I’m on a bit of a hiatus from role playing because we have a new born at home, now. Until she’s easier to deal with in the evenings, I don’t really want to stick my wife with bed time for the 3-year-old and the 3-month-old all alone while I tell stories with my friends. Seems like kind of a jerk move.
But I’ve been jonesing really hard for it. And since I learned what Apocalypse World was, my group hasn’t actually gotten a chance to give it a good, honest play.
So, since I’m supposed to “daydream some apocalyptic imagery” and be “developing [my] apocalyptic aesthetic”, as well as “to cultivate an apocalyptic aesthetic in [my] players too,” I started emailing random snippets of Apocalypse World inspired imagery to my players.
In an earlier stage in my career running role playing games, I might have hoarded these, worried that I wouldn’t be able to come up with something similarly cool later, and confident, for some reason, that I’d be able to remember this stuff well enough to use it at the table. But, like, what?!?
At any rate, I thought someone on the internet might find them interesting, entertaining or useful. I’ve cleaned them up just a little from the original emails.
The Ghost in the Jungle
The vegetation here is dense. Everything smells like rotting plant matter. The light level varies wildly, based on how much wan, green sun filters through the canopy. Everything that’s not a dark brown is tinted some shade of green. The trees dwarf everyone. They’re definitely taller than any building in the hardhold, and wider at the base than Vee-dubb’s van is long. The air is still as death; the only things moving are the bugs, bzzzing and stinging, nearly invisible to the naked eye.
The lot of you hike on. The heat is oppressive. It’s not like the sun bearing down from on high out in the Tire Wastes. This is a more encompassing, much wetter heat. It is hard to breathe, and sweating does no good at all. Everyone is drenched and gross.
Fleece is the first one to spot it: pale white and hard as rock, covered in fine spiderwork of cracks but feeling no weaker for it. Beneath the turtle shell of ceramic is a mass of black machinery, dead and busted with grubs and mushrooms growing underneath. After that, the frequency of seeing smooth white amid the vines and roots increases steadily; you’re headed the right way.
Your little group walks in silence, minds on your feet and the stifling humidity. No one is in the mood to talk any more. Then there’s a funny snicker-snicker-snicker sound and Jollyby cries out, blood erupting from exit wounds in his chest. He collapses into a giant fern, staining the leaves red and doesn’t even gurgle. Everyone freezes, and you can see a white dome, with black metal peeking out from underneath it swiveling slowly away from where Jollyby was standing, not as dead as you thought.
What do you do?
This was the first one I sent out, and I didn’t explain to my players what I was doing, so one responded with this callousness:
Shit. Not again.
A flare to the “face” always fucks with the heat-sensitive abominations. At least for a few seconds.
Like bouncing a baseball off the wall in the hardhold. Hit the same spot, again and again. Practice makes perfect, they say.
I visualize that spot as bein’ right in the center of that black maw of metal and put the flare right on the money.
Should buy me a few seconds. At least enough time to get under the ferns and start circling my way around to Jollyby.
I like that necklace he been wearin’.
First come, first serve.
Savages, Cannibal Savages
So, Jav, Kartak, you’re out there, now, among the Tire Wastes at mid-day. Sucks for you. The hidden mouth of the tunnel recedes at a pretty good clip, if you do say so yourselves, given your current state of abuse. The heat rolling off the piles of half-melted black rubber starts to get to you real quick and you realize that, while the tunnels were full of murderous, howling savages, bent on eating and cooking you (in whatever order), at least they kept the sun off. That shit is brutal.
Then you hear it: the hue and cry of a cannibal pack calling for your blood. Looking over your shoulders, you can see between mounds of rotten tires a group of a half-dozen or more of the fuckers, armed up with random bits of sharp and heavy instruments of violence.
If you’re quick, you could maybe squeeze in under some of the local “geography” and hide it out, but it means getting in there among all those tires that have been baking in the sun for hours and hours: even if you weren’t dehydrated from your imprisonment, not a pleasant experience. Other than that, it’s mostly either stand and fight, or hope to outrun them to where Vee-dubb’s waiting with her van. If she’s waiting with her van.
What do you do?
Another player responded this time, with this visciousness:
Jav slips a holdout from the small of his back and puts a round through Kartak’s femur while his former friend stares at the hounding madmen. Tears trace ephemeral trails across filthy cheeks as he pushes towards the pickup. With body and lungs burning from exertion (the ambient vaporized rubber helps too), he promises the world will know the noble end of Kartak and how he sacrificed himself to save his dear friend Jav.
So you’re sitting out there the rest of the night, watching Imam’s store front. Eventually, the angry red circle of the sun starts to creep up into the sky, pouring pink light over everything. Before the sky is much light at all, people start to trickle into the market space in ones and twos. Some are setting up shop, there’s Ula, getting water from the well for her folks; her dad’s been sick recently with a fever. Dustwich rolls his food cart up next to the news board and starts getting it going. Slowly, the market comes to life.
It’s a while before the first strangers show up, mostly folks staying at Chin’s flophouse. The first travelers won’t arrive until late afternoon, generally.Then you spot it: someone you don’t recognize, a scrawny bald someone in a nomad’s poncho, looking around furtively. They back casually down an alleyway next to Imam’s that you know for a fact is a dead end with no doors on it.
What do you do?
The Mead Hall
You open the doors and there Swiss Miss besits her throne: leather clad and radiating danger. At her feet sit two waste hounds, snoring with eyes open. The air is smokey from the torches lining the walls and the large rectangular fire pit that runs the center of the room. At two long tables, her gang sits at their leisure. All are men and women of violence, armed with guns of wide description and pointy instruments of death both vile and various. All eyes turn to you as you enter.
What do you do?
They call it opening your mind, but it’s more like the maelstrom burns the world away around you. Your body turns to ash and blows away in a furnace wind. Everything around smells of charcoal and gasoline, the light is all orange and red with dark, oily shadows.
As smoke billows through your consciousness, you see that Keeler isn’t as alone as she looks. She’s got a line of compatriots lying low just behind the rise she’s standing on, five or six of ‘em, all armed.
And now that the flame has shed some light, you have to feed the fire: When was your first kiss? With whom? Why don’t you like to think about them?
The top of the ridge is hot and dry under your chests. Passing the rifle between you, you can see some better detail about the settlement through its scope.
There’s some amount of walls, but not all the way around: either not finished being built or some damage done. There’s a collection of buildings inside, adobe (the same color as the surrounding wastes) and scrap metal, mostly. Not of uniform heights, but all one story.
There’s a kind of square in the middle of town. Around a well and a market, maybe. A complex arrangement of canvas and plastic sheeting suspended, taught, between ropes and wires like sails provide shade to the square. Or would, except that substantial portions are ripped and busted, hanging down and blowing limply in the hot wind.
And that’s the other thing: There’s no people in sight. Did they see you and they’re hiding? Are they all gone? Did something bad happen here? Is it still happening? If anyone’s left, would they assume you’re here to help or hurt? Would they cower or attack? From this distance, there’s no way to know.
Do you go on down there, or try to work your way around and move on or what? What do you do?