MC: Sean Nittner
Players: Eric Fattig (Keeler), Devon Apple (Nero), and Justin Evans (Juck)
System: Apocalypse World
Before the game, I did my MC duties gleefully. In my apartment, on the bus, at work, I was thinking up where the characters are out of control, where can I push, what threats have already presented themselves, what questions do I have. I decided to start by listing all the threats, and maybe some questions about them, and then see where they would fit into fronts.
Threats (and Questions)
Taxi – Warlord (collector) – Taxi wants to own things. Things she thinks has value. Right now she has a Fanta fountain drink machine she wants working, but Nero didn’t deliver her the CO2 canisters he said he would, so she’s steaming mad at him. Taxi controls entrance the Mall with her gang of Nordys. Threats: Barricading, cutting off.
Sing – Brute (Family) – Sing and her father Sing’s Pa own Hot Topic (the bar). I don’t know what she wants yet, but I know she’s got a nasty temper about people making good on their tabs or stating fights in her bar. Threats: withholding spirits, calling in debts.
Abe – Unknown – Abe is Nero’s obligation gig. He’s the guy who knows people and makes connections. He also brings trouble. Nero shot Abe last session which he’s none to happy about, but it prevented Keeler from killing him, so maybe he should be grateful, right? Threats: bringing trouble, offering deals (good and bad).
Question to the MC (for all to answer): Is Abe going to make it through this shit, or is he going to broker the wrong deal and get killed for it.
Tape – Brutes (cult) – Tape has sex with Jesus ever night. She makes, or has, or whatever, J-babies. Little porcelain baby Jesus dolls. She gives them out to anyone that wants them. For their own protection against the Fates, er Furies. She knows their name Balls, Sling and Jackal. She tried to give that knowledge to Nero as payment, but he chased her off, so now she’s traveling with Juck’s gang. Jone has claimed her as his. Threats: Spreading fear, offering protection, starting a cult.
McKinley – Grotesque (mutant) – Craves restitution for Tad. McKinley dives deep into the Ash Heap. He knows it’s secrets and it knows his. He’s brought back some of them. Threats: Bringing radiation.
Trunk – Unknown – Keeler’s little brother who is crazy paranoid. He wants to claim as much territory as he can on the 2nd floor. It’s prime space, above the Nordy’s, easy to defend. Trunk keeps trying to push his brother out of his space. Threats: Claiming Nail Elegance, other locations in the the Mall.
Vicki – Grotesque (Perversion of Birth) – Vicki is gross. Her eye got torn out but it’s never come all the way and eye meats still hang from threads out of a mutilated socket. She’s got insatiable needs as well. To fuck, to press on Juck, to authority. She wants to feel alive all the time. Threats: Distracting Nero, Make Nero buy her things.
Question to the MC (for all to answer): What the fuck is wrong with Vicki? What is her deal?
Ivy – Warlord (Alpha Wolf) – Ivy doesn’t just want to control the Brawlers again, she wants Juck and the members he took with him to pay. Threats: Harrying the gang, rotting away at their core.
From these I pulled up two Fronts, one very mundane, the other tied in to the waste of Ash Heap and the Furies.
BBQ is dead but his legacy lives on through Juck and Ivy. He wanted to move east to find treasures from before the fall, but everyone knows it will lead to ruin. Still, the hope he put in the brawlers hearts is a hard thing to quell.
To many fucking cooks. Between Ivy’s revenge and Taxi’s cold heart, there won’t be a safe place for anyone between the Burner Tracks and Dog Stop. All the doors are closed, and vultures will pick you off in the night while you sleep.
Ivy – Warlord (Alpha Wolf). As above, she wants to punish Juck. Make him grovel, drag him through the burner tracks lashed to her bike, on his back, for all to see.
Taxi – Warlord (Collector). Taxi wants to blockade herself from everyone else. Protect her domain and only let her
RN, Stow, Smog – Brutes (Family). These three aren’t so sure breaking off from Ivy was the way to go.
Vicki – Grotesque (Perversion of Birth). Vicki wants to overthrow anything that stands firm. She wants chaos and ruination. She’ll keep fighting Juck no matter how much it hurts him or her. It’s what she gets off on.
Brawlers disbanding – Between Juck’s break away, and Ivy trying to punish him, most of the brawlers are caught in the middle, and they don’t like it. At 12:00 the gang scatters to the and no-one (Juck or Ivy) is in control.
