GM Prep for Wayward Sons

As stated I started to work on a Apocalypse World hack this week. The GM prep was actually quite easy to write as I have been planing this kind of campaign for quite a long time.

Now I do not make the mistake of calling what I have written ready. Actually I believe it will go through some changes still. But I do see this as an interesting opportunity to share the writing process to gain futher ideas and to hone it.

Again – I used the Simple World structure when making this.

Wayward Sons
An Apocalypse World hack

The characters are ripped from their conventional lives by some unnatural event that forces them on the move. They dedicate their lives to investigate the strange and unexplained in secrecy. For they know that hidden forces are always working against them and that the general public would judge them insane. What they do not know that they are all on the road to turn into the very monsters they hunt.

Fitness: physicality, endurance, agility
Presence: influence, charm, looks
Violence: aggression, fighting, shooting
Intellect: knowledge, education, rational thinking, reason
Discipline: willpower, mental strength

Assign to stats: +2, +1, +1, 0, -1

Set Trust to other characters at the beginning of the game by distributing points equal to the number of characters. Trust can be set from 0 to 3.

When you Help or Hinder a character roll THEIR Trust to you +roll.

Additional Stats:


Gain experience for:
+1 for invoking own Trait to escalate the situation
+1 for each Condition gained
+1 for each esoteric secret learned (from old tomes etc.)
+1 after each session
+1 after each session when the group votes for “who made the game most interesting”

Using experience for:
-1 to re-roll
-1 to activate a Sigil
-1 to gain narrative leeway
-n to power up a ritual (depends on the level of the ritual)
-2 gain a new Trait (up to maximum of 12 Traits)
-2 to reduce Taint level by one
-4 to mark an advance

Each character starts with 0 points of Taint and a Taint Move:

Spark of Taint
Whenever you commit an inhuman act (kill someone in cold blood, work magic, eat human flesh etc.) make roll+Discipline.
10+ You remain unaffected by the Taint
On a 7-9, You are fighting the Taint. You may choose to advance it.
On a miss, your Taint advance a step.

Character Concepts:
Journalist (pushing for extra info, gaining influence with public writing, heavy drinking)
Medium (contact to ghosts, sensing weird stuff, being mysterious)
Collector (weird collections, trivial knowledge, extensive connections)
Cult Member (access to occult lore, backup from cult brothers, being in danger)
Biker (looking menacing, having biker contacts, breaking stuff)
Dealer (getting illegal things, being paranoid, all talk)
Private Eye (noticing hidden clues, getting it on with dames, shadowing people)
Boxer (hitting stuff, getting hit, abandoned boxing studio)
Ex-Cop (hangover, strained relationships, no-nonsense mood)

The Agendas:

  • Make the players’ characters’ lives not boring.
  • Play to find out what happens.
  • Drive the characters to turn into monsters

The Principles:

  • The devil is in the details.
  • Introduce a believable world of (supernatural) secrets.
  • Give the world more depth through play.
  • Come up with interesting mysteries, not interesting adventures.
  • Make your move, but misdirect.
  • Make your move, but never speak its name.
  • Use NPCs to introduce constancy, then destroy them.
  • Name everyone, make everyone human.
  • Ask provocative questions and build on the answers.
  • Respond with challenging circumstances and occasional rewards.
  • Be a fan of the players’ characters.
  • Think offscreen, too.
  • Occasionally, let the players answer the questions.
  • The fight is in vain, for humanity means little on the grand scale of things

GM Moves

  • Separate them.
  • Capture someone.
  • Put someone in a high-stakes situation.
  • Harm someone (as established).
  • Trade harm for harm (as established).
  • Announce off-screen badness.
  • Announce future badness.
  • Take away one of their Things.
  • Demonstrate one of their Things’ bad sides.
  • Give them a difficult decision to make.
  • Tell them the possible consequences and ask.
  • Turn their move back on them.
  • Make a move from one of your Dangers or Bigger Pictures.

7 thoughts on “GM Prep for Wayward Sons

  1. You can use experience both to re-roll and to advance, as well as other stuff. This is often problematic, since it creates a feedback loop where those who are doing poorly use experience on re-rolling and thus fall behind those who do well and get advancements.

    Why is this not a problem in your case? (I have at least two possible responses, but I’d like to read your own take first.)

  2. Good question.

    1) Each player gains Experience after the session. Thus it cannot be spend for a re-roll. Unless the player hoards it for re-rolls. But then it is his/her problem.
    2) During the game Experience is mainly gained from bad stuff that happen to the character. You miss a roll and get beaten up? Experience. You see something horrible and go a bit nuts? Experience. You decide to use your own drawbacks to kick yourself? Gain an experience.
    3) Players cannot buy Moves that grant them more experience.
    4) I’m not big on too balanced characters, so I do not see this as too big of a problem.

    (GM monitoring and the responsibility of players should go without mentioning.)

    I would like to hear your ideas too!

    • If players are not too focused on winning or succeeding, then character power is not so important, and there is no issue. This, I suppose, is the case with your game, but it also depends on the players. If players are out to win, then the problem might emerge.

      Another thing is your point 2 – if character is doing poorly, then presumably they will get more experience, which weakens the feedback loop.

      My instinct would be to hoard experience for advances (presuming they are like advances in Apocalypse world or Dungeon world) and possibly traits, depending on what they do. The other uses come off as damage control or prevention.
      I can and do play against my instincts, but it takes effort. This is a personal problem, but I suppose some other people do share it.

      • I think that players that are “out to win” should also be able to do it. If it is what they like then I wouldn’t want to spoil their pleasure. Certainly they will most likely do it for their gaming group anyway and thus trying to meet their demands or completely beat them of is kind of pointless.

        If a player hoards experience to improve his character it is clearly something he wants to do. If this results in unbalanced gaming at some point in the games future I don’t see why the GM could not go against them. If he thinks they are ruining the game.

  3. The way I see it, a good system provides for the chance for the characters to fail in a interesting manner. In most media, characters’ lives are usually a series of failures until in the end they overcome their problems (unlike RPGs which are historically a series of wins, with failures being rare and often deadly).

    If the system doesn’t punish too harshly for most failures, players will embrace those failures as part of their character’s life. If player doesn’t like the failures and tries to overcome them by using a limited resource, they have to learn to live with them later on, thus taking a different, more tragic path.

    • Providing incentives for failure is a well-known and functional (in many situations) technique. Let us take that for granted. The feedback loop of stronger character not having to use their experience for re-rolls and thus getting even more stronger is what I am more interested in.

      I like your take on the phenomenon. Let me try to rephrase your view, to clarify my thoughts on it.

      You understand the situation as one of player choice: That a player can try to shield their character from harm, but this has long term consequences: the character will not improve and will eventually be lead to some tragic destiny. The player can also accept harm to grow stronger in the future, thus creating something like the classical pattern in many movies where the character first fails, but then eventually triumphs.

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