Municipal Dungeon Delving in the fantasy city of Jaquays (pronounced Jake-Ways) in the wake of the Sorcerer-Kings, who have abandoned this world and have left their toxic labs, wyrd towers and feral pets all over the city-scape. More about the making of this game here.
I’ve been honored to play so much on the Actual Play channel, a place where I’ve made wonderful friends and played wondrous games.
Here’s where I’m keeping my ideas for the science-fantasy RPG, Troika!, and blog posts about our Friday night game. Link above (and in the tabs at the top of the page).
After years I’m getting together with old friends, Jeff and Storn, and playing an investigative D&D game set in the Domains of Dread from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft and countless other supplements from my gaming youth. It is an experiment and it is working for us. Storn graciously illustrates characters in the game and his art is a lovely way to commemorate the game.
I have a Threadless shop, all artists’ proceeds go to amazing causes. My hope is that my nerdery will make the world a better place somehow. Design examples and links to collections below:
The first NPC we met was an AI who Daniel named, Stat. I’m thrilled that he decided that Lip considers AI people and wants to save Stat from corporate indentured servitude. Lip has a bit of an exhausted nurse’s cold streak; I really didn’t know what he’d do.
Just one of those things where you play with Affinity by putting city lights on Mars, start playing an AW Burned Over game via video play-by-post and then you look at Canva.com again and there are magazine templates and here we are…
Please join us! Jump on in to the playlists and let us know what you’re thinking. Cheer the protagonists, hiss at the villains and gasp at the complications as apocalyptica is barfed forth, questions are asked/acted upon and fuckery is dealt out.
It is an average night in the Mouse Peninsula when Nurse Lip gets a call to extract a mid-level corporate asshole, Mr. Roark, from a firefight in the courtyard of a storybook castle.
Ell wakes up in his Trenchtown crash-pad to find out that he is a finalist for the prestigious Trenchtown Adventurer’s Grant for the Betterment of Mars. This is a guy who knows all of the angles, watch him work them all in the not-quite terraformed Martian hellscape.
I’m MCing two games in a kind of video-play-by-post and I’m surprised at how much fun it is. At first I was all about keeping it fast and loose. Quickly, I wanted my lighting to be better and to have it look and sound cool for the video recording. I’ll get over it.
Another shock is how good the Burned Over Zine is. The Apocalypse World 2e text is a leap over the original and now the Bakers are vaulting over that with these new moves and playbooks. The new Barter rules are tight.
At the end of the day, the game comes first. I’m glad this kind of play is this much fun. If you give it a go and play this way, please let me know how it goes for ya. If you give our games a listen, please leave comments and ask questions.
With video it kinda feels like play-by-post and it kinda doesn’t. I’ve enjoyed play-by-post games in the past and it was through those games that I realized how much I really love writing. That said, it is a ton of time and effort to play a game like that with lots of keyboard sweat. I’m hoping the quick nature of video responses will keep the sweat factor down and keep the games going where other pbp games tend to fall to the wayside. Also in our favor is the 1 MC/1 PC dynamic that will cut down on exhausting lag. Time will tell.
Daniel and Jay are amazing people. Please support their work.
Cash, Rules, Everything, Around, Me C.R.E.A.M. Get the money Dollar, dollar bill y’allIt’s been twenty-two long hard years, I’m still strugglin’ Survival got me buggin’, but I’m alive on arrival I peep at the shape of the streets And stay awake to the ways of the world ’cause shit is deep A man with a dream with plans to make C.R.E.A.M.
When some assholes agrees to pay you in cash or credstick, talk to the MC and decide which if the payment is:
Some cash, a nice tip
Take +1 Forward on your next Barter roll
Stupid money, really opulent, more money than you are used to seeing in one place.
Take +1 Forward for Barter and Act Under Fire +Barter if what you purchase could hurt or infringe on the territory of someone else or give you an advantage over a threat, if you fail the +1 is gone.
Fuck-you-money, a monarch’s ransom, some Scrooge McDuck shit.
Buy whatever you want whenever you want but once you buy anything out of the norm word hits the streets. Threats are going to circle you.
If you should buy something really huge and game-changing (aircraft carrier, Manhattan, a spaceship, a satellite, a space elevator, a giant kaiju-punching robot, etc) scale down from Fuck-you-money to Stupid money.
Now I’m going to do my best D. Vincent Baker/Meguey Baker impression with a play example. This makes me nervous because the AW2e book has my favorite play examples ever.
An Example with further thoughts
“More money than I can count? Fuck it, I buy an aircraft carrier with jets and shit. Let’s do this.”
“Cool! Let’s talk about what buying an aircraft carrier looks like in this neon apocalypse.”
“I dunno. usedaircraftcarrier.gov?”
“Let’s think about it. There are U.S. Navy aircraft carriers for sale. Shit, there are some sailing around out there, floating without orders since the Elevator Wars looking for a place to get fuel and supplies. Every so often you hear about a coastal town getting ransacked by one.
