I am coming close to playing my first ever game of Apocalypse world. This will mark my first post-apocalypse based RP, and will see me trying to transition from a combat heavy D&D 4e background into whatever this game ends up being =)

Are there any hints more experienced players might have, or wish they had when they first started playing?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking about the system rules of Apocalypse World, about Apocalypse World background or about generic post apocalypse background? If that latter, I can give you plenty of advise. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 16, 2011 at 13:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you running the game and asking for referee advise or are you playing the game and asking for player advise? \$\endgroup\$ Jul 16, 2011 at 16:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ She'll be a fellow PC with me. This is her first experience with the system. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 16, 2011 at 23:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh no, not running anything, just playing along =) \$\endgroup\$
    – Catichka
    Jul 18, 2011 at 3:03

4 Answers 4


Tie your character to the world.

As a new player there is very little you need to know—the game is actually designed so that an MC can run the game from a cold start with players who don't know the game at all, and still make it sing. Your MC will guide the group as the game starts, helping you all step through the short character-creation choices and creating the world they live in, on the fly.

The only trick, as a player, is that the game is only as interesting as your character is connected. The MC will be asking you leading questions during setup: it might feel "safer" to give non-committal answers that avoid making your character vulnerable to the influence of NPCs or other PCs. Avoid this reflex, if you experience it, at all costs!

Instead, dive in with both feet and get them thoroughly worked into the mud and mess of your Apocalypse World. When the MC asks something like

MC: Who did you move here to be close to? Why are they here?

don't say, "Uh, nobody." Make up something more interesting like

My sister, because she came here to join the Water Cult after Mom was killed.

Getting your PC in trouble is fun in AW. It's the MC's job to find trouble for you, but you'll have much more enjoyment of the game if you roll with and help your MC rather than try to foil their attempts to weave events around your PC.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Right. This plays well to me sensibilities. Get yourselves in trouble and find your way out of it: I'm glad that its that kind of game. I detest being sensible. \$\endgroup\$
    – Catichka
    Jul 18, 2011 at 3:06

I played an Operator, "Ebb," in an AW game of about ten sessions with three other players, plus the MC. Here's my advice for the first session from the player side.

Don't overthink things. Trust the process and go with the flow. You're not going to know who your character is right away. That's okay. The First Session rules are designed to figure that out. Pick your stats, pick your special moves, write down some slick gear, and pick a name. Just do what's in the playbook and start roleplaying.

Don't worry too much about the moves from a technical standpoint. Let the MC handle that. The rules for moves are, "to do it, do it" and "if you do it, you do it." This means that you say what your PC does in the fiction and when you do something that a move covers, the MC stops and tells you to roll dice. You don't have to sweat the rules for moves at all.

Play as though your character were a real person. This is your job, as explained on the first page of the Character Creation chapter. What "real" means, you'll have to decide yourself, but it probably means you shouldn't treat your character like a superhero. You probably want to have realistic reactions to violence, loss, hunger and thirst, and sexuality. Your character should be vulnerable in a lot of ways, even though you-the-player realize that the MC is gonna use those vulnerabilities to hurt the PC.

Engage the sex moves. Every character has a sex move. This is not an accident. Don't worry that you're creating tasteless tabletop porn. If you play as though your character is a real person, then that shouldn't happen. Roleplay as much of as you and your friends feel comfortable, and then fade to black. Use the sex moves as written. They're about messy relationships, not banging. Really, only a small part of the game is about sex, as far as I can tell, but it comes up, and you shouldn't laugh it off or shy away from it. If your character is shy sexually, play the PC that way, but the MC can (and should) use that to make your life more interesting, not ignore it.

Have fun with your first AW game!

  • \$\begingroup\$ It's worth noting that the sex moves come up more or less depending on the group's tastes and how they feel about including sex in the fiction: some groups it's a recurring theme, some groups it's peripheral or non-existent. They're far from a required part of the game—but they're there, should it come up. The sex moves just make sure that should it comes up, it matters. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 20, 2011 at 7:14

I just ran my first game of Apocalypse World. Before that, I played in someone else's AW game that ran about 10 sessions. Here's my advice.

Read the book. Cover to cover. Don't skip stuff, even if you think you can get by without it. Basically, you should be familiar with the rules so you are aware they exist and can reference them if needed in play. I ran out of prep time and stopped reading after the "First Session" stuff and regretted it.

Listen to Vincent. Throughout the book, he tells you exactly how to run the game. Pay attention. Most of the advice I could give you, he already gives you in the book. Trust the process.

