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Grade the Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) System

How do you feel about the PbtA (Powered by the Apocalypse) system?

  • I love it.

    Votes: 35 24.6%
  • It's pretty good.

    Votes: 29 20.4%
  • It's alright I guess.

    Votes: 22 15.5%
  • It's pretty bad.

    Votes: 8 5.6%
  • I hate it.

    Votes: 8 5.6%
  • I've never played it.

    Votes: 40 28.2%
  • I've never even heard of it.

    Votes: 0 0.0%

agreed, it is only in the fiction. That is why I said they can save the pages with monsters altogether, I do not need them for the fiction part, I buy their book for the mechanics.
The fiction is BINDING in RPGs. If I tell you that some monster dangles from the roof, and another lies in wait beneath your feet, the tactics that you can use to evade these two threats are different, right? I mean, I played D&D when it was JUST THREE BOOKLETS, I hate to tell you, we had a LOT less to go on than DW gives you! It was not a problem then, or now. You looked at what the attacks were, the sort of damage, movement, armor, and your idea of what this thing looked like and how it acted. At least DW tells me this ankheg beast wants to burrow, undermine, and spit, and that it is presumably dangerous and aggressive. I get just about as much stats as OD&D gave me, a damage rating, an AC, and a bare couple sentences of description, at most. I'm home baby!

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Incredible, unfathomable understatement. This topic is literally the first time Ive seen anyone ever try to argue that these aren't accurate.

And I can't imagine its a coincidence it comes on the heels of these terms being used as a negative, because for most people that talk about PBTA games they use these terms as a good thing to emphasize what these systems do and why they're enjoyable.

Frankly I don't think you or anyone else whose come defending these games actually cares about any of this hair splitting; ya'll don't like that Im not singing these systems praises and you'll say whatever you have to to dispute and disagree.

And it can't be understated that this is just illustrative of the toxic in-group cultures that spawn from these games. You're responding to criticism by trying to accuse the ones criticising of not understanding the games and not "getting it", and its as abrasive as it is incredibly presumptive.

But anyways, off to block land with the contrarians.
Well, take a look at the view from my shoes. I've run, played, and even to a limited extent written, all sorts of RPGs. I read the essays and things that Edwards and some of the other people in that crowd wrote, and I come upon a terminology and systematology related to RPGs that explains a LOT of things that I have seen, concerned myself about, and dealt with. And I see a set of games that embodies those elements and does it well, and which play a certain way and which I now have considerable experience with. I play with and talk to a pretty decent range of other people who often have very similar opinions, including ones that I have gamed with for, some of them, 40 YEARS or more.

Who's opinion do you think I would take seriously? You come across and emotionally invested in a certain point of view. Maybe you can articulate that better and in a way that I'd relate to. Unfortunately post one in this thread seems to have kind of raised people's hackles and now your boxed in. I'd happily discuss it in a level rational logical analytical fashion, but so far at least, that isn't happening here AFAICT.


I think what you all failed to 'get' in this part of the discussion was what the DW/PbtA rules are focused on. There are a huge number of rules governing what the GM can do with the DW Basilisk!
No, I understood that, but these are the exact same rules the DM can use for everything else, so the basilisk is not really any different from anything else. It is a set of 4 or so moves that flavors a little bit as a basilisk one time, and as an ankheg the next time, but ultimately it makes next to no difference which monster name the DM picks for the flavor.

To me this approach just lacks something, call it what you want, crunch, being grounded, an appearance of there being more than just whatever the group makes up on the fly. You can argue that in other games stuff is also just made up and I agree, but to me PbtA removes the fourth wall and exposes this in a way that traditional games do not.

I'd go so far as to say that I do not see why PbtA games should be more than two or so pages, Just define how to interpret the 2d6 result, specify the moves for players and GMs, and leave it at that. If you already know how these games work, it should not take more.
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(this was in reference to the 5e basilisk statblock stating it has a 50' range on its gaze, or something like that)

NO! This tells you next to nothing. There's no established way to determine what the distance between party members and the basilisk is, or their arrangement in space, except the imaginations of the participants (and presumably the GM is principle here). So, yes, you get told that it can gaze at you 50' away, but who knows how far away you are! The GM is going to decide, so its all JUST AS MADE UP as the situation in DW!!!!
there are battle maps for that, I very much disagree that 5e is as made up as DW. I agree that some parts are made up in it too.

Not really relevant here, so I am bowing out

The PbtA-adjacent that I really wanted to love was City of Mist. I still like its core idea (instead of a single stat with plusses, you list which of your tags apply, getting +1 for each), but in actual play, things just didn't work out that well. I still really like its character sheet approach...

