Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Academy of the Mind - session 1; Silent Scope

A solo campaign, using Apocalypse World 2e and the Miso rpg

Series begins here

Starting moves - spend 1-barter for upkeep & lodging.  That brings Must down to 3-barter. Now we roll Fortunes, for my cult: 7 (5+1+1). A soft hit. We have surplus, bringing me back up to 4-barter (in fact, what the hell, Must will spend 2-barter on their lifestyle and live in luxury), we have access to Augury and Insight, plus my followers (sorry, my students) are largely in a drug-addled stupor. We do, however, have to choose 1 want, either desertion or desperation. I choose desperation.

So, putting that together, The Academy has harvested a good crop of the sacred mushrooms and we have done some good business of late. However, I have taken more than my fair share in order to live it up. I've been taking advantage of my leadership role to move into a better dwelling and have nicer food. I've neglected the needs of the student body and they have been growing very nervous. The Academy building is in need of repair.

I'm going to say that there is a visiting dignitary from one of the nearby holds, and I look to Miso:
A) Fleece, who trades in clothes and garments in Weak Crash - d6 - 2
B) Cobra Jack himself, of Clem's Tool - d6 - 4

Cobra Jack is in town!  CJ and a few of his cohorts from Clem's Tool have come to Pistol Dump to The Academy and receive the benefit of its psychic wisdom.  They've had to brave mutants and a troublesome landscape to do it, so they must a have real need.

First, though, it's time for stat highlights. I determine these randomly,ending up with Cool and Hard.

Jack's delegation is officially greeted by Winkle. Cobra Jack treats Winkle like a child, making crude jokes at his expense. This is not unusual, Jack & Dez Choke would rib each other mercilessly whenever they met, much to the amusement of them both. Winkle just can't handle it. He doesn't have the wit or confidence to respond and goes all sulky. It's awkard, for everybody (this is happening front and centre at the town square with most of the hold watching). Cobra Jack insists on going to the infirmary to see Dez Choke and pay his respects.

Jack and Choke talk privately, nobody knows what about(except perhaps Dez Chokes's doctor, Boo)(Doom had wanted entry but was rebuffed. She's pissed).

After that, Cobra Jack comes across to The Academy to have an audience with Must and the students. This is the first time Cobra has come to The Academy since the death of Weaver Bird. He is arrogant and condescending, as he always is. What pressing matter has he come to The Academy to resolve?

(I'm going to say that he's already paid, and that's part of what accounts for The Academy being in surplus)

I try Story Cubes

I try Zero dice

I try the Zero Tarot

I feel completely lost by all of them. Nothing comes to mind.

Then, I try the oracles from In A Wicked Age, and it worked much better for me, even though it's sword & sorcery rather than post apocalyptic. I choose three oracles:

A) The alliance by marriage of a certain tyrant family with the cult of a certain dead god - d10
B) A prodigy mage, still a maid, drunk with occult power - d6
C) A wealthy merchants son, refined and crafty

I get rid of the third one. Boring. Then I assign dice as per Miso and roll. A = 4, B = 3.
Cobra Jack has marriage on his mind. Badluck Tyrant, the lead figure in Weak Crash City, is attempting to shore up their position by allying with...

A) Me?
B) A powerful priest and miracle-worker from the badlands
I assign a d6 each's me! Well, I have been busy, haven't I? Lovers with Doom and fielding marriage proposals from Badluck Tyrant, the richest, most powerful merchant in the region. This fits in well with my using up of The Academies resources from the Fortunes roll. Perhaps I've recently returned from Weak Crash, where I've been living it up and trying to impress Badluck?

Anyway, Cobra Jack wants to know where this leaves him and Clem's Tool.



It sounds like he just wants to talk to me, why would he need a psychic vision for this stuff.  I've made this almost too personal, gotten carried away with writing fiction and lost track of the GAME.

