Actual Play – Damascus Falls at GPNW (6/29/2013)

Apocalypse GalacticaGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Jeremy Tidwell, Morgan Stinson, Nels Anderson, Andrew Carbonetto
System: Apocalypse World
Hack: Apocalypse Galactica

I was very inspired by Go Play even before I got there. Once I had arrive, and especially once I had played Monsterhearts, I was even more so. I’m very glad I brought my Apocalypse Galactica get up. Uniform. Check. Playbooks. Check. Tokens from the game. Check. Game on!

Under the gun – A 3 hour slot

What I hadn’t realized, however, when I signed up to run, was that I was signing up for a three hour slot. It was right there in front of me (Saturday 9AM-Noon) but my math failed, or maybe I just assumed all slots were four hours, but yeah, there it was. I got to run my still in development game that I had never run in fewer than four hours, in three.

And I’m so stoked that I did. We had an hour of character creation and then two hours of game, where SO FRAKING MUCH HAPPENED! Games are fluid, and like fluid, fit into whatever space they are given.


Nels – Played an Activist that was a former Colonial sergeant, and then a former union man, and finally a protestor for the equal rights and opportunities for all 12 colonies.

Morgan – Played a cool headed president that wanted to restore order to the fleet and power to the quorum by any means necessary.

Jerry – Played a tough as nails CAG callsign Titan, who didn’t think the Commander was the right person for the job.

Andrew – Played the Admiral in charge of the fleet. An exceedingly practical man, with a terrible sense of the big picture, or rather of the value of human lives.

The Play is the Thing

Character creation, including the fleet, Hx, Love Letters, and all that jazz took exactly and hour, which left me two hours to run a game from FTL jump to Ka-Boom. Lords of Kobol guide us, somehow we did it.

Here are just a few highlights of the game.

We started off with some awesome bit of insubordination. Upon landing the the hangar bay Titan was immediately summoned to Admiral Raptis’ personal quarters. Where she totally didn’t go. Instead she made her way to the Condor, where she had heard that Karina Halphen had been put under house arrest by the Admiral and was not going quietly into the night.

Meanwhile, on Colonial One,  the activist and the president were having a pow-wow. How could they collectively get the Commander to back down. And boy howdy how they conspired against him. Though who was being treasonous would really depend on who you though was the rightful authority.

As play progressed

we saw some awesome badassery all over the place like…

… when Titan shot the Captain of the Condor (her ally) in the head, took her keys to the cargo bay that the Marines and Civilians were trapped in the middle of standoff in, and the told everyone to calm the frak down, completely diffusing the situation, or…

… The activist ordered his men to take over ships they were on and face the wrath of a Battlestar to declare their independence from the tyrannous rule of the Admiral under the presidents explicit orders, or….

… when the president jammed the commander’s signal to the fleet with wide spectrum electromagnetic interference, which caused so much noise it was picked up by a long distance cylon raider, or …

… when Admiral Raptis ordered a Marine to evacuate the Miya San (which had a radiological alarm go off on it) rather than use civilian technicians capable of diffusing the threat, because he didn’t trust anyone outside of his command, or …

… when the Activist realized the president was a Cylon and nearly got shot down trying to get to the Battlestar to tell the Admiral. And then, when they, two previous foes, saw eye to eye against a common enemy, or…

… when the President, calm, cool and collected told everyone that things would be just fine as she contacted the Cylon Basestar and called in an ambush on the fleet. Or …

… The admiral use the point defense turrets to drive the Basestar back just far enough that Titan could, with a nuke strapped to her Viper’s underbelly, suicide bomb the Cylon Basestar and give the fleet time to jump…

… followed by another nuclear explosion as the Miya San, because of the Activist’s plea that the Miya San was lost and this way she could at least take out a Cylon with her…


Thoughts on the game

I need to add to my list of names, as list of ship names. That keeps coming up.

Character creation reliably takes an hour. I think there are lot’s of fiddly bits on every playbook. Selecting name and look, stats and moves, and invariably some other gear/follower/beliefs options. Then we have love letters as well, which take time to read and then selection options from. Somewhere in there I have them select Fleet and Battlestar options. They are all fun things, but it’s a lot of choices. Jeremy told me later that the time it was taking made him anxious, we still had a good time, but an hour for character creation is a long time.

I think one approach to speed this up would be to drop some of my setup. Encourage people to play people without command (i.e. not the President, Commander, Activist, or CAG, which we had all of), leave out the love letters, and play without the Fleet/Battlestar playbook. I bet that could trim at least 15 minute off the setup time. Jeremy also suggested that instead of choosing lots of options for the Fleet and Battlestar, that juts one option is picked and it cascades down to fill out the others. I’m going to see what I can do with that on the next revision.

Morgan has a long period at the end of the game, after revealing that his character was a cylon where there wasn’t anything for her to do. I kept trying to find ways to put the spotlight back on her, but it never quite stuck. Morgan was a champ though and said he really enjoyed watching the chaos unfold through the fleet. One of his finest lines at the end was asking the pilot of Colonial One if he could escape the oncoming Miya San. We had previously defined Colonial One as a giant shit with a huge observatory dome, excellent for broadcasting to the fleet, but very awkward to maneuver. When the pilot respond (panicked, mind you) that they couldn’t, he final words were “The let me tell you how to pray”. It was awesome.

Most tragic moment of the game… probably when the yet unspoken to, but plenty spoken about rookie pilot Lunchbox got his launch sequence just a bit off and turned his viper around in the launch tube, causing it to turn end over end and explode inside the tube. Beeper and Titan died. But they died avenging Lunchbox!

The characters spent most of game able to communicate with each other over coms, but not in physical proximity. That’s something I want to work on, excuses to get them all in the same space. This game had a lot of NPCs acting as intermediaries between the characters, which did create PC – NPC – PC relationships, but I’d like to see more PCs in each others faces. That is good stuff.

Oh, this was the only game ever, perhaps because of time, where nobody wanted to find out what happened to the Damascus. To much other crap going on!

Titan was scary. If she hadn’t died killing Cylons I think she might have taken command of the Battlestar herself. Frak yeah!

Actual Play – Damascus Falls at BoyCon (6/22/2013)

Apocalypse GalacticaGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Zach, Josh Curtis, Justin Evans (aka J-dog, aka Mr. Boy, aka the only survivor)
System: Apocalypse World
Hack: Apocalypse Galactica

Mr. Boy was turning 40, and his wonderful wife thought what better way to celebrate that to throw him a weekend party of gaming with his boyz.

And so it came to be that we happened upon EndGame as the doors were opening, settled into the Carl Rigney table in the corner and played ourselves some Apocalypse Galactica.


Mr. Boy – Commander Abram Raptis -The hard as hell Commander of the Battlestar Argonaut who had taken over the fleet after his brother Admiral Acario sacrificed his life and the lives of everyone aboard Battlestar Athena to buy the fleet time to escape.

Josh – President Desma Yen – The conniving president who rigged her own election (before the Fall) and was now finding out what it really meant to be the steward of humankind.

Zach – Deepak Teng – A visionary who saw truth in the flames. We had a bit of license crossover here, he worshiped the Lord of Light, and instructed his missionaries to make merry and burn everything around them.

