Tales of the Apocalypse, Part 4: Bloody Sunrise

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.

Go Wolverines!

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)

Lessons Learned

  • 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”)

Last Words

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


  1. Tony Miller says:

    I’ve enjoyed the Fallout/Mad Max vibe of the whole series of articles so far. It’s dark, gritty, and has a totally different feel to it than the 4E or the Mouseguard. I like it, and would be willing to check out the game. My biggest question, is what would you borrow from this game to enhance your GMing/DMing? With Mouseguard you picked up the “make failure interesting”, is there a similar lesson to be pulled from AW?

    Honestly I like reading all of your play reports. I’m in love with 4E, but like most people, I’d play other games if I thought I could find a group for them. Your group running this experiment lets me play these games vicariously through you guys, so it is much appreciated.

  2. I think your indie reports, especially this AW one, are great. The 4e ones left me thinking “Cool session”. In the indie ones, the though was “More!”.

  3. As my friend Phil mentioned on Gnome Stew a few weeks ago (http://www.gnomestew.com/gming-advice/the-book-of-vincent-gming-apocalypse-world), Apocalypse World’s GM mechanics are methods, not rules and many GMs already use them. They are just presented in a practical guidelines/templated format.

    Thus, there are 2 things I’d export from AW into other games:

    1) Use GM moves as precise guides to “mouseguarding it”. A lot of GMs have trouble implementing “interesting failures” well, the list of GM moves in AW are exactly about making things interesting like “seperate them”, “Trade Damage for damage”, “Damage them” “Put them on the Spot”, Announce Future badness”. I’d just say to export that one phrase with the moves and you’d be golden to complete my proposed “interesting failure” model:

    “When PCs fail, make the most direct, irrevocable move that makes sense in the story”

    2) The toolkit for naming all NPCs, then associating them to ressources the PCs might need and threats/needs they have is very strong as of itself. Now going further and organising those threats into unified fronts of similar threats becomes a campaign planning tool not unlike Dave’s 5X5 method (http://critical-hits.com/2009/06/02/the-5×5-method/) that’s so powerful for Sandboxy/improv gaming!

    So yeah, I’m really taking stuff from that game, it’s filled with “gaming tech” I hope to see adopted by future RPGs.

  4. @balard: Thank you so much, I appreciate you made the effort to add that appreciative comment. 🙂

    You too @Tony, I jumped in the question too fast to thank you for the kind words.

  5. Dixon Trimline says:

    I’m enjoying the recaps as well, despite being a tactile learner, which means I have absolutely no idea how all the ruley bit and pieces are supposed to fit together. Still, it’s a freaking thrilling tale, and it has the feel of an authored story instead of collaborative storytelling.

    My take-away has to be amazement at the apparently effortless blend of combat and skill challenges. There is so much going on in every scene, physical, social, athletic, everything. It really is impressive.

  6. I like these post and found it enlightening to see how you felt the game on your side of things. This is one system that seems to put a lot of the pressure on the DM in terms of how you should conduct your game.

    I can see that it’s style is closer to my own then it is to yours. Per example as a DM I hate having to roll dice and the fronts are akin to my groups/organization and motivation technique.

  7. Casting my vote for more indies! I love the play reports and I got more interested in buying, reading and playing them because of reading Chatty DM 🙂

  8. Long time lurker, first time commenter.

    I’d rather read about a good indie game than 4e anytime. 🙂 I’ve enjoyed the Apocalypse World segments, especially since – while it’s definitely my cup of tea – getting my gaming group to try it would be like pulling teeth. Should’ve seen the one time we tried In a Wicked Age.

  9. I really enjoy all of the indie coverage. Even in games that I doubt I’ll have the opportunity to play for various reasons (mainly finding a group), I don’t think there has been a review/playthrough you’ve written since I discovered Critical Hits that hasn’t helped spawn ideas in my head for story and each article is incredibly easy to mine for amazing DM tips.

