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thoughts on Apocalypse World?

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
The Between is specifically about a supernatural investigative society in 1880's London, so it's going to be pretty close in a lot of ways, either to use or just steal bits from. It's worth a read at the very least given your goals there. The Between also really shines in terms of making Victorian London and it's people really come alive as a setting (without a lot of setting detail to memorize either) so if that's something you're looking for it's again worth a look.
 

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I hope you don't mind me jumping in to offer a take on this. I'm sure others will have more/different/better advice on this, but a couple of bits jumped out at me. I've not played Scum & Villainy yet, but I do own it, and I've played lots of Blades and several other Forged in the Dark Systems.

1) Based on a roll to learn the terrorist's whereabouts from local criminals--the player rolled a success with consequence on a risky Command action to intimidate them--I figured they were now being led into a trap.

So the success was that the PC learned the location of the terrorists from the local criminals, right? And the complication was that they were heading into a trap?

Was this consequence known to the player? To the character?

I think the consequences have to be known in some way. Either they are immediate and become part of the fiction, or else you start a clock and let the players know about it. And the clock need not be so specific if the situation doesn't call for it. So you had a trap in mind as the consequence, so I would have started a clock called "Trouble with the locals" or similar, and set a total (probably 6 by default) and I would have ticked it a number of times.

Then, that clock is in place, and you can use it for additional consequences on future rolls.

Having it out in the open means the player is aware of the consequences from failed or success with consequence results.

So they took a boat to another area of the city where the target was supposedly staying. This being a one-shot test session, in which I very much wanted a noir-ish moment where the newbie's more experienced partner gets killed, I figured the trap would start big, with an A-Wing attacking the boat from far above--a kind of sniper situation. I said that they could hear a high-pitched keening sound during the boat trip, but my player did nothing (he's also new to playing FitD, though not reading it). When he stepped off the boat I triggered the attack.

I think having a specific goal in mind....like the death of a mentor/ally....is not the best approach. Certainly the older jedi's death as a possible consequence should be on the table, but I don't think actively pushing toward that is really in line with the principles of GMing Forged in the Dark.

At this point I suddenly didn't know what to do, because in theory the Attune action specifically notes that you can use the Way (aka the Force) to "sense unseen danger or killing intent." But the player didn't initiate that action upon hearing the suspicious noise. So we awkwardly decided he could use Attune now to sense the attack and try to get himself and his partner off the boat in time. He rolled a critical success (two sixes) so he decided to pull the boat's driver off as well.

Everything about how I handled this seemed wrong, and in the moment we were left with the sense that if the player just kind of waits out a situation instead of taking action, maybe that's on them, because, as discussed in this thread, passive actions--especially the sort of passive Perception rolls that are almost constant in many trad games--just don't make sense in FitD. But what do you guys think? Was this just a hopelessly trad and off-base encounter from the start? And how do you handle stuff like danger sense or similar unnatural/enhanced perception in FitD, if it seems like an ambush has become part of the story?

As @chaochou has commented, this is where the game may take some time to click with the players so that they'll start to be more proactive rather than reactive. Early on in the learning process, I don't think it's wrong at all to prompt them or to remind them of the abilities/actions at their disposal. So when you introduced the keening sound of the looming a-wing (establishing a threat of some kind) you could say to the player "Do you want to use the way to determine if this sound is a threat? Do you want to take cover? Do you want to do something else?"


2) The player and NPC decided to get to a rooftop to deal with the A-Wing assassin, and here, again, I may have defaulted to a trad situation. I said that as they were running into a building and about to get into the stairwell, a pair of guys entered from the street and immediately pulled blasters and opened fire--evidence that the trap was bigger/worse than expected. The resolution for this was simple and fast and great. But was having these two shooters pop up (to show the escalating danger and stakes) sort of a game-breaking trad intrusion, because it wasn't based on another, post-A-Wing-attack player roll and related consequence? This was, in other words, a GM-first piece of fiction, which would miss the point of FitD, right? Or am I just in my head with this one?

I don't think this was really a misstep. If the crew is working toward their goal (in this case, I believe it is to locate the terrorists), the GM is meant to present obstacles. Now, this also depends on how you handled earlier actions and consequences. For example, if you'd established a clock as I mentioned above, perhaps these guys don't immediately open fire. Give the crew a chance to address this obstacle in more than one way. However, if the "Trouble with the locals" clock as been filled, then sure, have them barge in guns blazing.

Generally speaking, it's okay to introduce new obstacles and threats as needed.

3) Finally, toward the end of the scene/session, the PC and NPC realized they were stuck, with the A-Wing loitering above the roof and a large group of people running up the stairs. How this situation was resolved was, again, very cool to me, and pushed me even harder toward wanting to do lots more FitD. But as with the earlier appearance of the two shooters, this horde of dudes did not appear based on a subsequent player roll or suggestion. Does that once again break the core FitD approach, and make the game about PCs reacting to GM-determined fiction, instead of the other way around? Or am I looking at this in a way that's too zoomed in, and really the whole situation is just flowing from the player's chosen approach for how to find their target, and the consequences that followed?

