Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Apocalypse World RPG Gameplay

I've recently gotten into watching RPG gameplay streams on Twitch.  While it's great to read about a role-playing game, it's really nice to see it in play.  Even better if experts are playing.

Roll20 has some Games Master Series streams going, each series of nine game sessions or so each.  I was curious about the Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) RPG system and found the Apocalypse World 2nd Edition series...and it rocked!

The Gamemaster (or MC in the case of PbtA) was Adam Koebel, who created half of the Dungeon World RPG which is mentioned and joked about a bit for the duration of the series.  The guy is the GM that I wish that I could be - definitely something to strive for.  His reactions to the players' plans, his seriousness tempered by humor, the way that he rolled with the punches and kept the game going, referencing the rules only enough to keep things moving smoothly and to educate the viewer on the system - these are the hallmarks of a Master.

Each of the four players really brought their A-game to the series, each playing a character that was quirky to the Nth degree in their own way.

DistractedElf played Dice for most of the game - a character who constantly pushed the envelope of violence  and mayhem even when it was obvious that the smartest move was to shut up and just take it for once.  I truly admire those players who can make those almost-suicidal choices in gameplay - just going for it because it's what their character would do, survival be damned.  She was also the most animated - really getting into the camera to emphasize her points.

Andrew played Tynant - the guy in charge of the clean water supply and law-giver to the area because of it.  I enjoyed his almost zen delivery when he spoke as his character - serene, soft-spoken, and honest at every turn.  He made his share of hard choices as the story progressed.

Dave played Ferrous, the INCREDIBLY quirky fix-it guy who was impressive in his ability to constantly be just several frames out of step with society in every scene.  Ferrous just didn't get other people, how to interact with them, or what was really expected of him and played it to a T.  Seeing him in another series, you get a great idea of how well he was RPing the character of Ferrous.

Bluejay played Brace - a Brainer character who could literally kill people with her brain...though for the most part she chose to merely manipulate them.  She, too, didn't get people at all.  To Brace, everyone around her was someone to be manipulated so that she didn't have to work for things herself - people really were her playthings and the character was to a better part successful in having others do her bidding in one way or another.  It was hilarious when a new situation came up and, having watched the series and gotten to know the character, you just KNEW what her angle was and how she was going to try to go about getting it.  Great fun!

I now get the PbtA system pretty well, thanks to this series, and went out and bought it myself.  To be honest, I have never been an RPGer who wanted to role-play in a post-apocalypse era, but the gang really showed how fun exploring those characters can be and how easy it is to find a purpose and some adventure if you're looking for it in that setting and with the system.

My only critique of the system comes from a bias of my own background.  Basically, if you enter into combat in Apocalypse World, you're pretty much guaranteed to take damage.  My other-RPGs-molded-mind tells me that if you're good enough you shouldn't take damage - that you should have a chance to escape unscathed while the enemy is lying in a puddle of their own blood.  Looking at the PbtA system, though, I see the "why" that it works like that.  While it encourages combat, it also lets you know that there's a price to be paid - you're going to be hurt.  It also encourages healers to have a function in the game, which is great - if a group is going to be in combat a lot, they WILL need a healer character or NPC of some sort.  The death mechanic of the system encourages acting boldly and dangerously - even if your character dies, they can come back in ways that make the character more interesting and also keep the story interesting.

Definitely check out the series when you have some time - I have a feeling that you'll be entertained.  I watch Adam's various Roll20 series' on Twitch and YouTube in the same way that I binge-watch on NetFlix.  I've found my new form of entertainment and the expert entertainers thereof!

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