  10. This is an incredibly useful series to me! I want to play AW at some point, and while it’s easy to get play reports from active indie gamers, there aren’t as many reports from people with a more trad background — so this has been super-informative.

  11. Wow, thanks for the responses people! I truly appreciate it!

    @Dixon: Dixon, you are officially on top of my ‘must buy a beer for this guy” list. Thanks for your awesome comments on the whole series so far.

    I know that “grokking” rules in a post is hard. But you are right that this game has managed to capture the feel of intense, acrobatic action in just a few dice rolls mainly because it espouses a very Old School “just roll 2 dice and aim high” approach to doing anything that’s got a significant chance of failing and it’s got a wide margin of “nearly missed” that creates the whole feeling of twists and turns of the action.

    Thanks again.

    @Yan: As you know, the pressure is mostly self imposed. I noticed in the second session that I no longer checked for what moves to do as they come more naturally. But those tools are absolutely perfect to help a more “structured trad GM” like me embrace the liberty of improvising like you do. And I really feel I’m getting better and better at this.

    Thanks for the feedback man, looking forward to see how Allison will defend her little town against Sun.

    @Nightracer: Thanks! I should bug Dave about co-writing a holiday buyers guide to games! I really appreciate that you guys trust my judgement on such games.

    @Stop: Hello and here’s an official welcome to the blog (I used to do that more before, I should start again!). Well, I hope you will, as Tony so eloquently put it, game vicariously through my posts! I know it’s really hard to get players to try new games and I’m blessed to have such open minded players.

    Well then sit back and I guarantee I’ll post the rest of the story when we play it in 2 weeks.

    @QuackTape: That’s quite a nice piece of feedback good reader. That’s what I aim at and I’m glad to see that it helps you. Thanks!

    @Bryant: Thanks! I’m glad you like the trad-tinted look at Indie designs I’m going for… at the same time I’m learning all this game tech that I absolutely want to recycle in all other games I’ll play from then on!

  12. I’d like to throw in my voice for continued Indie coverage. I often love the ideas behind indie games, but find the rules devoid of the kind of detailed, sustained examples I would need to make the rules work right out the gate. I also love that you are adding commentary on what worked and what needs work and what you can steal for other games. I’ve enjoyed the Mouseguard coverage and the AW coverage. (Not that I’m against talking about 4e, though.)

  13. Another on the long time lurker, first time commenter list to say that I’m really enjoying this series of articles. By preference I’m more into sci-fi than fantasy, so this is right up my street, much more so than another article about 4e and whether Essentials is a brave new world or the beginning if the end 😉

    I jest, but I do find the articles about alternative systems are more likely to give me new ideas, new ways of running each session, new ways to design and run campaign, etc. E.g the worksheets described in the previous article really struck a chord, and I’m definitely going to steal ideas from that for designing my next campaign (although which came first, AW or 5×5 – I immediately noticed the similarity!) My next campaign is likely to be Eclipse Phase or Cyberpunk, but the ideas are what matter not the details of the system.

    On the other hand, I find the 4e articles tend to be more mechanical and more tied to 4e (preview the new striker class, how to handle paragon levels, what does essentials mean for your min-maxed character build, etc). Interesting, but not as widely applicable.

    So that would be my take. Keep doing the 4e stuff as you’ve got to hit the mainstream market, but please keep doing the alternative stuff as that’s where I really come across exciting new ideas.

  14. I vote for more indie game posts. Play some Dogs!

  15. I am an avid 4the Player, but I have really enjoyed your reviews of the indie games. I would never have bought any of the games you have reviewed off the shelf, but in the last two months I bought both Mouse Guard and 3:16. Your reviews and play through reports really help me get interested in other systems. Please keep up the good work.

