[Apocalypse World - Red Front edition] Adobe Town and the Blood-Sick River

Started by Abkajud, September 15, 2011, 02:55:16 PM

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Just started a new campaign of Apocalypse World. Super excited about more chances to get some practice MCing!

The Cast
Biff - playing Diamond, a grinning, goateed Chopper whose gang watches over Adobe Town. He's kind of a mayor, kind of a park ranger (with the villagers as the local flora), in that he doesn't really get involved, and he's got his own thing going on (collecting steel scrap in the surrounding ruins). He's had Boo in his gang since forever; they've been through all kinds of shit.
Biff is a fellow activist; we met because his wife (a coworker of mine) introduced us, and we've been collaborating on local left-wing politics since (specifically, through a socialist organization at my school).
John - playing Rue, a badly scarred, soft-spoken Gunlugger who lives in a drainage tunnel outside town. Something happened to his face, something bad, and Boo left him to die, thinking he was already on the road to self destruction.
John is also a fellow activist; I met him and Valery (below) at a meeting on the Egyptian revolution a few months ago. Now we're both in that socialist group together.
Valery - playing Boo (the rhyme was unintentional), a gender-concealed, helpful, long-suffering Angel who's the town doc and can't quite get Mimi the town junkie to leave hir alone. There's a coughing sickness going around town that causes bloody discharges, and Boo is doing hir best to stay on top of the situation.
I... also know Valery from socialism. I met her and John together. She's also in the group, and her Spanish fluency has come in handy on a few occasions.

So - my primary relationship with these folks is political. I consider them my friends, absolutely, but our more immediate relationship is our ability to work together doing activism stuff. That being said...

Character Creation
Biff has played TTRPGs before (and specifically some Polaris with me); John has previously played one or two sessions of 4e; Valery has never played TTRPGs.
They took a while before choosing playbooks; Biff kind of hung back to see what the others were going to pick. While Valery went back and forth between Brainer and Angel (mulling on some advice from John that "the party might need a healer"), John asked me a few D&D-style questions: should he be thinking about complementary group functions? Should someone play an Angel?
I pointed out that some playbooks gave more social power (like the Hardholder's hardhold, or the Chopper's gang), while others focused on individual power, and they both chose the latter for simplicity's sake; I got the sense that the idea of a more self-contained character appealed to them. Biff had previously played a Gunlugger in an AW game with me (I was an Operator), so he decided to try something different.

The Plot
During/after character creation, we sat around and thought up what the Apocalypse might have been. John ended up leading the charge on that, suggesting a Nile River scenario wherein a nearby water source was the absolute lifeline of the community. When he described the water as being gross and shallow and such, I asked how they could safely drink it. Biff suggested that the townspeople had access to "water tablets", or purification additives that prevented disease from ingestion. Someone suggested that the people on the far side of the river (which quickly became known as the Mudflats) did not have these tablets, and grew crops which they traded to the people of the hillside town (the Adobe Town I mentioned).

Plot Summary - Rue wakes up to a woman named Mimi getting all up in his drainage pipe, looking for a place to piss. He shoos her away by touching the handle of his gun. Mimi runs off to find Boo in the hopes of scoring some drugs.
Boo shoos her away, too, and has to resort to Seducing or Manipulating - she promises she'll see Mimi for a "house call" later that day, and the woman seems appeased.
That doesn't stop her going to Diamond to complain, though - she gets into an argument with him, getting angry enough to call for Boo to be stripped of hir role as town doctor. Diamond defends Boo, and tries to get Mimi to be patient, plying her with alcohol as a substitute for narcotics (he fails his roll+hot pretty badly). She drains the bottle (tequila or some such) in one painful sitting, throws it on the ground, and repeats that Boo owes her some drugs.
Boo sees to hir patients in the town; we establish that it can take a couple of days for Boo to make hir way around to your house for a visit, but most folks in town are well enough that it's not a big deal (making it likely that the time lapse is just small-town style, rather than a necessity). Turns out that Newton and Foster, a local gay couple, have been caring for a baby that got abandoned here by drifters; the baby (unnamed 'cause it's not 6mo. old yet) is coughing constantly and spitting up blood, so naturally they're freaked out.
This part, and then the next scene in which Boo pays a house call to Hugo (an old man with the same disease as Baby), were fairly challenging for Valery as a player. She had initially shown up for the session without a clear idea of the activity we had planned: I mean that when she walked in and I brought out the AW book, she asked if she should have brought a laptop or anything, and if it was an online game or something.
So, challenges: whenever an NPC asked Boo a medical question, or asked for more detail (as the fiction demanded, at times), it would kind of unnerve Val and make her feel like she had to have the "correct" answer. After a while, though, she became more confident; while at first she'd get a bit of a panicky tone going on and ask me lots of "what do I do??" questions, by the end she was making stuff up on the fly with confidence, glancing briefly in my direction for the OK but otherwise feeling self-sufficient. It was really cool to see her settle in, and I tried to help her along by making suggestions like "This game doesn't really focus on veracity. Try to focus on what's interesting instead of what's right or wrong." I think it was helpful.
John didn't seem to feel challenged, and he got a fairly sharp characterization going quickly for Rue: basically, he doesn't talk much, he likes to carry his rifle with him everywhere, and he can just barely contain his contempt for Boo, on account of hir leaving him to die and all.

