What do you think about Powered by the Apocalypse games?

The always excellent and talented designer Jason Cordova does a podcast (Fear of a Black Dragon) that's sort of unofficially about the intersection of story game and OSR play styles. He mentions pretty frequently that he thinks the two communities have more in common than they might realize, compared to trad gamers/play styles.

This is a really good point. I would say that there would be things even "trad" players would gain from playing different kinds of games. For example, some players might find things like encumbrance, light sources, etc to just be a drag or not very relevant. But once you understand the core procedures of osr games, it becomes clear how all those things work together, in a way that might influence the way you run your trad games. Same with pbta/fitd and osr.
 

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Hex08

Adventurer
@Hex08 I'd actually recommend looking at Ironsworn (Ironsworn - Tabletop RPG). For one, it's totally free. For two, it does a great job of explaining and showcasing the play differences. For three, you can play it solo! You can get into it pretty quickly and see if this kind of game is something for you.
The idea of a solo RPG seems strange to me but I did download Ironsworn so maybe I will read it and give it a try, especially since running the other stuff with my group is a ways off.
 

Ok, so, on the game design end of things, I get that you're trying to emulate the PCs not getting hit like the characters in the movies. But, you need to consider what happens when they don't resist. If they're low on stress, they may choose to eat the hit (I've done this in Blades) so you've building a situation where they don't get hit until low on stress and then take serious wounds from hits. It kicks the can down the road a bit and creates a situation where you don't have many light wounds, but toggle between no and serious wounds. Not trying to dissuade you, just pointing out from experience how this works out in play.

Excellent points.


On a different note, I can't square "long term planning" with "using SaV." That seems entirely counterproductive or signaling the intent to push the system into Trad play, which it will fight and lead to more work rather than less.

When I mean long-term planning, I just mean trying to really make sure I've wrapped my head around the system enough for this game, but also poking at stuff to make it more Star Wars-appropriate (tweaking Mystic powers, for example, accounting for lightsabers, etc.)
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Excellent points.




When I mean long-term planning, I just mean trying to really make sure I've wrapped my head around the system enough for this game, but also poking at stuff to make it more Star Wars-appropriate (tweaking Mystic powers, for example, accounting for lightsabers, etc.)
A really big part of running PbtA is knowing how to design fronts. Is that something you're comfy with?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Fantasy Adventure
  • Dungeon World & Spin-Offs
    • World of Dungeons: what if DW was based on OD&D?
    • Freebooters on the Frontier
    • Homebrew World
    • Stonetop: 4E D&D -> Dungeon World -> Iron Age "Hearth Fantasy"
  • Fantasy World: a less D&D-derived PbtA fantasy
  • Fellowship: Good Guys Save the World (players) vs. the Overlord (one player)
  • Fallen Empires: Vincent Baker's fantasy hack of Apocalypse World

Urban Fantasy
  • Urban Modern Fantasy: Dungeon World + d20 Modern.
  • Monster of the Week: Supernatural, Scooby Doo, and X-Files.
  • Urban Shadows: PbtA Vampire / Werewolf / Mage / etc. focused on supernatural politics
  • City of Mists: ordinary people who are reincarnations of myths, legends, etc.
  • Monsterhearts: supernatural horny teenagers in high school (e.g., Twilight, Teen Wolf, Vampire Diaries, Buffy, etc.)


There is a "totally not Star Wars / Firefly / Cowboy Bebop" FitD game: i.e., Scum and Villany.

If I were to do a "totally not Star Wars" pbta game, I would probably look at how Magpie Games does Avatar Legends or Masks, where the point is less about the powers and more about the character arcs and dramatic beats.

So if I wanted to play Luke, I would not be picking "Jedi Knight" as a playbook, but possibly a playbook more akin to "The Successor" (tradition vs. progress) or "The Icon" (role vs. freedom) from Avatar Legends depending on the story beats that I want to emphasize for the character. Whereas I might pick "The Pillar" (support vs. leadership) for Leia and "The Rogue" (friendship vs. survival) for Han Solo.
That’s a great list! Thank you!