Yeah, I think all this depends on how the whole session has been handled. But again, generally speaking, I think it's fine to add a new complication to the mix such as the reinforcements coming from below if it makes sense to do so. Even if the jedi crew was able to dispatch the initial guards and the a-wing with nothing but full successes, if they did it with a lot of blaster fire and light-sabering involved, then having reinforcements notice and come makes sense. If they were stealthy and quiet about it then reinforcements may not make sense.

I think you're probably okay in this area; I think as long as you look to the fiction as a guide, you're likely in good shape. Results can come from the fiction without being specifically a consequence of a roll.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
To build a little on my post above about PbtA design principles, I found the following quote from Vincent Baker that may help some people grasp what it means to change the moves and thus 'direction' of the game:

Here’s Ursula K. LeGuin: “Conflict is one kind of behavior. There are others, equally important in any human life, such as relating, finding, losing, bearing, discovering, parting, changing.

What would it mean to start with PbtA, but to swap out Apocalypse World’s model of conflict and replace it with…

  • A model of relating?
  • A model of finding?
  • A model of losing?
  • A model of bearing?
  • A model of discovering?
  • A model of parting?
  • A model of changing?
How would you design your basic moves so that they don’t create emergent arenas of conflict, but instead create emergent ways of behaving, including conflict as just one among others? So that they don’t (just) clarify and escalate conflict, but clarify and deepen all the ways the characters behave and relate? How would you design your playbooks, what would make this character unique from that character in their ability to relate, their approach to finding and losing, parting and discovering, their capacity to bear and to change?
 

Aldarc

Legend
The Between is specifically about a supernatural investigative society in 1880's London, so it's going to be pretty close in a lot of ways, either to use or just steal bits from. It's worth a read at the very least given your goals there. The Between also really shines in terms of making Victorian London and it's people really come alive as a setting (without a lot of setting detail to memorize either) so if that's something you're looking for it's again worth a look.
It looks interesting, though some of the playbook descriptions feel a bit too oddly specific for what I'm necessarily going for.
 


Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
It looks interesting, though some of the playbook descriptions feel a bit too oddly specific for what I'm necessarily going for.
I get that. The playbooks are very keyed to Penny Dreadful. There are another three coming out I believe, and it's not hard to tweak playbooks, especially in terms of making them a little less specific in this case.

There are also a bunch of solid fan-written playbooks (and hacks) available on the Gauntlet Publishing Discord.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Exactly the sort of thing I was looking for -- puchased!
They just ran a threat writing contest for The Between so there are something like 30 really cool threats available for free if you pop onto the Discord and check out the Writing Contest channel (including two of my threats but I can't say which ones because the judging isn't finalized yet).

Who doesn't want great free resources?
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Glad you have finally realized that this is what I have been looking for and others have indicated. PbtA has been fun in a lot of situations, but, even with fantastic GMs (of which I have had several) it doesn’t work as well in the situation where there is an established fact that a character needs to discover.
Okay? This is like, after explaining how Monopoly plays, being asked, "sure, but how do I invade Australia?" The answer to this is that this isn't something that's a thing in this game. To me, this statement is essentially asking "how do I use this new system to play the same way I play now." The answer is you don't. It's not meant for that, so don't try it.
I only quoted this part, but I strongly appreciate your long description of Monster of the Week plays; I have not read the rules book, only played it, so it was very illuminating.

Maybe I should explain why I’m spending time on this convo; I’ve played and run a lot of systems; probably 30+ or so that I’ve had at least mini-campaigns with, from Rolemaster and AD&D to DitV, Fate, Tri-stat, Doctor Who, Kids on Bikes, and Everway.
If you've successfully run DitV, then there really should be little mystery (heh) to PbtA. Dogs has the same structure, with a premise that's explored and developed through play -- you cannot script a Dogs game and play it as it is presented. You can only prep the town and some of the issues there, but play's going to quickly go in unexpected directions due to the nature of resolution and fallout. It's the same conceptual framework PbtA rests on.
PbtA games look absolutely excellent to me; I love the presentation, the base concepts and the compactness and ease of getting started. Specific sub-systems I have lifted for other games I run. So I have been continually surprised when my play experiences have not been as much fun as I would expect. I’m not in the camp that likes to run one system for all genres — I used Savage Worlds for my Flash Gordon campaign even though I think it’s a bit of a clunky system in general, because it fits the pulp sci-if genre so well. So my goal is to work out when I should consider PbtA.

