So I finally ran Apocalypse World. It was Thursday night at the Origins Game Fair and our plan to get two tables running simultaneously got pushed back and back and back to a single table running four players, with me as the MC. It went well enough, I think.
You know me. I have issues with Apocalypse World—issues that made me more nervous to run it than I would be to run a lot of games. I tried not to let any of that get in the way. I tried not to impose anything on the game. I tried to follow the principles. I tried to always say what the book says to always say. I stuck to the agenda given down to me by the text.
I failed at that sometimes. I know I addressed myself to the players, not the characters, sometimes. I think I may have made a couple of moves that weren’t misdirected. That sort of thing.
I wasn’t quite sure how well I did. All of my players were new to Apocalypse World, as was I, so I asked them outright at the end. One player said to me, “How many times have you run this game before?”
“Never,” I said.
“Really?” He seemed surprised. I take that as a good sign.
Yesterday or the day before, I asked the players about the game via Twitter, to see what they thought I should highlight when talking about it. Here’s what they tweeted back:
Our Apocalypse World was a slow-motion apocalypse, a futuristic world withering, its infrastructure collapsing, the gap between haves and have-nots so utter and so desperate the the psychic maelstrom represented the gulf between them. It was a much more Children of Men than Mad Max. I dug that.
In the end, we were dealing with corporate operatives and secret tapes from the distant past. Crooked hand-offs and double-crosses turned into a chance at salvation for our intrepid protagonists, who all drove off with a mysterious… benefactor? Well, all save one: the eerily immaculate Battlebabe was left behind. Left for dead.
Ah, yes! Our Skinner drove a classic Prius that managed to escape a speedy future-Lexus and survive a glancing blow with a big, honking semi-tractor. The back end was smashed, the hatchback ripped away, and the body was riddled with small-arms fire. Yet still it drove.
Cam Banks (@boymonster) said: “There was definitely a feeling of the game being a gestalt between ‘intended play’ and ‘what MC brings to table.’” and: “I also recall us wondering occasionally which Move to use, which was perhaps us living in legacy thinking.”
Truth is, I MC’d Apocalypse World very close to how I GM other games. I fear I may have not been the MC that the book tries to train or that the designer had in mind. So it goes. Everyone seemed to have a great time, even if I was off course. This either means, to me, that Apocalypse World’s meant to run the way I’ve been running games anyway or that it fights against other play styles much less than I’ve been told.
For sure, finding the right moves for traditional RPG-style hostility was sometimes tricky. The difference between Go Aggro and Seize by Force threw us a bit, but I think they’re fine moves for defining the kind of action that the game wants to promote. As Cam says, legacy thinking.
I love the Reading moves and the specific questions they put into play.
This was great to hear. I don’t think the MC moves are any bold new thing. They’re an old technique quantified in a new way. That’s cool. “Tell them the possible consequences and ask” is a move I’ve been using as the basis for my GMing style for eons. It continues to work out great in Apocalypse World.
What really struck me, at the end of all that, was how much this game played like a lot of other games. The mechanics were new—I like the explicit lists of established moves and I love the character creation process—yet the play seemed familiar. I had a great time.