Apocalypse: Emergence - a different way to play Apocalypse World

edited November 2012 in Story Games
I was very surprised to learn a while back that Vincent Baker was not familiar with the game Fallout.

I'm not familiar with it either, but my friends used to play it, and I liked the image of the poor optimistic fool climbing out of the Vault to face a world nothing like what he expected. In my first Apocalypse World game, I played the Quarantine, and I had no idea what I was about to encounter. Wouldn't it be cool if Apocalypse World were like that? Wouldn't it be fun if we could ALL play the Quarantine?

So I made this thing. I call it "Apocalypse: Emergence". The blurb describes it as well as I can:
Apocalypse: Emergence is a simple hack of Vincent Baker's Apocalypse World. It's half a scenario of sorts and half a group playbook you all share.

The player characters are people emerging from a Vault and exploring the post-apocalyptic world for the first time. They have lived their entire lives underground, shut off from the outside world, fretting about what was happening on the Outside. One day, the Vault opens and they taste the wind and see the open sky for the first time. Having absolutely no information about how the world has changed, they're unequipped and unprepared to deal with what they are bound to encounter. What will they discover when the door of their Vault opens? What new world awaits their sheltered eyes and unguarded brains? How will their confrontation with what's out there transform their relationships to each other?

Apocalypse: Emergence is an ideal way for an experienced MC to introduce new players to Apocalypse World. The players do not need to be familiar with the rules or content of Apocalypse World, and can just jump in and learn, one step at a time, alongside their characters.
It's free.

Please take a look, have a read, try in play, and let me know what you think.

Apocalypse: Emergence (PDF)

Thank you for reading! And thanks to Vincent, of course, for a great game.


  • looks cool :)
    Also serves as a slow intro to apoc world. which is always good.
  • Paul, this is amazing. I'm really looking forward to introducing a group to AW this way - and I think it really helps hit that Fallout vibe of starting small and getting more and more epic.
  • That is very cool!
  • This is a very cool idea- it reminds me a bit of the Villager playbook idea that Jason and Marshall worked up for Dungeon World. Both are great ways to intro people to the setting and differentiate themselves based on the emerging story.
  • This is gorram beautiful. Great work! This seems like an interesting form of new playbooks for AW, akin to Tremulus's town creation, to give a more structured intro to the world, and for player's to have input/buy-in. I especially like the extra motivations as a hook for plot, and objects as symbolic representations of core themes.
  • A Fallout hack for Apocalypse World? Somehow I didn't see that coming... Anyways, nice work man! I like the idea a lot.
  • Thanks for the feedback so far!

    I just realized it needs one more thing:

    It needs a good special (sex move). But I'm not sure what it should be. Anyone have any ideas? Something juicy would be a nice touch, I think.
  • Hey, very cool idea. I've not had much experience as an MC or tried AW yet but this seems like a good opportunity to do both!

    Regarding sex moves, a quick thought - maybe there should be differences based on whether they have sex with someone else from the vault or from the outside world. Like, they have sex with another vault-dweller, they can ask the MC a question about their past life; but if they have sex with someone from the outside world, the MC shows them a vision of their future instead? Obviously if two vaultees have sex that's an opportunity to reveal something big about the vault. ("Turns out that water chip wasn't broken, after all... we should totally go back and get it!") The idea needs work, but what do you think?
  • Another suggestion: When you have sex with someone from the vault, pick one:
    - you find a untarnished remnant of the world your elders promised you would be out here
    - you can ask the person you had sex with how contact with the outside world has really changed them.
  • Linkie no work. :-(
  • edited October 2012
    When you have sex with someone not from the vault, select a move from a non-vault playbook that reminds you of the person you had sex with. You may use that move once, just like they showed you.
  • Try again, Matt! It should work. If it doesn't, I can send you a copy. (But I should probably figure out the sex move first.)

    For now all I have is similar to what you guys are coming up with:
    When you and another character have sex, pick one:
    - You mark experience
    - You don't open your brain to the psychic maelstrom while in the throes of passion
    Afterwards, write a new Bond with this character.
    I also like Steve's idea. Hmmm.
  • When you sleep with someone from outside the vault, choose one:
    - you realise they know a secret about the world that was
    - you Open their Mind to the Psychic Maelstrom and share their vision
    - you choose a move from their playbook and use it once (I really like that one, Rob!)
  • edited October 2012
    Ooh, yes. Thanks, Rob and Steve. That's heading in a direction I like!

