Actual Play – Apocalypse World (8/19/2010)

GM: Carl Rigney
Players: Sean, Fattig, Travis and Madeline
System: Apocalypse World

This was my first experience playing AW, and I want to thank Macklin for organizing the event (Go Play SF Bay) and Carl for running it. I’ve definitely found another favorite.

We were pretty limited on time and need to take a break in the middle to eat (Travis, Fattig and I all drove down without getting food on the way, so we we’re pretty hungry). That left us running a game that didn’t exactly end, though it did have a cool closing scene.

Carl introduced the game as a setting akin to Road Warrior, where everything is scarce and people covet the essentials for survival. Life is dirty and scarce. Precious to some, meaningless to others.

Our game about a crew running a gig, or a couple gigs that got intertwined in a messed up way. In the process we picked up some “passengers” including “sisstant”, JJ and Amaranth. I’ll flesh out more of these bits in the what rocked section.

What Rocked

Carl. Carl rocks. Carl took our disparate ideas and helped all of us weave them into a plausible and beautiful narrative. I’ve got such a GM crush on Carl, it’s not even funny.

The Game, whether intentional or not, seemed to be written for us. It started with the character types. The Operator dropped on the table and before Carl got half way through describing it I was already set to play her. Then came the Brainer… who’s description should have been “This is Fattig’s character”. The driver was the same for Travis. I don’t know Madeline well enough to know if she LOVED the Angel or not, but it sure seemed like she enjoyed playing her.

I had a couple of my best one-liners in any game:

  • GM: So are you cannibals. Cash: Eating one escargot doesn’t make you a Frenchman.
  • Sammy: That was MY gun! Cash: I was managing the resources available to me at the time. Your gun and HIS life.
  • Brace (after just being brained by Cash for infighting with the crew): He attacked me, what are you going to do about it? Cash (who had brained Brace to end the conflict): I just resolved the situation. Would you like me to RESOLVE it again?

The relationship system in AW is great for two reasons. One, the more you care about someone (good or ill) the more you can affect them, which resonate well with me. Two, you get experience for getting to know people, which I also like.

On the subject of experience, each game you’ve got two highlighted traits that are the ones you’ll get experience for using that game. It’s a way for the Master of Ceremonies (who gets to pick one) and a the players (who get to pick one, but for different character) to say “this is what I want to see in the game”, which is awesome. It means you can focus games around different moods and you can create some niche protection that moves around character. Maybe one session the Battle Babe is all about going hard, but the next, it’s the Angel, and she’s pulling some David Duchovny “Playing God” moves that session. It reminds me a lot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as the theme of the show would change a lot (drama, action, thriller, horror, comedy) from show to show.

The core mechanic seemed fair and fun. It wasn’t anything revolutionary but it served the game well.

The game encourages you to try and play real people with real feelings. I had this conversation with a girl who was our “cargo” where I tried to figure out what she wanted but failed my roll so the tables were turned and she got to find out what was going on in my head. My character, who had given up a lot and was putting a lot of things on the line, really didn’t want to do the job and was looking for a way out. It was a fun revelation for me to know that my character really didn’t know what she was going to do and play out some of her struggle.

Travis got to play an androgynous character and have sex twice without ever revealing his character’s gender. This made him quite happy. Oh… and he got a big semi (along with a few other vehicles).

Wow… Fattig with unnatural lust transfixion and a violator glove… I mean just listen to the sounds of those too and tell me it isn’t creepy. Awesome.

What could have been improved

We got into one situation where I was bullshitting a hard holder (based off trying to follow a lead from the Angel) that I knew was bull shit and so did the hard holder. It was some awkward bits of backing down from pushing something I didn’t buy in the first place. Should have gone with my gut.

There was a “this isn’t that game” moment when I was, for lack of any other idea proposing that I jump on the back of motorcycle that was riding along beside our semi. Carl reminded me that wasn’t really appropriate to the character or the setting and I had to agree. What came out of it (giving the npc following us the shot gun and telling him that if he got rid of the bikers he was in our crew) turned out to be great, but it felt like a it was the only time the game had a break in the narrative due to some cognitive dissonance.

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