Looking Forward to the Coming Apocalypse

After I wrapped up my Armitage Files game and my Feints & Gambits game, I took about a month off from running games and rethought the way I wanted to do things. I decided that I wanted to run smaller, shorter games – things that wrap up in a few months rather than a few years. I figure I can run two games at a given time ((Plus the Storm Point game.)) without burning out on them, so once I got the Civil War game up and running properly, I started looking for the next game I was going to run.

I’d been intrigued by Apocalypse World ever since I read it a couple of years ago. But I was also pretty intimidated by it – the constraints it places on the MC ((Apocalypse World  speak for the GM.)) are real game-changers ((Ha! See what I did there?)), and run pretty much counter to the way I learned to run games. There are two specific things that are very different:

  • MCs do not roll dice. All the rolls are done by the players, and the MC just reacts to the rolls. This is such a strange idea to me that it feels like cheating – a player flubs a roll, and I just get to inflict damage on the character? I don’t need to make a to-hit roll? Man, it feels like I’m getting away with something.
  • MCs are not supposed to create adventure storylines. Stories are supposed to emerge from the interplay of the characters and the environment ((Much of which is created on the fly.)) in an organic manner. Now, the MC can create threats and issues for the the characters to interact with – called fronts in the game – but should not be pushing for a specific type of interaction or outcome. It’s seems like a recipe for boredom, but the advocates of the system say not ((Of course, I’ve done a fair bit of this kind of thing with the Armitage Files game, but I was far more familiar with the Cthulhoid stuff, so it was easier for me to riff on themes that I already had in my brain. I’m not as up on the post-apocalyptic stuff, especially considering I don’t know what the world’s gonna look like. I want the players to determine that during the first session.)).

A lot of my worry was relieved this year at GenCon, when I was able to try out the game at Games on Demand. Trevis ran us through character creation and a short game that really opened my eyes to the way the system works and all the possibilities it opens up.

And it was fun.

So I decided to run Apocalypse World  as my next game. I put together an invitation, sent it out to my gaming group ((I’ve got about sixteen or so people in my extended gaming group. No one game can accommodate everyone.)), putting the cap on the group at five, with a minimum of two players. Within twenty-four hours, I had five players, but lost one due to scheduling conflicts. I opened up the recruitment for one more day, but no one else jumped in, so we’re set to begin play with four players.

I sent each of them a set of the available playbooks to pick from, but warned them not to go too far with character creation, which we will be doing at the first session. Still, they’ve made some choices about what they’d like to play:

  • Michael is looking at playing either the Touchstone or the Quarantine.
  • Sandy is considering the Hoarder.
  • Elliot has fixed on the Gunlugger.
  • Chris has chosen the Savvyhead.

And my brain is whirling with half-formed potential ideas for the game, but I can’t do anything with them, because we don’t have any details of the world worked out, and we won’t until the game starts and the players start helping with that bit. Y’know, the whole bit about asking provocative questions and stuff.

So, I’m finding it a little frustrating not being able to do any of my usual prep for the game. I’m reading and re-reading the Apocalypse World rules, and looking at the various playsheets, but I can’t start creating NPCs or describing the environment or plotting  big threats or anything like that, because that’s not how the game works.

I must be content to wait. The first session is scheduled for Friday, January 4. Despite my trepidations with the structure of the game, I’m really looking forward to it.

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One Response to Looking Forward to the Coming Apocalypse

  1. MCs do not roll dice. All the rolls are done by the players, and the MC just reacts to the rolls. This is such a strange idea to me that it feels like cheating – a player flubs a roll, and I just get to inflict damage on the character? I don’t need to make a to-hit roll? Man, it feels like I’m getting away with something.

    It does. “Hard Moves” are even more fiat-driven.

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