RPG Diaries: Apocalypse World

Last week my group wrapped up its campaign of Achtung! Cthulhu in a beautiful mess. This week we’ve traded the elder gods for a post-apocalyptic wasteland. It’s scary “brainers,” seductive battle babes and violence-hungry gangs as we play Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker.

Welcome to this week’s RPG Diaries.

Our first session was mostly character generation and a little world-building. One unique aspect of this game is that, unlike other RPG’s I’ve played, the setting is generated by the players. Instead of a DM- or GM-defined world that the players discover little by little, the whole group collaborates to define exactly where they are and the current conditions. The experience is so player driven, that the “CM” (the game’s name for the Game Master) is expected to do little preparation before a session, if any at all. But before I go into that, I’ll describe our characters.

Getting Into Character

To get started in Apocalypse World, you need:

  1. Three to five players
  2. Two six-sided die per player
  3. A different playbook per player, depending on their chosen class
  4. Reference sheets for “moves”

A healthy imagination is also a requirement, but that’s a given.

Apocalypse World offers six classes of character:

  1. The Angel – This is your healer
  2. The Battle Babe – Super gorgeous (the game does have a sex move, be forewarned) and charming.
  3. The Brainer – Scary, freaky, mind-bending monsters. I’m playing a brainer.
  4. The Chopper – Imagine a super aggressive character. Now imagine a dude that makes that guy look like Mary Poppins. That’s a chopper.
  5. The Driver – His car is his life. Seriously, his stats improve when he’s inside his car.
  6. The Gun Lugger – What the Driver feels for his car, the Gun Lugger feels for her guns. And she has a lot of them.
  7. The Hardholder – It’s as close to a “government” as you’re going to get. And that ain’t good.
  8. The Hocus – What they call “the gods” is merely the remnants of the explosion of hate that nearly destroyed this world.

I went with a Brainer, because “…they’re the psycho psychic mindf**ks of Apocalypse World….if you want everyone to be a little bit afraid of you, play a Brainer.” How could I resist that?

Creating a character is a lot of fun and has six stages. First, of course, you’ve got to come up with a name. I went with “Anais Brace,” because…well why not? Also note that you can play any gender you want, including “ambiguous” or “transgressing.” I’m playing a female, since I like to be what I’m not while playing RPGs.

Next, fill out your five stats: cool, hard, hot, sharp and weird.

  1. Cool is your performance under fire.
  2. Hard is your ability to be aggressive.
  3. Hot is your ability to seduce or manipulate.
  4. Sharp is your ability to read a person or a situation (D&D players, think perception).
  5. Weird is your ability to “open your brain.”

Apocalypse WorldAnais is heavy in weird. Two of her abilities, or “moves,” give a bonus to weird rolls. Speaking of moves, you get to choose from a list of class-specific moves. The number of moves you get depends on your class. I choose Deep Brain Scan and In-Brain Puppet Strings. The former lets me probe a person’s mind and force them to answer questions, as long as I have physical contact with them. The latter lets me put a suggestion in someone’s head, including a command to do themselves harm.

I told you Brainers were scary.

The next part of character creation is so much fun. You create history with the other characters. Going around the table, your class tells you what to do or say to some of the characters. As this is done, you write either a +1 or a –1 next to that character’s name, as instructed. When everyone has a turn, you’ll do something else based on those totals. I got to choose the top three on my list and tell one of them that I had watched them sleep without their knowledge, one that I’ve been watching him for a long time and another that he dislikes me greatly. Other classes have other results, and the whole thing really drives the narrative.

We’re almost done. Next you can define your character’s look. The game provides suggestions but really you can go nuts here and come up with whatever you want. Finally, choose some gear (again, class determines this) and grab some “oddments,” which are often found objects that you can trade with.

With that done, we had a good handle on who we were and felt ready for world creation. This was so foreign to my group that we were a little stuck at first, but got into it. The result is this: we in a shanty town just outside what use to be Las Vegas, Nevada. We’re using old poker chips as currency, though no one really knows what they are other than that they existed before the world was destroyed. There are some strange features, like occasional frog-rain and pools of water that randomly appear and disappear.

Next week we’ll begin our story and I’m looking forward to it. Creepy little Anais has some people to freak out.

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