Teh hat of PbtA knows no limit

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The Butcher

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Come one, come all, and air your grievances about Apocalypse World and the Powered By The Apocalypse (PbtA) engine that launched a thousand games.

Did you play it, or just read it?

If you played, what didn't work?
 
I never played AW, only two sessions of DW.

My only gripe was "players roll all the dice". Broke immersion for me. I didnt DM, though, so I didnt have to deal with all those "Moves" (training wheels).
 
Well, if I had only played Dungeon World, I think my impression of the rules would be negative too. But after trying other hacks I got hooked and it became one of my favorite engines.


My impression wasnt overall negative, just apathetic. There was one thing I really liked (and stole for Phaserip), but beyond that I just didnt see what made the system "special". We could have just been playing Mentzer.

So what makes AW awesome? (maybe we should have a sister thread for that answer, since this is the "shit on AW thread"
 
I own Blades in the Dark. Very cool setting. Would love to give it a whirl sometime.
 
Never read it; never played it; heard some grumbles about it. Haven't heard of anyone in my neck of the woods playing a PbtA Rpg. (Whereas I have met some FATE players IRL, and actually played a few sessions of that).

It's a 2D6-based system, right? What else is the deal with it? Is it light, medium, or crunchy? Is it "narrative", traditional, or a mix? Player-empowering (or GM-emasculating)? Would it hold any appeal to a very traditional Rpg gamer?

Maybe if I knew something about it I could really develop some burning hatred. :wink:
 
Ha, love the thread title ... :smile:

I own PDFs of MotW, Monsterhearts, and Urban Shadows. Read them, not played them. I'm not usually crazy about class-based systems except in classic fantasy RPGs (mostly just D&D, really), though I can see how they would work pretty well given the central premises of each game. I think my main problem is that I feel about reading PbtA games the way I hear most people feel about reading one of my favorite games, Fate. :smile: My eyes just kinda glaze over a bit, and I feel like they're over-explaining things, or formalizing things that don't need to be formalized ... or something ... I'd totally give it a whirl, though, if someone were offering to run something!
 
I don't like play books. I can't really put my finger on why, but I don't like them. And I don't like what seems like a really limited number of moves in many of the PbtA games I've read and [very] briefly played. There was a lot of move spamming going on for lack of moves. Now, that said, I recently backed a Kickstarter for a game called Vagabonds of Dyfed which borrows a lot from PbtA games (notably the core mechanic and the idea of fiction first) that I like a LOT.
 
So what makes AW awesome? (maybe we should have a sister thread for that answer, since this is the "shit on AW thread"
It's too late to start worrying about staying on topic in threads now.

I ran Tremulus once. I liked in on the whole, but the trust mechanics was broken. It was easy to fix though.
 
No actual experience of it, but it seems like the Flavor-of-the-Moment game right now... getting recommended for anything and everything (maybe not on this forum, but when I look further afield).
The thing people seem to like about it... only players roll, 'moves'... don't entice me to examine it further.
 
I'd be happy to try an "Apocalypse" game sometime before I decide to hate it.

Actually, I try to refrain from hating games and just don't play them instead of I don't enjoy them. I know it's wrong but I can't help it.
 
No actual experience of it, but it seems like the Flavor-of-the-Moment game right now... getting recommended for anything and everything (maybe not on this forum, but when I look further afield).

Kind of reminds me of a certain forum that would just chant "Fate" anytime anyone posted "What would be a good system for X," irrespective of what X was.
 
My impression wasnt overall negative, just apathetic. There was one thing I really liked (and stole for Phaserip), but beyond that I just didnt see what made the system "special".

That's the problem with DW: It takes the basic mechanical structure of AW and turns it into milquetoast.

What makes AW (and the best PbtA games work) is strong structure: Archetype-specific and GM-oriented moves the shape the creative impulses of the table in a very specific way to create a very specific and very strong experience. In this it is very similar to the very specific procedures for running a dungeon crawl given iN OD&D: If you follow Gygax's procedures religiously, you end up with a very specific and very effective game play.

The problem DW has, IME, is that it tries to capture D&D-style play in PbtA. And it does a poor job of it, so that instead of ending up with something as strong and distinctive as OD&D's dungeon crawl procedure or AW's evocation of post-apocalyptic social relationships, it just ends up with bland vanilla.

Which, to bring it back around to the thread topic, is the thing I probably hat most about teh PbtA: Its faddish-ness has encouraged a lot of really lazy game designers who don't really understand what makes AW work, and think that just randomly throwing out some archetypes and a generic, watered-down list of "GM moves" will result in an effective game.
 
Bonds in Dungeon World.

Druid: <Other player> has tasted my blood and I theirs. We are bound by it. WTF, is this Vampire?
Too many classes: You think <other player> is incompetent, a bufoon, ignorant, etc. Yeah, inter-party conflct is always fun.

