Apocalypse World: Dark Ages Session Report

A follow-up to my playtest observation.


  • What does the stronghold defend? A harbor and a port
  • Who are its enemies? Raiders by land. Raiders by sea.
  • What are its fortifications? An island position; a palisade outer wall; watch and signal towers; and a well or deep cistern.
  • What does its armory include? Hide coats and leather helmets; Bows and a suplly of arrows; Swords.


  • Acealon (Court Wizard)
    • You are literate.
    • You have the right to step out of your earthly life.
    • You have the right to throw down demons and lawless spirts.
    • You have the right to win over ghosts.
    • Bold 0, Good +1, Strong -1, Wary 1, Weird 2
    • Head of household; Library
  • Darloon, son of Mote (Wicker-Wise)
    • You have a right to enchant someone or something.
    • You have the right to be overcome by an oracular vision.
    • You have the right to speak wisdom in counsel.
    • When you whisper to ghosts you have the right to win them over.
    • Bold 0, Good +1, Strong -1, Wary +1, Weird +2
  • Kadlosch (Blacksmith)
    • You have the right to blood recompense when you are wronged.
    • You are a free landowner.
    • When you rally warriors from among your peers, you have the right to roll Strong.
    • You have the right to slay whom you must for the protection of all.
    • Bold +1, Good 0, Strong +2, Wary +1, Weird -1
    • Head of household; New wealth, armory, vassals, cattle
  • Aezar (Peasant Beauty)
    • When you appear on the battlefield, you are breathtaking and fell.
    • When you confront someone, you are beautiful, poised, and hard as steel.
    • You are exhilerating, intoxicating, when you choose to be.
    • You are radiant and stunning.
    • Bold +2, Good +1, Strong +1, Wary 0, Weird -1


  • Norse
    • Bound by the boats, the sea, and the gold
    • Look like: Wiry and tawny brown
    • Known for: Physical prowess, archers, sorcery, superb metalwork, far reaching trade routes
    • Rites 0, War 1, Wealth 1
    • Souls 70, Households 50, Warriors 20
  • Russian
    • They are subjects of the same crown
    • Look like: Hulking, milk white
    • Known for: Devotion to law, patience in suffering, brutal raids, loyalty, marvelous feast
    • Rites 1, War 1, Wealth 0
    • Souls 300, Households 40, Warriors 40
  • Kelds (Baltic)
    • They worship the same god
    • Look like: Small and peach pink skin
    • Known for: Ruthlessness, loyalty, vigilance against sorcery, skill at arms, elaborate cosmology, garish fashions
    • Rites 1, War 2, Wealth -1
    • Souls 30, Households 4, Warriors 8

The Session

Opening Moves

  • Prepare for What’s Coming (Blacksmith)
    • With a new gatehouse
    • With a bounty of food
  • Soldiering (Peasant Beauty)
    • You begin the season unhurt
    • You are owed pay
    • You are still bound to fight
  • Rites & Celebration (Wicker-Wise)
    • Celebrating Old Ways; A blood sacrifice
  • Ask for their Hospitality (Court Wizard)
    • He was given archers to help find the Peasant Beauty’s company
    • Aezar owed Acelone money; Aezar’s ancestors owed money to Acelone, and Aezar kept with tradition.


  • An omen in the fisheries. A black fish being eaten by a white fish being eaten by a black fish.
  • Acelon was going to find Aezar, to call in the debt owed him.
    • Ingrid, the castellan, spared 10 archers to find Ingulf’s company, with whom Acelon was soldiering.
  • Acelon wanted to step out of his earthly life to find Aezar. A botched roll, and he found himself submerged deep underwater. Lanterns bobbing. A maggoty corpse of Ingulf, leader of Aezar’s company, approaching.
  • Acelon threw down the demon, demanding his name – Mannon – and to be left in peace. Acelon awoke, in bed, drenched.
  • Kadlosch was going to undertake a Great Labor by Crafting fine quality arrows for the archers.
    • Assistance was given by way of consulting the spirits
    • Exhausted, Kardlosch nearly broke as he realized that “These apprentices are no better than when I got here.”
  • Acelon Lept into Action (Heading out to find Aezar)
    • Acelon found Aezar but suffered minor scrapes as the Kelds harried him and his company.
  • Aezar, through presence and bravado, was able to break the Kelds and able to make a hasty retreat.
  • In the woods Aezar, Acelon, and the companies meet.
  • Leap into Action (Returning Home)
    • Acelon easily covered the distance to get back to the village, inspiring the company to follow, startling and scattering the raiding kelds.
    • Aezar attempting to keep up, ruins his leather armor and helmet.
  • Raiders on the sea, the watchtowers spotted.
  • Kadlosch and Darloon seeing doom on the horizon, mustered warriors and set about preparing defenses.
  • Batle was eminent, but would it be possible to avoid?Kadlosch’s player grabbed the dice to Avoid Battle.
    • They are raiding for food. The Russians were famished; Kadlosch might be able to convince them to give up their raid if the bounty of food were given.
  • Kadlosch made the offer. And Boris accepted.
  • Darloon consulted the spirits of fallen crewmates of Boris. He won them over to haunt Boris.
  • Aezar called out Boris, the leader of the raiders to join in single combat.
    • Boris had a spear, shield, and hide armor: 4 Harm, 2 Armor
    • Aezar had a knife: 2 Harm, 0 Armor
    • Boris had 1 point to spend choosing between Attack, Defend, Position. Aezar had 3.
    • Boris chose 1 for Harm; Aezar chose 2 for Position and 1 for Defend.