Take it back. Cobra Jack has come to see The Academy. He wants access to their Augury move. So what does that move do?
  • Reach through to someone/thing connected to the psychic maelstrom
  • Isolate and protect from the maelstrom
  • Isolate and contain a piece of the maelstrom
  • Insert information into the maelstrom
  • Open a window into the maelstrom
So, should I roll or choose? I choose. Cobra Jack is haunted. He wants protection. I go back to the oracles I drew from In A Wicked Age earlier. I choose the second one, a prodigy mage, still a maid, drunk with occult power. Clem's Tool is a democracy, and elections are approaching. A young woman by the name of Charmer is emerging as a rival. She has an eerie hold over those that hear her speak. Once, after Cobra Jack mocked her publicly, she put a curse on him and he has been plagued by horrific nightmares ever since. He can barely sleep and is fearful and irritable, which is badly affecting his campaign. Worse, he is starting to fall into small naps during the day, where his nightmare visions visit upon him again. He seeks protection and freedom from this curse.

The Academy begin their ceremony. They all partake of this distilled essence of the mushrooms, a brew for them all to drink. They sit in a circle with their eyes closed, waiting for the visions to come to them. Each of them speaks aloud of the strange, abstract shapes they see, debating and correcting each other, until they can come to consensus over them.

A successful roll is consensus, a failure /miss is a descent into bickering and an inability to name and control what they see, a soft hit (7-9) represents lingering doubts within the group and concessions made in the debate which has weakened their overall position. Only by unifying in naming the object of their visions do they gain control over it.

I make my Augury roll. 3+6+1=10.

That's a full success! In their visions, The Academy is able to recognise and isolate the mind terrors sent after Cobra Jack by Charmer. It took some rigorous debate, but an agreement was come to. Since we hit the 10+, I get to choose two options. I choose that the effect can persist without The Academy actively maintaining it (for a while, at least), and that it reaches broadly across the psychic maelstrom, so Cobra Jack can travel back to Clem's Tool without needing us to be near him to maintain his defence.

Note that I did NOT choose for it to be stable, with no bleeding. Since this was more of a protection, pushing against psychic powers, I'm going to say that anyone attempting to Open their Brain in the vicinity of Cobra Jack will have to Act Under Fire to do so for the time being. The fire being that the suppressing nature of this ceremony blocks access to the psychic maelstrom.

Cobra Jack feels clear and confident in this head for the first time in a long while. He's very happy. He starts talking about getting The Academy to launch psychic attacks against Charmer, but Must demurs. For starters, the student body are in a drug-addled stupor, and there is also a psychic dampner all around Jack to contend with. She tells Cobra that he'll have to deal with Charmer "the old fashioned way." He laughs merrily and takes his leave. He'll need to get back home and act quickly if he wants to take full advantage.

Just as Cobra Jack is leaving, prepping his vehicle to begin the journey back to Clem's Tool...time for Miso...

A) A sniper shoots Cobra Jack dead!  d8 - 8
B) Doom confronts Jack as he is about to leave, demanding that he pay tribute to Pistol Dump (PD collects tribute from nearby communities) d6 - 3

It's the sniper! Cobra Jack is just shaking hands with Must, saying his farewells (pointedly ignoring Winkle) when a shot rings out and his blood splatters all over Must's vestments.

Cobra Jack's entourage are in a panic! One of them, Half Pint, CJ's bodyguard, grabs Must, trying to take him hostage to help their escape. Must tries to break free of Half Pints grip, Acting Under Fire to do so (that's 1 XP). I roll an 8 and have no modifier, so I flinch, hesitate or stall.

Must can wrench himself free, but the sniper is still shooting and she'll be putting himself right into the fire. The best way to avoid getting shot is to leap into the jeep with Half Pint and Gremlin.

Must decides they do not want to get shot, and so dives into the backseat of the jeep, just as Gremlin punches the accelerator and high tails it out of there. Pistol Dump is heavily foritified, but they were just being let out. It is, however, up an inaccessible crag, so it's a tough drive for Gremlin. They've got a start, but a few bikes take off in pursuit, all of whom know these trails like the back of their hands.

In the  meantime, Half Pint (who's a tough little fucker and a mutant at that, with scaly skin that gives him 1-armour) is trying to subdue Must, wrap some chain around him to keep him in. Must doesn't like this too much, so she leans backwards, brings both feet up and attempts to kick/shove Half Pint right out of the jeep. I'm going to say that that's Seizing the back of the jeep by Force (2 XP). I roll two sixes for a total of 13. Cop that! I choose to inflict terrible harm, take definite hold of the back of the jeep and to impress/frighten/dismay my enemy. To me, this means that I just kicked him clean out of the jeep and he fell off the cliff. Bye bye Half Pint. You sure are dead.