Opening Moves

The purpose of the love letters is to make sure something is going on at the start of the game. The scenario is set just after returning from a jump gone wrong (landing right in a Cylon ambush) and is laden with trouble. Damaged ships, suspicion of a traitor that led them into it, and the controversy between the President and Commander over the latter introducing Martial Law. It’s rife with problems but…

The guys make plenty of problems of their own. Deepak rolled his Fortunes and came up with want: Savagery. We decided that his missionaries had set the prisoners free on the prison ship Precipice, and they were now rioting.  When rolling her campaigns President Yen got the catastrophe “Malfucntions” and to keep them tied into each other, Josh through out that the prison ship had listed into the Condor (the agricultural ship) and cracked the dome, O2 was blasting out of it, even as ships were arriving from their jump.

Also, during Hx when picking their +3 connections, the guys all made deliciously contentious relationships. Commander Raptis blamed President Yen for his brother’s death and for the danger the fleet was in. Yen was in love with Deepak but didn’t believe in his “Lords of Light at all”, and Deepak, though a member of the presidents cabinet didn’t care about the president, but did want to teach the Commander that he needed to see the Truth.

Man, so take all that and add more complications from the love letters… it was a shit storm of crises (see Thoughts below).


There were a ton of great moments in this game. Many of the highlights surrounded the Visionary Deepak, simply because he was so out of control.

His first “vision” was a baptism by fire as he sought wisdom from the Lords of Light about a pilot “Allycat”. Holding Allcat’s head over the edge of a raptor he had a vision, and watched the pilot die and be born again in a resurrection ship, surrounded by the likeness of himself. This vision was too much for Deepak to take and he dropped the pilot off the raptor, on his head where he broke his neck…

…just above two mobs of angry and potentially violent people! This was the only game where I saw Colonial Marines and Raptor pilots draw small arms and fire on each other. And that was only because the Commander decided to stop the fist fight from erupting by shooting his chief engineer in the brain pan. Chief Hsing was quite dead, but all that did was escalate the violence.

President Yen, set up her own VP Hye Su to take the fall on the prison ship. The self-same ship that with the visionaries guidance declared themselves a sovereign nation. The Nation of Light. This was the first time population was removed from the Presidents’ total, only to be added to the Visionary’s. The ship was declared and enemy vessel, and would have been nuked by Commander Raptis, if not for the Cylons suddenly arriving in overwhelming force.

In the end the President made a play to “sacrifice” herself by surrendering her ship to the Cylon’s while sneaking a Raptor armed with the sole nuke in her ship’s tylium wake. This worked just until the end when her faithful aid caught her trying to flee in an escape pod. And thus the President went down with the ship and aid Yeliz became the new president of the twelve colonies, or what was left of it.

Thoughts on this game

Gods Damnit these guys are great players. I set the stage and they took off with it.

The president’s political assassination of the Commander went a little like this. “Your CO has a new XO”, which was code for airlocking the XO. This game was a blood bath!

Since no-one was playing a pilot or CAG, when Deepak when to rouse the pilots into a frenzy, I should have had them ask him the question “how did our scouting go so wrong? Why did we jump right into a Cylon ambush?”

This is the first time I saw the President use the Well Connected (allowing her to spend Favors to describe someone owing her something and taking +2 going forward on a roll). I really liked how it worked. It pushed the president to go back for more favors and introduce more Fleet scale problems. Aces!

Also, the president move “Personable”, which allowed her to treat any interaction as an intimate moment and thus trigger the Special moves, was hot.

I wonder if rolling on the love letters (to introduce more problems) is a good idea if you see your players creating tons of their own. As is we had a great time but it did feel a bit like everything and the kitchen sink was going out the airlock.

Actual Play – Apocalypse Galactica Beyond Thunderdome (4/21/2012)

Apocalypse GalacticaMC: Sean Nittner
Players: Karen Twelves, Hamish Cameron, David Gallo
System: Apocalypse World
Hack: Apocalypse Galactica

David wins all kinds of prizes for being int this game. He is:

  • The only person to play three games of Apocalypse Galactica with me (notably Karen Twelves, Michael Garcia, and Eric Ullman have all played two).
  • The only person to play three games at Nerdly Beach Party with me.
  • The only dude who got me to introduce a warlord inspired by Grace Jones ala Tina Turner vis a vi Thunderdome!

I started this game with my confidence a bit shaken. The previous game was fraught with trouble and I really wanted this one to be better. Also, David had already played through the scenario I prepared (Damascus Falls) twice.  By the second run, I had changed things substantially, but even with that a 3rd run through seemed like it would be lackluster at best.

So I tried something I’ve never done with Apocalypse Galatica (or with AW for that matter, beside the very first time I ran it, when I was still learning the system). I ran a “1st session game”.  I took all my love letters and tossed them, held out a few playbooks that I thought would be fun to see, and let the players pick something they wanted.

The Cast

Karen – Pilot – Elspeth Reiss, call sign Apex. Reiss wanted to be a good pilot, wanted more than anything to be a good pilot. Wanted it so much that she used stims to stay awake all the time… and got busted for it. Freeze, her CAG had put her on non-combat duty (not quite grounded, but nearly as bad) and she started the game loading passengers on to her Raptor to ferry from the Battlestar to the the Prometheus.

Hamish – Daljeet Solomos, a security officer (the first time someone has played the Partisan) who was an ex-marine from the colonial navy. He now did whatever work he could get to play the bills. Dajeet was well dressed and tried to create an air of professionalism, but truth be told he was hired for thug work as often as not.

David – Levin Solat, aka, The Solat was a visionary and priest of the Lords of Kobol. He believed that the fleet had been offered a moment of respite and the gods willed that they take this time to rejoice, in a completely bacchanal fashion! His flock were dedicated enthusiastic drug fixated anarchists. Wow, I didn’t even realize that combination of options existed. How awesome.


With three players, I really wanted every one to be in each other’s faces. I asked the players to all think of reasons why they were together.  It came very easily, actually. The Solat had heard word that one of his followers ran afoul a powerful businesswoman named Kanti aboard the Prometheus. He hoped to resolve the situation peacefully, but wanted to be prepared, so he hired Daljeet to come with him as either bodyguard or extraction expert, depending on the situation.

Apex was on shit duty. Now that there was a reprieve from the Cylons, many families that had been separated were now being brought back together. She was on ferry duty, taking passengers on her Raptor back to their respective ships. Her assignment included a group of civilians, going back to the Prometheus. Polati, Hsing, Targaris party of two (mother and daughter), Daljeet, and The Solat.

The set up made, each player picked the person to have +3 Hx with.

Reiss had a love/hate relationship with The Solat’s followers. Though she had never met him personally before how, that same feeling of begrudging dependency extended to him. She needed his people for the drug hook up but hated having to listen to their religious yammering.

The Solat, it turns out did not hire Daljeet just for his protection, but because he saw something in the man and though it would feed his soul to be around The Solat and his followers. He didn’t want to convert Daljeet per se, but just show him the spiritual side of life.

Daljeet had no idea what he was getting into but new that most jobs ended up being a whole lot crappier than they sounded at first. He didn’t really care about The Solat per se, he was just another client. Apex however, had saved his life back in his days of being a Marine. A boarding party hand landed on the Sisyphus and the ship was about to blow. The CAG had ordered Apex to get the hell out of there but she stayed till the last minute till Daljeet and his fellow marines made it back to her Raptor. She didn’t even remember him (especially out of uniform) but he owed her an incredible debt.