  16. A good gamer always bites at hooks ;p

    I really enjoy reading your reports of Indie games–I’m currently doing a kind of soul-searching to figure out what I really want out of my gaming (and whether D&D is the best basis for getting that), and so your descriptions of these other games is really nice for figuring out what else is out there and how it may work. Keep writing them, even if we have less to say in response! 🙂

  17. Kevin Richey says:

    Hi Chatty, I’ve really enjoyed your foray into indie games from 4e because my group has made a similar shift in direction. We suspended our 4e campaign after two years to try some simpler indie games. My motivation was to find games with less GM prep time. So we’ve tried Wushu and are playing through a few seasons of Mouse Guard. Your recent posts are pushing AW into my list of Games We Must Try.

  18. I’m also on the first time commenter bandwagon, and also vote for more indie posts! Due to gaming group make-up I’m unlikely to ever play 4e, but am hoping to persaude them that they’d like to try a bit of AW in our forthcoming between campaign break, so this series is very timely.

    I wonder if you could talk a bit more about the “failure” mechanic and your PCs reactions to it? I understand that as an AW MC you make hard and direct moves on failure, but then pass control right back. (“A sandstorm whips up, separating you from the group. What do you do?”) I would have thought it provided a similar level of control as any other game, only slightly more abstracted. (As indeed sucess is too.) The “soft success” strikes me as a harder balance. How do you cope with providing a difficult choice that still feels like success? After all, the PCs have made the roll, even if by the slimmest of margins.

    EDIT: Oops, I see the gravatar age setting must be 18+ here! Apologies if anyone gets upset by the avatar! Might want to set your gravatar filter to a lower age catagory.

  19. I mostly read your post because of your approach to gaming, not particularly about systems. I don’t play DD4 but I’ve read all your stories, questions and feedbacks about how you manage your DMing, your group, your relations with players and characters and the way you wheel your story to the points you want to explore (or sometimes to places you’ve not even imagined you would be).

    That’s why stories (and approaches) like these are at least as interesting as your 4E posts.

    Crunchy posts and blogs about 4E are umerous around the web whereas more general texts about RPGs in general, indie-rpgs and the rpg world at large are so rare.
    Yours is one of the few I enjoy to read on a regular basis, because it widens our horizon, bring fresh ideas and considerations to my table and is packed with so much bits of special coolness that I would have a hard time not having it to refresh my approach to RPGs (since I play for now 20 years).

    So keep going, and keep going indie sometimes. I do like that.

    (And sorry for my bad english, I’m just a French DM, from the old world beyond the ocean ;))

  20. Thanks for the blog!

    Another first time commenter her. While I do read the D&D related posts, they are not my draw here. Have played various versions of D&D, but I’ll probably never play it again. I especially like your posts about indie games and playing with kids.

    Love your thoughts about ApW, the good and the bad. Especially as I’m considering to buy it.

  21. Dixon Trimline says:

    @The Chatty DM: Unfortunately, I’d have to turn down your beer offer, as I’m not much for the suds. I lived three years in Germany and never got a taste for the stuff. However, if you ever decide to run one of these games over the internet, maybe you can find an extra chair.

  22. Okay… people around me will say they aren’t surprised by the turnout, but little deluded me totally is!

    @Rod: One of my biggest challenges reading some of the smaller press games is to figure out how to play the game. Hunting down forums, chatting up their authors in cons (and inviting them for lunch) and writing about my experiences are all things I do to learn how to play them. I’m really glad it’s helping/entertaining others too.

    @Farrago: Welcome! Thanks for de-lurking for this! Sorry for playing the insecure card like this. If you like Sci-Fi, you are going to LOVE my upcoming series on Free-Market.

    Do give AW a look in terms of getting the book, it’s got a lot to offer for GMs who want to break out of the traditional model and move out into other forms of mastering such games. And the tools to get you there are among the best I’ve seen.

    @Dale: I plan to play Dogs with Vincent when I lure him back to Montreal for a gaming con.

