Posts Tagged ‘Apocalypse World’

Weald & Wyrd

Recently, I posted seven campaign ideas I would love to play. One of those was a dark fhttp://www.oldbookillustrations.com/illustrations/mercury-woodman/antasy campaign, set in a remote village beset by weird forces. I wrote that and put it out of my mind. Then Vincent Baker (the creator of, amongst other things, Apocalypse World) mentioned his dormant Apocalypse World: Dark Age project on Google+. That sparked that idea once more.

In this post, I’ll outline how the game could look as a reskin of Apocalypse World (AW). I feel that AW is a pretty good fit for this kind of game, even if Apocalypse World is a post-apocalypse game and this would be dark fantasy. Both games are about isolated settlements, beset by both internal and external forces threatening their survival. A number of things would have to be adapted, though. I’ve made a quick outline below, and after that is a list of possible playbooks.

Premise

The game takes place in a small-ish village far a good distance away from the Imperial mainland. This allows them to remain their independence, but it also makes them vulnerable to things coming from outside. And there are many things around them to threaten them. The woods teem with wolves and robbers. And in the shadows, weird creatures lurk: fairies, trolls and undead, looking upon the Humans with unkind eyes. Meanwhile, something sleeps nearby. Maybe in the mountain, maybe below the lake, maybe in the minds of men. Something getting ready to stir once more, sweeping aside all that stands before it.

This is also a game of more human conflict. The Old Gods and the spirits of Nature have taken their tribute for many generations. But now the followers http://www.oldbookillustrations.com/illustrations/king-warwulf/of the Light Above arrive together with the Imperial Bureaucracy, asking for exclusive devotion and promising sweet gifts in return.

And so the characters will play the parts of prominent people in the community who work to mount a defence against the threats to their existence. Fairies, overzealous Imperials, raiding barbarians – or the other characters.

Stats: The stats would have to be adapted, but to start with, I think I would mostly change the names, and keep them roughly equivalent to the AW stats. Weird might be Spiritus or Wyld, but would still govern the supernatural and mystical. Similarly, Hot should perhaps be Mien, Bearing or Charisma, but would still be about affecting other people.

Basic Moves: Again, some of the Basic Moves probably need new names, but mostly, I would keep them functionally identical. I might want to change the dynamics of violence a little, but I think the two moves that are there now are probably roughly sufficient. Seduce and manipulate can stay almost as they are, though maybe with minor modifications to account for Debt (see Currencies, below). The one I want to change the most would be Open your mind, which would become When you entreat powers beyond your understanding. It does basically the same thing, except you appeal to something beyond you – and preferably something specific. That will be part of framing the world: which entity/entities people appeal to. The Old Gods, the Sidhee, the Light Above, Mother Nature … all are possible.

Currencies: I want at least two currencies in this game, Coin and Debt. Coin is, like Barter in AW, an abstract measure of a certain amount of value. In this case it’s a certain amount of the coinage of the society beyond the village. Coin is useful mostly for goods, particularly from foreigners. Foreigners generally prefer Coin. The locals, meanwhile, deal just as much in Debts. Debts are governed by a Move, affecting both player characters and non-player characters:

Whenever another character does something that helps you in a meaningful and significant way, and they do it without payment and without waiving repayment, you owe 1 Debt to that person.

This Debt can then be used later to extract services from you, or it can be used as leverage against you. In certain circumstances, Debt can also have mystical effects. You may not want to have Debt to a Fairy, for instance. I considered calling it Favours, but I want to put focus on the obligation of the ower instead of the opportunity to the owed.

I might want to include a third currency, Stock, or some other way of representing the materials needed for survival. Particularly if long time survival might be part of play, trying to get by throughout winter.

Playbooks

When it comes to playbooks, I have some ideas for playbooks that could work. Many of them are somewhat similar to one or two playbooks from AW, but the feeling of them should be quite different – the world and the theme of the game are quite different.

