Humpocalypse Day: Session 2

My big to-dos for the second session were:

1) Integrate two new players, and
2) Start using my prep.

Atop our starting set of driver, chopper and battlebabe, our new players chose a savvyhead and a brainer. What an impact! Driver and chopper are quite conventional choices, which is great because it’s a very gentle on-ramp to start playing straight away. Everyone “gets” PA bike gangs and badass drivers. The battlebabe isn’t that far off-piste, mostly a showy, cinematic killer.

Adding the savvyhead upped the weirdness quotient a good bit, what with augury and the workshop and all that. Augury is very weird (not capital-W Weird but it’s also that) and just having that move looming in the background started shifting my headspace about the game toward a more uh supernatural vibe.

Oh but the brainer, good lord. Probably, In My Humble Opinion, the most distinctive wtf playbook in the whole basic set. I have no idea where the idea for the playbook even came from, I can’t track it back to my own literary/cinema database, but whatever. It’s very sci-fi, right? And sexy-kinky in a way nobody else really is. The battlebabe is empty eye candy but the brainer, well. Our player is also playing her in a very spacy weird way, which is awesome. Naturally her character knocked boots with an NPC to trigger the deep brain scan effect.

The Hx questions worked okay, not great, although everyone did pretty much get into everyone else’s business. Almost everyone has the “everyone else at the table” type effects, which helped. I think it’ll be no problem at all going forward.

Five players is…a lot of players. It feels extra-heavy because Apocalypse World is so action-heavy aaaaand there’s no formal spotlight-sharing procedure in place, ie an “initiative” system or whatever. It’s pure MC management, which is fine, even good since it’s more flexible for shaping interesting outtakes. But it’s easy to leave some players behind if they’re not shoehorning themselves into scenes. I think I did okay but first session’s players definitely got less spotlight time than our luxurious 3-player 5ish-hour start to the game last week. It’s fine, I’m back into one-shotty mode.

We changed around highlighted stats of course. First session, everyone did what they’re best at and leveled fast (a couple advances each IIRC). This session, I started picking not-quite-as-good stats. Some players took to this prompt really well — the battlebabe stopped relying on being cool and started socially hustling — while others felt dis-incented to roll anything other than their best stats. It’s a Thing about AW and not everyone loves it. Some minor grousing/wishing for DW’s XP-on-a-miss system, which is probably the most elegant and straightforward one out there. But I really did like seeing them roll for stuff other than their go-to moves.

My prep mostly worked fine, although I forgot to set up clocks and countdowns for the big/interesting crypto-Fronts. I think that’s actually okay for the second session, now that we have our full player load and everyone’s on-board with the setup and situation. But yeah, warlords warlorded, brutes were brutish, and the landscape…well, that was pretty spectacular.

There was a moment of play where the driver, chopper and battlebabe were all arguing at/past each other about the battlebabe’s scheme/mission. It was pretty great! They grabbed their dice and worked out their moves exactly right while I ran to the kitchen to refill my hydroflask. And when I came back, the driver rolled a miss while trying to hinder the battlebabe’s manipulate, which also missed.

So I took the first miss and introduced the unmistakable smell of an unkempt forest burning. And I took the second miss and put the fire right next to the most prized possession of this holding: a dozen filled fuel tankers.

In retrospect I could have maybe started two threads of badness and counted on future misses to get them both rolling. It felt a teeny bit cheaty to one-two punch with the back-to-back misses; there was, in my head, a teeny bit of retconning that the three-way argument had continued despite the whiff of smoke, and instantly fell apart when they saw flames licking at several thousand gallons of the most valuable substance in the southern Rockies.

Whatever, crosshairs, no status quos, let’s turn everything upside-down.

The characters lost their home base, saved the tankers (although who fuckin’ knows where they’re gonna end up, definitely not all where they’re supposed to!), and started a mass migration right into the home of their frenemies The Patriots (‘Murica! Fuck yeah!). I’m sure the half-dozen organized biker gangs will happily submit to the Patriots’ strict chain of command and hand over their tankers.


