[Watch the World Die] Live Forum Playtest

edited May 2014 in Game Design Help
I am pleased and nervous to welcome you all to join in my first open PBF playtest. Everyone's welcome to jump in! Don't worry about turn order. Download a current copy of the rules PDF here.

The Blurb:
WATCH THE WORLD DIE is a collaborative narrative game allowing any number of players to create their own custom apocalypse. There are no winners, and everybody loses. Grab 2d6 and get ready to ruin everything.

The Rules:
Play will take place in this thread. We'll skip Phase 1. I'll take the first turn, so the first person to post after me will get to choose whether they want to "Make It Worse" or "Relieve It". There's no need to be invited. Just go ahead and take the next turn as instructed by the rules. Think about linking your Events and Responses to those of previous players (this is not strictly required, but it is cool).

A Few Formatting Guidelines:
If you're starting a new year, underline the year in bold at the top of your post. Please show your rolls after each Event or Response, and end your post by indicating the new Pressure total.

Special thanks to Paul_T, without whose gentle advice I wouldn't have had the balls to do this.

If you just want to read the apocalypse without all the out-of-game chat, I am keeping a condensed log here.


  • edited March 2014
    YEAR: 2020

    A series of superstorms strikes the eastern seaboard of the United States, destroying many major bridges and ports, and causing damage totalling in the billions of dollars.
    (1/Climate, pressure total 1, leads to...)

    Continual pummeling from the weather renders thousands of square miles of eastern US forests and lowlands into filthy saltwater swamps.
    (2/Ecosystem, pressure total 3, leads to...)

    Over the weeks, availability of potable water becomes a serious issue; thousands of people die of dehydration, their homes, towns and reservoirs shattered and flooded with undrinkable water.
    (3/Resources, pressure total 6, leads to...)

    Persistent violent weather makes it impossible for medical aid to reach many affected areas, and supplies must be stretched even thinner when an emergency aid shipment from the UK is lost at sea off the coast of Providence. Thousands more die due to lack of medical care and antibiotics.
    (3/Resources, pressure total 9, leads to...)

    The US president declares Martial Law to be in force throughout the affected areas.
    (5/Politics, pressure total 14)

    The world's Pressure total is now 14. Your turn.

  • edited March 2014
    Glad to see you doing this! (And thank you for the kind note!)

    Let's see how it turns out...

    I'm choosing to Make it Worse.

    A strange, unidentified species of parasite appears to be breeding in the salt water. It attacks victims of dehydration, leeching off what water it can through osmosis, and its effects on victims cause extreme behaviour, including rage, madness, self-mutilation, and extreme violence.
    (2/Ecosystem, pressure total 16, leads to...)

    In heavily-affected areas, it becomes almost impossible for people to find access to potable water. A tense standoff takes place in Florida between infected civilians and military forces guarding the water supply to a nuclear power station.
    (3/Resources, pressure total 19)

    The world's pressure total is now 19.
  • edited March 2014
    Ok, this turn I'm gonna Relieve It.

    Rolling 2d6 + 19 gives me 22 Response Points...

    Massive evacuations from the eastern seaboard push an ever-increasing population of desperate survivors and diseased stragglers westward and northward into Canada.
    (Mass Migration/Evacuation = 17 points)

    A bizarre form of NeoCalvinism grows in popularity as the frightened US populace seeks divine explanations for worldly events. The sect proclaims the end times have arrived, the future is already written, and America is being punished for its sins as foretold by the quatrains of Nostradamus.
    (Religious/Ideological Fundamentalism = 5 points)

    I spent all the Response Points, so the year 2020 comes to an end. I now roll 2d6 = 9. That's greater than 7 (the number of events this year), so the Great Dying has not yet begun.

    The Pressure total is now 0 again as we move into the year 2021. What happens next?
  • YEAR: 2021

    Shortly before New Year's Eve 2020, a conflict develops in Florida between military personnel and civilians who are told there's no room for them in the transport vehicles heading North. During the altercation, an explosion damages a vital conduit for the nuclear station, which, already undermanned, becomes unstable, causing a massive radiation leak.

    When the evacuees arrive at their destinations in Canada in early 2021, medical personnel find that many of these individuals are carrying the saltwater parasite. In those who were exposed to significant doses of radiation, the parasite has begun rapid mutation, branching out into a number of sub-species which begin to spread like wildfire in the cramped, overly-packed shelters.
    (2/Ecosystem, pressure total 2)

    The world's pressure total is 2.

