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%

Carnun

Explorer
I kind of 'bounced off' it hard at first too. But when AW came out player-facing games was a radically different playstyle that I was completely new to. I seriously had to warp my brain to get around it. I kept thinking in terms of trad games like, "okay, what do I roll to hit?" ... ie: my character wants to hit the bad guy. Finally, it all snapped together "OH! I just hit the guy!" -to do it, I just do it (fiction first)!

I think the shift is from 'attempting/trying' to do things in game, to actually doing the things and then dealing with how good or bad the result is. It took me a minute to understand how cinematic the game is and that there is no whiff. 'There is no try,' lol. So I understand some readers coming to AW and finding Baker's writing pretentious, but really, I think he was just trying hard to snap trad players like myself out of an old frame. It all became so much easier when I just trusted the rules and played the game (wow, if I just run the game like it says, it works!).

I apologize if I'm not making sense in this post. I'm trying to put into words the actual shift in thinking I had to do from traditional play to PbtA. In short, from my experience, gaming concepts like 'fiction first,' 'player-facing,' & 'no whiff' were all new to me.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

I feel like I am missing something. What is different from what I just said and what you are saying?

Its not. I was just following on from your post to show the actual text’s language and the demonstration of that text.

Its Vincent Baker’s Cloud (Fiction) > Boxes (Procedure/Resolution) > feeding into further Clouds & Boxes (rinse/repeat).
 

John Lloyd1

Explorer
Its not. I was just following on from your post to show the actual text’s language and the demonstration of that text.

Its Vincent Baker’s Cloud (Fiction) > Boxes (Procedure/Resolution) > feeding into further Clouds & Boxes (rinse/repeat).
I'm glad I'm not misinterpreting things.

What are the literary / movie inspirations for AW? From the snippets I have seen, it doesn't seem very Mad Max like.
 

Aldarc

Legend
To make conversation:
  • Which PbtA games are excellent fits for PbtA?
  • Which PbtA games out there have no business using PbtA or would have benefited from using a different system?
  • What non-PbtA games out there could have been better or more interesting for you if they used PbtA instead?
  • Is there any sort of PbtA game that is not currently on the market that you would love to see?
 

To make conversation:
  • Which PbtA games are excellent fits for PbtA?
I'll start with the most positive.
  • Apocalypse World: Both 2e and Burned Over have pros and cons. I think I prefer 2e but still haven't played BO which streamlines several things especially combat. Baker nailed what made PbtA so good and honestly I've only seen one PbtA game take its core moves and improve
  • Root: The RPG: I find highly underrated because it doesn't go for very interesting Playbooks. Instead it focused on a fairly flexible premise of basically being old school D&D adventurers dealing with factions and earning money. But it did a fantastic job implementing a skill list which helps provide context on various PCs' fictional positioning and guides Weak Hits much better than relying heavily under Act Under Fire/Defy Danger/Day Move like many PbtA games have moved towards.
  • Monsterhearts 2e: Truly revolutionized it completely flipping the Basic all the core mechanics and truly showing how unique the design philosophy can be. I think no game better turns players into catty teenagers with the String economy being central to the game.
  • Masks: Continued the pathway of just showing how flexible PbtA can be and how focused it can nail one genre and do it so well where there isn't a wasted mechanic. Conditions are amazing but I think it really nailed Playbooks being this second suck that the PCs have to face.
  • Last Fleet: I really liked Night Witches (definitely deserves honorable mention), but as a big Sci Fi nerd, I much preferred its style of play done in Battlestar Galactica in theme and want to shout out to this very underrated game. And Pressure is a great resource as it creates this great cycle of dramatic scenes relieving it and tense scenes building it up.
  • The Between: I may rag on Day and Night Moves being too much of a Catch-All but Carved from Brindlewood games are pretty genius in design adding some amazing new mechanics from its mysteries that are truly Play to Find Out. And the Playbooks are insanely well made and so evocative.
  • Shout Outs to: Fellowship 2e, Urban Shadows, Bluebeard's Bride, Chasing Adventure, Cartel, Avatar Legends, Night Witches
There are also a lot of good Forged in the Dark, Belonging Outside Belonging and Ironsworn/Starforged that I enjoy but though I'd call them PbtA, they aren't "traditionally" PbtA.