Apocalypse Galactica

We started this game asking questions, barfing forth the Galatica, and generally doing the 1st session kind of things. I wanted to know what it looked like when Reiss did a roll call for her raptor and Solat was on board. The result was “huh… next!”

We followed the characters, and their very low intensity interactions for a while. The Solat asked for a prayer on board, that made people uncomfortable. Reiss’ CAG called her on board and told her she’s have to stay on the Prometheus to do some work… and could take her mandatory drug test there.  Daljeet noticed that two of the passengers has untoward intentions. Hsing was packing a small arm under his jacket but it was Polati that deferred to. All in all we had a lot of subtle tension, but no overt threats.

Getting off the raptor on the Prometheus made it clear that something was wrong. Luggage checks were being done by the civilian officers and while Daljeet had to “check” his gun by placing a tracking beacon on it, the other armed passenger Hsing passed a handful of cubits to the officers and walked passed unaccounted for.

Unarmed and seemingly unaware of the guards, The Solat walked passed. He belonged here, he knew it and so did everyone else. I had David roll+cool (Acting under fire) for this, but it was such as cool move (as you’ll see below) that I’m considering make it a Visionary move:

I belong here: Put down your defenses and walk among enemies with tranquility in your heart. Roll+cool (maybe +faith). On a 10+ choose 2. On a 7-9, choose 1, either way you are where you want to be.

  • You’re the center of everyone’s attention.
  • You draw no notice to yourself.
  • You have an audience with the leader.
  • You are able to bring your friends with you, under your protection.
  • One f your followers is already present in the group.

They encounter Jasvinder almost as soon as they passed security. She ostensibly was there to tell The Solat about Acario, one of his flock who had gone missing after he displeased Kanti. Her first encounter, however was with Reiss. The pilot knew she was taking a blood test and knew she was still high on stims. I had her read a sitch to see if Jasvinder could find her something to detox with, so she could pass the compulsory drug test. I think this was my favorite missed roll (6-) of all time.

“Yes, we have an herbal root that will purify you. It is called Chamalla and it is known for it’s healing and restorative properties.” For folks not a fan of the show, Chamalla is yes, used to fight diseases, it is also a VERY powerful hallucinogenic. YES!

Jasvinder then pointed the way to the cargo decks, where Kanti, leader of the black market could be found.

Visions of Serpents

I could tell, just at the mention of Chamalla (and seeing David’s enthusiasm) that this episode of AG deserved a little more of the supernatural than normal. Sure, pass it of as hallucinations or delusions, I was ready to start in truly giving the visionary capital-V Visions.

As they walked down the bulk head they could tell things were worse than they expected. I proceeded to barf forth the Galactica. Lights were flickering, comm stations had been ripped form the walls, bulk head doors were welded shut, and detritus filled the passage way. At the end of a hall the met two guards, Kelso and Cosmo, who clearly had armed themselves with Colonial Navy munitions. They also saw that Daljeet was packing a giant shotgun and Reiss was dressed in a  Colonial Navy flight suit. This wasn’t going to be pretty.

The Solat did again, what would be his signature move. He just walked passed the guards. He was unarmed and clearly someone who belonged in a seedy place like this.

Reises and Daljeet were told plainly however, they weren’t wanted.  And the question came up, why hasn’t anyone done anything about this blatantly illegal behavior on the ship? Cosmo, who had a marine radio on his shoulder had just squeeze the push-t0-talk button to call in reinforcements (he really didn’t want to answer that question when the prospective answer was going to result in a fair fight). And what did Cosmo get for his hesitation? The butt of Daljeets shotgun to his head… and Kelso go the business end of that same shotgun in his face.

From here the mechanics drove the narrative in a really, REALLY, awesome way.  Daljeet had rolled to seize by force (in this case, seizing control of the situation) and Reiss wanted to help buy pinning the guy down after he dropped.  Daljeet got a 10+ and did all the awesome seizing you’d expect. Reiss roll a miss to help, so when she jumped on Cosmo to pin him down, he raised his SMG right up into her gut… and cut to Solat vision. Watching all this happened I turned to Solat and told him he saw one of his companions in danger. A man had a gun in a her belly and a snake was crawling up his arm and around his neck. He leapt to kill the snake, another seize by force. He squeezed the serpent till it feel limp in his hands and then dropped it to the ground.

What everyone else saw was him grabbing the shoulder strap to Cosmo’s SMG and using it as a garrote to choke the life out of the man, friction burning his own hands from grabbing so hard in the process.

Damn, I felt like that changed the game in a fundamental way. First off, I revealed that I may not depict things as they are in reality to the players, especially Solat. Second, if felt like a major bonding moment between the characters. They had all just been involved in a major physical altercation and now a man was dead, so that one of them could live. In the hallway earlier Daljeet and revealed to Reiss that he was one of the marines she saved on the Sisyphus. So now, both Reiss and The Solat had saved someone’s life… and Daljeet was hired as the bodyguard. The upcoming danger of his job was implicit.

After that, they entered the cargo bay

Beyond Thunderdome

What was this place going to be like? Frak if I should know. So I pulled out the Businessman’s playbook and handed the back of it, with the “Bussiness” options to the players and told them to hand the playbook around, filling it out. The selected that the primary business was “Fight Club”, and the secondary trades were recreational drugs and water. For atmosphere they chose: violence, noise, and kink.

I ask you dear reader. How could I not make the the Thuderdome? I described hanging cages, artificial waterfalls that people drank from and or defiled each other in, a heavy cloud of smoke that clung to everyone and everything, and pounding, thundering above it all was a constant thrum of music, so loud and full of bass, it could only be heard as noise. Yeah, I barfed forth the Apocalypica.

This is the point in the game where Karen later told me I had gone to far, but it was very hard to stop adding these details when David kept applauding them. Every nuance was met with a resounding “Yes” and so it encouraged me to add more.

The Fight Club, as the the found was a pit surrounded by tall walls made of cargo containers. Above the pit was a carosel mechanism of cages, like some carnival ride gone horribly wrong. Seemingly at random the cages would slowly whirl and clack above head and and when it pleased Kanti, stop, deposit their contents into the pit, so they could fight for their own survival. The contents were one part prisoner, one part gladiator.

To both continue the serpent theme further and to really irk Reiss, a Viper (as in the ship) wing was perched above the pit, like a deadman’s plank over the open sea. At the end of the wing (which had a missile still attached mind you) the cockpit seat had been placed like a throne. Kanti, covered in serpent tattoos, wearing black leather boots, with black hair standing straight up, sat in the throne, ruling over all. At each foot was a servant, literally licking her boots.  Okay Karen, perhaps you’re right. This may have been too much for Apocalypse Galatica… or maybe (in retrospect) it was just the cloying vapors of Chamalla smoke in the air, that made everything seem as surreal as it was.

A new range category for Apocalypse World: Intimate

The character split up. Reiss and The Solat went to speak with Kanti (and try and smooth over relations with her) and Daljeet looked for Acario (in case they couldn’t)

For the third time (and why I really think I need to make a move for this) The Solat just walked past Kanti’s guards and addressed her. The music was turned down to a low thrum and the audience quieted their shouts so everyone could hear the exchange. Kanti, still sitting on her throne, had her back to The Solat as he walked down the plank towards her, but as he addressed he, her two servants, like twin headed serpents looked up from licking her boots and spoke to The Solat, offering her response.