    Next reader: your turn! Do you want to Make It Worse or Relieve It?
  • edited March 2014
    MECHANICAL NOTE: Another playtest revealed a bug: Rolling an event type 6 on the first turn of the game generated no meaningful result. This rule has been modified in version 0.10. If you have an earlier version, you may want to replace it with the new PDF which you can always find here.
  • edited March 2014
    I'm choosing to Make it Worse.

    Another year of brutal winter storms smashes the embattled eastern US, further stretching the already-scant resources of millions beyond the point of tolerance. Reports of increasingly violent crime begin to include mysterious disappearances and warnings of suspected cannibalism in areas.
    (1/Climate, pressure total 3, leads to...)

    Peculiar, never-before-seen amphibian lifeforms are reported in and around the swamplands of Florida. The creatures seem to a type of omnivorous mudfish, roughly the size of a common housecat. They exit the water in swarms of a hundred or more, and appear to be totally unafraid of humans. The press dubs them "Killer Skippers".
    (2/Ecosystem, pressure total 5)

    The world's pressure total is 5.

    Next reader: your turn! Do you want to Make It Worse or Relieve It?
  • edited April 2014
    Love this!... is this still ongoing (seems like awhile since last post)?
  • I think I can speak for both of us when I say that we were kinda hoping someone else would jump in, to stir things up a bit. A couple weeks ago I started running an AW campaign (also based on a work of Paul's called "Apocalypse: Emergence"), and in that campaign we used "Watch the World Die" during "session zero" in order to co-write the history of the apocalypse *before* playing AW in the ruins we've made. So far it's working very well, you can find the AP here.

    I encourage you or anyone to (a) jump in here, (b) playtest it yourself, and (c) let me know how it goes!
  • Awesome system! I want to try using "WTWD" for "session zero" of an upcoming The Quiet Year. Having some background info that will inform the environment and the community could add an interesting twist.

    Also, I will endevour to (a) jump in here. Thx.
  • edited April 2014
    In that respect I would mention an idea Paul came up with: If you wanted to keep the world history a GM secret, you could play WTWD with one group, and then play in the aftermath of that game with a different group.
  • Back to the game...

    I'm choosing to Make it Worse.

    With International backing, Mexico and Canada shut down their US borders in an attempt to stem the tide of refugees. Interstate highways, trains, and all forms of transportation across the USA are now under Martial control. Flights into and out of the US are heavily controlled to prevent further spread of the rapidly mutating parasite. A failed attempt to establish a containment zone along Florida's Gulf Coast results in the spread of the Killer Skippers.
    (4/Infrastructure, pressure total 9, leads to...)

    Texas secedes citing the Federal Government's inability to deal with the ongoing crisis. The New Republic of Texas immediately creates the JJEL Militia ("Judge Jury Executioner League") and hundreds of Texan citizens join. The migrating hordes of displaced East Coasters (aka "Parasitics") quickly learn to avoid the New Republic.
    (5/Political, pressure total 14)

    The world's pressure total is now 14.
  • I'm choosing to relieve it.

    Dice roll = 9; total rp=23

    A mass program of mandatory testing for parasite antibodies is instituted, and those testing positive - whether currently infected or not - are forcibly removed to FEMA "treatment centers", a euphemism for concentration camps. - 7

    Protests against the internments turn violent and rioting breaks out in several major cities. - 8

    The UN delivers life-saving desalination equipment into several areas desperate for water, saving many lives - 1

    Total current pressure = 7
  • (Excellent!)
  • edited April 2014
    I'm choosing to Make It Worse.

    Infected refugees fleeing the US spread new strains of mutating saltwater parasites into Central and South America.

    The world's pressure total is now 11.

    [PS - I am keeping a condensed log of this apocalypse here.]
  • edited April 2014
    I'm choosing to Make It Worse.

    As the mutating saltwater parasite is exposed to new fauna in Central and South America, it becomes more virulent and unpredictable. Scientists theorize the parasite has undergone such an accelerated "evolution" that it will soon become self aware.
    (2/Ecosystem:Species Growth/Overshoot/Mutation; which leads to....)