Mall closed off – Taxi may become self sufficient inside the mall. Once enough supplies are gathered, she can close it off to everyone, leaving many without a home, and without protection. At 12:00 she’s convinced they can live without the outside and the two remaining doors are collapsed. Trapping everyone inside in, and everyone outside… out.
I might create another one for Vicki, but I don’t see it yet. In my mind I want to find out why she’s so fucked up, not push for her agenda (if she even has one).
Will Abe survive? Seriously, he got shot in the first session just following his impulses. I’m not going to kill him outright, but who knows if he’s going to make it.
Will Ivy make east for BBQ’s dream?
Will Nero make amends with Taxi or is he going to blow it?
When you touch Vicki’s face roll+Cool. On a 10+ she just gross. You stomach tightens, maybe you puke, but your fine. On a 7-9, she has 1 hold on you. She can spend it any time you can see he to give you -1 on a roll, or give you 1xp. On a 6-, you just can’t get her out of your mind. That eye, what the fuck is wrong with her. Take -1 ongoing until you fuck her, fight her, or otherwise bleach your brain.
She fucks Jesus every night and then cries. She hopes that her sins haven’t made her unforgivable. She protect herself from the furies with the J-babies. She offers them to others without explanation. There is no reason to ask if their soul is un-pure. There is nothing pure left in this world. She hopes the J-babies will protect her and the others from the Furies Balls, Sling and Jackal.
The Ash Heap is pandora’s box, ready to burst open. Plenty of treasures, but everyone that goes there dies. Everyone but the J-babies. An abusive rape cult spreads fast on the tails of a deathly sickness, offering protection but demanding submission.
Ash Heap – Landscape (Breeding pit). The Ash Heap is full of treasures, but everything there is irradiated. Touch it, eat it, kill it, fuck it, it doesn’t matter. It’ll cook you from the inside like a microwave oven.
Tape, Jone – Brutes (Cult). Fuck Jesus for protection. It’s the only thing that will save you. Make J-babies.
McKinley – Grotesque (mutant). He’ll find something in the Ash Heap to bring Tad back to him, or something close enough.
There is something else out there. Mutants who have been changed? Fucking Jackal’s with a taste for man-flesh. I’m not sure yet. Something not quite right? We’ll figure it out when the arrive.
Irradiated Lands – If the contents of the Ash Heap be spread far and wide, as many want too, the regions nearby will be irradiated causing mutations, death and disease. At 12:00 The radiation is communicable, it covers the Ash Heap and Dog Stop, and it spreads…
J-babies cult – Those seeking protection from the evil spirits will flock to Tape and her protective J-babies and a full fledged cult will form. At 12:00 the cult is formed, and anyone unwilling to let Jesus sodomize will be cast out to fend for themselves, or worse, become an enemy of the cult.
Will Jone break from Juck to protect Tape?
Will Keeler join the J-babies?
Will someone use the warhead? Oh who?
Custom Move: Every time you enter the Ash Heap roll+Weird. On a 10+ your unaffected. You may get nauseous or feel week, but you’ll survive. On a 7-9, you’re body is trying to fight it off. As with a 10+ but you probably are going to get an infection, start hemorrhaging, or start shitting your pants. Start the countdown at 0:00 or move the clock up if you’ve already started it. On a miss, the radiation owns you. By morning you’ll be vomiting, fevered, and shitting blood instead of feces. If the clock is below 9:00 move it to 9:00. Otherwise, move it up.
0:00 – Contact with the radiation
10:00 – Poisoned
11:00 – Contagious
12:00 – Succumb
Custom Move: Once your poisoned, roll+weird at the start of every session. On a 10+ your body fights it off. Reduce the clock to 9:00. On a 7-9, you’re struggling, do not advance the clock. On a miss, it is taking you over, advance the clock.
Custom Move: If you adorn yourself with J-babies take +1 to resit the radiation. Jesus may visit you at night.
Custom Move: If you take Jesus into you (your mouth, your cunt, or your ass), roll+Hard. On a 10+ you are cured of all radiation and cannot be affected by it again, but Jesus has 1 hold on you. On a 7-9, you are cured but still susceptible to radiation in the future and Jesus has 2 hold on you. On a miss, he just rapes you for fun and makes you do his bidding.
