2012/01/08 § Leave a comment
When I started AW I promised to myself I’d do a proper sum-up of every session and organize the stuff that’s happening afterwards. I’ve been a bit lazy lately but I want to get my work on our 2nd, 3rd and 4th session done before the end of the year (and before more things happen ingame.)
The 2nd session was more or less a wrap-up of what happened in the 1st one. Not the ideal thing because I feel that AW should end with a cliffhanger that basically says «So that is what we are going to do next time. Obviously.»
It started with a bit of a turmoil at the compound’s marketplace (I personally called the compound Starbucks City in my head but I always forget to ask the characters what they actually call it. No one seems to care and maybe that’s fine.) A crowd had around the truck that got Müllermeier, the chopped-up stonecutter from 1st session, into town. The truck’s driver Maestro and Jacques, another stonecutter, told the people about how they got ambushed on the way to town. They’re gathering people to secure the road and make sure the Quarry is safe. Starbucks agrees to send a part of his gang as an escort along with Graywolf (the Gunlugger) and L Carmino (the Battlebabe). They get their bikes and guns and prepare to roll out.
Aeki (the Brainer) meanwhile has caught the attention of the local kids – namely Fuchs, Jameson and Zalando – who seem to see him as their spiritual guide or something. I gave Aeki a loveletter at the beginning of the session telling him that the kids grew fond of him for some reason and, though they despise adult, see him as their equal and want to share their secrets. Apart from that, the pain his old wound is causing him is getting worse and a custom move at the beginning of each session decides how bad it will be. One of the options is to use one of the children as a vessel of pain. Anyways, led by the kids he also arrives at the marketplace and for some reason he tagged along with the escort. I think we decided that they needed his perspective on things to get through the distortion quicker. Tamaris (the Angel) joined the escort as well in case someone would need a medic.
Crow (the Savvyhead) was doing his completely own thing while the others traveled towards the Quarry. He was called in by Starbucks to take a look at the water engine that got smashed up good in the fight between his gang and the democrats. He got to the top of Starbucks Tower and basically started lecturing people on proper maintenance and security of machines before he started his repair. I decided it would be some minor damage but the psychic part of the water engine was out of place and needed to be reconfigured. You see, the water engine is Crow’s Reality’s Fraying Edge move. He and I had at this point established that the reason for the rest of the compound’s sanity compared to the rest of the world is caused by the machine’s influence on the drinking water.
So, while Crow starts to work on the water engine conflict brews up at the marketplace. Things get a little hot-headed between the people from the Quarry and the gang. Maestro calms down and is ready to work with Starbucks’ gang after she mentions that the tours in her truck get awfully lonely from time to time and not very subtlely nudges L Carmino into «keeping her company» later that night. Tamaris also comments on the fact that one might not get patched up as well as usual next time they need medical attention if he or she keeps fighting over pointless stuff. Everyone agrees to work with each other again suprisingly fast.
The bikes accompanied by Maestro’s truck are on their way when Crow comes across a part of his machine whose purpose he can’t remember. He rolls a pretty decent It’s a strange box on the machine’s side with speakers and some turning knobs. He rolls a pretty decent Things Speak and next thing you know he is talking over Maestro’s cheap-ass cassette radio. Apart from Tamaris heavily flirting with Jacques on the way to the Quarry not that much happens half the way through the distorted land. I think Aeki rolled an Open Your Brain to try to keep the gang safe and on track.
They discovered they spot where the rest of the convoy to Starbucks City – apart from Maestro, Jacques and Müllermeier – had been slaughtered. There is blood everywhere, the bodies were cut open with their eyes, tongues and inner organs removed. Investigating the area they spot a cloud of black smoke from beyond a hill of sharp cliff and twisted edges. L Carmino and Tamaris get into a pretty fierce argument about what to do. L Carmino wants to take a look at the origin of the black smoke while Tamaris thinks that the safety of the Quarry comes first. That part – from my perspective as an MC – was somewhat goodbad. The argument between those two was wonderful. Both had valid points and I had the gang more or less shift between «Well, that guy is the one in charge but she is the one who will fix us up when shit happens», so they had to come to a conclusion themselves. At a certain point I asked each of them «So you basically want to manipulate him / her into doing what you want, right? Why should he / she do so? What’s your leverage?» We ended up with Tamaris manipulate L Carmino into taking only a small part of the gang with him by suggesting that he wanted to be patched up next time he fucks up for sure. I’m not sure how I felt about that resolution of conflict. It felt a little bit constructed and shallow but worked out so far. I guess it might be all about getting comfortable with using the basic moves.
