Grade the Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) System

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

  • I love it.

    Votes: 34 24.5%
  • It's pretty good.

    Votes: 29 20.9%
  • It's alright I guess.

    Votes: 22 15.8%
  • It's pretty bad.

    Votes: 7 5.0%
  • I hate it.

    Votes: 8 5.8%
  • I've never played it.

    Votes: 39 28.1%
  • I've never even heard of it.

    Votes: 0 0.0%

niklinna

učim hrvatski
Well, I'm of the school of thought that those phrases are filled with meaning. "To do it, do it" has 2 subjects, the player and the character.
That statement has no subjects. You can infer agents or subjects, but there are no grammatical subjects there.

The first phrase tells you what the player's need is "to do it" and the second is the in-character process "(you) do it" where you is the character (the player in character, and remember, AW doesn't HAVE out of character, except maybe to solve a rules dispute).
If AW doesn't have out of character, then the statement above can't be referring to the player.

Same with the other one. If you (the player) do it, you (the character) do it. And the immediate form of the verb 'to do' making it NOW. It's not "if you did it, you did it." nope! Its wham bam that's it the thing just happened! Much like real life, you stepped off the curb, well maybe you thought better of it a second later, but the truck still hit you.
Similarly.
 

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niklinna

učim hrvatski
Anyway, the key thing to reading the phrases is to recognise that the pronoun "it" shifts in meaning, across its two occurences, between the rules for the move and the fiction for the move, as is brought out in the subsequent words "When a player says that her character does something listed as a move, that’s when she rolls, and that’s the only time she does".
If this were poetry, I'd be all for such wordplay. As a former technical writer, I think it's bad writing, plain and simple.
 

So D&D players should have no problem with the way the rules are written?
Honestly, 5e's PHB is not too shabby about putting stuff in a place you can find it. There's one chapter that is a bit of a dog's breakfast of misc stuff, but in terms of "It is here in one place" it isn't so bad. D&D's main sin has always been simply leaving so much completely unsaid in the first place.
 


pemerton

Legend
A further comment or two on "If you do it, you do it".

The departure from "Say 'yes' or roll the dice" means that the connection between (i) stakes and player intent for their PC in a scene, and (ii) the invocation of the resolution process, is less intimate than in a RPG that uses the "say 'yes' or roll the dice". There is no "saying yes": even if the player declares that they are seizing some trivial thing from a minor character by force, the dice have to be rolled and there is thus the possibility of a hard move from the GM (if the roll fails).

So instead of looking first to stakes/intent, we look first to types of behaviour - and all seizings-by-force become laden with stakes. @Campbell has often posted about this feature of the game, and was the first person I read who clearly articulated the contrast with "say 'yes' or roll the dice".

A second difference is from systems (such as 5e D&D) that require the GM to first determine whether there is a chance of failure, and then call for a roll based on that judgement. This imposes a certain responsibility for outcomes directly onto the GM. "If you do it, you do it" removes any such responsibility from the GM in the context of the player-side-move-triggering actions. The player-side moves thus become one key component of the play-to-find-out apparatus. The other key component is the rule about when a GM can make a hard move in the absence of a 6- roll (namely, when a player hands a golden opportunity by proceeding in disregard of a prior soft move).

When I used to play a lot of RM, we rolled the dice every time that the rules called for it. But the difference from "if you do it, you do it" was that - at least in principle - everything is a player-side move, and thus those moves do no work in channelling play in a particular thematic direction. And also, because rolling the dice in every moment of play is impractical, (i) it slows play down, and (ii) it pushes play a bit more towards the 5e D&D model of only rolling when there is a chance of failure, with the result shifting of responsibility for outcomes onto the GM.

As I think I posted upthread, I think the earliest RPG to use a type of "if you do it, you do it" approach in the context of rules deliberately designed to focus on the thematic sort of stuff is Classic Traveller (1977). I don't want to exaggerate this - the probabilities are not as elegant as Apocalypse World, and there is little sense of a soft/hard move escalation except in the subsystem for wearing vacc suits. But I do think that it is somewhere in the neighbourhood.
 

If this were poetry, I'd be all for such wordplay. As a former technical writer, I think it's bad writing, plain and simple.
Well, it IS meant to be catchy! I mean, it isn't like they said nothing else. I haven't actually read the 1e AW rulebook, I have 2e. So maybe that's wording things more clearly, but from what I saw quoted it seems like the catchphrases are probably not where you will learn the process itself. You're just supposed to be able to trot them out as a kind of reminder or pointer.
 

pemerton

Legend
That statement has no subjects. You can infer agents or subjects, but there are no grammatical subjects there.
It's an imperative, and so has an implicit or elided second-person subject. When rendered indicatively ("if you do it, you do it") the subject becomes explicit.

If this were poetry, I'd be all for such wordplay. As a former technical writer, I think it's bad writing, plain and simple.
Perhaps because I've published on the interpretation of pronouns (more in the philosophical logic genre than the empirical linguistics genre) I didn't find it hard. And the explanatory sentence follows immediately after the bolded phrase, which is a style of writing I'm pretty familiar with.

Rather than finding the shift in reference of the "it" confusing, I find that it emphasises the correlation between fiction and game process. It's a syntax-based rendering of Baker's work on clouds, boxes and arrows!
 

John Lloyd1

Explorer
What can I say? Here are the rules (pp 12, 109, 116):

MOVES AND DICE
The particular things that make these rules kick in are called moves. . . When a player says that her character does something listed as a move, that’s when she rolls, and that’s the only time she does.

The rule for moves is to do it, do it. In order for it to be a move and for the player to roll dice, the character has to do something that counts as that move; and whenever the character does something that counts as a move, it’s the move and the player rolls dice.
Reading that, I feel the meaning they are intending closer to "if it sounds like a move, it is a move and you need to do what the move says".
 

Reading that, I feel the meaning they are intending closer to "if it sounds like a move, it is a move and you need to do what the move says".

To do it (access and resolve the move’s procedure), you’ve got to do it (the player has their character do the move’s trigger within the imagined space).

Imagined Space: You’re presently involved in a charged interaction with one or more NPCs or you have done something to make a more muted interaction become charged.

Player then says (you’ve got to do it): “Ok, that got hot quick. Something set Marie off and there goes Barnabus in a huff. I’m going to watch and listen to the two of them as they gear up for this raid. Passive aggressive sniping? Bad body language? Accusations?

Which then triggers (do it) the move’s procedure:

READ A PERSON
When you read a person in a charged interaction, roll+sharp. On a 10+, hold 3. On a 7–9, hold 1. While you’re interacting with them, spend your hold to ask their player questions, 1 for 1:
• Is your character telling the truth?
• What’s your character really feeling?
• What does your character intend to do?
• What does your character wish I’d do?
• How could I get your character to —?
On a miss, ask 1 anyway, but be prepared for the worst.
 

John Lloyd1

Explorer
To do it (access and resolve the move’s procedure), you’ve got to do it (the player has their character do the move’s trigger within the imagined space).

Imagined Space: You’re presently involved in a charged interaction with one or more NPCs or you have done something to make a more muted interaction become charged.

Player then says (you’ve got to do it): “Ok, that got hot quick. Something set Marie off and there goes Barnabus in a huff. I’m going to watch and listen to the two of them as they gear up for this raid. Passive aggressive sniping? Bad body language? Accusations?

Which then triggers (do it) the move’s procedure:
I feel like I am missing something. What is different from what I just said and what you are saying?
 

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