And a grand Festivus to you all from the team here at Liberation Industries.
Got a couple of little bits of news for you now that dread 2017 (which crazy cult was it that predicted the end times for this year?) has finally borne down upon us. The first is, as prophesied, our early Apocalypse World sessions are due to be stricken from the internet due to our inconsistent approach to web hosting and inability to pay more than the bare minimum. Shouldn’t happen with anything we deployed after that, but if you want ’em, now is the time to grab ’em.
The second piece of news is that this darling New Year weather has not killed us yet, so we’ll be coming at you with Werewolf over the next few weeks with a spooky as can be return to the Devil John Moulton after that.
And as a New Year gift Dandy, who plays Sleeves in our Crescent Coast Werewolf game, has drawn these super cute chibis of Alex, Ava and Sleeves, the three teenage lycanthropes currently terrorizing the northern New South Wales coastline. So enjoy.
Well, for those of you who listened to our Devil John Sessions, you’ll recognise that we all had a pretty good time.
Some of that was the rum. Some, but not all of it. It was very nice rum though.
In the interest of seeing this cool little game get a bit more polish as it develops further, we at Liberation Industries figured we’d jot down a few of our thoughts regarding how it played.
As possible points of interest, we didn’t have the official character sheets, and had to jerry rig some which in retrospect made the game very slightly more lethal. Which in a one shot session was ok, but it did skew the game slightly.
The other thing was that I had played copious amounts of Hard West before GMing this session, and it was a pretty serious influence. In case it wasn’t absolutely clear, by knowledge of Catholicism, indigenous myth, demonology, and ritual magic radically outstrips my knowledge of United States history, which probably coloured this session and later ones a bit.
Anyway, I’ll break this down into rough pros and cons.
Stuff We Liked
Character Creation Cards
These were a real winner. I loved that in a western themed game your character creation is a card based mini-game, which felt very evocative. The passing of cards between the players also made a nice prelude to the themes of guilt and devil’s bargains that the game features so heavily, with each player trying to second guess what shade of poison their compatriots would send them. The last card was almost inevitably terrifying.
It is a quick way to create characters with interesting and very troubled pasts, and means that both players and GM are given an avenue to create anti-heroes without chickening out with their prior acts of evil. You can take this to redemption or damnation with equal ease in play, which I think is great.
In future, I think it would be great if the deck could be expanded with more options; like a lot of what we found, it was a good number for a one off session, but trying to add new characters in later sessions led to a lot of repetition.
Its simple, its elegant, and it works perfectly. The fact that your pact will always work gets people thinking more creatively, trying to bring their horrifying powers to bear in a manner that actually helps makes for interesting situations.
Then there’s the repayment. As a GM I love any element that incentivises the players acting to promote chaos and something other than their own best interests, and really keeps the game full of surprises.
Of anything, I hope this element is the one that doesn’t change.
Stuff We’re Not So Sure On
In honesty, I don’t think we minded the combination of dice as a combination of your skills and a death-clock. It did feel a little clumsy at times, but on a later playthrough we found that the system became much easier to follow once we had the official character sheets.
The roll low element was a bit strange, with the pasts that cemented a characters competence making the rolls higher on average. This was sort of played off by the fact that a higher dice allowed more use of the “re-roll until you make it” system, but it still felt a little counter-intuitive at times.
In contrast to the very collaborative, rules light “indie” elements of town creation, character creation and demonic pacts, the dice system feels almost out of place, though I struggle to think of an alternative that would be appropriate. Perhaps a bidding system like Insylum or Undying, with characters receiving different coloured poker chips based on the four stats, which would be in line with the games other tactile elements.
As I said, not a bad element for a game by any means, but it may be worth shaking things up a little.
The extended hunt for the Immortal Bastard is a handy framing construct, with the collaborative element once again allowing players to shape their story as well as the identity and motives of the main villain.
The problem we noted is the level of lethality, and even with the short-chase option there is a very strong chance of an old style Call of Cthulhu-esque ending where none of the characters at the finale were there at the start. Not saying this is bad; the system works beautifully for a poignant, Seven Samurai style showdown, but feels a little harsh if you want to actually reach the end of your search.
Whether this is handled by more opportunities for healing between towns, or perhaps a more cinematic approach to each session, or even just more options to choose when you all meet your destiny – say, “It was in the fourth town that we found him, but this is the story of the first.” – might give more options for campaign play.
I weigh whether the final showdown with the Immortal Bastard should be a question of dice at all, whether we couldn’t use a newer-fangled collaborative thing to decide how it ends. But perhaps that’s just my rules aversion talking.