Aezar in a fit of defiance, took a spear to the side, but instead of withdrawing, pressed forward to disarm Boris and bring knife to his throat. Aezar suffered 5 harm, but still drew breath.

With a clear abundance of food, the Russians were willing to relocate their families to this blessed land of abundance.

In haste Kadlosch prepared an enchantment to heal Aezar – Among the other sacrifices, Boris was made the blood sacrifice.

End of Season

  • Aezar spent the remainder of the season recovering
  • Acelon spent the remainder of the season recovering
  • Kadlosch spent time with his people preparing for what’s coming.
    • A bounty of food.
    • Added stone and timber longhouses.
  • Darloon spent time with his people preparing for what’s coming.
    • Added an encircling ditch.

Apocalypse World: Dark Ages Playtest and Observations

This past Saturday at Better World Book’s monthly game day, I ran a playtest session of Vincent Baker‘s Apocalypse World: Dark Ages. There were four other players. We spent about an hour creating the stronghold, people, and characters. Then another two and a half hours “in character”.

The process of crafting the stronghold, people, and characters gave immediate shape to the characters’ environment. As this is a game about strongholds, peoples, and war companies, the game world crafting process is better than any Quickstart Guide.

The game started bumpy; I wasn’t asking my usual questions to grow the world. I fumbled a bit. I went quick to the dice for guidance. This helped me get my feet. I’m also working on a session write up.


  1. There is a lot of information to juggle
  2. This is my kind of game
  3. Playtest notes

Juggling Information

There are a lot of “nouns” to coordinate in Apocalypse World: Dark Ages:

  • Strongholds
  • Peoples
  • Companies
  • Notables
  • Characters

There are a lot of “verbs” to process of Apocalypse World: Dark Ages:

  • Basic moves
  • Battle moves
  • Season moves
  • People moves
  • Enchantments

I found it challenging to coordinate so many sheets of paper. I was not prepared.

This is My Kind of Game

My favorite long running campaign was a 2nd edition D&D Birthright game. The campaign was a web of individual adventures and political machinations. Character level actions impacted the campaign; And likewise political actions impacted the individual adventures.

With basic moves, the characters have power to ask for more information or take action. Characters can bide their time, assessing things, asking how to affect change. Or they can leap into action to take the initiative.

Layer on the battle moves – of which we didn’t explore. The characters can either take control of something larger than themselves or be part of the scrum.

Last, the season moves provide a mechanism for advancing the campaign calendar. It is a powerful tool at the disposal of the Master of Ceremonies. A scene can be cut short. Brought to a close.

In other words, Apocalypse World: Dark Ages is a game ripe for campaign play.

Playtest Notes

Some of the players at the table wanted more information about wealth. Were they rich? Or poor? How poor? Was there a middle ground? As wealth impacts starting equipment, this was important for some of the players.

We were hesitant to dive into the mass combat rules; The closest we got was a player grabbing the dice to Avoid the Battle. It was a great moment as the player leaned on the move and in essence asked “I don’t think I want to fight for this, what can I do to avoid this battle?” My response was catered to campaign play and not the single session playtest at hand.

There were a few points in which, as a GM, I was fishing for moves that were applicable; I wanted to go to the dice because I wasn’t ready to “Say yes.” Things were at stake. I wasn’t as familiar with the basic moves; Things didn’t flow as smooth as they could.




Wondering About Adventure Presentation Format

I like the presentation format of late 3E and 4E D&D adventures; One encounter per two page spread. The information for that encounter is self-contained.

What I did not like was that all of these 2 page encounters that I read and saw were for a combat set piece. There were

  • Large monster blocks (three monster types would chew up a large section of a page),
  • A half-page map of a single location with unique terrain
  • A traps section
  • Blah blah blah not very memorable

But the format worked for the medium. Two pages is the limit without page flipping (or printing fold out pages). I have all of the basic information I need to run that encounter.

However I have no sense of how that encounter relates with other encounters and pieces of the adventure. The camera is always zoomed in on the action sequence and fails to pull back for a scenic panoramic image of where everything is happening.

Does anyone have an example for how this might be done zoomed out one level. A region of the adventure with the 2 pages conveying connectedness of the parts of that region; ie relationship graphs, maps, stat blocks, descriptions, etc. Then that format repeated a few times in the same adventure?

I consider myself to have a solid memory and ability to juggle numerous concepts but having run a handful of adventures “by the book” I find it frustrating.

Most adventures, as written, seem to require reading through the entire adventure. Then holding that in memory as I reference the adventure at the table during play. It is that reference during play that I’m looking to optimize.

Hyperlinks are helpful but distracting in the moment; Clicking and jumping to another section means that I must parse the new information. I want a quick scannable 2 pages.

Zzarchov Kowolski‘s Scenic Dunnsmouth helps mitigate these challenges by encoding adventure preparation with procedures for generating the village. I can see this exercise helping me remember more about the adventure so I can focus on running it without distraction.

The One Page Dungeon contest is an exemplar in conveying information as well. I would appreciate references to specific adventures submitted to various One Page Dungeon.