I play a lot of stuff, lemme tell you about some of them stuff I’ve been playin’.

These past two days I’ve had the pleasure of playing two different Apocalypse Engine games. That is, games that are based on Vincent Baker’s revolutionary role playing game, Apocalypse World. The main difference between AE games and, say, regular D&D, is the way the adventures are played out. In a regular D&D game, the Dungeon Master has an adventure, and the players play through it; In an AE game, the players and game master build the world and the adventure together, during play (an emerging story). In D&D, the DM places challenges in front of the players, and they try to overcome those obstacles; In an AE game, players often challenge their own characters. The rules aren’t about overcoming stuff, instead they exist to create dramatic tension.

For those who haven’t tried it yet, an AE game might sound like some “free-form” rules-light let’s-just-make-stuff-up game, but it really isn’t. It’s a well structured make-stuff-up game, which is why there are a lot of Apocalypse Engine games – each is structured to a different style or atmosphere.

The two I’ve been playing lately are Monsterhearts and Worlds in Peril:

Monsterhearts, by Avery Alder Mcdaldno (who also did the excellent storytelling game The Quiet Year) “lets you and your friends create stories about sexy monsters, teenage angst, personal horror, and secret love triangles”. I play an angel, forgotten on Earth centuries ago, who, of course, looks about 16 years old, while Aviv is a witch of the Native American traditions, mixed with a french heritage. Together with an outcast girl who’s actually God’s Chosen, we all go to school in a sleepy little town on the American-Canadian border, coming to terms with the eeeevvil lurking in the shadows, and with our own immature, kinda stupid, teenage desires. The “Pilot” episode was awesome (if you can understand Hebrew, watch it here), soon to have a second and final half. We all got excited to play Monsterhearts thanks to this hilarious episode of the One Shot podcast , you should give it a go.

Worlds in Peril, by Kyle Simons and Adam Bosarge, is a not-exactly-yet-released AE game that focuses on superheroes, their lives and struggles. I’ve been running it for several weeks now, using Hangout chat (written words, not voice chat!), which is a cool experience by its own, but that’s for another time. Thanks to the game system, I have very little work to do between sessions – the players invent their own problems and let their characters sink into them, while I just guide it along. In today’s session, the group went to do some legwork, trying to figure out who was behind the flamethrower attack in our first issue (that is, first session) and why they wanted the Mega-Cinema destroyed. They found out that a high ranking member of The Company – which is a group of mercenaries – is attending a basketball game, and through some cool roleplaying and several good dice rolls, interrogated him during the recess and right by the court, discovering some secrets!

The session ended later on, after the group raided a base of the African Gang in Jaffa’s streets, and Gravitas, the power-suit gravity controller, crushed the place and the apartment above it. He gained the Critical Condition “Guilt ridden about the family who lived there”, which is very cool. A Critical Condition is something that hurts you a lot and drives you closer to being taken out – but it doesn’t have to be a physical thing.

I can’t end this post off without mentioning one last AE game, Dungeon World, and specifically, the Hebrew translation of it, Vanor, which I edited. Just like with the other games, Dungeon World was created to deliver a very specific feel – in this case, adventurers living in a dangerous fantasy world. Some say it does D&D better than D&D, but I disagree; I think it does it differently. Not everyone will enjoy an AE game, and it takes quite some time to grok it (especially if you’re used to challenge-oriented games such as D&D), but in my mind it’s an important experience to any roleplayer. It’s my opinion that trying out new and different things should be everyone’s goal.