While the gang split up, Crow fucked up his Open Your Brain big time and gave me my personal favorite moment of improvised madness. He wanted to figure out if the machine will do its job properly and rolled 5. I told him about this small windows in his mind, right behind his eyes, opening up and a menacing voice telling him that the little nice new world he’s built up only will be safe from the real world for so far. I really wonder what the source of that voice is and can’t wait for the group and me to figure it out one way or the other.
The group that was with Tamaris, Aeki and Graywolf arrived safely at the Quarry which was locked up from the inside because the stonecutter have been seeing strange things out there in the distortion last night. They talk to Weiße Mäuse, to matriarch of the Quarry, and – seeing the place’s protection is not enough by far – Graywolf agrees to stay there in order to help them set up at least basic security. The others decide to return to Starbucks City.
L Carmino and his gang make their way through the sharp-edged hills and are able to sneak up on the origin of the black smoke. They see six perfectly pitch-black people sitting around a campfire. There are pieces of meat on a grate. L Carmino watches as one of them searchs around the back of his head with his hands until he cuts it open with a small knife and insert an eye into it that immediately spots L Carmino. L Carmino doesn’t hesitate and commands his gang to attack killing all of the pitch-black people without any serious damage taken on his side. After that he burns the corpses and returns back to Starbucks City.
And that’s about it. For the first «real» session it was quite interesting. The other players and me had a lot of fun. I feel like I could improve my MC-ing on many levels but the session felt great nonetheless. For some reason I can’t seem to get into asking questions as much as I want to. After the 2nd one (and the later ones I’m gonna tell you about) I thought about the progress of events and thought «Damn, it would have been great to just ask them instead of doing the thing that seemed natural / not looking into it any further.» It gives me this strange feeling that the events continue but I’m / we’re missing out on certain basic facts that could / should be resolved within the first few sessions. Especially simple things. Where they get their food, what their «normal day» looks like. I’ve got this instinct from other rpgs to DO something. Throw an event at them. While I don’t plan anything of it ahead and just to what comes to mind and works with my prep I guess it could be less event-ish and more.. everyday-life-like.. if that makes any sense.
Any thoughts on that by you guys? Do I overthink or is that «a thing»?
2011/12/24 § Leave a comment
I decided pushing out a little bit more content will more likely get me into the mood of updating this blog on a regular basis without the need to remind myself about it constantly. So while I’ll continue to rant about games and meta-gaming every Wednesday, Friday is the day for nice and easy write-ups of recent role-playing sessions if there were any. I consider a third or 2.5-ish slot on why I love and hate certain games but I’ll take it one step at a time.
Today I’ll kick things off with Apocalypse World. The summary of this session is about three month old but I plan on writing about my first AW campaign in the future; so a few steps back to get to know the grand picture seems neccessary.
First of all a few really, really short words about AW in case you’re not familiar with it. The system isn’t older than a year and the moment I got my hands on it I simply wanted to play the game. I didn’t just want to appreciate it, savor the fascination of its design as I tend to do with many other games: I wanted to play. I wanted the whole gritty experience AW opened up to me with every goddamn page. I wanted to see how it played out.
What caught my attention about the game is the light-weight set of rules that was quite non-classic but at the same time had elements like ready-made classes, attributes and skills that seemed pretty standard but obviously would play out in completely different ways than.. let’s say.. Das Schwarze Auge 3rd Edition. The settings of AW appealed to my love for post-apocalyptic settings and their implications on gaming experience. The design promised the intimate experience of a harsh and cruel world that was out there to see how the characters would plan on surviving it, rather than being out there to go for the kill.
That is about as much as I want to say about AW. Anything further would be part of a segment about the role-playing game itself. So let’s get right into it.
the 1st session
Before making characters we started off with brainstorming about the apocalypse we would play in. My players felt like setting up some simple non-specific things beforehand because they felt it was necessary to get at least a vague ideas of their characters.