Later on in the afternoon, Rue sits up in his pipe to stay out of the heat and notices the Mudflats folk are bathing in the fetid little river. After a bit, the children bathing start to cough and hack, and their parents make them get out. A little bit after that, the same thing happens to the adults, who remove themselves from the river voluntarily. This was me doing a little Announce Future Badness; the blood-cough seemed to logically connect itself to the river-water, and I wanted to suggest that the whole Mudflat community was just ridden with this disease, giving Boo a lot of possible work to do and giving Diamond something to fret about.
Rue elects to brave a sudden dust storm to march into town and tell Boo what he saw, despite his loathing for hir. He goes on up to the summit of the hill to bring Diamond and his gang up to speed, too.
That's about where we left things; we hinted that the gang goes out to forage for scrap metal in some nearby ruins (Biff suggested that a full circuit of the ruins takes TEN DAYS! Yikes), we sort of implied that the water tablets are sold to Adobe Town by whoever is buying the scrap, but we didn't clarify who the mysterious merchants might be.
Oh, crap! Forgot something really neat!
So, something wicked-awesome happened that make Val deserve all the props!
She decided what the Psychic Maelstrom is. Just like that!
See, she was going back for a follow-up with Hugo, to break the news that there's nothing to be done for him. He takes it pretty well at first, and thanks her for her honesty, but then starts freaking out and asking if she's really really sure if there's nothing to be done. Boo takes a moment to think. Val looks at her sheet, reads the Angel move Healing Touch out loud, and asks, "How can I heal people by touching them? Is that magic or something?" When I say yes, she's intrigued and says, "So I'm some kind of magic shaman-doctor guy. Cool!"
Anyway, so she reads the move again one more time and describes putting her hand on ol' Hugo, on his clavicle. That "trips" the move, so I tell her to roll +weird, and she gets, like a 3; rough!
So, Healing Touch is pretty vague. I wasn't sure what the consequences should be for "open[ing] your brain and theirs to the psychic maelstrom, without protection or preparation", so I took the When You Suffer Harm move and kind of inverted it: I asked Val if she would try to prevent the psychic backlash to Hugo if she could, and she said yes, so I had her roll +weird and then consulted that move. I made higher=better, and when she rolled a 4 (ouch), I decided that was like rolling really 10+ on When You Suffer Harm (+harm) -- so poor Hugo is "out of action, unconscious, trapped, incoherent, or panicked." I chose "trapped", and asked Valery to describe how he might be trapped.
But first, she wanted to know what the Maelstrom is; I turned it around and asked her to answer instead, and she described human brains being connected to each other by crackling, astral bands of lightning. She described Hugo as being sealed inside his own consciousness by the bands of lightning somehow, like he retreated inside his mind to hide from the Maelstrom.
That seemed like a good cliff hanger to end on, and so we did.

It seems like Decay is the biggest, most obvious Front, since it includes the Mudflat folk, the disease, the baby, and Hugo. Oh, and the river itself. Seems like Hunger is kind of a Front, too (in the sense of asking, "Whose hunger threatens the PCs?"), in the form of random dust storms, the nasty terrain at the ruins (established as quite dangerous; not sure why yet), and, of course, Mimi's raging state dependency.
On a mechanical level, I want to note that not many dice were rolled. There were maybe four or five Moves made during the whole session, and I'm ok with that, but I'm going to do my best to keep up with the MC Principles and so on.
Mask of the Emperor rules, admittedly a work in progress - http://abbysgamerbasement.blogspot.com/



Does "red front edition" mean the preview book?

Fun to read about Valery getting her feet under her to play. I'm correct in understanding that she'd never played a face to face rpg before?



"Red Front" was actually a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that all four of us are Marxist socialists. ^__^
And this is Valery's first experience with face to face RPGs. She took to it really well!
Mask of the Emperor rules, admittedly a work in progress - http://abbysgamerbasement.blogspot.com/


I get it! Cool.

I pretty badly want to hear all about the game from a Marxist Socialist point of view, but I don't even know what to ask. Help me out?