Advice For running Apocalypse World at Cons

  • 5 Replies
Advice For running Apocalypse World at Cons
« on: February 07, 2011, 11:50:27 AM »
I'm planning on running an Apocalypse World game at a convention in May.  I was looking for some advice on what to do with it. 

I've been talking to Bret, a bit about it, and he's said first of all don't use pre-generated characters which was my inclination as well.  Character creation shouldn't take too long and I plan on telling the players to not agonize over choices as no matter what they choose their characters are going to be awesome.

What I'm more concerned with is how should I structure the game?  Should I just run it as a first session play through?  Or should I cook up some fronts and things just out of my own head.  My concern with doing that is that none of the fronts and threats are coming organically from the group as a whole.  Instead they're being made up wholesale by me as the MC which I don't think really captures the fun of having the player's inputs on what things are threatening to their characters.  Right now, I'm inclined towards running it as a first session and just working with it from there. 

So basically I'm looking for input from people who have run the game at cons.  What advice do you have for someone running this at a con?  Are there any things that worked really well for you or that didn't work at all?     

Re: Advice For running Apocalypse World at Cons
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2011, 12:10:38 PM »
I've ran Apocalypse World at 3 cons now, 2 of which were multi-day events. The best successes have been from running a double slot game with the first slot = character and world generation with the first session work sheet. Then generating fronts before playing the second session.
Suppose this is dependant on what type of con you're going to and if you're likely to get players who are willing to commit to 2 slots on one game.
I've also played in 2 slot games and found them much more satisfying than regular con games .
Oh, the standard slot time here in the UK seems to be 4 hours.

Re: Advice For running Apocalypse World at Cons
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2011, 12:46:31 PM »
I've run my apocalypse world scenario Iron Road a couple times now in a single 4-hour slot at Engame Oakland. The games have been very fun and though it is a short period, definitely let the players experience character creation.

I think though that you want a strong scenario in mind with a few very well understood individuals, you're not going to have time to organically establish NPC triangles or let the situation grow, you need to throw some people and problems at the players and let them deal with it.

One of the best ways to do this is the MC Love Letter, you can include any background information in those, set up triangles and really set things moving. I'll include a couple of those from my Iron Road scenario in a follow-up post. Each love letter includes some (identical) background information and then the three results which might come from an opening roll. I tried to make each letter include:
  * One result which needs immediate response (e.g. someone is in danger)
  * One result which ties into the main situation at large
  * One result which is personal to the character
These love letters produced two very different games based on the same material, depending on which options the players chose, I deliberately left the game open enough that anything can happen, there is an ostensible goal to get this steam train running, but that's really not material to the scenario, the real question in the game is do the characters reconcile with their estranged hardholder/gang leader Erie, or do they fight him.

Love letters to follow:

Re: Advice For running Apocalypse World at Cons
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2011, 12:55:25 PM »
The four love letters chosen for my recent running of the scenario, I will bold the options chosen by the players:

The Savvyhead is critical to the scenario and is the only one which must be chosen:

Dear Savvyhead,
Nobody remembers how the world caught fire. But now we got dirty black rain, that gritty dust that sticks to everything in the wind, and the fire. All we know is now the fire burns underground, all the time, it moves and flares and grows and sometimes rarely goes away for a time, but it lives beneath the soil like a vast living thing. Now it’s coming this way, get the hell out or die, most people figure.
Years ago some savvy engineers here in the scrapyard started working on that old hulk of a rusty steam engine. Erie and his partner dedicated their lives to getting that thing running, until Erie lost his hand in that explosion. He abandoned the scrapyard, taking most of your gang with him to the Stacks. But the boiler’s finally fired up and they say it’s almost time to get the hell out of here.
That pure white plume of steam serves as an unintended signal though to everyone for miles around. Scavengers and all kinds of drifters been coming by the dozen and crowd the walls already been fights and some been killed. Shit’s not looking good outside the compound; many looking to you for hope… or to blame. Erie’s out there too somewhere they say.
This is where we find you.
Sometime before we start I’ll ask you to roll+weird. On a 10+ choose 1 to be true, on a 7-9 choose 2, and on a miss (6 or less) we’ll each choose one:
  * You’re really important to the scrapyard and the train and everyone knows it. How the hell did this ass hole sneak into the compound and brain you with a pipe. You wake up over her shoulder just outside the compound. Shit. Name one PC who knows you’re missing.
  * Erie wasn’t just the leader of the scrapyard gang, he was a damn fine engineer and probably your friend. What did he take with him when he left that you really can’t bear to be without?
  * You’ve figured out that Erie is building something massive out there in the stacks, but no idea what. Curiosity…. you know, he was a pretty good mechanic. If you see the stacks and choose not to check it out, you’re acting under fire. If you see with your own eyes, mark experience.