My struggle with a lot of these games is that what I want from a Star Wars game is very different from what you talk about working toward here, in that I do want the game to meaningfully model and create tension around the abilities of the characters. The problem is, games like SW:Saga Edition lean much further into the details of abilities than they need to, and end up constraining characters and building a game that doesn’t even do anything to help create a Star Wars story.

But at the same time, to switch gears to a comparative example, someone said in passing that the least interesting thing about supers is the actual powers, and…like maybe very slightly but man the powers are very fun and interesting. I want to play an avengers story, not an episode of the old live action The Tick.

Anyway, I’ll dig more into those games and see if I can figure something that will be fun for my group to do a Stars War.
You're probably thinking of Scum and Villainy, which is indeed a "totally not Star Wars" game, but it's Forged in the Dark rather than PbtA. It is really awesome though. I know that there are a couple of PbtA "Totally not Star Trek" games, but I don't know if there's a good PbtA space opera game. There probably is, I'm just not familiar with it.
FITD is a bit crunchier in general, so that might be a good fit for my group.
Bounty of the Week is a Star Wars hack of Monster of the Week. I haven't played it, but it sounds great (and Gauntlet folks have been running it for years, I believe). Much easier to use this for a more general space opera setting, I think than some of the PbtA SW hacks that lean into Force points and such. FYI the link below is a download link for a zip file of what I believe is the most recent version, but I could be wrong:



There's also Starscape, which looks interesting, designed by the new head of the Happy Jack's RPG podcast network.



EDIT: Big-time personal opinion here, but I think PbtA, like FitD, works best when the premise is as specific and contained as possible. So not "space opera" but "the final mission of the last living Lensmen" or the bounty hunter focus of Bounty of the Week. FitD sort of requires more mechanical constraints than PbtA, but even PbtA's playbooks and overall play loops seem to be more fun and manageable with greater specificity.

Or maybe you can go more generic in premise, but lean into the shorter campaign length? At any rate, I guess I'm saying an open-ended Lensman game might be unwieldy in PbtA, but one where you're all running from the Lensmen for some specific reason, or fighting against them once they inevitably go full fascist, could be easier to pull off.
That’s a great point about keeping the premise very specific. I’d probably rather play a fitd game based on King’s Dark Tower series than a traditional game set in that world, but a general weird west game that doesn’t have that sharp focus and could instead go any number of ways, I’d rather use a “skills and traits” style game.

Definitely a lot the two broad approaches have to learn from eachother, though.
I'm really spamming this thread now, but I wanted to add that some of the optional rules in Scum and Villainy are intended to let you lean into a less-gritty, more pulpy space opera feel. For example, I'm still doing long-term prep for using SaV for a Star Wars game, and I definitely plan on using one of the suggested changes, which is to significantly reduce or totally avoid consequences when you resist them.

Specifically, when a PC gets hit with a blaster bolt, giving them a serious injury, but they resist it (taking some Stress in the process) the default system guidance is that they might take a lighter wound, but they're still hit. But since characters in Star Wars are rarely getting winged or kinda-sorta hit by blasters, I'm planning on making that kind of resist roll more of an all-or-nothing situation--the PC takes the hit, or they resist and duck behind cover. There's still flexibility there--if there's no cover to speak of, and the PC has no trick up their sleeve, and just tries to Matrix-dodge a blaster at close range, resting the consequence might still just reduce it.

My point is, that's not a house-rule or hack, but a specific optional rule they provide. The system gives you a lot of neat dials and levers to manipulate, especially if everyone has a decent sense of the tech level, tone, lore, etc. (which is why I also think SaV is maybe easier to run when you play in a setting like Star Wars rather than, say, Firefly, but YMMV)
That all makes a lot of sense! Thanks!
 



Aldarc

Legend
That’s a great list! Thank you!
Always glad to help.

My struggle with a lot of these games is that what I want from a Star Wars game is very different from what you talk about working toward here, in that I do want the game to meaningfully model and create tension around the abilities of the characters. The problem is, games like SW:Saga Edition lean much further into the details of abilities than they need to, and end up constraining characters and building a game that doesn’t even do anything to help create a Star Wars story.

