Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Apocalypse World Actual Play: Session 1

Sorry for the delay in writing this, I've been getting these really nasty headaches. Anyway, music.
I love The Book Of Eli. It got a lot of shit critically, but I think that's a lot due to some crap marketing (it wasn't really an action film, it was a drama) but it is some FINE post-apocalyptic work. Seriously, it's great. If you haven't seen it, do so. This song is a calm one, but I still just love the movie enough that it can fit into an AW post.

It has come to my attention that apparently a couple of my players now know where my blog is (by which I mean in a play for pageviews I gave the link to them) so I figure I ought to preface some of these RPG posts with some info on whether or not it's okay to read the stuff, cuz I plan to do some prep work on the blog too. Players, this post is safe to read.

So, this was it. We played Apocalypse World. I was nervous as fuck - I must admit, for all the love I have for the game and the rules and it fascinates me and is wicked rad, the MC role intimidates me. There are a big pile of principles and a lot of moves that I'm not supposed to tell people when I use 'em and it's a lot of saying things without exactly saying things (not referring to dishonesty, I'm again talking about "Make your move but never speak its name" - this particular principle is really really good and hard for me to perform). I'm always a bit frightened that I don't know the genre well enough to really emulate it, but I was pretty sure I was in good hands - two post-apoc fans (Kenny/Dan), another guy who enjoys it like me (Luke) and a fellow who tends to not really be into post-apoc though not disliking it particularly (Kris). Also, yeah, if you caught that I got the full group! First time in a long while, since the beginning of high school senior year I think. We had TWO members going through the internet. Not Skype Premium, we tried out Google Hangouts. I've, uh, never even tried it before, but it worked! Sort of. Lower video quality, a very VERY small touch of lag, but hey, it's nice. I couldn't figure out how to put both of their cams side-by-side instead of one big cam at a time, so the small ones along the bottom had to do.

