So here’s an idea for an Apocalypse World hack: a game set in a human colony on a distant alien exoplanet. The player are members of a colony recently founded there and attempting to deal with living on strange hostile alien world. The idea is inspired by colony world stories along the lines of Earth 2, Outcasts, Soldier, Aliens, Rimworld, and some of the on-world parts of Firefly or Space: Above and Beyond.
For the most part this is envisioned a low-key game hack. Unlike Dungeon World and other more ambitious hacks, this more a simple reskinning. Change some names, and make new playbooks, but the core of the game-mechanics, including the basic moves and what the MC does is nearly the same. It’s still a game about survival in a hostile world.
The mechanics are also largely from existing Apocalypse World playbooks. Many of them will look very familiar. My goal here was to fit them into a new setting, and new stories more that it was to innovate new mechanics.
To use this hack you’ll need a copy of Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World.
This is a bunch of un-playtested notes. It’s a first pass at a setting and concept. I’m basing this on Apocalypse World, but I haven’t tried it, and it almost certainly is not balanced. If you do try playing it, I’d love to hear how it went, and what improvements it could use.
Strange New World
The setting for this hack may or may not be the same universe in which civilization on Earth has been wiped out (IE: Apocalypse World’s setting), but it definitely isn’t on Earth. Instead, you’re in a small human settlement on distant alien world. You, like the rest of your colony, got there in cryo-sleep pod attached to a massive rocket traveling well under the speed of light. It’s been only a few years since the colony was founded, and the colony’s main structures and layout have emerged, but the supplies brought with you from Earth are all but gone and you and your people must now depend on the alien world for your survival.
The world itself is an uncanny valley parallel to humanity’s homeworld. It’s more like Earth than you expected, but that some how makes the differences all that much stranger and disconcerting. The world is located in a goldilocks zone around it’s star(s), and support an exotic biosphere full of odd plant and animal like life. There are scrub lands, forests, fruits, and giant swarming insect like creatures. There are also ruins. Clearly this world once hosted an alien civilization, but they are long dead now. The ruins are old, and poorly understood, but this world killed a previous civilization, and you’ll need to work hard to ensure the colony doesn’t go that way too.
The colony itself is more like a small slice of Earth, implanted into a vast hostile alien landscape. You farm Earth plants and animals, and attempt to maintain Earth traditions where possible… but it’s a strange and dangerous new world, one for which humanity is not evolved. There are dangerous mega-fauna, like the swarming hives of wolf sized insectoids. The native plant life can be hazardous, with much of toxic to human consumption. The microbes are especially dangerous, with the threat of an alien plague for which humanity has no immunity or resistance being possible death knell for the colony. Even the weather is dangerous and strange. Of course, there are always your fellow humans to worry about as well. Not everyone has fit so well into the harsh colony lifestyle, a few may being going mad from the isolation, and there are rumors that you weren’t actually the first humans to attempt a colony on this world.
The New Stats and Moves
For ease of writing/converting , you can keep all the basic stats and moves of the original Apocalypse World, but with one large exception: Weird and it’s associated moves (Open Your Brain) are gone. On this strange new alien world, there is no psychic maelstrom. Instead, we replace Weird with Xeno, a stat representing a character’s understanding to and connection with the alienness of the new world. To that we add a new basic move:
When you attempt to Interact with the Alien, roll+xeno. On a hit, the MC will let you know something about the current alien entangled situation. On a 10+ the MC will give you useful details or warnings. On a 7-9, the MC will give you an vague comments that might lead you astray. If you already know all there is to know, the MC will tell you that.
Interact with the Alien covers just about any interaction with alien plants, animals, relics, etc. Any time you need to really understand or communicate with aliens. You can’t Read a Sitch on alien ruins, nor Go Aggro on an alien swarm. They are too alien for such human modes of thought or communication. If you want to figure out how to use an alien artifact, or enter alien ruins, you’ll need to Interact with the Alien.
Interact with the Alien does not cover the very human impulses to run away or destroy. If you want to fight an alien swarm, that’s still Seize by Force. Similarly if you just want to get out of a dangerous alien dust storm, that’s Acting Under Fire. The key is that these aren’t acts of understanding or communication… just violence and avoidance.
Replace Barter as a measurement of trade goods/currency with Credit. More specifically, these are “Nano Fabricator Resource Credits.” The colony has a high tech nanotech “printer” about the size of an oven. When fed the right resource stocks and fully powered it’s able to produce simple supplies like food, equipment, and even basic firearms. It’s a useful tool for the colony, but it has it’s limits and breaks down constantly. It’s not able to produce anything with the Luxury or Hi-tech tags, and while it can make parts for larger things, it’s space is limited, so it can’t make vehicles/etc. It’s also limited in it’s ability produce things based on the resources at hand, so the availability and price of gear fluctuates constantly. In general, the machine can convert credits into one bit of gear such as a gun that does 2-harm, a tool like a crowbar, a hand held weapon such as a machete worth up to 3-harm, 1-stock for the medical kit, or basic personal fashion worth up to 1-armor. It can also generate a month’s worth of long lasting nutritional paste, which you could live off, but not really enjoy.
The barter moves themselves still work. Within the colony, the Credits are the currency, even where the Nano Fabricator isn’t involved. You can spend credits to buy farmed food, hand built gear, or alien artifacts dug up from the ruins. In other words, simply rename the barter moves to Give 1-Credit to someone, but with strings attached and Go into the colony’s bustling market. To these two slightly renamed moves, we can add a third new one:
When you Activate the colony nano fabricator, attempting to generate a specific bit of gear that is neither hi-tech nor luxury, and the machine is in good working order, roll+credit spent. On a hit, you get what you want. On a 10+, the gear only costs 1 credit. On a 7-9, you get your gear. On a miss, the MC chooses one of the following:
- It requires 1-credit more than you expect. Keep your credits if you can’t or won’t pay that much.
- You get the item, but the machine breaks down as soon as it’s done.
- It could make that for you, if you can get the right design specs. Keep you credits till then.
- It could make that for you, if you can get a specific additional ingredient. Keep you credits till then.
- It could make that for you, if you wait a few days for the nanite population to reform. Keep you credits till then.
This does mean that the only way get hi-tech and luxury gear, food worth eating, or 3-harm guns or armor worth 2-armor, is through the market or other moves. They simply can’t be fabricated.
About Angel Kits…
Angel kits, and the rules associated with them, only need a tad of re-skinning. Call them Medical Kits, and assume they contain medical nanites and slightly more high tech components. This actually makes the kit about the size of a backpack instead of the trunk of a car. The mechanics work the same, including Stocks, using up Chillstabs, and other rules.
You’ll find the first 5 playbooks on the second page.