#RPG – Apocalypse World – Again

So, to further illustrate exactly why Apocalypse World has never worked for me, here’s an actual play log, to demonstrate just how hard I’ve tried to make it work.

TL;DR – As written the game constantly and consistently gets in the way of the story, of immersion, of improvisation, which – to me – is essential for good games.

The scattered nature of the rules, the many exceptions and Moves, at least as written, make the game heavier on book-flipping and reference than even conventional games like D&D.

You frequently run into situations where the results of dice rolls should shape the narrative, but can’t. In the situation with the rats, for example, there was someone controlling them, but there was no mechanism or means to make a ‘notice check’ to see if they were there. Things as simple as an athletics check, a perception check – vital in games – are utterly absent which really throws a spanner in the works.

The system is also not granular enough for decent character development or more equipment or situations to make much difference, unlike – say – Cypher, which also puts every roll in the hands of the players, but pulls it off without the same sorts of problems.

The idea behind the central mechanic is fine, and how it can drive the action and choices, there’s just no depth there and the execution completely fails to cash in on the promise.


Look, the full set-up isn’t important, since this is just an example session. In brief, however, it’s a future scenario in a flooded, hot, swampy London. Think Mad Max with boats, but not Waterworld. People are living in the half-flooded ruins and stringing platforms and bridges between them. Disease is rampant, people scavenge – even fifty years later – and find things beneath the waters.The game centres around a hardhold in an old, brutalist, concrete housing bloc from the 1970s and their acts of scavenging to keep their hardhold going.


Lane – The chief of the Hardhold, an athletic woman who dresses in urban sports gear and body armour, an old gasmask etc. She leads from the front, with a gang of miscreants in her wake. It’s a savage, decadent existence.

Haus – Pilots a tug, it’s a brute of a little boat and able to tug enormous weights, but it’s slow. He’s well armed.

The Hook and the Game

GM: “It’s been a hard winter, and a wet spring. The flood waters have risen, flooding another floor of the Hardhold and cramming more people into the upper floors. Summer has come in with a vengeance, turning the air soupy, the stink from the shit-pools is especially vile. With that heat has come the skeeters, horseflies and along with them… disease. Unless you get some decent medicine, and soon, the disease will gut the Hardhold and make people lose faith in your leadership. Already they’re killing anyone who shows sign of the disease, sacrificing them to Father Thames to call for his mercy.”

Lane: “OK, so the Hardhold survives by doing all sorts of things, including scavenging, and it has the perk of a bustling market. I rolled 13 before play started, to see how much extra barter I’ve got, and that makes 4 personal barter for today. Can we check the market to see if there’s any of the pills we need, or a herbal remedy or anything?”

GM: “Uhh…”

[This is trouble. My plot hook relies on them needing to get rare and hard to find medicines. If I just allow them to barter for it, the whole adventure idea is borked. If I don’t, I’m violating the Hardholder’s character and Hardhold concepts. You can choose to ignore the Barter Move, but since I didn’t establish that before play, it’s going to be a violation. Even if I make the cost of the medicine absurd, Lane can just have sex with Haus over and over and over again to produce free and endless barter (until and unless Haus leaves). Still, maybe they’ll fail and it won’t be a problem].

GM: “You can go down to the half-flooded pontoons and piers and ask some of the scumrunners, divers and scavs if you like. They stink worse than anywhere else, and everyone has their face covered with old gas masks, alcohol-soaked bandanas and other breathing apparatus.”

Haus: “We can split up to cover more people, and I’m a scavenger myself, they might be a bit more open with me. I roll Hx +3 to help, I only get a 7, exposing myself to a downside, damn.”

GM: “Hump, a scav you owe barter to, is prowling the piers with his gang of mutants. If you can’t pay, you’d better stay clear.”

Haus: “I’ll keep out of the piers and stand guard on the stairs then, trying to look busy.”

Lane: “Bartering is based on Sharp, so I get ten.”

GM: “Hmm…”

[What do I do here? They’ve already got a ten, but should they have a bonus for their Hardhold having a thriving market? Is that a tag? What do tags do? Can I add bonuses or penalties to their rolls? Nothing in the main book, only in the appendix and online the discussion seems to be anti, even in Dungeon World which is a bit more ‘traditional’. Uh oh, they’re looking at me flipping madly through the book and typing things in, and this is a simple thing to understand in most games. The commentary at the end says +/- one or two, the help/interfere actions suggest the same thing, but without any skills or anything this renders the choices you make for your characters virtually meaningless as – by standard – you only really get +/- one to two, three at the outside. That means the outcome of anything is, essentially, random! What a load of old shite… bugger, better make a ruling. I was hoping they’d fail so I didn’t have to override them and invalidate their character choices.]