What I will say is that it is gritty as all hell, which I suspect was the intention.
I would thoroughly recommend you check out the Devil John Moulton, available through Drivethrurpg, and add your voices to this infernal choir we’ve now joined. Nick Wedig has produced a very promising alpha that we would like to see developed further.
Its a very timely addition to the Western genre, and with a recent revival of interest in revisionist works, it means you as players can play out the stories that you want to see.
So jump on and show it some love.
Keep on Rockin’.
Heya folks. Got some good news and some bad news.
Bad news is that I didn’t have enough bandwidth to publish the final installment of Devil John at the end of the month. Part of that is the funny alignment of the Gregorian Calendar and my fortnightly publishing cycle, and part of it is the addition of playtest info to give as much data for the Devil John’s development as possible.
Whichever reason is responsible, the next episode will be delayed a week.
The good news is that I was able to use the tail end of my bandwidth to archive an old production of Satyros Comedy Society, the whacked out radio play Jerks in Space. First four episodes are up, and you can expect the others in the near future.
Couldn’t leave you without some entertainment, now could we?
Greetings imaginary listeners!
Well, we’ve put another season in the grave with a flurry of wolf teeth, so for those of you scattered across the world, I hope you have a joyous return to Spring or a grim and terrifying descent into Autumn, depending on your geography.
We’ve been hearing a lot from the kids from Crescent Head lately (or if you haven’t, you should be), but as the USA begins its annual journey through the dying time we figured now is as good a time as any to shake out our copies of the Key of Solomon, get our demonology on, and crack out some occult Western with The Devil John Moulton.
Last months episodes were a little short, which as a positive allowed for some vital archiving. Given this is a refresher time for some of our hosting, we may lose access to some episodes for a time; if you have any trouble making a download, please get in touch and we’ll get you sorted out.
Until then, enjoy the Weird West.
Those of you in tune with our particular occult frequencies have probably noticed an anomaly in your supply of the Liberation Industries Roleplaying Podcast.
Please do not be alarmed, and do not adjust your set.
I am referring to the bonus episode of our Werewolf game that appeared this week. Turns out that we have just enough bandwidth to be giving you three episodes a month, and that rather neatly rounded out our second session of Crescent Coast.
You may also have noticed that our Werewolf game is… well, to quote Alex’s player “Do we have to turn into Werewolves? Can’t we just keep playing high school?” What I’m getting at is that our approach to the World of Darkness tends to be incredibly slice of life, and on that note you may have noticed a bit of a lack of traditional Werewolf shenanigans in the first couple of sessions.
This is about to change, and on that note we’re going to spend the next few issues with the Crescent Head kids, before moving on to some other games to give you all a bit of variety. Unless I come into a lot of money, we’ll only get three issues a month, but that’s about all I can edit, so as much as I love you imaginary listeners, that’s what you get.
Otherwise, its been great to see all this imaginary activity. If you like what you hear, please feel free to leave a comment, tell your friends, or offer up your worship in that weird space in the corner of a room that forms when you cross your eyes.
Keep on rockin’,
Well then folks, that was it. The last gasp of our Apocalypse World game, Frozen City. I feel like now that we have produced the greatest ever piece of post apocalyptic fiction ever, its time for a change. George Miller, I’ll be expecting those Oscars in the mail.
Its been utterly wild, its been weird, its been feral (just like the fantastic McDaldno taught me not so long ago). I love Apocalypse World, and though dropping newbies in what might be called the deep end felt like a risk initially, our little ducks swam on just fine.
I mean, they destroyed the paltry remnants of any civilization the Frozen City had been able to hang onto, but… hey, it was good while it lasted. I feel like with new catchphrases along the lines of “weird highlighted episode”, “NOT TO BE FUCKED WITH” and “the Winter of our discuntent” now circulating happily in our vernacular, I would say that the end of the end of the world was a reasonable price to pay.
Anyway, I felt like you might get lonely for post apocalyptic shenanigan now that we’ve hit our little finale, so I figured I’d point you in the direction of some of the stuff I was devouring while the Frozen City was crystalising like lake water in my brain.
If you like Actual Play Podcasts, I would recommend the following for their rather charming post-apocalyptic playouts.
The Jankcast‘s Apocalypse World sessions, both the original run of Leviathan and the follow up Black Diamond make great listens, both as great stories and fun gaming groups. Its got everything; comings of age, lost love, and the fires of revolution. They also play AW’s younger siblings, Monsterhearts and Dream Askew (McDaldno again!) which are great, and you’ve probably already heard me ranting about.
