NPC kick-start for Apocalypse World one shots

Posted: December 15, 2013 in System Hacking
Tags: , ,

For a while I’ve been pondering how to run an effective Apocalypse World introduction one-shot – in particular, how to give it a bit of a kick-start to get the story burning nice and fast. In a full-length campaign, it works better (I think) to use the rules as written and let things burn up slowly to begin with – but I wanted to give a feel of what a campaign might be like a couple of sessions in, when relationships have really started pulling at the characters and driving the story forward. Something a little like the “Hatchet City” playset was supposed to achieve, though I gather Vincent Baker no longer recommends using that.

In the most recent one-shot I ran (today!), I tried to kick-start this by using the following set of custom moves, to be read and followed by the players during the character creation process. For now I’m just going to post them here without (further) comment – but I’ll come back and talk about how they worked in a later post, when I’ve thought about the results a little more.

 To my Angel,

At the end of your turn in the Hx round, roll+sharp and name an NPC. On a 10+, name someone whose life you saved and now they owe you, big time. On a 7-9, name someone whose life you saved, but they resent feeling indebted to you. On a miss, name someone who has it in for you because of someone’s life you *didn’t* save. The MC might tell you some other interesting things about this NPC, too – or they might not, yet.

Love,
Your MC

–//–

To the Battlebabe,

At the end of your turn in the Hx round, roll+cool and name an NPC. On a 10+, name someone who relies on you when they need Shit Sorted Out. On a 7-9, name the last person you slept with (or, if no-one, the last person you turned down). On a miss, name someone who’s fished you out of trouble when you got in deeper than you could handle. The MC might tell you some other interesting things about this NPC, too – or they might not, yet.

Love,
Your MC

–//–

To the Brainer,

At the end of your turn in the Hx round, roll+weird and name an NPC. On a 10+, name someone who genuinely likes you, even though you’re fucking weird. On a 7-9, name someone you’ve fucked with in the past (maybe with one of your Brainer moves) and now they’re kinda scared of you. On a miss, name someone whose brain you’d like to fuck with, but you’ve never been able to. The MC might tell you some other interesting things about this NPC, too – or they might not, yet.

Love,
Your MC

–//–

To the Chopper,

When the characters are introducing themselves, ask whether any of them are in your gang.

At the end of your turn in the Hx round, roll+hard and name an NPC. On a 10+, name your second-in-command. On a 7-9, name the least reliable member of your gang. On a miss, name someone who was in your gang but quit in less-than-amicable circumstances. The MC might tell you some other interesting things about this NPC, too – or they might not, yet.

Love,
Your MC

–//–

To the Driver,

At the end of your turn in the Hx round, roll+sharp and name an NPC. On a 10+, name someone who depends on you and your wheels, and why. On a 7-9, name someone else who’s good with cars (but not as good as you, of course). On a miss, name someone you wish you could get a read on, and why. The MC might tell you some other interesting things about this NPC, too – or they might not, yet.

Love,
Your MC

–//–

To the Gunlugger,

When you’re choosing moves, don’t choose NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH. Sorry, I’m an asshole, what can I say.

At the end of your turn in the Hx round, roll+hard and name an NPC. On a 10+, name someone you took something from by force, and what. On a 7-9, name someone you argued with recently and you haven’t really settled it yet. On a miss, name the person you care about most. The MC might tell you some other interesting things about this NPC, too – or they might not, yet.

Love,
Your MC

–//–

To the Hardholder,

Before you do anything else, read the next paragraph to yourself. If, during character creation, people ask questions about the holding and its surrounding environment, answer them using the information in that paragraph and the decisions you’ve made about it during your own character creation. At some point the holding will need a name: come up with one between you, or be boring and use the one I came up with: “Maxwell’s Fault”.

Your holding is situated on the edge of a once-massive multi-storey city which is now by and large just a crater full of rubble. There’s still treasure in the centre for those who go looking, but there’s danger, too – you never know what you’ll find there, and you don’t need a brainer to tell you that the psychic maelstrom gets more dark and violent the closer you get to the middle. Further out is ok, though, and most of the structures there are more or less intact, so there are multiple holdings like yours on the edges or just a little way inside the boundary. Outside there’s the Ash Waste, which is a mess of dust storms and scrubby vegetation. It’s cold, too, especially in winter when the snows are deep and the blizzards are bitter.

Now go ahead and create your character and your holding, according to the rules in your playbook.

When it’s your turn to introduce yourself to the group, tell them about the holding too, if you haven’t already.

When the characters are introducing themselves, ask whether any of them are in your gang.

At the end of your turn in the Hx round, roll+hard and name an NPC. On a 10+, name someone you need to protect. On a 7-9, name someone useful who’s playing ball for now, but you wish you had more leverage on them. On a miss, name the biggest troublemaker in the holding (maybe excepting the PCs). The MC might tell you some other interesting things about this NPC, too – or they might not, yet.

Love,
Your MC

–//–

To the Hocus,

When the characters are introducing themselves, ask whether any of them are in your cult.

At the end of your turn in the Hx round, roll+weird and name an NPC. On a 10+, name your most devoted follower. On a 7-9, name someone you’d like to convert to your cause. On a miss, name someone whose devotion is wavering. The MC might tell you some other interesting things about this NPC, too – or they might not, yet.

Love,
Your MC

–//–

To the Operator,

When you’re creating your character and you come to choose your gigs, discuss the choice with the group. Tell them the options, and ask if anyone wants to be part of your crew and what gigs they could help out with. (Ultimately, though, it’s your call which gigs you pick; you don’t have to pick one just because another character offers to help with it.)

At the end of your turn in the Hx round, roll+cool and name a member of your crew. On a 10+, name the most reliable. On a 7-9, name the most skilful. On a miss, name one who hasn’t yet realised you’re taking advantage of them somehow. The MC might tell you some other interesting things about this NPC, too – or they might not, yet.

Love,
Your MC

–//–

To the Savvyhead,

At the end of your turn in the Hx round, roll+sharp and name an NPC. On a 10+, name someone who owes you a favour because you fixed their stuff. On a 7-9, name someone who has something you want – a piece of tech, maybe, or a tool, or maybe they just get access to the best loot from scavenger hunts. On a miss, name someone you depend on – for work, for help, for friendship, whatever. The MC might tell you some other interesting things about this NPC, too – or they might not, yet.

Love,
Your MC

–//–

To the Skinner,

At the end of your turn in the Hx round, roll+hot and name an NPC. On a 10+, name someone who’s madly in love (or lust) with you. On a 7-9, name someone who’s told you their deepest secret. On a miss, name someone you’re (secretly?) in love with. The MC might tell you some other interesting things about this NPC, too – or they might not, yet.

Love,
Your MC

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Comments
  1. Rabalias says:

    Great idea. I think some of these are much stronger than others – essentially my prediction would be that the strongest ones are those which actually define something compelling that has happened (as opposed to creating another relationship or similar). I’ll be interested to hear how they worked in practice?

    • Blackrat says:

      My aim was that each one would create an NPC who had a genuine demand on the character’s time and attention – whether for a specific past reason or because of the general present scenario. I haven’t yet correlated the distinction you point out with any in-game success, but I’ll think about it! :-)

  2. Rabalias says:

    I have no idea why that ended in a question mark.

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