GM: “It doesn’t seem like anyone has access to the pills that you need, but there is a diver who claims they know where you can find it. If you’ll barter her some lead. (That’s three barter in game speak).”

Lane: “Well I can cover that from my stash then. I do the deal, unless I can argue them down?”

GM: “Nah, three is the price, you got a ten so it’s not going to get any better.”

Lane: “Oh.”

GM: “Meatcalf, the diver, is an odd duck. Greyish skin, knife-shaved hair, water – and snot – constantly drips from her nose. The water isn’t exactly clean in the city, even fifty years after the floods came. Her raft is covered in recovered solar cells and posts a small wind turbine on its mast. Her baskets are full of old bits of electronics, most inoperable, and there’s a smell of stinking plastic as she melts down old circuit boards for the precious metals.”

GM (As Meatcalf): “Hello Lane, what can I do for you – cough – ? Gold, copper, a working calculator perhaps?”

Lane: “You know why I’m here ‘Calf. I’m looking for something to help my people who are sick. Something to bring down the fever so they can survive, even maybe some antibiotics. I hear you know where we can get some.”

GM (As Meatcalf): “I do, I do – cough – but it’ll cost you plenty. That shit’s precious. You’ll have to get it yourself, but I know where you can. You give me that lead I want, I’ll give you the information.”

Lane: “OK, I’ll have the lead loaded on Meatcalf’s raft, but make sure a few of the guys are around in case she tries to run.”

GM: “She doesn’t, she scrawls you a map on a piece of bleached wood with an ancient marker-pen. You recognise the landmarks and you know where it is.

GM (As Meatcalf): “It’s a farmy-cyst, where the olds kept their medicines. Only it’s not on any of the old maps. Must have been changed-a-fresh when the end came. Shelves and shelves.”

Lane: “So why didn’t you take any?”

GM (As Meatcalf): “I like the – cough – ‘tronics. Not the medicines.”

Lane: “I’ll take the map and join up with Haus.”

Haus: “Do I know anything about the area on the map, being a scavenger and everything?”

[Oh dear. There isn’t anything like a knowledge roll, to make. No moves seem appropriate and the state of the city will be in constant flux as different factions fight, so it’s not appropriate to just give or withhold the information. ‘Read the Sitch’ sounds like the right thing, but isn’t, it’s for reading people. The general guideline is ‘if it’s not a move, just do it, but that doesn’t seem appropriate. After thoroughly flipping back and forth through the book, there’s fuck all guidance in here and any time you do try to look anything up you’re looking for something really specific, a ‘move’. I’d improvise and just ask for a Sharp roll, but the point in examining a system is to play it by the book].

GM (Pulling shit out of his arse): “Nothing current. Front lines and arenas shift so often that you’re learning afresh every time you head out there.”

Lane: “We’d better get going then. I’ll leave the gang to keep order and protect the Hardhold. If word has gotten out about the sickness, we might come under attack.”

[Good idea].

Haus: “Off to the tug then.”

GM: “This is the first time we’ve done anything to do with your ship, so why don’t you tell us about it?”

[This will give me a little more time to think].

Haus: “It’s an old pre-apocalypse tug, with some heavy modifications and makeshift repairs. She’s a brute, and rides low in the water, but she’s powerful and tough. The only problem she has, is that she guzzles biodiesel like it’s going out of fashion. There’s some makeshift armour hung around the outside and the cabin, and a powerful winch with a variety of hooks and cables. Her name’s painted on the side, ‘Unnatural Disaster’.”

Lane: “There’s no time to waste, so let’s get going. I’ll sit on top of the cabin and keep watch, you steer and navigate.”

Haus: “Yes m’aam. Right, I’ll top of the tank, start her up, cast off and follow the map as best I can.”

GM: “OK, give me a moment.”