  • The Liege Lord: the closest thing to a Hardholder. He owns a major mansion with a small serving staff, and is owed obligations by the community. The obligations go both ways, though, and if he forgets that, torches and pitchforks might be in his future. Has both a lot of coin, and a fair amount of Debt, both ways.
  • The Proclaimer of the Light Above: The village priest. Maybe a little similar to the Touchstone. Inspires people, and conducts minor miracles. Has a lot of informal power over his parishioners.
  • The Wizened: A wise woman or cunning man. Their dealings with powerful forces makes them shrivel up before their time, and so they may look older – and feebler – than they are. These are in contact with supernatural forces, and can use them for many subtle effects, like healing and cursing people. Drawing out somebody’s shame could be another effect, crippling them emotionally. More powerful effects might be possible. I think they might also be able to manipulate the animals of the world around them.
  • The Keeper of the Peace: A sheriff, appointed to keep the peace in the area. Probably a common man, with a few people deputised from the general population. He has several martial abilities, and can serve as the voice of the Village, handing out sentences and demanding reparations. This also means, of course, that if he loses the support of the Village, he loses much of his power.
  • The Emissary of the Imperial Bureaucracy: An official, sent from the Empire as a representative for the machinery of government and progress, to collect tax, and to ensure whatever the empire needs. He has one or two assistants, and can demand things on behalf of the Grand Majesty. He has a good amount of Coin, but is vulnerable to Debt – he may owe, but the locals see him as outsider, and so may not be so keen to honour their Debt to him. The Emissary also has his own currency, Favour at the Court, by virtue of which he can gain concessions from the Empire.
  • The Fay-touched: The Fay-touched may be a changeling, or they may be someone who was once a plaything of a fairy. Now, they are a little odd. Their contact with fairies has taken over their life. This results in them being somehow very fair, but also disquieting to others. They can make deals with fairies, and can use deals with others to create powerful effects.
  • The Equestrian: A combination of Driver and Gunlugger – a hard-hitting warrior when he is on his horse, he prefers to pick battles where he can fight mounted. That goes both for physical and other – he will also gain social advantages when on horseback.
  • The Lore-Hoarder: A scholar, hoarding books and scrolls containing ancient knowledge. Some of it may be arcane, and a lot of it will definitely be powerful and dangerous in the wrong hands. The Lore-Hoarder can go into his library to look for certain kinds of knowledge, though it may well come at a price. Obviously somewhat related to the Hoarder.
  • The Dabbler: An alchemist and experimenter. He is in many ways similar to the Savvyhead, in that he can make many interesting potions and contraptions in his laboratory (think workspace), but they will often come at a cost.
  • The Chief: The leader of a band of armed men. Maybe a group of mercenaries, a gang of robbers or a local war band. The Chief can lead them – as long as he provides them with whatever they crave, whether security, loot, excitement, fame … and if not, I’m sure someone else has dreams of leadership.
  • The Luminary: A person, touched by …something. Maybe the Light Above, maybe an old spirit, maybe something entirely else. In any case, this person radiates with inner light. Among their gift may also be a certain prophetic vision. Of course, they never just see the good things …
  • The Mysteriarch: A possessor of mysteries, a leader of seekers. This is basically an abbot or some other form of leader of a religious community. A bit like the Hocus, but with a more tight-knit group of followers.
  • The Pure: The leader or instigator of a group of religious fanatics. They are their own thing, believing that they alone have the true way of purity. The name is taken from the Cathars, literally “the pure”, a group that gave name to the Danish word for “heretic”. But the pure might also be flagelants, or they might be remnants of an old cult of the Old Gods.
  • The Huntsman: A hunter and knower of the wild areas. He knows the lay of the land, he can set traps, evade detection in the wild, and he has at least one type of hunting animal for his use – hounds or birds of prey are most obvious. Of course he might easily attract somebody’s attention, out there in the woods.
  • The Gracious Host: The innkeeper. He can host people, make them feel at ease and make peace in his home. A bit like the Maestro D, I think. An important figure in his community, because his place is where people gather, it is where deals are struck, gossip exchanged, and often also where people meet in case of a crisis. The inn is also where strangers come when they arrive in the village, and so he knows almost everything that happens.
  • The Night-Man: Some things are too dirty or unsavoury, either physically or morally, for regular folks to deal with them. Emptying latrines, removing carcasses, procuring illicit goods … the Night-Man takes care of all this and more. He is an unofficial, but essential, member of the ecosystem of the village. A lot of people owe him great Debts – but they will not acknowledge this in public. He knows this – and he waits until he is alone with them to cash in. Of course, the reverse is true as well. None would admit to having done anything for the Night-Man, so he can ignore his own debts in public.
  • The Headsman: Officially, nobody knows who carries out the dirty work of justice. Unofficially, everybody knows who the man with the mask is. The Headsman is a two-faced character. On one hand, he is a respected member of the village. On the other hand, when he puts on the Headsman’s mask, he turns into the dirty warrior of Justice’s Vengeance. This transformation is not just cosmetic: When he wears the mask, he channels the spirits and heroes of bloody Justice.

Fronts and Threats

I think the basic framework of the Fronts and the Threats will remain the same. I want to include some Encroaching Menaces, though – powerful things coming closer and closer to the village, getting ready to devour it. These are a kind of Super Threats, orchestrating or somehow unifying many other threats. In many ways, I think they are comparable to the Campaign Fronts of Dungeon World, though I don’t want that game’s structure of adventures forming campaigns. I guess they should serve as a hideous crossbreed between campaign fronts and countdowns: in the beginning, these things are vague and far away, but throughout play, they get more and more concrete as they come closer to the village.

There are a number of different kinds, tying into the themes of the game:

  • The Tides of Progress: The will of the Imperial Bureaucracy will not be held back. The village will adapt and conform to the needs and requests of the great minds of the Empire. The Word of the Light Above will be spread to every darkened corner of the world. If that will choke the way of life of the village, then so be it.
  • The Devouring Hordes: Barbarians and invaders are threatening to invade the country, and sweep the village up in tides of war and destruction. Chiefs dream of conquest, while Imperial nobles dream of reliving the glory of long-dead heroes, carving out Kingdoms for themselves, at the risk of throwing the country into chaos and turmoil. War rides out, with Pestilence and Famine close on her heels.
  • The Courts of the Night: The King of the Trolls, the Prince of Fairies, the Dead Thane in the Burrow. Any of these might be holding their court in the wilderness, watching these humans encroaching on their Domain. Or maybe, deals were struck with them in olden days, and now they come to collect …
  • The Unspeakable Powers: There are strange and terrible powers resting in the mountains, in the water, and in the minds of men. Old gods, alien creatures and terrible intellects. All of these might be waiting to arise, shaking off insignificant humans in the process, or maybe using them as pawns.

I’m quite fascinated by the possibilities of this idea, and I bet it could turn into a really interesting game with the right people. Also, while the game still needs a whole lot of work to be done, I think most of it could be done while we play, exchanging mechanics as we get to them.

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Seven Campaigns I would love to play

In the Danish roleplaying blogosphere, there’s a challenge that’s been going around: which seven roleplaying campaigns would you love to play? It all started with Johs’ post, later followed up by Peter and Oliver. I figured I’d like to give this a shot as well – and so, here are seven campaigns I would love to take part in.

One caveat before we start. I find that I often enjoy the types of roleplaying games – and particularly campaigns – that grow organically out of what happens at the table. That seems to be one of the strengths of systems like Apocalypse World and Spirit of the Century: that the world is very vague until such point that the players start making their characters. This means that there is not one person in charge of creating the world, which in turn can make a much richer world than what the GM can make on his own. Nevertheless, having a strong concept before starting out can help focus the game – so I guess that is what I’ll be setting out here: strong concepts. Some would have to be developed by the GM before the game, others by players and GM in cooperation.

Also, many of these are bound up on particular worlds, taken from comics, computer games, books or similar. Of course, that would merely serve as the starting point for a further development that would likely see the game turn into something quite different.

The Heroes of English Magic

We are currently watching the brilliant BBC series based on Susanna Clarke’s novel, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell. I never finished the book – it is rather long – but I am really impressed by the series. It is gripping, funny, beautiful, dramatic, and set in a completely wonderful world, soaked through with a particular idea of magic. I’d love to try to do a game set in that sort of fantasy world.

