So after my friends and I recorded our most recent podcast about animals in literature and how you can use them in your games (which you can listen to here
), I went back and listened to the Watership Down
audio book again. Then I watched the Plague Dogs
animated movie. I also listened to the interview Mr. Baker did on The Walking Eye
podcast about Apocalypse World
back in 2011, as well as their review of the game. Oh, and I'm finally running an AW game for my group.
All these things combined in my head over the weekend, and fueled by an abundance of coffee and boredom, they slowly solidified into the germ of an idea for an Apocalypse World
hack. I'm currently calling it Apocalypse Warrens
for lack of a better title.
The premise of Apocalypse Warrens
is that players would play as real animals in the real world; similar to the rabbits in Watership Down
or the dogs in Plague Dogs
. There may even be a touch of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
in the idea as well. The characters would have their own personalities, language, mythology and beliefs, but also have all the limitations and abilities of real animals. Including a limited ability to comprehend the "human" world around them. The characters will not be the hind leg walking, tool manipulating, clothing wearing, armor making, sword wielding "animals" of the Brian Jaques Redwall
book series;. Those aren't real animals; they're just people in animal costumes. Despite being considered children's books, both Watership Down
and Plague Dogs
are violent, bloody, and intense. The character's futures are unsure, just like in Apocalypse World
I don't really have much in terms of concrete mechanical stuff at this point. It's still just a lot of ideas and images floating around in my head right now. I'm playing around with what the Basic Moves should be, as well as how many and what stats I'll need. I remember Mr. Baker saying that the first thing he does when thinking of a hack is to rewrite the MC's Agenda. He then refers to that during the creation process to keep things on theme. That much at least I have done.MC's Agenda
- Present the world as it would be perceived by an animal.
- Make the player's character's lives unsure and dangerous.
- Play to see what happens.
I think that first one is the most important, which it why I put it first. Duh. Anyone who's familiar with Richard Adam's books knows that certain things are simply beyond the character's comprehension. The bulldozer that destroys the Sandleford warren in Watership Down
is described as "a great yellow monster that buried it's head in the earth and ate up the ground"; the poison gas was "bad air that turned you silly". Humans are ultimately alien and unknowable to the animals in the books, much like the Great Old Ones or Elder Gods in an H.P. Lovecraft story. In Apocalypse Warrens
it's going to be the MC's job to present and describe the world to the players as such.
I was originally going to do only rabbits, but have since expanded this. I'm now thinking about doing mice, rats and other rodents, dogs and similar animals (like wolves and foxes), horses and mules, and possibly birds. Maybe even big cats like lions (yes, I guess you could do The Lion King
RPG if you really wanted to), and hyenas (which I know are their own species). You wouldn't have a "mixed party" of animals though (no wolves and rabbits in the same group), since their diet and behavior would be too different. Certain stats and Moves might even have to be different for the different species to reflect their behavior. For example, a rabbit or mouse could "Go To Ground" and hide but a horse couldn't. The different Playbooks would be based on skill sets or archetypes found in the books (Seer, Protector, Motivator, Grokker, etc.) and again there would probably have to be different ones for the different animals species, as not all of them will be appropriate. It doesn't make sense to have a Hunter or Stalker themed Playbook for herbivorous animals like horses and rabbits, now does it?
My (overly ambitious goal) is to eventually produce a stand alone book, similar to Joe McDaldno's Monsterhearts
or Dungeon World
. We'll see how far I get.