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What Don't You Get About PbtA Games?

Sonsaku

Draconian GM on TBP
Validated User
This pretty clearly spelled out in most books. Apocalypse World for instance says:

It also has some examples of what it means if it’s not clear from the wording.
Oh ok, I havent read apocalypse Worlds itself but various PbtA games and that that one didtn say it.
 

wyldone

Registered User
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For me its a combination of moves being unintuitive and waaaay too punishing. Along with that the narrative style of the game often feels disjointed since everything is made up on the fly and made up by everyone (except the GM since they aren't meant to plan ahead) who are often not particularly harmonized just by the nature of everyone having different ideas of how X should be done

On the GM side its more how the game and how its written just comes off as really really not wanting a GM and taking it as a necessary evil at best with the GM moves while being a good best practice list often feels constraining. That and its insistence on “playing to find out what happens” takes the only really interactive aspect of being GM away. You dont get to build a world and watch them explore it or even really play all the other pieces your basically a referee and not even a glorified one at that. Which for me is a bummer as I like adding my own personal touches to the world or setting up interesting set pieces for players.
I havent found that running a PBtA game leaves me with nothing to add. To start with I need to create various problems that exist in the game world as well as NPCs that the players might encounter. I often create maps and other accessories for my games.
Then during play I need to create whatever is needed as the players go about exploring the world around them. The overall planning is considerably less than more traditional games but the gamemaster still needs to create a skeleton that will be fleshed out between the GM and the players. Or to quote the book directly," draw maps but leave blanks".
I do have a friend that runs games but doesnt like PBtA games because it gives the players too much control of the world. If you want full ownership of the game world than PBtA games won't be for you.
 

effkat

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Oh ok, I havent read apocalypse Worlds itself but various PbtA games and that that one didtn say it.
I highly recommend that you do if you don’t hate PbtA. It’s extremely well designed and written, plus it is the original. It also contains a lot of useful information, not least the chapter on hacking the game, but also stuff like how GM moves work, what the principles are for etc.
 

Atlictoatl

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That has not been my experience with PbtA games, I am running City of mist and I dont do cooperatively World Building, it's neither me or my players preference and considering the game is about solving mysteries there is barely any "introduce setting elements mechanic" in the game (only in chargen and only when it directly affects the players as one of their themebooks). Its more "here is the setting I make, here are the players in it go nuts".
City of Mist cannot effectively be used to describe PbtA games. It isn't a PbtA. It's a severely hacked hybrid game that uses some PbtA DNA, but really doesn't resemble a PbtA game in play, in reading, or in GM preparation.

PbtA games, on the other hand, are all about mechanizing the results. No matter how much creative you get or how much discovery channel/mythbuster you see, you will all use the same moves. Do you hit a shark with a harpoon? Attack move. You cover a shark gill because you, the player, saw a documentary on discovery channel that doing that is a shark instakill? Attack move. You cant never bypass the system with PbtA game but what it does means is that you might gain some bonuses or be allowed to make a move when you normally wouldn't.
Players can do anything they want in a PbtA game. They aren't restricted to Moves. The only real rule is, if you're doing something that triggers a Move, then do the Move. But players do things outside of the Moves all the time.

For what I don't get is MC moves, like many, are narrative with 0 mechanics on them and I never get if I gotta announce them to the players. Like a move called "give them a fair warning" followed by "make something horrible happens". I dont get if i gotta just give them a fair warning and them make something horrible happens plot-wise or say "I AM USING GIVE THEM A FAIR WARNING....here is the fair warning".
Fair warning move setting up something horrible: You see Dusty the outrider race into town and stop in the town square. "They're coming!" he shouts to anyone who'll listen. "Dozens of 'em! Their dust cloud's the biggest I ever seen!"

As for what I don't like. I think PbtA games are good with a setting which are barely filled with and awful for well-established settings. PbtA is all about giving you the "experience" of genre or themes in a story. But well-established setting reaches a point where people have wildly different ideas of what it is genres/themes because there works that don't fall neatly into what its "suppose to be about". Like Star Wars one could say it is fun pulpy action-adventure but then you got things that are Star Wars officially and don't fall into that like Rogue One or Republic commando. Or Vampire the Masquerade which there isn't a singular experience to it no matter how much the game tries to say it does.
I'm not really certain what you're saying here, but games like Urban Shadows allow the playgroup to determine what kind of urban fantasy they're playing. Even the selection of playbooks can determine that in this world we have werewolves and ghosts and artifact hunters, but there are no vampires and demons in this world. It's completely open-ended.

Uncharted Worlds takes it a couple of steps further, and lets you emulate any science fiction genre you want to emulate.
 

Noclue

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Oh ok, I havent read apocalypse Worlds itself but various PbtA games and that that one didtn say it.
Dungeon World has the principle "Never Speak the Name of Your Move."
I dont think Monsterhearts mentions it though.

It also tends not to matter much. Most of the people I know who play, have read the book and quite possibly have run PbtA games themselves. It's not like most of them don't know when you're Making Something Terrible Happen.
 

effkat

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On the GM side its more how the game and how its written just comes off as really really not wanting a GM and taking it as a necessary evil at best with the GM moves while being a good best practice list often feels constraining. That and its insistence on “playing to find out what happens” takes the only really interactive aspect of being GM away. You dont get to build a world and watch them explore it or even really play all the other pieces your basically a referee and not even a glorified one at that. Which for me is a bummer as I like adding my own personal touches to the world or setting up interesting set pieces for players.
I have to ask where you get that impression? I know different PbtA games have the dial on player control set differently, but in most of the ones I’ve played, the player-GM divide is very traditional. Apocalypse World for instance has this:
The players’ job is to say what their characters say and undertake to do, first and exclusively; to say what their characters think, feel and remember, also exclusively; and to answer your questions about their characters’ lives and surroundings. Your job as MC is to say everything else: everything about the world, and what everyone in the whole damned world says and does except the players’ characters.
There’s nothing especially controversial in there, I think. Nothing to really set it apart from D&D or RuneQuest or any other game. Nothing that says you have to let the players create the setting. There’s also very few player moves that let the player add stuff without the GM asking them questions first. The only thing you’re absolutely not supposed to do is plan a story.
 

effkat

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I dont think Monsterhearts mentions it though.
I had to check, and 1st ed has it:

Make your move, but never speak its name.
2nd ed has nothing like it however.

Monster of the Week has it. Legacy 2e doesn’t (but does have “make reactions natural”). Seems some of the later ones don’t have it spelled out. I think it’s a little weird honestly, even if most players will know which move you’re making, PbtA being so focused on beginning and ending with the fiction and all.
 

Sonsaku

Draconian GM on TBP
Validated User
Players can do anything they want in a PbtA game. They aren't restricted to Moves. The only real rule is, if you're doing something that triggers a Move, then do the Move. But players do things outside of the Moves all the time.
What I mean is for example that if you wanna damage someone there is a "damage move". You cant bypass it (in my experience maybe in the AWs core that isnt the case) by being smart. No matter if you hit someone with a sword or magically change the temperature of their body to provoke a stroke its still the damage move.

I'm not really certain what you're saying here, but games like Urban Shadows allow the playgroup to determine what kind of urban fantasy they're playing. Even the selection of playbooks can determine that in this world we have werewolves and ghosts and artifact hunters, but there are no vampires and demons in this world. It's completely open-ended.

Uncharted Worlds takes it a couple of steps further, and lets you emulate any science fiction genre you want to emulate.
What I am saying is PbtA game shines in "settings" that are barebones like "urban shadows" or "The Sprawl" were there are very if anything written about them but less so on preestablish settings in which what "X"setting is, is open to discussion because for every author who wrote X setting in a certain way, then there is another who wrote it completely different.

PbTA is all about facilitating a particular experience/genre. Like the Sprawl is all about the experience of planning a Heist. But Shadowrun while some people like the heist many other like slice of life in the cyberpunk dystopia others like Noir tales in 6th world, etc. And you cant say they are "playing it wrong" when there is setting material backing up those play experiences.

Take Star Wars for example one could make the best possible PbtA in which every move reflects everything that happens in the OT but then people will try to use it to play Republic Commando, Rogue One, Clone Wars, that one story with Zombies in it all of which are almost different genres than OT but they still Star Wars. Just that Star Warsc cannot be confined to a single genre.

PbtA games are Great for genres, less so with IP thats dont have one in particular.
 

effkat

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What I mean is for example that if you wanna damage someone there is a "damage move". You cant bypass it (in my experience maybe in the AWs core that isnt the case) by being smart. No matter if you hit someone with a sword or magically change the temperature of their body to provoke a stroke its still the damage move.
Well, usually there’s a fight move, not a damage move. Which triggers when both parties are willing and able to cause harm. Otherwise there’s sometimes a one-sided move, like sucker someone or go aggro, sometimes you’re looking to the GM and they get to make a move. Maybe apply harm as established or tell them the consequences and ask. So in my experience there is absolutely ways to be smart and not trigger the fight move if you want, that’s what fictional positioning is all about after all.
 

Sonsaku

Draconian GM on TBP
Validated User
Well, usually there’s a fight move, not a damage move. Which triggers when both parties are willing and able to cause harm. Otherwise there’s sometimes a one-sided move, like sucker someone or go aggro, sometimes you’re looking to the GM and they get to make a move. Maybe apply harm as established or tell them the consequences and ask. So in my experience there is absolutely ways to be smart and not trigger the fight move if you want, that’s what fictional positioning is all about after all.
Sucker someone or go aggro are still a fight move, you cant use a say “investigate move” to hurt someone. But ymmv.
 
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