The game would most likely take place in Britain, because the United Kingdom seems to have the folklore and the culture for that sort of a game. I like that Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell is set in Napoleonic England – it confers some wonderful dichotomies between the posh society and the crude masses – not to mention between the rigid, cerebral world of academia and the visceral, chaotic world of superstition, fairies and power. Of course, another version might be to set it in Denmark, and replace the fairies of Clarke’s vision with Giants and Vølver from Danish mythology.

There are two obvious systems to use for such a game. Mage: the Ascension is a system that I have always wanted to do more with. I’m not sure this game would fit that system, though. I might prefer to go with Ars Magica – part of the essence of Strange & Norell is that the magicians spend a lot of time studying and reading, and that seems to be better captured by Ars. I would probably include some form of power gained from experience, as that seems to be part of the difference between the titular characters of Clarke’s story: That Norell has lots of knowledge from books, while Strange learns a lot from his experience in the field.

Alternatively, the game might use some entirely different system. Nine World might be adapted to fit, as might Sorcerer, though I’m not sure Sorcerer supports the kind of game I would want it to be.

Bookhounds of London

I have yet to try Trail of Cthulhu or any of the other GUMSHOE games. Now, the Bookhounds of London setting seems perfect to me. It gives players a great entryway into the occult world of Lovecraftian horror, more than many other Cthulhu games. It also opens for a lot of mundane interaction, and some very human antagonists, trying to prevent the PC’s from getting the books they want. In that sense, there is a lot of good story before you even start getting into the weird stuff.

I think that if I did it, I would want an overarching plot that is light on horrible monsters, and heavy on terrifying mysteries and madness. A plot that slowly graduates from being merely about humans looking for human things, to slowly encompassing more and more otherworldly stuff. There would probably be some weird creatures here and there, but the main stuff would be at the very least something that could be explained away as something mundane.

Magic and Madness

In the world of fantasy literature, Grimdark Fantasy seems to have a high star, with Joe Abercrombie as Exhibit A. Some of this has seeped over into gaming – not least in the form of the game, Darkest Dungeon.

Darkest Dungeon is what Diablo might have been if it was a 2D, party based game where the foes are Cthulhoid instead of demonic, and the heroes aren’t really heroes at all, but a misfit band of expendables. You return to your ancestral mansion to find that it has been taken over by strange and threatening forces. You must gather a party and venture into the darkness in order to gain intelligence and strength, until you are ready to face whatever awaits in the eponymous Darkest Dungeon underneath the mansion.

In the game, you have two kinds of “health”: physical health and mental shock or sanity. Running out of one will kill a character in the short run, but gaining too much of the other will make your character erratic and dangerous to his comrades in the long run. This seems an interesting mechanic, though one that it would require some thought as to how you might capture that in play.

The feel of the game actually reminds me a fair bit of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRPG). It has the same non-heroic character types, with Grave Robbers, Bounty Hunters and Plague Doctors instead of Paladins, Clerics and Mages. It has the same deadliness and insanity, and like Darkest Dungeon, Warhammer centres around the threat from insidious, inhuman, corrupting, maddening Ruinous Powers.

That is of course a prelude to saying that a roleplaying game based on that kind of (grim)dark fantasy could easily be done in WFRPG. I would prefer 2nd edition, but I did like several aspects of 3rd edition – among others, the “party sheet,” welding the characters into something more than just a bunch of random people. Other options would be using a game that’s Powered by the Apocalypse – like Dungeon World (though I’m not that keen on that game) or maybe something like Vincent Baker’s ideas for Apocalypse World Dark Age.

For a setting, I see in front of my mind’s eye a small village, set out in a vast, dark wood. The next nearest city is miles and miles away, and the forests are not safe for lone travellers. Wolves, witches and worse are lurking among the trees, while anyone inside the village might be corrupted by the eldritch forces at work. Players have to alternate between paranoid investigations, village politics and frantic hunts throughout the woods (without any mention of who is hunter and who is hunted).

World of Stars

I have fallen in love with the mechanics of Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World, and the host of other games it has spawned. At the same time I’ve been watching a lot of science fiction series of a particular ilk: Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica (and Firefly, though it isn’t a completely neat fit). It struck me that the two might make a great match. And thus, the idea of World of Stars (or Star Worlds, or some other name) was born. I have vivid images of a campaign set in some corner of the stars, in which Sisko and Apollo clash over the running of the effort to protect some planet while Ambassador G’kar is hiring Mal and his crew to conduct some clandestine operation. It makes perfect sense for me to write the different character archetypes up as playbooks, and turn the Cylons, the Bajorans, the Alliance, the Reavers, the scheming politicians on earth and the wide assortment of other threats into, well, Threats and Fronts.

This is actually a bit more than an idea for a campaign. To me, one of the brilliant things about all the games that are Powered by the Apocalypse is that “system” and “setting” are so tightly intertwined. These games don’t interchange chapters (or paragraphs) on game mechanics with chapters (or paragraphs) on fictional natural laws, culture or history, such as World of Darkness usually does. Nor is it pure mechanics, like games like GURPS. Instead the two are so tightly linked as to be inseparable.

This is part of what makes the games great, but it is also a challenge: you cannot simply change out the setting and keep the system – if you want to adapt one, you must adapt both. In other words, making the game I’m envisioning means writing my own hack of Apocalypse World. This is by no means beyond me – but it is a bit of a challenging idea. Of course, one of the good things about AW is it’s modular design – it’s fairly easy to swap out parts of the game that I want to change, and see what works.

Night Witches

I’ll be honest, I don’t know that much about Jason Morningstar’s Night Witches, beyond the fact that it is Powered by the Apocalypse, and that it features a band of female, Russian pilots during WWII. It sounds like it could be an intense, action packed and emotional experience, though, and I’d love to try it out. It seems like it would be perfect for a short and intense little campaign of no more than five to ten sessions.

