This past weekend I started MC’ing a group in a game of Apocalypyse World. This isn’t the first time I’ve run Apocalypse world, but as mentioned in a previous episode of our podcast, it didn’t go very well for me. I was intimidated by the openness of the ruleset and didn’t feel like I had enough resources to help me on my way. That game was abandoned and we jumped in to the D&D 5th edition starter set. A couple years have passed and though I haven’t run too many more games, I have more confidence and more familiarity with the game. It’s time to give it a second shot. For now, I’m going to call this game ‘Islands in the Ocean’ for reasons that will become clear below.
Before the first session the group decided on a basic concept for our setting – a post apocalyptic city where the population is forced in to the upper stories of skyscrapers by a thick toxic fog that fills the air at the lower levels. Everyone seemed pretty excited by this setting idea and the fun opportunities it presented; rope bridges between tall buildings, maybe even ziplines, and potential excursions in to the fog. Great. So the players selected their classes and we started creating characters. Bryan is playing a Maestro’D by the name of Cookie. She runs a strip club called “Cookie’s Warm and Fresh.” Currently it seems as the game will center around this club, as our other two characters either work for Cookie or are frequent customers. Richy is playing Sparky, the Savvyhead and runs the tech for the club. Matt is playing Remi, the Gunlugger and frequently does jobs for Cookie.
As we wrapped up character creation we went through the character introductions and Hx step. One thing I really like about Apocalypse World and the other “world” games are the parts of character creation that force the characters to create existing relationships. Everyone instantly has something to build off of, especially the person running the game. Bryan playing the Maestro’D is a nice gift because that character instantly comes with a list of NPC characters that I get to play with. One of them already died in our first session. As we talked more about the setting and looked at the map, I pointed out a bridge in the corner. Bryan or Richy (I can’t remember who, I’m sorry…) had a great idea. Since nobody has actually seen the water due to the thick fog, maybe everyone refers to the fog as the ocean. Awesome. It’s little details like this that make a setting come to life.
A lot of things went well in this session. One thing I love about this group is they have no problems dropping in to in-character conversations. It’s great as a GM to be able to sit back and just listen.
- We almost immediately had a standoff in the club between Remi the Gunlugger and Toyota, a club regular. The situation was diffused by Cookie, but Toyota was back later to get revenge on Remi. It ended poorly for Toyota. His goons might be back for more.
- Cookie gave lots of interesting backstory and set up some interesting potential plot lines. She used to be a runner, moving between buildings and picking up/delivering goods. Is there some post-apocalypse Mirror’s Edge potential here?
- Sparky is working on repairing some important tech for the club which is needed to keep it competitive with Cool Cool’s club several floors down. His encounter with the rival tech guy wasn’t successful but he had a mysterious follower watching him from the shadows.
Apocalypse World insists you don’t plan anything for session one. Anything I would have prepared wouldn’t have fit any of the characters we ended up with, but running a game from nothing can be challenging. I didn’t feel that great about how things went at the end. There were definite glimmers of good stuff, but I felt like I was floundering in several spots. Fortunately the group didn’t feel that way and everyone was positive about the session and looking forward to what’s next. And what is next? Well, a lot I think. The first session left me with over a dozen NPCs to mess with, some looking for revenge, some looking for new opportunity. The setting has a lot of room to expand. Did I mention Sparky has a radio in his workshop? There are a lot of buildings out there with a lot of people in them. Also, the fog! Who knows what that is or what it does to people. So now I go to fill out my threat map and threat cards and make the world awesome and dangerous.
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