Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Bringing a Hand Grenade to a Tire Iron Fight (Apocalyptic Dispatches from Parcher's Pt. 1)

First, a reminder, please consider supporting my 2016 Extra Life campaign. It's not often that I get to put my nerdy hobbies to the cause of good, so donations do mean a lot to me. Thanks!

So... last month I started a new Apocalypse-World Campaign, taking the second edition rules out for a test drive, and got to run a second session this last Saturday. For this particular campaign, I went in blind, not having any ideas what I'd run until the players chose playbooks and created their PCs, and so I ended up having the following to toy with (a note, Parcher is the Hardholder NPC I created once it was clear there wasn't a Hardholder PC to run the joint):

  • Pinky - The Chopper
    • A woman with a busted face, wiry body and kind eyes. Wearing combat biker wear and a grotesque prosthetic leg with lots of straps, buckles and a complicated harness.
    • Has 2 harm gang medium savage mobile 1-armor, vulnerable to breakdown. Notable gang members: Winkle, Goldy, Stinky, Gary (the new Guy), Larry, Harry and Barry. Gang can call her Half-Pint, but no one else can.
    • Left Man bleeding and did nothing.
    • Has a side-car for Thirteen to ride in.
    • Just coming back to Parcher's Hardhold on day 130.
  • Ming - The Driver
    • An older Asian woman with a fine-boned face, sad eyes and a slim and frail body. Wearing an immaculate windbreaker suit. Also has a comfortable, hand-built, prosthetic leg with a complicated harness.
    • Has a Buggy that is fast, pristine, luxe and cramped.
    • Has been with Firefly for days on the road.
    • Also just coming to Parcher's Hardhold.
  • Man - The Gunlugger
    • Concealed gender, battered old armor, a dull face, sad eyes and a stringy body.
    • Carries a silenced sniper rifle, a shotgun and a shit-ton of knives.
    • Got Ming out of some serious shit and used to ride with Pinky's gang until they abandoned him in Parcher's Hardhold. Now serves as Parcher's enforcer and sometimes bodyguard.
  • Firefly - The Battlebabe
    • A woman with a girlish face, merciless eyes and a slim body, clad in display wear with high boots.
    • Wields a long-bladed sword staff.
    • Does odd jobs for Parcher, as well as Twice, who runs a club in the hardhold.
    • Has fought shoulder to shoulder with Man. Trusts all the PCs but Pinky, who she thinks she can take in a fight.
  • Thirteen - The Child-Thing
    • A girl with a pretty face, wise eyes and a child's body, clad in scrounge wear.
    • Always hiding from the Wolves of the Maelstrom, perversions of birth, who look like beasts under their disguises but they have empty holes for eyes and they only howl when their nature is revealed.
    • She has a radio that speaks only to her, and her den is a crooked, labyrinthine set of interconnected tunnels and boltways with ways into basically everyone's spaces, even if they've taken pains to close them off.
    • She thinks Ming and Man might be Wolves of the Maelstrom.
Fair warning... plenty of foul language below the cut...

Now, one of the things I've been itching to do with Apocalypse-World is really push the PCs against each other, as well as to run a longer campaign. So right away I started trying to just throw complications and fuckery at the PCs. 

One of the new rules added to the second edition of Apocalypse-World that I like is a requirement to spend 1 or 2 Barter at the start of each session which motivates the PCs to take action and say yes to NPCs for gigs in order to have the jingle for the next session. That helped build the world as I could say to Man and Firefly, how do you get barter? And their decision to work for Parcher helped me set up a potential fault-line to have some PCs supporting the hardholder and some working against him.