Movers and Shakers

A lot of campaigns are actually very narrowly focused on the player characters themselves. I wouldn’t mind playing something more political, though. I’m thinking of the players as movers and shakers in a society, having access to big resources and to big decisions about the direction of their society. I think I might like to make it something slightly sci-fi, but fantasy could work as well. I think part of my interest in this kind of game started with Birthright. I played a computer game in the setting, and I was quite fascinated with it.

I have a long-time love of Alpha Centauri, the Civ-game about going off to a different world and creating a colony there. I got a GURPS book based on that setting, but I don’t have a lot of love for GURPS, so I would probably do it in some other system. Maybe Fate would do the trick?

Another option would be to set it in Sigil, as part of D&D’s Planescape setting. That would offer loads of opportunities for political intrigue, weird stuff going on and mercenaries from all over creation. Players might be factols (the leaders of the political parties in the setting) or they might be representatives of some company, place or world.

No matter the setting, it would probably be more of an ensemble piece, in which there would be more characters than players, with each player changing between different characters depending on the circumstances. If someone orders a raid on some facility, the whole troupe of players take on the roles of the soldiers running the raid. Someone trying to assassinate another player takes on the role of the assassin, while the victim plays himself. And so on and so forth.

On the Verge

When I was younger, I had a great fascination with TSR’s Alternity system and the settings it spawned. In particular the very elaborate Star*Drive setting, outlining a very complex and interesting space opera setting. I would love to do a campaign in that setting, having the players travel around the Verge (the main area of space for Star*Drive) in some old spaceship, doing odd jobs, trading, and of course uncovering some major plot or happening. I’ve considered having them be part of some military force, but that seems too restricted. I would prefer to have a band of free operatives who can stake out their own claim in the Verge, and make a name for themselves by solving problems for the different governments in the area. There are a couple of variations – the Lighthouse, the big space station slash carrier ship that sails from area to area would be a perfect base of operations for such a game.

Spirit of the Century

I have a great love for Spirit of the Century. I like the feel of it, the ease of creating a story and the way the aspects underline the feel of the game. If I were to do a game of it, though, I would probably work with the players to create some point of departure – a mission, perhaps, or more likely a common resting place where the players can all hang out between adventures.

One of the good things about SotC is the flexibility of it. When I ran a campaign of the game, I would design it based on who was there on any given day. The game has a lot of tools to use in quickly designing a scenario, so that you don’t need a lot of planning. I usually prepared a scenario in about 30 minutes. That also makes it a great kind of campaign for busy people with erratic schedules, because if someone is missing on a given day, you just design a game that doesn’t include them. That probably makes it the most likely game for me to run any time soon.

So, there you have it: seven campaigns I would like to play. There are others, obviously. I would definitely be interesting in playing Apocalypse World, Monsterhearts, Primetime Adventures, Orpheus, Shadow of Yesterday or a number of other campaigns. The above are seven specific cases I would love to delve into that go beyond playing a plain vanilla version of some system or other.

What would you love to play? Let me know in the comments below

[In the Shadow of the Mountain] Fourth Session – Tension in the Mountain

After the long wait between the third and the fourth session, we have scheduled a session for Monday, and hopefully, we can schedule one in another few weeks. And so, here’s the

This one saw some interesting developments in the dynamics between the characters. The first two sessions had Maki in the hold and Spider in the mountain, with Smith going back and forth between them. Third session was filled with action, and had them all running back and forth across the hold and out to the mountain, playing up against a number of npc’s.

This time, on the other hand, they were all pent up in the caves, waiting for Ron to arrive (cue the Waiting for Godot references). This meant a lot of back and forth, and caused a couple of conflicts that they couldn’t solve through distance, particularly between Maki and Spider. The Hardholder and the Hocus had some interesting showdowns, with Maki trying to keep his domain together while Spider keeps strictly to the rules of his cult.

During the post-play debriefing, I discovered that Maki had had significantly fewer advances than the other two. One reason for that is that he doesn’t write summaries of the session. But another is the fact that Maki’s player is used to talking his way through roleplaying instead of rolling dice. Apparently, I haven’t been good enough at demanding rolls from him – also because the first two sessions provided more opportunities for diplomacy for him, so he wriggled his way around rolling the dice. Hopefully, that will change from now on as his play becomes a bit more martial.

Anyway, here’s the summary. I think I’ll write some love letters for next session; they will probably come up together with the next summary.

Summary of the fourth session

Spider, Maki and Smith are looking at the wreckage of Maki’s hardhold, and the heads of the people that Maki left in charge. They go back to get the men, and on the way back they met Mill, the foreman of the sulphur mines, and Mill’s second in command, Harrow. Maki explains the situation when Mill complains about the delay of supplies to the mines, and they take Mill and Harrow back to the caves.
Maki asks Spider to feed the miners and Spider agrees, on the condition that the miners participate in his services. Mill refuses to participate in Spider’s cult sermons and prayers, but Spider refuses to capitulate. Maki and Mill get into an argument because of this, and Maki threatens Mill. Mill agrees to hole up in the mine for the time being.
Smith goes to keep a lookout for Ron on the side of the mountain. He will make a humming noise with his homemade hummer when he sees Ron coming so that the others have more time to prepare.
One of the new children in the cult gets into a fight with Trout, and Spider has to break it up. He sends the mother of the troublemaking child to some of the other cult women with an infusion, he gives her son a toy, and rewards Trout with a piece of fruit and a commendation.
While out scouting, Smith runs into the cult of the moon. They surround him and their leader, Desert Eagle, speaks to him. He lies and tells her that he dislikes the Sorrow cult and is trying to get away from them. He tells her that there is trouble in Harren Hold. She invites him to supper but he declines. She inquires about Herren Hold and he tells her something of the fight – he doesn’t tell her that Maki is dead but he tells her that Maki is down in town, being a part of the fight.
That evening Spider reaches into the world’s psychic maelstrom to influence the miners and convince them that it’s better to come to bear the indignities and suffer through his service than it is to go hungry.
While this is happening, more men in animal masks come to attack the cave. They’re not expecting a lot of resistance and are surprised by Maki’s superior guard. Maki goes to assist the fight and succeeds in driving them back, but Jakabaka gets shot and one of Spider’s cultists gets killed. They kill one of the opponents and find that he wears a moon necklace. Spider attempts to gather information by opening his brain to the psychic maelstrom. He sees a spider that goes up to a fly and sucks it dry, then begins to walk towards him, sprouting wings as it approaches.
Smith, on lookout, also opens his brain. He sees a dog in Harren Hold, holding another dog by the throat and tearing at its flesh. The dog looks confused and frightened once it has killed the other dog, however.
While Smith is opening his brain, Nemo sits down beside him, and they converse. Nemo draws parallels between Smith and himself, belittling Maki and Spider.
In the morning Maki goes to the sulphur mines with bread stolen from Spider’s stores. Mill tells Maki that he wants to go down to the cave after all, and they go down together with the miners.
Spider tries to find Ron, and senses that Ron is on his way with a large-ish gang. The gang is elated and cocksure.
Smith goes back into the maelstrom to find out more about Nemo. Instead, he finds hardholders dancing to a shadowy puppetmaster.
Spider sees Thrice carrying a box of food from his cult stores toward the back of the caves. He confronts her but she tries to go around him. He shoves her and takes the box of food, knocking Thrice to the ground and pulling her out of her reverie. Maki comes running and gets into an argument with Spider over Spider’s treatment of Thrice. On his lookout, Smith sees Spider cut the strings of the puppetmaster with a large knife and blood pours from the strings, leaving Thrice helpless on the ground. As he comes to, Smith sees a dust cloud growing on the horizon.

