Apocalypse World: Nightmare City

Something’s wrong with the world and everyone knows exactly what it is.

20 years ago, in a time of global collapse, humanity came under attack from forces of terrifying pragmatism and wounded greed. Great conglomerates set aside their adolescent policies of malignant oppression and matured into creatures of murder, of cannibalism, of humanicide. The world consumed its own. Millions died, then billions, in terror and fire. Nations died, then the idea of nations, then the memory of nations. Families, then the idea of families. Hope.

We’re still dying. Each of us alone.

The Nightmare Box

The nightmare box is a ubiquity in this apocalypse world. Wherever you are, there is one: silent, matte, invulnerable, grinding imperceptibly away at the boundaries of our psyches, scraping away our memories and the sense of our memories, trickling psychic poison into our living spaces and our interactions.

We can guess that they had some other purpose in our past, some pacific or unifying value for which they were created and installed. Whatever it was, now we lose our names to them. We lose our stories. Our stories crack and splinter and we keep only their fragments, words with no sense to them, signifiers when the thing signified is gone. We lose ourselves to the hissing hate and fear in their inhuman cores.

The City

The city is vast, and variable, and joyless. It’s a prison and we, its prisoners, huddle in our cells, though the doors are open and the guards have all departed.

The Sleeping Kings

Wherever there is no nightmare box, there is a Sleeping King. They’re few, rare, and hidden. Deep in the city, scattered, in flooded tunnels and the ancient vaults of commerce and culture. They’re machines, human in outline, but larger, in pods of glistening black matter not glass or plastic. Near them the silence is less, and watchful, and patient.

If we can guess at the past purpose of the nightmare box, we must guess at the future purpose of the Sleeping Kings. Are they our saviors, planted here where we will find them, to awaken them at our hour of despair? Are they our worse enemies yet, to awaken themselves when it is time for us to finally die?

Apocalypse World: Nightmare City

The Maestro D’
The Block Boss (the hardholder)
The Enforcer (the chopper)
The Savvyhead
The Brainer
The Muscle (the gunlugger)
The Weasel (the marmot)
The Skinner
The Operator
The Hocus
The Quarantine

No Angel, Battlebabe, or Driver, I guess.

The Maestro D’
If you find a place where there’s no nightmare box, grab hold of it. Make it into a place where people come. Have food, music, dancing, drugs, fights, have a show, have a couch and maybe if you’re lucky some clean water to pour through some old freeze-dried coffee grounds.

Yes, they dance, dine, laugh and fight in the shadow of a sleeping king. Does it see them? Does it stir in dreams to laugh and fight too?

The Block Boss
Shall I recite the names of your enemies? Hunger, yes. Disease, yes. Want, rage. Cannibals. Slavers. Pain addicts. All those driven to inhumanity by the nightmare box. All those driven to desperation by conditions within. Your family turns against mine, and mine against yours.

Your walls, your barricades, your secure landings and gunners’ nests, you can keep out some, and hold in others. This is what you can do.

The Enforcer
It’s possible that in the lost past, there were the strong, and there were the weak, and the weak weren’t prey to the strong. I mean, it’s possible, right?

The Savvyhead

Inspirations: Brazil, Oz, Peachtree from Dredd, The City of Lost Children, that weird music video I’ll have to look up.

Something interrupted me before I got any further on this. I expect to come back to it pretty soon. However, I think I may have to make some serious changes to Apocalypse World’s Hx and barter systems to make it work.

Installment 2015-04-13


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