Gremlin is terrified. Cobra Jack is dead, she's gunning hell for leather down a glorified goat track on the edge of a cliff with motorcycles chasing her, now the passenger in the back has just tossed her toughest friend off a cliff. They're spooked as. Must presses the advantage.

"Let me out, NOW!" Must screams. "Stop this fucking jeep!" Must doesn't intend to attack Gremlin (that would be crazy, they would crash for sure), they just want Gremlin to think they would. So that's a manipulate, for which Must uses Weird, which is at +3. I roll 1 + 2 + 3 for a total of 6. A miss

Gremlin pulls out a 9mm, firing wildly behind her while trying to watch the road. "Fuck you, you crazy fuck!" She yells. I need to Act Under Fire to avoid the bullets. I get 2+3 = 5, another miss (3 XP). Must takes 2-harm, as one stray bullet lodges in my forearm as I madly bring it up to protect myself. I make the harm move. I roll low (2+1+2=5), which is good. Still, I think a GM move is in order.

Gremlin crashes. The car spins, the rear teetering off the cliff. My one escape route is forwards, past Gremlin over the drivers seat and hood.

Gremlin is a little banged up and a bit frightened of me, but is looking at me with a gun in her hand, she's debating in her head whether or not she has time to finish me off before she scrambles out herself.

"Gremlin," I say, giving her my most intense, mesmerising stare, "Either we both live, or we both die." I roll to manipulate, getting 11, a full hit. Gremlin sees sense, and we both scurry out, just in time to see her wheels fall down.

The motorcycles arrive and pull up. Doom is super pissed, bringing a shotgun up to Gremlin's head, who is kind of beyond responding at this point. She's going to blow her away.

I try to intercede, talking Doom down. I say that this wasn't Gremlins fault, someone shot Cobra Jack, what was she supposed to do? If we're going to avoid war with Clem's Tool, we might need Gremlins help.

Again, I'm manipulating. I get an 8. They need concrete assurance first. Fair enough, she's just shot up her boyfriend. Gremlin drops their gun and puts their hands up where we can see them. Gremlin say that if we can find whoever shot Cobra Jack and hand them over, that should be enough to head off a war. Probably. Doom accepts this, and we all make our way back up to Pistol Dump, Must needing some medical attention.

Session end.

Thoughts: Miso is quite different to CRGE, that's for sure. My earlier reservations about getting stuck coming up with possibilities and worrying about wasting creative energy and time on threads that don't get used didn't eventuate, but it did have other impacts. It puts you much more in the frame of writing fiction and has you very much wearing the GMs hat. If you look back over what I've written above, you may find me struggling with pronouns to use for Must (he or I? his or mine?). There are some points, particularly early on, before the dice started rolling in earnest, where I'm definitely writing fiction instead of playing a game. That's ok. I like writing fiction. And hey, it's only one session, maybe repeated use would give me a completely different perspective?

Apocalypse World worked great, as usual. When I started to get a little lost early on, it was honing in on that games mechanics that brought me back on track.  I was pleased with the use of oracles from In A Wicked Age as well.  There are a bunch of fan-made ones on Abulafia as well. The ones that look particularly useful to me are the Anime, Heavy Metal Fantasy and Rifts (yes, Rifts) ones.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

The Academy of the Mind - session 0

OVERLY LONG PREAMBLE: TL,DR - I'm running a new solo campaign, using AW2e + Miso

I spent a lot of time faffing about, trying to decide what to play next, solo wise. At first, I was going to use CRGE again, but with a different game. But I went around and around in circles, looking at lots of different games, baulking at all of them.  I'm not sure why.

In the end, I decided to go back to my tried and true Apocalypse World. I thought I should do something differently, though, so I decided to use Miso as my GM emulator.

In all honesty, I had my doubts about Miso, going in. The way the system works, you're obliged to spend time coming up with plot twists that go straight to the cutting room floor.  Seemed a waste, to me. But after looking at other solo engines, I noticed that a great deal of them seemed to spend a lot of time trying to set up some kind of "narrative structure" to the game. I specific number of scenes, specific types of scenes, forcing the game to have a start, a middle and an end.

