Game Date: 3/16/2013
System: Apocalypse World
Marsh (Matt): Brainer
Uncle (Ted): Hardholder
We didn't have enough players for our regular game, so we played a one-shot. Like the name implies, Apocalypse World takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the survivors live Mad Max style. There is also some sort of mysterious global force called the Psychic Maelstrom, which is a collective consciousness that people can tap into by opening their minds.
Ted's character, Uncle, was the overworked leader of Hatchet City, which really wasn't much of a city. The magnitude of Uncle's political power was debatable, as some of the citizens seemed to have their own agendas and varying degrees of loyalty. Uncle was having a bit of trouble with Ambergrease, a gang leader who had been causing trouble. As the game began, some of Uncle's followers were requesting he find a way to defeat Ambergrease, lest he risk a rebellion.
My character, Marsh, was a creepy psychic of questionable gender. I was in charge of several prisoners, one of whom had recently tried to assassinate Uncle. I used my psychic powers to interrogate the prisoners, but they did not know enough to help us. It seemed that something had been controlling their minds. Later we dissected one of the prisoners and found a strange parasite in his body.
While communing with the Psychic Maelstrom, Marsh received visions of a pale man called "Blind Blue", who we believe to be behind the psychic manipulations. We also learned that Blind Blue intended to make October his queen, or possibly his slave. When Marsh went to warn her, one of October's own bodyguards turned against us and attacked. October managed to stun her opponent by taking her top off (one of her more interesting abilities), after which we subdued the guard pretty easily.
Soon the town was attacked by a Ambergrease's forces. They used catapults to hurl flaming garbage over our walls, and prepared to drive a bus through our front gate. While Uncle gave orders to his soldiers, Marsh came across some deserters attempting to smuggle our rocket launchers out of town. Marsh managed to take their leader prisoner, grabbing a rocket launcher for good luck. When the bus finally burst through the front gate, Marsh attempted to destroy it with the rocket launcher. The missile missed by a mile, destroying part of Hatchet City's wall. Also, Marsh's prisoner got away.
Despite the setback, we still had more than enough soldiers to take out Ambergrease's army. Uncle's leadership skills got a lot of time in the spotlight. The battle came down to a one-on-one between Uncle and Ambergrease. It ended with Uncle shooting Ambergrease in the face. We had to stop the session there, but we know the true villain, Blind Blue, is still out there. Perhaps someday we'll revisit this world.
Neat session! I really like the flavor of the world itself. The character classes are quite interesting, and while most of them do have D&D counterparts, they still manage to be unique. I really enjoyed playing my character. He/she/it was delightfully weird, and it was fun playing a ambiguously gendered character (just like in real life). I wonder what I could have done with it if I'd had more time to develop my character's personality.
I was very glad I didn't pick Ted's character, however. Watching him manage his troops and deal with other leadership problems made me quickly realize it wasn't the class for me. I could probably have had fun with Star's character, though. I could see playing a Skinner in a future game.
Warning: This game is not for kids. This is easily the most adult gaming system I've played so far, and we barely even touched on the dirty stuff. My character had seduction-related powers, Star's character could hypnotize people by stripping, and Ted's... well let's face it, "Hard Holder" just sounds like a double entendre. There was also a fair amount of adult language in the play materials. It takes a lot more than that to offend me, but I mention it here just in case it's a deal breaker for anyone else.
From what I saw, the adult aspects were not handled in a juvenile way. This isn't a puerile sexual assault simulator like FATAL. Apocalypse World strikes me as a mature setting that just happens to have some sexual elements written into the mechanics. While I'm sure many players will turn it into something more childish, I don't believe that was the designers' intention. But I've only had a couple of hours of exposure to this system, so I could be wrong. Given that so many groups have at least one player who consistently "goes there" *cough* Greg *cough*, I do wonder how many groups are actually capable of running a game with seduction mechanics before the whole campaign descends into something salacious. (Admittedly I'm showing my own inexperience here. I haven't been in a lot of different gaming groups.)
Mechanically, it seems like a pretty easy system. It just uses 2d6, and character creation was quick and easy. From the impression I got, the game is more roleplay than rollplay, so the rules are kept light. But all I've really seen so far are the character sheets, so I'm probably not the best one to ask. I'm a little wary of the damage system. It doesn't look like you could take a lot of hits before you go down. (I had the same complaints about Savage Worlds.) I'd like to think that this promotes roleplay - being fragile means you try to talk your way out of fights. And yet, post-apocalyptic worlds are not places where it's easy to avoid battle.
I also question the system of leveling up. Maybe I'm misunderstanding it, but you get an experience point every time you use one of your "highlighted" skills. Every time you get five experience points, you get an extra feature. Great, but I do wonder what keeps you from finding all sorts of risk-free excuses to make skill checks. Kind of like the Elder Scrolls games, where you can level up by picking the same lock over and over. I'm sure there's rules in place to prevent such exploits, I just didn't see them.
But regardless of one or two quibbles and confusions, I really did enjoy the session. I will gladly play this again if it comes up again.