    @Brian: You seriously bought the games based (in part) on my reviews? Wow! I need to call the Indies and work out some kind of deal… j/k! Thanks for the vote of confidence.

    @highbulb: Trust me, taking some time off the regular game, and regrouping around another, less known game is a GREAT way to recharge your GM batteries. Or better yet, let someone else GM for a short, 4-6 session campaign.

    @Kevin: How do you like Mouse Guard so far. To this day it remains one of my favorite game systems by far. I’m looking forward to hitting the Burning Wheel book soon!

  23. @Andrew: My players take well to failure because they quickly understood that the twists and turns caused by failures and soft successes are what drives the action of the game in AW (and MG too).

    For instance… when I separated Eternity from the group… Math went “well, duh, I just come back to where they were…” and I answered, sorry you don’t know “where” that is and so by assuming she walked back to where she thought her buddies were… (a neutral move ) I followed up with the next move “put her on the spot” and presented a new NPC who wanted to capture her as his agenda.

    And since that 1st move was a soft success… I allowed Eternity to relay the info to the rest of the group before getting separated.

    Aside: I’ll check for the Gravatar setting. Thanks!

    @Mask: Salut et bienvenu sur le blog vieux! Wow, je dois dire que je suis impressionné par les éloges qui jaillissent de ton commentaire. J’en suis tout rouge. 🙂 J’aimerais tant allez faire un tour dans une convention sur le vieux continent et vous faire pouffer de rire avec mon accent canadien…(comme les américains le font déjà)

    Soooo…. Can I quote you on my endorsement wall? 🙂


    @Ken: Thnaks for the kind words. There will be more “gaming with kids” posts as I re-discover them with my 2 children. Right now we play Magic and World of Warcraft a lot!

    @Dixon: Duly noted! Dave’s been talking about playing a virtual game of Fiasco. Maybe we need to kickoff our first edition of Critical Con don’t ya think?

  24. I’ve really enjoyed the AW series Phil, possibly most of all the insight into specifics of how the game is run (and how it’s different from other RPGs) and also how you’ve been using those. I’ve felt a lot more like I could “get inside of the GM’s head” with these posts, and that’s a cool thing to do but I believe is something people aren’t that used to in a blog post. It could be an emerging market though!

    I’ve also really enjoyed reading about the more adult themed gaming and R-rated badassery, but I can totally see that you wouldn’t want to run AW all the time for a long time. That said, it seems like a great game to play to get away from your standard RPG and recharge those batteries while you try different things.

    I hope you’re still going to do Free Market, because I want to read about that even more!

  25. Uses et abuses de ce que j’ai pu écrire. C’est en tout cas un plaisir que de te lire, et un privilège. Alors si quelques mots peuvent essayer de rendre justice à ton travail, pas de problème. 😉

    Et si tu veux faire un tour dans le vieux continent un de ces jours (avec ou sans accent), tu seras le bienvenu !

  26. I gotta say, Chatty, I was hooked from the very moment you brought up Apocalypse World. I pretty well raced out and got the game as soon as I could get my hands on it, and spend the next several days reading it over in detail. I haven’t had a chance to play yet (impending parenthood is a bit of a time-suck, though for a good cause), but it looks easy to run and awesome. It’s definitely sparked some ideas for me–I see zombies and “Firefly”-esque Reaver gangs on nuclear choppers–and I’m way pumped to get to run this sometime.

    Your insight about not rolling dice is an interesting one. I think I side with Yan on it being my least favorite part of DMing… not because I don’t enjoy it, but because when I’m playing D&D, my turn as DM always takes way too long to execute. The AW mechanic of making a quick response to the players’ moves and letting them keep the spotlight appeals: I love it when my players are feeling engaged and empowered.

    The “lack of control during failures” critique was another good one–possibly alleviated by what you did with Raven, letting her choose to knock Thunder off his bike or show up late? I.e., giving the player a choice of badness, rather than imposing it all the time? There’d have to be some balance there, but it seems like it could work.