And this thread has been helpful. I think the quote from @Aldarc might be a good summary — it occurs to me that one-shot investigations, which are typically more about enjoying the mystery and less about the characters might be less good a showcase for PbtA than a campaign, which is typically character-focused (at least for our group).
Yes, you should not use PbtA for a scripted game where the primary point of play is getting the GM to reveal more information about the plot. That's not a dig at that play, by the way, it's exactly how I play 5e so I'm not adverse to it at all.
But I still wish Magpie had picked a different system for Avatar …
Why? PbtA seems excellently positioned to tell the stories one expects from Avatar. Avatar is entirely about the characters and their struggles and not about procedurally solving mysteries. The only difference is if you want a specific plot for the players to follow, then, yeah, PbtA isn't going to support that at all.
 


Faolyn

Hero
I'm not defensive at all. I'm pointing out that your statement makes no sense in the way that storming Australia makes not sense when you're playing Monopoly. As such, the charge that it's a glaring omission is, well, without any weight. I'm not getting my back up, I'm pointing out that you're coming in from left field and making statements that don't really make any sense.
I asked a question, you went into a mini-rant about Monopoly and Risk. I'd call that at least a bit defensive.

Nope. I'm saying that passively investigating a murder scene where there's no dramatic interest pressing on the play is not something that PbtA even cares about.
I played GURPS for a while. That system, bless it's papery heart, tries to include rules for wildly cinematic games, but honestly that's not a genre the system "cares about." It's really a system that wants math, not crazy stunts and high power levels. But GURPS still has rules for cinematic games, as clumsy as they are.

So: does PbtA have rules (even if they're clumsy) that would allow for investigation, or not? And if so, what are they?

(And why would you consider investigation to be only passive? Because all of those examples I gave you have dramatic interest in them. There would be a real driving need to solve the crime before it's too late, especially if it directly affected you in some way (a loved one was killed or is a suspect; the killer has made it personal; the killer will strike again unless you stop it and you don't want any more blood on your hands).

I'm guessing that by what you continue to say, the answer is no.

in the same way that D&D doesn't care about what it's like to be a teenaged werewolf exploring your sexuality and finding out you're deeply attracted to a same-sex vampire even though you're dating the super hot opposite sex succubus cheerleader. This seems like a glaring omission in D&D, yes?
And yet, I can actually play that out in D&D. I don't even need rules for that sort of situation--that's pure roleplaying--but if I did want rules, D&D still has skills, subsystems, and other abilities that could be used, with a little creativity. ("I cast augury. Will I be able to resolve my feelings for the vampire?" The spell says weal. "Is my relationship with the succubus a healthy one?" The spell says woe.) You want a high school drama? There's the Renown and Loyaly subsystems, right there in the DMG. Both of those would useful for high school, and the upcoming Strixhaven book likely has more such rules and it's a school-based environment.

"ok, let's just accept it works that way, can I move my understanding around to make that work?"
Unfortunately, I can't just "accept." I need to know the whys and hows. What can I say? My parents raised me to question authority.

If the answer is, no you can't do investigations with PbtA games unless you do it as pure RP with no mechanics, then just say that. Saying that the game "doesn't care" about it is a non-answer to me, because it's a game; it can't "care" about anything. It either has a rule for it, or it doesn't, or it has a rule that can be used for it even though it's not the rule's primary purpose. Like the augury I mentioned above. It's not supposed to be used to divine one's sex life, but I'd allow it, and I'm pretty sure all of my players would as well, if they were in the GM's chair.

And, click, it locked in and I got it. I still play 5e, and don't bother with this approach at all when I do, because 5e isn't a game that supports this.
Maybe your D&D games are lacking because you haven't tried it.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
Thanks @pemerton for humoring me with that FitD question that I directed at you. I think your example of seeing the culprits driving away is a great Lost Opportunity consequence.

But if @Manbearcat and @Ovinomancer and whoever else might be a Blades/Forged in the Dark veteran can humor me further, here are some situations that came up in the test session I ran last night of Scum and Villainy in a Star Wars setting. I fully believe that I was GMing a ton of stuff wrong, given the FitD system/approach, so I'm not looking for attaboys or reinforcement.

Some quick context:

-Scum and Villainy differs from Blades in that you have a ship instead of a crew, and so you aren't generally tied to a given area. It's not a bounded sandbox, like wth Duskvol. If anything it's the opposite, making it (in theory) a good fit for Star Wars, where you have lots of interstellar mobility. This changes a lot of things, including making something like that very compelling setup that Manbearcat laid out less possible, imo. You take jobs because someone is paying you, and those could be in lots of places.
This isn't exactly true. The city in Blades is there so that you can't just murder and the hobo away from it -- you have to deal with it. S&V appears to offer more movement freedom, but you still can't run from problems as they can easily still find and track and engage with you because your problems can move as easily as you. The faction game works the same, really.
-For this test session I may have broken the premise without realizing it--my main interest was to get practice with the core mechanics, and I wound up having my solo player, who chose a new Jedi for his character, and his more experienced Jedi partner NPC assigned to hunt down a supposed terrorist. Did kicking things off unrelated to PC contacts and faction relationships make everything that following invalid or at least clumsy? Maybe so.

