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.

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