In all honesty, that just doesn't sound like my jam.  I'm not a fan of overly formulaic storytelling, in any media. I love the feeling of unpredictability that can come from a more sandbox oriented approach. Also, after the Yes/No approach of CRGE, I was keen to try something that could be used more as a springboard for creativity, which is Miso down to tee.

I decide to make a Hocus.

Name: Must
Stats: Cool 0, Hard +1, Hot -1, Sharp +1, Weird +3
4 barter in "oddments" (figure that out later).
Look: Ambiguous, Formal vestments, Innocent Face, Mesmerising eyes, Graceful body.
Moves: Fortunes, Charismatic, Fucking Whacknut.
Followers:  My students, who travel with me. They are rigorous and argumentative and form a powerful psychic antenna. They depend on me for their lives and needs, and are drug-fixated.
20 Followers; fortunes +1; surplus - 1-barter, augury, stupor, insight; want - desertion, desperation.

I use the excellent Apocalypse Fuel website to create a random hold for Must and their students to live. I get "Pistol Dump."

Pistol Dump is a small hardhold (50-60 souls). It's heavily fortified, perched on an inaccessible crag. The hold has about 4 combat and 4 utility vehicles. It's manufactory produces leather and is always hungry for labor. It has been around a long time and tends to be set in its ways.

It is a collapsing state. It is undergoing a power struggle and has no clear leader. It's gang is undisciplined.

Notable residents: Dez Choke has a fragile prosthetic jaw, which is fine-tuned and heavy.
Dez is the leader of Pistol Dump, and has been for some time. He has recently fallen ill. Some say he has been poisoned, or cursed. His son, Winkle, is in line to take over, but isn't really the most respected figure, not a strong type.  Doom, Captain of the guard, is angling to take charge, and Nils, who runs the leatherworks is waiting in the wings, biding their time.

Most suspect Doom of poisoning Dez Choke, but many point the finger at Must and the School.

First question for Miso - where is Must's School located?
1) The school is inside Pistol Dump, and its students are part of the general populace
2) The school is close to, but outside the fortifications of Pistol Dump. They've settled into a cave system at the base of the crag.
1) d6 vs 2) d10 - the d6 rolls a 5, the d10 a 2.

Must and her school count toward the 60 odd souls that make up Pistol Dump, but don't work in the tannery. They are dependent on Must, so Must provides their needs and place in the local economy.

It's time to talk about the cult a bit more.  It's a school, an academy, and the obvious thing they have to offer is their psychic antenna, the augury. They study the ways of the psychic maelstrom, sitting in a circle to debate and analyse their observations and theories, putting them through a rigorous dialectic. They also use drugs. I'm going to reincorporate the idea of a cave complex at the base of the crag, where the special sacred mushrooms can be cultivated. It is through the use of these psychedelics that the maelstrom is accessed and the visions are later discussed and interpreted.

The Academy has been with Pistol Dump for some time, Must in an ex-student himself. It was founded by Must's old master/teacher, Weaver Bird. The Academy has always provided invaluable advise for the leadership of Pistol Dump, and folks come from all around to use it as an oracle, to the economic benefit of both the Academy and Pistol Dump itself.

What happened to Weaver Bird?
1) He died of old age    D4
2) He died in mysterious circumstances    D8
3) He wandered off on a sacred quest, leaving the Academy to Must    D6
Would you believe it, the d4 won! Weaver Bird was just plain old and went the way of all things. It happens.

Dez Choke has never really warmed to Must. He misses his old comrade and advisor, Weaver Bird. There was someone you could RESPECT. Dez is a big believer in The Academy, though. It's just Must he's not sure about.

Of the three pretenders to the throne, one hates The Academy and wants it gone.
1) Winkle (d6) - 3
2) Doom (d6)   - 1
3) Nils (d6)      - 4
Nils the Tanner. These lazy students are a drain on Pistol Dump. It's about time someone broke up their parties and put the to work. The parasites.

I roll again between Winkle and Doom to see who is a true friend to Must; it's Doom. What the hell, they're lovers.