I'm not (I hope) doing the dreaded listen-to-my-session thing, but here are the specific moments/decisions I'm curious about:


1) Based on a roll to learn the terrorist's whereabouts from local criminals--the player rolled a success with consequence on a risky Command action to intimidate them--I figured they were now being led into a trap. So they took a boat to another area of the city where the target was supposedly staying. This being a one-shot test session, in which I very much wanted a noir-ish moment where the newbie's more experienced partner gets killed, I figured the trap would start big, with an A-Wing attacking the boat from far above--a kind of sniper situation. I said that they could hear a high-pitched keening sound during the boat trip, but my player did nothing (he's also new to playing FitD, though not reading it). When he stepped off the boat I triggered the attack.
@hawkeyefan touched on this, but the "it's a trap" bit should have been explicit at the table. You find out where the target is, but also that the target is aware you're looking for him and is ready for it! That's the better move in this game's context. One thing to remember in these games is that there is no secret GM backstory -- ie, bits of fiction the GM has written that are the truth of the game but aren't known to the players. If there's a complication, it's one that's either hitting right now, so everyone knows it, or that you're immediately foreshadowing in an open way. This is what drives the snowball. If you announce the upcoming badness, and the PCs ignore it, then you just hit them with it as hard as you want.

The foreshadowing in the boat wasn't in line with the game, either, because it wasn't clear it was a threat or something to be dealt with. What happened here is that it appears you defaulted to D&D-esque play and so did your player, who was waiting for you to reveal more about the scene because that's what you do in D&D. You need to frame these things immediately and hard -- I'd have started at or near the docks, probably by announcing the A-wing coming in low and hard for a fast fly-by, with the pilot visible looking at the PCs, then roaring off and circling for what looks like an attack run -- this frames an immediate threat that has to be reacted to, and is the core ideal of how you kick things off.

I'm going to step back a moment here and ask where this sits in the context of the score? The initial scene looking for the bad guy seems like freeplay/information gathering, and so should probably be running on a fortune mechanic -- although the outcomes there align either way, a 4-5 is some good some bad news. But, after that, there should have been a score announced and an engagement roll made, which would have set up exactly how you should be looking to frame the initial ambush. I'm unclear where we are in the game structure here.

I think that S&V calls scores "jobs"? Been a hot minute.
At this point I suddenly didn't know what to do, because in theory the Attune action specifically notes that you can use the Way (aka the Force) to "sense unseen danger or killing intent." But the player didn't initiate that action upon hearing the suspicious noise. So we awkwardly decided he could use Attune now to sense the attack and try to get himself and his partner off the boat in time. He rolled a critical success (two sixes) so he decided to pull the boat's driver off as well.
So, in light of my discussion above about how the threat should have been more obviously framed, this part is moot. However, it needs to be noted that actions like this are not reactionary, they are intentional. Meaning for Attune to be used this way, the player needs to be declaring an action to determine this. A tense standoff, with blasters drawn, is a good moment, where a player is using Attune to tell if the other side plans to shoot first. It's not really a passive perception stand-in. Nothing in S&V has a passive score corollary, except resistance rolls if viewed through a squint.
Everything about how I handled this seemed wrong, and in the moment we were left with the sense that if the player just kind of waits out a situation instead of taking action, maybe that's on them, because, as discussed in this thread, passive actions--especially the sort of passive Perception rolls that are almost constant in many trad games--just don't make sense in FitD. But what do you guys think? Was this just a hopelessly trad and off-base encounter from the start? And how do you handle stuff like danger sense or similar unnatural/enhanced perception in FitD, if it seems like an ambush has become part of the story?
Yeah, I don't disagree with this. You need to put the danger/obstacle front and center and clear, and not hide what a consequence is. These things have to be table facing at all times. The only things "secret" would be any prep for possible ideas of complications or an NPC that haven't been used yet, and these need to be held lightly (ie, not things that will be used but that might be used and maybe not as originally intended -- prep is more like brainstorming so play aides in S&V/Blades than pre-story like in D&D).
2) The player and NPC decided to get to a rooftop to deal with the A-Wing assassin, and here, again, I may have defaulted to a trad situation. I said that as they were running into a building and about to get into the stairwell, a pair of guys entered from the street and immediately pulled blasters and opened fire--evidence that the trap was bigger/worse than expected. The resolution for this was simple and fast and great. But was having these two shooters pop up (to show the escalating danger and stakes) sort of a game-breaking trad intrusion, because it wasn't based on another, post-A-Wing-attack player roll and related consequence? This was, in other words, a GM-first piece of fiction, which would miss the point of FitD, right? Or am I just in my head with this one?
Yeah, you should have called for a check here -- how is the PC getting to the roof? Carefully or running full tilt or using Force jumps? Anything the PCs are doing under pressure or threat needs to be a check. Remember, it's not the plan you have that drives the game, but the result of the PC's actions that drive the game.
3) Finally, toward the end of the scene/session, the PC and NPC realized they were stuck, with the A-Wing loitering above the roof and a large group of people running up the stairs. How this situation was resolved was, again, very cool to me, and pushed me even harder toward wanting to do lots more FitD. But as with the earlier appearance of the two shooters, this horde of dudes did not appear based on a subsequent player roll or suggestion. Does that once again break the core FitD approach, and make the game about PCs reacting to GM-determined fiction, instead of the other way around? Or am I looking at this in a way that's too zoomed in, and really the whole situation is just flowing from the player's chosen approach for how to find their target, and the consequences that followed?
Again, introducing more threats needs to be because of actions. The nature of the game will generate all the drama you need, if you trust it and let it. Putting a finger on the scales, like adding further complications that aren't from checks, needs to be heavily scrutinized and only rarely done. I'm leaving that like this because there may be a good point somewhere for doing so, but I'd be extremely hesitant to do this.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I asked a question, you went into a mini-rant about Monopoly and Risk. I'd call that at least a bit defensive.
Oh. What you mean is that you're assuming I'm defensive, and so I'm defensive, and I don't get to have a say about my own mental state? I guess that's a take one could have. I'd prefer you just take my word for it. Also, if you read my statements about Monopoly and Risk as a rant, perhaps go back, assume a tone that's intended to explain rather than rant, and read it again.
I played GURPS for a while. That system, bless it's papery heart, tries to include rules for wildly cinematic games, but honestly that's not a genre the system "cares about." It's really a system that wants math, not crazy stunts and high power levels. But GURPS still has rules for cinematic games, as clumsy as they are.

