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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%

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.
I see the logical shape of your argument, but actual experience in the real world of game play trumps theory every time. I mean, if you have a GM who cannot make a Basilisk encounter and an Ankheg encounter seem materially different, then I'm guessing they're having a lot of other problems too. I guess DMing 5e might work better for that person, I'm not sure, but most of the people I've played with could handle this. As I said before, this is no less info than we had to go on in OD&D in 1975, and we didn't even have Internet or years of stored up D&D lore to go to. I forget now what creature it was, but there was one monster that I had totally no idea what it was, and my idea of it was UTTERLY different from Gary's until finally one day it got drawn in some module I looked at, and then I was like "hmmm, OK, that's different."
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 guess I'm just completely used to it as the normal state of affairs. You get a game book, and it suggests some things, and you kinda turn that into something in play using your imagination. Even today I still find these highly canonical books of game stuff a little confining. Granted, even 1e started doing it.
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.
Oh, I don't agree. Now, maybe I do find some of them to be tediously long, but I think every page of DW, for example, is actually valuable.

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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.

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.
Yeah, to defend Agon it is a VERY focused game, you play Greek Heroes, and you simply show up at an 'island' every adventure, do some stuff, resolve the conflict presented by that island, and sail on into next week's session. So the scope of any given epithet is going to be pretty limited, and the situations that arise in play are fairly similar from session to session. You can also just change your epithet at the end of each session, so there's not much danger of being stuck with something you really can't make work. I remember I changed mine from 'Forge-Master' to 'Rune-Master' at one point, and the new one tends to be a bit more applicable, but I actually mostly changed it simply because it seemed like it was appropriate in the fiction.


Relaxed Intensity
I adore Apocalypse World and its more direct descendants like Monsterhearts, Masks, Apocalypse Keys and hopefully within the next year The Between. The reason I enjoy them is because more than any other family of games they help embed the characters' struggles directly into the rules in a way that really helps me to sit in the head of the character I am playing in way where the game pulls me into my character's headspace instead of out of out. As a GM I enjoy how they enable me to get personal with the characters in a way that feels safe and fair.

The PbtA games I most enjoy directly embed the mentality of the characters into the playbooks/basic moves and let me experience life through someone else's shoes in a way that I could not do otherwise.

I am less enthusiastic about what I consider the action/adventure/neotrad branch of PbtA games, mostly because for more neotrad play I tend to favor higher prep, more curated approach. Usually with games that have specific mechanics for the themes we are reinforcing. Games like L5R Fifth Edition, Vampire Fifth Edition, Pathfinder Second Edition, Dune 2d20, et al. Also, sometimes custom Cortex hacks. The snowballing of the PbtA engine kind of gets in the way of enjoyable neotrad play for me.

This is personal for me, but I find PbtA games most enjoyable when physical conflicts are secondary to emotional ones. For action adventure stuff I prefer games that have a bit more back and forth to them. Forged in the Dark games tend to do better there as does Cortex + and 2d20.

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Someone who can't think of something that might follow from what's already going on will struggle to GM Apocalypse World. Personally I would have thought they might find any GMing a challenge.
This right here. Unless of course they have only GM'ed modules with box text and if someone does something outside the box text they say "That's not covered in the module, please just engage with the story here in this module"

Re: "writer's rooms," there are pbta games that describe themselves that way. For example, The Between p. 35

This idea of cinematic gameplay extends to who has narrative authority in the game. In a traditional roleplaying game, most of the narrative authority, particularly authority over the setting, is held by the game master (the Keeper in our parlance); the role of the players is to simply inhabit their characters and say how they respond to things. The Between rejects this by giving players the authority to describe the world at key moments (such as duringPaint the Scene questions). You might compare it to the writer’s room on a TV show or movie—the director or showrunner has a lot of say over the general arc of the story, but the writers get to shape the details. That’s what playing The Between is like: it’s a collaborative experience.

Re: "writer's rooms," there are pbta games that describe themselves that way. For example, The Between p. 35
Right, but I wouldn't extrapolate that to other PbtA games. AW itself is, as the author points out, pretty similar to any trad game in this regard. The GM describes the world, the players play the PCs. Nor is there any kind of mechanism which represents 'plot authority' or anything like that within standard PbtA. At the VERY MOST there are a few things like 'forward' that let a player hold a bonus over and deploy it later (but generally only in a situation that relates to the reason for the forward to start with).

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
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.
World of Dungeons. 3 pages

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
I am grateful to mamba and Emberashh for their contributions to this thread. If they hadn't decided to post, this thread would have died at post 15 or so...

Many PbtA games, in particular DW, have explicit moves where the players can in fact define the fiction and it's actually true in the world (Spout Lore). Maybe this is where the "writer's room" came from?

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