But at the same time, to switch gears to a comparative example, someone said in passing that the least interesting thing about supers is the actual powers, and…like maybe very slightly but man the powers are very fun and interesting. I want to play an avengers story, not an episode of the old live action The Tick.

Anyway, I’ll dig more into those games and see if I can figure something that will be fun for my group to do a Stars War.
That's fair a point. If you want a game to meaningfully moden and create tension around the abilities of the characters then a more character theme/arc-centric approach like Avatar Legends or Masks may not be the best fit for you.

I would also consider looking into something like Fate or Cortex for something that leans a bit more neo-traditional, which have rules and supplements for powers. However, these systems are classless and the character abilities tend to be more abstracted. Both of these games, particularly Cortex, have a lot of dials and knobs for customizing the game to your liking.
 

aramis erak

Legend
What the heck is FitD?
Forged in the Dark, an umbrella term for games derived from Blades in the Dark by John Harper.
It should be noted as well that it's one of several conceptual descendants from the AWE/PBTA ecosphere.
There are several rolling modes used in the wider ecosphere.

The FItD tree largely uses (ability)d6, keep highest. 6 is full, 4-5 is partial, 1-3 is fail. (The SRD is online at Greetings, Scoundrel | Blades in the Dark RPG)

Ironsworn/Starforged line uses 1d6+stat+modifier vs 2 separate d10's; beat both, strong; beat 1, weak, beat none, miss, Beat doubles, strong + twist in your favor; fail doubles, complication + fail. They're heavy on the "Consult an Oracle" and the oracular tables are designed for GMless or blocked-creativity GMd play an easy way to get a prompt. I think it may originate in a third game, but

Sentinel Comics is often not considered part of the AWE/PBTA space, but the preview/starter kit actually acknowledges AWE as one of its origins. It's kind of a hybrid between PBTA and Cortex Plus... Abilities are rated in dice sizes, and the result table for Overcomes, Boosts, and Hinders are as follows... (Attacks and Defenses just use the actual roll, and there is a hit point system with breakpoints for unlocking more powerful moves but also modifying one's dice pool. It's roll 1 power, 1 ability, and one's current hit point range die.... keep the middle die unless told otherwise.
Total RollOvercomesBoostHinder
≤0 =fail+0-0
1-3 =choose:
-- fail
-- success with major consequence
+1-1
4-7 =Success with Minor Consequence+2-2
8-11 =Success+3-3
≥ 12 =success with bonus+4-4
It's a supers game, but could be rescaled easily for other action genres. It has character gen, rather than playbooks, but the starter set NPCs have a playbook-like presentation.
Like the more mainstream PBTA games, it's intended to be a pressure cooker, unlike the others, it's a more traditional GM rile, running the NPCs. (Note also that the initiative order is a whole kettle of fish that are not evident at first read, but really make or break the play experience...)

Sentinel Comics is the only member of the PBTA lineage games that I've run. For those who can't come to grips with the player-driven play of many of the others, it's a good intermediate point... training wheels to some, or a happy midpoint for others... and too freaking weird for others.

I havent been able to bring myself to solo with Ironsworn nor Starforged yet; Starforged as a setting really calls to me, tho... and my most reliable players (my wife and our eldest daughter) don't care for the storygame side much...

The one close-to-core PBTA I want to get to table is MASHed... but it, too, is more traditional than the majority of PBTA. Again, my wife and my daughter don't want to play it.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Well, there is a literal divorce happening in my gaming group as of today, so it may be a while. But I do appreciate it, and will take you up on that if some subset of the group wants to do a short starswar at some point.
Even if you just want to ask some questions in a more staid setting. Up to you sir, the offer is there if you want it.
 




innerdude

Legend
For those of us watching from the gallery, could you provide a quick explanation of fronts?

Fronts are broad-scale, lightly-defined pieces of GM "prep material" that will inform some of the fictional setting / constraints.

