Apocalypse World 2e

Posted 21 Apr 2021 to Sci-Fi

Mad Max craziness in a desperate future with a psychic maelstrom.


XP Card

Sessions GM'd: 0
Sessions as Player: 5

I Used

Basic PDF 42 pages. I was using the free document from http://apocalypse-world.com/
Apparently the full book is like 300 pages.


This game spawned a whole genre of hacks that are Powered By The Apocalypse. I played in two mini-campaigns. The game encourages a lot of player world-building and collaborative story creation. I'm enthusiastic about that idea, but I'm not convinced this game is my jam. In both of my campaigns, the world we created was pretty gonzo. Honestly, my gamer DNA might be a little too traditional for PbtA to become my thing. My sense is this game lends itself to short mini-campaigns.


The Good

  • Variety of playbooks. Playbooks are like classes. Each player picks one and it has a few special moves. There are a lot of them, and even more homebrew playbooks are available online. Character creation is super fast, and you can literally be ready to play in 5 minutes. The hardest part is picking a playbook.
  • Collaborative world-building. In theory, I enjoy this. There is no setting chapter in the book, and some of the details of the world are agreed by the players during character creation. There is an implied setting, for example a thing called the Psychic Maelstrom is mentioned in some moves, but what this means is largely left up to your group. In my first campaign, we decided our group lived on a floating blimp, moving over the apocalyptic wasteland, occasionally descending to resupply.
  • Low prep. If your GM is confident with improv, it is quite possible to kick off a campaign with literally no prep. Just create characters, flesh out the world a little bit, and you can invent some problems the PCs have to face or an opportunity to exploit. We decided that a ruined mall came into view below our blimp, and it was sure to have some good loot inside. We loaded guns and descended.
  • Crisp, short sharp writing style. Everything was clear and presented in a way that was easy to absorb.
  • Fiction first. Moves trigger when a player says their character is doing something that aligns with a written move. The moves really helped to propel the story forward and to ensure something was happening often.
  • Player-to-player interactions. The character creation process requires each player to ask questions of the other players, and to establish relationships between them. The few minutes spent doing this is fun and so important to creating a good group. The propel the story. More games should do this.
  • Very helpful GM guidance. While short, this chapter is crammed full of ideas for a GM. The Agenda, and other guidance is keyed to help prompt the GM to keep the action moving and to keep to the genre. It's the kind of page that would be useful to print out and have in front of you when GMming any game.
  • Fronts. When I first learned about this GM technique, it changed the way I prep my campaigns. Essentially, the chapter helps a GM decide on a handful of threats which are active in the world, and how they will escalate without the PCs stopping them. This is how I now prepare situations instead of a plot.
  • Tags for gear. Who needs a long equipment list of guns? Not me. You buy a gun and then you pick a few tags to go with it. It's quick and just works.

The Not-So-Good

  • Collaborative world-building got gonzo. Our players, myself included, just invented the craziest shit. Our flying blimp had a famous bar, brewing wonderful craft beers, powered by the coolant from some cryo-pods, one of which contained a PC's lover. We had a helicopter, which had to have its rotors on the underside to allow it to dock with the blimp. Perhaps more time spent in talking about tone and mood would have helped rein everybody in?
  • I couldn't shake the feeling that we were just making stuff up. This is a complicated point to try to articulate. All RPGS are just making stuff up, right? Somehow that impression was much stronger with this game. The GM is encouraged to dream up and introduce obstacles to player actions, to create drama and tension. The players were able to declare their characters doing things in combat.
  • The sex move felt a bit unnecessary. Every playbook has a sex move. It's right there on your character sheet, so it seems to be intended for regular use. For my group, it was hardly ever be used and felt a bit awkward.


I'd play this again. With better control of the player group, it has good potential. Look at the long list of Good points I listed above! I need to work on my improv PbtA GM skills.



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