What else did we set up that first session? Here's some rapid fire recaps from my notes...
  • Boil beetles infesting Thirteen's den, she had to make a deal to get some pesticide.
  • Haddifan has a cafe in the hardhold.
  • Fights occur in Twice's club, part of Firefly's job is to keep them form getting out of hand.
  • Omie Wise runs the market in the hardhold.
  • A couple hours south of is an encampment run by Kettle, who seems to be a cultleader. All her followers wear headbands.
  • Grome has a shop in town where he makes/repairs prosthetics. He had an errand for Ming to deliver a letter to Kettle.
  • Fleece is the mechanic in town and tolerates Pinky and her gang hanging out in her shop.
  • Dremmer is Parcher's secretary.
One of the big things I tried to do that first session was to set up Pinky against Parcher. I had Dremmer tell Man to demand that Pinky let Winkle, her lieutenant be taken to a meeting with Parcher, alone. Pinky, acquiesced. So I pushed at it, seeing my chance to fuck around with the PCs and find the fault lines. I had Man hear the sound of someone being tortured in Parcher's fortress. Then I played up Winkle not coming back and Pinky hearing that a body had been dumped over the hard hold wall into an area known as the Chasm, figuring that she'd gather her gang and bust into Parcher's where she'd find Winkle and Parcher in flagrante delicto, as it were, but instead she rounded up her gang to go into the chasm, where they found that it was not Winkle's body, but the body of a stranger with a headband hiding a trepanation.

Meanwhile, Parcher hired Ming to take Firefly out to catch someone before they got to Kettle's encampment and Ming agreed since Firefly swore she wouldn't get the buggy dirty and would only need to bring back something in a box. Instead, Firefly cut off the unfortunate cultist's head and stuffed it in a sack, making the mistake of getting a single drop of blood on the upholstery. 

Pinky's gang found a sealed bunker door, and Thirteen got the bad feeling that the Wolves of the Maelstrom lurked behind it and tried to talk her out of opening it. Pinky didn't listen, but wasn't able to open the door anyway.

Man ran into Winkle who had left Parcher's and told him not to tell Pinky that she had been with Parcher all night. Pinky came back, asked Winkle where she'd been and finally Winkle blurted out that she'd been fucking Parcher all night... so... Pinky summoned Man and had sex with him on top of Winkle's bike to get back at her. Which, well, let's just say that I didn't expect that bit of fuckery.

Winkle tried to get back on Pinky's good side by telling her about a cache hidden out east at an abandoned hold last held by a Hardholder called Jackabacka. The PCs all went out and found a hidden room with surgical equipment that seemed to have been used long ago to perform trepanations. They also found severed dog heads on stakes that indicated that advance scouts from the warlord Dog Head had been there.

When they got back to Parcher's hold, Parcher hired Ming and Pinky to escort Man and Firefly out east to find out just how big a threat Dog Head is, not to engage, but just to reconnoiter and get out clean. And that's where we left the first session, with the PCs on their way.

A week or two passed and I sat down and did my prep for the second session, filled out a bunch of threats, wondered about some things and then realized that I didn't want to open my second session by getting bogged down into scouting out and such, so I turned to Love Letters to handle that and to poke and prod my players for extra details and lay some background that I could bring up as well as to give some hard choices (even if the players won't all see why they're hard for a while).

(for my Apocalypse-World players, refrain from reading please)

Second session starts, I poke and prod a bit, Man chooses to kill Omie Wise, putting the market under Monk's control. Firefly figures out Grome died during a botched trepanation and reports to Parcher. Ming figures out that that creepy fucker Norvell intends to assassinate Parcher and his story about a cache of supplies up north at Roark's abandoned hold might all be hooey and brings him to Man. The players decides that Ming and Man have a secret 'kill this asshole' sign, but they decide not to use guns, so Norvell manages to get a shot off and wing Ming. 

Meanwhile, engaging in a little fuckery, I had word get to Pinky that Grome was dead and his shop could be looted, while also having Parcher send Firefly to find Man so the two of them could go back to Grome's and bring the hardholder anything that would shed light on Grome's death and the trepanation cult.

Man, Ming and Firefly get to Grome's just as Pinky and her gang, including Thirteen, are finishing their looting. Firefly demands they turn it all over, Man softens the line and says Pinky and her gang just need to bring the stuff and let Parcher see it so that they can figure out what's going on. Pinky says no and Firefly starts to get belligerent. Man decides that it's a good time to duck into the shop and look around, since he hadn't been there before. Finally, Pinky caves just slightly and hands over an old crank drill and a leather belt with large holes to Firefly and seems to be willing to play nice...