0 thoughts on “Humpocalypse Day: Session 2”

  1. Ha! Love it. The last time I ran AW I did something similar. Players: Our holding is mobile and we’ve got this big tanker that holds fuel for our vehicles. FAIL: Raiders! FAIL: Firefight breaks out! FAIL: TANKER EXPLOSION! What now?

  2. I am continuously astounded that my hottest PbtA take is that, outside of game specific things, stat highlighting is the best XP mechanic and it’s abandonment in favour of XP on a miss is the single greatest travesty to befall this system.

  3. I also love highlighting stats, but I am a big fan of playing perversely. The one time I actually played (rather than MCed) AW, there was little I enjoyed more than having my shit stats highlighted.

    “Hard and Weird? But I’m a Battlebabe! Well, OK, I guess it’s time to get my head beaten in and see what the Maelstrom holds for me.”

    I also liked using it in Monsterhearts to encourage my mostly-30something players to remember what it’s like to be teenagers, and just wake up thinking you’re awesome at something, only to be reminded that no, you are not. Or to expect you’ll be terrible at something and discover a hidden talent!

  4. I also got burned pretty badly by people XP farming in a Dungeon World campaign, which is a totally legit way to play (I mean, I literally just said that’s what I did in AW), but when your Fighter refuses to Hack & Slash because you want to roll something you know you’re going to fail, it gets tiresome quickly. Especially since the pressure is always on the MC to make failures interesting.

  5. I’m facing some…perverse play right now with our battlebabe, truth be told. Took the playbook for the stats and the battlebabe magic, immediately started shopping all the other playbooks for stat-optimal moves. He’s frustrated, I think, by the various tight constraints of the game and just wants what he wants. We’ll see what happens. He can only get…a couple, maybe, off-book moves.

  6. I have been summoned and shall now barf-forth apocritiquita.

    Highlighting stats would be a great XP mechanic in a game where there was a more reliable “roll to do stuff” move like in Uncharted Worlds

    Where it fails in AW (1e at least) is that the moves aren’t general purpose “do stuff” moves. They are extremely situation/response specific.

    Which means if you have play where the right thing to do (for the player/the character/the fiction) is not covered by a move, the GM just fiats it based on the principles.

    This is also a fine mechanic except it clashes with the XP rule.

    You may have Hot highlighted and you may be doing a ton of Hot related stuff, but if it all gets resolved by Fiat, no XP is awarded. You only get XP for doing Hot stuff if the Hot stuff fits the narrow box of what specific thing triggers a move. Then you get to roll Hot and Mark XP.

    This sucked for almost every player in every game I’ve played because it means either the whole “just say what you do and if you do it do it” thing breaks, and some players got no XP (because all their stuff was resolved by Fiat) while other players got a ton (because all their stuff was resolved by roll); or you spend the entire session playing the AW equivalent of a Worker Placement Board Game — just waiting for the opportunity to play your narration worker on the appropriate move action space.

    So either XP needs to be awarded for doing Hot stuff regardless of whether a roll was triggered, or AW needs a different XP system and the cool highlight method needs to be saved for PbtA games where everything you do triggers a roll of some kind.

    Is that screamy enough, or should I have used more CAPS?

  7. Daniel Lofton you mean you’ve never had some players make a bunch of rolls and mark a bunch of XP while others didn’t? Or you mean that happened but your players didn’t care?

  8. The latter, maybe. I’m also not sure we’ve ever run into the case where
    someone wanted to do something and no move applied. I mean, the Basic Moves
    are pretty general (for given Apocalyptic action whatsits) yeah?

  9. Ahh, okay sure, I can kind of see what you’re getting at. Like, the GM MC creates situations where maybe your highlighted stats won’t matter because nothing in that scene will trigger their XP-generating moves. Accurate?

