When we last left off Zero, he infiltrating the Horakthy, a hoverbarge. He noticed that its owner, Ra, has turned it into his own personal kitchen and cooking up humans. Ra kicked Zero’s ass and has left him to be cooked. As I said before, this will launch the next phase of the playtest, which explores the four tables I didn’t touch previously.
Two of these tables are for Dungeon and Hex Crawling, while the other two generate NPCs and Plot Points. For the context of this game, the Dungeon is the Horakthy and the Hexes are everything going on outside of it.
First is the Hex. Now, this is mostly reserved for hex maps, but I’m going to try and doodle one out. The Hex and Dungeon section have four tables that are to be rolled on. For Hex, it’s Terrain, Contents, Features (if the roll calls for one) and an Event. For the most part, Terrain and Contents are rolled.
To save you about seven rolls, the most noteworthy stuff is that we’re currently over a ‘farm’ and the Machines have taken noticed and have sent some Sentinels out to take care of the encroachers. We’re also near an active pit of molten steel.
Next up is the “dungeon”. Like before, four tables to roll on: Location, Encounter, Objects, and Exits. In this case, I rolled up that I was in the kitchen with an interesting item… I’ll conclude that it’s a butcher’s knife. With that, I begin the game.
I’m setting up the scene so that my character is going to grab the knife and sneak out. The scene complication I rolled is 4, Behaviour, an NPC acts suddenly… This is our chance to generate an NPC for us to encounter.
Three tables for an NPC are rolled by a D6, while one of them is drawn. The three that are to be rolled are Social Position, Notable Feature, and Attitude. First, I’ll ask the Oracle if the NPC in question is the butcher. The odds are likely. It’s a yes, so we don’t need to know the Social Position. His notable feature is an obvious physical trait while his attitude is withdrawn. I suspect a bulge on his forehead that makes it difficult to see straight ahead. The final table is Conversation Focus, but because he’s not too keen on talking, I’ll skip that for now.
I’ll ask the oracle if I have the knife. Odds are even. It’s a 4 & 6. Yes and I have advantage in stabbing him. Unfortunately, our successes cancel each other out (the additional D6 I rolled was over my Knife-Fu score of 3) and we roll again. He knocks me down again and…
Okay, I get it. My character’s outnumbered. This is the third time he’s lost a fight and is at the mercy of the villains. There’s absolutely no way he could overcome this. The only salvation I have is to invoke deus ex machina…
The Sentinels attack the Horakthy and the impact knocked the butcher out just as he was about to finish Zero off. He runs off before the butcher can come to. I’ll also roll a Pacing and a Soft move, since the situation calls for both a “what now” and a consequence. 5 & 4 show Advance the plot and Advance a Threat so… Yeah.
Scene 2 happens. Set up is as follows. The Horakthy moves north while the Sentinels follow. This expands further into the farmlands. Meanwhile, my character advances further into the dungeon. He goes into a room with a special feature, no encounter, an interesting item or clue, and three exits, with one of them connecting to the existing area. I’m going to ask the Description table what the special feature is. I drew a four of spades, which reveals to be old in operation… Hmm… The engine! The scene will have my character jam the knife right into the engine.
However, I rolled a 1, revealing that the butcher has returned. Gonna smash his head against the engine, then stab him to it. I fail and he grabs a hold of me. Soft Move time. 5, reveal an unwelcome truth… Plot Hook Generation time.
Okay, this isn’t exactly the best way to use this, since the Plot Hook generator is meant to be used to kick start the adventure rather than be used in the adventure, but I’m going to use it the best way I can… There are four tables, like with the NPC Generator. Three of which rolled with dice, the last drawn as a card. The dice will reveal the objective, adversaries, and rewards, while the card reveals the plot focus.
In order, the dice and cards reveal that the objective is to escort or deliver something that’s advanced in nature, overcoming outlaws for the reward of a powerful item. To translate this as a plot twist, it turns out that the Horakthy are transporting a new means for Hovercrafts to move around, as the engine is revealed to be a person plugged into the Matrix, having rigged a simulation and programmed it to also pilot the hovercraft. The “outlaws” in question are Zero and his brother.
