[Apocalypse World] Session cancelled; Character Art

Doc, the Angel
Two of my players were sick this week, so no session to report on, unfortunately. However, they have been working on their homework a bit, and here’s a sneak peek at one of the results: Janelle’s character art for Doc, the Angel.

Another part of their homework being to detail their bartering oddments, I came up with a list of suggestions for things that people might commonly trade, with a few interesting trinkets thrown in:

  • A scarf
  • Rechargable batteries
  • A battery charger
  • Bottles o’ booze
  • Packs of MREs
  • Needles and thread
  • Pots and pans
  • Plastic beads and shiny things
  • Fuel
  • Ammunition
  • Water filtration parts
  • Drugs, drugs, drugs
  • Canned food
  • Birth-control pills
  • Painkillers
  • Bandages
  • Condiment packs (ketchup, hot sauce)
  • Spices (esp. salt)
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol swabs
  • Glass bottles
  • Candles
  • Shoes
  • Geiger counter
  • Plant/vegetable seeds
  • Hard candy
  • Chocolate
  • Writing utensils
  • Paper
  • Toilet paper
  • Books
  • Cigarettes
  • Livestock (chickens, etc)
  • Soap/Bleach/Cleaning Agents
  • Toothbrushes
  • Porn
  • Chapstick
  • Matches/cigarette lighters
  • Garden and Hand Tools
  • A music box

A good start, at least. Any suggestions to add to the list?

[Apocalypse World] Xenoformed Chicago (Character Creation)

Our first session was fan-fucking-tastic. Everyone was excited, everyone was contributing and positive and very affirming of each other’s ideas. The characters rock. I couldn’t be happier about it.

Our setting ended up being a xenoformed earth, where some alien invasion is changing the environment of the planet into their own. We also decided to set it in Chicago. Here’s the summary I wrote everyone after the session:

SETTING OVERVIEW – Something has invaded the earth, and is reshaping our world into its own. This is physically evident in the alien ecosystems that are taking over the planet; it is evident in the presence of unnatural technologies that seem to work on principles antithetical to human reason. But it is evident on a deeper level, assaulting and connecting us all at fringes of our consciousness, a primal psychic maelstrom raging at the edge of our thoughts.

Chicago. 50 years after the events that transformed the surface of the Earth, a small community of survivors live in battered ruins that were once the buildings of the South Loop, surviving on whatever they can, drawing water from the tainted iridescence of the receded Lake Michigan, purifying and making it potable through makeshift filters.
Their de-facto leader/dictator, is Shazza, an elusive figure few have ever seen face to face, whose orders are meted out through trusted lieutenants and elders.

We have six characters, which we spent the whole session creating:

THE ANGEL – Doc is old enough to remember the world ending. Ambiguously gendered, wearing rugged scrounge and utility wear, sie has quick eyes and a sturdy body. Sie works and lives in a ruined hospital building, where sie keeps hir infirmary. Sie has a crew of two assistants, Shigusa and Mox. They’ve been with hir a long time – sie practically raised them, but trusts Mox more. Shigusa is too smart. Doc doesn’t understand him fully. Doc wants to find our more about the way the world was, & to eventually die in safety and peace.

THE BATTLEBABE – Ruby Honeytree is a young woman in her early 20s. She wears casual clothes, and has a striking face, arresting eyes, and a muscular body. She juggles two jobs — one, in which she is a stripper/courtesan working for Pallor, and another, in which she is a hired assassin working primarily for Cassa and targeting mostly political figures. Her father taught her to shoot, but was himself killed by another (unknown) assassin, part of a group of killers for hire, with whom Ruby does not associate.

THE BRAINER – Pallor is a madame. She often appears in formal wear, and has a sweet face, deep eyes, and a soft body. She has known that she was a brainer since childhood. Her twin brother, Parcher, is/was also a brainer, but he has been missing for 10-15 years, after they parted ways on rather complicated terms. Pallor’s clients are generally part of the high political and military crowd; specializing in those with very “specific” tastes. Her favorite is Shazza’s #2, Clarion, the leader of the militia. Pallor has 5 girls on offer, including Ruby. She has been careful not to make any enemies…yet.

THE FACELESS – Zuto, known also as “Mega Stompfucker”, is an enigma wrapped inside a mystery. Sie is in hir early 30s. Sie dresses casually, usually including a kilt and a bullet proof vest, and never, never removes hir gas mask. Sie works as a bodyguard for hire, and is currently in Pallor’s employ. Shazza doesn’t like hir, due to Zuto preventing Shazza from killing someone in the past. Zuto cannot eat solids, and eats and drinks everything via a tube leading under hir mask. Hir face was disfigured by the alien beings that are transforming the earth.

THE RUIN RUNNER – Wolfie. A boyish-looking woman with a friendly face, sharp eyes, steady hands, and an energetic body, wears scrounged clothes and a ponytail. Shje hoards the things she finds in the ruins and wastes, but uses them at times to gain trust. Collects trinkets and gadgets mostly. Old-world stuff; stuff Doc takes interest in (sometimes too much interest for Wolfie’s comfort). Wolfie sleeps in a hole. She keeps her stuff in the hole, too, deep down. Once, Wolfie and Pallor trekked out in the wastelands — Wolfie has slept in Pallor’s presence. Significant? She’s also helped Doc save a life or two.

THE TOUCHSTONE – Cassa is a visionary. She wears comfort clothes — pants, t-shirt, a zip-up hoodie. She has a sweet face and calm eyes. Her body is very still. Her necklace carries a symbol of human purpose and achievement. She wants to offer people reassurance, and remind them what it was like Before, and that it’s not over. She wants to push forward without losing that which makes us who we are. She lives on the fringes of the South Loop community, and has friends inside (Ruby is one of her disciples, for example). She isn’t entirely welcomed by the authorities there, but she’s not willing to abandon the community.

Everyone’s homework for this week:

  • Find or make an image of your character
  • Decide where in the South Loop your character lives
  • Decide what oddments your character keeps for barter

[Apocalypse World] Game Time + Custom Audience Participation Move

Post Apocalypse

Tonight’s the first session of our Apocalypse World game, and I’m really excited about starting it. It’s been a rather long week for all of us, since most of the players are my coworkers and we just found out that our bookstore location is closing, leaving a lot of things uncertain in the coming month. Our game is our first mass get-together after hearing the news, and everyone has the closing on their mind, so it’s entirely possible we won’t get too much done in terms of actual play, which is okay. My goal is to get through character creation and have our first playing session next week.

I’ve also found out that we might be getting an audience (at least for tonight). At six players, we’re already full up, but I wanted to give the audience a chance to participate as well, so I wrote up an agenda and a custom move to make them a part of things.

Spectator Agenda

  • Enjoy the story
  • Make suggestions
  • Ask questions
  • Use the “Fan Mail” move


“Fan Mail” – When a character does something truly awesome, bad-ass, sexy, or heartrending, tell that player to mark experience.

Simple enough, but hopefully it will get everyone at the table involved and excited about the game.

[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.