Archive for the 'Apocalypse World' Category

Coalblack Night: A Jazz-Age Apocalypse

2011 Sep 22

This is something that struck me as I was walking through downtown at night, after wrapping up the tenth session of my AW-in-space game.

Inspirations: “Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After” from Cloud Atlas, Three-Penny Opera, Sleepy Hollow, City of Ember, Porgy & Bess, The Untouchables, Idlewild, Public Enemies, Chicago, The Giver, Dark City.

I member when the cities first got lit up. Twernt just candles in the windows but gas lamps and, then, the full-on real stuff, Uncle Edson’s lectric wonderland. Was a magickle time: erryone could see the future, right in front of em. But it was shortly affer when coalblack night done roll in, blockin out the sun, moon, and stars, coating errythin in darkness that no man’s light could pen’trate for long.

When coalblack night first roll in, lot of folk got dead reel fast. White folk obvusly blame black folk; black folk rightly point out that Ole Coalblack himself be unquestionbly a white man: impossible tall, pale like snow, in hat and tails as an undertaker or a sweep, but with those eyes and those teeth y’know. And the god-fearing ladies — black, white, or otherwise — just be tellin their men that the apocalypse o’ Revelations ain’t no time to go killin nobody, in fact just the opposite, and that Ole Coalblack is clearly the Devil an nobody ought listen to him.

But erryone listen ventuly, right? Ya don’t wanna, but ya caint help it.

Hush my darling, for we are deep in the COALBLACK NIGHT…

Driver + Operator = The Wheelman
Skinner + Maestro’D = The Flapper
Hardholder + Quarantine = The Baron
Chopper + Touchstone = The Highwayman (w/ Horse & Hound)
Saavyhead + Gunlugger = The Greaseman
Angel + Battlebabe = The Raven

Replace when you open your brain with when you are all alone in the coalblack night and the lights are out, an impossibly tall man with skin like snow lights a cigarette, offering another to warm you against the cold. If you refuse, it’s always, “Suit yourself” and nothing more. But if you accept, Ole Coalblack makes you a bargain, though never straightforward and plain but in hints and strange questions, and whether you’ve accepted or not is sometimes only clear later, when you find out what he’s up to. Roll +Weird. On a 10+, Coalblack’s doing something in your best interests. On a 7-9, mostly so.

Mapping as Fictional Positioning

2011 Jun 21

Archived from Barf Forth.

So this may not be revelation to anyone but me…

Last week, the PCs in my near-earth-orbit game responded to a distress signal from this orbital monastic community called Sanctum. The folks who run Sanctum try to help people clear their minds from domination by the Psychic Maelstrom and, thus, escape from a life of reaver-esque cannibal savagery. Our touchstone is a “graduate” of Sanctum’s psychic rehab, but apparently not all their recruits took to their training so well (surprise!), so the PCs are basically walking into a bloodbath of insane debauchery and cruelty.

I began making maps like crazy, drawing the main airlock, the cargo room, the corridors leading to the medical facility, the kitchen, the training rooms, the initiates’ monastic cells, the flight deck where they launched shuttles, the central meditation chamber, etc.

All this mapping was inspired, for the most part, by our touchstone asking where certain things were, based on her memories, alongside some Reading of a Charged Situation and Opening of Brains. And then, once the PCs starting moving through Sanctum, with the vibe and setting of our game, plus the horrific atmosphere, it felt very much like Geiger Counter, surprisingly enough. Room-by-room, situation by situation, with the sense of danger building.

But what really struck me was that, unlike in some Geiger Counter games I’ve played, the map really served to ground the fiction in ways I wasn’t expecting. Without the movie-inspired jump cuts that sometimes happen in Geiger, the map really provided some tight constraints on player choices through the fictional positioning that went along with it. Unlike in Geiger or PTA, we weren’t thinking about what the next cool scene should be about; instead we looked at the map and were like, okay, clearly we have to go through X place next.

For example: The PCs proceeded first to track down Hugo, the initiate that sent the distress signal, who was in one side of the space station. But then, having come across some horrific scenes, the touchstone decided that Hugo must be dead and that they should proceed to the training rooms to confront Rufus, the failed initiate who seemed to be orchestrating this descent into base passions. Consequently, as demanded by the maps and the fiction, they had to make their way across the entire rest of the station to get to where Rufus was. No jump cuts, no excuses. That was clearly what the fiction — through the map — demanded.

Sure, the players could have decided to do something else: go out an airlock and walk around the outside of the ship, leave and not fight Rufus, blow up Sanctum, whatever else. But their choices were limited — in significant ways — by the little bit of sketching I did of the station.

I guess maybe I’m used to maps as a form of railroading, showing where you clearly must go, or as a series of light cues to help you remember things you’ve done and preserve consistency in the fiction, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the geography of a map really matter in a game that didn’t have wargame-inspired rules for cover or range calculated in squares.

So anyway, I’m thinking about that now and my future play of both AW and Geiger Counter will be better for it.

AW: The Valkyrie (for free)

2011 Apr 17

Johnstone’s giving away the Valkyrie for free (rather than bartering it for other stuff, as Vincent seems to prefer for AW content), but only for the next couple weeks. Grab it over here if you’re interested.

AW: The Living God

2011 Apr 10

Johnstone traded me some moves for a Hocus that’s renounced or otherwise lost their followers, so we’re going to do one more and round out this group as The Maleficent Seven. The moves and image for this one are by Johnstone, with some minor edits by me.

AW: The Valkyrie, Catalyst, and Fallen

2011 Apr 9

Whipped up front images for these three. Now just have to finalize the moves. American Memory is an amazing reference for old photographs (I think Jason Morningstar pointed me at it). If I end up deciding to print up a bunch of cards at some point, I’ll have to go back and be careful about the rights on all of these pictures, but for just free things to pass around the internet, totally amazing.

AW: The Loner

2011 Apr 9

Finished the next one, for Andrea Mognon. This may be my favorite so far, because ex-operator gunluggers are near and dear to my own heart, having played one recently.

I’ll send this one to anyone who posts an anecdote from their play experiences about something or someone from an AW character’s past coming back to haunt them.

AW: The Broodmother

2011 Apr 8

Finished the second one, for Christopher Weeks, who was pondering what the Brainer would be like as a parent. As a bonus, I included the infamous Brainer gear known as the corkscrew.

Just so folks know, I’m happy to trade these for any other “limited edition” AW content that people have created, no questions asked. Sharing with fellow enthusiasts is the whole point!

AW: The Wurm

2011 Apr 8

Finished the first of a number of mini-playbooks (AW-style “prestige classes”) that I’m trading with folks. This one is for a Hoarder who collects books of lost knowledge. There’s a pretty awesome move where you can take a gunshot to one of the books you’re carrying in your chest pocket, like in all those Westerns. It’s called Bullet in a Bible. You can only get a copy of this by trading something with me or Brenden Conway. So… what ya got?

The Sumner: Design Sketch

2011 Feb 17

Man, partially-finished old projects are really rearing their ugly heads this week and demanding I work on them. After talking with Elizabeth about her new AW playbook project, I had to do some work on my old “terrorform” idea, which evolved through conversations with other folks into a techno-shaman achetype. Here’s a playbook design sketch with content to follow shortly.

The Final Trumpet: In Nomine + AW

2011 Feb 15

This is something I told Ryan Macklin I’d run at GoPlay NW. Really, you barely have to do any adaptation at all, which makes it really cool. I’m figuring that it’s going to be Choir/Band + Superior, and you can change your Superior but only change your Choir/Band by falling or being redeemed.