He really shouldn’t have revealed that to a person who has a knife. Zero tries to stab the cord that ties the pilot into the Matrix and succeeds, severing the pilot prematurely and killing him, causing the hovercraft to lose control. With advantage, Zero tries to finish off the butcher and finally, with a 2 overcoming the 6, stabs the butcher right into the neck and finishes him for good…
With the hovercraft now going out of control, Zero goes to confront Ra once and for all. Another scene, another update. The hovercraft is going to crash into the desert of the real. As we head to the room, our encounter die results in a six, which is the encounter we want: Ra. No objects, no exits, Fox only, final destination!
In the midst of the battle, the Sentinel force manage to catch up with the Horakhty, their mecha-tentacles wrapping themselves around the hovercraft. Eventually, Zero manages to run Ra through with the butcher knife, utilizing it like he would his katana, kill Ra, then rush over to jack into the Matrix and have his brother hack him back into his hovercraft.
Asking the chart, I roll a 6 with is a hard-locked yes. Zero escapes into the Matrix using the spare pilot seat (and needing to fix the cord he severed), which is him entering the Matrix, waiting for the phone call, picking it up, and going back to his base, all while the machines take hold of the Horakthy and return the stolen pods back to their farm. Zero jokes about how he’ll never raid a hovercraft again and asks Binary if he can load in some data on how to fight hand to hand. Unknowingly, he had abused the Matrix and thus, fulfilled his fate. His Matrix stat goes up.
And that ends this two-part session of the Apocalypse Oracle playtest. Now I shall give my full thoughts on the Oracle: It’s good. It does what it says on paper effectively and efficiently and is a good oracle to have on hand for quick games. And, despite its simplistic nature, it manages to include everything a regular soloist would need to facilitate their game while adding more to the solo experience.
What do I mean? Well, compared to Mythic and CRGE, there’s a lot more to do in regards to setting up scenes and moving the story along. For Mythic, you basically roll a D10 and if its number is within the chaos factor, the scene is altered. If you play the game without your characters losing control, you’ll have about a 2-in-10 chance of a scene going wrong, if you count 0s as its own number. Apocalypse Oracle, however, has a 1-in-6 chance of the scene going right. The Oracle assumes something will go wrong, which sets up a lot more chaos than Mythic does.
The other bit is the three moves: Pacing, Soft, and Hard. These tables were tables I kept going back to when my character was failing his battle against Ra and the Butcher, since it was a lot better than saying “my character fails again”.
One table I didn’t use a lot was the NPC and Enemy Moves table, though I felt as though it wouldn’t have spiced up any of the action. Using the fight with Ra as an example, the obvious actions were to kill Zero, they’re not in the Matrix so using a special ability wouldn’t work, and I haven’t set up any sort of personality trait outside of “cannibal” and “bitch in sheep’s clothing”. This leaves “seek an advantage” and “does something unexpected” as the viable routes that could have changed up how the fight goes. It is a pretty good table, and seeing the example of play that was shown, it’s clear it’s more for non-combat purposes.
Though, by far, I think the best type of table has to be the unique Card drawing tables. It’s probably the first time I’ve seen a unique style of oracle that describes something and has a lot of different interpretations based off what it does. This means you can literally have 52 different meanings, which, while it isn’t much compared to Mythic’s 10,000 combinations though its Event Meaning page, offers a lot more variation thanks in part to the minimalist wording of the options followed by how each of the suits have at least two different meanings, not to mention the X factor that is context.
Overall, this is a great oracle to have when you just need to get into playing a game. Would this replace Mythic or CRGE? No, but it definitely earns a spot in the go-to oracles I can use when those two tire me, or when the situation calls for me using it. Such as the case with an idea of making a sequel session to this Matrix game or even a game of Swords & Six-Siders. In any case, this was a good Oracle and is worth a checking out.
Thanks again to archon1024 for allowing me to playtest the engine.