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What Don't You Get About PbtA Games?

effkat

Registered User
Validated User
Just regarding the City of Mist example, it's a bit wrong. There is a separate Investigative move, and any good GM shouldn't let Convince be used when it's clearly Investigation. When you use the Investigation move, you get Clues based on your success. The Convince move is more for actions (and ties more mechanically into statuses, as a way to apply pressure to targets).
This sounds weird. Could you (or Sonsaku Sonsaku ) show us the complete moves? Threatening someone to get info doesn’t seem out of place in a superhero or noir story, and if it’s not supported by the rules I would say it’s a problem.
 

Shining Dragon

Tough Tiger Fist
Validated User
This sounds weird. Could you (or Sonsaku Sonsaku ) show us the complete moves? Threatening someone to get info doesn’t seem out of place in a superhero or noir story, and if it’s not supported by the rules I would say it’s a problem.
Perhaps I am wrong and am happy to be corrected, but I am sure you can describe an Investigation move as “I am intimidating this person to spill his guts”. The determination of what Move is being used is what the player’s intent is, not how they narrate the action.
 

Casubon

Registered User
Validated User
I would say City of Mist is more inspired by AW rhan being an actual *world game - it works quite differently (honestly, I prefer it in some ways) taking some inspiration from Fate as well. I would also say that it has some similarities to Lady Blackbird.

Characters have Tags - these are one to three word statements generated in response to questions selected during chargen, or when improving the character). When performing an action, you roll 2d6 vs the standard AW chart (1-6 miss, 7-9 success with complication 10+ success, and a possible 13+ result for experienced characters). The modifier is the number of Tags that apply to the situation. This is referred to as Power and is also used to give a numerical value to a status/clue etc. that may be applied as a result of the move (status etc have values between 1-6)

The CofM Investigate move doesn't work the same way as AW or Monster of the Week - rather than providing a set list of questions from which you select one or three depending on the roll, you get to ask a number of questions equal to the Power of the roll. On a 10+ you get a straight answer, on a 7-9 select one of the following:

"• Your investigation exposes you to danger.
• The clues you get are fuzzy, incomplete, or part-
true part-false.
• Whoever or whatever you are asking the ques-
tion(s) can ask you one question as well. You
answer on the same terms."

Investigate is intended to be used for gathering information and is suitable for coercion of suspects. Convince is more about changing an NPCs agenda to act against their interests (or in your interest).

Have a look at the moves sheet if you are interested - it can be found on the CofM website downloads page:
 

Maxen M

Somewhere off to the side
Validated User
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.
I think this is both true and not true; it reminds me of stuff Poe's Law Poe's Law was saying earlier, and it seems like transforming statements of what pbtA does as implicitly statements of what it does not do; rpgs are not themselves statted in some rpg, where you can say that because they specialised in being good at drama in the moment, they must necessarily not have many points left over for worldbuilding, or that because it represents one genre well, it must be worse at everything else than a game that doesn't seem to aim at any genre. And I'm not sure about that really, like does say star wars d6 do a zombie story better than say that star wars hack people made on the forum, just because it doesn't include concrete choices and consequences on a roll when those are relevant?

But I think you can make the argument that the pbtA way of writing games is really good at doing a specific genre, you can have a lot of very evocative little subsystems, and so if you choose, as a designer, you can not really pay attention to anything beyond that. The paradox is that the extremely low prep-load simple mechanics approach should enable the GM to be able to run games in a shadowrun world in ways you will find much more difficult if you intentionally go through statting them up with all the stats and kit shadowrun npcs have within the native rules systems (anarchy excepted).

That should break things open, but it doesn't have to. Someone can quite happily use those kinds of mechanics and close them up into a tight loop, which is where you get stuff like the sprawl, that could have been written in another game writing style quite happily because of how mechanically interconnected it is.

Even Blades in the Dark, with it's phases, is going to put a certain dynamic on a shadowrun game, even if it is more flexible.

On the other hand, I definitely recognise the thing about D&D or particularly Mage the Awakening spells compared to Apocalypse World; in other games, arranging positioning to achieve your chosen events in a more complex multistep way is part of the fun of the game, and in most pbtA games, whether a move triggers or not is supposed to be simple, whereas if you're playing a Sideral Exalted using your particular powers in unexpected ways to technically solve the problem, or in Nobilis finding ways to apply your apparently unsuited miraculous powerset to this situation anyway, all of these are about finding technical edge cases of in fiction logic and buttressing your case by getting previous clarifications before you reveal your plan, or by engineering the situation appropriately.

Here negotiation is central, far more so than it is in the pbtA games I play, specifically because you are trying to gain extra power by making edge cases work in systems that are designed to be specific in one sense, and very open ended in others. Look on stack exchange about conversations about D&D, and the way people pick up rulings on edge cases from twitter what spells refer to, and so on.

If you want to play that kind of game it's there, not because of a lack of focus on interpersonal drama, but because of a focus on how many m^3 a shape earth spell can move.

Similarly, WOD games don't have a focus on worldbuilding, as something to be done by the GM or players, but a focus on exploring a world they've already built, a deep setting where people can settings lawyer their way to unexpected outcomes.

In either case, the result comes not from the specifics of the dice mechanics, but from the nested structured effects that players are given access to. This setting has cars you can take apart to make petrol bombs, that setting has wireless networks with always broadcasting licenses you can presumably track, that setting has leylines you can redirect, that setting has a spirit world you can hop into to avoid danger.

