don’t get to roll dice? I like doing it so much so that this will shorthen my planned AW mini-campaign. I recognize my need as a gamer and I want to be able to interact directly with certain aspects game’s engine to revel in its crunchyness.
While Apocalypse World is a crunchy game, it isn’t in the parts I seek as a gamer, not like I have it in D&D or Mouseguard for instance. That’s why I’m going to wrap up this story by concluding the “Sun Rise” front.
Also, I must say that this series is getting abyssal levels of feedback compared to when I write about 4e. I know that less people are interested in Indie games and I expected as much when I embarked on my “tour of the indies”. That however means that if I likely won’t write more posts about this game if I don’t get more active motivations from you guys to do so, except maybe a short wrap up of the story.
So yeah, I’m totally fishing for comments here… I don’t do it often, but here I am. 🙂
Image taken from the Romantic Apocalyptic Webcomic