Problem is you can't ignore this stuff, since it's the XP Machine.
 
I prefer the very stripped down World of Dungeons by John Harper (who also designed The Regiment, Lady Blackbird and Blades in the Dark) or Jason Lutes’ Freebooters on the Frontier to DW.

To me DW has too many D&Disms and Moves and is not nearly as clearly written or focused as AW. That doesn’t mean though that it couldn’t play fine at the table, hell we all know OD&D and AD&D were less than clearly written and often played fine.

I’ve played AW, Monsterhearts and Spirit of 77’. There are a number of PbtA games I’d like to try out at the table including Urban Shadows, Monster of the Week, Undying, the aforementioned The Regiment and Michael Prescott’s mecha hack Too Good to be True.

It isn’t a particularly narrative system although some have used it for storygames, outside of the structure that Baker gives AW (which I think is full of good GM advice) it is actually a very simple core mechanic that looks to be inspired by other light games like Ghostbusters and Over the Edge where you use the central dice mechanic of d6+ attribute bonus to resolve pretty much everything. Moves can be minimal, my preference, or extensive. AW assumes a collaborative and positive relationship between the players and GM.

The kind of games covered by the term PbtA is so wide it doesn’t really tell you that much. I think this statement from PbtA by Vincent and Meg Baker addresses that well.

Or if that’s too long there’s this one:

‘To me, PbtA is like prog music. Yes sounds nothing like Meshuggah but they are both clearly prog. If you think that PbtA means "clone of AW" you're just as wrong as somebody who thinks Prog means "clone of King Crimson". I think PbtA is a great label to use broadly and I hope to see subgenes develop as time goes on.’
 
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The absence of modifiers. I mean, I'm all for streamlined design if that's what you're going for, but having every single situation be exactly as challenging as every other situation is just going too far. I want the world to have more solidity than that (which I suppose is another, underlying reason for why I don't entirely get along with PBTA games - one of the core premises is that the world emerges from play rather than being meticulously detailed in advance. Well, I want to explore the world, not have it pop into existence for each step I take!)

It's a 2D6-based system, right? What else is the deal with it? Is it light, medium, or crunchy? Is it "narrative", traditional, or a mix? Player-empowering (or GM-emasculating)? Would it hold any appeal to a very traditional Rpg gamer?

It's pretty light, as far as actual rules go. The GM is expected to make a lot of stuff up on the fly. See my complaint about the subject above.

Narrative or traditional... I don't know, define those terms? When you do stuff, you roll dice based on your skill at the stuff you're doing, and the result determines if you succeed or fail at doing stuff. You also have certain special abilities that lets you do stuff that most people can't even attempt. That's all pretty traditional. There's also a strict rule that the crunch comes into play only when as as the GM says it does - you can't roll Charisma to charm people, you have to say what you do to charm them and then the GM can choose to let you roll Charisma or else just narrate the result. That's pretty close to "rulings, not rules."

There is a certain storygamey player-empowerment going on, I suppose, in that the GM is encouraged to ask the players to make up some details about the game world from time to time ("the guard at the gate remembers you from a previous meeting and doesn't like you. Tell me what you did to offend him back then"). But since it's entirely up to the GM when to do that, I don't think it's particularly emasculating. :tongue:

Honestly, your question is hard to answer, because PBTA is in many ways a kind of bastard hybrid between the most stick-in-the-mud traditionalist OSR games and the most hippie-dippie free-wheeling storygames. That might be one reason why it's gotten as popular as it has. It gives everyone at least some of what they like.
 
Well, if I had only played Dungeon World, I think my impression of the rules would be negative too. But after trying other hacks I got hooked and it became one of my favorite engines.
Same with me, though it's not quite one of the favorites.

I've long argued that PbtA is best viewed as a divination game:tongue:. There are four (usually) capricious forces governing different areas of life and liking different attributes. Every time you do something under the purview of one of those, you've got to negotiate with its representative.
Then you roll on the Reaction Table to see how this power feels about you today.
Then the negotiations continue, and the funny thing is, all the powers have delegated their representation to the same Master of Ceremonies:grin:!
 
Come one, come all, and air your grievances about Apocalypse World and the Powered By The Apocalypse (PbtA) engine that launched a thousand games.

Did you play it, or just read it?

If you played, what didn't work?

I only ran tremulus. Two sessions. Played fine. Would love to give Masks or Monster of the Week some serious burn.
 
I have more positives to say about it than negatives, but there are a few pain points.

One is the ambiguity of picking which move to use. PC 1 wants to attack a monster that is threatening PC 2. Is this "Protect" of "Help out" or "Kick some Ass"? In more than one game I've had to convince players not to just use "I attack" as a move by bothering them to describe their REAL intent. Yes it is as annoying as it sounds.

I also hate it when hacks bog things down with too many specific moves that could really just be handled with broader ones.