View attachment 296866

But, as we can already see from this sample character, you run into issues like... Daredevil should be good at dodging, right? But if he's getting run over by a car, only his Outstanding Agility would help him, for a piddly +1. So when creating Daredevil, the player would have to know to stack up on multiple tags saying basically the same thing for what he wants to be good at.

And if you have tags that maybe apply, you start running into negotiations with the GM over the exact phrasing... 'hey, surely my Short-Range Targeting helps here, I meant it like Knows What's Around Him At All Times but that was too long of a phrase to write down, and oh hey, if I can Hear Distress Call, surely that means I could hear the car getting closer?'

And, turns out, listing 5+ phrases for every action you take can get a bit tiresome. You also need a big enough list to be capable enough, but then you can learn more, which can double their amount, and then that is a lot of text. And all this was just about the thing that got me interested in the first place, the list of aspects making up the character. The rest of the system around it also felt fiddlier than it needed to be, so...
Interesting, that makes sense. I notice even in Agon where my character has a 'name die' an 'epithet die', and various domain dice that might potentially apply that nobody ever says "why does Rune-Master apply here?" (my character's epithet). You also run into the issue of 'do nothing' tags, like you could in Agon say you are 'strong' or 'merciless', but that's just kind of empty. I mean, it has some characterization value, but you're going to roll that die in EVERY SINGLE contest! Now, maybe a 'good' player will avoid those pitfalls, but even for me its tempting to want to have an epithet that always applies! And hard to wade through the logic of how I'm justifying it right now. If the GM started to police that, then it bogs down in questions of exactly what does Rune-Master 'mean', etc.

All I know is that I had a lot of fun playing it, which is the best metric for me, personally, when it comes to judging RPGs.
Yeah, that's all that matters in the end. Maybe I should be looking at it, an episodic fairly light weight PbtA that I can play/run online with a small number of players seems pretty optimal right now, lol.

You also run into the issue of 'do nothing' tags, like you could in Agon say you are 'strong' or 'merciless', but that's just kind of empty.
City of Mist sort of puts a limit on that, as you can only have one broad tag. Like, if you pick Cunning/Smart/Clever, it's hard to not find that's always helpful. It's just such a boring tag that it doesn't say anything. Their example even presents better broad tags like I never fold when the chips are down or ancient spellbook or summon fantastical creatures - but they stop short of ordering you to use such, so just picking Clever would be better.

If the GM started to police that, then it bogs down in questions of exactly what does Rune-Master 'mean', etc.
Yes, City of Mist is very dependant on everyone being on the same wave length and not being a dick about it - whether that's trying to rope in every single tag for every task, or being too controlling about tag applicability. As I said earlier, the system kind of breaks if you don't have limits, so this is still necessary.

PBTA as games do not, on the whole, do a good job of leveraging that interactivity for sustained engagement.

Its no secret these games aren't great for longer form campaigns, and thats because they are closer in structure to improv theater, which is a good game structure for short term, spontaneous and often entertaining storytelling, but not so much for fostering long term engagement with an interactive and ongoing narrative.
I think this is more by contrast with things like D&D which are terrible at anything short (I mean, you CAN play one-shots of course, but you have to make some serious accommodations and its not the same as normal play). I've played in PbtA and FitD games that lasted over a year of weekly play. Maybe some people wouldn't consider that 'long term' but it is surely far more than some throw-away little thing as you seem to be implying.

I mean, you tell me, maybe you are literally trying to say that not aiming for multi-year epic campaign play is a misuse of the medium. If so I'd have to disagree. I think my comparison of different schools of painting is actually pretty apt, and we see it here. Every school brings out certain things in the medium, and likely deemphasizes others. This is normal and is not 'misuse'. It is simply EXPLORATION of all the dimensions.

Trad D&D style games allow for fairly fixed 'paths' to be authored by an adventure designer and then played out, being interpreted through the lens of a given GM and players, but with the focus on setting and situation, not really the characters themselves. This is a perfectly fine kind of play, and it works! It just can't do some things. Just as Titian would achieve certain things in a painting, but could never produce the images of Picasso, so you cannot get the play experience of our Stonetop game from D&D, it simply won't happen. To try to say that only one of these is a valid use of the medium is worse than silly, its an affront to the whole endeavor!


Front Range Warlock
Yeah, that's all that matters in the end. Maybe I should be looking at it, an episodic fairly light weight PbtA that I can play/run online with a small number of players seems pretty optimal right now, lol.
That's how I played it - over Discord with gaming friends spread out across the country. I was hesitant going in, but it worked out very well.

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