Apocalypse Tuesdays

Session 2 Prep

We got enough traction on session one that everyone is down for another session of ye olde Apocalypse World. This and future sessions require some prep, and this is where I find out that 2E is not so very olde.

The entire fronts setup is quite different in 2E! I’ve got 1E and 2E open side by side on my monitors so I can track the differences, because when I cracked open the book to doodle on stuff @ my daughter’s swim practice last week, mostly I was baffled and confused.

The differences start with the Threat Map idea, which honestly really is very much what I would call a situation map (yes yes a longer piece is coming I PROMISE): the threats are grouped geographically, which helps ground the game in literal geography (north/south/near/far etc.) and reminds me to have regionally adjunct threats influence one another. Regions entirely replace Fronts as well: just Threats attached to the Threat Map.

(NB: I think this is one reason I mentioned last post that I felt like the feeeels were missing: it’s not just the feels, it’s the overall abstraction, the … literary-ness, maybe? Fronts are purely a fictional construct to help keep theme on track, and this version gives no shits about putting its hands so directly on theme.)

So: no fronts, therefore no scarcities (and alas, no home Front: no safe space for you snowflakes). It’s all just Threats. There are more of them, and they all come with even more moves, and now I’m feeling honestly a bit overwhelmed by the huge array of potential moves available to me. I had already gotten over my early hesitation/problems/skepticism of the GM move list as being too limiting; this is the opposite problem, an embarrassment of riches, too much too much too much.

Also, literally every fuckin’ thing is a Threat. Under the Essential Threats list at the front of the Threats chapter, it’s all right there: the dirt they’re standing on, the truck they’re driving, their gang, every NPC, every local population. Every. Fuckin’. Thing. It’s great but also a bit overwhelming. I did the probably-obvious thing and picked out a fistful of Threats I felt like were probably the most uh threatening and detailed them a bit more with stakes questions.

My favorite prep question is: what kind of threat is the world’s psychic maelstrom? Really interesting! A couple PCs opened their brains on the first session, and thank goodness because now I have a tiny bit of guidance from the players. But what kind, right? Is the maelstrom an Affliction (the easy/obvious choice)? Or is it a Landscape? Potentially awesome, maybe weird given the Landscape moves that lead to Terrain threats and moves. Is the maelstrom a Grotesque? Weird! Maybe! I couldn’t wrap my head around Vehicle or Warlord as legit maelstrom Threat types but that’s probably just my limited imagination.

So, like, by the book? Prep is easier, finer grained, no authorial worries about lassoing maybe-disparate Threats under a single Front. But it’s also harder, maybe more chaotic, in actual play: way more moves, less thematic grouping other than whatever I work out in an ad-hoc way. I’ll find out tonight.

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0 thoughts on “Apocalypse Tuesdays”

  1. Hmmm, I blew off 2e because I didn’t enjoy* 1e enough to want a second copy of mostly the same thing…but perhaps I should reconsider…

    *Respect and enjoy are not synonyms.

  2. “Also, literally every fuckin’ thing is a Threat.” I think this is consistent with first edition, but maybe explained more clearly. In 1st Ed. everything is a threat (including the PCs friends and sidekicks) until you get the 10+ moves that let you change that. (If you know that already ignore this paragraph)

    I feel you on prep being easier. I haven’t tried it yet but just looking at it felt more clear. I really ought to bring this to a table again soon.

  3. That’s so interesting how you interpreted “what kind of threat is the world’s psychic maelstrom?” I was thinking of that as a general question to ponder, not as a direction to pick one of the threat categories and create it as a threat. Must go ponder . . .

  4. Jason D’Angelo had a cool post recently about how the Threat Moves are basically just Bangs. It helped me contextualize a little bit this idea that the Threat Moves are not really versatile “any time you need a hard move” moves, but are… bigger? Thinking of them as Bangs is a nice way to say “when you need more shit going on, use one of these” ala Urban Shadows’ Session Intro move.

  5. Jason D’Angelo I might be totally wrong to do so! But “threat” being a Term of Art in that very chapter, well, you can see how I got there.

    (I went with Affliction because the impulses and moves seem to map pretty readily.)

  6. Bret Gillan yeah I think you’re right. Having them on display all over a single Threat Map and not bundled up tidily under several Fronts made it feel way overwhelming though.

  7. Aaron Griffin there are no capital-t Threats. That’s just me! I went back in and looked at the file and, yeah…a threat is a threat is a threat.

    They use the term pretty loosely and uh conversationally in the opening grafs of that chapter as well. So that’s how I got to that reading.

  8. Aaron Griffin, the book is not big on capitalizing any terms of art, so I don’t think threat is ever capitalized if it is not at the beginning of a sentence.

  9. Bret Gillan I think where it felt like too much was the fact that vehicles play such a prominent role in this edition: everyone can and maybe should have one, and every one of them is a threat (insofar as they all have special threat-flavored miss outcomes, colored by the personality of the vehicle). And landscapes and terrains.

    There used to be 5 and now there are 7 kinds of threat and I can’t remember what the new ones are.

  10. Paul Beakley I hear you. I generally only categorized something as a threat once:

    a) I decided it was under a front
    b) The players were really into it

    If I could do it on the fly in play that’s fine but usually I did a post-game evaluation of stuff from the session, new NPCs or places or whatever and where they might fit into the fronts (if they fit) and what kind of threat they might be.

    Making every pebble and fart into a threat would drive me crazy.

  11. Oh, and I definitely agree with you on the Psychic Maelstrom being a mechanical threat (instead of the general use of the term). I think the same advice was in 1e and I interpreted it the same way as you, and it makes the Psychic Maelstrom way more interesting than just a thing players invoke a move for every once in a while, especially if you make it a Grotesque or something weird.

  12. I definitely read it as “pick a specific threat type for the Maelstrom,” and oh gosh, a Vehicle would be a weird and interesting Maelstrom… a haunted tank roaming the wasteland and crushing the survivors under its treads, continuing to fight the war that broke the world.

  13. Alfred Rudzki right on! And the fictional positioning that comes out of something like that. Like…how do you open your brain to it? Does it transmit something? Do you have to physically seek it out? Are there control terminals or handhelds? Zany!

  14. Aaron Griffin I’d be very tempted to go straight Lord of the Flies and this hypothetical tank is the pig’s head on a stick: you gotta go prostrate yourself before it, all dented and banged up and gore hanging off it, and hope for the best.

  15. I like the threat-focused nature of the prep in 2e. It reminds me to make as hard a move as I’d like, and constantly look through crosshairs.

    All the suggested moves are wonderful if you are at a loss, and I find the laminated cheat sheet really helpful in play, but most of the time you don’t need the cue right? The hard moves are right there when everything is a threat. If its an NPC I just have them follow their simple motivations, landscapes and vehicles just follow their impulses. The ‘form’ of the hard move will fit into a category, and you aren’t naming it anyway when you make it.

    For me it cuts out the translation of assessing the fiction mechanically – make specific hard move – describe fictional results – what do you do?

  16. Also Paul Beakley, I’ve been thinking about the ‘feels’ issue too, and despite not encountering it myself, I think you’ve hit on an epiphany with the threat paradigm.

    Scarcities are no more. Just resources to have or have not with the implied threat of such.

    I LOVE the fundamental scarcity of 1E – those verbal cues are so damn feely. They really engaged with me at an emotional level as an MC as I asked whose scarcity threatened the PC’s. Now its just a by product of the threat types.

    That said I think the ‘pushing’ advice for certain Player Moves replaces the fundamental scarcity ‘feels’, particularly with reading a sitch, reading a person and opening your brain.

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