Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rise From Your Grave

I have been thinking a lot about World Gone Mad, my hack of Apocalypse World/Dungeon World lately. A friend out there in the community has been talking a lot with me about bringing the game to Kickstarter and ultimately getting it published. One of my oldest lifetime goals is to become a published author. I never thought in a million years that would be as a role-playing game designer. And now, it could become a possibility. Whoa!

One of my many concerns about getting WGM published, though, is if it's been playtested enough. The game is a hack of an existing, well-established (and extremely awesome) game already in print, so in theory there's not a whole lot to test. In practice, though, I made a lot of variations on the engine to better fit both the setting and my own playstyle. These changes should probably be tested pretty vigourously to make sure they work the way I want them to.

Take, for example, experience gain. In Apocalypse World and many of its siblings, experience is gained in two ways: by rolling a "6" or less on the dice, or by completing quests/learning something about the world/completing an adventure. In World Gone Mad, experience is acquired through what I've called "Character Moves." A character move is basically a plotline from a good zombie movie (think Milestones from Marvel Superheroic Role-Playing, if you're familiar with that system). Character Moves can only be done once per session, but each character has three or four of them, plus there's a mutual one, Bonding with Another Survivor, that can be done multiple times for multiple survivors in your group. The Cynic, for example (I'll get into playbooks in a later post) has a Character Move called "You've GOT to be fucking kidding me," where he gains XP when he refuses to do something beneficial for a trivial reason. Another example is the Thinker, who has a Character Move called "It Killed the Cat." When that character puts himself or others in danger to learn something, he/she marks XP.

This is the only way to gain experience in my game (although the current draft still uses the "mark XP if you roll a six or less" rule; I intend on removing it).

The rationale behind that is so players are motivated to actively drive the story forward, and when they do, they are rewarded. So if I'm playing the Cynic, for example, I am looking for active instances where I can pull off that Character Move and mark XP. The GM (or Zombie-Master, ZM, in my game!) knows the players are doing this, and so can build the story from the players' efforts to pull off their character moves for XP. Multiply this by however many players are in the group, all looking for chances to do their character moves, and the ZM should, in theory, have a game that practically runs itself.

I plan on writing more about World Gone Mad in the coming weeks, as I think about the game more and trick invite people to play the game with me. If you, Dear Reader, are interested at all in the game, just post a comment and I'll send you the link to the Google Drive folder where all the info is kept. If you're completely new to the Apocalypse Engine, you can go here to see the mighty Dungeon World, in all its splendor, in web format and completely free. That link takes you to the introduction; simply follow the links at the top of the page to see the rules, playbooks, and other awesome stuff.

I also want to take this little stretch of digital space to recognize and appreciate +Vincent Baker, the creator of Apocalypse World. None of this would exist without him. Without his game, and its amazing sibling made by +Adam Koebel and +Sage LaTorra, I probably would not have re-entered the world of RPG greatness.


  1. I'm interested. I like the idea of using the XP system to reinforce the zombie horror tropes.

    1. Great! Either give me your email address, or look me up on Google+ and ask me there, that way I can add you to the shared list for the folder.

    2. Sure, its derendel at

  2. Hi I'm interested: dreamofpeace at earthlink. I've been trying to write a zombie rpg for years, would love to support you in your effort.

  3. Also: in AW proper, you don't get XP for 6-, you get XP for rolling highlighted stats, and resetting Hx. There are a few other ways, but those two are the primary movers. You're thinking DW. :-)

    The XP for doing something in alignment with your character class sounds a hell of a lot like DW's alignment system, which I've found can really drive the action - both for players and GMs. That's a good thing to lift.