So: does PbtA have rules (even if they're clumsy) that would allow for investigation, or not? And if so, what are they?

(And why would you consider investigation to be only passive? Because all of those examples I gave you have dramatic interest in them. There would be a real driving need to solve the crime before it's too late, especially if it directly affected you in some way (a loved one was killed or is a suspect; the killer has made it personal; the killer will strike again unless you stop it and you don't want any more blood on your hands).
It's passive because it's the players asking the GM to tell them more story/plot/setting details. It's not driving the story, it's looking for the story. Again, there's nothing wrong with this, it's exactly how I run and expect to play 5e and a number of other games (like most CoC). I'd say it's a lot less passive that reading a book or watching a movie, and maybe on par with some very good video games, but it's definitely more passive than driving the story forward on a new path. Really this is about how much is expected from the player. Asking the GM questions to hear more story doesn't really expect a lot, but having to declare actions that are of dramatic import to the PC and risking quite a lot on those answers is more demanding of the players. Sometimes I love the demand, sometimes I'd rather something less demanding. This really determines what I want to play.

As for GURPs somehow setting an expected standard because it has rules for things that don't work well but at least it has rules -- okay. I really don't care or agree this sets an expectation that should be met. PbtA does do investigations, they just don't look a thing like how investigations look in CoC or D&D. They do it differently. So, looking for bad rules in PbtA on how you do CoC style investigations is something I'm glad doesn't exist -- much like I'm fairly happy that Monopoly doesn't have rules for how to invade Australia.

I'm guessing that by what you continue to say, the answer is no.
The answer is actually not a number. It's not a question that makes much sense. Like asking how to invade Australia while playing Monopoly.
And yet, I can actually play that out in D&D. I don't even need rules for that sort of situation--that's pure roleplaying--but if I did want rules, D&D still has skills, subsystems, and other abilities that could be used, with a little creativity. ("I cast augury. Will I be able to resolve my feelings for the vampire?" The spell says weal. "Is my relationship with the succubus a healthy one?" The spell says woe.) You want a high school drama? There's the Renown and Loyaly subsystems, right there in the DMG. Both of those would useful for high school, and the upcoming Strixhaven book likely has more such rules and it's a school-based environment.
Yeah, none of those actually do any work here. Augury, for instance, just tells you what the GM's plot is, it doesn't resolve anything about what the character wants. Renown and Loyalty? Not even close, as neither of those address anything about what the character wants but are, instead, scores as to how well you align you play to what the GM expects. You haven't touched the core conflict here at all -- what does this mean for the character as a character? What are they going to do? Instead, you've just shifted to outside metrics which are all just a stand in for "what does the GM think should happen."
Unfortunately, I can't just "accept." I need to know the whys and hows. What can I say? My parents raised me to question authority.
Strangely, though, you're adhering to the authority of "how I understand games to work" and not questioning that at all. I'm inviting you to question that and look at a different paradigm.
If the answer is, no you can't do investigations with PbtA games unless you do it as pure RP with no mechanics, then just say that. Saying that the game "doesn't care" about it is a non-answer to me, because it's a game; it can't "care" about anything. It either has a rule for it, or it doesn't, or it has a rule that can be used for it even though it's not the rule's primary purpose. Like the augury I mentioned above. It's not supposed to be used to divine one's sex life, but I'd allow it, and I'm pretty sure all of my players would as well, if they were in the GM's chair.
No, investigations in PbtA games are not about discovering the clues the GM has written down. They are about what happens when characters enter into charged situations and what results from those choices. I can't tell you how an investigation works in PbtA because it will work entirely differently depending on the inputs and what the PCs do. Hence the statements that motives and intents and actions matter. You call this authority, but it's like saying that the ingredients in cooking are an authority -- if you change the ingredients and do different things you get different food. You're saying "how do I make a chocolate cake" and we're saying, "what are your ingredients?"
Maybe your D&D games are lacking because you haven't tried it.
Oh, no, my D&D games are not lacking at all, thank you very much. However, let's look at which of us is throwing out insults -- you've accused me of being defensive despite my statements otherwise, and now you're saying my games are lacking without any knowledge whatsoever of those games. I'll thank you to not to continue doing this.
 

Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
I hope you don't mind me jumping in to offer a take on this. I'm sure others will have more/different/better advice on this, but a couple of bits jumped out at me. I've not played Scum & Villainy yet, but I do own it, and I've played lots of Blades and several other Forged in the Dark Systems.
I knew I was forgetting at least one person in my tags! This is wonderful feedback, and much appreciated.

I think having a specific goal in mind....like the death of a mentor/ally....is not the best approach. Certainly the older jedi's death as a possible consequence should be on the table, but I don't think actively pushing toward that is really in line with the principles of GMing Forged in the Dark.
Totally agree here. What's interesting (to me, at least) is that my player moved heaven and earth to save this NPC three times, so my clearly over-the-line--and out of character for me as a GM--determination to kill him wound up pushing the drama and story in ways I hadn't expected. But I get why it's sort of heretical to the FitD mindset.

It was a good reminder, though, of one of my favorite things about that system, which is that the consequences of player actions/rolls can be inflicted on friendly NPCs, in a way that's much cleaner and more interesting than in a lot of trad games.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I get that. The playbooks are very keyed to Penny Dreadful. There are another three coming out I believe, and it's not hard to tweak playbooks, especially in terms of making them a little less specific in this case.

There are also a bunch of solid fan-written playbooks (and hacks) available on the Gauntlet Publishing Discord.
It definitely looks fun to play. The playbooks for the Vessel and the American sound right-up my crooked Victorian alley.

Although it would depend on what sort of supernatural investigation game my players wanted to play, I'm personally looking less for the player characters to be the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen or the monstrous cast of Penny Dreadful. Maybe they could become supernatural, magical, or cursed themselves with time or are somewhat magical at the start, but I do enjoy the trope of mundanes being increasingly drawn into the supernatural world that is "behind the scenes," in this case of 1840s socio-political unrest.

So: does PbtA have rules (even if they're clumsy) that would allow for investigation, or not? And if so, what are they?
PbtA? No. Some PbtA games? Yes. Some of which have already been listed with examples of play.

Unfortunately, I can't just "accept." I need to know the whys and hows. What can I say? My parents raised me to question authority.
And yet you enjoy playing in a game like D&D that invests a lot of autocratic authority in the GM? :unsure: Sorry. I jest. :p

If the answer is, no you can't do investigations with PbtA games unless you do it as pure RP with no mechanics, then just say that. Saying that the game "doesn't care" about it is a non-answer to me, because it's a game; it can't "care" about anything. It either has a rule for it, or it doesn't, or it has a rule that can be used for it even though it's not the rule's primary purpose. Like the augury I mentioned above. It's not supposed to be used to divine one's sex life, but I'd allow it, and I'm pretty sure all of my players would as well, if they were in the GM's chair.
I feel a bit in this part like you are treating PbtA less as a family of games that share game design principles and more like a generic system, toolkit, or even a concrete system like 5e D&D. It's about like asking whether OSR has a rule for investigations. PbtA is not something that in itself has a concrete rule for running investigations, because it depends heavily on which game we are talking about and how they do it. This doesn't mean that PbtA games can or can't do investigations. It means that we need to talk concretely about specific PbtA games and their rules. Not every PbtA will care about Investigations. PbtA is not claiming or trying to be an omni-system in the way that D&D does for fantasy adventure games with rules for everything.

FYI, here is what "Powered by the Apocalypse" means according to Vincent Baker:
"Powered by the Apocalypse" isn't the name of a category of games, a set of games' features, or the thrust of any games' design. It's the name of Meg's and my policy concerning others' use of our intellectual property and creative work.

If you've created a game inspired by Apocalypse World, and would like to publish it, please do. If you're using our words, you need our permission, per copyright law. If you aren't using our words, you don't need our permission, although of course we'd love to hear from you. Instead, we consider it appropriate and sufficient for you to mention Apocalypse World in your thanks, notes, or credits section.