Kanti was not impressed. An least not until The Solat grabbed a bucket of water and threw it in the face of one of her servants, causing him to fall off the edge of the wing into the pit below, where he broke his neck on the uneven wreckage.  That got her attention, the one head had to talk in double time (as his twin was now dead) but she was willing to discuss the division of their interests. See, it was at this point that I realized Kanti was just the dark shadow of The Solat. His followers revered violence, indulgence and recreation… as did the patron’s of Kanti’s hold. The talked, realized they were fighting over the same audience, and (thanks to a miss on his roll to manipulate) The Solat got clubbed in the back with a Viper landing support turned weapon and knocked down into the pit.

We had a bit of confusion in play, because I had thought, as part of that hard move to finally resolve Daljeet’s search for Acario and have him in a cage (of course) and have Acario drop down into the pit and be forced to fight The Solat. Well, that was a bit more than the characters were going to idle by and watch.

Daljeet climbed on to one cage as it swung by and then leapt onto Acario’s cage to rescue him. Yay the “smash and grab” move got used.  I really like that one.  He picked the “don’t make a mess of things” and “don’t have to fight my way in” options, leaving “don’t have to fight my way out” for me to give him a fight.

Meanwhile, Reiss grabbed a chain and threw it down to The Solat to get him out of the pit. Unfortunately, that chain was attached to a big guy, that she tossed down with ease… because of course a) she revealed herself as a Cylon (yay) and b) she got a 7-9 acting under fire, so that was an actual “reveal” to those around, given her inhuman strength.  With some effort (his hands were still burned from choking Cosmo) he climbed back onto the wing.

This was too far for Kanti. Actually it had been too far the moment he climbed out of the pit without fighting his way out, but I didn’t want to interrupt all the awesome. She lurched at him like a servant darting forward, wrapped her arms around him, and planted her two curved blades (like fangs) into his back (and I’m sure several internal organs).

Their two sweaty bodies were pressed up against each other, face to face. Held fast by her strong arms digging the blades into The Solat. They were at “Intimate” rage.

A new range category for Apocalypse World: Erotic

With what could have been his last breath The Solat began chanting to his followers present (which of course there were plenty of). He spoke the truth about Kanti’s corruption, about his own teachings and the home they would find in his flock. Yay, Frenzy! He incited them to surge forth and then go quietly back to their homes, ebbing away the the violent energy in the crowd.

Kanti spit in his mouth. It didn’t accomplish anything. It was her final act of defiance. Even if he died then on her blades he had won. Still though, we had to invent yet ANOTHER range category for Apocalypse World: Erotic.


It was Daljeet and Reiss’s final heroic action to get The Solat to a doctor before he bled out. And because we established that Doc Burns was in fact on the Prometheus (as he was going to do Reiss’ drug test), it made total sense that they could get him there. The Solat’s wounds were at 11 o’clock and it was a final “acting under fire” that got him there. And they got the 10+ because of aiding one another. How cool is that!

In the final down beat, we saw Daljeet and Reiss again in the doctor’s surgery room. He handed her a small vial and said “here, that’ll get you through the drug screen.” Aw.

Thoughts on this game

Yeah, I went overboard. But I had a blast with it, and I think so did the players in the moment (though they might be wincing in retrospect). What I really should have done was to premise the the fight club scene with a puff of chamalla smoke as they walked it. Then it could have all been metaphoric and shit.

If fact, I did dump some smoking chamalla root in Reiss’ face towards the end, to fulfill the he miss she made early on to detox, but we never really played off that. A bit sloppy on my part.

Also sloppy was introducing the other passengers, and having none of them come back. We really didn’t have time for any more NPCs to have spotlight, but I had made a point that they were bad news and then we didn’t see them again… maybe next session…?

This game was just a shit load of fun for me. I wasn’t worried about keeping track of a gillion things. I just played of what the characters did. The players were great about finding reasons to stick together and it invest in each other.  I didn’t have nine thousand things going on, just one stream of awesome.

I’m definitely going to run more “1st session” games of Apocalypse Galatica. I liked that we were more focused on what the characters were up to than what was happening around them.

Range Categories: Far, Close, Hand, Intimate, Erotic. Rock!



Actual Play – Damascus Falls (4/20/2012)

Apocalypse GalacticaGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Jeff Pedersen, Paul Tevis, Josh Roby, and David Gallo
System: Apocalypse World
Hack: Apocalypse Galactica

This was the first AG game that I’ve run that I was unhappy with. So rather than talk a lot about what happened, I’m going to discuss the play, and where I saw hiccups along the way, and how I’m going to try and make it better.

Playing outside in the dark

I didn’t know what to expect out of gaming at Nerdly. I assumed that there would be some provisions for how to game while outside and in the dark. What I got was a a picnic table with holes in them middle that I just knew all my XP tokens were going to fall through (they are small), and a whole lot of dark and cold. This ended up working out okay. I had a lantern and Paul brought one as well. I also put a tablecloth on the table that made for a nice flat surface. Folks were able to read well enough by the light they had and we were all comfortable. As the game progressed though I got colder and colder. First in my feet and then all over. I don’t know if it affected my ability to MC, but it wasn’t comfortable.

Plan for next time: Tablecloth for sure. Bring a few lanterns. Wear warmer clothes. Have a warm drink (coffee, hot chocolate, etc) in a thermos.

Communicating Cause and Effect

There were several times in the game where Paul in particular, but I believe the other players as well weren’t sure of why things where happening, or what the effects of things were.  This is partially do to the way Apocalypse World handles misses. Just because you roll 6- on the roll doesn’t mean something immediately happens to you, it often may mean something else happens outside your perception. I like to announce future badness a lot. So, for instance when the commander left his XO to handle damage control and rolled a weak hit when “acting under fire”, the result was the XO did put out the fire on the Battlestar, but airlocked three engineers to do so. What I presented was the sounds of the XO yelling “I don’t care of they are still in there, shut that bulkhead before we lose the whole ship” and then told the President to mark population down by 3.

This is a legitimate AW move, and Vincent directs you to make a move but  hide what it is. Engineers dying wasn’t an immediate problem (I mean other than the loss of life in an already nearly extinct population) but it was a lead up to bigger problems (ships needing to be fixed and not having enough deck hands to do all the work). So all an all, I feel good about the move, but Paul mentioned that not only was the outcome of his action unclear, it was unclear that there was and outcome to his action.

Later, when Josh’s president was trying manipulate Paul’s commander and I said “do what he wants and you get an XP, don’t do it and you’re acting under fire.” He had to ask what that meant several times before I felt like I explained both the mechanical and in-fiction narrative effect adequately.

Plan for next time: Paul actually gave really good advice on teaching a system in a HGWT episode many moons back. Explain the options and then give examples. In the case of a board game he said, for instance “You can move your piece 1 space up, down, right, or left, but not diagonally. So, you can move it here, here, here, or here, but not here, here, here or here.”  I think I need I was lacking in the example side of things. During the manipulate roll, I should have said. “The president just told you to step down, else the fleet will rebel. She is offering you an experience point if you do it, and if you don’t that means your acting under fire. In the fiction this means that you take a tough blow but learn something about yourself, and the people you protect if you step down. If you don’t the president’s influence is going to create heat and someone inside the military is going to challenge your authority. To maintain it, you’ll have to earn their respect gain and roll+cool.”

Players separated

Jeff’s character, the Activist, didn’t have direct interaction with the other PCs until very late in the game. In fact, it wasn’t until he was dead, resurrected as a Cylon, and we saw a second copy of him on the fleet, that he actually talked to another player. And that was the second to the last scene in the game.

