(Warning: spoilers for Digital Devil Saga 2.)
One of the more fun things to do with tabletop games is borrow elements from RPG video games. A lot of times the audience overlaps in interesting ways, so that some players end up smiling and nodding and thinkings “aha, I know where you got this idea from,” and others are presented with something totally novel that seems super creative in the moment but with less creative prep work needed on your part. It occurred to me this morning that Digital Devil Saga 2 (and to some extent, the first game too, although that’s a different story) is basically a post-apocalypse, and I started wondering what elements you could borrow from it for a game of Apocalypse World. (I’m currently in the midst of a game of Apocalypse World in real life, finally, so it’s on my mind a lot.)
Digital Devil Saga 1 & 2 both offer a lot of unique ideas that could be applied to a tabletop game, but the most obvious one seems like the phenomena in DDS2 that sort of kicked off the whole series: the Black Sun. There’s a lot to it, involving weird religious science, but the gist of it is that one of the few humans capable of talking directly to God accidentally sent a massive amount of corrupted data — loaded with her own heartbreak, anger, and feelings of betrayal — to God, who in his fury turned the sun black and caused it to unleash massive amounts of corrupted data back in order to exterminate the human race.
The vast majority of people exposed to the Black Sun contracted Cuvier Syndrome, which was incurable and resulted in petrification; extended exposure was inevitably lethal. The bigger problem is the people who are immune to Cuvier Syndrome, because they’re touched with Atma, a different virus caused by trace amounts of demonic data that always came from the sun. These people manifest visible brands on their body and manifest a second, demonic form, often one that goes berserk because those with Atma brands have a never-ending urge to devour humans and demons for magnetite.
Now, the obvious way to integrate this with Apocalypse World is to discard some of the more series-specific trappings like demon forms and incurable hunger and use the Black Sun as the visible manifestation of the world’s psychic maelstrom. Nothing is a more obvious sign that the apocalypse has happened and everything is fucked than the sun turning black (but still emitting heat and light, because it’s a wasteland) and maybe it turns people to stone still, so you’ve got people who hide out underground because it’s safer. Troglodytes, man.
This has another interesting side effect to consider: what is opening your mind to the world’s psychic maelstrom in this case? Are you tapping into the flow of data, corrupted and uncorrupted, still streaming from the Black Sun? Or are you talking directly to God?
You could, of course, also integrate some of the “demon form” and hunger stuff, if you wanted — that requires a load more work in that you probably want custom moves for the weird elemental stuff that demons can get away with, producing fire at will and all that. Or maybe you don’t! Maybe it’s all just flavoring — who cares if it’s a fireball or a gun, other than for ammo tracking? — and one of your options when you go aggro on someone is just to turn into your demonic form and flat-out eat them. Maybe when you roll a six or less, you go berserk and your team has to restrain you, join you, or get the hell out of your way.
Hey man, it’s your apocalypse. Don’t let me stop you.