Wayward Sons: Writing of the Seasoned playbooks

Once I began the work on the “second tier” playbooks for my Apocalypse World hack I quickly realised this hack still has some major issues. Though in my mind the premises and the main idea behind this hack is clear it might not be for others.This was a point that I noticed while we get together to play it a couple of weeks ago.


Aki was wondering why would his character stick with the other characters. I realise that this is something that pops up every once in a while in any game. My current approach to this kind of a problem is to get rid of the character as soon as possible. Questioning the motives of a character is a quick way to kill the mood and diverse the story from what is actually happening. But this time was different. It got me think of the reasons any of the characters are involved in “the hunt”.

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Wayward Sons: Grinding the System


With three gaming sessions with this Apocalypse World hack I am beginning to see where I want this game to go. I started out with of what I was doing and what the game is about but have ended up realising there is a lot to change.

I want this game to resemble X-Files with working class characters. Sessions should be about mysteries the group is trying to solve (without getting killed). The deeper they get into the mystery the more entangled with unanswered questions they become. The action and the story flow should be fast enough to be easily narrated but still retain the elements of this being a game.

When writing this hack I started out with a lot of setting rules. Most of them were tested in my own gaming system and only transferred to this new engine. Some of them were stolen from other AWhack (namely tremulus). Little by little I have been removing them from the rules. The last one to go was the Sanity damage mechanic.  Continue reading

Wayward Sons: A Middle-Manager

My character took pretty bad hits again during our Wayward Sons session last Friday. This means its time to start thinking about a plan B in case my character happens to die (although I did write-up a hacker character I would probably enjoy playing, but which might be a bit too on the nose). Obviously, in most games the players don’t come up with the playbooks as they go, but this is still a game in development, so I have pretty free hands to do what I want.

Lauri has tried his best to emphasize that the playbooks should be normal people (although their stats say they are pretty good at what they are doing). They just happen to have strange experiences and want to act on them for whatever reasons.

So here’s one pretty normal person: a middle-manager. You know… someone who thinks (or used to think) he’s important because he has a few underlings below him, but isn’t actually that competent, except maybe in office politics. You know, a good old-fashioned yuppie.

Let’s see what Lauri says.

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Wayward Sons – 1st Session & Playbooks

So we started our campaign two weeks ago. I had written five playbooks with Aki with following the ideas of the players in our gaming group. We had got together earlier to talk about the characters and so most of our group had a good idea of what kind of character they were going to play.

The main point for designing these characters was that they were more “a” than “the”. As the regular playbooks for hacks deal with characters that are the movers and shakers of their worlds in Wayward Sons the characters start out only as regular men and women. They have the possibility of grow to be the most important people of their kind – as well as turn into monsters along the way.

We followed the basic structure of Apocalypse World during this first session. Playbooks were distributed, players fill them out (complaining about bits and correcting others) and afterwards we discussed about the characters and their shared past.

As the established fact was that all characters had had their first paranormal encounter they all decided what was their Angle. (This was something that we quickly realised needed to be presented in the playbook as a choosable option). Within a little over an hour we had created a detailed history for the characters and a horrible mind-map for me to use as a GM as the foundation of the campaign.

Following the advices of AW and told the players that this session was about their characters. We followed them around, used moves and got into trouble. We did not have a fight though. This was actually something a realised only later on. Another thing I noticed was that Wayward Sons probably needs a little more flavourful 1st session sheet for GM.

The summary for the events of the first session:

The characters had arrived the the city of Rapid Falls in North Dakota following the cryptic hint from a Well-Dressed Man. They searched a safety deposit box to and found a large set of papers, photos and 8mm video. While going through the material they realised they were all connected to it and to each other somehow. It all seemed to have something to do with what their fathers and their fathers had done.

Following the leads from the documents the party searched the city archives and tried to make contact with the manager of the bank where the documents where held.

I confess I actually had a basic storyline in mind before we started the session (this actually being a part of a campaign we have been playing for almost two years). Nevertheless the players had a huge impact on the flow of the story and the clues found. It was all in all an excellent starting point for the campaign.

We are getting together to play the second session tomorrow. Hopefully we can work out even more problems with this hack and still have a good time.

The first five preliminary and “this needs some serious editing” playbooks as pdfs:

Notice – Yes. They are all pretty much work in progress. I shared them for feedback.