    Edit: Wait. NPCs don't really *have* playbooks. So what do you do there? Pick the one that seems the closest? Like, what if you slept with a street urchin... what move would you be able to use?
  • When you live in a safe place with people you know well and trust, intimacy is not a scarcity. No special moves for you. Sex will mean something once the world has a chance to work you over for a bit.
  • Christopher,

    That's also an interesting option! That's kind of how it works right now (since no Special is mentioned in my text), I suppose.
  • edited October 2012
    Good point, Paul. I looked at Rob's phrasing again:
    ... select a move from a non-vault playbook that reminds you of the person you had sex with. You may use that move once, just like they showed you.
    This is a bit of a stretch, but what if the person you slept with tells you about a person of legend (The Gunlugger; The Brainer) and you can try out that move, based on the story they told you?
  • edited November 2012
    And one final idea (that I had on my bike ride home):

    When you have sex with someone from outside the vault and you tell a vault-dweller about it, the vault-dweller you tell (a) changes their bond with you / takes -1 Hx and (b) takes +1 forward (representing their new understanding of the outside world).

    EDITED TO ADD: It just struck me that a good question to ask is 'What do you want the sex moves to achieve?' For instance most of my suggestions have been about exploring the differences between the people from the vault and from outside it, or digging out more details about the world they expected to find. I'm curious about what fictional effect you'd like the moves to encourage.
  • When you have sex with a "regular" PC, you take their special move as your own until you have sex with someone else or get a special move of your own.
  • Oh, man.

    Now you guys are tempting me to make the sex move... THE way to gain a playbook. Like, you have to find someone whose qualities you admire and sleep with them and then you gradually get to steal their moves and become a playbook character.

    But that's probably not a very good idea...
  • This is really cool, Paul! I was a fan of the concept behind the Morrow Project and then there was 1984 Prime from 1km1kt that I also really liked. This has that same kind of vibe. The 1984 prime characters could be the people in this game.
  • Sex, with or without moves, should be half dare, half invitation. Forcing it on players would be a mistake.
  • Agreed. And well put!
  • To those reading along:

    I've never seen the Villager playbook (but would love to get my hands on it, although right now there's no way to do that).

    How does my version differ from that set of rules? Is it somewhat parallel, or a different approach?
  • Ok, so here's my most recent draft. It combines many of the ideas that I liked from above, but, in the process, might be just too involved. What do you think?

    When your character has sex with another Vault-dweller, you both open up in a way you were never able to in the Vault. Ask them any one question about what they've experienced or how they have changed since emerging from the Vault. They must answer honestly and directly. Of course, they may ask you a question just the same, which you must answer in turn.

    Afterwards, write a new Bond with that character.

    When your character has sex with someone from the Outside, you get an insight into the new world and how it works. Ask them one question about the history of the world as they know it. They will tell you a tale, as best they're able.

    The MC will choose one move (from any playbook) which reflects your understanding of their tale. You may use this move, just once. (MC: If the player has a good idea for what the move should be, go with that.)

    In either case, ask yourself:

    Do you give yourself fully, passionately, without restraint? If you do, you lose control: in the throes of passion, you open your brain to the psychic maelstrom.

    Or do you control yourself, hold back, all dispassionate and distant? If so, cool, but your lover sure feels it, clear as day.
  • I like it. I feel like it gets at Vincent's thing about how game designs should make a statement about game design and a statement about humanity.

  • edited November 2012
    Cool. I've thought about it a bit more, and updated the whole document. Here's a new, revised and proofread version of the whole thing:

    Apocalypse: Emergence (PDF)

    (I've updated the link in the original post to reflect this new document as well.)

    Your comments and advice have been really helpful, and I think almost all are reflected in the latest version.

    The new Special is pretty involved (it takes a whole page, given the large font size), but I think it says some interesting things. (Having to say whether your character is passionate or distant with their lover, in particular, is great grist for the mill for the MC.)

    Marshall (mease19) suggested a great simplified version of the move, but I'd like to see the full move in action first.

    If someone gets a chance to try this, please post here and let us know!
  • Here's one more update, mostly just to change the font to an AW-appropriate one, plus a cryptic note to the MC for inspiration at the end...

    If you like this, grab the latest version here:

    Apocalypse: Emergence (PDF)

    (I've updated the link in the original post to reflect this new document as well.)
  • A little add-on:

    How do these people react to you?

    1. ...with hope or veneration. They’re in awe, they worship you, they consider you a sign of a great future, they consider you a holy sacrifice.
    2. ..with desperation or helplessness. They need you for protection, transportation, food & supplies, or medicine. Without your help, they’re doomed.
    3. ...with envy. They want your looks, your health, your belongings, or the information you may have.
    4. ...with fear and/or ignorance. They want to experiment on you, chase you away, or send you somewhere they think you’ll never come back from.
    5. ...with ambition. They see you as an opportunity. They want to use you as bait, or as bargaining value, with whoever they fear.
    6. ...with suspicion. They want to disarm you, probe you, drug you, interrogate you, cut you open. Combine with another type!
  • I'm curious: has anyone played this hack since I put it online?

    I've seen a lot of people talk about it, here, on barf forth, and other places.

    If so, how did it go?
  • Thanks, BeePeeGee!
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