Archive for the ‘Apocalypse World’ Category

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Two Apocalypse World hacks worth highlighting

20 June, 2012

While I’m not completely convinced that I understand the full complexity of Vincent’s Apocalypse World game, I think it’s wildly interesting and I want to learn more about it. One of the hurdles for me is the kind of post-apocalypse setting it comes with, and the thematic language that accompanies it. It’s not a critique, but somehow it doesn’t swing with me.

That’s why it’s super cool that all sorts of interesting AW hacks are popping up all over the place. Two that have caught my attention lately are John Harper and Paul Riddle’s sizzling war hack The Regiment, and Jason Morningstar’s Lives of Others-inspired secret police hack, so far without a title. In what might just be the bleakest game in a long time, you play Stasi-like operators, criminal investigators, working for a totally totalitarian and totally corrupt and paranoid state.

First version includes a GM toolkit and how to get a game up and running, as well as loads of information about the many (many MANY) different and opposing government agencies, from the Ministry of State Security’s 26 departments (nobody fucks with Department 15!) to the People’s Police, the Ministry of Defense and Minustry of the Interior. Also included are seven playbooks.

I want to play this.

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Crossroads at Fastaval 2012

3 May, 2012
My latest game Crossroads ran as a “short story scenario” at the Danish convention Fastaval this April. There was scheduled to be a whopping 16 groups playing the game, but a couple of late cancellations shrunk that number to about 12-14, I’m not entirely sure. I had 14 great people who volunteered to facilitate the game, and I’m very thankful to all the players and especially the facilitators.
At this time I am waiting for all the feedback from the players – at Fastaval all the groups fill in feedback sheets for the scenario author, which is a great thing. Obviously there will be players who haven’t got a clue about what the scenario is about (and sometimes GMs as well, even worse!), but in general I think this is a good thing.
I asked all the facilitators to get back to me regarding how it went, and most of them did, which is very helpful indeed. None of the feedback has been different from what we learnt from the extensive playtesting, but it’s still nice to have confirmation that everything works as intended.
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Crossroads done

17 October, 2011

Crossroads, a “short story” scenario to be run at Danish convention Fastaval in 2012, is pretty much done. There are still two playtests happening in October, but unless they throw up big issues, it’s a wrap. 24 pages comic book sized, of which half are the player characters and bonus cards. Inside is black and white without illustrations and there’s a colour cover. I’ve been trying to write shorter convention scenarios over the years, and I think this is a really good format and length, for both the facilitator and the players. You can probably read it on the bus on your way to the convention and still be able to comfortably facilitate it without problems.

Crossroads back and front covers

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Nerdinburgh brought the awesome

10 October, 2011

My head is still buzzing after a weekend of socialising, great food and beer, and especially some awesome gaming at Nerdinburgh II. The venue was totally fantastic and blew us all away, but it did help to have a great bunch of people around.

I got to play three solid roleplaying sessions and a couple of hilarous late evening rounds of Cash n Guns.

My top session this year was definitely the playtest of my Crossroads scenario for Fastaval. One of the best sessions I’ve played in a very long time, and as far as I’m concerned everything went fantastic and worked as I had hoped. I was facilitating while Adam, Daniel, Neil and Debbie played the four main characters. Although we sometimes screamed in laughter and/or disbelief, we had some very tense and emotional scenes. Perfect, perfect, and this will definitely go down well at Fastaval next year. I think we managed to finish all four storied in 1 hour and 45 minutes, and we had a good talk afterwards discussing why the game worked so well. I’m very very happy with how it turned out.

The two other game sessions I played in was a game of Dust Devils on Saturday run by Neil. The setup was along the lines of the film Unforgiven, and I played an ugly, and indeed inept, bounty hunter coming to town to kill a man and get the reward. Much mayhem and killing happened during the session, which in fictional time only lasted a few hours.

Sunday afternoon I played Fiasco with Neil and Scott. We were trying out a new playset by Graham Walmsley, themed as Cthulhu romance, whatever that might be. It was a sick session with unspeakable scenes. Again, Fiasco rocked as a tight no-prep convention game.

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Nerdinburgh II

5 October, 2011

Nerdinburgh is the most private of conventions. To be able to attend you have to be invited. By me. The first time I organised it was a couple of years ago, in my house, and while it was totally awesome, the venue wasn’t ideal.

This is not Photoshopped. This is real!

Now, this time around we have gone all the way. And I do mean all the way. With the help of Joe and Debbie, we are collectively renting the Old Observatory House, on Calton Hill right in the centre of Edinburgh. The observatory, now long obsolete due to light pollution, is still there, right next to it. But be envious, be very envious. This is the awesomest of roleplaying locations you’ll ever see. The only bummer is the number of people it actually accommodates – sleeps 8, plays perhaps 16.

We have people travelling in from Sweden, China, and indeed Milton Keynes. You will cry yourself to sleep tonight just because you are not part of it, so apologies for that right away.

