Apocalypse World 2.0 Campaign Session 2: Spanner in the Works

In-between Sessions

I followed the MC rules for prepping for the next session. I really liked the structured rules for prep. We’ll see how they work over the course of the campaign. I won’t be reflecting on that here until the campaign is over.

As I prepped, I did a bit of searching for inspiration for the aesthetics of the environment, creating a Pinterest board where a few of us have been posting images. We committed to the setting being inspired by the Atacama Desert in Chile. I personally don’t have a deep knowledge of Chile or that region in particular, but it feels like a fitting environment, so we’ll do our best to incorporate details from it without getting too caught up on being “realistic.”

Session Start

We finished our first session with a cliffhanger, Spanner the Saavyhead holding in his hand the screwdriver that was used to tamper with Tum Tum’s chaos algorithm noise generator. We picked up Session 2 with Spanner rolling Things Speak to learn more about the tool to determine whodunit. A partial success granted him one question about the tool, so he picked the obvious: “Who handled this most recently?”

He began a strange dance, feeling the energy of the object as only the Saavyhead can, learning about its history. He was granted with an impression of Monk, the tanned mechanic and medic for Inzane Johnny’s biker gang, wielding the screwdriver with his asymmetrically huge right arm. This made sense, since we knew from last session that Inzane Johnny and Tum Tum were at odds within the Scene. It was really too bad that Monk was the best medic around, because Slim Jim the Driver had a punctured lung and some seriously deep stab wounds to the chest from their tussle with Brain last session.

After clearing up that business, we rolled our two session start moves: Fortunes for Dust Rabbit the Hocus, leader of the nomadic noise cult known as The Scene, and Bonefeel for Spanner. We found the Scene had a want of savagery and a surplus of insight. This result meant that the cult members might be hesitant to commit violence, but would provide the ability for Dust Rabbit to ask them for guidance and roll the Insight move. Spanner got one hold to be at the right place at the right time with the right tools from rolling Bonefeel.

Monk Obeys

Spanner doesn’t like to deal with people directly, so he went to his cult leader Dust Rabbit to tell them that Monk was up to no good. He yelled into their ear as they DJ’d the cult celebration of the Halt, one of the auspicious times where the Convoy stops its roaming in an orgiastic ceremony of harsh noise. They decided to keep Johnny busy by electing him to take over DJ duties (an honor), singling him out with a well-aimed laser pointer held in a… private location 😂. He was happy to take over, taking the stage dripping in sweat and blood from self-flagellation as part of the Halt festivities.

Dust Rabbit grabbed Monk from the crowd and started walking him back towards the parked Convoy. Slim Jim was hobbling towards them, clutching their wounds. Dust Rabbit asked Monk to take care of Slim Jim, but he was hesitant. They are a stranger who hasn’t properly been initiated into the Scene yet. At this point, we wondered what initiation looked like. B thoughtfully wondered if the initiation ceremony was part of the reason they were a reluctant leader? Dust Rabbit told him that Slim Jim knew more about the Convergence than they were letting on; if the Scene were to interrogate them, they’d have to stay alive; this triggered a Seduce or Manipulate roll and was enough to get Monk to go along with it, for now.

Monk took Slim Jim to the trailer where he fixes up the dorky touring motorcycles (and scooters, including one with a faded Uber Eats logo) favored by Inzane Johnny’s crew. The trailer was hooked up to an old school bus fitted out as living quarters for when the bikers needed a break. At the back of the trailer was a dirty old stretcher surrounded by scavenged medical equipment. Monk had Slim Jim pop a couple chilltabz and went to work treating their wounds. I waived the customary barter exchange for this service since Monk was a cult follower and obeying Dust Rabbit’s orders.

Inzane Johnny Preaches

At this point the PCs were in a slight bind since Monk was required to heal Slim Jim, but was also implicated in Johnny’s machinations against Tum Tum. However, some of the players began to question their characters’ motivations, so we had a discussion about resources. Up to this point I hadn’t focused on resources too much, but surplus and want are designed to drive character motivation in AW, so I thought we should talk about it. We decided that the Scene has:

This was a useful exercise and informed the rest of the session. It made me realize that bringing this up more in the first session could be helpful.

