[AW] Apocalypse World: Example of Play

edited July 2010 in Out-Of-Game
This example is a somewhat edited version of the one in the book.

Marie is a brainer. She's also a really terrible person, but we'll set that aside for the moment. She will be the 'protagonist', if we can use that word, of our example of play. Keeler is another PC, a gunlugger who picked up a gang (and pack alpha) with one of her advances.

I won't really be talking about how things work at the GM's end of things ... my rules are totally different from your rules. I don't even roll dice! Note, though, that you don't want to miss a roll (roll less than 7, after modifiers) in a dangerous circumstance - that's when I get to apply my nastier GM moves. See the thing with the grenade, below.

You might want to grab the player's refbook in order to read along. We'll be using basic moves and moves from the brainer playbook. We'll also be using the harm move, which is currently absent from the player's refbook. Here is is:
The harm move

When you suffer harm, roll+harm suffered (after armor, if you’re wearing any). On a 10+, the MC can choose 1:
• You’re out of action: unconscious, trapped, incoherent or panicked.
• It’s worse than it seemed. Take an additional 1-harm.
• Choose 2 from the 7–9 list below.

On a 7–9, the MC can choose 1:
• You lose your footing.
• You lose your grip on whatever you’re holding.
• You lose track of someone or something you’re attending to.
• You miss noticing something important.

On a miss, the MC can nevertheless choose something from the 7–9 list above. If she does, though, it’s instead of some of the harm you’re suffering, so you take -1harm.
Note that PCs are tougher than NPCs. It's movie-style plot immunity ... you can take a couple bullets and walk away, but the other guy (if he's an NPC) probably can't. Not that you enjoy taking bullets, but you can survive it to a certain extent (up to 6-harm, actually).

So when an NPC takes 1 harm, that's bad but probably not fatal. When an NPC takes 2 harm, that's likely fatal. 3 or more, and it's pretty much guaranteed to kill him, and probably right then and there.


  • So, one day in Apocalypse World ...

    Marie the brainer goes looking for Isle, to visit grief upon her, and finds her eating canned peaches on the roof of the car shed with her brother Mill and her lover Plover (all NPCs).

    “I read the situation,” her player says.

    “You do? It’s charged?” I say.

    “It is now.”

    “Ahh,” I say. I understand perfectly: the three NPCs don’t realize it, but Marie’s arrival charges the situation. If it were a movie, the sound track would be picking up, getting sinister.

    She rolls+sharp and hits with a 7–9, so she gets to ask me one question from that move’s list. “Which of my enemies is the biggest threat?” she says.

    “Plover,” I say. “No doubt. He’s out of his armor, but he has a little gun in his boot and he’s a hard fucker. Mill’s just 12 and he’s not a violent kid. Isle’s tougher, but not like Plover.”

    “Hm, now I want an escape route. Can I read the situation again?”

    “Of course not.” Once is what you get, unless the situation substantially changes.

    “Okay. I do direct-brain whisper projection on Isle.”

    “Cool, what do you do?”

    “Uh — we don’t have to interact, so I’m walking past under their feet where she can see me, and I whisper into her brain without looking up.” She rolls+weird and hits a 10+.

    “What’s your whisper?”

    “Follow me,” she says.

    “Yeah,” I say. “She inches her butt forward to drop down behind you, but then tips her head like she’s thinking of something—”

    “Don’t do it,” Marie’s player says.

    “She forces your hand,” I say. “She takes 1-harm, right? Loud-optional, right? So, loud or not?”

    “Isle, god damn it. Not loud.”

    “Sweet. Plover thinks she’s just leaning her head on his shoulder, but she’s bleeding out her ears and eventually he’ll notice his shirt sticking to his shoulder from her blood. Do you stick around?”

    “Fuck no.”

    “Where do you go?”

    “I go home, I guess.”

    “So you’re home an hour later?”

    “Hold on, it was only 1-harm—”

    “I know. She’ll be okay. It’s Plover who’s the biggest threat. Are you home an hour later or where?”

    “Shit. Yes, home.”

    “Having tea?”

    “No tea. Pacing. I have my gun and my pain grenade and the door’s triple-locked. I wish Roark were here.”

    “Cool. Keeler—” turning to Keeler’s player “—you’re passing by your armory and you hear people in there. It’s Plover, Church Head and Whackoff, arming themselves. What do you do?”

    “Hey, what’s up?” Keeler’s player says.

    “Marie attacked Isle,” I say, in Plover’s blunt, heavy voice. And in my own: “he stops what he’s doing and looks square at you, he’s still got a shotgun in his hand. Church Head and Whackoff, you know they’re going to back him up.”

    If Keeler lets them, that is. Keeler thinks about imposing her will upon her gang (with pack alpha) to stop them, her player thinks about it too. She twists her mouth around, thinking about it.

    Finally, instead, “knock yourself out,” she says.

    Marie’s player: “damn it, Keeler.”

    “So, Marie: at home, pacing, armed, locked in, yeah? They arrive suddenly at your door with a solid kick, your whole door rattles. You hear Whackoff’s voice: ‘she’s expecting us I guess.’”

    “I go to the peep hole,” she says. “There are three of them?”

    “Yep,” I say. “Whackoff on your left, Plover and Church Head are doing something on your right, Plover’s back’s to you — and you hear a cough-cough-rrrrar sound and Plover’s at the door with a chainsaw. What do you do?”