What’s happening at Nerdinburgh II? Well, for starters we have a Mechaton extravaganza on Sunday, and there have been announced Sorcerer games, Apocalypse World, actual copies of Matt Machell’s new game The Agency straight from the printer, playtests of Sunshine, Crossroads and Vincent Baker’s new game Murderous Ghosts. It’s crazy.

One of the playing rooms. Awesome doesn't even begin to describe it.

Nerdinburgh is also very special because the participants not only pay to attend, they prepare gourmet food to bring along. You think I’m kidding, probably, but no, it’s actually true. One participant wrote in an email yesterday: “I’m currently cooking some duck legs. If someone local could swing by a chinese supermarket and pick up a pack of frozen pancakes for duck, and some hoi sin sauce, that would be great. Cucumber and spring onions, too. Thank’ee kindly.”

If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is.

Oh, we’ll be tweeting and podcasting from the event, hopefully. Stay tuned.

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Crossroads cover

4 October, 2011

While I am waiting for the chance to playtest Crossroads over the coming weekend (at Nerdinburgh, a nifty and exclusive invites-only convention here in Edinburgh), I have been creating a draft layout and, not the least, a cover. It’s going to be comic book sized, check out the front page.

If any of you are interested in reading through the draft copy and give me some feedback on what works and what might not work, it would be much appreciated, and credited of course.

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Crossroads, my Fastaval scenario

22 September, 2011

It’s official, I’m writing a scenario for Fastaval 2012, and I’m excited! I haven’t contributed to the con since 2005, and oh man, so much has changed since then. I hope my stuff meets less resistance this time, but who knows?

I’m writing “Crossroads” a “short story” scenario to be played in two hours by a facilitator and four players. It’s loosely based on Chris Kubasik’s TV series The Booth at the End, and using a super slimmed-down version of the Apocalypse World system.

Right now I’m hoping to have a first playtest ready for our local Nerdinburgh gathering in two weeks.

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How much information is enough?

9 September, 2011

I am working on a small project, which is a short story convention scenario for Fastaval 2012. It’s a story game version of Chris Kubasik’s “Booth at the End” TV series, if you like, but that’s not what this post is about. It’s about how little information you can give your players. The scenario is for four players and a facilitator, and has to be played in two hours or less, so I don’t want to waste a single second on participants reading through game materials. I want the game to be able to start, BAM!

My current draft has a 100 word character description, and 320 words of how to play the scenario. There’s no character sheet. This means that it all will fit two comic book-sized pages with enough room for players’ own notes as well. That’s all. I won’t give you a character example, but here’s the “How to play” text that is the same for all the players. Now, imagine you are sitting down with four other people and only has to read this before playing. Will you say it’s enough?

How to play
The scenario is made up of scenes where your player character is talking to a man in a cafe. The man is roleplayed by the scenario’s facilitator.

The first scene is special, because you get to tell the man what your character’s desire is, and he will give you a task to complete if you want your desire to become reality. The scenario is all about what you are willing to do to obtain a goal, so do play along.

In all subsequent scenes, the man will ask you what you did to perform you allocated task since you last met. And you will roleplay what happened before, based on what the man asks you. Sometimes your character might get dragged into the story of one of the other characters, and you will have to roleplay in their scenes as well. Play along with that as well.

When your character does something in a scene that’s uncertain, dangerous, dramatic, you get to roll two dice to see how it goes. You have three cards that give you a bonus to a roll, which you can use, even after the roll, if you describe how what’s on the card influences the situation. When you have used a card, it’s gone forever.
Add the total of the dice, plus the card if you are using one:
6 or under: Suck! You blow it – the facilitator will tell you how bad it is, and you won’t like it.
7-9: You do it, but there are complications – the facilitator may offer you a tough choice.
10+: You do it, no problem.

Remember
You don’t know what will happen or what has happened – play to find out.
Always tell what your character is DOING, not thinking. When you DO, ROLL the dice.
Make stuff up. Go with the flow.
Don’t be a dick.

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Play to find out

18 April, 2011

I’m re-reading Apocalypse World, among other things, to prepare for this week’s game, where I’m MC’ing a local face-to-face game. It’s a marvellous book, up there with another favorite of mine, the Sorcerer book, or books, rather. You may like or dislike the book’s genre-appropriate language like “barf forth Apocalyptica” or “go aggro”, I was not annoyed the least by it, but the play advice in here is pure gold.

Commit yourself

One of the basics for playing Apocalypse World is the phrase “Play to find out”, which shouldn’t surprise anyone with a Story Now preference. Apocalypse World is a game design firmly rooted in Ron Edward’s old essay Narrativism: Story Now, which by itself completely changed my own gaming habits. I went back and re-read the essay as well. It’s dated, yes, mostly because we have more language and knowledge acquired through discussion and actual play than nearly 10 years ago.

Vincent writes: “Play to find out: there’s a certain discipline you need in order to MC Apocalypse World. You have to commit yourself to the game’s fiction’s own internal logic and causality, driven by the players’ characters. You have to open yourself to caring what happens, but when it comes time to say what happens, you have to set what you hope for aside.”

Couldn’t be much clearer, could it now?