 

[AW: Shadow of the Mountain] Third Session – deceptions and traps

It’s been a bit quiet here. Unfortunately, also on the game front. It’s been more than two months since our last session of the game!

But now we’re playing tonight, and as such, it’s about time I got the summary from last time up (written by Eric). This was an eventful session, in which the status quo got good and upset. Which all means that Maki is not currently in control of Mt. Harren.

We got to use one or two custom moves this time. Including the one that tells anybody who sleeps with a whore a rumour. Depending on how they roll, it might be specific, general, or a nasty one about themselves.

Summary of the third session

Smith and Maki enjoys their night in the brothel (which is where they ended last time, ed.). Maki’s girl Mathilda tells him the rumor that Virtue (Goldman’s favourite girl) has seen Goldman going into the mountains. Smith’s girl, Sofie, tells the rumour that Grown still thinks that Smith was on Spiders side in the killing on the mountain.
Spider heads for the city trough the caves, there he sees the traders Fleece (a weapons dealer) and Fuse (a gasoline dealer). They are clearly up to no good having hidden something in the caves.
Smith spends the night in the brothel, and opens his mind to the psychics maelstrom. This is the first time he opens his mind fully in town and he have a nightmare vision about a giant standing on the mountain leaning over the city with spooky bug eyes.
The caravan returns with Tau, the doctor, and he debriefs Maki. They were attacked by a scouting party on the road. One was killed, and they can report that the other cities are reluctant to deal with Harren’s Hold. Ron of Ronsville are applying pressure on the traders.
The assassin/trader Exit is mentally interrogated by Smith
– Ron  kidnapped Exit’s wife and is blackmailing him to kill Maki
– Ron wants to take over Harren’s hold.
Maki, Smith and Spider discuss the Ron-problem and hatch a plan.
Spider’s people was attacked by a rival cult, Moonwolves, and the plan is that Maki send some of his soldiers to aid in the defence of Spider’s caves. Maki disguises himself as one of these soldiers. The corpse from the caravan is dressed in Maki’s clothes and is disfigured by hot oil. Exit is instructed to escape and say that during the escape he “killed” Maki. This he will report to Ron, and thereby secure his wife. Ron should then come to take over Harren’s hold, and Maki and Spider’s people then kills Ron as he reached the gate. They have to do it secretly as Ron have spies in the city. Tau and Crudhammer are the only others that are informed about this cunning plan.
Smith then “finds” the body and sounds the alarm. Orc and Thor sneaks up into the mountain. Smith is feeding the rumour mill, but is confronted by a mob with Grown in the lead, in the Ramshackles. Smith draws his weapon, but not wanting to hurt anybody he flees before violence begins. As he runs for the hills, he finds Newton dead on the bridge.
Violence have begun in the city as Goldman and Crudhammer’s men fight to fill the power vacuum.
Spider’s followers and the 5 soldiers are introduced to the plan and slowly they realizes the consequence of faking Maki’s death.
Smith consults the psychics maelstrom and sees Crudhammer, Tau on one side, Goldman + reluctant Fleece and Fuse on the other side. On the third side is Ron. And just behind Smith is a shadow moving just out of the corner of his eye.
The last order of Smiths day is to place his brain relay on the bridge tower, for later use.
Spider investigates the area that he spotted Fleece and Fuse, he end up in the cave where weapons were found earlier, he hears the voices of his followers. Spider experiences some psychics resistance, tries to force it but blacks out in pain. Maki and the rest of the followers hears the cry of pain and runs to investigate. They hear someone drag something in the weapon-cave and the chase is on. The freaky humanoid leaves Spider and introduces himself as Nemo. Nemo also has mind powers and forces one of the soldiers to shoot at Maki but he misses. Nemo runs off and on the way back Maki finds a bag of Ron-money, most likely dropped by the two merchants, Fleece and Fuse.
Early next morning, Maki and Smith sneaks down to the city gate where Crudhammer, Vikara and Humty-dumty’s heads are on spikes on the containers that forms the city wall..

[AW: Shadow of the Mountain] Second Session

So, it’s been about a week and a half since we had our second session. About time to start thinking about the next session, and to post a summary.

Based on good advice from more experienced MC’s, I started the session by handing out love letters, asking players to answer questions concerning they characters and rolling something and choosing something from a list.

Below, I’ll first post the summary, written by Spider’s player, Cheresse. After that, I’ll post my love letters. I thought they worked pretty well, even though I didn’t have as much time to ruminate over them as I might have wanted.

