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.
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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.