[Apocalypse World] Soundtrack Sampler

Apocalypse World Soundtrack Sampler

I’ve been collecting some songs to play in the background during my upcoming Apocalypse World game. A lot of good suggestions came from a few threads on the Apocalypse World and Story Games forums (this one in particular). A couple new artists and bands I found via the threads: Zoe Keating, who plays aggressive, heart-rending cello, and 16 Horsepower, whose apocalyptic folk is littered with biblical references and anguished vocals.

As a sort of preview of the soundtrack, I’ve made a playlist on 8tracks.com with a few of my favorite songs from the mix. You can find it here: http://8tracks.com/michaelharrel/apocalypse-world-sampler

Track list:
1. “Ghosts II” (track 14) – Nine Inch Nails (03:05)
2. “Hutterite Mile” – 16 Horsepower (04:04)
3. “Escape Artist” – Zoe Keating (06:34)
4. “Goin’ Out West” – Tom Waits (03:20)
5. “Time is Running Out” (Muse Cover) – Vitamin String Quartet (03:57)
6. “Hold On for Your Love” – John Hiatt (06:22)
7. “Credits” – Allister Brimble and Nivek Ogre (02:31)
8. “Abandoned Streets” – Akira Yamaoka (04:41)

The Obsidian Eagle: A Lady Blackbird hack

Here is The Obsidian Eagle, a setting-hack of John Harper’s Lady Blackbird.

Back before Apocalypse World came out, Lady Blackbird hacks were all the rage, but I never got around to playing any of them.  Since we’d just finished playing Cogs, a two-year campaign of Steampunk Dystopia with some heavy influence from Firefly, a different Steampunk Firefly take didn’t really appeal.  But I liked the simplicity of the system and the completeness of the module, so I wanted to do SOMETHING with it.

Well, so a week and a half ago we invited one of Bekka’s IRL friends to join us on Skype for a one shot, and we decided on Sword-and-Sorcery as the genre.  That implied the possibility of In A Wicked Age, of course, but honestly in the games of IAWA I’ve played the system hasn’t really clicked for me.  Plus, Bekka has had bad experience with competitive-player-character games, in which all the PCs are pitted directly against each other.  So, long story short, I decided to try giving Lady Blackbird a try, but using IAWA’s oracle system to come up with the situation.  The Obsidian Eagle is the result: I think the most obvious IAWA material in it are probably the character names (most of them, anyway), and the fact that Gorbeh Sahra is a girl with the soul of a leopard (which is an oracle element I’ve always thought was cool.

The longest bit of prep was definitely the city map of Sharukish; it’s the first city map I’ve done in a long, long while, and for the most part I’m happy with how it turned out.  It was a learning experience, to be sure.

We played the first session over Skype last night, and it seemed to really well!

Bekka played Zatika Eil-Bet, the Bandit Queen
Hannah played Ehsan Baryamin Gemegishkirihalat, the crippled older brother of the God-Emperor
Tyler played Ammit Sahandir, the Apprentice Sorcerer

The two other pregen characters, Gorbeh Sahra (the girl with the Leopard’s soul) and Freydron Leir (Zatika’s bodyguard, a barbarian), were played as NPCs.

We began in the Grand Market, where Zatika and Freydron were mingling with the crowd while they waited to sneak into the palace to attempt to steal the Obsidian Eagle.  A crash and an overturned cart announced the arrival of Gorbeh, pursued by several Imperial Guards.  Gorbeh fled to the top of a lamp-post, and although the guards were stumped as to how to get her down, she was stuck without an escape.  Zatika, hitting her “sympathy” key, paid a nearby street urchin to pickpocket the guards’ orders, which provoked one of the three guards to give chase.  Meantime, Ehsan and Ammit arrived at the market separately (Ammit guided by a magic jewel given to him by his master, and Ehsan because he’d arranged for Gorbeh’s escape and this was the most logical place for her to flee).  They arrived to see a big commotion, which turned out only to be the stray guard pursuing Zatika’s hired street urchin.  However, the drama did draw them both together, and recognizing each other they joined forces (at least temporarily) to look for Gorbeh.  They began trailing backwards in the direction from which the guard and the urchin had come.

This led them to the scene with Gorbeh and the guards, as well as Freydron and Zatika.  Ammit immediately recognized Freydron, and while Zatika knew Ehsan by sight, he did not see through her clever disguise.  In either case, she and Freydron decided it was time to move on, and fled down an alleyway.  Ehsan, drawing on all the authority invested in the Emperor’s brother, demanded to know what the guards were doing.  By now, one of the guards had tried to climb up the lamppost and he and Gorbeh had both fallen off, collapsing into the other guard in a tangled mess.  The guards stood quickly up, managing to keep hold of Gorbeh as they tried helplessly to answer Ehsan’s questions.

That’s where we left off; we’ll be picking it up again next week.  In all, I think it was a success; everyone seemed to have a good time, and the relationships between the characters started coming to the front almost immediately.

Anyway.  Download the file, give it a read, and let me know what you think.  I’ll be working soon to clean up the pdf, as it’s still very first-draft-ish at the moment.  Watch the blog for updates.

Two New Campaigns

This week saw the start of two new RPG campaigns as I returned to Chicago. The first was another Apocalypse World campaign with my IRL group, in which we’re playing the denizens of an aquatic nightclub after a global flood. My character is the proprietor, a Maestro D’ named Grave, and the establishment is called At The Gates, built on a floating platform above a sunken city. It’s quite a departure from our previous AW game, but shows great promise.

