[Apocalypse World] – Evil Bus City. Oh, and some questions.

edited September 2011 in Story Games
I just started my first Apocalypse World campaign (I was never an early adopter of new technologies). Our first session was great! Here are some things that I loved:

The group came up with an amazing setting – the action centers around a hardhold that is actually a giant predatory bus. Or, rather a bus and an RV and three shortbuses, all chained and bolted together. They go back and forth along a long route in what used to be Canada, pillaging and exacting tribute, but the pissant little holds along the way put up with it, because the bus (named “The 20” for its former route number) bring goods and skills and news. Also, one of the PCs is a polygamist lady-chopper, whose biker gang consists of her 15 husbands, called “The Family”.

This is 100% not what I was hoping/planning for, so I love it extra.

The second really great thing was how fucked-up the PCs turned out to be. We have a hardholder, chopper and brainer, and they are some black-nailed bastards. The hardholder keeps his citizens (the “ticket holders”) in line with an iron fist, the brainer is a amoral gender-bender with a violent streak and the chopper killed one of the hardholder's gang just to prove a point.

It’s tricky to keep them from spinning out of control into cartoonish villainy, but I think the players kept it tight. The characters weren’t nice people at all, but they also seemed like the sort of people who could survive and thrive in a messed-up place.

In play, I was constantly shocked by their actions.

# # #

The session went pretty smoothly, and I felt good about our interactions with the rules, but I’d love to hear what the AW experts here think.

1. Mrs. Jenkins, the chopper PC, was in a village, attempting to get the dirt on whether or not they were threats, or had useful skills, so I had her “Read A Person” (she was talking to the leader). She failed, so my move was to have Kettle, an NPC, shoot a village child. Kettle was a member of the hardholder’s gang, which is disciplined, but also savage, and he was tasked with searching the villagers tents. The kid was trying to hang onto some valuable goods.

Was my move too hard? Should I have set it up first? Or did that follow pretty logically from what we knew about Kettle?

2. Following that, Mrs. Jenkins surprised me by bringing her machete down onto Kettle’s NPC head. I had her roll Seizing By Force. From reading the AW forums, it seems like “fighting” is a tricky subject, and that felt sort-of-but-not-quite right. Would it have made more sense to just have her do it, no move?

3. The PCs decided that the bus runs on fusion power, so it’s only fuel is water. At the time, I didn’t even pick up on that being a problem, but in retrospect, it sucks, because that eliminates a good reason to fuck with them (ie – a pirate bus city needs a lot of fuel). The players would be fine if I just apologized, and retconned the fusion reactor. But I feel like maybe that is contrary to the spirit of AW. Should I just wait and mess it up with some MC moves (announce that it’s acting weird as Future Badness, and then have it blow up as Taking Their Stuff)?

I’m happy with whatever works in the game, and everything did, but I like to make sure I’m not missing important stuff with a new game.


  • edited September 2011
    1. Sounds OK to me
    2. Either way is probably OK.
    3. Wait, you mean there's a chance they'll have to choose between drinking water and using it as fuel? Sounds like fun! What if one of the kids gets thirsty and drinks the last of the water? How much barter does it take to purchase 200 gallons of water to fill the tank when it runs dry? What do you mean it gets cold in Canada in the winter - you mean we need fuel (that we don't have) to keep generator (that we don't have) running so that the water stays liquid?!?
  • That fusion generator is also a real hangar queen, I hear. Where's a spare Tokamak monopole when you need one? You gonna make that out of baling wire and good intentions? Ever seen what happens when you neglect a failing monopole? Right, it fails, like "hey, I just created an ionizing radiation carnival by mistake" fails.
  • edited September 2011
    1. What was your move? Hard to make much of it without more context.

    2. Yeah, either way is cool. Sounds like she just wanted to straight-up murder the dude, so it's not really Go Aggro. Seize (if Kettle or someone else is liable to put up a good fight) or it just happens.