They're not meant to be heavy metaplots, or rigorously defined components of the setting, but they are meant to provide a backdrop for some of the conflicts the PCs will face.

Who opposes the PCs goals? What are their motivations? How are those motivations made manifest, broadly speaking, in the game fiction?

The goal isn't to drive a plot or a specific end point. The goal is to have fresh, dynamic material ready and on hand to throw adversity and challenges at the players, and see where they end up.

They don't even have to be direct protagonists/opposition. They can be "stuff that's just happening" in the background of the world. The trick, though, is to not get too far into the weeds. General concepts, ideas, and formulations, not highly detailed world-building and set-in-stone backstory.

"A thieves guild at the docks that's been directing smuggling operations for a while, maybe they have something to do with the problems in the city" is a pretty decent, broad approach.

"The Dantonio thieves guild, headed by Danilof Dantonio the Fifth, born in Eliddera on March 14, who owns 19 specific warehouses all along Castor Street, is smuggling illegal drugs and gundpowder against the express wishes of the Marquis de Bellerisi. There are 5 shipments scheduled to arrive at the docks in the next 5 weeks, one each week on Thursdays at midnight. There are 5 guards the thieves guild has already bribed who will ignore the offloading shipments blah blah blah . . . . " <<<<< this is way, way, way too specific and not the intent of PbtA.

And even more to the point ---- If the players, as evidenced through their characters' builds and core concepts, aren't throwing out signals that they're even interested in exploring the thieves guild idea, then don't throw it at them. Fronts exist as a way to test the PCs' convictions, resolve, and mettle, and to bring out the inherent drama their characters are facing. If the "fronts" or challenges you put in front of them aren't pointing players towards those elements, that material should be tossed or revised until it is.
 

I've only ever GM'd Dungeon World and it went terribly. I struggled to improvise, and the players struggled to get out of the more traditional RPG mindset. But I love the idea (and am REALLY loving reading Stonetop) and wish I could play in a game with an experienced PbtA GM.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
EDIT: Big-time personal opinion here, but I think PbtA, like FitD, works best when the premise is as specific and contained as possible. So not "space opera" but "the final mission of the last living Lensmen" or the bounty hunter focus of Bounty of the Week. FitD sort of requires more mechanical constraints than PbtA, but even PbtA's playbooks and overall play loops seem to be more fun and manageable with greater specificity.

Or maybe you can go more generic in premise, but lean into the shorter campaign length? At any rate, I guess I'm saying an open-ended Lensman game might be unwieldy in PbtA, but one where you're all running from the Lensmen for some specific reason, or fighting against them once they inevitably go full fascist, could be easier to pull off.
Totally agree with your point here.
Always glad to help.


That's fair a point. If you want a game to meaningfully moden and create tension around the abilities of the characters then a more character theme/arc-centric approach like Avatar Legends or Masks may not be the best fit for you.

I would also consider looking into something like Fate or Cortex for something that leans a bit more neo-traditional, which have rules and supplements for powers. However, these systems are classless and the character abilities tend to be more abstracted. Both of these games, particularly Cortex, have a lot of dials and knobs for customizing the game to your liking.
I mean, one of the Cortex implementations was for Marvel Heroic RPG. So agree that Cortex definitely works for superheroes.
 

aramis erak

Legend
Totally agree with your point here.

I mean, one of the Cortex implementations was for Marvel Heroic RPG. So agree that Cortex definitely works for superheroes.
In re Cortex Plus: It's far enough from Traditional to throw many, but is also strong GM and GM-plot viable. Also, Cortex Classic is a totally different system, sharing only that its rating things in dice and has an expendable called Plot Points; the handful of games using it predate Cortex Plus... doesn't even scale the same, as it allows ratings above d12 (as d12+x).

Cortex Prime is a slighly revised version of the Cortex Plus Hacker's Guide.

The various Cortex Prime and Cortex Plus games are all tweaked.

(The Cortex Classic games include BSG, Serenity, Supernatural, and Larry Elmore's Sovereign Stone. They're trad except for rating in dice and using plot points to boost rolls)
 


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