Monday, August 25, 2014

The Head of the Household

Yesterday, we played the beginner game of Star Wars: Age of Rebellion. It didn't go too well. Everyone had fun, so I'd call that a win, but I was playing this "learn to play RPGs" adventure with six veteran roleplayers, an adventure designed initially for four. Throw in some incredibly hot dice rolls, and the players just steamrolled their way through Whisper Base. Again, it wasn't a bad time, but it left myself and my players a little unsatisfied.

Pressed to come up with something on the fly, I pulled out World Gone Mad, my Dungeon World zombie apocalyse hack. That turned out to be much more satisfying. Within minutes, we had players scheming with each other, disasterously-entertaining plans, and zombie-splattering action. In light of how much fun we had in the short few hours we screwed around in this world of zombies, I'm now considering using World Gone Mad for my next campaign-level game.

The strength of my hack continues to be its flavor. A few players remarked on how so many of the moves are just dripping with theme. I'm particularly proud of that. My lack of artistic talents means I have to make up for it with vivid writing and creative ideas, and it seems like that's working well. The weakness also continues to be the lack of layout. Perhaps once I'm out of grad school, I'll devote more time to being a little crafty with production and layout, so that I can better organize and present this game. Putting all those moves on cards, in particular, I think, would really help this game stay organized and fun.

I'm ending this brief entry with a link to the 12th playbook that I wrote this morning. Inspired by yesterday's successful session, I finally took my idea for this playbook and put it down on paper. The idea behind most of the playbooks is that I want each type of survivor to bring a chunk of story with them. This isn't Call of Cthulhu, where the players are investigators and are thrust into a story; this is a game where the story comes from their presence. They are the story. I tried to set up each playbook's various moves to make that happen. In an ideal game of World Gone Mad, the players will drive the story in the pursuit of their own agendas. This frees the ZM to focus on the world. This seemed to work pretty well in yesterday's game, and with a little more tweaking of a few playbooks and rules, as well as some basic prep, I think I can make this happen.

The end result of this hack is to be a sandbox-style zombie apocalyse game, where the players dictate what kind of story is told, and the ZM has tools to accomodate that story. Prep for a ZM in this game will look, essentially, like a giant playground, with all these attractions the players can manipulate and play with for their own purposes. Of course, the ZM could also have some events planned, things that can trigger over time, but overall the narrative thrust of the game should come from the players in pursuit of their own goals. Whether the players want a grim, survival-horror game or a campy zombie-bash, I want World Gone Mad to be able to do either.

More on this later, of course, but for now, I present to you The Provider:

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