    “I read the situation. What’s my best escape route?” She rolls+sharp and — shit — misses. “Oh no,” she says.

    “You’re looking out your (barred, 4th-story) window as though it were an escape route,” I say, “and they don’t chop your door all the way down, just through the top hinge, and then they lean on it to make a 6-inch space. The door’s creaking and snapping at the bottom hinge. And they put a grenade through like this—” I hold up my fist for the grenade and slap it with my other hand, like whacking a croquet ball.

    “I dive for—”

    “Nope. They cooked it off and it goes off practically at your feet. Let’s see … 4-harm area messy, a grenade. You have armor?”


    “Oh yes, your armored corset. Good! You take 3-harm.” She marks it on her character sheet. “Make the harm move. Roll+3.”

    She hits the roll with a 9. I get to choose from the move’s 7–9 list, and I decide that she loses her footing.

    “For a minute you can’t tell what’s wrong, and you have this sensation, it seems absurd now but I guess it makes sense, that you hit the ceiling. Maybe you tripped on something and fell, and hit it that way? Then gradually you get your senses back, and that noise you thought was your skull cracking is actually your door splitting and splintering down, and that noise you thought was your blood is their chainsaw. What do you do?”

    “I set off my pain-wave projector.”

    “Sweet,” I say. “That’s…”

    “1-harm area loud ap.”

    “The loud is their screaming,” I say. “They’re like—” and I hold my hands over my ears. I add, “Church Head isn’t. He looks paralyzed, he’s rigid and silent, his eyes are rolling around in their sockets but otherwise he’s not moving.” Taking 1-harm is much worse for NPCs than it is for PCs. “What do you do?”

    “I have my violation glove on,” she says. I don’t dispute: of course she does, she always does. “I pick my way over to Plover and put my hand on his cheek. I do in-brain puppet strings to him: protect me.” She rolls+weird, hits a 10+, and smiles sweetly and with malice.

    A subtle thing just happened. I’ve been saying what they do and then asking Marie’s player what Marie does, but here she’s seized initiative from me. It isn’t mechanically significant, we’ll still both just keep making our moves in turn. It’s just worth noticing.

    “Hot,” I say. “Whackoff grabs you from behind to pull you off of him, but Plover jumps on her.” (I hadn’t mentioned before that Whackoff’s a woman, but she has been all along in my head. Ha ha, gotcha.) “He’s punching her in the face, she’s falling back, she’s like, the fuck? This uses up your hold over Plover, right?”

    “Right,” Marie’s player says. “That’s okay. I pick up his chainsaw and chop into them both.”

    Damn. I’m impressed.

    “That’ll be seizing something by force. Their, um, meat. Roll it,” I say.

    She rolls+hard and hits a 7–9. “How much harm will I inflict?” she says. She has to decide which seize-by-force option to choose, and first wants to know what’s what.

    “With a chainsaw? 3-harm. Messy, so you might hit one or both of them. They’re wearing armor, though, 1-armor.”

    “And I’ll suffer…?”

    “Well, none from Plover, you’ll hit him first and since he dropped the chainsaw he’s unarmed anyway. Whackoff still has her handgun, it’s just a 9mm, so 2-harm from her.”

    “That’s fine. I’ll choose to inflict terrible harm.”

    “You got it,” I say. 3-harm for the chainsaw, +1harm for the terrible harm, -1harm for their armor, for a total of 3-harm.

    “They’ve already both taken 1-harm, so 2-harm more will do for them. You tear Plover from ribs to spine—” I draw a line on my chest with my hand, from my side under my arm to my solar plexus. “So he’s dead. Whackoff shoots you point blank under Plover’s arm. Make the harm move, 2-harm minus 1-armor, so roll+1.”

    She misses the roll. Remember that missing the roll+harm is good for her. I get to decide whether to inflict my 1-harm or else choose something from the harm move’s 7–9 list.

    “Don’t mark the harm,” I say. “Instead, she shoots you while you’re trying to jerk the chainsaw out of Plover’s ribs, it feels like a baseball hitting your chest, and you lose your grip. Plover’s carcass falls with the chainsaw still wedged in it. What do you do?””

    “I grab her arm—”

    “You’re going for violation glove on skin?”

    “Yeah, I—”

    “She’s still got her gun on you,” I say. “You’re acting under fire. Yeah?”

    “Oh, sure, okay.” She rolls+cool and hits with a 10+.

    “Right on,” I say. “She goes rigid, just a split second, when she feels the glove. What do you do?”

    “I do in-brain puppet strings. ‘Whackoff. Go to sleep.’” She rolls+weird but gets a 3 on the dice, so even with her weird+3 it’s a miss.

    “What happens with that move on a miss?” I say. She has her playbook open and is looking right at it.

    “I inflict 1-harm to no benefit, it says.”

    “That puts Whackoff at 2-harm,” I say. For NPCs, 2-harm is usually fatal, occasionally immediately fatal. “She has a massive catastrophic stroke. You’re holding her right arm? So it’s in the right side of her brain. The left side of her body collapses, utterly and suddenly. She falls. She’s covered in Plover’s blood. She can’t talk but she looks terrified, absolutely terrified, on the right side of her face. She’ll live for like 10 minutes, if you want to try to help her. Otherwise she’s dead.”

    “I let her die.”

    Okay! Scratch Plover, scratch Whackoff. Keeler’s player is scowling and shaking her head — they were both members of her gang.

    “What do you do with Church Head?” I say.
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