So the players were set up as antagonistic to each other. They all wanted different things and were all equipped to push very hard for them. Jeff’s activist, in particular was trying to topple the government. A perfect goal given that the other three characters were all part of that government. On this surface this setup seemed perfect. It reminded me of the Gift where I assumed that all of the external threats would take a back seat to PCs differences.

This worked, by degree. The activist sent his people to go do things and mess with the president and the commander. All cool, but it meant for me speaking on behalf of the activist, rather than the player doing it. This was weird. If pulled a lot of the intensity out of the situation. My general rule of thumb is that if a PC asks an NPC to do something that is really important, the NPC will do it wrong. Not necessarily failing, but somehow missing their intent. I only do this when PCs are abdicating responsibility. A PC wants to lead his troops into battle, that’s cool. Make a leadership roll and they’ll kick but. But if a PC wants to send to troops off to fight without him, and the main focus of the game is that fight, then the NPCs is going to do something the PC doesn’t want so they have to step in. It may be a cheat, but it works. In this case the NPC was a zealot. She didn’t want the change to happen in degrees, she wanted it ALL RIGHT NOW. This eventually put Jeff’s activist at odds with his own members (a perfect reason to use the “Crime Lord” move) but still didn’t bridge the gap between PCs.

Plans for next time: Do a little more discussion before hand of how the PCs are connected to make sure that frame scenes with any or all of them is possible. That way if two PCs haven’t been in a scene together, anyone (player or MC) can start a scene with them together without having to do mental gymnastics (like we did with the Cylon rebirth.


This seems really, really dumb, but I didn’t read my own move. At one point Paul’s commander was held up at gunpoint by the president who had wrestled his gun from him. Paul wanted to look for an answer by taking a leap of faith. He did it, and rolled well. And then I flubbed.  The move reads “…describe your experience, in brief or in full about the nature of things. On a hit, the MC will seize on something you’ve said and elaborate on your insight.”

What I didn’t do was ask Paul to describe his experience, and further, I didn’t ask any follow up questions to find out what he was getting at. I just assumed he wanted a way out of the situation to keep his status in tact. And what I gave him was weak sauce. “Be friends and people will follow you.” That isn’t even horrible advice, but it could have at least been delivered with some specific leverage “The president needs this, offer it to her and you can both get what you want.”

Plans for next time: Well the obvious is to read my own move. The not as obvious is to add in “The MC will ask you a question or two”, which will leave me leeway to clarify if the description given to me doesn’t lead to any specific advice.

One dimensional struggles

A pervasive theme through the game was characters that had no empathy for each other. Many of them interacted only on a hierarchical level, trying to assert dominance and authority over each other.  This quickly became stale as the characters all wanted to be king of the hill and had no reason to relent.

Plan for next time: Make sure the Hx creates relationships that go beyond the obvious of where characters fit in a social hierarchy. Make sure the have emotional connections to each other.

Also it’s worth considering only offering either the President or the Commander, but not both. That way there aren’t two dogs wrestling over the same bone all game.

Game improvements

The players pointed out a few things the game needs:

A move to form a connection with someone. Something that happens all the time in the show and isn’t seduce or manipulate. I’m looking at the way strings work in Mosnterhearts and considering what else I should take out or change to make room for it.

The president’s moves are too abstract. They operate on the Crisis (Front) clocks and not in the immediate fiction. I’ve got to revamp that playbook to be more actionable, especially in the short term.  That also means taking the Crisis Clocks back to the MC side of the table, which I think is probably a good idea anyway, it was too much paperwork for a player.

The president needs to be operating on a scarcity of good will. I think the campaigns can offer that (any of them that is in want indicates a lack of good will) but I will need to revisit them to make sure they are tuned to do that. Also, the president should have an obligation campaign of  “health”, to emulate the cancer Laura had (if someone wants to do that).

The commander playbook works great for playing a hard as hell Saul type, but not so well for a moderate Adama character. There should be some more flexibility to create that.

More playbooks should have fewer moves automatically selected and more options. Right now a good half of the characters have moves pre-selected and only get to choose one or two. I should probably try to have no more than one move built in and give more options. Options are fun.

Not a total flop

For all that the game wasn’t a total flop. The President took the commander by gunpoint. The activist/Cylon crashed the Condor into the Battlestar Argonaut and blew the hell out of both of them. The CAG released her viper pilots to destroy the ship that had the activist (that she loved) on it. We saw Cylon red spine in the brig sex. And at the last moment, the president was killed by the XO and the commander jumped the fleet with a known threat amongst them because we found at the very last moment… he was a Cylon too!

 Thoughts on this game

While I was disappointed with it in terms of performance, I learned a lot from it. I doubt there will be another opportunity for it, but if I had a time machine I’d like to run this game again, with those thoughts in mind and see how it would go.

Actual Play – Damascus Falls (4/14/2012)

Apocalypse GalacticaGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Morgan Ellis, June Garcia, Michael Garcia, and Jon Edwards
System: Apocalypse World
Hack: Apocalypse Galactica

Not two days after I was running AG for Matt Klein and crew, I was back in Oakland running it again for the EndGame minicon. Much to my surprise we had nearly the same cast pick a the previous game… and just when I was going to give up on the Visionary, the playbook gets picked two games in a row!


Morgan Ellis – President Asker. “Action” president. A labor union representative who was voted into to office by the Quorum. He was a man of the people and not at all afraid to roll up his sleeves.

June Garcia – Zoe, an Engineer just assigned to the Argonaut. She was the god daughter of president Asker and despised asking him for help. Despite many, many claims that she was an Cylon herself, Zoe was loyal to the fleet until the end.

Michael Garcia – Adon, the Visionary who found purpose in following the “One True God” of the Cylons, despite the fact that he had never met one. He had been spreading his pirate message across the Fleet’s com… drawing others to his faith.

Jon Edwards – Rear admiral John Holden. A young (30-something) Commander that was put in charge of the Argonaut (and the Colonial Navy) to lead the resistance when the Cylons attacked the colonies. Many, many other Commanders wanted this role, but he was the shining star that would defeat the toasters. Instead, they destroyed civilization.

Buried under work

More so than I think ever before, the Commander was buried under damage reports. Generally speaking the game starts with an overwhelming sense of “everything is out of control”. Once the characters struggle for a bit with that though, the pace slows a bit, time is elided, and a frail semblance of calm drifts through the fleet. THAT DID NOT HAPPEN. This game, Admiral Holden and President Asker were constantly putting out fires. Enough so that I wonder if I packed the love letters with too many problems.

I did rather enjoy the moment when the comm officer told the admiral that despite all the other fires he was putting out there were two that now rose to the top. The best engineer on the ship had been put in the bring by the XO for treason and one the ships in the fleet was mutinying. I liked this so much I almost want to print out some card stock cards (with cut corners of course) that just say “Damage Report” and then fill those out and bury the Commander in them.  Hmmm..

Using Conditions

I’ve had several instances now of the Commander using the CIC move to remove a condition from the Battlestar. Having now played Monsterhearts, I’m really wondering if I should start using conditions to a more mechanical effect of being someone +1 (or -1) on a roll of if a condition applies, and putting conditions on the character sheet. Is this stacking too many mechanics onto the game, or would it help clarify (and consolidate) all the conditions that end up cropping up?