Everyone here is shitting on DW but I actually have an easier time running it because it isn't as narrowly structured in theme. It was easier to improvise. Monster of the Week really works best when you stick to a plot structure formula. I hate that, honestly.
 
Everyone here is shitting on DW
I don't think "I don't like it as much as other PbtA games" counts as "shitting on" a game. In fact, if you think it's the same, you haven't read me describing a game I actually dislike...:gunslinger:

but I actually have an easier time running it because it isn't as narrowly structured in theme. It was easier to improvise. Monster of the Week really works best when you stick to a plot structure formula. I hate that, honestly.
I can see your point here, indeed:grin:!
 
I've played in one session of something fantasy related PbtA. It seemed cool at the time. I didn't know much about the system then.

I've observed two sessions of Tremulus. When I was outside the game I realized how reactionary the GMs role is, and it started to seem weird to me.

The issues I have with it are 1. GM is more of a reactionary force to player choices, than an active one. I like to wear the viking hat. 2. Fail forward isn't a realistic model. The GM is bound by the rules to introduce extra thingies because of player dice rolls. And finally the biggie, GMs are discouraged to plan ahead. Between session it is what I like to do most. I have no interest in a game that tries to deny me my pleasure.
 
That’s fair. I love improvising (and experience shows that my games, at least, are better off when I’m coming in half cocked).
 
The rules set itself is not half-bad. Moves? Very newbie friendly. You can run many PbtA games trad. I know, because I did. Currently writing a Lovecraftian PbtA game myself.
 
GMs are discouraged to plan ahead. Between session it is what I like to do most. I have no interest in a game that tries to deny me my pleasure.
That's a misconception, no? You can't prep plots, but fronts, threats, countdown clocks, etc. are fair game. Otherwise what happens when players stare at you blankly like they don't know what to do now? (that's when you look at your prep and send something their way :wink: )
 
My first attempt at wrapping my mind around the system is documented elsewhere on this site (I tried to use Monster of the Week). Overall impression: it tries to gently tie the GM's hands, which I resent, and it simultaneously under-explains its mechanics while re-inventing the wheel in confusing ways. I can't even remember what they were going for.

That and the playbooks really restricted world-building by baking a lot of setting assumptions right into the character in inextricable ways. The one I remember was an archetype feature that pre-supposed your world had Mephistopheles-like deal-makers trading souls for power. Tough luck if you didn't want a setting with such entities in it, now you've got to strip that out and replace it in an ugly patch job while searching the other playbooks for similar traps.
 
Tough luck if you didn't want a setting with such entities in it, now you've got to strip that out and replace it in an ugly patch job while searching the other playbooks for similar traps.
Yeah, most PbtA games are "high concept"–or at least think they are–and therefore strongly tied to their setting. Had a look at World of Dungeons yet?
 
Yeah, most PbtA games are "high concept"–or at least think they are–and therefore strongly tied to their setting.
I would say they're more rigidly tied to genres or themes than setting. Usually the setting ends up being whatever the players bring to the table on first session.
 
That's a misconception, no? You can't prep plots, but fronts, threats, countdown clocks, etc. are fair game. Otherwise what happens when players stare at you blankly like they don't know what to do now? (that's when you look at your prep and send something their way :wink: )
This is from Dungeon World SRD:

"This is how you play to find out what happens. You’re sharing in the fun of finding out how the characters react to and change the world you’re portraying. You’re all participants in a great adventure that’s unfolding. So really, don’t plan too hard. The rules of the game will fight you. It’s fun to see how things unfold, trust us."

Other text in the SRD talked about using dungeon moves when exploring an area that the GM hasn't planned beforehand, so maybe my earlier post was somewhat of a misconception. But some of my point still stands. Rules of the game will fight me if I plan too hard.
 
Moves? Very newbie friendly.

I bristle at the idea of using the GM moves as hard rules, but I have found them very useful to keep in mind as general guidelines for what to do next. Put the players on the spot, give them a sadistic choice, hint at approaching danger, take away their resources, cause damage to them... all excellent things to do to keep the game moving. I just balance that against the need to keep the game world inherently consistent, so I don't like the implication in PBTA that I'm supposed to pull things completely out of my ass if necessary. Making sure to have a few dangers in store that can plausibly be made to approach at some unspecified time, though, or constructing situations such that they contain many potential spots that players can be put on - well, that I find helps considerably.

The idea of "fronts" is also excellent - and actively helps in making the world feel alive. There are numerous people around who have plans. If the PCs spend too much time dragging their feet, those plans advance unhindered.
 
This is from Dungeon World SRD:

"This is how you play to find out what happens. You’re sharing in the fun of finding out how the characters react to and change the world you’re portraying. You’re all participants in a great adventure that’s unfolding. So really, don’t plan too hard. The rules of the game will fight you. It’s fun to see how things unfold, trust us."