Your MC

The Hocus, (Note the opening paragraphs are all identical)

Sometime before we start I’ll ask you to roll+weird. On a 10+ choose 1 to be true, on a 7-9 choose 2, and on a miss (6 or less) we’ll each choose one:
  * The fire is your friend. Most people fear it and loathe it, but you, it seems to protect. You seldom suffer from the smoke and your most dedicated followers expose themselves to it intentionally and suffer little ill. Some say it’s a miracle.  Some think you’re the devil, might have to deal with them.
  * You figured out that a couple of Erie’s boys who you don’t know from before, they must be scavengers he’s paying, Dingo and Mars maybe, have infiltrated your followers and gotten very close to you. What are you going to do about it?
  * You’ve managed to get a few followers into Erie’s gang. You can use them to make some moves on your behalf over in Erie’s compound, but missing that roll is going to get people killed. Who are they?

The Faceless:

Sometime before we start I’ll ask you to roll+hard. On a 10+ choose 1 to be true, on a 7-9 choose 2, and on a miss (6 or less) we’ll each choose one:
  * Why do you think Erie blames you for the explosion? Is it true?
  * Where is she? Someone precious to you is missing from the compound. Tell us who she is and where you fear she went. Shit, you think you hear her screaming.
  * There’s this kid who thinks he’s like you. Wears a mask and follows you around all the time. Name of Kopper. He’s going to get himself killed doing that and he’s starting to get in your way.

The Gunlugger:

  * Erie has asked you to join his new gang several times. He’ll make you the new gang leader, says he needs you to keep the scavengers in line. Why have you always refused?
  * Nobody’s noticed but you have a sense for this kind of thing. Someone’s watching you closely from a high place. You’re sure there’s a sniper about to pick someone off in the compound. You’re pretty sure if you don’t raise the alarm and she fires you’ll know where she is but someone’s gonna eat it. Who’s about to get shot?
  * Without you the scrapyard would probably be in a lot more danger than it is already. There must be someone here you’re trying to protect. Who is she? Who else knows about her?

Re: Advice For running Apocalypse World at Cons
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2011, 01:23:16 PM »
I've run three of 3-hour convention games. Two I set out as if it was a first session, and the first one went okay. The second worked better, which was partly due to making an effort to put conflict in the characters' way (i.e. making pretty hard moves to bring enemies into their focus).

Previously I had run the Hatchet City scenario, which went pretty well too, although it maybe had too many threads there for a quick one shot.

Octoscott's letters seem like they'd work better - just one main problem to deal with, and giving each character a reason to be pointed at it. I'd be tempted to do something similar next time I run the game at a convention - just enough to get people aimed.

Re: Advice For running Apocalypse World at Cons
« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2011, 11:15:27 AM »
I like the love letter idea and I will definitely use it.  The slot is four hours, I don't think I'd want to commit to running two slots of the same game and I'm not sure I'd get a group willing to do that at the convention or not.  Unless it was comprised totally of people I know personally that is. 

Thanks for all of the advice so far.  I'll definitely keep it in mind and when I get back from the con I'll either type up some AP or at least post in this thread to report on how it worked out for me.