It's completely up to you whether you call your game "Powered by the Apocalypse." If you'd like to use our PbtA logo in your game's book design or trade dress, ask us, and we'll grant permission for you to do so. This isn't a requirement of any sort.


In other words: Is Apocalypse World an inspiration for your game? Enough so that you want to call your game PbtA? Did you follow Meg's and my policy wrt publishing it? Then cool, your game is Powered by the Apocalypse. Get with us if you want to use the logo.
And that's all it takes for a game to be PbtA.
 

Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
@Ovinomancer Thanks for the detailed reply. The point that you and @hawkeyefan fan made about not having hidden information is something I completely forgot, and I see now how that helps keep players in an active mode.

I don't know if I'll ever manage to put all of my cards on the table, in terms of prepping the overall narrative and opposing NPCs--as loose beats or ideas, not as scripted events--but defaulting to revealing looming threats is obviously crucial. And having the A-Wing do a pass first is exactly right for the mechanics and the setting.

Thanks again.
 

@Grendel_Khan

I don't have a ton to add beyond what you've already been given by others. Just a few things:

* Players (especially players new to indie games) should read the Best Practices + Position/Effect + Action/Consequence sections of the game at a minimum (preferably the touchstones and rules for Teamwork/Stress/Flashbacks/Loadout/Gambits/Heat/Payoff/Downtime etc as well).

* With passive players (particularly players who are passive because of a long history of D&D), the best panacea is "ask (provocative) questions and use the answers." This is the best way to (a) train their cognitive framework to reorient to an active state, (b) help them understand that their answers are the momentum for the trajectory of play, (c) help you understand more clearly what their thematic interests are.

* The game should be entirely table-facing, nothing covert, the meta channel open.

* Encourage players to understand the rules. Talk about teamwork (Group Move...anybody want to Assist/Setup etc). Tell them the consequences and ask (what they do...if they want to resist...do they want a Devil's Bargain...maybe ask them about their orientation/approach to this obstacle and the potential consequence...ask them about a pressure point that you may squeeze downstream of this).

* Start a Clock and Tick it as a Consequence. Telegraph and follow through. Your job is to follow the fiction, put thematic/provocative/sensical obstacles in front of the Crew and react after moves are made and dice come up the way they come up. You need to understand how Factors impact Effect (Scale - how much ground do you have to cover in this cargo hold as you sprint through the laser traps...its huge...alright, Limited Effect and we're setting a 4 Tick Clock to get across...) and manage that well and convey it very clearly to your players. If you don't manage this well and/or don't communicate it well, their decision-points will be arrested by lack of clarity/understanding of what the situation is and how the rules intersect with that and what the stakes are and what resources they should marshal to help themselves (and if they should negotiate Position for Effect, Group move, Setup, Push, Assist, use Gambits, ask for a DB, deploy Gear, use a Flashback, etc).

* Reading your excerpt, there are several things that aren't clear to me. Post-mortems are enormously helpful (to yourself and others), but when you write them for FitD games where you're looking for feedback, try to convey information like this:

PRIOR FICTION/SETTING - x, y, z happened that are consequential to this play loop.

INFORMATION GATHERING - x, y, z happened that impacted the Engagement Roll (which ended up as a 1-3, or 4/5, or 6) and affected the Job thusly.

JOB- The gamestate is thus (Job objective, what has transpired to this point in the Job, Clocks in play, what just happened mechanically and the attendant fiction, what questions I asked and what answers I got, how many Gambits in the pool, who the PC's Rival/Friends are and Crew Contacts, PC Vice/Heritage).





All of this stuff is interconnected and flows downstream/upstream from each other so providing/having clarity on these things is important when doing a post-mortem on your S&V game.

EDIT - The other thing I would do is watch people who are proficient run/play the game. That should help a lot. The players in my game are starting to feel like exhibitionists because I keep inviting people to watch us play so they can understand how these games are played!
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
@Ovinomancer Thanks for the detailed reply. The point that you and @hawkeyefan fan made about not having hidden information is something I completely forgot, and I see now how that helps keep players in an active mode.

I don't know if I'll ever manage to put all of my cards on the table, in terms of prepping the overall narrative and opposing NPCs--as loose beats or ideas, not as scripted events--but defaulting to revealing looming threats is obviously crucial. And having the A-Wing do a pass first is exactly right for the mechanics and the setting.

Thanks again.
Try it. Just go with it and don't hold anything at all back. Say everything. And lean hard on the system and let it do the work. One of things I find interesting about FitD systems is that they take less overall work from the GM. You don't have to prep, or make sure the plot is online, or worry about pacing. You just react. Yes, that's a muscle that might not be in shape, but if you lean on the system, do some prep of possible consequences so you have a pool to draw on (I'd recommend staying generic and and filling in the details as needed), this gets easier and easier.
 

Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
OK, a quick(-ish) precis of the Brindlewood Bay mystery mechanics, which are pretty much ported directly to The Between, which is otherwise mostly PbtA in terms of design ethos and mechanics. I'll use the verbiage from The Between because that's the iteration I'm most familiar with.
I had not put together that Cordova wrote both Brindlewood Bay (maybe the all-around coolest, most compelling game I've read in years) and The Between. Really really need to check that out now. I sometimes wonder whether, in 10 years, Brindlewood's investigation mechanics will just be everywhere in TTRPGs. It's so damn fun.
 

Campbell

Legend
I had not put together that Cordova wrote both Brindlewood Bay (maybe the all-around coolest, most compelling game I've read in years) and The Between. Really really need to check that out now. I sometimes wonder whether, in 10 years, Brindlewood's investigation mechanics will just be everywhere in TTRPGs. It's so damn fun.

Apocalypse Keys (a Hellboy inspired game of monsters working together to stop Apocalypses) uses a similar mechanic. It felt a little weird at first, but I really ended up enjoying running it when mysteries generally are not my thing.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Oh. What you mean is that you're assuming I'm defensive, and so I'm defensive, and I don't get to have a say about my own mental state? I guess that's a take one could have. I'd prefer you just take my word for it. Also, if you read my statements about Monopoly and Risk as a rant, perhaps go back, assume a tone that's intended to explain rather than rant, and read it again.
I'm sorry, but to me, you sound defensive. Especially when I keep asking for what the rules would be and you keep bring up Monopoly and Austria, as if they have anything to do with the question I have.

I mean, seriously, if there are no mechanics for such a thing in AW, then just say so. Say "you can investigate a crime scene, but there's no Moves for it. Instead, it's pure roleplay between you and the MC. Other PbtA games have Moves for it, though," I would fully accept that. But as it is, it feels like you don't want to say this.

As it turns out, because of what other people have said, no, you can't do an investigation in AW. @Aldarc pointed out that there was such a rule in MotW.

Yeah, none of those actually do any work here. Augury, for instance, just tells you what the GM's plot is, it doesn't resolve anything about what the character wants. Renown and Loyalty? Not even close, as neither of those address anything about what the character wants but are, instead, scores as to how well you align you play to what the GM expects.
Not at all. Renown scores how well you're known to others based on your actions. Loyalty determines how loyal people are to you based on your actions. None of those have anything to do with how well you align your play to what I "expect," and instead work in much the same way the Hx ability seems to work, only with organizations and NPCs instead of other PCs.

You haven't touched the core conflict here at all -- what does this mean for the character as a character? What are they going to do? Instead, you've just shifted to outside metrics which are all just a stand in for "what does the GM think should happen."
No, I haven't. I think you have a very skewed idea of how other games are supposed to work.

I've given several examples already of what an investigation means for the character. Here they area again: a loved one was killed or is a suspect; the killer has made it personal; the killer will strike again unless you stop it and you don't want any more blood on your hands. Can you explain to me why these would have no meaning for a character?

For that matter, can you explain what would have meaning for a character? Because I'm still not getting what you mean.

Go with this: one or more people have died. At least one of those people was known to and cared about by a PC. There's some evidence that the killer murdered this person to rile up the PC. Investigation--whether through talking to people, doing research, or examining the crime scene--will point the PC to the likely identity of the killer (there are multiple ways the PC can find this info). If the PCs take too long, the killer will either murder someone else or disappear (depending on GM whim), leaving the murder unsolved and the victims without justice/revenge.

Again, these is a legitimately serious question here: Is this plot, such as it is, bad or wrong for AW? If it's not a good plot for the game, why? What would be better for the game?

Strangely, though, you're adhering to the authority of "how I understand games to work" and not questioning that at all. I'm inviting you to question that and look at a different paradigm.
No, I am literally asking questions so I can understand how this game works. That's literally the opposite of assuming I know how they work. You aren't explaining it in a way that I can understand, though. Because every time I ask for a simple explanation--what would I roll/what Move would I take/what would I do" in this circumstance, you go off on a completely different tangent.

Oh, no, my D&D games are not lacking at all, thank you very much. However, let's look at which of us is throwing out insults -- you've accused me of being defensive despite my statements otherwise, and now you're saying my games are lacking without any knowledge whatsoever of those games. I'll thank you to not to continue doing this.
Well, how do you know they're not lacking? Maybe if you used that approach when you played D&D you'd find that the games are a lot more fun. As it is, it seems like you're limiting how you play D&D because you don't think you're supposed to play it in a certain way, or that the game is made for it. For instance, you seem to be under the impression that D&D is supposed to be played in such a way that the players meet the DM's expectations. I have no idea where you got this idea, expect possibly from having less-than-stellar DMs in the past. But you get crappy GMs regardless of system. Maybe if you stopped playing D&D like that, it might be more fun for you.
 

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