Wayward Sons Playbook: Evangelist

This is for Lauri’s game and I haven’t asked him about this, but I’m just putting this out here for later comparison and as part of the transparency of the project.

I don’t know the exact form Lauri’s playbooks will take in the end, but this is my proposal or prototype for one. We did preliminary characters the other day and this is what I came up with: A small-time televangelist, who has been part of an exorcism where something unexpected by the quite secular character didn’t expect. So, now I just have to make this more generalized so that others might be able to play this some day.

The subheaders in bold, the text in italics and my comments in normal text. The template is from tremulus.

Who Are You?

Despite humble beginnings, you have been able to grow rich by abusing your congregation’s beliefs for years. Whether you actually believe or not, you are able to inspire belief in others. With shallow wisdom and simple brainwashing techniques you are able to hold those looking for meaning in their lives in your hands. But something happened and your world was broken. Suddenly you were in over your head, but you are going to survive, as you always have.


I can’t stop thinking about Oral Roberts, so that would lead me to have good, strong American last names and strange first names from Western side characters. Than again, people like Billy Graham, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have very basic, likable names, with shortened first names.

Jimmy Smith, Bob Gordon, Norm Baker, Clint Jones, Howie Lee, Benny Carson


Gender: Man or Woman

I thought about only having men, because this is a male-dominated profession, but there have been famous female televangelists, such as Tammy Faye Bakker, so no reason to limit this one.

Clother: expensive tailored suit, fine suit, worn suit, rural casual, or puritan robes

Expensive tailored suit is the one we’d most likely see in most fiction, because its just so stereotypical, but I don’t think all these people are making that much money. Some are simple bible salesmen, or they need to attract simpler rural people by appearing more like them or what they would expect.

Face: condensending, aristocratic, serious, or somber

I’m not sure about this. I guess this is fine for now.

Eyes: sharp, peaceful, or accusing

Body: Slim, athletic, full, lithe, or angular


Okay, so Lauri had a bit different view on how these will work. Instead of the usual way AW hacks work, we’ll have access to more powerful moves in the future, so I’m keeping these moves less powerful than the usual moves playbooks would have. These are largely based on moves from playbooks from tremulus, but with influence from both Apocalypse World and MonsterHearts, although the latter has so many moves related to strings, it doesn’t come up much here.

Lauri asked us for two, but I’ll make some more just for more options. Future players might not want to use the same path I do. I’ll rework these if they are too

Inspire a Crowd: You may use INFLUENCE on crowds of people with time and give them abtract promises in return. On a failure, the crowd may become hostile, or may draw their own conclusions on what to do.

Pretty basic evangelist stuff, riling up crowds with semi-intelligible speeches about the will of god and the bible.

Confessor: Gain +1ongoing after successfully reading or influencing a person to read or influence the same person.

Some stuff for a more classical version of a priest. People often want to trust their religious leaders. After they’ve accepted this character as their link to their god, they will continue to associate with him.

Cold Reading: You may ask an additional question when using INSTINCT on a person. +1forward if using INFLUENCE on the same person.

Having worked with a lot of people, the evangelist has learned to find the angles they can use.

Congregation: If you are surrounded by your flock, they will protect you.

Don’t know what this means at this point. Maybe they are an AW-like gang, maybe not. Maybe they are just some requirement to get hold of the character physically.

The Faithful: When usimg experience to reroll INFLUENCE rolls with people of roughly the same faith, gain +2forward.

Hard to balance this. Is +2forward too much? Probably not, since many moves simply give +1 to a trait and this is quite situational.

Faith Healing

I don’t know what this should do at this point. This isn’t real healing, but maybe you can remove someones minuses for a while or something by making them think they’ve been healed. I think this will get removed later, but just put it in here, since it has so much resonance in how these people are seen in the public. Maybe some other “magic trick” like snake handling could be a move too.


A worn or expensively decorated Bible, a cross

Don’t know much more about the gear at this point.

Wayward Sons – What’s It About?


Wayward Sons is a hack for the Vincent Baker‘s Apocalypse World. As I have already posted the GM prep and the Basic Moves for this hack I decided it was time to tell a bit more of what the game is actually about.

The stories of Wayward Sons take (by default) place at 1980s in a fictional South Dakota city much like Los Angeles and New York. It is a game on neon noir atmosphere, conspiracies, esoteric secrets and horror.