Other text in the SRD talked about using dungeon moves when exploring an area that the GM hasn't planned beforehand, so maybe my earlier post was somewhat of a misconception. But some of my point still stands. Rules of the game will fight me if I plan too hard.
Oh yeah the game is pretty accommodating of improvising if you want. But it does accommodate prep too. I'd say the crux here is the kind of prep. Let's say Jenny said there's this tribe of ferocious Orcs beyond the river. Filling that blank space up by giving them a name (the Dark Manes), a leader (Magog) and a couple keywords (Don't fuck with us, Will demand tribute if coming in contact) is good prep. Pre-planning a plot where they start a war with the PCs, with a scene 1 where PCs must ask help for neighbour X, then scene 2 where they do some perilous quest to win their favor, and then a climax where the two groups confront the Orcs, is bad prep, and yeah, will make you fight the rules.

In the end, it's just the author way of doing ye olde sandbox. At least in Dungeon World and Apocalypse World cases. Other hacks may be differently structured.
 
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My way of doing a sandbox is a bit different. I prep locations, denizens of those locations, motivations of those denizens, and so forth. Enter the PCs to do what they will. When they do their stuff, between sessions I think about how the NPCs react to PC deeds, whether the deeds have further reaching consequences, and how the NPCs will fuck over the PCs if they crossed them, and so on.

Now I see that most of those can be done by the way of *World prep, but I still don't have a hard-on for the structured elements in it, like countdown clocks or fronts. To be honest, I don't even know what a "front" means in this context, and do not even wish to find out. I guess that I'm kinda a creature of habit...
 
Fronts come from war jargon. You know, "we're fighting on two fronts". Like that.

And your sandbox prep is the exact kind of good prep for these PbtA games imo. :wink:
 
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Fronts are just "Bad shit that will happen if the players don't interfere with it"

Countdown clocks are just a way to keep track of how far along the bad shit is.

They are just a way to keep the world moving in the background and keep track of it.

I've never figured out why people get so grumpy about what is basically easy notation for what they already do.
 
Probably just a reaction to attaching jargon to it... as if it is a new concept. "Yes it's a wheel, but we like to call it a Hoopla! Isn't that clever?!!"
Yah, that's about it. :smile: It just feels like over-complicating things to me, and makes it more difficult to read and understand. I should probably just suck it up and push through, though ...
 
Narrative or traditional... I don't know, define those terms? When you do stuff, you roll dice based on your skill at the stuff you're doing, and the result determines if you succeed or fail at doing stuff. You also have certain special abilities that lets you do stuff that most people can't even attempt. That's all pretty traditional. There's also a strict rule that the crunch comes into play only when as as the GM says it does - you can't roll Charisma to charm people, you have to say what you do to charm them and then the GM can choose to let you roll Charisma or else just narrate the result. That's pretty close to "rulings, not rules."
I'm not sure if this will be the mutually-agreed-upon definition of Narrative as their are plenty of arguments over the topic, but what the hell:

Narrative, in the sense that the game mechanics are specifically designed and emphasize constructing a narrative, rather than the "story" of the campaign evolving naturally through gameplay in a traditional manner. Where there are explicit mechanical tools, dials, and widgets that players can leverage to shape the story that exist outside of the standard of a character interacting with his environment. This often manifests as players taking an authorial "stance" during the game where they exit and re-enter character immersion. Or, perhaps they barely involve any immersion.

The lines of Narrative vs Traditional are often blurred between many Rpgs, meaning shades of grey instead of black and white poles. But, there are certainly Rpgs that clearly market themselves as narrative-focused, or something like story-now, or whatever. And my question is whether PbtA was explicitly designed to meet a narrative goal, and is marketed as a narrative Rpg.
 
I'm not sure if this will be the mutually-agreed-upon definition of Narrative as their are plenty of arguments over the topic, but what the hell:

Narrative, in the sense that the game mechanics are specifically designed and emphasize constructing a narrative, rather than the "story" of the campaign evolving naturally through gameplay in a traditional manner. Where there are explicit mechanical tools, dials, and widgets that players can leverage to shape the story that exist outside of the standard of a character interacting with his environment. This often manifests as players taking an authorial "stance" during the game where they exit and re-enter character immersion. Or, perhaps they barely involve any immersion.

Then I can only repeat what I already said, namely that the game is a weird mix between the two. On the one hand, generally speaking the players not only don't have access to any mechanical tools at all without the GM's say-so. On the other hand, there are instances where the player is instructed to make a choice that does not necessarily have any IC justification - e.g., "you either inadvertantly insult the NPC, or you get your coin purse stolen while you're talking to him." Those may be experienced as immersion-breaking.

In my experience from playing it, sometimes you feel very immersed and sometimes a great deal less so. It's a strange beast.
 
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