  • Is there any sort of PbtA game that is not currently on the market that you would love to see?
I am slowly working on turning my favorite TTRPG, Scum & Villainy, into more of a traditional PbtA game with Basic Moves, GM Moves, Playbooks and more focused GM prep on just one aspect - in this case Bounty Hunting. There are a few PbtA games that go for that Cowboy Bebop style but many spread out too wide (Starforged, Impulse Drive, Uncharted Worlds, Offworlders) to be exactly what I am looking for, including Scum & Villainy. I'd say Cowboy Bebop is pretty diametrically opposed to Space Opera themes - focused on the mundane rather than the grandiose, its Space Jazz, the music of the everyday person.

Lots of inspiration from Cowboy Bebop show and movie (NOT the TTRPG), FFG Star Wars Edge of the Empire and Orbital Blues thrown in.
 
Last edited:

Faolyn

(she/her)
I suppose my one issue with PbtA games is that they seem to assume you don't have much experience with tradgames, or that you have absolutely no problem going from tradgames to PbtA. When I started running MotW, I would have loved even a few sentences saying something like, "In many games, you have to roll to do X or to learn Y. In this game, you don't. The PC wants to see if a person is lying? Let them know! The PC wants to search the room? They find what you want them to find!" Even after running several mysteries, I still feel weird just giving the PCs the information without having them roll for it. While there's the Investigate A Mystery move, the questions you can ask very much limit you to learning about the monster, not other things.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
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).

And simultaneously, "To have this narrative happen and get the associated benefits, you've got to actually do the move and roll the dice."

Edit to add: In process of play, especially with folks new to such systems, this winds up being a moment of clarification/negotiation.

Consider the classic example of the character wanting to move past someone who is in a doorway - the player says they "push past", the GM says, "So, you want to Go Aggro...?" (which is a Move) and the player balks or rethinks the action. In this case, the GM did not make abundantly clear that the NPC was determined enough to require the move to get past, so the player didn't announce it specifically as a Move.
 
Last edited:

Aldarc

Legend
I suppose my one issue with PbtA games is that they seem to assume you don't have much experience with tradgames, or that you have absolutely no problem going from tradgames to PbtA. When I started running MotW, I would have loved even a few sentences saying something like, "In many games, you have to roll to do X or to learn Y. In this game, you don't. The PC wants to see if a person is lying? Let them know! The PC wants to search the room? They find what you want them to find!" Even after running several mysteries, I still feel weird just giving the PCs the information without having them roll for it. While there's the Investigate A Mystery move, the questions you can ask very much limit you to learning about the monster, not other things.
I'm not sure if I really see the need to reference other games in TTRPG books. It's not as if my Settlers of Catan game comes with any instructions that make reference to the prevailing design of American style boardgames where you roll and go a certain number of spaces around the board as per Monopoly or Candyland. Likewise, I would prefer that TTRPGs teach you how to play their game without referring to or comparing themselves with other TTRPGs.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
I'm not sure if I really see the need to reference other games in TTRPG books. It's not as if my Settlers of Catan game comes with any instructions that make reference to the prevailing design of American style boardgames where you roll and go a certain number of spaces around the board as per Monopoly or Candyland. Likewise, I would prefer that TTRPGs teach you how to play their game without referring to or comparing themselves with other TTRPGs.
You can't really compare board games with rpgs, however, since for the most part, each board game is a completely separate thing. Nobody expects you to play Settlers of Catan the same way you would play Monopoly or Candyland.

I will note that, in my experience, cooperative board games do emphasize that they're not competitive.

But anyway. Gaming books should have sections of GM advice, and that should include how to manage certain extremely common PC actions, even if the way to manage them is to say "The PCs are looking for something? If it would further the plot, let them find it, no roll needed."
 

pemerton

Legend
Gaming books should have sections of GM advice, and that should include how to manage certain extremely common PC actions, even if the way to manage them is to say "The PCs are looking for something? If it would further the plot, let them find it, no roll needed."
I can't comment on Monster of the Week, but Apocalypse World does address this directly. If the players declare that their players are looking for something, and then look to the GM to see what happens next, the GM makes a move - typically a soft move.
 

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top