Or, "Where the captain is a vampire, and the chef is a talking bear."
Another thread recently reminded me of a *world game I ran for about a dozen sessions last year that I don't think I've talked about much on line. The premise: a smuggler ornithopter crash lands on a floating island in the midst of a psychic hurricane; what follows is old-school D&D style exploration and tomb raiding.Cheat sheetsRules Doc
It had a few qualities that make it unique in the set of things I've run and, as far as I'm aware, the set of Apoc world descended games. Namely:
- Troupe Play
- Character Draft
- Extremely Thin Characters
- Circumstance over Stats
- Default Zoomed-Out Moves
- Harmless Harm
A rotating pool of 8 players had joint control over the 16-person crew of the ornithopter. Each game, some portion of the crew (or sometimes all of them) would venture out from the crash site to go exploring. Nobody owned a single character. Sometimes the whole group would jointly control the crew. Sometimes they'd assign one or more crew members to each other for the duration of a fight, a scene, an expedition, or a whole session. Some people tended to "speak for" certain crew members by default, but without nearly the level of "my guy" ownership you get when each player controls a PC.
Certain crew members went on nearly every expedition—typically the more powerful ones, and the ones that didn't eat much. (Food was tight!) Others only went out once or twice in the entire game, or mainly contributed during downtime.Character Draft:
Instead of playbooks, characters were randomly generated by combining together six things: given name, family name, background, trait, shipboard role, and a piece of bonus equipment. Only one of those things—background—was guaranteed to actually contribute mechanically to the character, in the form of a new move. Shipboard role usually added a move as well, and trait sometimes did.
There are 32 (more more) options in each category. We wrote the choices out on scraps of index cards at the start of the first game, and shuffled them all together to create 32 completely random characters. The players then picked the 16 that they wanted for their crew; everyone else didn't make the cut or perished in the crash. Including their pilot! Very sad!
We then glued all the cards onto a big piece of poster board and kept it in the center of the table. We used lightly taped down cardboard chits to represent resources and equipment that would frequently be traded back and forth between characters.Extremely Thin Characters:
Characters had no stats. In fact, the mechanical portion of each characters was comprised entirely of between one and three moves, most of which were "no roll" moves. Kind of necessary—you can't expect eight people to each learn the ins and outs of 16 complex characters. Instead, players learned to treat the crews' various abilities as a sort of arsenal or utility kilt. "There's undead spirits in that crypt, so we'd best bring the Medium and the Thaumaturge."Circumstance over Stats:
You didn't add stat bonuses to moves, as there were no stats! Instead, each move described 1-3 circumstances that would let you take +1 to the roll.
- For "Move into Position", you'd get +1 for acting alone or in a pair and if the enemy couldn't see you.
- For Hack and Slash, you'd get +1 for heavy weapons and spending a point of Armor.
- For the Thaumaturge's rituals, you'd get +1 for a blood sacrifice, for spending a point of Vim, and for lengthy rites.Default Zoomed-Out Moves:
The default assumption is that each move represented the actions of a group of characters, rather than a single character. In a fight, we'd roll one Hack and Slash or Open Fire for the whole crew, not for each combatant. On a miss or partial success, the I'd pick a logical crewmember, someone on the front lines, to suffer the consequences. Sometimes we'd zoom in on one character in a tight spot, but most rolls were for four to eight crewmen.Harmless Harm:
There was no mechanically codified harm. Instead, when characters were hurt, I just hurt them. Bad. Basically, the size of the crew was their pool of hit points. One bad roll, one character's got a broken arm or is hamstrung or is bleeding out on the ground.
This was both the first troupe-style game I'd ever run, and the first Powered by the Apocalypse game. It went smashingly! I also suspect it's got a lot of replay value; I'd love to try it again with a different group, as half the character elements didn't make it past the draft! The Vampire Captain and Bear Chef were great, but I kinda wanted to see a Robot Fireman.