Actual Play – Heart of Darkness Play-test (10/11/2010)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Shaun, Travis and Fattig
System: Apocalypse World

So, as usual with my play-test AP reports I’m not letting too much of the cat out of the bag. Not that my game has anything resembling a plot besides “bad things happen, what do you do?” But there are some specific prompts to the game that I’m going to keep offline until the actual game.

This game is hard to run. Hard because I want to run the game the way the designer says to. I’m pretty much done second guessing game designers these days. If I don’t like the way something works, I’m going to do it anyway until either I figure out a) ahh.. yeah, it’s supposed to be like that or b) eh, this really isn’t my game. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still hack the hell out of a game, but that comes after feeling like I have sufficient mastery of how the game is supposed to work. With S7S I hacked it like crazy, but that wasn’t changing rules, it was creating pacing mechanics for myself. As elaborate and grandiose as they looked, all my Act 1 cards did was act as encounter generators and tiny, tiny egg timers.

So, on to ApocWorld. How was it? It was awesome. The game play reminds me a lot of Burning Wheel. Bad things are going to happen, they are going to threaten what you care about. As a player you’re going to be wicked awesome as you confront those things and either get your ass handed to you or come out on top, but probably with a knife in your gut for your efforts. Domino did just that.

Listed in bullet points that I took down after game (thus not fleshed out much)

What rocked

  • The hooks from my love letters came alive. The started the action and kept it meaningful and in context with the setting.
  • There were lots of options to explore.
  • Plenty of character tension. All on the same side, but definitely not having the same interests (even when Domino wanted to save Icicles life but the way he did it wasn’t what she wanted AT ALL).
  • Completing the sex special moves was easy
  • Player control over the story
  • Mechanics reinforce the flavor
  • Props – a frickin’ pile of awesome props
  • The setting – wet is good, specifics are good
  • A rocking map
  • Mood setting
  • Making hard decisions was good and encouraged
  • The NPC relationships announced future badness
  • Players loved their love letters

What could have been improved

  • As an MC I needed more fluency with the rules – when to use the proper moves
  • Love letter to the Chopper was weak
  • To gonzo at points
  • Some of my questions were too aggressive and too early
  • Pile of props unused – Spread it out
  • Need bullet shells for token
  • Description of the game makes it sound like there will be more direction (inform the players that they will have the control)
  • Start with a kicker, what just happened
  • Flipping through the book is awkward
  • More people need to be hit with a bike chain
  • Hocus as a leader didn’t work
  • Need a sheet of the NPCs in Bel
  • Not a lot of movement in the game (a map will help)
  • Picking results before narration was sometimes awkward