[If they got lost that could be interesting, but it should only happen if they fail at navigation. There’s no such Move and again this falls afoul of the ‘if it’s not a Move, just do it’ rule. So the only way I can have them get lost, or not, is to choose. If I arbitrarily decide to make them get lost that’s a dick move, and puts the onus for that onto me rather than the dice. If I don’t, I’m making things easier on them than they should be. Once again the game’s lack of adaptability or – ironically – room for improvisation lets me down. Rules, typically, allow me to introduce potential problems or threats and allow characters to avoid them if they’ve invested in that area. They help build the game organically. This doesn’t let me do that. I’d rather not be a dick, so they can navigate there no problem].

GM: “It takes about an hour of chugging through the waterways of the drowned city to get there. You see a few others out and about, scavvers hooting at you to stay away from their claims, hunters from the blood clains – though they give you a wide berth. Seems like the news about the disease has spread and they’re unwilling to catch it. Finally you reach what seems to be the right coordinates. The water is fairly still here, though it is thick and dirty with a slowly disintegrating mulch and the rotting plastic of the time-before. The place you want should be beneath the four buildings here that stab out of the mire, a crossroads of the before-time.”

Haus: “Do we notice anything out of the ordinary? Want to be safe before we dive down.”

GM: “Hmmm…”

[Well shit. Is there an awareness type move? A notice-hidden-things type move? If I’m pitting their alertness against an enemy’s ability to be stealthy what the shit am I supposed to do here? Enemies don’t even have stats exactly, even less so than in something like Numenera. So I can’t even pro-actively roll for the bad guys to see if they succeed on being sneaky – and there are bad guys here. Again, I’m forced to make a choice in which neither player competence nor bad-guy ability play a roll. Acting Under Fire comes close, especially from the examples, but not really. I have to be a dick and impose it, whatever way I decide to go, and that tends to lead me to play nice, since it’s all on me and not emergent from the dice].

GM: “Uh, well, it’s been occupied at some point. That seems for certain. There’s still some remnants of old rope bridges between the four buildings – or at least the ropes. The thickness of the muck suggests a fair few people were here fairly recently. There’s no real sign of any people now though, though there is a fair amount of junk on the roofs and an old windmill is still turning at the corner of one of the buildings. Otherwise, all you can see are a few rats, sitting and grooming themselves on the flotsam and jetsam.”

Haus: “Alright, I’ll chug us on in, slow and careful, bump the tug up against one of the buildings to help hold us in place and drop anchor. Gauge the depth.”

Lane: “And I’ll stand watch still, but if we’re coming to a stop I’ll stand up.”

GM: OK, so…

[Still no way to handle stealth or alertness that makes sense in this situation, Read Sitch isn’t appropriate, again I don’t want to be a dick and Lane is standing watch, but ugh. Just ugh.]

GM: …As the tug comes to a halt there is a sudden rushing sound, almost like water, from the building you’re anchored to. Lane sees sudden movement from within one of the empty holes that used to be windows and then realises, in horror, that it is a tidal wave of rats. Huge ones. They gush out of the opening like a firehose has been connected to your nightmares. They’re huge, sleek, well fed, mutated or bred to be enormous and squealing with malevolent glee. What do you do?

[Enemies don’t get much in the way of stats, so there’s not a great deal to differentiate one enemy from another. These rat-dudes exist in great numbers though, even though individually they don’t pose much threat. All I really get to control is armour and harm. So let’s go base harm 0, base armour 1 (hits are only really going to take out individual rats and leave the swarm relatively untouched). This makes the enemies rather statistically flavourless].

Haus: “Fuck, I’ll dive for the ship’s motor and move us off. We’re anchored, but they’ll have to swim in order to reach us. I know rats can swim, but they won’t be able to just rush out of the building on to us.”

Lane: “I’ll stomp the shit out of any rats that make it to the tug with my boots.”

GM: “Alright, let me just figure this out…”

[Is Haus acting under fire? Are they helping Lane by increasing the distance, or hindering the rats? Why is helping or hindering dependent on your personal relationship, rather than what’s being done? Lane is obviously Going Aggro, and the ratswarm is clearly attacking, doing potential harm. That harm, from the rats, is going to be base 0, +3 Harm for size difference, 1 Armour, +3 Armour for size of the swarm. Oof. For rats, or anything else for that matter? I’m going to have to fiddle something here. First things first though. Let’s call it helping].

GM: “Uh, OK, so you’re trying to help Lane, essentially, by stemming the rate at which the rats can attack. So make an Hx roll.”

Haus: “I only get 8… wait, do I add the tug’s power here?”

