Tips for Running Powered by the Apocalypse Games/Spirit of 77


So sometime later this summer, after my group finishes setting rural New England on fire in our already Fiasco-ed Call of Cthulhu campaign, I'm going to run Spirit of 77 (the PbtA game based on the pop culture of the 1970s).

As a child of the 1970s, I've got that part down. But I've never run a PbtA game before. I'd like any advice you all are willing to give.

I admit I'm a little confused. I've heard it's good to "not plan out too much" and "determine what the campaign is about by playing it". Which is fine, if a bit vague, but then I read through the free sample adventure for Spirit -- the zombie Love Boat one -- and it looks like a fairly standard site-based module. Not the sort guidelines for creating a more procedurally-generated, player-led experience I was expecting.

My first inclination is to treat Spirit of 77 like any trad game: world-build, sketch out locations and NPCs, create a loose plot, or at least the possibility of one. Especially since the whole thing is ripe for the kind of specific parodies I feel obligated to include as a fan of genre parody.

But is that... ahem... not in keeping with the spirit of the system?

log in or register to remove this ad


[MENTION=16586]Campbell[/MENTION], [MENTION=6696971]Manbearcat[/MENTION] and [MENTION=99817]chaochou[/MENTION] have good advice when it comes to PbtA.

This thread also has some useful ideas.

I have run a ton of Apocalypse World, Dungeon World, and Blades. I've run some Monsterhearts, Masks, and a Star Wars hack.

I haevn't run Spirit of '77, but the formula should be similar.

You've got a low resolution setting with broad brush genre tropes and embedded conflicts; pulp American 70s (so Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll, Shaft, Dukes of Hazzard, The Warriors, the Cold War, the Granola Girl/Boy, etc).

You've got characters, each with a playbook loaded with trope-ey moves that encapsulates a specific genre archetype. They're made to interact with those pulp conflicts in certain ways.

You've got advancement schemes/reward cycles and characters and conflicts and resolution mechanics that will create emergent story merely as a result of their intersection.

So as a GM:

* Understand how all the above works together.

* Think of premise/character-relevant conflicts that should bring out interesting decisions for each character individually and the whole collectively.

* Let play snowball as a result of the simple formula:

1) Frame a PC (or multiple PCs) into a conflict-charged situation. Cut right to the action and put them in the middle of something costly, seductive, dangerous. Something that beckons action.

2) Let the nifty resolution mechanics do their work. Complications and costs should arise from declared actions + rolled dice and play should snowball.

3) Ask questions as you need to (of both the players and their PCs) in order to move things along. The situation will escalate pretty naturally until it resolves or changes entirely. The characters will change, the on-screen will change, the off-screen will change.

4) Play to find out what happens in 2 and 3. Then take a moment to take a breath, consider the ramifications of what just happened, consider an exciting, genre-relevant way forward that keeps the tempo, excitement, and pressure on while engaging the character playbooks and the game's premise. Maybe ask the players some questions about what they think. Once that is sorted out, you'll have another (1) ready to go. Let the game's machinery snowball again.

5) Do this over and over until the session is done. Leave yourself 10-15 minutes to reflect on the session and answer whatever questions and end of session stuff that is relevant to that particular PBtA version.

6) Rinse and repeat.

Really, the only thing you should be ready with is (a) interesting situations that engage the setting tropes and character playbooks and (b) situation-relevant complications, costs, and obstacles that produce meaningful decision-points, impose upon PC interests/priorities, and help propel play ever-forward.


If you’d like, give me some playbook info for one of your PCs and xp triggers for the character/game and I’ll give you an example of the kind of scene I’d frame them into (and how the resolution mechanics would support the scene snowballing). If the game has unique mechanics beyond 2d6+ and 6-, 7-9, 10+ results, it would be nice to know that as well. Also, if the game is broken down into phases; eg something like Carouse > Action > Chill/Party.

Level Up!

An Advertisement