I've been running AW for a few weeks at home (Dublin) with some DW one-shots but this weekend I had an opportunity to go to a Con in Northern Ireland, Q-Con, which is big (c1000 people) by Irish standards but mainly manga/anime types rather than gamers. I was disappointed to see no story games on the menu, with perhaps some FATE being the closest? Anyway I knew I'd get a chance to hook up with some old friends based in Belfast at the con and brought Ghost/Echo and AW in the hope that we'd get to play. Our only chance was to be a single afternoon slot but my morning event over-ran and their lunch took longer than expected. They have not played much story games and I was nervous that the group was too big (6) having seen comments here. Anyway they seemed so-so about getting started and we chatted/played a quick board-game. One guy, who I knew would rock, was quite positive. With a mere 2 hours left I noticed that our group had split in 2 (due to boardgames) and suggested we (3+me) have a taste of AW, even though we'd only get the setup done - it went well!
I used the "who's in charge?" line and offered the Hocus or Hardholder. The enthusiastic player took the Hocus (Jackal). The other 2 were a Gunlugger (Chaplain) and a Driver (Mustang). I did a better job of asking questions during (as opposed to after) char gen and we pretty soon had an idea of an old church on a hill where Jackal's cult of frenzied kids hung out surrounded by makeshift tin shacks ruled over by Primm the local hardholder. Chaplain was Primm and Jackal's protector, prone to anger and pretty burned up in a recent raid by a scavenging bike gang who were chasing Mustang's old banged up Humm-Vee into town. Chaplain had saved Mustang's life by recognizing that he was not part of the scavanger threat and beating off their attacks (while his face got burned in the fight). Mustang had gravitated to the Jackal's cult as the up and coming source of power in the settlement. Pretty much all the kids in the place reported to Jackal who wore a dog mask that concealed his own young years. Some dirt farming was what kept the settlement going but there were nearby ruins of a city that supported some scavenging... but it was apparently unsafe especially at night and Primm didn't like his people going there.
Most of that came from char gen, Hx questions and the players building on what the character sheets gave them. Oh, and the Jackal saw fear deep in Chaplain's heart.
Then we started to wander around following the PCs, I used the Jackal's fortunes move to kick things off and he hit a 10+ so I described a scene in the church where relations with Primm had been good, everyone was fed and the ecstatic chanting had led the Jackal into the maelstrom (augury) - he saw ink swirling in water and I added tentacles writhing through it and one attached itself to him - he got an instant connection to Sun, another person somehow connected to the maelstrom, plus the idea that Sun was both nearby and in danger. Unusually, this connection could be maintained fairly easily. And we were off! :-)
Had fun collecting Chaplain, "negotiating" with Primm for fuel, driving to the city ruins, dealing with the Jackal's constant attempts to open his brain to locate Sun, a couple of other teenage cult members (Look, Shazza) tagging along. The city was quiet ... without an discernible animal life. Eventually they secured a perimeter with an easy escape route and Jackal went into a building to meditate and open his brain again. It took a while but he had an impression that Sun was nearby and under-ground. However Chaplain got bored waiting and went off scavenging as that had been part of the deal with Primm for the fuel. He found a tasty locked safe in a ruined pharmacy but he also found trouble - he thought maybe 6 guys had followed him in and were surrounding it, ready to pounce. He used his F this shit move to find an escape route through a shattered wall into the next building, got out of the room and turned back to observe, while training his FO big gun on the room. Sure enough 6 guys kicked down the doors and tried to get the jump on Chaplin. At this point he revealed that his big gun was an M60 MG! We were all impressed. He sprayed to room. I said 4 guys went down (inflict harm), 2 were running out the doors etc he tried to follow up and missed the roll I then created a 7th guy behind him with a loaded pistol pointed held to his neck (put in a spot, maybe too harsh?). Chaplain wrestled the gun (seize by force) and shot the scavenger in the face but took a glancing round and missed noticing something important. As he backed away from the scene he fell into an open manhole cover.... The End
Wow - great use of 2 hours! Everyone had fun and I found it even easier to run than my Dublin crew (a lot less complex setup since not a campaign).
The key advice from story games before this game:
* Have a leader/gang setup
* Keep numbers of NPCs small
* Come to game with a strong agenda (actually I had an idea for tentacles + dogs...but a different one. It wasn't necessary as the players were great)
One other important thing I think, especially for people used to trad RPGs:
* Be ready to help with strategies to deal with players being unable to answers questions so that game does not begin to stall eg have your own suggestions, ask the other players, ask a different question, switch players for a moment to give them time to think about it.
I think they'll be running their own AW campaign soon. Job done.