Get the players on the same wavelength. Read the intro to them. Discuss the apocalypse a bit and the psychic maelstrom. Talk about sex moves. Tell them that their job is to play their characters as if they're real people. Explain what your role is as MC.

Print out your MC moves. Refer to them throughout play. You're not just running the game freestyle. You have a list of principles to follow and moves to make. Play the game as written and eventually it will become second nature and you can "freestyle" that way. Luckily for you, there's a reference sheet on the website (it's at the back of the character playbooks PDF). (Also realize that the playbooks and stuff are legal-size, so you don't discover at the last minute that you don't have the right paper.)

Engage the game emotionally. The game deals with tough topics like survival, violence, and sexuality. Don't laugh these off or play them lightly. Engage them with all of your senses. Don't go for senseless gore or f**cking, but portray the human side of these things. Remember, one of your jobs is to play the NPCs as if they were real people--not cartoon characters. In the game I ran, I probably laughed off too much of the violence and so it became a little over the top and slapstick. However, the sex scenes that the characters starred in were realistic, emotionally engaging, and hot. Sure--a little awkward at the table, but you stop before things get really awkward. Just go as far as the group is able. You'll be surprised what your players can handle if you don't treat it as a joke.

Ask questions. Vincent already includes this as a move, especially as a First Session thing, but really do it. Use questions when you're stalled as MC and when you're wondering about some part of the world and what the players think about it. About half the time a player asked me about something in the world, if the answer wasn't clear to me, I threw it back at them (or another player). Questions are a cool way to guide players gently through difficult scenes, too. If they're getting giggly about a sex scene, ask "Is Killjoy giggling? How does Killjoy feel about seeing BlueLight naked?"

Good luck with your game!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Ack. I didn't read the comments to the original post, thus I answered from the point of view of the MC. I'll leave this answer cuz I think there's useful stuff here, but write another answer from the POV of the player. \$\endgroup\$
    – Adam Dray
    Jul 20, 2011 at 3:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Worth asking a Q about dos and don'ts for running AW just to give this an appropriate home (and see what others weigh in with). It's good to see AW Qs finally showing up here—another can't hurt, and advice for running is totally legit, not "seeding". Especially since, judging from the answers, there's some misconceptions about how to run the game… \$\endgroup\$ Jul 20, 2011 at 7:18

My 4 bits of advice

Vincent Baker's Admonition:
At every moment of the game, say yes or roll the dice.

Luke Crane's Rule:
Don't be a dick.

John Wick's maxim:
Play dirty!

The RPGG Realization:
Dice are a player, too.

Vincent's admonition makes play so much smoother. If you want them to fail, set a difficulty. If not, let them have it. It's included in many of John's designs, and all of Luke's.

Luke's rule is important in narrativist systems, not just for the GM, but the players as well.

Play Dirty needs some explaining. (John's got a whole book on it...). It refers not to altering dice or ignoring rolls, but to finding out what the characters are after, and getting them there through adversity. When you give the little things to them, don't let that translate to giving in on difficulty. A fight is dangerous; describe the pain with concrete wounds. Take away a favorite toy (but let them earn it back)... like the magic sword.

The RPGG realization is that dice are a player, too. One who is clueless, pays no mind at all, but when invited in,gives an opinion instantly. If you bother to roll, listen to the dice. Unless you've screwed up and have a party killer encounter, roll once, and take the answer.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Regardless of its original provenance, "Don't be a dick" has become commonly known as Wheaton's Law. Where does Crane say it? Is it in BW? \$\endgroup\$
    – gomad
    Jul 16, 2011 at 17:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ BW, BWR, BWG, MG, and Freemarket. \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Jul 16, 2011 at 20:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ You've got BWG already? How? I am hoping to pick on up @ GenCon, but I thought it wasn't out until next month! \$\endgroup\$
    – gomad
    Jul 16, 2011 at 20:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ The Hub and Spokes is released as a free PDF... and includes Luke's admonition. Luke put it out there WELL before Wil Wheaton. :) BWR was 2005... And Wheaton is referring to it as a life rule, while Luke puts it as an actual game rule in his games; it's attributed to WW in 2007. \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Jul 16, 2011 at 20:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, Say Yes Or Roll The Dice isn't an Apocalypse World rule. AW works differently. (The corresponding rule for AW is: to do it, do it. That is, roll the dice when something has happened for which the rules say you should roll the dice.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Graham
    Jul 17, 2011 at 23:35

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