We established that the people in the world had gone crazy for no known reason and society fell apart / was torn apart by its inhabitants. We also established that the same thing has happened to the world itself: laws of physics, nature and time went down the drain and only work occasionally and behave in a completely different manner next time. No reliabilites there. The session will start out in a shattered mid-size town of central Europe near a river whose inhabitants are for some reasons relatively non-crazy and managed to fortify the inner city into a compound.
After that the characters are created and introduce themselves to each other:
Tamaris, the Angel who lives in the old butchery and only treats people who promise to bring her “pretty thingys” next time. She wears golden sneakers and a rain-cape.
Aeki, the Brainer who completely conceals themselves in a bulky coat under which one can see their body move strangely and in spasms.
L Carmino (with no ‘e’, his player insists), the Battlebabe who doesn’t own a bed because he sleeps in someone else’s every night. He is a lean handsome guy with a pair of leather pants and a neat shiny chain wrapped around his waist. He also likes to swim in the river and he doesn’t get what everyone is so worried about.
Graywolf, the Gunlugger is a dusty old guy who still remember bits and pieces of the Apocalypse from when he was with his dad who fought in the last war. He got into town as a salvager and moved into the old castle ruin outside of town where he domesticates a swarm of gaint honey-bees. (“Is there one of these old keeps just outside town I can live in?” – Sure, why not? – “Can there be some kind of a drawbridge that connects it to the town’s wall?” – That sounds like a good idea. – “Will you throw me off of it you day?” – Probably. – “Damn, I want it anyways.”)
Crow, the Savvyhead who came into town someday and moved into the junkyard after setting up a weird machine with lots of smoke and antennas (the water engine). No one exactly remembers when or how he got there, not even as what he introduced himself to the towns-people. They call him Crow because of the shitload of crows that seem to have moved into the junkyard with him and annoy the hell out of people.
Estrella, the Skinner who is living in the old schoolhouse and wants to teach the people reading and writing. She’s kind of a merchant, loves to take care of her vegetable garden and has a little pet dragon.
Yup, pet dragon. Funny and wonderful things happened while the characters were introduced. I didn’t really have to say “Okay, now we have to do Hx!” or “Okay, now it’s time to start playing!” It all transitioned from one thing to another. I’m sorry if I’m full of little stories and anecdotes today but it was just so beautiful considering that I know the “Okay, what’s next, GM?-look from other groups / systems.
So yeah, Estrella the Skinner turns to me while introducing herself, grins and asks “And can I have a pet dragon?” We already established that time/space-anomaly-thingies take place constantly so I just say: “Of course you can.” That moment Crow the Savvy leans over and says “Obviously she can” – looks at his hands with a confused expression and continues like talking to something he holds in his hands – “’cause I remember cleary.. well not everything that clear.. the day I had constructed that.. thing and it bend and turned and exploded when she came by. And then that thing with the flapping wings was suddenly there.. man, I still wonder where that machine went..” Estrella nods and says “Yeah, that was a strange day, indeed.”
Second anecdote: When Tamaris the Angel says ‘So I live in the old butchery’ the others start to muse about what their characters home’s look like (if they have any.) Even before I can say “Well, obviously we should start drawing a map!” my roommate who plays Tamaris goes to her room and comes back with big piece of paper and puts it into the middle of the table.
While I watch them somewhere between suprise and fascination the other player lean over and start talking about the city and what it might look like. My roommate draws a building and the others add some outlines to the city while Tamaris finishes to introduce herself. At one point two or three of them turn towards me (more or less at the same time) and ask “Is that okay?” (the vague outlines of the city are already half drawn at that point) and I just nod and say “sure, perfectly fine.” At some point they actually stop adding any details when L Carmino’s player suggests that “it will sure be more fun to find out what is out there.” Everyone agrees and we move on to Hx.
Some interesting history is established. Best thing, Tamaris the Angel says: “So Crow the Savvy, remember that one time when I needed your help to replace Graywolf’s arm with a bionic one because he got fucked up so bad?” – “I can remember that day perfectly clear but don’t ask me what I did to make that thing work but it made sense back then. You just probably shouldn’t let someone hold hands with it. How do you like your arm anyways, Graywolf.” – “I think it’s pretty sweet. But I need to get back to you on it ’cause it’s been acting up a bit lately.”