So, we started 'round 4. Or, people showed up at 4. Actually, everyone was finally here by 4:30. We spent probably a whole hour just shootin' the shit (understandable - most of us hadn't caught up with Luke in a year). So I finally start explaining things, in what on reflection was a really haphazard explanation. Thankfully, they're smart dudes and figured it out through play. Very quickly I just switched over to briefing them on the playbooks I had available. I showed off all the standards and all the LE ones (other than the Marmot - I don't really GET the Marmot). Kris already had an idea from the conversation where I convinced him to play and Luke had been reading through them. Luke ends up picking the Gunlugger (not the Battlebabe as I expected - I didn't show him the Gunslinger but I'm gonna once I retool slightly for Gunluggers), Kris picks the Maestro D', Kenny picked the Skinner, and Dan picked the Faceless (suprise surprise - I think my phrase "kinda like a barbarian" had him convinced).
Here, I'll just detail the characters to you cuz they're so cool and because we spent the remainder of Dan's time here with them.
Kris played Life, the Maestro D'. Life is a woman, with vintage wear (typically gothic fasion), a porcelain face, a curvy body, and precise hands. Cool+1, Hard-1, Hot+2, Sharp+0, Weird+1. Her moves are A Devil With A Blade and Fingers In Every Pie. She has this blade contraption on her arm, up her sleeve (kinda Hidden Blade-like). Life is a nice gal who runs an establishment. Her major attraction is "Scene (see and be)" which means the place is the place to be if you want to find important people or be noticed by important people. Her side attractions are Sex and Drugs - a fun time. She's got a bar in there, and a bunch of private booths for meetings. She has a throne in the corner overlooking the place. Life found this place, an old bunker underneath the "casino," and the bunker had a big stock of food and booze and radios and stuff and she started this place, this speak-easy. We didn't actually name the place. The atmosphere is velvet, shadows, luxury, and intimacy.
As per the rules, Kris designed his NPCs. Lamprey is Life's best regular. He's a big russian, a government type (though not the top), and he brings friends and big spenders here for meetings who then bring their friends, and he's always polite and courteous to the place. The worst regular is Toyota. Toyota is a rival of Life's, selling girls and opium mostly. She's always here, looking to try to poach Life's customers. She's Japanese-looking. Gams wants in on Life's establishment. He runs the "casino" upstairs - he's a bookie, basically. He was running this place when Life took out the basement for her place, and wants to merge the businesses (and stay in charge once he's done so). Rolfball gave Life the start-up funds to get this place off the ground, so to speak. Rolfball is also the town's chief/hardholder. He's the boss. Been wants it gone, but we're not sure why yet.
Luke is Bones the Gunlugger. Bones is a real heavy badass. He's a man, with custom homemade armor (looks pseudo-plate-armor-esque, but made out of scrap metal and stuf), he's got a worn face, cunning eyes, and a battered body. He has Cool+1, Hard+3, Hot-2, Sharp+2, Weird-1. His moves are Battle-hardened, Insano Like Drano (pretty much everyone who could took their +1 to best stat move), and NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH, which Luke got a real kick out of. I need to enforce the "in battle" thing a bit better. Bones has a big fucking silenced sniper rifle, a pair of magnums, and grenades. The magnums actually came up as his primary weapons, what with the sniper being hard to use in close range. He also wears this black leather duster. He looks like 5 miles of bad road, and looks like he could drag you through 10 more. In town, he does a lot of mercenary action, pretty much doing whatever job needs doing. He also is called upon when the town as a whole needs defending.
Kenny played Hide the Skinner. The important thing to note is that, while the Skinner has a rap for being a stripper (called the Skinner because they show a lot of skin), Kenny played a different kind, more of an artist type. And by art, I mean skins. He's a skinner. He makes things out of skins. Unfortunately, he likes to use HUMAN skins. It's horrifying. He's kind of a sociopath. His gender is ambiguous (even we as players don't know, though I think we're defaulting to referring to him as a male just because it's easier (cuz Kenny's a dude, of course). He wears fetish wear, has a striking face, dark eyes, quick hands, and a slim body. His fetish wear? Mostly a long gorgeous coat he, uh, made. Stitched skins. His stats are Cool+1, Hard-1, Hot+3(!), Sharp+1, Weird+0. His moves are Breathtaking (of course), and Artful and Gracious. His Skinner Gear is an ornate sword and a, uh, skin & hair kit, along with his long gorgeous coat. That Skin and Hair Kit is going to be misused so badly. He's NOT wearing armor - turns out human skin is awful at stopping bullets and knives. A funny note: he's at Hx+3 with EVERYONE. This guys knows everyone really well.
The last character is Daniel's, Kray the Faceless. Kray is a man, with fetish-bondage wear (since it's armor, it's kind of the restrictive, also very plate-armor-esque but covered in straps and chains and other stereotypical bondage gear tricks), merciless eyes, and a muscular body.  His stats are Cool+0, Hard+3, Sharp-1, Weird+1. His moves? Rasputin, Oh Yeah! (aka the Kool-Aid Man move), and Beastly. His mask is kinda like a gimp mask. When unmasked, he's grotesque and afraid. His weapon? Oh yeah, chainsaw. VVVVRRRRRRRRRRR!
So there's one more important thing to do in character creation, and that's the Hx step. Kray started. For the someone who did something terrible with him, he picked Hide. They decided that the two of them had previously lived in another settlement, and the boss ordered an artful dress for his wife from Hide (depending on the mark, he doesn't always let them KNOW it's made of skin). Hide made it out of their kids. Needless to say, that warlord was NOT happy. Warlord Usimog is now hunting them, and they fled the settlement, Nuzulu, for this one. That was a while ago though - they've been here for a bit. Hide went next. For the "one of them is your friend," he picked Kray. He also decided that Life was in love with him. He had no lover. Note that for his "On others' turns" bit he just added +1 to all of them. Kray decides that Hide was the one who was kind and unafraid toward him (probably because Hide is just too psycho to care about the physical or personality issues). After Hide, Bones did Hx. He's fought shoulder-to-shoulder with Hide - I guess the targets would have made good clothes or something so Hide helped out. Bones thinks Life is the prettiest, and is overt about the fact. Bones says that Kray left him bleeding and did nothign for him. Not TOO badly bleeding it seems, because once play started Bones said that this was pretty much IMMEDIATELY before the game started. Life? Life thought Hide was the most attractive. She chose Hide as her favorite character too.

So now we have a big mess of horrible people (and Life). I included in there a bunch of the details that I got from asking them questions afterward. We're in a somewhat wasted environment, but more of a less-cold less-snow Siberia - as in, forested. I didn't focus much on it this time, but I likely will try to play it up in the future cuz it's cool and nonstandard.