Worth note, most of the conditions are not on the characters themselves, but on the fleet, battlestar, follower, etc. For example: insubordination, paranoia, guns offline, etc. Also of note, some of them were designed specifically to have narrative consequences. Others just flavor conflicts. I want it to be clear that if a ship’s FTL drives are down, it cannot jump with the fleet. At all.

Finally, there are several positive conditions, like +loyal, +fearless, etc. I wonder if those should trump negative conditions, give a +1 on a roll, etc. Also how to mark them so they are clear on the character sheet? Worth pondering.

Crisis Clocks

The crisis clocks were used in full swing this game. Security, morale and eventually even hunger got up there throughout the game. I was really happy to have those as a mechanical reinforcement of how bad things are getting, but I do think they add another layer to the game that is perhaps too much for the players to handle. In Apocalypse World, fronts are managed by the MC. In Galatica I gave crisis to the President. I also gave her a move to affect the crisis clocks directly. In retrospect I think that is too abstract. I’m going to pull the crisis clocks back to the MC side of the table, and changes the President’s moves.


Morgan noted a few times that he was actually buried in paperwork. His playbook, love letter, the fleet playbook (including population) and the crisis clocks. While I do plan on removing the crisis clocks, I want to keep the population (this is an important thing), but I want to remove the “doing math” part of the game, as well as the flood of paperwork.

Action President

President Asker was the first ever president I’ve seen in the game that was elected rather than taking the Presidency because of previous office. He was a labor union representative and seen as a capable leader and organizer. The Quorum of Twelve, still intact after the fall, elected him as president because of that. This created a really cool effect becuse now that the Quorum was under house arrest, he really felt the pressure to serve the people that put him in power. To do so, he got personally involved and when manpower was needed to repair the FTL drive on the Condor, he personally was there, rolling up his sleeves to do so, which put him RIGHT in the line of fire…

Putting someone in a spot

As the result of some miss, or 7-9 result I told Morgan straight up that I was going to put the president in a place where he might have to die to save the fleet. Probably tipping my hand a bit too much at first, but I wanted to make sure he was on board with that risk. It took some time to figure out how to do it but eventually it was the president and visionary alone on the Miya San, getting the last of the parts off, when the Cylons appeared. Right then the ship was hit and they were “acting under fire” to get out. The president flinched an was trapped under a heavy cargo container. Adon, the visionary, tool now a the opportunity to reveal himself as a Cylon and tell the president he could live, IF he spread the word of the One True God.

“Sure, yeah, whatever you say.” Adon then picked up the giant cargo container himself and tossed it off the president, so he could go back to the fleet and spread his word.

Visionary Cylons

Michael announced towards the end of the game that he was fully planning to reveal as a cylon, but first wanted to gather his followers around him and incite them to preach to the rest of the fleet about the One True God. I was miraculously impressed with how well he did this. Not only did his people carry on is word after he died (he stayed on the Miya San when she blew of and destroyed the Cylon attack force), he also gained a hold over both the president and the commander. In the Commander’s case, he removed some of his problems, helped keep people under order and proved himself an asset. In the president’s though, he saved his life.  Not something that could be dismissed easily.

Too much to fix

Just as I was satisfied with the commander being under the gun, I loved that the Enginner was constantly playing catch up to put out fires. This was only FURTHER exacerbated by being accused of being a Cylon and being thrown in the brig by the XO. Damn, if Zoe didn’t just get the worst luck ever. To make matter’s worse, the only way she got out was because her godfather (President Asker) pushed hard for her release (to the point of assaulting the XO to make his point). The tension there of needing the engineer to fix things but not being sure if she can be trusted was awesome. It was further complicated by the uncomfortable family dynamics!

Thoughts on this game

As noted above, I want to work on the president and give the playbook more immediate “do these cool things”  concrete moves and less “shift the status quo” abstract moves. This will also mean taking back the crisis clocks to the MC’s responsibility. I’m down with that.

Part of the problem with having too many problems for the commander and the engineer to deal with is that means having so many things for me, the MC to keep in mind. I want to keep that same sense of overwhelming urgency and of difficult decisions, without actually having to personally (or have the players) keep track of so much stuff. Gotta work on this.



Actual Play – Damascus Falls (4/12/2012)

GM: Sean Nittner
Players: Matthew Klein, Dale Horstman, Mac Hume, and Steve Locke
System: Apocalypse World
Hack: Apocalypse Galactica

This was my second “private” run of Apocalypse Galactica. I have to say I’m delighted that there is enough interest in this game that people are asking me to run it in private sessions. I love running it and people enjoy playing it. Awesome.

Roll call

As usual I asked for someone to play either the Commander and/or the President and to my delight, both were picked!

Matt – The lovely Linda Rosen, once upon a time beauty pageant winner, now President of the the Twelve Colonies. Nicknamed “Lulu” by the Commander.

Dale – Shona, a small woman whose eyes saw light through the darkness. Her faith was grounded in the “The Trial, The Payment”. Visionary.

Mac – Deke Bailey, callsign Werewolf was the CAG by sudden proxy. After he landed in the hanger deck, a helmet was thrown is his lap. “Old CAG is dead. You’re the new CAG now!” A wildly unprepared man in an unforgiving role.

Steve – Commander Cain Harish. A take no prisoners kind of commander. He instituted martial law with no qualms at all. Known through the decks of the Argonaut as “Commander Harsh”. Nicknamed “Cici” by the president.


It turns out the Commander and the President used to be and item, but now held each other in little regard.

Shona believed it was the commander that was going to bring the fleet to salvation, and as interested as she was in him, he was totally perplexed by her.

Deke, a pilot, now CAG, way out of his league was not only a fervent support of the president, but also tangled up with the Quorum. His loyalties would be tested!

No Cylons

Though this game did include a hull breach in the Argonaut, and Colonial One nearly being blown to bits with every single player character on it, there were no Cylons in this game. No players revealing and none appearing. Why? The tension between the characters was so hot and so human, they were never necessary. This was a killer game.


Though we didn’t have any actual Cylons, the paranoia around them was killer. Deke was constantly trying to stifle rumors that there were Cylons in the fleet, and eventually was accused of being one himself. This ended in an explosion. As it should!

The Decision

The highlight of the game for me was in the last 30 minutes. The commander was put in a deliciously difficult predicament. There was a threat to the fleet, a woman with explosives strapped all over her. Her would-be suicide bombing, however, was identified by the president as the bi-product of the commander’s actions. By ruling through force, he had turned is opposition into radical enemies, willing to die (and kill hundreds) just to prove their point.

So, here was the choice presented to him. Shoot her now and eliminate the threat, but destroy the last remnants of good will between himself and the president (and for that matter the people) or take a leap of faith that she would surrender, if given the chance.

Man this was a very tough call. So much so that it took nearly twenty minutes (of real time) for Steve to choose. And those were twenty delicious minutes of agony. I presented to him that he rolled a 10+ on go agro against the self-destructy woman and she chose to suck it up and take the pain. This meant she wasn’t gong to take of the vest and he could just kill her now. Or, he could make a “leap of faith” (the Faith basic move) to try and talk her down.

We went back and forth for a while, in character, out of character and finally commander Harish decided to take a chance. He turned to Shona (the quiet visionary) and asked for her guidance. This made me even happier because up till this point, there was incredible tension between the commander and the president, but by deferring to the visionary for guidance, she suddenly became important, in fact so important that she would determine if they all died or night. And with a roll of 10+ on faith she said something very creepy “All of us will end in darkness, that is the only path, but it is a path we must walk on our own”. What a nihilistic nut job, but that nut saved the fleet.

