RPG-a-Day, Week 1, Days 5-7

5. Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game?
Man, I pay so little attention to art, I’m a terrible person to ask. Mouseguard is pretty good, with its putting warrior mice on the box cover. Super hero games often do well too, when they show an array of heroes that you can create. (I’m thinking of the cover to Infinite Heroes, mostly.)


Though, looking at that, an actual battle would probably be truer to the game. 5e did a good job with fantasy combat on the covers, which is truth in advertising.

6. You can game every day for a week. Describe what you do.
I was contemplating exactly this situation when my wife scheduled a solo trip home. I was going to have 2 weeks of evenings. My first thought was to schedule a 4-6 episode game and meet every other day or so with like-minded people eager to get in a game before the school year began (etc.)

Three games had been on my mind prior to thinking about filling the time, so the game debates followed along directly.

Option 1 was Wrath of the Autarch. I really liked the idea of well tuned Fate based game, one that wouldn’t dissolve into a pile of invocations and victory without tension. I also really liked the broad theme (a fantasy kingdom simulator, with an empire nearby distracted to start, but once they get their act together…)

The second option was Blue Rose, maybe in a West March style game. I’d enjoyed reading about Aldis and its history, and the sense of Valedemar with the serial numbers filed off was strong enough that my bedtime reading immediately pivoted to an overdue reread.

But the system is new to me–heck, it’s new altogether, so there’s no backlog of easy stolen scenarios and materials. It’s also a more directed setting–you’re agents of the crown–so “like West March” wouldn’t really be a static map that anyone who showed up could explore. It’d be more AL/PFS style “whoever shows up is on the mission”… actually, it’d be VERY like that, basically a serialized campaign. Which would be an immense amount of prep and adjustment; packing it into a week would mean that I’d be devoted to it totally [something like wake up & begin prep, guests come over after work, we eat dinner then adventure for the evening]. Hmm… that’d be awesome, but an immense amount of work, particularly given the traditional GM/player division in workload.

As much as I love facilitating a good game, I don’t know if a week of game-work would actually be a vacation for me.

The third option was Apocalypse World: 2e. I have a setting in mind, daydreamed a bit, but without character’s to respond to, that’s about the end of the prep. Still, presuming an excited group, I could definitely see getting together each night and seeing how they change the world. Hopefully the prep burden would be much less than the Blue Rose idea above, but I suspect that nightly games would shortchange my subconsciousness’s ability to weave coherence out of apparently the “random” action of the heroes. Fronts would likely be more direct, instead of weird and inspired, on that quick a time table.

7. What was your most impactful RPG session?
There are a number of them; for me as a GM, it was probably the feedback to the first session I ran for group of players I met in college. (Mike, Pat, and Rob.) For our rotating GMs D&D game, I’d created a bog-standard D&D adventure hook. As players, they gamely accepted it, and we had a pretty straight-forward adventure. It was also obvious that they were going on the adventure because it’s what was on offer–but that it didn’t fit their characters’ motivations half as well as the quests and experiences to date. That was a lightbulb moment… what, you have to think about the characters and WHY they’d risk life and limb?

An excellent teaching moment, particularly as they didn’t shut down the game to shit on my failure to engage their characters.

Apocalypse World: Inspiration

Last night and this morning, I was seized by a setting for AW, a setting that excites me. It’s a very specific vision at its core, but with lots of easy messing.

The core is the Central Valley, post disaster. Like normal AW, we’ll play to discover what happened, etc. But some elements will be stable, part of the pitch.

The core idea is that it’s our topography–though minus today’s functioning dams, so we get back Tulare lake, etc. Lots of marshy areas return, but the lack of groundwater (due to current and anticipated pumping) remains, so everyone’s dependent on catchments.

The weather’s like today but worse. Winter brings back dense Tule fog everywhere, with a side of ashy grit. Spring and fall are each a seized month of bliss, before temperatures head over 100 for months. (Basically, today + humidity from the surface water, without a/c, with some climate change to add 5-10 degrees.)

Play will focus on the little towns; Fresno/Clovis and Bakersfield are gone and barren, irradiated. Hell, maybe every city with a population of 20,000+ on this list is gone–burned in the troubles. Assume that everything built post 1970s won’t work. In AW, it was built to fall apart, like fireplaces as decoration rather than useful heat sources.

Apocalypse World by Vincent Baker

This was my second read through, with over a year and exposure to several other Powered by the Apocalypse games in the meantime. It made all the difference–probably alongside seeing the new Mad Max movie and listening to discussions about how it would make an excellent AW scenario.

I want to play it now–to the point where I’m considering working on a campaign for it. I’d probably lean a little differently on my sources; it’d probably feature a lot more Canticle of Leibowitz and The Road, since I’m much more a reader than a movie goer.

Interestingly, moves of all kinds and the MC’s role came through solidly; I get, in a way I missed the first time, how the MC acts and how that results in a particular game style. The responsive nature was apparent, but this time the advice about how hard you respond, etc., really came through. (I was looking for it, of course, since it was something I’d felt that I’d lacked the first time around.)

Even Sex Moves, something I’d tittered about before, came clear on the reread. The only thing they really do is affect your history with someone–and the game makes a statement about the characters are affected. For example, the operator picks up his companion as a job to juggle; that’s very different from other playbooks that immediately leap your history (Hx) to +3… or just giving you +1 to your next roll.

A big difference in this go around, I think, was reading the characters not as classes, but as solid chunks of setting. It’s a world with characters like these, where these characters shine…