GM: “One sec… yes, I think so.”

Haus: “Ten then.”

GM: “Alright, so that’s enough. The tug starts pulling away, though you’re still anchored for now, you’ve only got the play left on the chain. Lane, roll for Going Aggro.”

Lane: OK, with Haus’ bonus that’s… still only 7.

GM: “Wait… I think it’s Seize by Force, though that’s really counter-intuitive. Same result?”

Lane: “Same result.”

GM: “OK, choose two of the combat options.”

Lane: “I will ‘take little harm’ and ‘inflict terrible harm’.”

GM: “Stompy boots and going all out will give you one damage, terrible harm raises that to two. You’re stamping and mushing rats underfoot, but for every one you crush, two more leap onto the deck or swim up to the side. They swarm up your legs, biting at you, tearing your clothes and squirming inside. You take… three harm, minus one for armour, minus another one for ‘take little harm’. So one harm, roll that, 2d6+1.”

Lane: “Nine.”

GM: “In your desperation to scramble the rats off you and to stamp them to death, you lose your footing on the blood and guts and tumble off the tug into the water with a splash. Well. More of a splat really.”

Lane: “Arse.”

GM: “Arse indeed. So the rats continue to pour out of the building, splashing into the murk, squirming through the water, scrambling up the side of the tug to bite and devour in a furry wave. What do you do?”

Lane: “I swim for my life towards the building, maybe I can get inside.”

Haus: “I drag my shotgun from its holster and unload a blast of shot into the biggest knot of rats.”

[I guess swimming away is an Act Under Fire, though it doesn’t seem appropriate, but nothing does and the ‘only a Move is a Move’ rule gets in the way once again. Haus is ‘Seizing by Force’ I suppose, but that’s really badly named].

GM: “Lane, Act Under Fire, Haus, Seize by Force.”

Lane: “Nine.”

GM: “Uhmmm…”

[I’m supposed to offer a worse outcome, a hard bargain or an ugly choice here, but it’s hard to see what that might be here. Harm? It’s not an explicit outcome of an Act Under Fire, but it’s implied in the examples. So she takes harm, but gets into the building I guess.]

GM: “The rats are crawling all over you, biting, squirming, it’s almost like you’re swimming through a sea of rats, rather than the water. Take three harm, minus your armour, that’s two harm. Roll for it.”

Lane: “Ugh, fourteen.”

[Balls. This wasn’t meant to be remotely this tough. Lane is getting really fucked over by this rat swarm].

GM: “You manage to scramble into the building, covered in bites. The room is on a slope and half full of stagnant water, but the rats aren’t following you in, they’re looping back towards the tug.”

Lane: “Yay?”

Haus: “I add the power for the tug, right, since I’m on it?”

GM: *Nods*

Haus: “Eleven. Booyah. So that’s three options. Can I put all three into damage?”

[There’s nothing that says you can and nothing that says you can’t. It would let me get them out of the trouble they’re in, but if I let him do that it sets a dangerous precedent for later on in the game, though maybe I can find some justification not to let them later on].

GM: “Sure, I guess. It’s a spread weapon and they’re lots of little creatures.”

Haus: “So that’s six damage.”

GM: “Minus their armour, is five. You blast your sawn-off into the wave of rats that’s cresting the tug, shattering many of their tiny bodies and clearing the deck of most of them. With another cartridge still in the chamber you’re able to advance down the deck and blast the window hole they’re scrambling out from, that seems to stem the tide, with the ones that are left scattering in all directions and squirming back into the building.”

[Bugger, I forget the size difference, but what the shit, let’s just get it done].

Lane: “When I think it’s safe I’ll climb around the outside of the building back to the tug.”

GM: “Rats or not, this does seem to be the right spot. You still need to get down there and find the drugs you need.”

Haus: “I think we’re best of you go down and I keep watch. I know how the ship works, I’ve got the gun. I stand the best chance against any other attacks or problems.”

Lane: “And the settlement will respect me more if I’m the one that gets them what they need. Alright, I’ll strip down, take a rope and bag in one hand, and if Haus has a torch I’ll use that in the other.”

Haus: “Do I have a torch?”

GM: “Uh, sure, makes sense to have one, even if it’s old and battered. You have an old wind-up electric torch with a cluster-LED bulb, most of which still work.”

Haus: “I’ll crank it to build a charge and hand it to Lane.”