Thoughts on this game

I was really happy how human this game was. People were afraid to be vulnerable, so they built up walls around themselves, but those same walls prevented them from getting what they needed. When to let someone through those walls is a very hard decision we all have to make in our lives, and so did these characters.

I absolutely adored Shona. Not only was she both innocent and terrifying, but Dale did a remarkable job of giving convincing reasons for why people of immense power (Commander, President, and CAG) would heed her advice. Awesome visionary.

Werewolf was hilarious. He was so unprepared for the role that when he did have to step up and try to be a good leader, every success (no matter how small) he had was a giant victory. Mac also rolled a lot of 6- (misses) and so he was often the cause of horrible, horrible things happening.

The game ending was very satisfactory, but left just enough loose ends open that we all thought it would be killer to play another session of it. We might yet!

Last but not least. We had TABLE TENTS!

Actual Play – Apocalypse Galactica – Flight of the Condor (3/15/2012)

Apocalypse Galactica SpreadGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Eric Ullman, Jacob Creed,  Andrew McDonnell, Courtney Burmann, Sean Schoonmaker
System: Apocalypse World
Hack: Apocalypse Galactica

All Eric’s Fault

Several months ago, in fact before Dead of Winter, Eric Ullman got in touch with me and asked me to run this game. He had played in the first run through at EndGame, loved the game, and wanted me to bring it to his home crew. I was super excited about that, but it took us a long time to figure out a good time to meet. Months later our schedules finally aligned and FRAK, am I glad it did, we played and awesome game.

I have to admit I was somewhat nervous about running the game. I wasn’t sure how much Eric had hyped it up and if I was going to be disappointing anyone. It seems like everyone walked away having fun though.

Love Letters

I think I’m changing my approach to love letters in Apocalypse World/Galactica. In the past what I’ve tried to do is forge PC-PC and PC-NPC-PC relationships. So, I’ve pointed PCs at a problem, but tried to put a face on the problem. That ended up with entries that looked like this (example from the pilot):

Boards is a young ECO (Electronic’s Communication Officer) and a good kid. You gave him his callsign when you first met him because of those damn big ears (stuck out like speed breaks). You took him under your wing when he arrived on the Argonaut. Now he’s missing. The last place you saw him was in the hanger before you launched. He was with that frakking bitch Touchdown, his Raptor pilot, who was chewing him out as always.

So, Touchdown is the object here. Lots of people cared about her, but this didn’t achieve what I wanted, which was putting the pilot in a situation that had to be responded to, with some obvious and fun choices.  I replaced that with this:

A small group of Cylon raiders made the FTL jump with you. Two are charging towards the fleet right now. Frak!

And, not to my surprise at all, the pilot chose that option. I mean, why wouldn’t you. You get to blow up toasters! But I complicated it, the Viper was docked in the hanger bay that was full of personnel. Getting it into the launch tubes would take time, opening the air locks would expose every one in the hanger to space. And of course the Engineer (another player) was there as well, to aid, interfere or proceed with his own agenda.

So, while the new options didn’t immediately involve an NPC that other PCs cared about (from the example other PCs cared about Touchdown as well) or another PC, it was easy to figure out how to create those relationships on the fly. And it worked great. The Engineer was literally strapping a single missile onto the wing of the Pilot’s Viper as they were rolling it into the launch tubes. HELL YEAH!


  • Eric Ullman as Master Chief Stannis. Aboard the Battlestar Argonaut for 15 years, this was his ship.
  • Jacob Creed an President Lekas. A former senator who was injured during the fall and now walked with a cane.
  • Andrew McDonnell as “Princess“. The hotshot pilot who had been knocked down all the way from CAG to Ensign for his reckless behavior.
  • Courtney Burmann as Eve, the crime lord bent on taking over the presidency, which she did!
  • Sean Schoonmaker as the Commander, a lean “man of the people” who got along better with the enlisted crew than he did the officers. A real man of efficiency.

Five is a one more than I usually play with, but one less than expected (of several potential 6th players, none could make it). Usually I dislike large groups but having run AG for both 5 (this game) and 6 (Dead of Winter) I think that not only does it hold up in AG, but it actually helps give the feeling of the vastness of the setting. Since the show often hops between macro level problems (images of ships, conflicts in the military and political arena, etc) and the micro level (personal demons, romance, etc) having a larger cast allows me to bounce between those elements by focusing on different sets of characters.


There were several moments of awesome in the game worth noting.

Princess, not even out of her Viper, ordering the knuckle draggers to get his viper in the tubes, while bleeding from an arterial wound. Before he was launched a medic took a look at his wound and said “this man isn’t fit to fly”. Moments later we saw in Princess in the tubes ready to launch, literately blinded for a moment by the pain and g-force.

Crime lords don’t get the kind of support that commanders do. They keep having to earn it over and over. And when Jasvinder tried to make a play for power over Eve, all she had to say was “I’m so disappointed” as she cracked his jaw with the but of her shotgun and then blew his head off. She did the same thing to the Qurom leader just as she had re-sworn allegiance to the president and commander. That one line sold the game.

When Stannis, the engineer tried to take on one of Eve’s men and the dice asked me a for a hard move. It was great turning to the Commander and telling him that his master chief, the one man he needed to keep the Argonaut from falling apart was AWOL. We opened the next scene with him as Eve’s prisoner.

The final showdown between the president, activist, commander, and pilot was a total Mexican standoff. And like any good standoff the tension was broken by an even bigger threat, the Cylon’s had arrived. I loved the exchanges that happened there, though I wonder if I played to heavy a hand in shaping the outcome (see below).

What the game still needs

I need to make a couple more things for the game:

Table Tents (something like this, with the playbook picture on it and room for details like look, rank, etc)

A check list of Love Letter options so I that I can mark as a reminder of all the options the players choose.

An order to present the information. This time I went with Fleet/Battlestar playbook, Love Letter and Character Playbook. However, the love letters couldn’t be completed until the playbooks were done because we had to know what stat was highlighted to know if they got XP. So maybe I should do Playbook before Love Letter? Not sure, as sometimes the love letters effect how the playbooks are filled out. Gotta work on this.

Thoughts on the game

I ran the game with all the gears exposed. I frequently told the players I didn’t know what was happening either and that we were going to find out. I also revealed (even though Vincent says not to) when I was making a move. At one point I told them “I haven’t been able to think of any moves to respond to those last two failed rolls with, so I think it’s time for the Cylons to arrive.” In retrospect, I should have framed it as “That Cylon just died…he has the coordinates for the fleet and relayed them to the others… now the Cylons arrive!” Heh, hindsight.  I wonder though if that improved the game by making it more conversational and more communal or if it wrecked suspension of disbelief. I’d love to hear the players thoughts on this.