    Further investigation determines the parasites have a rudimentary form of communication with each other using a high frequency signal. This begins to interrupt traditional systems that use that part of the spectrum including military/governments, aviation, shortwave, and maritime sea-to-shore services.
    (4/Infrastructure:Communications Networks)

    The world's pressure total is now 17.
  • MECHANICAL NOTE: Another playtest revealed a bug: Rolling an event type 6 on the first turn of the game generated no meaningful result. This rule has been modified in version 0.10. If you have an earlier version, you may want to replace it with the new PDF which you can always find here.
    Do you have another thread where you talk about design decisions and/or entertain variants/suggestions?

  • I'm going to try to relieve it again.

    Dice roll = 11; total rp = 28

    Societal responses:

    The Neo Calvinist movement develops a splinter group, a sect proclaiming that the parasites are a physical form of the holy spirit, and that those possessed by them are participating in the rapture and Second Coming. Infected begin to flock to these services, and even those in the rage stage somehow calm down during them. Radio equipment reveals the parasites in these meetings escalate their level of communication dramatically.
    (6 - new religion)

    The New Republic of Texas begins stockpiling food and rationing water.
    (10 - prepping/hoarding)

    Governments in Central and South America institute harsh measures in a desperate attempt to stop the parasite from spreading. Areas of land are burned or firebombed, and infected are forcibly quarantined or shot on sight.
    (9 - hardening/militarization)

    Protests from farmers and indigenous people forced off their land break out.
    (3 - protests)

    All 28 points are used up.

    OK, so I count 9 events, not including responses, and I roll exactly a 9. Since this isn't lower, I assume 2022 begins? :)
  • edited April 2014
    You guys are on fire!
    @conklins - No I didn't have a meta-thread, but I do now!
    @Dreamofpeace - Awesome end to a terrible year!
  • (Man, I'm loving this whole religious-parasitism-radio-communication angle. There's a lot to mine there for the hypothetical upcoming Apocalypse World game.)

    (The idea that these creatures are interfering with radio communications - and therefore most modern technology except what you'd expect in a post-apocalyptic world - is great fuel for future developments, because it implies connections to the developing psychic maelstrom: maybe these creatures' blather IS the psychic maelstrom? And it's also pretty interesting to consider that killing all the parasites within a certain area might affect the maelstrom's presence AND simultaneously allow people to use more advanced technology and communications tech again.)
  • Right!? It's fucking CRAZY! We're a bunch of seriously disturbed people!!! Oh Noooooooooeeees!!!
  • edited April 2014
    Year: 2022

    A particular subspecies of high-frequency-emitting electroparasite known as "Poenell's Neuroradialis" gains an environmental advantage over its rival alleles by means of sheer population (now being found in the bloodstreams of a third of the world's population). This strain has adapted to live within the nervous systems of human beings, and can spread via water or the exchange of bodily fluids. The epidemic of infection is known as "The Poens" which leads inevitably to the new word for the infected: the "Poened".

    The world's pressure total is now 2.
  • edited May 2014
    I'm choosing to Make It Worse.

    A focused effort by the world's leading pharmaceutical companies to combat the "The Poens" reveals the only known neutralizing agent (note: not a cure) involves biomedical nanoparticles injected into the host. These nanoparticles require a rare radioactive isotope of hydrogen called Tritium.
    (3/Resources:Medicine/Antidote Shortage/Outage; which leads to....)

    In a mad dash to meet the sudden need for this rare isotope, the world's governments begin a program of extracting Tritium from spent nuclear fuel. A mishap while transporting spent rods at the Heysham Power Station located in Lancashire, England results in cascading failures and a meltdown of the reactor.
    (2/Ecosystem:Radiation/Fallout/Toxic Waste)

    The world's pressure total is now 7.
  • MECHANICAL NOTE: I rolled to see which continent was effected: 1 - North America, 2 - South America, 3 - Europe, 4 - Africa, 5 - Asia, 6 - Australia.
  • Sad this died again.... necro'ing .....

    I'm choosing to Make It Worse yet again:

    Over-reaction to the meltdown in England results in the curtailment and lock down of several nuclear facilities throughout Europe. Grid instability results in rolling brownouts and blackouts cascading across Europe starting in the UK and extending from Poland in the north-east, to the Benelux countries and France in the west, through to Portugal, Spain and Morocco in the south-west, and across to Greece and the Balkans in the south-east.
    (4/Infrastructure:Power Grid; which leads to....)

    Cellular, satellite, and telephone networks across Europe experience failures due to power outages.

    The world's pressure total is now 15.
  • edited May 2014
    @conklins I like your continent roll! This thread comes and goes from the front page. I leave it alone sometimes to see if any new people come along, but now you've made two moves in a row and we don't want you to be playing alone! So my apologies for that, and now I'm also going to

    Make it Worse...