    Anyway, really appreciate this series, and I hope you do more along these lines. D&D is awesome, but there are some truly great indie games out there as well, with really innovative ideas (that could even be used to make D&D better). Thanks!

  27. I have really enjoyed the AW posts, and to be honost, I was bored to tears with the Mouseguard posts and stopped reading those. I have absolutely no interest in a game about cute rodents.

    Thanks to you, I am going to have to track down AW because I want to run it.


  28. Chatty, I know I’m totally not the normal target audience, as I’ve played a lot of AW already myself, but your AW posts are still great reads. In fact, since I don’t play as much 4E and have a very improv GM style, they might be my favorite Critical Hits posts in recent memory.

    It’s too bad the MC moves haven’t been clicking for you. I think the interesting thing about the MC moves is that, while at first they appear like ‘fluff’ they’re actually just as crunchy as the player moves, you just don’t have to roll to use them. Since the use of a move is always predicated on the fiction, being able to make an MC move means changing the fiction, maybe taking moves on or off the table.

    If you want to have more of a hand in the mechanics as a GM, consider giving some enemies (or Fronts) custom moves. Sure, you’re not rolling the dice, but you can totally do stuff that substantially changes the mechanics. Use different stats, make them Act Under Fire, add or subtract options to choose on a hit, etc.

    If that still doesn’t fit your style, I guess that’s just too bad, but I find MCing to be way more fun and rewarding than DMing D&D, and I have the same level of mechanical engagement.

    Anyway, thanks for the play report!

  29. @Chatty – One more thought, on the topic of choices on failures: if your players are feeling left out on failures, make sure to use the “Tell them the consequence and ask,” “Offer an opportunity (with or without cost)” and “Put someone in a spot” moves, since those all really directly put the ball back in the PCs court. And of course ask “what do you do now?”

    @Raevhen – The Guard is pretty much the opposite of cute. I’m not a fan of talking mice either, but: a) the comics are fantastic and really sell the idea and b) it’s not so much about the fact they’re mice, it’s about living in a world much bigger than you are. Every guard mouse in every game I’ve played would be better described as ‘badass,’ not cute.

  30. @Bartoneus: Thanks man, as I told Yan over IM today, you’re all welcome to come in and have a seat in my head… heaven knows there’s plenty of space to fit you all in. I appreciate that people like my style so much… it’s been touching and humbling to remind me how neurotic I’ve been about the whole thing. 🙂

    @Mask: Merci beaucoup. Faut que j’arrete avec les réponses françaises, ca énerve l’éditeur qui doit demander à sa copine de les décoder… pauvre Dave. 😛

    @Rae: Well then, happy that on one part I got you interested in that Sci-Fi Indie game and also that I moved you to tears with the ones about the mice 🙂 Seriously, I see many people completely misjudging the game for so many different reasons, the fact that the PCs are mice being a recurring theme. So be it.

    @Sage: Thanks for the kind praise. It’s not so much that the moves are clinching with me… I totally get their true storytelling power even if I’m not, nor likely ever will be, entirely comfortable with them. But I compare the pleasure I derive from a session of AW (vs that I perceive from my players) and I feel a certain level of disconnect. One I see, to a lesser extent, in D&D 4e too for that matter.

    But I’ve yet to see it in Mouse Guard. I like how I get as excited as the player in MG when we get up from our chair and face off chucking a bazilion dice to then tell the story of what the results are.

