Wednesday, 27 February 2013

AW: London Calling 2013.5

We actually played on Monday 25th Feb, but I've been a bit slack about writing it up. We've sort of reached the end of a chapter, so we're going to be taking a break from Apocalypse World for a little while.
  • Barb plays a Brainer called Marsh, a creepy psychic concealed in androgynous medical-wear.
  • Rohin plays a Gunlugger called Keeler, a wild-eyed scarred man with a collection of firearms and the skills to use them.
  • +Paul wplays a Savvyhead called LaFayette, a somewhat kooky young woman with a greater affinity for machinery than people.

Having met up with Keeler's forces, Marsh explained to the twenty or so guys that had come from the Bridge (along with Chack, prim's right-hand man) that Prim had authorised them to take over the Tower. Marsh then declared Chack to be a rogue element, and made a horrible example of him. The new guys had no love of Raccaro and the Tower, so they didn't really object to the plan.

The small army returned to the Bridge. Keeler and half the guys hid out in the ruined city nearby, while Marsh, LaFayette, and the other half went into the Bridge holding. LaFayette returned to her workshop to install some newly-acquired medical equipment in preparation for the impending battle.

Marsh took Spatula and III (the Barrier Siltway lieutenant) up to see Prim, ostensibly to explain the situation. However, it was really just a ruse to assassinate Prim. Marsh puppet-stringed Prim's bodyguard, who shot her before being gunned down himself. Keeler took the gunfire as the signal to move in with the rest of the gang.

Marsh rallied the crowd with tales that Prim had been shot down by a Tower spy, and got quite a nice bunch of poorly-equipped bridge-dwellers to swell their ranks. Marsh's forces swarmed out of the Bridge's north gate and began heading down the causeway to the Tower's fortified entrance. Unfortunately this area was a bit of a killing field; some of the civilians were mown down, and most of the rest were routed. While this was all going on, Marsh had returned to the Bridge to seek medical attention for the psychic poison experienced earlier.

Keeler led his pack across the bridge, his heavily-armed jeeps riding roughshod over the Bridge's market area. Their heavy machineguns opened up on the Tower wall, forcing the defenders to keep their heads down as Keeler gunned his motorbike straight for the front gate with his gangers chanting "Door-Buster!" after him. He single-handedly slew the defenders through their own gun ports and used his shotgun to blow the bar holding the gate.

Once Keeler's gang flooded the Tower courtyard, it was nothing but a bloody stand-up battle. However, once more, Keeler's gang received virtually no damage thanks to their superior armour and leadership, slaughtering or routing the defenders.

We didn't actually play through to the bitter end, partly because the odds were so heavily in Keeler's favour, and partly because only Keeler was actually actively doing things at this stage. I guess it's following the game's advice to sometimes elide the action.

Fundamentally though, the session's energy had pretty much died by this stage. I'd had a bad day at work, and my brain wasn't up to much. +Paul was also pretty tired, and I think was experiencing increasing frustration due to a disconnect between what he thought LaFayette should be about, and what Apocalypse World thinks Savvyheads are about.

It seems like Paul wants LaFayette to be a Weird MECHANIC, whereas Savvyheads are pretty much WEIRD Mechanics. Sure, they can build things, but as Paul pointed out there's no dice-rolling involved. If he can't roll dice, he can't gain Experience. Most of their Moves, which you actually roll for, are only incidentally related to equipment. They are, in effect, more like an oracle than a technomancer. He also observed that Apocalypse World doesn't work well for playing "support characters," although I'm not sure that's really true. I suspect it's more of a misunderstanding about the type of support a Savvyhead's intended to provide.

Apocalypse World only makes you roll dice when something's at stake, and when something could go badly wrong. From that point of view, there's not much point rolling to build stuff unless you're open to a catastrophic failure every time you do it. The system's more interested in the social consequences of actions, which is why Savvyheads' rolled Moves are full of divination and advice.

Every time Paul tried to buy a new Savvyhead Move, he was disappointed by its true nature.

He thought Augury would give LaFayette a psychic antenna that would allow her to affect machinery and electronics at a distance, through the psychic maelstrom. In actuality, it's a tool for manipulating the vaguely-defined maelstrom itself. On reflection, I suppose "insert information into the world's psychic maelstrom" could include instructions for machinery.

After adding life-support equipment to LaFayette's workspace, he expected to be able to make "medical rolls" on injured characters. When I explained that there really aren't any healing rolls for non-Angel characters, and certainly not on people who aren't critically injured, it was yet another thing that didn't actually provide an avenue for rolling and gaining experience.

Things Speak was about the closest he had to what he wanted, but even then he was only interested in how to repair things rather than finding out peripheral information.

Paul wasn't with us when we first started the game, and LaFayette's always been fairly peripheral to events just because she's not really a combat-happy character and Keeler is such a force of nature. I suspect the issues may be partly due to a misapprehension of the character type, and partly because of not reading rules-fragments (augury, healing) that were in different playbooks. It's also partly my fault as MC for not having total mastery over all the playbooks; I've basically left it up to the players to be the authority on what their guys can do, because they have most of the specific rules in front of them.

I've started making some notes on a custom playbook - the Scavvy. It shares some mechanical similarities with the Savvyhead and the Driver (primary Stats are Sharp, with a side-order of Weird). It's about improvised gear, jury-rigging stuff in the field, and a little bit of technopathy. If we play London Calling again, I'll suggest we change LaFayette to a character type more suited to Paul's intentions.

Until then, Raccaro and Prim have been replaced with Keeler and Marsh...

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