When finished, and a map of the mall drawn, it looked like this:
The Play is the Thing
We started with a congratulatory round of fuck you banter to get in the mood and skipped any kind of recap.
Last session we forgot Hx so we started with that and then did highlights. I was happy to see them mixed up some this time. We got some sharp and hot in, that we didn’t have last time, and that made me happy.
I also asked how much experience everyone had marked because I wanted to make sure I was spreading screen time (and move opportunities) around evenly. They were at Nero (2), Juck (2), and Keeler (1). That seemed like a good spread. We ended at 7,7, and 5, which seemed pretty un-fucked as well.
Then I got to asking questions
Nero, Abe is your obligation, what is it you need from him? Connections, Abe knows everyone and knows how to make deals happen.
Where does Keeler keep his ammo? Oh yeah, under some tiles in the mall, Trunk watches it for him. Does Keeler think Trunk is stealing from him? He knows he is.
The guy that is still walking his bike in. His name is Smog. What is he to Juck? He’s a useless sack of shit. The guy who is sent on point to be a meat shield.
How is Vicki stuck in Nero’s head, why can’t he stop thinking about her? That eye, it’s revolting. Why won’t she clean it up!
Would Truck really kill Keeler for his store? 90% of the time no, but sometimes, 10% even, he might.
How long has it been since Juck has eaten? At day, and longer for his gang.
Nero, can you read? Yeah. Who do you read stories to? The mechanics daughter Grease, and to McKinley, who’s pretty maudlin after he lost Tad.
Dust clouds moving in
I asked Juck what he was going to do when he saw the dust clouds moving in, catching up with Smog in the distance. He let them roll in and come close. Smog dropped his bike and started running screaming for Juck. Moments later a bolt flew this his hand and harpooned him. Ivy’s contingent of the smoke house brawlers (at least some of them) emerged, and began to drag Smog across the dirt bed by the bolt stuck in his had.
Nero stepped up and unloaded his nine on Aldo, who was dragging Smog, and took him off his bike, but leaving himself open for some shotgun spray from Frederick who was coming up behind.
Keeler got wise and climbed up on the marquee still hanging in front of the old theater. He surprised me a little by opening up his mind. And we talked about what the Psychic Maelstrom looks like to him. It’s full of whispers on the edge of his hearing, and figures wrapped up in bandages, moving in impossible ways. I added that he saw a figure whose bandages were yellow and black. She whispered and her whispers echoed through the rest…close it them off…block them out…protect the mall. When he came too, he saw a old school bus being pushed in front of one set of doors, and a metal grate being dropped in front of the other. Taxi was cutting them off outside.
Junk told his gang to hold tight while he settled this. He rode forward to call out Ivy. I think this is where I dropped the ball a bit and could have done better (see below on thoughts). He wanted to meet her face to face, but inside the dust was nothing but old brawlers. Ivy herself hadn’t come. The offered to take him to her… alone. Just told them to fuck off and as they were circling him on their bikes rammed his tire iron in Alphonse’s spokes, sending the fucker flying.
Nero meanwhile was looking around. He saw the three bangers on an ATV closing in, and noticed the bus closing off the way into the mall (well, balls) but he didn’t catch Frederick coming back up behind him for a second pass. The banger clocked him hard with his shotgun and then leapt off his own bike to start hog tying him with the same cord that had Smog all tangled up. The metal wire bit into Nero’s wrists but it never made it all the way around, because…
Keeler had a perfect vantage from up top and put some lead in Frederick’s head. A sniper riffle in Keeler’s hands, every shot is deadly.
Juck had some interchanges with Charlotte, who felt the need to one up him (again, where I think I was falling down, see below) by revealing his/her indeterminate gender and finally settling on Ivy meeting Juck at Ash Heap on the morrow.
By the time the Brawlers were chased off Taxi had secured the mall tightly. She doesn’t like Nero (he’s holding out on those CO2 cannisters and it looks like he’s bringing trouble to town) but he had jingle to offer just to get inside, and after the fighting was over, a bag of jingle (Frederick’s boots, his shotgun, some ammo, and a bullet head bolo tie) was just the right price to get inside, so long as they didn’t cause trouble. Taxi, like the colors her name implies is dressed in caution tape, all yellow and black.
