World building questions

  • 5 Replies
World building questions
« on: December 27, 2016, 12:57:31 PM »
Hello all, I have started the process of my first Apocalypse World. Players have been gathered , I have sent them links to the free playbook download (seriously thank you for that being free) and we have started to ask some general questions about the world, but we will be taking it slow just so that there is still more to talk about game one.

What questions have you used to build your world ?

So far I have asked if they want a wasted future , where the apocalypse happened in our future , or if current tech is gonna be the highlight .

But I'm not an innovator and would love to see what ideas you have springboarded off of , what questions have brought out discussion and conversation at your tables .

Re: World building questions
« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2016, 06:52:15 PM »
Some questions I'd strongly recommend:

-So, what's the environment like? Are we talking Mad Max style desert, endless jungle, arctic wastes, what?
-What was the Apocalypse like? Does anyone even know?
-Apocalypse World is partially a game about fundamental scarcities. What scarcities are you interested in exploring? This includes physical stuff like food and water, but also more abstract stuff like trust or safety.
-What do people dress and look like? How do they talk? When visualizing Apocalypse World, aesthetics are important. These can vary from place to place, but knowing what the average guy is wearing and what accent (or lack thereof) he has is very useful.

Re: World building questions
« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2016, 09:00:04 PM »
I tend to make my players stay very concrete and observational. Absolutely no causal explanations for the apocalypse allowed, gently and politely denied.

-What do you see when you look to the horizon at sunset?
-What smells waft to you on the wind?
-What wakes you from your daily slumber?
-What's the best meal you've had this month?
-You've just caught yourself staring off when your eyes suddenly focus...on what?
-A chill went up your spine, you know a threat is just outside of your senses...what is it?

and so on.

The players responses stay more or less independent at first, but quickly start to intertwine, begging for explanation.
The inputs are like points of information, with each player developing hypotheses to thread the points together in explanation, but I won't let them go there.
Playing into the confirmation bias, players will then add more content consistent with their own hypothesis and the group starts a slow build towards something for us all to discover together.
The momentum is established once the players start stepping on one another for air time. I go Socratic, picking at details to help me with threats and such.
Sometimes, I need a clock to cut off the rolling content flow that occurs. Maybe an hour or so.
Then it's time to discuss how the group fits into this world they've created.

Fun thing is...I never explain what or why the apocalypse is. It just is and no one knows.

Re: World building questions
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2016, 10:29:05 PM »
I will wholeheartedly agree with RangerEd here. I think it's way more fun to leave the cause of the apocalypse a mystery to find out during play (or not).

I've played several ApW campaigns, all with the same MC, and here's how he's done it: he has one fictional touchstone that he decides on beforehand. Something to make the campaign unique.

  • The first campaign, he decided he wanted to set it here (San Diego). Nothing else decided, no plot, no nothing. Nothing about what apocalyptic San Diego would be like. He used questions like RangerEd's:
    • So, your caravan pulls into a town. What's it like? Ruby, you've been here before. Who do you know?
  • The second campaign, he decided we'd do a frozen apocalypse. We all decided on a nuclear winter sort of game, so he whipped up an 80's soundtrack and all. Some broader questions came out in game 1:
    • So, what's your living situation like?
    • Who are the elders of your families? What's their relationship like?
  • This most recent campaign (just wrapped up last week), we had just played 10 Candles, which is a horror/tragedy game. Out of that game came some interesting mythology that involved terrifying Lovecraftian gods. We decided that the gods would be a part of the apocalypse, though how or why we never really discovered. So, the questions were back to some concrete ones about our situation:
    • Where do you guys live? Is it a desert, a forest, a swamp, what?
    • Who do you go to for your coffee? (My character ran a coffee shop)
    • Who's in charge of healing people up? Is there anyone doing that here?

So yeah, you can ask real general questions like DeadmanwalkingXI or much more specific like RangerEd. Up to you. But I'd say this: remember that you have the whole campaign to discover stuff. Don't blow the most interesting things on the first game. Stick to stuff the characters would know, big or small.

Also keep in mind that the old characters (55, 60 years old or more) would probably remember some stuff about it. You can ask them if you want, but keep in mind that their memory would be hazy, as they'd have only been little kids at that time, and the apocalypse was coming to an end at that point anyway. If everyone is younger than 50, cool; then nobody knows anything for real, it's all just hearsay.

Re: World building questions
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2016, 11:43:42 PM »
I will wholeheartedly agree with RangerEd here. I think it's way more fun to leave the cause of the apocalypse a mystery to find out during play (or not).

I feel like this is totally a valid way to go, but that it can vary significantly from group to group. I know my current group had fun defining the apocalypse as a failed alien invasion that nevertheless wrecked the environment and much of the infrastructure. No details (not even what the aliens looked like), but that decision has allowed for a lot of interesting stuff to be added to our version of Apocalypse World (weird chemicals leaked from a crashed ship used as drugs, for example).

Re: World building questions
« Reply #5 on: December 28, 2016, 03:54:54 PM »
For more specific questions, look up threads called "playbook focus", by Arvid. Many have great provocative questions specific to a given playbook.

You might also find good ideas here: