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What Don't You Get About PbtA Games?

Neurotrash

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I was having a conversation with a friend a few days ago, and he said something to the effect of, "I don't get Powered By The Apocalypse games. Moves make my brain hurt."

I didn't get a chance to get him to explain exactly what he meant, but seeing as there's a whole thread about what people don't get/disagree with/don't like about/ Fate, I wanted to see if there are people who have similar problems with PbtA games.

Obviously, some PbtA games are very different than others, but whether you have a specific problem with one game, or issues with PbtA games in general, tell me about it.

Obviously, people who don't have a problem with PbtA are invited to jump in and either try to explain things to others, or share problems they've seen that other players have.

(FYI, I don't have an issue at all, but I'm designing something that has a lot in common with PbtA, and this might help me see some stumbling blocks)

Thanks!
 

hyphz

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Just a few, some are mine, some are from elsewhere.

1. If previous actions can not alter the probability of a weak hit, what incentivises the players to consider or prepare actions given that the odds of something going wrong don’t change?

2. The “act under fire” rules say that “you do it” on a successful Cool check, regardless of other stats - so a tiny weakling can break down a metal door if they’re under pressure to do so, because they’re calm?

3. If a move lets a player ask the question along the lines of “what’s the best way to do X?”, is the GM bound to make any other method the player tries worse in order to maintain the truth of their answer?

4. In the Tum Tum example in the book, how is it fair that a full success on a Read The Situation roll actually puts the characters in massive danger and ruins the planned mission?
 

Gaglug

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In my experience PbtA games are very loose and chaotic, and while the rules lend themselves very well to people who fully grok the ruleset, people who aren't fully immersed in how to play get sidelined and end up doing nothing. I've been at 2 PbtA tables with different GMs and different players, and both groups had the one or two "All star" players who just sat with a conversation with the GM, doing all the Moves, doing everything, and while the newbies basically just sat there and went "I don't get it, and I guess I don't have to get it because the Gold Star player and the GM are just playing their own game doing all the cool stuff while we are just extras in a movie".

At least in a game like D&D inexperienced players can still contribute because: "Its your turn. You get an action. Here look, you can do X, Y, Z on this list in front of you. Roll the dice." It's structured, they can pick actions from a list, and everyone gets equal turns and can contribute equally. In PbtA games, I just watch the experienced players string Moves together while standing in the spotlight the whole game. PbtA seems to be built to allow individual players to grab that Spotlight and just stay inside it the whole session. And from someone who usually GMs, that's the worst possible way for a game to be designed. Every player should have the chance to be in the spotlight regardless of whether they are new to the game or an experienced grognard.

So that would be my issue with PbtA games, and why I would never put one in front of my players.
 

Knaight

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1. They can, just in indirect ways. Fictional positioning can effectively alter what goes wrong, and getting smacked around by soft moves is way better than getting smacked around by hard moves.

2. The act under fire rules should only be invoked if being under fire is what's preventing something happening. The tiny weakling doesn't get to break down the metal door not under fire, so they don't get to roll act under fire.

3. No. The GM is bound to say the best method they can think of, but if the players come up with something better they come up with something better.

4. I honestly can't remember the example, but your description of it doesn't sound particularly fair.
 

Starcrash

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Just a few, some are mine, some are from elsewhere.

1. If previous actions can not alter the probability of a weak hit, what incentivises the players to consider or prepare actions given that the odds of something going wrong don’t change?

2. The “act under fire” rules say that “you do it” on a successful Cool check, regardless of other stats - so a tiny weakling can break down a metal door if they’re under pressure to do so, because they’re calm?

3. If a move lets a player ask the question along the lines of “what’s the best way to do X?”, is the GM bound to make any other method the player tries worse in order to maintain the truth of their answer?