The bus was pushed back by two giant women, sisters. Born-again and Lunetta. The former recognized Nero immediately. I’ve still got the clap from the last time we bumped ugly.
In Hot Topic, some deals were made. Abe would hook up with Deek and get some petrol by the morning (for a bit of jingle for his part, and a j-baby). Nero, Keeler and Juck would ride out to Ash Heap to see what they could find, hopefully some CO2, maybe a ride or two.
Vicki also had to fuck shit up. Just because Juck was being a dick to her, she jumped his ass and took his keys. Nero managed to talk her down with promises of sweet loving (also fucked this up, see below), and she gave them back before Juck had to take out her other eye. But mostly, she just had to cause trouble. And just touched her eye (see custom move above). Now she’s in his mind as well. Fucking gross.
Things settled down some. People drank. Others did bad things to each other. Someone, somewhere was remembering a time before the ruin.
Then I asked Keeler what he was up to. “I’ve got a beef with Taxi, I’m going to go talk to her.” So he meandered over to Nordy’s where two guards stood outside. He told them he was going to walk past them. They told him, about as casually they were going to wait until he was far enough and then shoot him in the head. He wasn’t really going to let that stand so he offered a game of Knifesies. We all knew it was a real game, but didn’t know how it worked so we decided in Apocalypse World it works with people taking turns trying to take out the other person’s eye by throwing a knife at it. Custom move.
Custom Move: When you play Knifesies roll+cool. On a 10+ you take out your opponent’s eye and they yield to you. On a 7-9, you both take 1 harm (ap) and the give, full of grudges and bitching. On a miss you lose your eye and get a kick in the crotch for your efforts. Find an angel fast chummer.
This move seems a bit rough, but I do like that it’s irreversible.
So…Keeler lost an eye and we wrapped up the session with Nero and Juck racing around the mall to find Peck, the only guy with enough meatmesh, narcostabs, and bloodslower to put Keeler back together. He pulled out the knife, and most of Keelers eye with it. He snipped the stringy bits and filled the socket with a canister of cheeze whiz looking meatmesh. Keeler would live. I put him at 6:00 Harm, down from 9:00.
Thoughts on this game
I’ve been gauging the violence based off the PCs. They seem very casual about it, so I’ve tried to have the NPCs reflect that. They don’t get too upset about violence or maiming each other. Keeler said he was going to walk by the guards, they said they were going to shoot him. Juck pushed Vicki, she jumped him with a barrage of punches. Ivy’s gang started off my harpooning Smog. Everyone has a hammer, and most problems are nails.
There was some good moves in this game. I liked seeing Taxi come alive. Knifesies was a lot of fun. The barter system was playing out well. When Smog was left to fend for himself, I let the move snowball and they harpooned him. I dig watching Vicki, Nero, and Juck in there little three way mess. For that though I feel like I made several mistakes, namely:
- When Juck approached the other gang to make a show of meeting with Ivy, I thought there was something on the line. Like would Juck’s gang just sit back or would they start fighting. Would Ivy’s gang let him approach to talk, or would they start taking pot shots at him. I should have had him act under fire. The fire was violence breaking out before he could talk.
- When he did go to talk though, and rolled hot, I should should have first asked what kind of leverage he had, you know threats of his gang fighting back, or that he knew some of he guys personally and had history with them. Something to figure out where it should have gone. When he did hit a 7-9, I decided the thing they wanted first was for Juck to come to Ivy’s domain alone. I think there were better options. I could have used something something from one of those questions, or offered something else more immediate.
- At one point Juck was facing off with Claudette, Claudette had just scraped his machete against his stubble, you know, to show how tough he was. Then Juck told him “Hey, you Claudette is a girls name don’t you”, to which Claudette pulled down his (her?) shirt to show a breast. Now, on the surface this is great, it’s Barfing forth the Apocalyptica. She/he is a freak. But it violates the principle of being a fan of the characters. It isn’t my job to one up them, it’s my job to make their lives interesting and I think that move, and kind of the whole “you can’t see Ivy now” move in general was me blocking.
- When Vicki gave back the keys she told Nero she’d she him later. It’s a small point but he manipulated her with a 10+. She gave him what he wanted (the keys) and then should have taken (or tried to take) what he offered (the sex). Giving him time wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t in her nature and it wasn’t the move.