Johnny was happily DJing away, but with Dust Rabbit slightly removed from the celebration, he began doing some freestyling on the mic. He started off ok, with some general praise of the Scene and the entropy that kept them alive, but quickly devolved into ranting against the Convergence and suggesting that Dust Rabbit was not strong enough to protect the Scene from them. These words would deepen the divide between Johnny’s crew and the rest of the Scene, but it wasn’t immediately obvious if this was politicking or a call to action.

Reaper’s Gong

Spanner decided it was threatening enough to spend his hold to have retroactively booby-trapped the mic (he established a fondness for explosives and traps in the first session). We saw him peeking out from behind the stage, fuming at this guy bad-mouthing his leader. He pulled out his customized explosive plunger-style detonator called “Trustin Dustin” and pushed it down. The mic blew up in Johnny’s face in a flash, burning his skin and knocking him to the ground. The crowd mistook this for part of the celebration at first, but then the music was stuck on a repeating breakbeat and Johnny didn’t get back up: not a good sign in this apocalypse.

Johnny’s bodyguards Princey and Twice rushed up to the stage to tend to Johnny and helped him to his feet. We saw a furious Johnny, part of his face and cornrows blown off, blood streaming down his face, but only disfigured and not incapacitated. He seized the opportunity handed to him: “Dust Rabbit did this! They cannot be trusted! They know I can protect you all from the evil of the Convergence and wants to end me! This Scene needs a new leader!” He waved his hand in a circular motion and all the bikers in the pit pulled out concealed weapons and started to make a bee-line for Tum Tum (still obliviously dancing at the fringe of the pit) and Dust Rabbit, walking back from the Convoy.

Spanner saw his leader threatened and jumped into action, tossing a grenade towards the bikers. He had to Act under Fire, where the fire was not hitting his allies in the blast. Unfortunately he missed: this was a pretty crucial roll that went south. Grenades are 4-harm area loud messy; Dust Rabbit’s allies were a 1-harm gang small mobile unruly 1-armor, whereas Johnny’s posse were 2-harm gang small mobile 2-armor. So they both took significant casualties, with quite a few deaths and mortal injuries thinning their ranks.

Dust Rabbit Learns from Experience

Spanner’s grenade put a dent in Johnny’s attack, but most of his key players were still up and running at Dust Rabbit, who was isolated. They commanded what remained of their gang to protect them using Frenzy, with the truth being that their leader would be killed if they didn’t help. Simple enough. They got a 10+ on the roll and immediately spent one hold to rally what little was left of their followers to protect them.

At this point Dust Rabbit had rolled enough highlighted stats to mark an improvement. I loved this moment because it showed the strengths of a fiction-first system, with B being able to choose a move from a different playbook because they were realizing that while they enjoyed being a Hocus, they couldn’t put their weird powers to direct use, only acting through their followers. So, they took Direct Whisper Brain Projection from the Brainer playbook. I thought this fit in great, considering Dust Rabbit was probably wishing they could threaten Johnny’s gang with violent brain fuckery directly, rather than having to command their followers to act as human shields.

Our cult leader was in a bit of trouble with these goons gunning for them, so we flashed back to the motorcycle trailer to see what Spanner, Slim, and Monk were up to. Spanner jogged up to the trailer and saw Monk rummaging around in a toolbox, looking nervously over his shoulder at the bloodbath. He found a huge monkey wrench and turned to join Johnny’s uprising by connecting it with Spanner’s head. However, Slim Jim was roused by the sound of a grenade going off and - despite their drugged-up state - managed to Act Under Fire to topple off the stretcher on top of Monk. They had to disconnect from the IV though, meaning they only healed one tick. Slim pinned Monk and let Spanner Sucker him with a crowbar. It just dealt a glancing blow, however, and then he started to get back up. So, the two of them decided to make a break for it, Spanner helping the dozy Slim Jim hobble out of the trailer.

At this point we shot back over to see how Dust Rabbit was doing against the revolting bikers. They tried two approaches: first they Opened Their Brain to the Psychic Maelstrom to see if there was any escape route. They got a 7-9, only getting a glimpse of Twice’s odd hand tattoo only visible through the maelstrom: a vinyl record. While they weren’t certain, this suggested the Scene might already have members of the Convergence in their midst. Dust Rabbit toyed with the idea of revealing this fact to Johnny, but with a lack of concrete evidence decided against it. Instead, they tried out their new move, Going Aggro with +Weird instead of +Hard. I forget what the threat was - I think it was just that the gang would kill Johnny if he didn’t stand down. They got a 7-9 and Johnny thought about pushing his luck, but with blood streaming down his face and the remaining non-biker members of the Scene on Dust Rabbit’s side, he changed his mind. Princey and Twice lifted him up and rushed him to their bikes to make a break for it.