4. In the Tum Tum example in the book, how is it fair that a full success on a Read The Situation roll actually puts the characters in massive danger and ruins the planned mission?
1. It's what you call fictional positioning. You could just up and say, "we're totally ambushing those savages next time they try and use the canyon, we'll take their leader and show them who's boss." And that's Seize By Force, and maybe it's not what you want to do because your Hard is poor. So what you do instead is break it down: send out scouts, rig traps and blinds and enfilades, prepare your gang, and then when the savages come through it's not a battle, it's When You Sucker Someone and what they do is bow down and give you what you want or they get shot in the face.

2. Well, no. Tiny weakling, big steel door, not really. I mean, maybe there's a crappy rusted hinge you could work on with some leverage, if you can keep your cool to do the job fast and good and right, but no. It's not an open license to just "do anything". That's not the game we're playing.

3. Nope! Best is hecking subjective, for a start. Most effective? Most efficient? Most elegant? I'm not even trying, and there's three. Always say what honesty demands. Not just a catchy slogan. Be open with information. Don't play gotcha. Give the players room to make their choices.
 

Victim

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Whenever people use the term "fictional positioning' or narrative permission, it just makes me think the game is failing to mechanically capture or reflect important positioning in its design.

Moreover, replacement of capabilities with permissions annoys me.
 

Starcrash

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Whenever people use the term "fictional positioning' or narrative permission, it just makes me think the game is failing to mechanically capture or reflect important positioning in its design.

Moreover, replacement of capabilities with permissions annoys me.
I'd disagree. Take my answer 1, there. You've moved from needing a roll and introducing the risk of chance to success, no dice needed. Another game might say, "yes, well done, that's +10 to your Intimidate check but you still have to roll."

Sometimes you're able to Sucker Someone, sometimes it's Going Aggro, sometimes you're really not in the right place to start with and getting there means Acting Under Fire. Different moves, different specifics, dependant on your positioning.
 

Anno Nimus

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In my experience PbtA games are very loose and chaotic, and while the rules lend themselves very well to people who fully grok the ruleset, people who aren't fully immersed in how to play get sidelined and end up doing nothing. I've been at 2 PbtA tables with different GMs and different players, and both groups had the one or two "All star" players who just sat with a conversation with the GM, doing all the Moves, doing everything, and while the newbies basically just sat there and went "I don't get it, and I guess I don't have to get it because the Gold Star player and the GM are just playing their own game doing all the cool stuff while we are just extras in a movie".
It is certainly possible for a player who knows what they're doing to hog the spotlight, but when you get right down to it that's true of pretty much any game out there, D&D included. This is not so much a failing on the game's part as it is on the GM's. In any game, one of the GM's responsibilities is to ensure that everyone is involved and enjoying themselves, and knowing when to move the spotlight onto another player if it seems like one or two players are running away with it. Many PbtA games specifically mention this in their GM sections.
 

swammeyjoe

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Something about the fictional positioning rules rub me the wrong way. I love similar rules in Fate and to a lesser extent, Gumshoe, but those are backed by mechanics in a way that most PbtA games aren't.

There's no "I spend a Fate Point for a bonus to swing on the rigging because I'm a "Dread Pirate Captain" or a "I spend a point of Human Terrain and get a +2 bonus to slip past the guards".

PbtA instead forces everything through the nebulous "GM fiat economy", without giving the players any currency to interact with that economy beyond "table consensus".
 

Starcrash

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Something about the fictional positioning rules rub me the wrong way. I love similar rules in Fate and to a lesser extent, Gumshoe, but those are backed by mechanics in a way that most PbtA games aren't.

There's no "I spend a Fate Point for a bonus to swing on the rigging because I'm a "Dread Pirate Captain" or a "I spend a point of Human Terrain and get a +2 bonus to slip past the guards".

PbtA instead forces everything through the nebulous "GM fiat economy", without giving the players any currency to interact with that economy beyond "table consensus".
This is fair. There's scope for players to contribute their own bits, and the better your shared understanding of the setting you've built together the more cogent those bits will be, but. There is no currency, as you say. You're reliant on the MC, who should be a fan of the characters.

Pivot! Riposte! What currency does, say, D&D use for this kind of thing, or what angle?
 
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