Apocalypse World 2.0 Campaign Session 3: The Scene is Dead; Long Live the Scene

Our Dearly Departed

Dust Rabbit went out a blaze of glory. Princey drove that gas tanker off the cliff with religious zeal, safe in the thought that if he died in this universe, at least there were plenty of other Princeys running around in other realities. Not much consolation to Slim Jim and Spanner though, who saw their new friend and cult leader vaporize in the wreckage. B (Dust Rabbit’s player) decided she didn’t want to run a cult any more, so when Dust Rabbit’s life became untenable, she let them die. RIP.

For session start we had a few things to do. Spanner rolled Bonefeel to see what his instincts were going to tell him this session and missed; I (the MC) got one hold that I could spend to have him be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn’t end up spending it and managed to get him into an interrogation chamber anyway - so it worked out just fine anyway. 😁

Meta Discussion: Introducing a New PC

Next we had to figure out how to introduce B’s new character. Spanner and Slim didn’t want to return to the Scene just yet. As a group, we had to come up with a narrative justification for how Spanner and Slim would run into a newcomer outside of the Scene. We had an interesting discussion at this point about how to provide some direction for the characters. I admitted that I was feeling a bit challenged as MC because:

  1. We chose a kind of complicated apocalypse, and
  2. We didn’t really have a solid home base community for the characters.

Regarding point 1, we discussed the challenge of playing in this kind of apocalypse. B mentioned the multiverse aspects in Fringe as inspiration. We agreed we are taking inspiration from that kind of sci-fi and time travel/multiple timelines/universes media, but recognized that 1) we don’t have the advantage of planning anything out, and 2) most of this kind of media also have glaring continuity errors or paradoxes, so we shouldn’t get too hung up on them. It did make me realize I haven’t done a great job as MC of highlighting the particular threat posed by multiverse collision, however.

For point 2, Dust Rabbit was the unwilling leader of the Scene, and with her dead, it didn’t look like the Scene would serve as a home for Slim and Spanner any more. In theory, I should just be able to chuck challenges one after another at the PCs, but I think the players were feeling a bit like they wanted an explicit goal or mission to work towards. There was some out-of-fiction discussion of the appeal of heading towards the Very Large Telescope to peer into the multiverse. We also want to find out what the exact significance of the 4’33” record is: should it be broadcast, destroyed, hidden? I love these ideas, but I tried to stress that there is no status quo and we are not meant to pre-plan any kind of story. T made a good point that we have a campaign length in mind though, so we might want to think of themes/foci for our general “acts.” With Dust Rabbit dead, it definitely feels like we are starting Act II of this ~10 session campaign.

I’m finding the AW system can create challenge after challenge for the player, but it won’t necessarily give the characters explicit motivations and goals. That task seems to fall to the players. Compare this to games like Burning Wheel, where characters have to write explicit Beliefs that state their goals right on the character sheet. Also, some Powered by the Apocalypse games give characters goals, like the Paladin’s Quest move in Dungeon World. I’m enjoying AW, but still feel like there is a missing piece there. That said, such a feature being missing does seem like a design choice; I think Vincent and Meg would say that just means I have to MC harder: create opposition, cause problems, disrupt status quos. We’ll see how it goes - I’ll do a bigger reflection on MCing this game at the end of the campaign.

Tonite Only: Kazuo Kalhun

So, how did the duo run into our new member? Inzane Johnny’s gang split and Slim and Spanner hit the road. Not wishing to find out what happens to a leaderless cult and with the gas tank of the Caddy emptying fast, they had to find fuel. Slim had spent time in nearby San Pedro, so they decided to head that way to fuel up. At this point I asked a leading question to establish Slim’s relationship to the town’s leader, Wisher: they got kicked out of town for running goods for the Convergence and weren’t welcome back.

On the way to San Pedro, Slim and Spanner noticed a large Andean condor circling them. Probably not a good sign. At a roadside Catholic death shrine they came upon an odd sight: a completely naked androgynous figure painted in white performing some kind of troubling spastic dance. This was Kazuo Cahun the Skinner, B’s new character. B came up with an amazing concept for Kazuo, who is an Butoh performer and stripper who worships death. Eltun (Mapuche for “to bury”) is her pet condor. When she’s not stripping for cash and favors, she dresses like a matador and wields an ornate sword. This act by the shrine is all part of how she earns a living: raiding the flowers and gifts left for the dead in the shrines and pawning them off at local settlements. When she has the chance, she also springs a trap to seduce and rob anyone who stops to take a look. Inspirations include Kazuo Ohno and Claude Cahun.