    Islamic nations, thus far reasonably well-isolated from the chaos going on in the West, begin to be affected by their first wave of infectees. The reaction among certain extremist sects is Jihad, leading to a rash of brutal guerrilla attacks against Western bases and personnel. Spurred on by early successes, these reactionary groups propagate into neighboring countries and gain political power. US forces, already spread thin across the globe, are drawn into a series of losing battles throughout the Middle East, their military dominance unsettled.

    The world's pressure total is now 20.
  • Time to Relieve the Pressure.

    I rolled a 10, so that's 30 Response Points.

    I'm rolling two dice to decide where events will take place, and they are both 1s. Interesting! So:

    The government in Central America establishes a military perimeter along the Mexican border, and throughout the Caribbean, along the firebombed areas from the events beginning in 2012. Refugees and migrants from the United States are refused altogether, whether infected or not.

    The New Republic of Texas claims that the Central Americans are blocking their access to vital resources, such as water and remaining farmland. After continued refusals, the Texans break through the Wall, introducing two busloads of the infected... the Central Americans retaliate, and relations break down completely, developing into a chaotic war of guerilla attacks and terrorism along what was once the Mexican border.
    (19 ‐ Civil War/Balkanization)

    On both sides of the Wall, tensions mount, as anyone perceived to be "from the other side" becomes a target for abuse, terror, and murder. People perceived as being "on the wrong side" are often denied shelter or access to shelter or medicine. On October 26, 2022, the Southerners make a public spectacle of throwing 26 American citizens off the wall and then flaming their bodies. The event is captured on a handheld camera and circulated internationally.
    (7 ‐ Racist/Ethnic/Class Segregation/Apartheid)

    The world's Pressure total is now 4.

  • edited May 2014
    I want to set up some stuff for a hypothetical future society to discover, so I will also Relieve the Pressure. I rolled an 8 so I have 12 RP.

    As the rioting and looting persists, paramilitary citizens groups throughout Europe begin appearing, armed with blackmarket weapons and bound by oaths to protect their communities with extreme prejudice. The groups rally under a red banner featuring white wings on a black skull; they call themselves "Angels of Judgment".
    (2 - Security/Police/Peacekeeping/Militia Forces)

    Throughout the United States, especially in war-torn areas like the New Republic of Texas and what remains of Florida, citizens begin burying food and supply caches in droves. With demand spurred by a popular series on the DISCOVERY network and well-positioned product placement deals, department stores and supermarkets begin modifying their offerings to feature complete prepared "Survival Pax" manufactured by companies from Omaha Steaks to Ralston Purina.
    (10 - Prepping/Caching/Hoarding)

    All points are used up, so it's the end of 2022. Next person gets to start the year 2023.

    There were 6 events this year. My roll is a 6. We just barely avoided the great dying that time!

    The world's Pressure total is 0 again.
  • edited May 2014
    Year: 2023

    As Europe struggles with infrastructure issues and Middle Eastern Islamic nations increase the intensity of their military actions against the West, Russia uses the opportunity to quietly mobilize its military and "annex" several bordering countries establishing the NUSSR ("New Union of Soviet Socialist Republics").

    (5/Politics:Corruption:Fascist/Communist Totalitarianism)

    The world's pressure total is now 5.
  • edited June 2014
    Make It Worse.

    The superstorms that previously plagued the Eastern Seaboard now hits Europe, causing massive property damage. Numerous European countries are thrown into complete anarchy. (1/Climate/Extreme Storms, leads to)

    Surviving European policymakers meet up in The Hague. These policymakers claim that the decaying security situation (codeword for rioting) requires that "restoring order and stability" must take precedence over "persevering an antiquated and obsolete idea of humanity". These policymakers decide to infect the entire European population with Poenell's Neuroradialis, in the hopes that a hivemind consciousness would not only stop the rioting, but also present a unified front against the Jihadists and the NUSSR. (2/Ecosystem/Plague, leads to...)

    The Angels of Judgment opposes the the plan to forcibly infect the civilian population. However, the Angels are not capable enough to fight off the initial wave of parasites, and they flee into exile in the NUSSR. Most Europeans are infected by Poenell's Neuroradialis, bringing an end to instability in the region (and also an end to any non-infected humans that did not flee with the Angels). (2/Ecosystem/Species Succession)

    Pressure is now 10.
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