There were a few moments where I wonder if my attempt to flavor the narrative stole the spotlight from the PCs. Specifically these instances:

  • Princess, the pilot was badly injured, high on morpha (morphine) and running blind from a tear gas grenade explosion. She had failed to “read a sitch” so I responded with hard move that when she turned the corner and launched a grenade at the enemy, it was actually a mix of hostiles and friendly forces. She killed two marines on accident. I don’t know Andrew’s expressions well enough to tell if that was something that was a cool “collateral damage” moment or if I had deprotagonized his character by making the “crack shot” pilot a sloppy gunslinger.
  • When Eve (the activist) wanted to kill Lekas (the president) and succeeded at seizing by force (note: seizing the presidency, how awesome is that!) and her band of criminals opened fire on the president, I just turned to Jacob and said “I think the president is dead.” The awesome news was he had 5 XP at the time, tossed them to me, picked up the remaining Cylon playbook and said “That’s okay, I resurrect!” Still, buy the rules of the game, I should have said you go to 12:00 and maybe, possibly could be saved (or you could take a crippling wound and survive). It seemed cool for the president to just die, but it was also very quick, without him being able to do much about it.
  • At the end Hestin (the commander) was ready to just leave Eve to her plots, even if that meant she was the new president, Princess (the pilot) didn’t want to give up so early. He had a plan to leave the room and fire a grenade into the bridge just as the bulkhead door was closing. I did a little handwaving here as the game was just about to end and said “don’t you have some toasters to frak?” It seemed like so much word had been done to take the presidency, that killing Eve moments later would be a shame. For the second time that game I wasn’t sure if I had trumped Andrew’s hopes or given him another more attractive offer (as is we ended with Princess flying the commander’s old Mark II viper out of the Argonaut and having to blow open the hatch doors with a missile because Stannis (the revealed Cylon) disabled the launch tubes.

At one point two PCs were both going Aggro on each other. One was threatening a bullet in the brain pain, the other threatening to blow up a nuke on a civilian ship. So I thought, all good, both can do this, but then when I looked at the the move I saw this:

When you go aggro on someone, roll+hard. On a 10+, they have to choose: force your hand and suck it up, or cave and do what you want. On a 7–9, they can instead choose 1:

  • Get the hell out of your way.
  • Barricade themselves securely in.
  • Give you something they think you want.
  • Back off calmly, hands where you can see.
  • Tell you what you want to know (or what you want to hear).

Umm… how does that work on a PC? I ended up handling it as a manipulate instead (even though I had them roll hard), and that worked great, but I knew I was fudging things.

Cylon Reveals were both cool but I think I need to be more explicit to the “audience” (or at least camera) what that looks like. I had in mind at one point that stannis was tied up, he had taken the “inhuman strength” option on the Cylon playbook and I should have had a brief scene where after everyone else is looking away, Stannis (a #4 by the way) just snapped his bonds open. In the case of the president the reveal was great because it happened just as he died…so the reveal was cutting the resurrection ship and seeing him pop up out of tank.

I had a really deliberate pacing going on in the game. It starts in chaos. Everything is hitting the fan and everyone is trying to put out fires. Then there is a lull, a time when people have the opportunity to talk about what just happened, figure out what they want to do and then charge back into the action which then builds to the the climax of the game. I’ve done this is several games and I think it’s a nice format for a four hour game slot. It reliably delivers a complete “episode” without having to cut short the session, go long or hand wave the end. I’m happy with that.

Oh, and to explain the AP post title. The endgame all took place on the Condor, a ship gone rogue in the fleet.

Actual Play – Apocalypse Galactica (1/28/2012)

Apocalypse GalacticaGM: Sean Nittner
Players: Meilin, Sean, Kristin, Ezra
System: Apocalypse World
Hack: Apocalypse Galactica

I should really start calling this scenario something besides “Apocalypse Galactica”. I mean, I intended to name the first game after the hack itself, like some bands name their first album after then band, but you know, it just causes some unnecessary confusion.

Carl Rigney says I should run this game until the number of play hours exceeds the time spent to create it. Well, if you’re interested in playing the game, good news. By following Carl’s logic I have to run it at least another 28 times to catch up. Still, I’m awfully proud of this game.  It works very, very well.

Last time I ran this scenario was at the October Minicon.  Since then I’ve cleaned up Hx a lot, tightened up the playbooks, created more (total of 13 now), worked on the layout and typography, and added another love letter (the Activist has joined the game).  I also reviewed the love letters and tried to tighten them down by removing extraneous NPCs and trying to point the PCs at each other’s throats more.

Overall I think the scenario still has WAY too much going on. It was meant to simulate the feeling of never ending disasters that the show presents (and Apocalypse World normally has) but I always forget how much crazy fallout comes out of play. The fact of the matter is that Apocalypse World works too well at creating trouble, and I’m still overcompensating by loading up the love letters.

In two runs though, I’ve definitely seen which scenarios are really hot and which ones are avoided or just don’t come up much in play. My thought is right now the game just has too much, so rather than create more, I’m going to leave in the winners and trim out the duds. We’ll see how it plays after that and keep honing away. I’m prepared to run this at least three more times (two for private parties that have asked me to run it for their group and once more at a minicon, or Good Omens Con).

The game had a minor snag in that one player wasn’t able to make it on time. Thankfully we left the seat open. The Commander (in this case Admiral) playerbook wasn’t chosen, but so many people had connections to him, that he immediately became a hotly contested figure. All three of the PCs present had a bone to pick with him. Some the moment the last player sat down it was a total no-brainer. I handed over the commander, picked a few of the things that had been established (name, look, and rank) and then let my hapless newcomer dive into the myriad of troubles plaguing Admiral Noah Sethrin.

That ended up working out so much better than I ever could have hoped for. Because the player hadn’t been there to defend the Admiral’s actions at first, the character started off as kind of a despicable figure and was made more human through play.

I don’t want to go over the details of the game too much, since I plan to keep running it, but suffice to say my players were made of a thousand kinds of awesome. More on them below.

Thoughts on the game

First off, what is it with awesome gamer couples named Sean/Shaun and Kristin? Holy crap! I mean I love gaming with Shaun Hayworth and Kristin Hayworth, who would have thought I’d meet a second Sean and Kristin, and have them both be great gamers? Power to the gamer couples!

Ezra killed. I mean just killed. He was this hardcore activist that would do anything… anything for his cause. This including shooting one of his own people in the head, a teenager that was hardly a man no less, because he crossed him. Poor Micah, all he wanted was for people to be able to decide for themselves. The same thing Omid (Ezra’s character) wanted, he just wanted them to decide the RIGHT way. I loved how hard core he was. He took over Colonial One and was one roll away from ramming it into the Battlestar. Man I wish he had made that roll. It was awesome the way it went down, the CAG looked good, the president looked insane, the admiral looked like an uncaring soldier, but man, if he had hit that cool roll, legends would have been made.

The cylon reveals were epic. So far 7 out of 7 cylons have made perfect sense when the reveal. That systems works well.

Meilin was an incredible trouper. She sat down and had this villain of a character thrust in her hands and then rocked it. She was hard, she was tough, but she was also human. She did for the Noah Sethrin what I would have never been able to do if I was playing him as an MC character. She made the other PCs wonder, should I trust him?

The player vs. player conflicts in this game were really hot. The CAG and he Commander were constantly at each other’s throats. The Activist wasn’t happy with anybody. And the president, previously the intelligence secretary, in a wheelchair that she pushed by hand, she was like Admiral Caine in a blouse. She was bad ass, and she got in everyone’s faces.

No special (read: sex) moves happened. It just wasn’t the game for that; there was never time for someone to get busy with anyone. Too bad, the Commander’s special is so awesome, I really want to see someone use it one day.

For next time: Take out the obvious scapegoat and make sure all love letter entries are actionable.