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Watch the World Die - Discussion

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Watch the World Die - Discussion

This is a discussion about Watch the World Die by Tod Foley.
Title: Watch the World Die
Author: Tod Foley
Game Type: Collaborative Story
GM?: No
Free?: No

Using WTWD as Session -1 of AW

When I ran WTWD as Session Zero of an AW campaign (actually I guess it would be Session -1), I originally intended to get it done in 60 or 90 minutes, and then move straight into chargen for AW with the WTWD apocalypse fresh in our minds. Well, it didn't work out that way, some people arrived late, some people brought more friends than I had expected, we had a lot of yummy distracting food, and we got pretty punchy. The WTWD game was all we managed to do that night.

At first this bothered me. I felt we could have done both WTWD and Session 0 in one night, and was hoping that the freshness of the WTWD content would be directly utilized in AW chargen. But when we next got together for the real Session 0 of AW, I found that it was probably best that it went the way it did. Separating the sessions, I mean. Two reasons.

First: The mood of WTWD players sitting around the table can get pretty silly, even while the subject matter is dark as hell. I think this is a normal release of tension, which is experienced directly because it's the "real" world we're talking about and we have no PC sheets to transfer our emotions onto. It's hella fun, but it's a different mood than the mood you want to go into AW chargen with. Case in point: WTWD can be played perfectly fine as a "party game" all by itself with a bunch of drunk people.

Second: As we played WTWD I wrote short descriptive phrases on a big whiteboard, representing the timeline of our apocalypse. Then before AW Session 0 I typed up that timeline, fleshing it out into well-formed sentences and fitting it onto one side of one page (using fonts that replicated the look and feel of the AW playbooks). When we got together again for AW chargen, the first thing I did was hand everybody a timeline to read. This took us straight into a (mostly) serious conversation about what sort of situation we might find 50 years later, which led easily into chargen. So that actually worked quite well. The timeline was regarded quite seriously, and was actively taken into account as the characters were created. I think the two key ingredients were (a) having the physical timeline written out in full, and (b) allowing time to create some emotional distance between the two sessions.

Of course, it all depends on your group and other factors. My group was big (eleven people) and included a lot of newbies. It's easy to imagine a smaller group of RPG veterans sitting down to play WTWD in a VERY serious way, and heading straight into chargen without any mental gear-shifting required.

By the way: this is probably obvious but for newbies it's a good thing to mention... When you're playing WTWD in prep for a post-apoc campaign, you should remember to throw in some stuff simply based on what you want to find in the post-apoc world. That's not selfish, it's world-creating agency. So throw in some of those survivalist caches, underground vaults, and exotic high-tech weapons. Your PCs will really appreciate it 50 years from now. :-)