    But AW’s teaching me very very important lessons in dealing with failure… after another sessions, I might even get an epiphany… I’m quite open to that possibility…

    But I like dice!!!!! 🙂

  31. Loved the series, have to say I bought Mouseguard because of hearing about it from you…. What struck me most was that the storytelling/improv aspect of this game is very like the games you play with your son, though the content is of course too mature. That matters to me because, though I will pick up a copy of the game, I cannot use it with my gaming group as they are 11 and 12 year olds. Perhaps some reskinning is possible…

  32. I want to try AW. I really dislike 4e.

  33. @Tim: Vincent Baker told me, when I bought the game at Gen Con, “Yeah, don’t play this with your kids”

    The game has many beautiful hacks online and you are TOTALLY right. It IS the game engine I instinctively used to play bedtime stories with Nico when he was 6. Good catch. I will explore this further.

    @Neceros: Thanks for sharing… You might want to look at my newest post where I pick elements from AW to shore up some of the things I like less in 4e.

  34. @Tim: Reskinning is already happening all over the place! The AW forums have a section just for hacks (http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php#4), and I have to plug my own AW hack that does old-school D&D-style games: Dungeon World (http://www.latorra.org/dungeon-world/)

  35. I love this series so far. I bought AW as soon as I read about it on Gnome Stew. I’ve read it twice, printed out the MC and Threat moves and created fronts for my ongoing Savage Worlds campaign. The agenda, principles, and moves are distilled awesome for a low-prep GM.

    Sadly, I doubt I’ll be able to play actual Apocalypse World this year or next (player buy-in). I get my fix from AP threads and articles like this. Keep up the good work!

    Personally, I like the idea of not being responsible for any dice rolls. It helps me remember whose characters the game is really about, and removes mental constraints about what I can do as MC. I never have to prep a stat block! Also, you can always roll the Harm Move instead of having your players do it. Still- you’re right about not much crunch.

    Also, did you see the recipe for Apocalypse Corn in the back of the book? Lovely.

  36. Piping up here as another avid lover of your indie game series, and a BIG plus one for your upcoming FreeMarket series. You’ve already convinced me to buy Mouse Guard, and because of that, Burning Wheel, which I’ve converted much of my gamer friends to, but also now AW. Picked it up just a day ago and WOW is it fantastic! I’m sure that if I hadn’t already got FreeMarket as a preorder (#24!), you’d end up convincing me to pick that up too.

    Thank you for spreading the love of indie games. I will try to comment more often if only to keep you posting much about them :). If I can cast my vote for a future series, may I suggest Lacuna?

  37. Incidentally I also ripped off the Dread questions-as-character generation trick to move my 11-year old D&D players over from roll to rôle playing. They have all just started secondary school (highschool to you) and are getting stacks of homework for the first time, so I introduced questionnaires as “D&D homework”, evil grin…. My reward was when the girl who plays the wizard and actually comes to the games made up specially (moons etc – she is very eladrin) looked at it and said “ok, now I am thinking of a story”

  38. I don’t have anything useful to say in reply but I have loved reading these articles. For me, I comment when something I feel I can discuss from a position of knowledge comes up. I know a lot about DND and less about Apocalypse World, hence, no commenting. Doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy reading them though 🙂

  39. Chatty– I’ve loved this series, much more so than stuff concerning 4E. Not that there’s anything wrong with 4E, but I can read about it (and buy it) everywhere. The indie games are new and exciting, and push the boundaries that Wizards wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. Keep up these write-ups, I’m loving it!

  40. Bought and am reading AW. Very nice mechanics and the MC approach is very widely applicable. I would love to run a version with my 12-year-olds, minus the bad language and sex, but keeping the threatening environment.

  41. Based on this and another gameplay description, I’ve purchased AW just a few minutes ago. I’m new to GMing and have been looking for methods for helping me set up an adventure that won’t require too much prep work or planning…something that encourages improv. The system I want to use is Wushu, but what I’ve read regarding the GM aspects of AW will help me (I hope) in setting up the adventure part. There are a couple of other little modules for other things, but those are more easily taken care of (eg How to Host a Dungeon for help in world building). $15 isn’t too bad a price to spend for me if it’ll give me what I want. But without your review, and another’s, I wouldn’t have even known this possibility existed. Thank you.