Lane: “Alright, here goes. I’ll dive in and swim down, using the light to try and figure where this pharmacy is.”

[Bugger, another thing for which there are no rules. Generic athletics is so fundamental to most games that it’s conspicuous by its absence in this game. Just letting her do it (the rules as written) seems inappropriate. The closest thing is, perhaps, ‘Act Under Fire’, the ‘fire’ being the hazards of operating underwater, but again that just doesn’t really seem to be right. It’ll do].

GM: “Make an Act Under Fire roll then.”

Lane: “Seven. Shit.”

[Ah crap, now I have to come up with one of those worse results, hard bargains or ugly choices. It still really doesn’t adequately work here, but what can I do…]

GM: “In the gloom you spot the filthy remnants of the cross shape the old ones used to mark such places, but against all odds the windows are intact and the door locked. You’re running out of breath, the only thing you really have to hand to break the window is the torch, but it’ll likely break. Still, without it, you’ll have to surface and waste more time and risk another descent.”

Lane: “I’ll smash the window.”

GM: “The torch light flickers out after the third hit, but the ancient glass finally gives way. You can barely see but you scramble around in the dark, feeling for the shapes of pill bottles. Finally, with your lungs burning you break the surface with a few handfuls of plastic bottles, though the labels have long soaked away and disintegrated.”

Lane: “Once we get back we can try and make sure of what’s what. Can I dive back down a few more times to gather more?”

[Another problem. There’s no generic intelligence ability and you need a Savvyhead to have a Move that seems appropriate, and that rolls on Weird, which doesn’t seem right. Problem for another time].

GM: “Sure, but without a light you waste a lot of time finding your way and grabbing what you can. You’ve got quite a bit though.”

Haus: “Let’s head home.”

[This is more trouble than it’s worth, it would go much smoother to do a similar game using Interlok or something better suited, where things would work properly and improvisation would come easier].

STEAMED: A Playthrough

Grim & Steve are playing a game of STEAMED.

Grim rolls 6 and Steve rolls 10. Steve gets to pick which mech he wants first.

After a large amount of consideration of the various merits of the various mecha, taking so long as to be annoying, Steve chooses the Iron Hunter piloted by Oberst Thule.

A stickler for tradition and always making decisions for reasons other than statistics, Grim choose The Brunel, piloted by Carston McBride.

It’s going to be a nobility Vs working class grudge match!

Secretly they each choose a modification.

Steve chooses High Explosive Mortar. Grim chooses Reinforced Boiler.



Turn One

Grim rolls 6 for Reaction.

Steve rolls 9 for Reaction (the Iron Hunter gets a +1)

Steve goes first.

The two mechs are placed on opposite sides of the Target Board.

Steve knows that range is his big advantage in this fight and his mortar has sufficient range to attack the Brunel. He stays put and fires a mortar shell. He now has five mortar shots left. Rolling 3d6 he gets 5, 5, 6, a devastating blow! That’s six damage on his first shot. It hits the Brunel in the left arm and after taking the armour (1) away from the damage that still leaves five. That arm is hanging by a thread!

Grim knows that he has to close range to have any chance at all, so he uses his speed of 2 to close the distance, reaching the centre of the target. The reinforced boiler means he takes no damage from ‘More Coal’ so he piles it on, hoping to get another movement point. He gets a 4 and fails. Nothing he has, has the range to hit the Iron Hunter, it’s still three spaces away, so his go is over.

Turn Two

Grim rolls 6 for Reaction.

Steve rolls 8 for Reaction.

Steve goes first.

Steve can’t get any further away at the moment and the mortar is still the most effective weapon at this range, so he lets fly with another shell. He only have four shots left now. Rolling his dice he gets 2, 6, 1. That’s one hit but with the mortar that does 2 damage. The Brunel is hit in the right arm this time but only for two points of damage. Once you account for armour it’s barely scratched, having 5 damage left.

Grim closes the distance by another 2 spaces to a range of 1, inside the range of the mortar, and also makes a ‘More Coal’ check, because… hey, why not? It fails again, leaving him one space away. Since the left arm is nearly off, he may as well use the grabber while he has it and lunges, reaching for the Iron Hunter. The grabber gets 6d6 and rolls 3, 4, 5, 4, 2, 4. Only one damage. It hits the Iron Hunter in the left leg but that has armour one, so it just pings off and the grabber’s special effect doesn’t work.