One thing I’m experiencing, is how much you’re supposed to do as an MC. I rarely think too much about which move to make, instead making snap decisions that seem appropriate. I do find myself Announcing future badness a lot, and it seems I’ve Put Smith on the spot quite a bit. But that is often rationalizing after the fact, more than consciously using the moves. Smith’s player actually told me that he and Maki’s player had agreed that they didn’t feel we were Barfing forth enough apocalyptica, something I’ll have to work on next time.

Oh, and on a related point: The summary of the penultimate scene leaves out the fact that I was Displaying the nature of the world we are inhabiting, and using a number of other threat moves. Which ones may be obvious to anyone who looked at my fronts.

Summary (written by Cheresse, Spider’s player)

Smith is in need of some money, so he asks Maki for work. Before employing him Maki gives him a test, saying he must get Spider to come to the hardhold and meet with him. Smith goes back to the caves.

In the caves, some supplies that have been stamped with seals from Hollowgrass and Ronsville have been found by Trout and Beaver. Spider inspects them and moves them behind his primary personal living space, out of the children’s immediate access. They are: 1x ammo, 1x grenades, 1x armor, 2x assorted weaponry.

Exit the merchant visits Maki to sell him some cloth and give him first pick of the wares. Maki realizes that Exit is trying to kill him and they fight. Maki takes a stab wound but he apprehends Exit and his guards restrain him.

Smith goes to the cave and tries to gain entrance. Horse and Rabbit are guarding the barricade and won’t let him in. When he uses the psychic maelstrom to give Horse psychological and physical damage, Horse shoots him. Rabbit panics and at Smith’s suggestion runs to get Spider.

Spider is convinced to meet Maki and with five armed guards they go to the hardhold. The guard at the gate of the hardhold, Newton, doesn’t want to let them in. He sends a boy to get Maki instead, but Maki is being patched up after his fight with Exit, and they tell Spider to come back later, but he refuses. Smith is sent in to be fixed and he’s taken up to Maki’s headquarters, where a doctor is fixing Maki.

Maki hears Smith’s report and goes down to the gate. He convinces Spider to get his guards to lower their weapons and they enter the town. They go up to the headquarters and the guards wait outside with Smith while Maki and Spider reach an agreement. After much discussion a treaty is reached: the cultists will gain entrance to the hardhold and temporary shelter in times of need or threat, they will be given a weekly supply of supplementary food, and they will be safe from the violence of the guards in the townspeople. In return, they will cease their demands on the mountain and refrain from violence towards the guards and the townspeople, they will allow the hardhold use of mountain resources and access to certain parts of the cave for sulphur mining, they will, under Maki’s employ, scout for more sulphur deposits in parts of the caves, and they will provide shelter and protection for any hardholders trapped on the mountain in times of need.

While Spider and Maki are coming to their agreement, Rothschild and twenty of his fellow hardholders have got wind that some of the spiders are in the hardhold. They approach with the intent to kill and Smith reports this to Maki. Maki goes down to them and convinces Rothschild that they are not a threat by bribing him with an old house. Spider and his followers go back to the caves to make the necessary changes.

Maki takes Smith to the hardhold’s whorehouse, Charity’s Friendly House, to celebrate. Maki goes off with Mathilde and Smith takes up with Sophie.

On their way back to the hardhold, Spider and his followers come across a beaten cult child. The members of his cult have been beaten up in a hit-and-run attack that has focused on taking food and basic supplies. The men were masked and had a kind of war-cry, according to the cultists.

Love letters

Hey there, Spider

Such an ado about just one little killing, eh? And just because those folks couldn’t get into their heads that the Mountainside is your forage ground. I wonder what’s gonna happen to little Trout?

Anyway, I have a couple of questions for you. Don’t think too hard – just tell me what pops into your head.

How do you recruit new members of your cult?

 Spider will provide hungry people with food or similarly give them things they require in order to draw them in – then he’ll keep them around by being very charismatic.

Who is your cult’s greatest foe?

 I believe the answer here was “other cults” – which corresponded nicely with the roll.

Also, roll +hard. If you roll 10+, choose 3. If you roll 7-9, choose 2. Otherwise, I’ll choose for you, and I may have a little surprise up my sleeve for you.

* No new cult moves into town.

* There’s nothing hiding in the caves

* The people of Mt. Harren aren’t assembling a mob to come after you.

* You find a cache of resources in the caves.

 Spider rolled 10+, and chose all but “No new cult moves into town” – though she later told me she wouldn’t mind having something hiding in the caves. That may come next time. Muahaha.

Love and kisses,

 

Your  MC.

 

Dear Maki.

So, the life of a hardholder has its ups and downs – loads of snap decisions to make. I wonder if you did Harridan and Rice a service or not.

Anyway, I have a couple of questions for you. Don’t think about them for too long – just give me the answer that’s first in your mind.

What does your home look like?

 This turned out to be quite cool. The hardhold is connected to an old mining industry, and Maki lives in their head office. He holds court in the entrance hall, covering the broken marble with different cloths. This really gave me some cool imagery for what the whole place looks like.

The people of Mt. Harren who aren’t involved in commerce – what do they do? What sort of industry does the hold have?

 The hold sells gunpowder. They go get sulphur in the caves. D’you think that may cause controversy? Why, no – of course not!

Also, roll +cool. If you roll 10+, choose 2. If you roll 7-9, choose 1. Otherwise, I might have a little surprise for you:

* Your medic returns to town with medicine.

* You discover a new source of food for the hold.

* Your scouts discover something useful.

 Maki failed this. Poor guy. Though I think his doctor should make an appearance soon.

Love and kisses,

 

Your MC

 

Dear Smith

Too bad you couldn’t stop those idiots from storming spider’s cave. Man, don’t you sometimes wish you could force people to act sensibly? Then again, you kinda can…

Anyway, I have a couple of questions for you. Don’t think about them for too long – just give me the answer that’s first in your mind.

Who pays your wages – and what kind of service do you provide to them?

 Smith attained his gifts recently, and hasn’t started using them commercially yet. That is starting up now, though.

How do people in Mt. Harren view you?

 I forgot the answer to this.

