Trying Out: Uncharted Worlds

spiliaprime1Short version: Uncharted Worlds is an Apocalypse World hack by Sean Gomes. It is a game for a space opera in the style of Firefly (amongst other things). It’s a complete game not requiring the understanding or ownership of the Apocalypse World by Vincent Baker. And it is a good hack with a lot going on.

Long version: After a number of times failing to get the group together we finally managed to sit down for a game of Uncharted Worlds. Sami (our GM) has been talking about this and has prepared for it by running the Out of the Abyss-campaign. He has even vowed to write about running it at one point. With 20+ sessions I would imagine he has quite a bit to say about it. Once he actually does it…
We had pre-generated characters to use since we had agreed to run a couple of oneshots before the actual campaign. Mainly to familiarize ourselves with the system and build the world in advance.

The main purpose for the session was to build a story and to have fun. And I can admit that we fulfilled this purpose. Since we had all played games with AWengine we all had a pretty strong touch about what was going on. If I would judge this session from the perspective of someone who hadn’t played AWgames before, I would still suspect they would have had no problems with it. As always the engine itself is straightforward and deceptively simple.

Sami had pre-generated three factions (Cartel, Council and Federation) as our employers. The premise was that there had been a psionic speaking at the planet Spilia. Our characters were sent to Spilia to investigate the event. We were also tasked to make sure Spilia would renew their alliance with the Federation and sign the Galactic Treaties. And of course it all went straight to hell.

My foremost problem with this session was the vague power level of the story. Our characters were best of the best sent to negotiate the future of a whole planet. But as written our moves (or skills as they are referred in the Uncharted Worlds) we not that grand. But since this was more about the story I tried not to overthink this. It was not that easy since the dice were against us.

Damn those dice! Well not actually THESE dice. We didn't use them...

Damn those dice! Well not actually THESE dice. We didn’t use them…

I’m accustomed to fail forward but the sheer number of missed rolls was just too much. I missed about six rolls in a row with things my character should have excelled in. I’m first to admit that this was just bad luck and I should have narrated it accordingly. But I still kind of lost all confidence in my character.

At first this was frustrating. It made me just go through the rulebook to find loopholes I could abuse. But from a hindsight it was quite interesting. It thought me quite a bit about myself. Since I do not get to play that much I tend to take it too seriously. And though this has nothing to do with the actual game I deemed it as an interesting point. Previously I have always considered AWgames to be “easy” – meaning that failing isn’t that common.

In any case we managed to build a story that will stand as a starting point of a new era in this gaming universe. Our group saved the grand city of Spilia Prime from rampaging behemoths only to see it falling in chaos caused by the sparked telepath. Most of our characters made it out before to become NPCs in the upcoming campaign. And before the planet was delivered from all human life. (I’m not saying it was ancient aliens who did it… Wait. I am. I am! This time it WAS ancient Aliens!)

Gaming materials for the session.

Gaming materials for the session.

Sami had also prepared a few missions for the factions to hand out to us if things did not move along at full speed. It was a nice touch though I think one such mission would have been enough. Technically they were debts (UW for strings) the factions were calling us to pay. But since this was a oneshot I think they might have derailed us a bit too much.

Another thing I was not too sure about was Sami ruling that my character did not escape the planet fast enough. Even though I spend my one favor (string I had for my faction, the Council) I was still around to suffer from the outcome. If this was a part of the campaign I would have spent an important resource without getting anything in return. But since my character was overcome by the Psychic Storm that desolated Spilia I’m ok about how things went down.

While testing rpgs my biggest review point is “what I would steal from this game?”

Uncharted Worlds is pretty basic AWengine game that has a few interesting twists. There are no playbooks – the characters are built by mixing together one background and two careers. A suitable style for space opera but since I kind of like the playbooks I would not probably steal this.

GM has a lot less moves but they are efficient enough to run the game without a problem. This is something I liked but since I think I like bigger lists of moves more (gives me a checklist of things to do) I would not steal this either.

The vast array of guns, vehicles, NPCs and other stuff is handled with levels. The higher the level of your gear the higher is their effect. This is a simple way to allow players to come up with new stuff for the game and I liked it a lot. This is definitely something I consider stealing.

There is also a way to accumulate data points about subjects. It is +1forward economy in essence but in a flavorful way. If I hadn’t already thought of a similar thing for my games I would definitely steal this.

All in all a great session and a good game.

One day the Council shall punish the villainous Cartel and treacherous Federation.

One day the Council shall punish the villainous Cartel and treacherous Federation.

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