That Ancient Serpent

December 20, 2010

This post is going to be a work in progress, since I want to get back to doing incremental design on this blog, rather than in InDesign or on a forum. It is going to be a super-short, super-light hack of Apocalypse World, no longer than 2 pages in length, to handle the “outbreak of dragons” concept I posted earlier. Here goes:


Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a basilisk, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent. — Isaiah 14:29

It is currently after the Second Crusade but before the Fall of Jerusalem to Saladin. The draconic plague has come, spreading through the Levant from some mysterious source. No black wings yet fill the skies, but it is only a matter of time. Baldwin the Leper is King of Jerusalem, but he is growing more and more enfeebled from the plague that has kept him wrapped in bandages and largely concealed from public view. Rumors have it that he is molting off swaths of scaly skin and that his insides are writhing and transforming. It will not be long now. But the king is hardly the only one infected and, if a quarantine is not enacted soon, we may all very well perish in the fire that is coming. The red dragon has been loosed from the bottomless put, and this is surely the Apocalypse.

Add to Character Creation

  • English, French, German, Spanish, Byzantine, Born in the Holy Land, Persian, Egyptian, Arabian, etc.
  • Jewish, Christian, Muslim, other (Zoroastrian, etc.), or choose a more specific patron (i.e. the Archangel Michael).
  • Infected Human (choose 1 move from the Plaguebook), Uninfected Human (choose 1 additional move from any playbook), Djinn (choose 1 move from the Book of Flame; cannot become infected), Half-Djinn (choose 1 move from the Book of Flame; can become infected, but do not start play that way), or Redeemed (former plaguebearer who had the plague burned out of them by djinn-fire; cannot become infected; starts with a special move I haven’t written yet; based on Apoc from Wormwood)
  • Dragonslaying heritage (replace 1 move with a move from the Book of Slaughter) or no Dragonslaying heritage (take Hx+2 or Hx-2 with an old slayer family).
  • Make a list of slayer family names as options to pick from the name list

Special Playbooks

  • The Plaguebook: moves for the infected; once you start taking moves from this book, you can’t stop (though you can still take other moves too), and once you’ve taken 3 moves, you must switch to the book entirely; and the final XP option is turning into a dragon, becoming one of the GM’s threats, and making a new character
  • The Book of Slaughter: ancient techniques passed down by the slayer families for killing and quarantining dragons; must be learned from the families but can be taught to those outside the lineage
  • The Book of Flame: techniques for djinn and half-djinn, made as they are from smokeless fire; one can discover their djinn heritage during play, but these techniques cannot normally be taught to outsiders; however, those with highly advanced cases of the plague begin to spontaneously manifest fiery magicks.
  • The Book of Life: advanced techniques for those of extreme faith, drawing on their connection to God, the Prophets, and the angels; clergy may or may not have these gifts; see, for an example,

Normal Playbooks (all of these will simply use renamed existing moves from AW)

  • Knight: Templar/Hospitaller(first aid kit, like Gunlugger)/of Saladin
  • Warrior/Crusading Grunt
  • Assassin
  • Clergy
  • Noble

The great beasts simply count as gangs of various sizes depending on the potency of a given dragon. They also generally work like threats and have special threat moves of their own.

The Plague
Each major NPC in the game that becomes infected has their own countdown clock. You can guess what it counts down to. Non-named characters are simply treated as part of larger threats, which have countdown clocks that represent the spread of the plague in certain regions. There are, of course, plenty of threats that are not directly related to the plague, such as infighting and bureaucratic nonsense and people with the best intentions.

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