So the game began and I just threw the starting ball to Kenny (metaphorical ball, we don't have a talking stick. That would be lame). Where was Hide right now? Hide was downstairs, inside the speakeasy, at the bar area (the commons type area). He's been trying to hawk his newest piece, a blood-red shawl (guess how he made it that color?). He's talking to this fella, Monk, this big guy in a tattered suit with a hooker 'round his arm, tryin' to convince Monk to buy it for her and him being all suspicious. After some dialogue (Hide not revealing what it's made of and dressing it up in all pretty terms like "All-Natural!" and the hooker falling for every word of it), Hide pulls the dude off to the side and cuts a deal with him. Eventually (and by eventually I mean a Manipulate roll later - the game's firts roll! The promise bit of the mechanic is weird in practice, but I think it'll get better with time) Hide convinced him to buy it. The price? A favor, to be called in at Hide's choosing...
Meanwhile, Bones is just coming back into town. He's had a really damn awful day, and is pissed as hell, and has heard 'bout this place run by this gal named Life and that they've got some great stuff. Bones is coming into Gams's place and goes to try to get into Life's establishment when the bouncer, one of the security fellows, who I neglected to name (#PrinciplesFail), tried to stop him at the trapdoor. They had an exchange, about how they don't let just anyone in, and how a dude that looks as battered as this guy isn't the sort of guy they welcome here. He intimidated his way in by showing off his guns and the security dude got out of there. He pushed his way in, and everything kinda went to a stand still and Bones tried to bully the bartender into giving him a free drink. He was partially successful - didn't get anything good, but did get a drink. In response to the commotion, Life came over to figure out what's what (Reading a Stich too, and finding out that this guy is the one in control in this situation), but even when he was about to get chewed out for Hide comes to Bones's defense, saying the bartender's been drinking a lot himself and can't be trusted right now. Bones talks about how what he could really use is a job, and uh, hey Life, you seem to have a security issue, what with the guard that got scared by a pair of tiny guns and left. Life's not one to hire strangers in a moment though, but, as they're talking, they hear crashing around happenin' upstairs. They head up, Life in the rear and the other two in front, and Life says that she wants to see how Bones handles this.
We go up and there's two BIG black guys busting up Gams's place (not random stereotyping - I had a REASON for them to be explicitly black). Gams (note to self: do not make names that end sounding like plurals) is out cold on the floor. Bones tries to reason with them real quick, then quickly switches to trying to scare them out. Before he gets too far with that though, one of the guys calls over "Hey, who is that? Isn't that Hide?" "Yeah, I think it is! Hey there Hide, miss us?" "Hey you there, Mister Tough in the coat with his little guns, how 'bout you just hand over that little twerp and we'll leave you and your gal alone and just go. How's that sound?".
Post Commentary: I really liked that particular bit. I think it made Bones really get in his character's head and decide how Bones would really act, since this is a case where just standing and being tough wouldn't work. I'm going to need more stuff like this to get Dan to not just play a psycho killer and actually roleplay a bit. Also, if you hadn't caught on, these guys are supposed to be from Nuzulu, the place Kray and Hide fled from in the Hx cuz the warlord Usimog is after them - the tribe is of Africans who banded together soon after the apocalypse, hence why I specified that they were black. See, I have reasons! Anyway, back to the AP.
So after a moment of thought, Bones decides, no, there's no way Bones is just giving up this dude. Hide helped him when it mattered, and besides, what'll it look like to Life if he just gives intruders what they want when he's working for her? He tells them that isn't gonna happen, and the two of them start charging and brandish their machetes. Seize By Force, and Bones's magnums blow one away and graze the other one, who just keeps coming. Hide draws his ornate sword and, well, Hide shouldn't be attacking things probably. He fucks it up, and gets a huge gash on his arm from the machete and fall to the floor. Bones shoots again and, by some fluke, MISSES. Life's goons are coming up the stairs now, and Hide tries to chuck his sword at the guy. Well, Hide is not very good at the violence thing and blows the roll, so I have the dude catch his sword instead and, seeing the goons, start running for the door. Bones takes his last shot and kills the guy, falling to the floor near the door.
Hide reclaimed his sword and immediately went to work carving up the guy - the one who took his blade he just shredded (Hide is a poor loser) while the other one he started to do his careful work. Bones and Life got into a discourse about how he did, but Life just sent him downstairs to the now-empty speakeasy. Before going herself though, she's caught by Gams, who blames her and her people for this - this would never happen if he was in charge. He'll be okay though, he doesn't look hurt too bad. While the guards are around, Kenny suggests that Hide's carving is good for the Artful and Gracious move, and I agree. Full success! One of them admires his patron (who happens to be Life, we decided) and one person, suitably impressed, gives him a gift of "Hey, that knife you're using looks like it's seen better days. Try this one." and gives him a knife, which he promptly took and started using.
Downstairs, Bones and Life are alone, save for the bartender, who's pouring himself a drink. They're talking terms of employment - Life's willing to hire him if he does something for her. Rolfball took something of her's and she wants it back. However, she's indebted to Rolfball, so she can't be overt. She wants Bones to, alone, go and steal her item back, but to do it without killing anyone or causing a commotion. In return, she can offer stable employment. When asked about payment, Life offers food, drink, and girls, though not the best of any of it. Insistent on the best girls, Bones pushes for better. Life switches and says that if he gets the best girl around, she's not paying food or drink. Bones agrees, but it's got to be the BEST, and exclusive with him. Bones leaves back upstairs. Also, this scene saw us introduced to the top two members of Life's security, Vincent and Dominic.
Upstairs, Bones talks to Hide about coming and helping (blatantly ignoring the "alone" bit), and Hide wants to know what's in it for him. Bones is thinking that, if he has to kill anyone, Hide can have them, though Hide can't go killing himself. Bones's (UGH plural names) reasoning: Being undetected is mroe important than no killing, so if I have to kill a couple guards to stay undetected it's acceptable. Hide goes along with it.
Life is putting out the word that she wants the best girl in town with all of the caveats. Fingers In Every Pie, and she gets it - the girl'll be showing up soon. I think I might have to complicate this a bit - she's got the best girl, but there's an issue, for sure. My thinking is it's one of Toyota's girls. But hey, we'll see. We'll get a name then too.
Later in the day, Bones interrupts a radio call of Life's who makes it clear to him to NEVER knock when the door's shut (the door with like 9 kinds of locks that serves as the door to her office). He gets a bit more info about the job, and goes. This is also where we established that they have radios at several of the major locations, thanks to Life's supply.
We ended with the beginning of the job. Hide and Bones are hiding on the outskirts of Rolfball's wildly overgrown estate - he's set up a major armed complex around this mansion. The west wing is entirely blown out, and the guards are obviously watching it. Bones Reads a Sitch to find the best way in and finds that it's the windows on the east side if you come through the wilderness. Watch out for all the snipers and the mounted machine gun out front, and try not to get caught on the barbed wire! And them heading off is where we end.