“Your local arms dealer, Dremmer has a bodyguard with a Marines tattoo. Word is he served on one and got away. He might know how to purchase such a thing. Maybe ask him to set up a sit-down?”
“Shit, I’m not going to be able to just order one online am I?”
“Want to jack into the net and see if there is a place to buy one online? Sounds like Open Your Brain…”
See what I’m doing there? I’m not telling the player no. Shit, I think the game becomes MORE interesting if they purchase an aircraft carrier. The contact, the sales and the negotiation will be interesting to me and put lots more threats on the map.
I’m not putting hurdles in their way. I’m barfing forth cyber-apocalyptica (raids from off-shore aircraft carriers desperate for supplies…niiiice), thinking off-screen and responding with fuckery.
What I’m not doing is telling them that it is impossible or shrugging and saying that they have no idea how to go about doing that. I’m offering ideas that I think will lead to cool shit happening if they decide to follow up.
An Example That Jumps To It
“Cal wants to buy an aircraft carrier.”
“Cool. Cal hands the jingle over to Captain Dustwich who heads into the Baltimore/Atlanta/Indie Triangle with a small fortune and several platoons of loyal marines. She salutes and hands Cal a saber. The people who have lived and worked on the carrier are looking up at you and your posse…”
A Mistake Example with Correction
“Brushfire wants to buy an aircraft carrier with this Fuck-You-Money.”
“No way. Fuck that. That is ridiculous.”
“Could we talk about it? If it really bugs you I’ll find something else to do. I don’t want anyone to feel unsafe if aircraft carriers are a trigger but I think it could be a fun hardhold and getting to the purchase could make for some fun moves.”
“Shit, yeah. Give me a few minutes to think this over. I was so surprised that I just knee-jerked a negative. Let’s take a break, let me digest and come together and talk about what that would look like, ask each other a bunch of questions.”
I don’t know what they want from me It’s like the more money we come across The more problems we see
I am the magic man. I am your link to the subconscious. I have what you want. I can get you what you can’t have.
I’ve been daydreaming about playing a cyberpunk game using the Burned Over AW rules and listening to Neuromancer while I do chores around the house.
Augury is a drug put into a bath and soaked into the skin that allows the user to drop their consciousness into chaotic blend of digital networks, personal metadata and AI playgrounds that lurk behind everyone’s eyes. The trip is an Augury roll while the character is unconscious and helpless.
Coming down off it, even after a successful Augury roll, the character should Act Under Fire, using +Hard rather than +Cool to deal with the side-effects. If the user has done an Augury without the drug before they can choose to use +Weird instead.
A successful Act Under Fire roll means nothing worse than a headache and a hangover, -1 forward until you hydrate and get a decent meal in you.
Make sure someone you trust is watching you while you have a shared hallucination in a bath tub.
Brain Hitch is a neurological device being developed to gain access to information in someone’s brain and now is used to store and sell memories like old fashioned mix tapes. For the right price, you can live someone else’s thrill – from robbing a bank to a L.E.O.R.P.L. (Low Earth Orbit Re-Entry to Parachute Landing) to sex. There are said to be side-effects for having your memories recorded.
Tower Elites are known to use this drug to slum it and see how the downside live.
Aggravation is a combat drug made during one of the countless nameless wars of the past decade, designed to switch off empathy, pain receptors and fear responses. When you take Aggravation, choose:
When you take Aggravation, choose, however many you’d like. MC Holds 1 for every one you choose:
When you Do Battle, +1 Harm inflicted
When you Do Battle, -1 Harm for an hour
When You Do Battle, +1 Hold
MC can spend these Holds to do any of the following when the time is right:
Tell the player that they feel no fear about a given situation, even though they should. +1 XP if the table agrees what they are doing is batshit dangerous.
Inflict more Harm than the character intended, including turning stun or psi harm into killing harm.
During a stressful situation, the character blacks out and wakes up covered in blood. Ask the player whose blood it is.
Sex Only Better is a pill that intensifies both emotional connections and physical pleasure receptors.
When you have sex on S.O.B., go to the old Apocalypse World book and choose a Sex Move. That happens.
Memories are meant to fade. They’re designed that way for a reason.
Apocalypse World out of the box is 50 years after the apocalypse. Slow Burn Cyberpunk AW that I’m proposing here is 5 years from some soft apocalypse. The world is dead but doesn’t know it yet. Some of the institutions we know are still shuffling about, not admitting that it is all over. Let’s say national governments of all kinds are shattered in pieces but maybe your local politician convinced his personal guards to stay, figured out how to pay them.
Elites waged brutal wars that decimated the planet to build their towers into the sky. Strange weapons from those wars are still buried in the ground all over the place.
The psychic maelstrom is the broken down data network that is still glitching through our heads. We’re linked to it and weird moves can access it and use that data to learn and do all kinds of strange shit.
A dear friend said that psychic maelstrom as the net doesn’t work and it wouldn’t be cyberpunk. They might just be right but I’d love to try.
