Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Apocalypse World GM Jam: Play on Target Special Ep #5

This week Play on Target assembles a stellar group of GMs to talk about Apocalypse World. Vincent Baker’s game has generated many amazing campaigns. But it has also influenced a host of designers. We have four dynamite experts talking about their experiences running and playing Apocalypse World: Jérôme Larré, Brennan Taylor, Mark Diaz Truman, and Rachel E.S. Walton. As the noob in the conversation, I hope you’ll bear with my ignorance. I also hope despite that we’ve managed to provide a solid introduction for new players and ideas for old hands.

This episode is part of a series of Play on Target "GM Jams". Previously we’ve covered Changeling the Lost and Amber Diceless/Lords of Gossamer & Shadow. I’m hoping to do more of these in 2015- at least one per quarter. Feedback, suggestions and such are always appreciated. Well, maybe not always...

Up until last week I’d only played a single session each of three Powered by the Apocalypse games: Monster of the Week, Headspace, and the 'Dark Ages' playtest. On New Year’s Day, I finally got to experience a lengthy Dungeon World one-shot run by Jeremy Friesen. I had a good time. He spun out a great adventure from our characters’ bonds. Right out of the gate, an offhand detail I’d created became central to motivating my character for action. It turns out Dwarven "Justice" turns on restitution...and I may have murdered for less than noble reasons, but that's beside the point. It was a good game- with tough choices and the loss of my character’s nose. I also stared enviously as Jeremy's excellent and diverse rpg collection. 

Though we talk about Apocalypse World specifically in this episode, eventually I’d really like to cover several Powered by the Apocalypse games. In particular Monsterhearts, an amazing game, deserves treatment. To me it feels like a game where new players or GMs could benefit from the others' experiences. I also like Monster of the Week but it works in a different space than some of other AW games. But there are many more worth examining. Take a look at this (incomplete) list of AW-based games. I know of probably a dozen other in-progress hacks or soon to be delivered Kickstarter projects beyond those.

It’s a tangent, but man we live in amazing times for gaming. I love the other OSR movement- Open Source Reconfigurations. Despite the blood trail of dead publishers from d20/OGL collapse, I think that’s generated some amazing games. We’ve seen designers working with new versions of FUDGE, Fate, AW, and Gumshoe. I’m sure we’ll see more in the next few years as gamers figure out what they want from DramaSystem, 13th Age's Archmage Engine, and Cortex Plus.

As I mention on the PLOT site, Metaopia offered a panel called ”Hacking Apocalypse World.” Mark Richardson put this together and it featured himself plus Vincent Baker, Misha Bushyager, Marissa Kelly, & Mark Diaz Truman. You can hear the whole recording over at Jason Pitre’s RPG Design PanelCast. Some of AW’s mechanics appeal strongly to me- especially the playbook approach with moves and customization. I appreciate the way those offer an easy entry for new players even as they boil down challenging game elements. Talking with Rishi Agrawal afterwards the panel, I came away with a new appreciation for that. Playbooks represent serious thinking about gameplay and a distillation of design. That made me reconsider some hacking I’d had in my head and realize the effort and energy required to get those right.

On a slightly related note, I contributed to a ConTessa post on moderating panels. If you compare the advice I give to my actual practice in this episode, you’ll probably discover a gap. Despite that, the post is awesome- with smart advice from several experts more expert than I. I scribbled down notes once finally got the chance to read the whole thing. If you host panels or discussion- online or f2f- check it out. I’m sure you’ll find one or two helpful tricks.

If you like RPG Gaming podcasts, I hope you'll check it out. We take a focused approach- tackling a single topic each episode. You can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follow the podcast's page at

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