Playing While the World Ends by Wilhelm Person

Last weekend I hosted a potluck RPG convention together with a friend. The guests were invited to facilitate/GM whatever games they wanted during a whole weekend of gaming. In the end there were so many of us that we needed two apartments, and people drifted back and forth in -20C / -4F going between games.

I played Montsegur 1244, Holmes D&D, Polaris and… well we were supposed to play Atomic Highway on Sunday morning, but the GM had caught a bad cold and had to cancel.

So there I was with three other players, nothing prepared and four hours to spend. The others had their minds set on Sci Fi and some sort of apocalypse. What to do?

While the World Ends cover

While the World Ends cover

I brought out While the World Ends, a story game written to match those exact criteria, did a short intro and we started with the world building.

Together we built a rather bright and shiny Sci Fi setting. The main idea was fusion power, providing everyone with cheap and reliable energy. This allowed greenhouses even in arctic regions, and the population was spread out in small communes all over the planet, leading some sort of nice futuristic hippie lives with robot servants. The power was held by the electrical company, that over the centuries had formed something like a monarchy governing the whole planet, with a baron or count in every commune. Also this planet was under threat of the nearby star going supernova, but thanks to the centralized power structure everyone on planet had focused their efforts towards the building of generational star ships.

We zoomed in on the setting and built the five locations that would be central in the story and populated them:

  • A robot recycling facility
    • Oskar
    • The Bumblebee
  • An exchange office where the citizens can trade goods for power
    • Joel
    • Albert
  • The greenhouse Susannah
    • Ottilia
    • Hans
  • The office of Baron Markov
    • Maria
    • Chekov
  • Pico, the first starship prototype, just completed and ready for takeoff
    • Captain Elin
    • Anton

We decided that the world in the story faced these two different paths and everyone chose a main character:

  • + Either the star ships would prove to be a great success, and the people would spread out over the galaxy.
    • Ottilia, the greenhouse worker, who wanted to go into space
    • Captain Elin of the Pico, who wanted to lead the exploration of space
  • – Or internal struggles among the nobles of the power company would lead to civil war and the abandonment of the star ship project.
    • Chekov the lowly office worker, who wanted to overthrow baron Markov
    • Oskar the robot mechanic, who wanted his hacked robot The Bumblebee to be given human rights since it was sentient

    We added some initial relationships between the characters and the story was ready to start.

    Everything started with Ottilia getting a strange form letter from the Baron’s office, she was being reassigned to work in the cobalt mines, and through the entire story the fought an ever increasing pile of paperwork trying to stop the bureaucracy. Also we learned that she was dating Oskar, and enlisted his uncle Albert in the fight against the uninterested clerk Chekov.

    Oskar had his robot lie to him about hacking into the exchange office mainframe, and was under investigation for the hacking. He geeked out about sentient machines with his friend Hans. He also managed to convince uncle Albert to give The Bumblebee official access to the exchange office records.

    Chekov schemed with Anton in a double coup, both to replace Elin with Anton as commander of the Pico, and to discredit the ruling baron for incompetence. The plan almost succeeded, but was foiled at the last minute by The Bumblebee, when the tampering with Elin’s records was discovered.

    Captain Elin found out that Anton was scheming for her place as the commanding officer of the Pico. Together with her husband Albert she managed to restore her good name.

    While the World Ends

    While the World Ends

    Ottilia and Elin won the game when Ottilia managed to win the battle against Chekov’s bureaucracy. Epic, right?

    In the epilogue we saw Chekov serve a long prison sentence, and then rejoining the bureaucracy at the very lowest level of paper pushing. Oskar managed to get The Bumblebee assigned as permanent captain of the Pico, an immortal robot to keep watch over the humans on their long voyage through space. Captain Elin gave up her place to the robot and found a peaceful life working in the ship’s greenhouses with her husband.

    And the final epilogue was set ten years later, and showed a girl with bangs giving her mother Ottilia a hug before being sent to her father Oskar for lunch, all in a greenhouse under a starry space sky.

    A happy ending for a good session and a good story.

    I especially liked the happy part of the end, after a weekend of Montsegur 1244 and Polaris you need all the happy you can get. – Buy While the World Ends through Lulu.


  1. January 11, 2011 at 19:40

    […] Christmas last year I played While the World Ends and posted about it, that post was mostly about the mechanics in the world building phase of the game. Two days ago I […]

  2. April 25, 2011 at 15:31

    […] game played entirely in English. The previous posts have only featured Swedish language artifacts: Greenhouses and Clef […]

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