There’s so much more but this post is going to be pretty long anyways.
After that we did a short session of “actual” gaming in the time we had left.
It starts with one of the kids, little Jameson, that help Estrella out in her garden yelling about that creepy guy who is lurking around the fences again. Aeki the Brainer just wants to be properly welcomed and given some food so he commands (whispers it) to Estrella whom just gets out of there and leaves the kids alone with the Brainer. They greet and feed him but he gets thrown out again after Estrella gathers up her courage to tell him off. Graywolf the Gunlugger just passes by -returning from a job he and L Carmino finished – and tells Aeki to fuck off and gets some lettuce in return from Estrella.
In a short scene of Aeki alone eating his carrots, we learn that he is mostly blind by now and the headache and pain from his old wound is getting stronger every day.
Graywolf visits Crow the Savvy and disturbs his sleeping schedule “that bounces between 16 hours straight and half an hour” as he tells us. The bionic arm is doing strange things after it got hit pretty hard in the fight last night. L Carmino and Graywolf tell us about Harley and his gang of raider whom they butchered last night. We also learn that they still have to get their compensation for the job from the local hardholder called Starbucks.
Crow examines the arm with mysterious tools in his workspace while talking and listening to it. I tell him that the mechanics themselves are alright, just a little off, but the function has been infected and must be cured on a more essential level. He opens his brain and asks what is wrong with the machine. He gets an impression so I tell him of a blurry self-perspective where he just finished working on something what lies in front of him. He’s wearing this huge welding gloves and when he takes them off the skin of his arms and hands underneath are necrotic and charred to the bone. After he finishes up Graywolf’s arm as good as possible he gets half a head of lettuce and falls asleep again with his head resting upon it.
Meanwhile Tamaris the Angel tells me they bring this guy called Müllermeier into the butchery and he’s one of the stonecutters. We learn that there is a big white building somewhere outside town wherefrom they get massive stone blocks to fortify the wall. Müllermeier has this gore-y stomach wound entrails spilling out and all while an axe is still stuck into his shoulder. Tamaris ponders whether or not the man will be able to bring back pretty things in the future. I tell her about him dying in the next minutes and about his crippled wife back home.
At this point I start to wonder what L Carmino been up to because his player has been suprisingly quiet so far, so I ask. He grins and says: “I’Ve been with the MacDonald’s twin – y’know the weaver girls who live in that building with the two golden arcs attached to the front? – the whole night and morning and I’m not in a hurry. But I guess we’ll get up sometime soon. I have to see Starbucks and Mercedes has to discuss business with him as well.
Graywolf tells me he has already been there and a fight has happened in Starbucks’ place. Some people talking about something called ‘dee-moo-cracy’ have been there and Starbucks wanted them dead. He explains all that while dragging two people with broken arms and jaws into the butchery and Tamaris is freaking out.
We rewind a bit and find out that the fight got messy. The water engine located in Starbucks’ place got heavily damaged.
Graywolf also has a scene with Starbucks’ secretary Gin which was probably one of my favorite, mechanic-vise: Graywolf reminds him that he still hasn’t been paid yet and Gin brushes him off in an indifferent “Huh, sure”-fashion. He asks “Is that bastard lying to me?” – “Well, why don’t you find out for yourself?” – rolls a 7 “So is he telling the truth?” – “No.” – “I lean over his desk, grab him by his tie and tell him what’s gonna happen if I don’t get paid.” – “He has a desk and a tie?” – “He has now” rolls a 6 “Oh shit.” – “The tie not tied around his neck but just one of these clip-on things and before you know it he pokes this big-ass pistol into your jaw while still looking at his clipboard in the other hand. ‘Is there anything else? Would you mind dragging those meatbags over to the butchery? Starbucks wants to question someone.’, he says.”
It took about two minutes and I had no clue who Gin is but now I wonder what the bastard is up to.
You know the rest of the story.
Oh, and on the way down the stairs kicking the bodies down there one staircase by another, Graywolf meets L Carmino and Mercedes. The latter one does not like his choice of words for her and his behaviour at all.
Aaaaaand there we had to stop. Considering it was my first time MCing AW, the first time playing AW for everyone and the first time playing p&p for two of them.. I think we had pretty much of a blast there.