I consider consulting Miso on who has poisoned Dez Choke (if he has indeed been poisoned), but I decide to hold back. Gives me something to wonder about, it'll come out in the wash.

In terms of the world in general, I'm thinking a little Mad Max, a little Gamma World. Mutants, talking plants. A bit of gonzo weirdness. Why not?

Pistol Dump is fortified and inaccessible to protect it from the monsters that roam the wastelands, as well as gangs of cannibals, and the occasional, terrifying patrol of robots left over from the old wars.
(NOTE TO FUTURE SELF: Threats - gangs of mutant cannibals, weird monsters of the wastelands, robots of wars gone by)

Next up: make-up of the Pistol Dump populace (mutants or no?) Attitudes to mutants in Pistol Dump. Two other nearby holds from Apocalypse Fuel.

I'm going to go ahead and say that this is the same world as the last campaign, with Farley the Driver. Farleys game was set in the deserts and the badlands. These areas are ultraviolent and in desperate scarcity, but they were actually spared the worst of the wars. They are human dominated and the psychic maelstrom is relatively weak.

This campaign is in the borderlands, where the last outposts of humanity hold alongside the mutants, braving the dangers of monsters and robots alike for the rewards of more fruitful and arable land. The psychic maelstrom feels closer here.

This sets up nicely for a trilogy, where the final game would be in the ruins of the urban centres on the coast, where the robots are in control, the monstrosities are truly terrifying and the psychic maelstrom is a constantly deafening howl. Can't wait!

So, back to Miso to clarify a few things. First of all, the makeup of the general populace of Pistol Dump.
1) Pistol Dump is a town where humans and mutants live side by side in harmony.
2) Pistol Dump is a purestrain human stronghold.
I assign a d6 to each option. The first option is the winner. Mutations abound!

Next question:
1) The Academy is predominantly mutant (d6)  = 1
2) The Academy is predominantly human (d6)  = 3
Interesting. The Academy, which deals exclusively with psychic phenomena in the region (in fact, they are the pre-eminent experts) are predominantly purestrain human in the middle of a mutant enclave.

If we relate this to the power struggles in town, we have:
Winkle, Dez Choke's son, in line to be the new Dez and nominally in charge at the moment. Everyone likes Winkle (who is a mutant), but no one considers him a leader, including himself. Dez Choke stubbornly insists on Winkle taking his leadership mantle, because that's how we do things around here, and Winkle cannot bring himself to contradict his old man.

Doom, captain of the guard,  purestrain human and lover of Must, openly talks of taking over the town. She is a natural leader and obvious candidate, but her  direct approach has rubbed a number of folks up the wrong way. 

Nils, who runs the tannery, primary industry of Pistol Dump, is a mutant and highly respected by all (especially the mutant population). Nils hates the Academy and wants to take over Pistol Dump, but is too sly to be direct about it. He is setting himself up as Winkles advisor and right hand man.

It occurs to me that, while not overtly stated, it's starting to look like Must is aligned with human supremacists in a power play with the mutants, who are the workers of the setting at that. Certainly not where my natural sympathies would lie. I decide to let it play out, trusting myself, my instincts and the dice. I'll have to keep a sharp eye on that aspect, though.


1 - Weak Crash Camp Large 200-300 souls. Poorly fortified, a straggled out collection of homes. Four combat vehicles & four utility vehicles. Major trade hub, daily market. Food is chronically scarce and expensive. High end books may be obtained at Armlock Butt's.

It's an oligarchy: an alliance of influential figures divide power between them. It marches under the corrupt leadership of The Badluck Tyrant.

It's posse is heavily armed, small (10-20 violent bastards) and ill-disciplined.

2 - Clem's Tool Large population (200 - 300 souls). Heavily fortified, multiple rings of fortifications up a hill mound. Four combat vehicles and four utility vehicles. Population is lazy and drug-stupored. It's manufactory produces alcohol and is always hungry for labor. Almost everyone can read, and locals often travel to find scribing work in less literate parts (there are a number of Clem's Tool in the Academy).

It is a representative democracy. The people hold more or less regular elections to choose a leader.  It marches under the narcissistic leadership of Cobra Jack.

It's at this point I realise that I've done waaaaaaay too much prep and need to stop.

Next up, the first session.