Turn Three

Grim rolls 6 for Reaction.

Steve rolls 12 for Reaction – the bastard.

Steve goes first, again.

Steve cannot back away and it would be risky to try and move through the Brunel, so he swaps from his mortar to his blunderbuss. This does 4d6 -1 for each point of range after the first. At range one that’s all four dice. He rolls 4, 1, 1, 6. One point of damage to the Brunel’s right arm. It pings off the armour.

Grim grins evilly as he closes in to range zero. None of the Iron Hunter’s weapons can work at this range but the Brunel’s are super effective. Grim gives him a smack with the grabber which does 7d6 at range 0. 2, 3, 4, 6, 3, 4, 3 are the rolls. Which is pathetic. The blow strikes the Iron Hunter in the left arm, reducing its damage to 3.

Turn Four

Grim rolls 9 for Reaction.

Steve rolls 13 for Reaction, crushing Grim’s hopes of getting a double-blow in.

Steve needs range and needs it fast. He uses his move of one to move past the Brunel and then tries to push it with ‘More Coal’. He fails and takes damage to each leg and to his torso. Ow. That reduces them to five and seven respectively. He’s only managed one pace away so the mortar is out of the question. It’s going to have to be the blunderbuss. He rolls 1,5,4,4. One hit to the left leg which just ricochets off.

Grim smells potential victory and closes in with the grabber. 5,3, 2, 6, 1, 2, 3. Two damage. It strikes Iron Hunter’s right arm reducing its damage to 2.

Turn Five

Grim rolls 6 for Reaction.

Steve rolls 8 for Reaction.

Steve still desperately needs range and tries to power away. He moves one and fails again on his ‘More Coal’ roll. His legs are now at four damage and his torso six. He has to use the blunderbuss again and only scores one damage to the torso. That’s not going to get through the armour.

Grim remains in pursuit, keeping the range close, and once again employs the grabber (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it). 4, 4, 1, 5, 2, 6, 3. Two damage. This time it hits the torso of the Iron Hunter and is reduced to one damage. Given the torso is already damaged that takes it down to five hits.

Turn Six

Grim rolls 5 for Reaction.

Steve rolls 8 for Reaction.

Steve’s plan is still the same. Run. He figures he can still afford the risk at the moment. He moves another space away and piles on the coal. It fails again reduced to three damage on each leg and four on the torso. He can’t keep this up for much longer. He fires the blunderbuss for no damage at all. Epic fail.

Grim closes the gap once more and smashes with the grabber. 5, 1, 6, 3, 3, 3, 5. Three damage, a tremendous hit to the torso. The armour there drops it to two damage but that drops the torso’s damage to 2. Things are looking dicey for the Iron Hunter.

Turn Seven

Grim rolls 9 for Reaction. Can he possibly get to go first?

Steve rolls 8 for Reaction. Yes he can!

Grim stays put and attempts to finish off the Iron Hunter with his grabber. 1, 5, 5, 2, 2, 1, 2. Two damage to the torso, minus the armour takes it to one hit.

Steve is desperate, it’s time for an all-or nothing try to win. Desperately he piles on ‘More Coal’ and hopes he can actually get some damn luck. Finally! He rolls a 5 and that means his mech doesn’t shake itself to pieces. He moves two spaces and lets off the mortar which is just barely in range. It gets one hit which does two damage to the Brunel’s left leg reducing it to                four damage.

Turn Eight

Grim rolls 9 for Reaction.

Steve rolls 7 for Reaction.

Grim needs to keep Steve in range to finish him off and closes the gap with his Speed 2. That grabber’s still working and probably has the best chance to do the deed so he lashes out with it. 1, 4, 5, 5, 3, 6, 4. That’s three damage to the Iron Hunter’s left leg, two after armour. That leg’s down to two damage.

Steve backs away but daren’t risk another ‘More Coal’ so he just blasts away with the blunderbuss. 5, 2, 4,4. That’s not enough to harm the arm and bounces off harmlessly.

Turn Nine

Grim rolls 3 for Reaction.

Steve rolls 8 for Reaction.

Steve moves another space away and can fire off another mortar round. Fingers crossed he rolls 1, 5, 1. Two damage to the Brunel’s left leg. It’s down to three damage.

Grim closes in once more, scenting a possible kill and lashes out with the grabber: 3, 3, 6, 3, 6, 5, 4. Three damage to the torso. Even with armour that’s enough to rupture the Iron Hunter’s boiler and it falls to pieces.

