Actual Play – Dremmer’s Birthday (10/19/2013)

MC: Vincent Baker
Players: Matt Weber (Frost Gazelle), Sean Nittner (Cybelle), Donny Van Zandt (Hooch), and Dustin Hodge (Frog)
System: Apocalypse World

Game Description

Of course it’s not Dremmer’s actual birthday. Who gives a crap about birthdays in Apocalypse World anyway. But nevertheless, frickin Dremmer’s gotten his hands on something big and now he thinks he’s the birthday boy. He thinks he can own you. He thinks he can give you the spankings and demand your toys as presents. The kick in the head is that he’s absolutely right.

Priority 2

I didn’t think I’d make it in the game. In fact I was the only priority two player there. Everyone else was one. Let’s make some sense of this. At Burning Con games are filled based on a priority basis. Everyone goes and sits down at the table they want to play at, but if the game is full and you have a higher priority in that slot than someone sitting there, you can bump them. It means you never know what you’ll be in for sure, but it also means no sign ups and that first-come is only first-served in one slot for each person attending.

Anyway, I was quite pleased I made it through the culling process!


Vincent didn’t do character creation as I’ve normally seen it.

He started drawing this map, but we totally couldn’t make any sense of it. And as we’re all looking at him doing it, Vincent laughs. “I love that I’m drawing this map, but it doesn’t make any sense at all”. And indeed, we could tell what it was.

He said “Okay, I need one of you to play a chopper. He’s the leader of a biker gang. You’ve got a gang and you’ve got bikes, you’re pretty bad ass.” Donny grabbed the playbook and Vincent held out a few more that were available for this game. That’s all standard enough, but then he just started play. We hardly had names and he was describing the scene. Hooch (Donny’s Chopper, that he picked a name for when prompted) was tied up in this emptied out cistern being beaten to hell by Fucking Dremmer. With him was Putrid, one of his gang, who apparently had turned on him.

Outside he said our characters were walking up… and that’s when we figured out who we were. We picked stats as needed, described out look as needed, and then when it came up, established Hx as needed, all as a result of needed to engage the mechanics and not before.

Our lot

Hooch (Chopper) – Our leader. A tough man covered in scars and bondage leathers.

Frost Gazelle (Skinner) – A gorgeous woman who wanted a nice place in the wastelands. She controlled everyone with her beauty.

Frog  (Faceless) – A man that just wanted to know his place in life, to be useful, and not to be lied to.

Cybele (Brainer) – A talk lanky figure covered in arctic snow gear. Cybele wanted peoples brains to work right, and when they didn’t, she made them stop.

Some things Vincent did

The adventure was a blast. We kicked Dremmer’s ass and sort-of took his power. It was good times, but rather than map out the details I mostly want to focus on Vincnet’s MCing techniques

1. Start with some fuckery. Vincent just teased us for a few minutes drawing this little map and laughing that we had no fucking idea what he was doing. He wasn’t being a jerk, but he was definitely fucking with us… and getting our attention.

2. Do everything in media res. Everything from picking characters and stats to introducing moves was explained or brought into play at the table as it became relevant in play. Even though three of the four players were very familiar with Apoc World, I noticed that we all spent more time looking at each other and at the tiny map that at our playbooks.

3. He left out what he didn’t need. “I don’t understand these Hx choices. Who wrote that shit? It doesn’t make any sense.” First, I’m glad to see that even Mr. Baker realizes that the on your turn / on everyone else’s turn instructions for establishing Hx is confusing as fuck, but more importantly, he wasn’t wasting time on little shit that wasn’t central to the action. Hx mattered, but it mattered in play, not for what happened before play started.

4. Only using Hx when needed. We never rolled Hx to aid unless someone had a 6 or a 9 on a roll. So we were posed with the question of do you want to help and expose yourself to danger after we already knew that our friend was in danger themselves.

5. Ending a session. Three times! This was the big one, and I think made the biggest difference. After just as each beat was reaching it crescendo, or shortly after, but before we resolved the fallout of the action,  Vincent called for “end of session”. It wasn’t the end of the game, but it encapsulated what had just happened, prepped us to move forward in the fiction, and engaged the endgame Hx advancement mechanics.

6. Creating permanency in the world. When I opened my brain and described the  Psychic Maelstrom as “An arctic tundra, impossible to see very far in because of the storm that rages constantly” that’s how it stayed for the rest of the game.  I may have been partial because I described it but I love that we created some consistency in the game, instead of it just being a different place for everyone that goes there.

7. Hanging a lampshade on inconsistency. At one point we had Dremmer beat. He gave and offered us anything we wanted. As soon as he had an opportunity though, he was going to take it. And instead of us wondering what they hell was going on, Vincent just called it out. “Fucking Dremmer man, a minute ago he was totally yours, but man the moment he has an opportunity to fuck you over, you can already see the gears turning.” It was great, because we didn’t wonder if we had missed something as players, he made it clear that yeah, we beat him, he just a weaselly son of a bitch with a backup plan. This made slitting his throat much simpler.

2013-10-19 20.09.20

Thoughts on this game

I know I talked a lot about how Vincent MC’d the game, which was very cool an all, but there was a lot of other cool stuff happening at the table.

Frog and Frost Gazelle started off with something cool. Clearly Frog wanted her, but he didn’t think he had a chance. She played with him, like pretty play with others attracted to them, and at first it worked. Eventually though, he just didn’t want the bullshit. He was still fond of her, but he knew she was lying to him. I would have loved to see how that panned out over a few sessions.

At some point I was with Hooch and said “remember the time we were fucking and…” I’m not really sure what the and was now, but it totally spun the direction our relationship was going in a different direction. I think Cybele became something of Hooch’s confidant after that. I also loved that Donny, who hadn’t played AW before, totally just rolled with it.

When Vincent asked if we were in Hooch’s gang, we all jumped on it. Hell yeah, we were. I loved that nobody pulled the “I’m a loner playing my own game” bullshit. I fucking hate that shit. It was great to see everyone inwardly focused on the PCs instead of on their moves or other NPCs. Putrid did get pulled in as a central figure (we wanted to help her) but she never pulled us away from interacting with each other. Yay for PCs interested in other PCs!

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