Since X-Files and the first seasons of Supernatural I have planed on running something similar to them but never got around to do this. When Aki GMed some tremulus to our group during this summer I knew I was hooked with the AW engine and wanted to build a hack of my own to suit my needs for the game.

Premises for the Wayward Sons differ a bit from most AW hacks. The characters are not the best of the best, or moves and shakers. They are just average (or pretty near to it) people who are drawn to the world of supernatural horror by events they could not avoid.

During the game it is possible for them to achieve closure or to become one of the most famous hunters of supernatural. But it is much more likely that they will die, go mad or even turn into inhumane monsters they used to hunt. The threat of Taint is ever present on their stories, forcing them to balance between what needs to be done and what they are willing to do to achieve it.

The world where the characters live in is wrapped in paranoia and secrets. They know that most people wouldn’t believe them and have to act under the threat of being locked up in a mental institute. This means that one of the key elements will be trust.

Trust acts a bit like Hx in Apocalypse World or Trust in tremulus, but it is actually inspired by ColdCity. It is used to measure the trust between the character (and some NPCs they regularly interact). But as opposed to tremulus it does not stand for the secrets you know about another character it simply means how willingly you would place your life on their hands.

In addition to this Wayward Sons must be pretty simple. I have had my share of over complicated rules and that is one of the reasons AWengine worked for me. This also means that I will be able to use it to run games set in various different times than just the 80s – our current campaign has had adventures in wild west, 1940s, cyberpunk and in space and I want this hack to allow us to continue on that line.

The picture used in the teaser is from Supernatural and used without permission. No challenge to the owners of the franchise intended.

AW-Hack: Basic Moves

After surviving the birthday party that was held during last weekend I noticed the complete lack of second part of my input for Demon Week. I’ll probably get back to it in some point but for now I’d like to present the revised basic actions for by Apocalypse World hack.

These basic moves are mainly inspired by tremulus though browsing through some other hacks has also given me some ideas. As stated previously these might change a bit at some point. Any ideas and suggestions are more than welcome.

Act Under Pressure (Roll + Stat)
When you take an action that risks failure or opposition, roll with one of the basic stats.
On a 10+, You succeed.
On a 7-9, the GM offers you a worse outcome, hard bargain or a cost. If agreed upon, you succeed.

Assist/Interfere (Roll + their trust to you)
When you Assist or Interfere on someone’s action, roll their Trust to you.
On a 10+, They take +2 (Assist) or -2 (Interfere) to their roll.
On a 7-9, They take +1 or -1 to their roll, and you are exposed to the outcome of the roll.
On a miss, They lose of point of Trust to you

Fight (Roll + Violence)
When you attack someone or something, roll+Violence. The roll stands for the entire combat. Every participant in a combat inflicts its Harm to the other.
On a 10+, Choose 1
– You deal Harm as established
– You deal +2 Harm but suffer Harm
– They change behavior and do what you want.
– Choose one from below
On a 7-9, They choose 1:
– Flee
– Fall back to a secure location
– Back off calmly
– Give you what they think you want

Influence (Roll + Presence)
When you want someone to do something for you, you may use your wits, charm, looks etc. to ask someone to do it.
On a 10+, they’ll do it but might ask for something in return.
7-9, they’ll do it but will ask for something in return.

Instinct (Roll + Discipline)
When you need to know what others are thinking, meaning or thinking you need to trust on your Instinct. Asks are directed to the GM.
On a 10+, Ask something, GM gives a relevant and usable answer.
On a 7-9, Ask something, GM gives you something interesting, build on that.

Investigate (Roll + Intellect)
Looking for clues in a scene.
On a 10+, choose 1:
– You find something hidden
– You find something lost
– You find something forgotten
– You find a Good item (GM’s choice)
– You find a Minor item (your choice)
– You find a Clue (+1forward)
– Pick one from the following:
7-9, choose 1:
– You find a Minor item (GM’s choice)
– You find a Clue (+1forward), but the situation escalates
On a 6 or less, there either is nothing else to be found or the GM may hold 1 against you.

Reason (Roll + Intellect)
When the clues are gathered, the libraries visited and the old dusty tomes read the player may use Reason to tie in the knots.
On a 10+, Ask something, GM gives a relevant and usable answer.
On a 7-9, Ask something, GM gives you something interesting, build on that.

Spark of Taint (Roll + Discipline)
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.

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.