The members of the Scene would have been happy to see Johnny leave, but a 7-9 result on Acting Under Fire to escape a certain “Monk-ey wrench” 😏 gave Slim and Spanner an ugly choice. They saw Princey running directly to the double tanker that carries most of the Convoy’s fuel. They could let Johnny’s crew get away without suffering further casualties, but they’d be leaving with most of the gas. They chose to pursue instead and all booked it for Slim’s souped-up Caddy.

We took a quick break here. I like the pace of AW compared to how I’ve run D&D before. I find it easier to get a lot done and include breaks. Maybe that just means I need to work on that when I’m DMing D&D!

Road Warriors

Unsurprisingly, halfway through our second session in AW with a Driver, we found ourselves in a car chase scene. We have several fans of Mad Max in our group (particularly Fury Road, which I love), so this was a chance to channel that big time. I had even softly being trying to avoid being too Mad Max-y with this game since it’s such an easy pattern to fall into with AW. But who doesn’t love a good desert car chase!?!

So all three PCs were in the Caddy, with Slim driving (duh) and Dust Rabbit on the roof, Deathproof style. We decided they were using magnetized tap shoes designed by Spanner. They roared off into the desert in pursuit of the tanker and bikes. Slim had also marked an improvement, taking the Driver move Daredevil. They went straight into it, playing up an interesting death wish, and aimed the bullbars on their Caddy at MiMi on her Uber Eats delivery scooter. They rammed her using Go Aggro, with the obvious threat being, get out of my way or I’ll run you over. We had an interesting question of: if they just wanted to straight up ram her, would that just be going straight to exchanging harm as established? I’ll have to look that up. In any case she took the hit and blew a tire, taking her out of the chase and leaving her in the middle of the desert.

As the Caddy got closer Johnny’s gang opened fire with small arms, pelting the car with bullets. Slim Jim Acted Under Fire to evade the gun fire from the bikers. They failed, so harm was exchanged as established: Spanner tossed a grenade, injuring a few of the gang, including Princey in the rig. The Caddy is strong enough that they shrugged off the small arms fire. We had some difficulty with the v-harm rules here. T and myself will need to re-read those for next session. I might also print out the NPC and gang harm clocks, as I found myself having to look those up a few times.

After taking fire without much trouble, the Caddy pulled up next to the tanker and Dust Rabbit made the jump. They got a 7-9, which means they made it, “but Jesus.” That was a close one. They grabbed onto the vertical exhaust pipe and flailed in the air for a minute before successfully clamping their metal shoes onto the side of the truck. Dust Rabbit clomped their way to the cab and used the heavy shoes to smash in the window, jump in, and magnetize to the brake pedal, tires screeching. Here things got interesting. First, Dust Rabbit tried to Direct Brain Whisper Projection, commanding Princey to stop the truck or face dire consequences to his cerebrum. Dust Rabbit missed the roll and sent Princey into a religious fervor, with him telling Dust Rabbit that he’s seen the light from Johnny, who says a better life awaits him in the Multiverse if he were to die in favor of the cause. He decided to steer directly towards a cliff that appeared on the horizon, plunging down to the lowlands west of the desert heading to the Pacific Ocean.

Spanner and Slim saw this deadly course correction and attempted to Shoulder the tanker. Another missed roll, so the Caddy fishtailed and lost the pursuit of the heavy rig. Back in the cab, Dust Rabbit tried yet another desperate Direct Brain Whisper Projection, seeing no other option. The dice results showed that this chase was a truly cursed endeavor: snake eyes. Time for a very hard move from the MC. The rig with Dust Rabbit and Princey sailed over the cliff and exploded in a giant flash of flame and fury.

We ended the session there. Now that life has become untenable for Dust Rabbit, will they emerge from the wreckage? If they do, they certainly won’t be the same. Or will Dust Rabbit perish in the flames, with a new PC arriving to take their place? We’ll find out next time!

Notes to Self

Here are some of the particular rules we had a bit of trouble with. I’ll reread them to be more prepared for next time:

I’ll also make sure to do the following as MC: