The Clicking of Apocalypse World

Context: The game I am currently running most regularly is Apocalypse World. It’s been going on for a year and a half or so, and has turned out to be one of the longest campaigns session-wise I’ve ever run. It was good the first couple of sessions, and then it’s been great ever since, but the last couple of sessions the game finally truly “clicked”, in a way that no other roleplaying game I’ve played has done. I’d recommend anyone to give the book a read, the first edition PDF is actually free.

I realized about half a year back that what gives AW great potential for a long-running campaign, lies in the various moves that you end up creating as an MC, and in the advanced basic moves. Some change things only a little; hitting the 12+ when acting under fire is much the same as 10+, just, well, cooler. Hitting it on Seize by Force or Go Aggro simply rocks, it’s pure power. But there are also the rest:

Hitting 12+ on Seduce or Manipulate changes the world forever, slight: The NPCs who are usually considered threats merely by existing, are turned permanently into Allies, who follow various impulses, but always beneficial to you. This one is interesting because it gives you, the MC, the opportunity to be NICE for a change. Suddenly an NPC can actually care about what the player character feels, without it being destructive and hurtful. Suddenly Lamprey can actually do a pretty good job running the bar while Chief is off, doing other work.

Hitting a 12+ on read a sitch or person, this is where things get real. Now the players are no longer limited to the lists provided by the moves, but can ask any damn question they want. I don’t really get the note in the book stating that the players will usually still end up asking questions from the list, at least that’s not what my players end up doing at all. Instead, they keep asking stuff like “Why do you feel this way?`”, “where is Monk?” and even “who killed my father?”. The players get to pinpoint exactly what they want to know, instead of it being wishy-washy MC-gets-to-interpret-stuff.

Most of these were hit about half a year back. But somehow, we had played the game for this long, but we still had yet to hit the weird 12´+. A few sessions back, however, we did. And it was AWESOME.

When a player hits 12+ on an advanced open your brain (to the world’s psychic maelstrom), instead of getting some kind of information from the MC, you see through the psychic maelstrom – no information on what this really means.

So, it had been established pretty early on that when you open your brain, you really do it to get some kind of connection to the emotions of other people. So, through the campaign we’ve had lots of “I open my brain to him” rolls, where I would then give an impression, or good detail, of how some person felt – sometimes other people, sometimes emotions connected to a place, stuff like that.

This time, however, Oxtober the Skinner was opening her brain to Wei, the Touchstone (and ex-Angel), hitting it on a 12+. Suddenly I had to take a little time to figure out what to do, and ended up deciding that you she didn’t just get an impression of Wei’s emotions, but actually got to experience what it was like to BE Wei, actually experiencing a memory as if she was him. Another 12+ hit was on Barbarossa, a psychic wolf warlord slaver, and I got to tell Oxtober that she experienced the wolf being fused with a human, and the pain of going through that experience. Suddenly, it was possible to connect with NPCs in a whole new way, after being separated from them mentally for so long.

And this is just ONE way this could have gone. The advanced moves give a lot of potential, but it’s also more than that – they essentially allow the characters to break how the game usually works, bending the world in their own way. I love it.

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