That was really fun. Seriously, it was fucking fantastic in retrospect. I felt a lot of pressure at the time, courtesy of trying to keep everything running, but I'm thinking it's time to write a few fronts and stuff! I also want to get into custom moves a bit, and since both Bones and Life had an improvement at the end of the session (that we will be doing at the beginning of next session), I think I'll be showing Luke the Gunslinger Playbook I wrote (or will be re-writing with Gunlugger in mind). Bam. I also will be brushing up on how stealth works in AW - I think it's Acting Under Fire a lot, but I remember some custom moves by Johnstone in the book I'll be looking at.
I got the one comment I REALLY wanted from the players, that AW felt a LOT more fluid than a lot of other games. I kind of expected it from Luke - he's only had trad game experience, so something like this would absolutely feel fluid, but even from the others, who have played things like Lady Blackbird and others, so I felt really good. I have a lot of stuff set up, and while I didn't keep that close to the 1st Session worksheet, I did what worked, and had fun. No one was really disruptive, and all the characters DID feel real. I'm really excited for the next game. In the meantime, I plan to do some prep work here on the blog, writing my fronts and stuff. Look forward to that, as well as the remainder of the GPNW AP (still working on it!).

That should be NOPE just wanted to plug The Basement Collection by Edmund McMillen and will be reviewing it soon, it's a ton of fun.
NOW I'm done.

End Recording,

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