We’re in the end-game, now, folks. Last session of Apocalypse World was number 9 of 12, so I’m starting to reveal ((And, because of the nature of AW, when I say “reveal,” you can pretty much freely substitute the phrase “make up on the spot.”)) a number of secrets about the world. This particular session has shown the shape of what is probably going to be the rest of the campaign.
One of the things that got revealed was the nature of the apocalypse. Now, I’m guessing that this is not something that comes up in every game, but one of the players is playing the Quarantine. And, the Quarantine – Snow -Â has a special start-of-session move that lets him ask or answer some questions about the apocalypse, when he was placed in stasis. This means that, over the course of a few sessions, a rough outline of what the apocalypse was like ((Not necessarily what it was. Just what it was like.)) will emerge. Combining that with Snow’s desire to find his way back to the stasis facility ((A number of the Quarantine’s advancements have to do with the stasis facility.)), and it became… well, not exactly necessary, but logical that the nature of the apocalypse would emerge.
I’d had a feeling that it was going to come out by the end of the campaign, so part of my prep for each session was looking over my notes about the answers I had given to Snow about the apocalypse, and coming up with some ideas that would fit them. I’d try to keep the answers rich in detail while still being applicable to a few different causes, but as they stacked up, some possibilities became unlikely, and some became more probable. So, this session, I had about four possibilities ((No, players in my campaign, I’m not going to tell you what the other possibilities were. I may need to use them for something before we’re done.)), figuring I’d pick the one that made sense if it came up, just like the last couple of sessions.
This session, though, I actually needed it.
Our heroes decided to head out of Roosevelt again in search of the second beacon, which would – according to Snow – lead them to Snow’s stasis facility. Also, they were kind of uncomfortable with the changes that had come to town since Dawning came to “stabilize” things. They had a rough location for the beacon, north of town, along the road to Dawning, but on the far side of the river from the road. They managed to get their hands on a zodiac boat, and took the Dawning road as far as they could.
Along the way, they passed by a large encampment of Dawning soldiers about two hours north of Roosevelt. The soldiers didn’t do anything threatening, but the group still got nervous, and set a guard that night. In the middle of the night, they heard one of their tripwire alarms go off, and went to investigate. At first, they could see no sign of what might have tripped the alarm ((They had a range of possibilities, including Dawning soldiers, Canadians, Yellowhammers, and razor weasels. Oh, and one of the freaky bears that they saw the razor weasels kill.)), but then discovered some hastily-piled underbrush concealing the corpses of two Dawning soldiers. They had each been shot in the head with a high-calibre bullet.
The group figured that meant the Canadians ((Just a reminder, here, that the group that the characters call “Canadians” are probably not from Canada. But they were very polite and apologetic the first time they met, when they got the drop on Nils and Magpie. Less polite when they were trying to blow up Snow with the drone, last session.)) were nearby and, rather than shooting at them, were shooting at the folks sneaking up on them. The way the bodies had been concealed so quickly made JB think that there were at least three, probably four, Canadians nearby: a sniper, maybe a spotter, and two forward men to hide the bodies when the sniper took them down.
Also, they obviously had some sort of night vision apparatus.
Not comfortable with that idea, our heroes decided to chance a night crossing of the river, and trying to lose the Canadians on the other side. This they proceeded to do, heading away from the beacon for most of the day, and finally approaching it at night. It kinda worked: they lost their tails, but the Canadians had found the beacon and set up an ambush there.
There was an abortive attempt at a parley at gunpoint, but that went to hell pretty quick. The resulting fire fight was pretty brutal, leaving JB badly injured, but with the Canadians dead, chased off, or captured. During the battle, Magpie had opened herself up to the maelstrom, and seen that the Canadians were just blank holes in the world, but that the beacon seemed to have several alternate images of itself superimposed on its position.
This bit started to make sense when they interrogated one of the Canadians. After some negotiation – involving the release of all the prisoners but the one agreeing to talk – I got to reveal the cause of the apocalypse.
The seeds of the idea grew out of the latest iteration of Gamma World, Robert Sawyer’s Neanderthal Parralax, random stuff I’ve read about quantum physics, Warren Ellis’s amazing comic Planetary, and a neat video I saw about quantum computers. Now, I want to stress that, if I were to say that I don’t really understand quantum physics or quantum computers, I’d be claiming waaaaaay more knowledge of the subject than I actually have. So, everything I’m using here is based on the cool bits of quantum physics that I’ve picked up from books and movies. Do not use anything I say here to try and resolve a waveform’s superposition. It’ll just get messy.
The apocalypse started because of the invention and use of quantum computers, which use essentially use alternate reality versions of themselves for almost infinite parallel processing power, enabling them to perform massive calculations very quickly. These alternate realities started bleeding together as the computers became more powerful and more prevalent. This accelerated, until the realities became inextricably smeared together, destroying most of the social and cultural and physical infrastructure of the various worlds.
The Canadians are from a different reality than the Roosevelt folks. They created a facility on their reality that shares the position of Snow’s facility on this ((Or is Snow from a different reality, too?)) reality. They’ve been trying to eliminate the beacons that point to their location, and anyone who might have knowledge of them.
One thing the prisoner told them that gave everyone some pause was that some of the scientists at his base have said that the math suggests that the quantum computers create the alternate realities so that they have a place to do the quantum processing. This means that shutting them off might wipe out all the realities except the prime one, and no one is sure which one that is.
That’s about where we left things. Snow now has the location of his stasis facility, but is even more unsure of what they’ll find there.
Of course, I don’t know, either. That’s one of the great things about AW. We both get to be surprised.