  10. I get that in theory, but I’ve never seen it in play. Seems like as MC, once stats are highlighted, your “be a fan” principle ought to lead you to creating situations for the moves connected to the highlighted stats to trigger.

  11. Paul Beakley​​​ it can be that, but also…Hmmm…ok, say I’m a Battle Babe and you marked my Hot instead of Cool this time.

    We’re in this situation where I’m trying to provide a distraction so others can sneak past or whatever. So ordinarily I’d stride all in all bad ass and draw some hostility so I can act under fire or whatever…but you wanted to see me Hot, so ok…I’ll deliver.

    So I do this whole slinky “hey babe” routine…it’s not a seduction or manipulation…the trigger for that is “tell them what you want” (like an overt negotiation) and I’m not about to say “hey I want you to ogle me while my friends sneak past.”

    Without intentionally forcing some questionable thing just to have a roll, there’s no move here. So you judge that these bozos are likely to be into me and that I sold sleazy-and-maybe-interested pretty well, so you say “sure, the team manages to slip past while they’re all jostling for your attention” and then you cut to the team and I just Hotted my ass off for no XP.

    I know some groups play fast and loose with the rolls, doing things like make Act Under Fire a generic derring-do roll and the like, but as you know, the moves aren’t really supposed to work that way.

    When the move simply doesn’t apply, the MC adjudicates and play continues…no roll…no XP.

  12. Sure, thanks for that clarification. I think I’ve got what you’re saying!

    I don’t specifically disagree but I think a couple real-world things (can) ameliorate that effect:

    * You’re not really voting for Hot, you’re voting for Hot mooooves. It’s very meta, very authorial. Not sure any player who understands the advancement is really thinking “okay they want to see me be generally hot.” But maybe, baby.

    * I feel like maybe you’re discounting the incentive to the player to engage in fictional-positioning authorship type stuff. Like…nudging the fiction toward the moves that’ll pay. Your battlebabe player who wiggles his ass at the guards is playing poorly if he wants to chase XPs. Battlebabes are all about in-your-face engagement, which is why they’re good at seduce/manipulate and fucking great at go aggro once they take the must-have Ice Cold move. Which I guess gets back to bullet #1, which is that highlight hot doesn’t mean “be hot,” it means “make hot moves.”

    Although I’ll also totally cop to, even last night, my players (at least) shorthanding all that. Someone highlighted the battlebabe’s Sharp because they wanted to see him be smart and not just sexy. Which, yeah, strongly implies the thing you’re talking about but really it’s more meta, more “please make some Read A … moves and put that shit to use.” Which is maybe distastefully meta! I know it is for maybe…two of my players.

    Again, not specifically disagreeing with anything at all that you’ve said. Just ruminating.

    Actually I think I do kind of disagree with the general thread of “gm fiat” running through your critique. I totally get that that’s some ugly-bad stuff in trad play, but practical MCing is so off-the-cuff and improvisational! And if you’re actually for-reals “playing to find out” and trying very fucking hard to be principled about your prep and the fiction, is that reeeeeally “fiat?” Really? Fiat to my mind has a very heavy “because I said so” feeling of arbitrariness and maybe abuse of trust to it. Which to my mind mischaracterizes the role. But I may be reading my own biases about that term into what you’re saying.

  13. I think the MC adage in 2e to ‘push for (player) moves’ as a threat drive is a very real indicator for the MC to be aware of what Stats are highlighted and endeavour to frame scenes or triangles that encourage those narrative triggers for those highlighted stats. The cheat sheet which lists moves by stat re-inforces this (for me) as MC.

    Also, I maybe remembering oldskool, but I think the replacement stat moves are optional depending on how that narrate the trigger in the fiction? Like the Battlebabe can have Ice Cold, but choose to roll with Hard on Go Aggro by being all nasty and up in an NPCs face like a Gunlugger just because Hot is highlighted on their sheet?

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