Apocalypse World on a boat, literally on a boat

In a few weeks I’ll be running a mini-campaign of Apocalypse World. It’s a slightly unusual setup: the four of us (three PCs) have rented a 100-year-old five-person boat, permanently moored on a river in Belgium, and we plan to play six sessions over the course of three days while holed up inside this boat. (Think like a large caravan or mobile home, but mostly made of wood and brass and with low ceilings that I suspect will send me home with lots of bruises.)

So far we’ve done two fairly standard session zeroes by Skype, one to discuss tone and expectations and introduce the game, and the second for character generation and the light worldbuilding that follows from that. So far I think we are all on the same page in what we expect – the players seem excited and hoping for an intense and memorable experience.

My plan so far is to hit the ground running with session 1 on the first evening – I have some opening framing in mind – and thereafter do what AW does best, follow the characters around, and follow the fiction. The aim is to finish a complete ‘arc’ (whatever that means) in 6 sessions.

So… I have plenty of PbtA experience, but mostly in laid-back weekly games, the kind where you can write out ideas under the characters’ feet and have some time to think between sessions. Nothing like this. I’d really welcome advice from anyone on potential pitfalls to avoid, and thoughts that might make this unique setting work well.

So far, here are my thoughts:

  • plenty of breaks!
  • will I need to go with more ideas in my back pocket than normal for AW, given the lack of free time to plan?
  • we are all excited for an intense experience but I think that comes with risks too – how to make sure it’s intense in the right way?
  • same goes for claustrophobia! a little claustrophobia for the characters will be really cool and the atmosphere will enhance that, but how to make sure it doesn’t cross the line into being unpleasant for the PLAYERS?
  • what gaming essentials will I need to take, given a likely lack of good internet access?

Don’t be afraid to follow the plot where the characters go — everyone should be ready to kill their (narrative) darlings, but the MC most of all. You’ll probably abandon a lot of threads and watch as plot hooks go unnoticed: don’t worry, the players will generate the plots their interested in. However, make sure you’re taking notes on your NPCs and locations! While the players are busy generating drama, you can glance back at all your notes and reintegrate people and places and events — there’s really good, episodic, high drama content in bringing back a nobody NPC or revealing a seeming bad guy was good all along, etc.
Also check in with everyone regarding pacing. You could do it between every session if you’re really worried about it, or maybe just after session four to see if everyone wants a hard resolution in session six or they’re okay with an unresolved plot.

For the safety tool stuff, I think it sounds like you’re ready…breaks where everyone walks away from the table are probably a good idea. I also really encourage you to make your breaks at least 10 minutes, no matter what, especially if you’re playing for greater than three or four hours a day.


Yeah, this is good advice for AW in general, and the way I normally do it is not to have any darlings in the first place! I think you’re right, though, this kind of campaign will be even faster and looser with the plot hooks than normal.

This is a great tip. It didn’t occur to me that it was even an option to just leave things unresolved, but of course it is. And having that conversation will focus minds on the story arc, too. Thanks.


I would add a lot of “Who do you see there?” then let them create the vaguest outline of an NPC and the relation in each location for you. Then, you can focus on more of what conflicts may be between the NPCs and PCs. If you have ideas for the conflicts, then you do not really need much more to build a plot.

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