Kazuo Ohno, 30 September 1986
Kazuo Ohno, 30 September 1986 - Wikipedia - CC BY 3.0
Claude Cahun, Self Portrait, 1927
Claude Cahun, Self Portrait, 1927 - Jersey Heritage Collections

Slim spotted her as they drove past and did a badass, dusty drift to stop the Caddy in front of the shrine (successfully Acting Under Fire where the fire was not looking cool). Kazuo tried to entrap Slim (When You’re the Bait) and blew it. We established from Kazuo’s Hx questions that Slim was in love with her anyway (trap not needed), all puppy-dog eyes on first sight. Spanner, on the other hand (we found out from Hx) knew her from childhood before the apocalypse. Turns out this is a slow and more-recent apocalypse, with both these characters remembering a childhood before the multiverse reared its ugly head. He yelled out the window of his van/workshop, “Christie Calhoun!?!” I guess they went to international school in Santiago or something? We haven’t really dealt with the question of how these particular folks ended up in Chile. ¯\(ツ)

In any case, Kazuo started the session with 0-barter and was desperately hungry and thirsty, so she jumped in the van with Spanner and the newly-formed group headed down the road to San Pedro to find some gas.

San Pedro

Passing the Salt Flats with a lake full of bright pink flamingos, the crew rolled up to the small town of San Pedro. They passed two dried-out corpses stuck on spikes on the way in. The town itself was mostly dirt and dust, with ramshackle buildings and a busy market with people milling around hawking their wares. The center of town had the only gas station (at the time we didn’t know appropriate brand, now I’m saying it is Empresas Copec), which was protected by a tall wall of corrugated iron and barbed wire. A makeshift tower with spotlights was built around the station’s neon sign, and a large gate was the only entrance in and out.

Several goons with guns were patrolling the town and one was guarding the gate. In a classic T suggestion, we added another music reference to the game: San Pedro’s militia are called The Minutemen after the punk band from San Pedro, CA. Slim knew their face wouldn’t be a welcome sight given their history with Wisher. So, they asked Kazuo to jump in the Caddy to help distract the guard so they can get in. Kazuo was still suspicious of Slim, so she Read a Person and learned that Slim genuinely was asking for help. They also had a massive crush on her, but that was already pretty obvious.

The two cars pulled up to the gate and Slim was instantly clocked by Rice the Minuteman. Slim was told they weren’t welcome in San Pedro. Kazuo, now wearing some of her matador outfit, crawled across Slim’s lap and hung out the window to say hello. Rice offered his hand, completely ignoring Slim. Kazuo gracefully rolled out of the car and teasingly removed his work glove, placing a delicate kiss on his hand. This practiced move triggered the An Arresting Skinner move, from which Kazuo decided Slim and Spanner were (for now) exempt. Rice was entranced long enough that Slim and Spanner drove right through the gate. Kazuo followed, with Rice left scratching his head. This might have pushed the power of this move a touch, but it felt appropriate in the moment.

Slim tried to act like they owned the joint, driving right towards the pumps, which were guarded by some heavily-armed goons. The gas station itself was a run-down Art Deco, Palm Springs-style gas station with a big ovular roof tilted at an unusual angle. Slim was Acting Under Fire, with the fire being they don’t fit in. It was a miss. Turns out the god-damned Caddy decided this was a good spot to finally run out of gas - coasting to a stop several meters from the pump. Slim’s a pro and wasn’t daunted, hopping out to push the monster of a car the rest of the way.


I think there was another partial success or miss on a roll here, but I forget. Then, a hatch in the roof of the gas station popped open and a woman in a latex body suit emerged. This is the famous Wisher, already well-acquainted with Slim. She was in her late fifties, pretty with blown out blonde hair. Thanks to C for this character idea, who was poached from Pamela Anderson’s character in the eponymous Barb Wire (1996). Wisher grabbed a mic hooked up to the settlement PA and asked what the fuck Slim was doing, wandering back into town after running goods for the Convergence. Slim instantly turns into a worm and

Spanner Reads a Sitch: who are these people? It was a miss, so Spanner got to ask who is most vulnerable, but to be prepared for a bad answer. It was Pellet, the twelve-year-old skinny and dirty boy, the youngest member of the Minutemen. He was having a smoke next to a 50-gallon drum with an explosive warning on it, right next to the gas pumps. He was sporting a giant belt-fed machine gun (an M249 or something) slung over his shoulder and a bandolier of bullets around his scrawny chest. I was straight up tempting Spanner to toss one of his famous grenades over there, but he resisted. To each his own.