You Don’t Meet in an Inn are a charming bunch from Canada with a taste for playing more obscure RPGs, Apocalypse World and Monsterhearts once again among them. I would say that their take is a little more classic than that of the Jankcast, complete with scooter gangs, fuel wars and surprisingly jovial cannibals. Don’t let that put you off though; their gloriously awkward senses of humour put them in a realm of their own.
If you don’t mind a stash of text, Derendel’s long running Apocalypse World game The Climbers is one of rpg.net’s jewels. It has also influenced me to include ‘retire as Conan’ as one of my long term life goals.
Then there was this. But I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about this any more than I have.
Anyway, hope y’all are still having fun. All the best, and I won’t see you all in our upcoming casts. Cause that’s not really how this medium works.
There’s a pretty big appeal to the Post-Apocalyptic genre.
Yeah, I know. Statement of the century. This is well trod ground – this isn’t a first on this topic, even for me – but I promised y’all an article, so I suppose you’re getting it whether its decent or not.
I’ve thought quite a lot about the appeal of stories following a civilization annihilating catastrophe, and its one that persists across every medium I can call to mind; it is especially prolific in gaming, but lets just say that George Miller didn’t find all of those Oscars under the couch.
On pondering what it is that draws us to these kinds of stories, I’ve heard a few threads echoing back around. Some theories, particularly those that follow the zombie subgenre, gather that we gain a kind of catharsis from watching otherwise good people crack under the pressures of scarcity and violence. A theme that seems to surface in a lot of roleplaying games, from Dungeons and Dragons to Numenara, is the appeal of a return to an age of exploration, and the chance to grow rich picking over the bones of a dead civilization. Some works use the breakdown of law as an excuse for gratuitous hyper-violence, but others use it to examine the formation of culture and faith in times of flux. Fury Road even found a way to do both.
I’ve never felt particularly satisfied with any of these assumptions. Desperation isn’t something you need to destroy civilization to find, as Shakespeare was so happy showing us, and the exploratory angle is one that overlaps heavily with your fantasy and western genres. So I look for a different point of appeal.
I believe, and this is something that Apocalypse World really hammers home, is that it has to do with agency.
I’ve frequently joked that libertarians are anarchists without the spine to accept their own decisions, and Apocalypse World throws us right into the anarchy of a world where rule limited by the far range of your eyesight and weaponry. The bonds of civilization have been shattered, and this allows our central players, against a chorus of devourers, demagogues and desperate lost souls, to do something that civilization could never allow them by its own nature.
It allows them to reshape the world in their own image.
This has been, I believe, a huge part of the recent appeal of Apocalypse World, and has kept wind in the sails for its second edition. Your players set out into a world that they create, with the only assumptions being that civilization is long gone and that the world has been enveloped by a miasma of telepathic resonance, the Psychic Maelstrom. The depopulated world, and the character’s relative power within it, allow them to come into this setting and live out their own destiny, unhindered by those more powerful than they are, whether that destiny is as conqueror, saint or destroyer.
For those of you who have been following the podcast, you’ll know that the destiny crafted by an impulsive artist, a mutant prairie dog and a deluded, theatrically inclined murderer is going to be pretty weird.
Ultimately, I think one of Apocalypse World’s most appealing features is almost a surrender of agency from the GM (or MC in this case) to their players; not complete, but more in the manner of giving them enough rope to hang themselves, a sentiment that has rather pervaded my MCing career. Baker has encoded into his rules an idea that has always worked well for me, and that is that roleplayers will make their own trouble. my players have always wanted to make their stories interesting as much as their MC does.
Apocalypse World has the advantage of letting a character choose when they die.
Some hang on despite the horrifying costs, and some let it go. We’ll have our share of both as Frozen City runs to its grim, exultant finale.
Hope you’re all enjoying the ride.
Well howdy day y’all.
Welcome to the Liberation Industries Roleplaying Podcast. I figure now is as good a time as any to intoduce ourselves and give you an idea of what to expect.
We’re a group of roleplaying types, some older, some newer, and we’ve taken to making recordings of our escapades to try and escape the fragile grasp our memories have of the past.
What this means for you is that we’re going to be posting a lot of recordings as time wears on. If you listen, and enjoy, feel free to leave a comment and I will send a (possibly imaginary) gift basket to whatever address seems most appropriate. If you listen and do not enjoy, then I am cruelly amused that I wasted your time.
In the coming weeks, this podcast will be playing host to our exceedingly chaotic Apocalypse World game, Frozen City. It will likely also be dappled with musings from your charming host, Paddy, most commonly around the theme of story gaming.
So settle in, make yourself comfortable. Thanks for dropping by.