Also, roll +hot. On a 10+ choose 2. On 7-9, choose 1. Otherwise, I might have a little surprise for you.

* Spider’s cult doesn’t blame you for your part in the assault.

* Rothschild doesn’t think you’re Spider’s chum.

* You discover something useful in the caves.

I  don’t quite recall what happened here. I know that Smith didn’t pick the first or the last – I think he actually missed this roll.

Love and kisses,

 

Your MC

 

[AW: Shadow of the Mountain] My fronts

So, the next session of our game is tomorrow. I took a look at my fronts and mostly made them a few days after our 1st session, then left it until yesterday.

When looking at my notes, I noticed that I had a lot of things that were pretty directly threatening Maki, the Hardholder, but less to leverage at Smith, the Brainer, and Spider, the Hocus. I have a bit of a plan for that, but I’d rather not make that Front until I have seen a bit more of what they’re about.

At the moment, I have two fronts:

The Seedy Side of Mt. Harren: There’s a disease spreading from the local whore house and unrest brewing in the poor part of town. All said, this is likely to brew up and engulf the Hold.

Schemers and Invaders: Ron of Ronsville, a megalomaniacal lord of a nearby hold, has his eyes set on Mt. Harren. In cooperation with the Beneficent Order of Merchants, the BOM for  short, he’s convincing one of Maki’s gangmembers to rebel. When that happens, Ron is going to swoop in and gobble up the remains. The BOM, meanwhile, has their eyes set on the wealth in the mountains.

Down the Mountain: I also have the beginnings of a Front in the mountain, but I need to clarify it. At the moment, I have the caves themselves, and I intend to put something in the mountains to threaten particularly spider, but also Smith. I’d like them to have some say in what, though, so I’ll deal with it after next session. I also had some foragers, taking their food, but then I realized that the foragers were really another threat I’d already made in the first front, above (though I guess I could make two linked threats?).

Anyway, here are the two fronts from above:

The Seedy side of Mount Harren

Expresses: Decay

Dark Future/ Agenda: As the Frenzy Pox spreads, the Ramshackles turn into a bedlam. This will cause Rothschild to gather his people around him, and they will start to enforce their own law on the Ramshackles. Soon, they will start to question Maki’s legitimacy – and they will certainly blame Spider and Smith for bringing the disease to the hold.

Stakes

How many people will Momo be allowed to infect?

How will working for Maki work out for Harridan and Rice?

Will Charity’s house be targets of hatred and retribution?

Threat 1: Charity’s Friendly House

Kind: Disease Vector

Impulse: craves (intimate) contact.

Description & Cast: A house full of whores. Momo is currently sick, and she will soon inflict her disease upon the others.

Momo: Crudhammer’s girlfriend, and a very popular whore. Young, naïve, and the best tits in town.

Charity: The Mistress of the house. The oldest in the house by a few years, but a lot more shrewd than the other whores. Protects her girls, but also expects their loyalty.

Virtue: A mean spirited whore. If there’s trouble brewing, the others call for her.

Custom Move: Rumor-mongers

If you have sex with one of the girls at Charity’s house, they will tell you a rumor. Roll +hot: On a 10+ the rumor will be specific. On a 7-9, it will be a vague rumor. On a miss, the rumor will be about you.

Threat 2: The Frenzy Pox

Kind: Disease

Impulse: to saturate a population

Description & Cast: The Frenzy Pox is a disease that spreads upon intimate contact. The inflicted will first have a fever, then they will appear more or less normal for a while, but they will still be infectious. When the disease breaks out for real, the infected will start acting very frantic, acting upon their base instincts. When the disease culminates, the inflicted will collapse, sweating, feverish and shaking. They will stay like that until they die.

Infection Countdown: 3 – Infected. You will be feverish for a day or so, then you will stabilize and look fine. At the start of each session, roll for infection. 6 – You are looking normal, but you are infectious. 9 – You are acting hectic. Any time you do anything reasoned or calm, you are acting under fire. You take +1 to seduction, go aggro and seize by force. 10 – You are acting frenzied. Any time you are trying to refrain from physical activity, you are acting under fire. You take +1 to seduction, go aggro and seize by force. Roll for infection at the start of the session, and after each scene in which you have been physically active. 12 – You collapse on the ground where you stand, sweating and shaking. You will die soon if you don’t get help. If someone is tending to you, roll for infection every ten minutes; otherwise, every hour. Instead of progressing the infection countdown, take  1-harm AP.

Rolling for infection: Roll + hard. On a hit, don’t progress the countdown. On a 10+, if you have started an immunity countdown, progress it. If not start it now and progress it to 3. When the countdown reaches 12, reset the Infection Countdown to 6, and don’t roll for infection again.

Threat 3: The Ramshackles

Kind: Breeding Ground

Impulse: to generate badness

Description & Cast: The Ramshackles is the poorest part of the Hardhold. People here are the first to be hungry, thirsty or sick, and they are constantly looking for someone to take them away from their poverty.

Harridan & Rice: Two lads who came from the Ramshackles. Maki took recruited them for his guild.

Threat 4: Rothschild and friends

Kind: A family

Impulse: to close ranks and protect their own

Description & Cast: Rothschild is an important man among the people of the Ramshackles. When anything happens to any of the people under Rothschild’s protection, Rothschild and the people around him will seek to protect or avenge them. They go out into the mountains to forage for food.

Rothschild

Chin/ Look: 2 little kids.

Front: Schemers & Invaders

Expresses: Envy

Dark Future/ Agenda: Goldman strikes against Maki, and Ron sweeps in to conquer the remains.

Stakes

When will Maki realize Goldman’s deceit?

Will BOM be able to profit on the conflict between Maki, Ron and Goldman, or will they be caught in the middle? How many people will be persuaded to join Goldman’s rebellion?

Threat 1: Ron of Ronsville

Kind: Warlord: Collector

Impulse: to own

Description & Cast: Ron is the megalomaniacal lord of Ronsville, a hardhold to the west.

Countdown: Ron’s invasion: 3+6 – spies and scouts. 9 – an ultimatum. 10 – war. 11 – a siege.

