Branding and Expectations
Okay so right up front let me set forth a few ground rules:
* This thread is not for criticism.
* This thread is not for publishers.
* This thread is not for designers.
* This thread is for consumers of games, so if you happen to be a publisher and/or designer who also consumes games, please jump in but be mindful of my first bullet. Take off your creator hat!
As a consumer of indie RPGs, when you see the label below, what expectations do you have of how the game will work or…feel?
I think anyone who’s played more than Apocalypse World understands that the PbtA label is pretty loose, right? It’s not as tight as seeing the Powered by Fate label, which of course has been put on a pretty wide range of interpretations. For today, let’s stay focused on PbtA. I want to talk about that looseness.
Now, I haven’t played or read all the games with this label on it, nor have I seen all the non-commercial hacks that are out there. But I’ve seen an awful lot of them, so I feel like I’ve got a good grasp of what I’m expecting.
Totally just riffing, and these things aren’t in any order at all, these are the things that come to my mind when I see the label:
* 10+, 7 – 9, 6 – dice
* Hits, mixed, and miss results
* Asymmetrical GM/player roles
* GM doesn’t roll dice
* Niche protection
* Moves triggered by fictional circumstance
* Custom-built effect sets for every move
* Explicit Agenda and Principles
* Narrowly defined, sometimes idiosyncratic, moments where fortune is injected into the game.
* Common Moves
* Escalating GM moves (“soft” to “hard”)
* “The Conversation” — GM makes moves under specific but common circumstances (on a miss, golden opportunities, when the players are expecting you to — arguing that this is identical to traditional GMing is missing the point so please don’t)
* Narrative tags, sometimes with mechanics attached but mostly for fictional positioning
* Advancement in the form of new, specific Moves
I’m sure anyone who reads this Collection could trivially name a game or more that directly violates any one of these, maybe even several of them. Again, not the point of this exercise. What I’m looking for is audience expectations: When you see “Powered by the Apocalypse” proudly emblazoned across a game, what’s your baseline expectation? As a followup: what element(s) would need to be absent for a game to categorically no longer be “PbtA” for you?
Feel free to add more elements that come to mind when you see the label, too!