Powered By The Apocalypse

During the last months I have repeatedly played with the idea to run a game “powered by the apocalypse”. These games are mechanically based on D. Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World. So what makes these games so special that I am interested to give them a try?

Playbooks
Most PbtA games use playbooks for character creation and play. Each playbook describes a certain role and also list this role’s moves. But the playbooks also contain examples for a character’s looks, demeanor, attributes, etc. Instead of going through a long-winded character creation process, you usually just pick a playbook, pick from the available options for name, looks, etc. and you’re good to go. This is great for pickup-and-play style of games.

Player-facing
PbtA games use player-facing mechanics, which means all the dice rolls are done by the players. It’s also the players who move the action forward, the GM is relegated to a more reactive role than in most other games. The story is driven by what the characters do, not what the GM planned beforehand.

No prep
PbtA games are the perfect games to just pick up and run. There’s no need to prepare anything. Sure, this means that the players need to be pro-active. It also means that the GM has always keep on their toes, improvising everything. Luckily the GM moves help the GM to keep focus. At least that’s how I understood it. I wasn’t able to try it myself.

A few cons
Unfortunately PbtA games have a couple of issues as well. Some games suffer from a very pretentious writing style that sometimes goes out of its way to make it very hard for traditional gamers to grok. Talk about gate-keeping…

The other related issue is that I often get the impression that some PbtA games don’t explain everything properly. Instead of making sure the reader gets all the information needed to run a particular game, the games more often than not seem to imply a deeper knowledge of PbtA concepts.

What are your experiences with PbtA games? Do you love them or hate them? Please share your thoughts below!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

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