A handful of goons tramped over to grab Slim, who tried to see if anyone know their Reputation. It turns out White, an older guy with white hair and the position of Minuteman lieutenant, knew Slim. He knew they are ultimately a coward more willing to negotiate and grovel than fight. So they weren’t too worried as the group led the trio into the gas station at gun point. Spanner noticed a nice collection of broken-down vehicles next to the station in a garage, including an interesting-looking dune buggy.

Good Cop, Bad Cop, Hypnotized Child Cop

Each member of the trio was locked in a separate cleaning supply closet turned holding cell at the back of the gas station. Wisher questioned Kazuo first, with Pellet and Rice standing guard. Wisher quickly realized the stripper didn’t know anything significant about the Convergence and decided she isn’t a threat on her own. that said, she was still suspicious of her by association. I think Kazuo might have Read a Person here, but I don’t remember. In any case, poor Pellet was left to guard her alone, leading to Kazuo promptly putting her skills to work to Hypnotize him. She spent her hold, convincing him to leave, keep the door unlocked, and act as her eyes and ears to listen in on the other conversations.

Spanner’s interrogation also revealed he didn’t know much about the Convergence. Wisher weirdly didn’t go that hard on him though. He provided an update on the Scene and Dust Rabbit’s death, who Wisher knew. She thought he was a real weirdo just like the rest of the Scene. She mentioned that he had some weird stuff in his van. At this, C’s ears perk up: “Something weird in the van? Does that mean the goons were poking around in there?”

“It sure does,” I replied.

C: “Oh, great, that means one of the booby traps must have gone off.”

I forgot that Spanner had mentioned his van was booby-trapped in Session 1. Good thinking. We did a quick rewind (cue VCR sound) and saw poor Mouse getting both her hands sliced clean off by the sharp weighted blades hidden in the van’s sliding door. She shrieked and ran off toward the garage and the rest of the goons stood back. Fast-forward and it turns out that was the weird stuff Wisher was talking about. But she didn’t seem too concerned about Mouse’s hands; more interesting was the fact that Spanner had both tools and technical expertise. She asked if he wanted to do some work for her on the broken-down vehicles. Naturally, Spanner was game, ready to get out of any situation requiring talking and instead get his hands dirty fixing something broken. So, he was happily escorted out to the garage to get to work on that dune buggy.

The Desiccated God

Finally, Wisher went to talk to Slim, accompanied by Lala. Wisher was not pleased to have Slim back in town. She asked him about the Convergence, but didn’t really put the screws to him to learn more. It seemed like she was more interested in using past indiscretion as leverage rather than seeking any kind of retribution. That was a good tack to take with Slim, who as we know is always ready to bargain for their life. The bargain Wisher asked for was for Slim to help out with a problem in town. Although Wisher runs the joint, increasingly the local populace is turning to a new source of authority: something they call the Desiccated God. She said they go out to the Salt Flats to worship it. The corpses on spikes outside of town were the work of these cultists. This new source of authority challenged her rule and had to be quashed.

Slim didn’t want to give in too easily, however, so they Read Lala and found out that she was a new member of the Minutemen. She was slim and had a shiny 9mm on her hip that didn’t look very well-used. Slim spent some more hold to learn that Lala was nervous and didn’t want there to be violence. Slim could get on her good side by avoiding bloodshed. They took that information to heart and agreed to help with the Desiccated God situation. They managed to Manipulate Lala into helping, but a partial success meant they had to offer up some “concrete assurance.” T debated between giving up their Magnum or the keys to their Caddy. In a fun moment of irony, they decided it was better to keep a hold of the gun for this non-violent peacemaking mission and tossed Lala the keys.

Session End

I ended the session with a Fringe-style image disconnected from the action of the “episode”: a huge, shining golden bird with burningly bright white eyes staring into the camera. T wondered if that was the Desiccated God. Then we did the end of session move and changed Hx. We decided that Kazuo knows Slim better and vice versa, and that Spanner knows Kazuo better. Slim rolled enough highlighted stats to mark an improvement (their second), taking Ice Cold from the Battlebabe playbook: “when you go aggro on an NPC, roll+cool instead of roll+hard. When you go aggro on another player’s character, roll+Hx instead of roll+hard.” This new move makes up for their weakness in Hard and means their driving skills (mostly Cool) are now more transferable into violence.

A fun session! We hope to have one more before taking a bit of a holiday break.