Apocalypse World 2nd Edition is the little game that could. Over the last decade, it has grown from an indie darling to a hugely influential juggernaut. Written by husband-wife game provocateurs Meguey and Vincent Baker, it funded a second edition of the game in less than 24 hours on Kickstarter, grossing six figures, and its rule set has been reskinned in over 30 other games.
But if you haven’t played Apocalypse World before, why should you give its second edition a try? Because it will make you a better gamer. How? In so many ways.
Apocalypse World asks you to move inside your characters mind and start paying rent
We have all played games where characters are just puppets on the player’s strings. Stephanie ate the last slice of pepperoni pizza, so you have your gnome thief slather the haft of her barbarian’s great axe with butter so it goes flying out of her hand the first time she tries to draw it.
Apocalypse World explicitly reverses this dynamic. It says that you the player should do what your character would do in any given situation, not what you want them to do.
The game puts it this way:
To the players: your job is to play your characters as though they were real people, in whatever circumstances they find themselves- cool, competent, dangerous people, larger than life, but real.
Playing from inside your character’s mind instead of your own transmutes game into a lived drama.
In Apocalypse World, you play to find out what happens
Since the dawn of gaming as we know it, Game Masters have been told that prep is crucial to a good game experience. This has fed an instinct for burdensome and maniacal world-building, the idea that if you have a city, you must know what is behind every door and the stat out every knight and squire before a player character can set foot on its cobblestones. It has led to campaigns where players follow breadcrumbs from planned encounter to planned encounter with little agency and choice, because if they have choice, they may veer off into territory the GM hasn’t fleshed out, and then chaos, insanity, disorder, and other unutterable blasphemies may ensue.
Apocalypse World makes this dogma dig its own grave and then shoots it in the head. In Apocalypse World, a GM is told to sketch out a few threats to make the characters’ lives interesting, and then start playing. It is low-prep, and makes game more interesting because no one comes to the table knowing what is going to happen.
Meguey Baker said the inspiration for the principle came from watching kids play make-believe.
“Have you ever watched a bunch of 5-6-7-8 year-old kids play pretend? It’s nonstop play to find out. Like, if I’m the dragonrider and you’re the wizard and we go adventuring up that hill, what do we find? That’s where play to find out begins.”
Apocalypse World makes you more creative
Because you play to find out what happens, the GM and the players collaborate to make the world and the story. In a traditional RPG, the creation of the entire world is the responsibility of the GM. But Apocalypse World encourages GMs to “Ask provocative questions and build on the answers.”
Ask players how long they’ve known the town sawbones. (“Since I was born.”) Let them describe the spider hole where they store their knife collection. (“It’s a slanting tunnel with a punji pit near the entrance.”) And the GM should take what the players say and build on it. (“You go to your spider hole to add your new Bowie knife to your collection. Inside the punji pit there is a dead dog. It’s the pet of Blood Howler, the leader of the local biker gang…”)
To engorge your mind with Apocalypse World 2nd Edition, click here now!
Thanks to Vincent & Meguey for responding to questions for this article.
What do you do to be a better gamer? Let us know in the comments below!