Saturday, May 7, 2011

Apocalypse World/Cyberpunk

I recently played the first session of an Apocalypse World game I'm MCing, where the concept is an Apocalypse World that's more cyberpunk-influenced. We're using the core rules, unchanged, but altering our setting expectations.

A key influence is the book "He, She, and It" by Marge Piercy. This is a fucking great book, and I can't understand why it's not part of the core cyberpunk canon. It was written in 1991 and won an Arthur C Clarke award, and yet somehow people who will happily rave at you about Blade Runner and Neuromancer and Snow Crash have never heard of it. I suspect if it had been written by "Mark" Piercy, and if it didn't have so many icky girly feelings in it, it would be more popular.

The setting of the book is one of environmental and societal collapse. A few large corporations control most of the resources, much of the world is uninhabitable, and most people live in giant sprawling burbs around the corporate enclaves, or else in independant towns struggling to survive in the wilderness. We've pretty much stolen that setting wholesale.

One of the things I'm finding exciting about doing the prep for the game after the first session is how the rules for threats are sparking off the setting in really provocative and unexpected ways. A mercenary working for one of the corps becomes a grotesque threat - a mutant, who craves restitution and recompense. The character leaps to life in my mind. The sprawling burbs aren't just a place to live, they're a landscape threat - a breeding pit, generating badness. The place takes on a life of its own.

As with the last game of AW, things feel a little thin after the first session. I'm worried that there's too much of a status quo, that we'll have to work hard to destabilise things, and I'll be working against the characters' best interests to change things up in the town. The character class mix is part of that. We have an Angel (with a clinic), a Savvyhead, and an Operator, all characters with established operations they're loath to jeopardise. We'll have another player joining us next session though, who hopefully will add some violence to the mix.

There are some juicy things coming out of the first session though: Mother/daughter conflicts, drug addiction, a creepy stalker in a position of power, shadowy corporations, a mysterious illness. I'm looking forward to seeing where they go, and trusting that, like the last game, the sauce will thicken up with cooking.


  1. Really dig this idea. I'd love to hear how's its been going since the first session. I also really appreciate the book recommendation. As a big cyberpunk fan, I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never heard of this book before. I've just ordered it from my local library. Looking forward to reading it.

  2. Hi Matt,

    I'm sad to say this game has been called off. A number of factors contributed to this, but I think it was largely a difficulut combination of characters. All the characters were very invested in maintaining the status quo, and so it became a real struggle to keep things interesting.

    I hope you like the book!