Elites live in the Towers, cyclopean skyscrapers built around space elevators that reach orbital platforms in low earth orbit. As the game begins they are untouchable. They have created a separate and unequal society that has no need for anything on earth. They have put themselves in a vicious, hierarchical society with those still on earth scrambling for a seat at the table.
Even the most powerful corporate entity on earth is just a vehicle for trying to get its shareholders into the Towers.
Don’t Even Think It
When you break down and lash out at the gleaming towers of the untouchable elite in a futile act of violence, tell the MC how you perish or else they will tell you how you perish but fucking perish you will.
Once a character has gained 5 improvements and are into the “ungiven future” they can unlock the gamechanger, Touch the Elite. Don’t Even Think It is off the table. Player characters can now touch the elite down in their gleaming towers. The MC will write the elite up as a threat or series of threats, or even as a Hard Zone.
Speaking of Hard Zones, here are a few ideas…
The Hard Zones
Cities that have overtaken a continent like urban tumors merging over the landscape so that even the most majestic natural monument is now just a neighborhood.
The Pit: once it was grand but now it is only the pit, a hole in the ground filled with smog where those who have never seen the sky live out their half a dozen or so decades.
A.L.Z. (Acceptable Loss Zone): uncounted, unnamed wars left this zone uninhabitable. It is illegal to live here and return but scavengers give it a go anyway.
The Neon Islands: playing up to the idea of what cities were supposed to become, a thin layer of neo and chrome over blood, bone and corruption.
Mouse Peninsula: our stories, myths and ideas have been bought up on the cheap and turned into loud, garish diversions, a landscape designed to make us forget that the world has ended and people have put themselves above us.
The Mining Snake: a mountain range filed down by industry like rotten teeth by an iron file. Corporations still dig into the ground, in hopes of generating enough profit to perhaps elevate some of their shareholders above this lost planet.
The Waiting Room: sad palaces built into the mountainsides, where private security forces guard the richest of those left behind while they work to become worthy of elevation, embarrassed that they were left behind because of a rare system error.
The Rim: the coastal regions are the best at creating the illusion that the apocalypse hasn’t taken hold yet, that it can all be turned around. These areas have the most institutions still .
The Rustbelt: once the breadbasket of an empire, now a string of irradiated fields and rusted out robotics.
International Space Platform: the first orbiting city, now decades old and falling apart but with a strong space-faring tradition including brittle bones and a healthy disdain for mudders.
Luna Base: the launch-site for the mission to mars, now a ghost town…
Baikonur Cosmodrome: the rocket scientists and launch specialists who work there are already setting themselves up as science-priests and with the best doctors in the world for treating physical challenges brought on by long term zero g living.
Freight Elevator: the only space elevator not linked to one of the elite’s towers, where goods can be brought from earth to space and space to earth on the cheap, with workers who live in the elevator, the space doorman.
Armada: for a brief shining moment orbital piracy was a profitable venture and so Armada was born, a city of cobbled together spaceships, both private and international.
Atlantis: a perfect chrome sphere, a water-filled dolphin station that is said to not be of human make. Some say dolphins made it and others that dolphins were put in it by aliens. Either way, it is a strange fucking place to dock but sometimes it is the only place to lay low.
The Floating Cove: the floating platform deep in international waters where a generation of orbital pirates launched their ships from during a narrow window of private space travel.
The Veil: a fine mist of orbital debris left hovering over the earth, with some scavenge-worthy bits if you have the expertise necessary to grab it.
Olympus Mons: a small science city built around a communications beacon atop the tallest mountain in the Solar System.
Trenchtown: A new, growing city built to shelter itself from vicious Martian storms. Some say P.C. will one day have to relocate down here if they want to survive.
Perseverance City: the domed capital city where one can sometimes close their eyes and forget that they are on a different planet for a few minutes
Water-base One: the space elevator was supposed to rise up from here, now it is a boom town for ice-mining
The Eye of Heaven: with the space elevator unfinished, every trip up to this orbital platform and back down could be the last. Still, some astronomers refuse to leave due to the amazing data they can gather from the Eye’s labs.
The Ruins: little more than a village of cobbled together landing units jury-rigged to pump air longer than they were ever designed to do so, all gathered around the crater where ancient Martian ruins are said to be found.
New Pacific: a base run by dolphins with much of its resources under water. Some conspiracy theorists say the dolphins weren’t sent here by a human military force but got here on their own – had a colony here already when we arrived; that’s gotta be bullshit, right?
The Blue Tombs: a dead settlement in a blue crater
Players start the game linked to an institution that will get made up like any other threat. I’d be tempted to make a group of EMT’s in a flying, armored ambulance but any institution will do – crime syndicate, maybe the crew of a super-carrier that hasn’t gotten orders in months and needs re-supply. As with everything in AW, it won’t last…
I wrote this whole thing up and on a whim decided to watch Battle Angel Alita. I had never read the manga. There were all of the elements I had here. It was an odd thing.