Threat 2: Beneficent order of Merchants (BOM)

Kind: Sybarites

Impulse: to consume somebody’s resources.

Description & Cast: A group of merchants from the west who wants to avoid Maki’s taxes and reap whatever is in the mountains.

Fleece: a weapons merchant.

Fuse: a gasoline merchant.

Threat 3: Goldman’s Gang

Kind: Alpha Wolf

Impulse: to hunt and dominate.

Description & Cast: Goldman is trying to form a gang around himself to challenge Maki’s rule over the city. The BOM are supplying him with weapons at the behest of Ron, to try to make him move against Maki.

Tor & Ork: Goldman’s henchmen.

Threat 4: Mount Harren is weak and rich

Kind: Delusion

Impulse: Dominate people’s choices and actions

Description & Cast: Mount Harren is a center for culture and commerce, and Maki himself is not the strictest of hardholders. This has given many people the impression that Mount Harren is just waiting to be taken by someone with a more martial attitude.

Any comments or hints? Do I need more fronts?

I think I’ll write some love letters, to help me get something more out of my players.

EDIT: I forgot to include the home front. Here it is:

 

Front: Home Front

Stakes

What will become of Trout?

Threat 1: Maki’s gang

Kind: Hunting Pack

Impulse: to victimize anyone vulnerable

Description & Cast:

Newton: the gate guard. Fiercely loyal to Maki – and hence very antagonistic towards the “traitor”, Smith.

Crudhammer: Maki’s right hand man, and Momo’s girlfriend.

Threat 2: Spider’s Cult

Kind: Cult

Impulse: to victimize & incorporate people.

Description & Cast:

Horse, Rabbit: Members who were fighting Rothschild and his friends.

Trout: Son of the deceased Salmon.

Threat 3: Traders in the square

Kind: Family

Impulse: close rank and protect their own.

Description & Cast:

Clarion: a tinned food merchant.

[AW: Shadow of the Mountain] First Session summary

A while back, I played some Apocalypse World with Asbjørn as the MC. This was a lot of fun, but we never really got to the end of it. Also, I was quite curious to explore the game from the MC’s chair. It seemed it had some interesting ways to run the game that are both similar and different to how I’d usually run a game. Also, most of the story games and Indie Games I’ve played have been one-shot, so I’d like to see where we’d get playing a campaign version game.

Add to this that I have had a bit of a drought in my roleplaying for a while, and I was really yearning to get to playing some roleplaying games. So, long story short, I gathered three players and set up a game of Apocalypse World. This is a brief account of the first session.

Too much choice

When I played with Asbjørn, it seems we did a lot of worldbuilding quite early. I can’t recall whether we did it before or after making characters, but I seem to recall that we quickly had a good idea of what kind of place the game was taking place in. That seemed a bit harder going here. This might have to do with the way that I presented it, with the amount of Post Apocalypse we all knew, with my knowledge of the game… Ah, well. My players did say that the whole community building thing was one of the great fascinations of the genre, which made me think we were onto something here.

I started out with having my players choose which kind of character to play. I introduced the basic characters and a number of limited edition ones. I think I may have overdone it, because my players looked rather shell shocked at the many sheets of paper when I was done introducing all the options, and it took us a fair while until they had all chosen.

After that, everything went rather smoothly, and we got together a good cast of characters. We did the “history thing,” and went into the 1st session rules. Man, it’s intense MC’ing (at least the first session of) Apocalypse World. So many principles and moves to remember, and you have to keep them all ready all the time, cause the players are looking at you ALL THE TIME.

Anyway, I stole a custom move from Asbjørn, which means that whoever does a summary of the events of a session gets to mark experience at the beginning of the next session. And so, below is a short summary, written by Erik, and a short description of the characters, written by me.

Dramatis Personae

There are three players in the game:

  • Maki (played by Ole) is the Hardholder of Mount Harren. He wears loose, colourful clothing, and carries an ornate rifle on his sholder.
  • Smith (played by Erik) is a Brainer. He used to be a member of Maki’s gang, but struck out on his own. He wears spelunking gear, and lives in the caves in the mountains.
  • Spider (played by Cheresse) is a Hocus. Her cult is “The Sorrow,” a group that assembles in the darkness in the caves.

A note: we decided that you must be in shadow to enter the Psychic Malstrom. This was done, not least because the two “weird” characters (Smith and Spider) both lived in the caves.

Summary

The city of Mount Harren is plagued by hunger and sickness (the runs). Medical personnel have gone after supplies.

Crudhammer* complains to Maki that his girlfriend Momo is very sick, and Maki suggest that Crudhammer* (and his buddy Humty Dumty*) go shake the Kult Of Sorrows down for some food and medicine.

Smith observes Goldman*, Tor* and Ork* having a clandestine meeting with the merchant Fleece in the mountains. They suggest that Smith say nothing about the encounter, but as Tor spots Smith eavesdropping, he kicks Smith into the stream. Smith is so angry, he reports the meeting to Maki anyway. Later Goldman* explains that Fleece and his fellow merchants from the city of Ronsville, are unhappy with their town lord Ron, and want to move their trading to Mount Harren. Mutiny is brewing in Ronsville…

Meanwhile Spider have declared that the mountains are sacred, and hunting rights are only for the cave dwellers, not the city folks. A city kid is killed by some of the Kult Of Sorrow for trespassing/poaching, and Rothschild (the city kids father) and some of his friends try to storm the cave with the cult. Smith tries to calm Rothschild down, but fails. Two cult members get killed in the attack. A conflict between the city folks and the cave dwellers are imminent.

* Gang members that are Maki’s enforcers

Next, on the Shadow of the Mountain

That’s a very brief version of the game – doesn’t include Smith trying to talk sense into Maki or being rejected at the gate, doesn’t include the way Spider left his followers to die, or casually sent his people to kill any city dweller that went into the mountain (talk about opportunities on a platter…). And of course, much more is already happening in my mind. I ought to sit down and make the fronts RIGHT NOW, but I haven’t really got the energy. Anyway, I’ll post the Fronts later. Till then!