We got the chance to play our second session of Apocalypse World a couple of weeks ago. It was our first “real” session, as I prepped some Fronts and used things that had happened in the first “day in the life” session. It was an amazing session, and without further ado, we’re gonna dive right in to the recap.
Primed to Blow
The first session left off with Jeanette, the 2nd in command of Warehouse 141, strapped to the driver’s seat of a heavily armored bus, rigged to blow with explosives. The group wasted no time working to free her. Jason “Hoss” (the Savvyhead), used his ability to talk to things to figure out that the explosives weren’t actually hooked up to the detonator. I had a blast doing the voices for the inanimate objects this session, by the way.
Jeanette, it turns out, had gone to try and negotiate with the Downriver Bois, the gang to whom Warehouse 141 owed protection. She met with someone calling himself Brother Lud, then was knocked out and strapped to the bus. Kobe (the Hardholder) didn’t approve of Jeanette going off on her own, and put Jeanette on lockdown. This was all discussed at the dumpling shop run by Peach, a large man who makes amazing Marsh Fly dumplings.
Smithsonian (the Hoarder), in the meantime, had a long talk with his subordinate about why we do not let people into the Archives. He also figured out that the piece of tech Tinder and Grinder were trying to steal was a weird circuit board, a mix of analogue and digital technology.
Speaking of Tinder and Grinder…
Dune (the Skinner) went down to check on Tinder and Grinder. He wanted to see for himself what it was they wanted. Unfortunately for him, while he was down there, Tinder turned on him and attacked. Tinder was… distraught, because his brother Grinder had apparently died and turned into some kind of plastic mannequin.
Dune called on his bond to Trench (the Faceless), and Trench Oh Yeah’ed her way down through the floor, busting into the cell and saving Dune. Unfortunately for Tinder, whatever happened to his brother happened to him as well, and he turned into a plastic mannequin, too. Trench then took the injured Dune up to Kobe’s room to see about getting him healed up.
That Healing Touch
Trench got Dune upstairs and got him healed up. Unfortunately, an altercation ensued between Dune and Smithsonian, as Smithsonian didn’t approve of Dune sneaking his way into the Archive. Trench intervened (thanks to the bond with Dune, again), and the whole situation was eventually calmed by Kobe. Kobe then assigned a couple of gang members, Stacy and Mouth, to stay on Dune and Trench (respectively) to keep them out of trouble.
Shortly following that, Kobe and Trench shared an intimate moment when Kobe healed the Faceless. In fact, Kobe is now the only person in Warehouse 141 to know what Trench’s face looks like under her mask. We counted that moment as the two having had sex, so each of their Specials triggered. That also gave Kobe a bond with Trench. People are gonna be calling on Trench left and right, it seems.
In the meantime…
Hoss took a look at the explosives and saw that the detonator was wired to a short-range radio. Whomever was to have triggered the explosion would have had to have been close. As well, the radio was made of the same combination of digital circuits and vacuum tubes as the large board in Smithsonian’s Archive.
Hoss was able to re-wire the radio to light up when the detonation signal came in. Moreover, he was able to make two additional copies of the radio so he and a couple of other people would be able to use the receivers to triangulate the location of the would-be bomber.
Hoss, Smithsonian, and Trench set off to find the source of the signal.
Meanwhile, back at Warehouse 141…
As they were walking through the Warehouse, Kobe was reminded by Steph Jones, a rug merchant, that there was to be a party at the Warehouse that night. Kobe assured Jones that the party would be going off anyway, even though the dam was busted and there was no power.
The residents gathered candles and flashlights, cranked up small generators and the party began. We had some fantastically roleplayed “getting ready” scenes where Kobe and Dune each tried to make the other a bit jealous before going to the party.
The party at Warehouse 141 was essentially like a large rave, with bodies moving and lots of sweating. The music thumped and rolled through the warehouse, and for a moment, everyone at the party forgot their troubles.
However, a mysterious person was spotted by Dune. At a few points in time during the session, a few players opened their brains to the psychic maelstrom, and a couple of them, Dune included, saw the face of a man with stringy salt-and-pepper hair and hollow eyes. And that’s exactly who Dune spotted.
But out in the field…
Nothing Can Stop the Signal
The trio with the radio receivers explored the neighborhood around Warehouse 141, each of them working together to find the source of the signal. All was going well until Smithsonian began to explore an abandoned house. He heard the whisper of hidden books and hidden knowledge and he journeyed into the basement of the house, searching.
While there, he opened his brain to the psychic maelstrom looking for information. He was one of the few characters to do so who didn’t immediately suffer from a mishap. He did, however, find the location of a large cache of books, one he planned to come back later to recover. He also had a run-in with the grey-haired man with the hollow eyes.
After exiting the crawlspace, his radio squawked to life. He hadn’t realized it, but he had somehow not been available by radio while he was down there. His receiver lit up, and the trio was able to get a lock on where the signal was coming from.
Just Another Stiff
The party came to a head when Kobe paused things to give the expected Blessing of the Party, a ritual at Warehouse 141. Time seemed to slow for Kobe, and the man with the greasy hair and hollow eyes walked toward them. Everyone freaked out. Dune was attacked, and called on Trench, who appeared at the Speed of Plot thanks to her bond with Dune (I love that move).
Kobe then left the stage and walked toward the man, who identified himself as Rainer. They exchanged words, and Kobe thought they had the last of those, as she shot Rainer point-blank in the head. The man fell backward and his body thunked with a hollow, plastic sound as he hit the ground. Only a mannequin.
So, So Good
I’m not doing this session justice. It was amazing. The blend of player action, improvisation, and the few things I created was so much fun. And it worked exactly as advertised on the box: the moves snowballed. I didn’t have a single moment of uncertainty, all I needed to do was follow the Agenda and Principles, ask questions, and react to character actions with moves that made sense for whatever NPC was acting.
I was also really happy with the Front that I made. It gave me exactly enough information to work with, but it didn’t overburden me. I took maybe 90 minutes ahead of the game to come up with the Front that included The Downriver Bois, Rainer, and Brother Lud. I know more about each of these Threats now, and I’ll be able to make use of them in later games.
The whole setting felt a lot more real to me this time, too. It wasn’t just a set of strung-together ideas, and the problems weren’t all of a settlement-destroying level of danger. The problems were real and personal. I got to see the characters, mine and the players’, bounce off of each other. The players all really brought it, too. It was a very good session.
All Good Things…
Sadly, this session is the last that the group will have together. Two of the players, the ones behind Trench and Hoss, are moving across the country in a few weeks. We might give this a shot with the three remaining players, but that all depends on how everyone else feels about things. At the least, we got to have an amazing session, even if it’s our last.
I’d love to keep playing, because Apocalypse World has proven to be a dynamic setting and system that dovetails really well with how I like to run games. If we do continue, you’ll hear all about it, right here.
Cool article, and I love the endorsement of the system in your “So, So Good” paragraph, especially about how it keeps the game moving.
I’m looking for a good prep-lite, improve-heavy game, and love Fiasco, but want a more structured RPG experience (quests, etc.) than it provides.
I’m trying to decide between this, Dungeon World (which I’m assuming Apocalypse World was based on [please forgive my ignorance if I’m wrong]) , and Dragon Age or it’s derivatives (because I really like the stunt system).
Have you (or anyone else reading) played either of the other games? If so can you give thoughts as to which might work best for a “Prep-lite, Improve-heavy”? Thanks!
Tracy, if this is as good as you say, why not pull in your AWOL players with online tech? AW doesn’t seem like the kind of game where you need a tactical map or such, so it seems like a perfect fit for half the team on webcam. Go for it!