Hacking the Apocalypse World system is all the rage these days. Game designers are using the core framework to create brand new games across multiple genres - from horror to romance to historical fiction.
Many of these hacks are complete re-imaginings that take the game away from its post-apocalyptic roots. But there's also a lot of room in the AW system for small hacks - things that keep the gritty, desperate feel of the game while changing the focus or tone just enough to make the setting feel different. Here are three that I've come up with that can be used individually or together.
Same desperation, same struggle, but a little lighter tone. Maybe the characters are younger; maybe you want to emulate media targeted at a younger audience; maybe you're just trying to introduce the game to people who aren't comfortable with lots of sex and gore in their games.
- Character specials now trigger on the condition: when you share a moment of intimacy - physical or emotional - with another character. This can be a date, a first kiss, or just time spent alone opening up to each other - but the characters have to connect on a deeper level than just having a conversation. Nearly all of the existing specials work perfectly well with this reinterpretation.
- The seduce or manipulate move is now just manipulate. However, when manipulating another character you may use emotional leverage if both players agree that the leverage exists. A lot of people already consider that to be a valid trigger for manipulate, so this isn't a really significant change - it just makes it explicit.
Everybody loves giant robots. And there are already third-party and add-on playbooks (Juggernaut, Space Marine Mammal) that let you play a character with an exosuit. But what if you want a game that plays like the first half of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann? That's clearly a post-apocalyptic series featuring a bunch of the AW archetypes: a Touchstone, a Savvyhead, a Battlebabe, a Hocus, etc. - it should translate well.
The simple dumb solution is the following:
- Anyone can pilot a mecha. Mecha count as vehicles as per the Driver's playbook, carry the same sorts of tags, and follow the normal vehicle damage rules. What they use for fuel is up to the setting.
- Mecha may carry weapons (melee or ranged) or have them built-in. Even without weapons, all mecha are inherently 1-harm hand loud. All mecha attacks should typically have the loud tag.
- The size of the mecha dictates how it functions mechanically in battle:
- Exosuit: as a normal vehicle
- 1-2 story tall: you also count as a gang 1 size larger (a normal person counts as a small gang)
- City building-size: you also count as a gang 2 sizes larger (a normal person counts as a medium-sized gang)
- Humongous: you also count as a gang 3 sizes larger (a normal person counts as a large gang)
- Size adjustments stack with a existing gangs (if everyone has a mecha) and with moves like NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH; they can therefore create "gangs" that are army unit-sized.
In order to keep the Driver relevant, you might allow his "normal" vehicle to fly and/or carry mecha. You might also allow my other car is a tank to grant him a mecha a size larger than most of the characters have access to.
Finally, if you would like some kaiju to go with your mecha, feel free to use the Behemoth playbook (for a PC) or the same size rules as above (for an NPC) except that the kaiju is not considered to be a vehicle.
Gritty, dystopian, post-apocalyptic future? How about a gritty, dystopian, post-national, corporatist future? This one doesn't require a whole lot of change except for the setting and power structure. In core AW, there is no ruling class; no government; no organization because there is no one there to provide it - the hazards all come from the environment and other desperate people. In future noir (think Blade Runner), the average person doesn't interact with the ruling class or the government except as an environmental hazard; the people in charge want very little direct contact with the unwashed, desperate masses.
These are the changes you'll need to make:
- Add the MC directive: "Make the Authorities be an ever-present, uncaring, and indiscriminate threat." The Authorities (corporations; security forces; whatever passes for government) are always fronts.
- "Hi-tech" is now really hi-tech, like bleeding edge. It still implies valuable.
- "Weird" is now "Jacked" - it's a measure of your natural ability with tech, how strong of a connection you have to the 'net, and how well you can control cyberspace when you're jacked-in.
- Open your brain to the psychic maelstrom is now simply jack-in; the rules are the same. Everyone sees cyberspace a little differently - it's filtered through their personal experiences. The one major difference is that the things in cyberspace - other people, the Authorities, their Ice and AIs - are all very real and very dangerous.
- Augury is now Hacking; you'll need a Deck (hi-tech) or similar equipment to do it.
- On a hit, choose one:
- Communicate with something or someone through the 'net
- Isolate and protect something or someone from AIs or other hackers
- Steal information
- Insert code or information
- Observe something or someone remotely
- By default, you can only reach close-by things, your incursion lasts only as long as you actively maintain it, and it's not well defended from AIs or other hackers. On a 10+ choose 2; on a 7-9 choose 1:
- You can automate the routines; whatever you do will run for a while without your direct attention
- You can create a safe tunnel into other sub-nets and through firewalls; you can reach a specific location anywhere in the 'net.
- You can create an effect over multiple sub-nets/locations.
- Your routines are well-defended from AIs and other hackers.
- On a hit, choose one:
- The Brainer is now the Virus - he's the guy who can get inside your head through the 'net and re-program it. If he wants a Deck and Hacking, he can take it from the Savvyhead's playbook.
- When the Hocus uses her followers for Hacking, they all link up and plug in; there's a lot of feedback and some or all may bear the brunt of a failed run.
- The Angel should be able to work on wetware, biomedical implants, and prosthetics; the Savvyhead will need a medical bay.
- The Hardholder is now the Kingpin - he's the head of a well-defended criminal enclave that doesn't answer to the Authorities (or does only nominally). Options for the Kingpin's den are the same as for the Hardholder's holding except:
- The default gig is "smuggling" (same surplus and want)
- "Raiding" becomes "burglary and theft"
- "Protection tribute" becomes "protection racket"
- "Tall deep and mighty..." becomes "An impressive building of steel, concrete, and impact-resistant plexiglass."
- "Tents, lean-tos, and wooden walls" becomes "a shantytown, or a collection of scattered apartments and offices".