In apocalypse world as run by me, we just invent this stuff on the fly, and it starts inspiring custom moves, things people can do without rolling etc. but there's no requirement that you have to do that. You can run a game where people are drinking polluted water and using it to help them merge their minds and bodies, or you can have people threatening each other over who controls meagre harvests in dirt buggies. You can go concrete, with "psychic maelstrom" stuff toned down as a way to get player characters access to information they wouldn't otherwise have, but basically not relevant to events, and very concrete questions of ammo supply and bargaining between those who have the wealth and those who can help them protect it, or you can go very psychadelic and have body swapping and earth cracking musicians and all sorts.

I think that's because I like building this stuff anyway, when given mage the awakening, I start wanting to rejig the paths and certain fundamentals of magic and really dig into the engine block, whereas for a lot of people that would be like, "no, this person has given me a detailed spell list, rules for improvising further stuff, and a set of intricate symbolism and setting background, this is really enough"

Concretely, we can say, pbtA games generally speaking do not give you a detailed setting with books of background for the players to manipulate, and they also generally don't give big lists of specific effects that players can warp in unexpected ways.

I'm not really sure if at the base I disagree or not, there's just a strange rhetorical jump that I think can get people's backs up, where a pro-point in favour of a game is transformed into a box it apparently cannot leave.

"vampire the masquerade is about personal horror, therefore it cannot do impersonal cosmic horror like call of cthulhu", "wait, no that doesn't follow!" and so on.
 

vini_lessa

Registered User
Validated User
I think Sonsaku Sonsaku is into something here, actually. PbtA is really a kind of "issues confrontation" system as filtered by specific genres/themes, and this is consolidated in the setting the players create together. The existence of a fully pre-created setting breaks that quality somehow, as it denies players of placing the issues they want to see in the form they want to confront.

We run Shadowrun with The Sprawl, btw, and while it's fine (easily better than the original ruleset for us), it feels like another task-resolution algorithm and far from offering that PbtA experience. I've never played "pure" Sprawl, but I bet it would yield better results.
 
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downer

Fairy Tale King
Validated User
The existence of a fully pre-created setting breaks that quality somehow, as it denies players of placing the issues they want to see in the form they want to confront.
Which is why I was so puzzled earlier about the idea that PbtA games don't include world-building. I mean, they don't come with a world included, so you have to build one, don't you? And you have to do it quite explicitly, too, since these games are usually designed to coax out the assumptions that often go without saying in more traditional games.
 

Noclue

Registered User
Validated User
First thing. I am talking about PbTa games which are different from AW. Because each PbTa move got their own moves that can change how they work.
Yes. The reason I usually cite the exact game I'm referring to, or say things like "many" or "most" PbtA games, is because PbtA games are not all the same. I tend to refer to AW a lot because I know it, I like it and Apocalypse World is the Apocalypse that all fo these games say they are being powered by. Whereas, I don't know City of Mists and not all PbtA games are well designed.

When instead what they are after are clues. And the only thing to get clues is with the move investigate. So no matter how the approach it they will ALWAYS roll investigate move be by threating, investigating or producing a truth serum is still investigating (though, to be fair they could use Change the game to produce the truth serum but the move to get them to talk is still Investigate).
See, there I'm confused because I don't know the game. What's the mechanical difference between someone telling you a thing you don't know and them telling you a clue? Or is that getting them to do something is a manipulate move, unless that something is to tell you something you don't know, in which case it's a different move, Investigate. It seems like moves in CoM are based on what you want to get, where moves in AW are based on what you do.

Same with combat, like many pbta there is a "attack move and a sort of "go aggro" move and no matter what you do, if the end result is to hurt them you will use one of those moves.
Since Go Aggro is an AW move, I'll refer to that. The general combat move is "Seize by Force" and you SBF when you're using force to take things, and the Go Aggro move is for when you use violence to force someone to do what you want. They either do what you ask or suffer harm. But the trigger for both those moves is the answer to the question "what do you do?" The action determines the move, harm is just a result.

But like I said. YMMV. Some DMs might allow a PC to instakill an enemy without the use of one of the attack moves. I wouldn't (so long the enemies aren't just story prop like a bonus representing a mob or back up).
It's not really about whether the GM allows a PC to instability an enemy or not (not talking about CoM because I know fuck all about CoM). The MC in AW has an Agenda to achieve and principles to follow in order to achieve it. NPCs are specifically exempted from MC protection in AW by put place in the "crosshairs". So, if something happens that would justifiably kill them, they're generally dead. Similarly, in Monsterhearts, the GM is supposed to drive their NPCs like stolen cars. So, they're not incentivized to protect them either. The players will describe things their characters do. Many of those things will be moves. Some of those moves will result in NPCs taking harm as established. NPC harm is different than PC harm.

In Dungeon World, where NPCs have hit points just like PCs and the game is designed around combat, the GM's principles are different.
 
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Noclue

Registered User
Validated User
Just regarding the City of Mist example, it's a bit wrong. There is a separate Investigative move, and any good GM shouldn't let Convince be used when it's clearly Investigation. When you use the Investigation move, you get Clues based on your success. The Convince move is more for actions (and ties more mechanically into statuses, as a way to apply pressure to targets).
Interesting, I feel like I should at least read this game so I know what people mean when they talk about it. Does the investigate move have a specific trigger?
 

swammeyjoe

Registered User
Validated User
Investigate is "When you use your abilities to seek answers to burning questions..."

Convince is "When you use your abilities to talk, threaten, or seduce someone into doing something..."

Investigate gives you Clues, which are a metacurrency you can use to ask questions of the GM or discover actual clues.

Convince allows you to force an action, or to apply a negative Status to the target if they don't perform the action (reflecting the leverage you have on them).
 
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