The second campaign that started is actually the return of my old Engel campaign, played via Dogs in the Vineyard. The last time I ran Engel was in mid-2008, and it remains one of my most fondly remembered campaigns. I’ve been hesitant to bring it back, but the timing seems right and I have some ideas of where to take it that seem cool enough to make it a worthy continuation. This first session rocked, although it was mostly setting up the new ideas and was, perhaps, a bit of a pageant with the characters going from encounter to encounter. My favorite part was thrown in during play, though: the characters, taking the sewers to avoid the battle raging on the streets, hear something very large walk pass on the surface above them, rattling the walls and shaking loose the dirt from the ceiling.

Board Game Thoughts

My family isn’t all that into RPGs, but they do like board games, and since I’ve been visiting my folks the past few weeks, I’ve been playing a *lot* of games.  Mostly these have been strategy/tactical games.  Let’s see if I can remember all the ones I’ve played:

  1. Colossal Arena
  2. Carson City
  3. Last Night on Earth
  4. Clue: The Great Museum Caper
  5. Risk
  6. Zombie State
  7. Bang!
  8. Space Hulk: Death Angel
  9. Defenders of the Realm
  10. Arkham Horror
  11. Munchkin
  12. Pirates of the Caribbean Pirate Dice

That last one my older brother and I also used to tweak the rules of a pirate game he’d bought that has very high quality pieces, board, etc, but very poor rules to go along with them.  So, then, twelve or thirteen board games, some of which I played more than once.  (I also played Dogs in the Vineyard with some friends, but that wasn’t with my family.  And my younger brother and I started playing Dungeon World, an old-school hack of Apocalypse World, but we didn’t get much farther than character creation, unfortunately.)

While Risk and Clue: The Great Museum Caper are old family favorites (although I hadn’t played Clue: TGMC since highschool), and many of the others (Last Night on Earth, Arkham Horror) were very familiar to me, several of the games were new, including Colossal Arena, Carson City, Zombie State, Space Hulk, and Defenders of the Realm.  Of these new games, I think Zombie State is probably my favorite, although Colossal Arena and Space Hulk are also highly enjoyable games, and Defenders of the Realm seems to work when you’d like the experience of playing Arkham Horror without quite so strong narrative elements or Yog-Sothothery.  The only one I didn’t really like was Carson City, which has far too much in common with Settlers of Catan for my taste.  (I know Settlers is quite popular in most corners, but I am not any good at it and find it frustrating, as if there is some central mechanic to the game that everyone else has read but have conspiratorially kept hidden from me.)

Many of the newer games had strong narrative or story elements, which (in addition to their excellent rules systems) are what make them of especial interest to me.  There’s a web forum I frequent entitled “Story Games” which is mostly about RPGs but is so named because it wants to encompass all games in which a story is told or formed through play.  It’s a purposefully vague and inclusive definition, but I find this not to be a disadvantage.  I suppose there are people out there who self identify as exclusively RPG players, but my own allegiance is more to the narrative form (of any sort), and as pertains to games I’ll go anywhere I can create a sense of story.   To be fair, I’ll happily play other games as well (I especially enjoy strategy games like chess or Risk, and get addicted to puzzle games like Tetris) but those games I consistently find the most enjoyment in have a narrative element; be they RPGs or board games.

What games do you all play with your family members?  Are they more “traditional” games like Scrabble or Monopoly, or do you have family members who are interested in war or strategy games, or even RPGs?

Also, what cool board games, if any, have you played recently?  Any experiences with any of the games on my above list you’d like to share?

My Current Games

I’m currently running or playing three RPG campaigns.

1. Apocalypse World by Vincent Baker.  This is being played over Skype with my friends Matt and Bekka.  We’re using Vyew.com as a whiteboard to keep track of notes and post pictures and maps and so forth.  This game has been going for over ten sessions.  Matt has retired one character (an Operator named Nero) and created a second (a Brainer named Vile).  Bekka’s Skinner, Shiraz, is still going strong.  The characters are part of a caravan moving between three or four towns; we actually have a fairly large campaign map that so far has been mostly for flavor (so far we’ve only left the Hard Rock Plateau once, to visit the Brandlands).  Shiraz has recently come into possession of an artifact that seems to have some kind of link to or control over the psychic maelstrom (which is a sort of universal consciousness that has been f’d up by the advent of the apocalypse.  Or something.)

2. Dogs in the Vineyard by Vincent Baker – This is also being played over Skype/Vyew.  Dogs has long been one of my favorite games.  My favorite campaign to date was running Dogs with the setting from Engel.  This time we’re playing with the setting from the book.  So far we’ve only done half of a town, the White Springs branch, in which there seems to be some trouble between the townsmen and the local mountain folk.  Dogs has always seemed pretty difficult to run online, so I photoshopped up a conflict worksheet and using it in Vyew has made things a lot easier.

3. World of Darkness: Motor City – Is a play-by-email game that’s just started here in the past couple weeks.  We’re using a heavily modified/simplified version of the World of Darkness rules (taken mostly from the Mirrors sourcebook, but also grafting in some ideas from Spirit of the Century and using an oracle (random situation generator) a la In A Wicked Age to create the set-up.  This is going to be played as a series of vignettes all set in the same city (an alternate Detroit) and timeline, with interconnected and recurring characters.  Our first story involves an incarnation of Death searching for some missing Souls, who have been captured by Sukur-Gis, an ancient evil in the form of a tree of thorns.  On a more mundane level of the story, it’s about a young man searching for his girlfriend, who is one of the souls entrapped by Sukur-Gis.  I expect that the oracles we’re using will be the subject of a post here in the near future.

I’m also part of an RPG group IRL, although with the holidays and everything of late I’ve only been able to play one game with them this month, a one-shot of Zombie Cinema set in a mall on Black Friday.  There is talk of either a Dogs campaign or Shock: Human Contact starting soon, but I don’t know if I’ll be back from vacation in time for either of those.