Victory for Grim!

NB: To speed up games you can make a 5 do 1 damage and a 6 do 2 damage. With the mortar you can count that as 2 and 3.

Do: Melanie in the Whale – Actual Play

(I went to art college, if you can believe that…)

Our Pilgrims leave the temple on their pilgrimage, heading out into the floating worlds to solve (or cause) problems for those they encounter.

Pilgrim Clumsy Spinner is a knit-wit. The sound of her clicking needles is ever present. She solves problems through her skill with crafting yarn and gets into trouble because outside of knitting, she’s a ham-fisted clod.

Pilgrim Spazzy Cook loves her food, especially cake, especially chocolate cake. She can bake almost anything from whatever ingredients are available. She’s a little excitable though and tends to ‘spazz out’ when the pressure is on.

Pilgrim Dithering Doktor loves his science and hopes to find knowledge out in the worlds. He uses the power of SCIENCE! to help people with their problems but his brain rushes with so many ideas, all at once, that he often can’t choose between them.

Pilgrim Oblivious Locks is a bit of a preening egotist but his magical, long, flowing, beautiful hair gives him good reason to think well of himself. Between the hair in his eyes and his self-absorption he seldom really notices what’s going on around him though, lost in a world of his own.

The first letter to find its way to the pilgrims was from a poor girl called Melanie whose small world had been swallowed, whole, by a Sky Whale (along with her house and her cat – disaster!). Melanie seemed like a nice girl in a bad situation and fired up with enthusiasm the pilgrims set off to her rescue.

Oblivious Locks hurtled through the void ahead of the whale and span his hair into a gigantic net to catch the whale. It was only then the whale hit the net that he remembered that he’d forgotten to anchor himself and got torn away, trailing after the whale, pulled by his hair.


Dithering Doktor froze with indecision in the bath of the barrelling hair-covered whale, flitting this way and that, unable to decide which way to go. The whale swept past him, a little too close for comfort, it’s fluke smacking the controls of his rocket pack! Dithering Doktor hurtled around and around on a pillar of fire and smacked into the whale’s mouth, the jets forcing him in with a loud pop!

Seeing the plan going horribly, horribly wrong Spazzy Cook threw up her hands and screamed in horror. “No! My cookies!” Flushing with embarrassment she quickly corrected herself “I mean.., no, Melanie!” Quick as a flash she arranged her pots and pans in the air and dashed off some krill cupcakes, luring the whale back her way.

Clumsy Spinner, being a little more calm and collected decided to correct Oblivious Locks’ mistake and tied off one of her balls of yarn to a floating tree, hurling the other end into the whale’s mouth as it gaped to munch on the cupcakes. Om nom nom nom. The yarn swept past Melanies cat – the putative target – and got tangled in the trees next to Melanies house, whereupon the cat chased the yarn up into the trees and got stuck!

Still tangled up in the whale by his hair, Oblivious Locks struggles and twists and, with excellent ‘luck’ his hair tickles the whale’s blowhole. There is a world-shaking sneeze and Oblivious Locks is blown free – albeit covered in whale snot.

Pilgrim Oblivious Locks’ hair tickles the whale’s blowhole and it sneezes, hurling him into the void covered in whale snot.

Globs of snot float through the air and line the whale’s mouth. Dithering Doktor picks himself up inside the whale’s mouth and grabs a handful of whale snot and slathers it to the yarn tangled around the house and trees, drying it to a hard seal with his technological wonder, the ‘Hair dryificator’, securing the yarn to the house.

Spazzy Cook is strong – from kneading dough – and grabs hold of the yarn with her broad cook’s arms, yanking hard on it and hauling the house, the planet, the trees, Melanie – and her cat – out of the whale’s mouth while it sniffles and wipes its mouth with a fluke.

Victory was theirs and the pilgrims shared a – slightly snotty – high five.

Clumsy Spinner was give a bale of wool from the planet’s sheep (singular).

Oblivious Locks got to wash his hair in Melanie’s bathroom and she brushed it for him – no mean feat!

Dithering Doktor got to collect as much whale snot as he wanted for his experiments, which made him happy, what an odd fellow.

Melanie shared her cookie recipe with Spazzy Cook and then the pilgrims left, bags heavy with cookies, for further adventures amongst the worlds!