    3. In my AW-in-space game, I've found that hand-wavy tech is typically not very fun because it's hard to engage with both as players and MC. If something breaks, it's often hard to describe how it's broken and how it could be fixed. That said, impossible tech is cool as long as you draw a diagram of it and list a bunch of the major parts and show which pieces are liable to get busted or need regular replacements. So, basically, the answer to impossible tech is "make maps (i.e. schematics, in this case) like crazy." They give you the fictional context for moves and decisions to make sense. EDIT: Yeah, sketchy schematics let you do what Jason is suggesting, but add a layer of honesty and prep.
  • edited September 2011
    1. Not too hard. Sounds like you were putting Mrs. Jenkins in a spot. A fine move.

    2. My first session, I'd have done what you did. My second session I'd have made it going aggro. Now, I'd just be looking at Kettle through crosshairs. Fuck him!

    3. I'd be inclined to not retcon it away and not particularly fuck with them on maintaining it. It's a magical artifact and part of the setting. But there might be people (or y'know -- the aliens who made it) looking for it. Or looking to take it away.
  • Also, there's no reason not to make schematics the job of the hardholder. Homework for everyone!
  • Posted By: J. Walton1. What was your move? Hard to make much of it without more context.
    Looks like it was a simple "Inflict harm (as established)" with a ganger killing a kid.
    2. Yeah, either way is cool. Sounds like she just wanted to straight-up murder the dude, so it's not really Go Aggro. Seize (if Kettle or someone else is liable to put up a good fight) or it just happens.
    That's just another "Inflict harm (as established)" move... Understanding Basic Moves - Reply #11

    Sounds like it's going to be an interesting ride on the bus!
  • Thanks, all! This is good feedback.

    Although now I feel foolish. Of course a fusion reactor is a bigger problem waiting to happen than running out of gas. Derr.
  • This game looks awesome! You should keep posting about it.

    Every time I read about someone else's AW world, mine feels a little mundane in comparison. But my game got pretty weird (thanks to rolling+weird all the time), and the maelstrom ended up being sort of a barrier between the "real world" and some fucked-up otherworld. You could physically disappear into the maelstrom and pop out somewhere else. A wicked motherfucker named Rothschild had a temple in the wasteland that he used to "sacrifice" people by pitching them over to the other side of the maelstrom. The maelstrom, it turned out, did not like this. It was trying to protect the world! I thought that was neat. 100% not my idea.

    Anyway, I digress. Keep it coming!
  • Hi All,

    I'm the Chopper, Mrs. Jenkins, in this game. I somehow missed the part where we decided on a fusion reactor versus a "regular" old fission reactor for this. Certainly either could cause problems, but I guess I like the highly-improbable story of an old Soviet-era sub (according to Wikipedia, the Soviet ones are extra accident-prone... bonus!) being dismantled and cannibalized to power this city-on-wheels rather than an impossible story of a technology that doesn't exist. (Disclaimer: I know almost nothing about the technical aspects of any of this.) Also, I'm now picturing some parts of the submarine still being part of the bus-thing, which just seems cool.

    All of that said, the best reason to allow a retcon is that the whole nuclear-bus idea was me saying "dude, the bus should be nuclear-powered, that would be sweet!" I'm not 100% sure that the Hardholder, whose bus it is, was so into the idea. It was an off-hand comment while other things where going on in the game. He should be allowed to have the kind of crazy bus city thing that he wants.

  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarYou gonna make that out of baling wire and good intentions?
    I lol'd. Thanks for that, Jason! :)

    And I concur that a water-based fuel system is chock full of neat opportunities. Also - does anyone else remember Vincent saying that gasoline evaporates super-quick IRL, so feel free to replace it with biofuel in-game?
  • Ha! I have no idea what kind of reactor it was. But now it's definitely "a nuclear reactor", and will cause crazy problems.

    Suggestions for nuclear-reactor-based custom moves welcome.
  • She up and brains him with a machete, inflict harm. He sees it coming first, she goes aggro. He's ready and armed and committed to a fight, then she seizes by force.

    Game sounds great. Man, that reactor is just so much fuckery I can't stand it.
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