Firefly starts to walk away, but then decides to slash the tire of Pinky's motorcycle. The gang decides this won't stand and advances and Firefly decides this is a fight she wants... Now, flash back, when Ming and Man killed Norvell, they took three grenades and a few other weapons off his body. Man decided that since Firefly also works for Parcher, he'd give one grenade to her... So, later, the fight starts between Firefly and Pinky's gang, hand to hand, to start. Now, Pinky's gang isn't all there, but they're still a fucking gang, but Firefly is a badass battlebabe, so the first exchange of blows is a draw, with both sides drawing blood. Neither side decides to back down, another exchange of blows and Firefly is looking rough, but she's killed one of the gang members... and then... Firefly decides to use the grenade, and not just to throw it and flee, but rather to, and I'm loosely paraphrasing now, "shove the grenade down the pants of someone". So everyone rolls +cool to Do Something Under Fire (as in, get out of the grenade blast), as Ming and Thirteen were watching this shitshow unfold... Well... Thirteen and Ming didn't escape the blast, badly wounding the already hurt Ming. Several more members of the gang went down dead or badly hurt, but Pinky avoids the worst and Firefly has the choice of taking a little damage and escaping or taking no damage and standing her ground... and she chose to stand her ground....

This was basically the expression of your humble MC at this point...

At this point, with the explosion, Man decides it's gone far enough. He comes out of Grome's shop and attempts to calm the situation, attempts to talk the gang down and... fails... Pinky decides that she'll be satisfied if she gets to hit Firefly with a tire iron. Firefly says no. The gang attempts to grab Firefly and hold her down, with Ming joining in, as she was pissed about being hit by the grenade blast, but also still angry about that drop of blood from their ill-fated trip south. Firefly still doesn't back down and after a few seconds of blows being exchanged Ming is bleeding out and nearly dead at Firefly's hands and Firefly is unconscious. Man attempts to stabilize Ming, but he's no Angel and she dies. 

At this point, I had Parcher show up, because, what the fuck? Really, an explosion in his hardhold, how is he going to ignore that. He tells Pinky he'll pay for repairs and medical treatment and then tells Man to drag Firefly off to the angel, as she'll be on her feet when Parcher exiles her from the hardhold. At that point, I gave Firefly's player the option, would she play Firefly as an exile or attempt to overthrow or undermine Parcher, or she could create a new PC. She chose to create a new PC.

While the former players of Ming and Firefly filled out their new playbooks, Monk, the new keeper of the hardhold market, sought out Thirteen and Pinky. She needed Thirteen's help in getting through a small opening in debris from the earthquakes to get at supplies. Thirteen flat out refused, but then Monk bargained with Pinky to pay more and feed the gang and Pinky got Thirteen to agree as long as Pinky went with and stood guard. So they tied a rope around Thirteen's waist, and in she went... and then there was an explosion and Thirteen was trapped without a way to get out and that's when the Alpha of the Wolves of the Maelstrom introduced himself and told Thirteen that if she just let herself be devoured she would become a part of him and therefore become more powerful. Thirteen managed a good hit on her roll +hard to Go Aggro and demanded he leave her alone, and he did, for now... but they discovered that all the supplies that Monk thought were in that basement were gone, leaving the hardhold in very short supply.

We ended with the introduction of the two new PCs, and Parcher telling all the PCs to head up north to an abandoned hardhold to find supplies. What was left unsaid by Parcher was that he was getting a group of trouble makers out of the hardhold.

Replacing Ming and Firefly, we have...

  • Ludo - The Faceless
    • A man in scrounged armor, merciless eyes and a muscular body. Wears a battered and scrounged mask named "Ludo". The man was known as Didymous before he put it on.
    • Vulnerable and grotesque without his mask.
    • Wields a machete.
    • Man helped him do something terrible.
    • Thirteen was once kind and unafraid towards him.
    • Thinks Pinky is pretty
  •  Bolts  - The Savvyhead
    • A plainfaced man with a wiry body, dusty brown hair and quick green eyes. Decked out in utility wear and tech.
    • Workspace is a van that is capacious, hard-worked and loud. Has machining tools, transmitters and receivers. 
    • Current project is creating traps to place around hardholds for protection.
And I've already got some fuckery in mind to open the next session with as the PCs head out to Roark's abandoned hardhold...

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