Second most #indieAF moment of #bigbadcon :
A roundtable peer-reviewed IPA-fueled oral defense of our favorite PbtA games, with Jeremy Tidwell, Arnold Cassell, Andi Carrison, Gary Montgomery, and Jesse Coombs. Edit and the inestimable and thoughtful John Aegard! EDIT again and Tomer Gurantz! And probably a dozen more people. I’m the worst.
“Because it’s rad” being an unacceptable defense, I learned a lot of really interesting stuff about what attracts people to PbtA games. Learning learning, always learning.
Sagas of the Icelanders was mine, because SotI can’t fail, it can only be failed. But the most talked-about was Marshall Miller’s The Warren on numerous technical and thematic grounds.
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Would’ve loved to have heard that conversation!
So which games were successfully defended, and which were cast into the outer void of disapproval, never to be spoken of again? Because I’m still trying to “get” PbtA stuff, and wondering if there’s just a fundamental clash with my style of GMing.
Oh to be a fly on the wall for that conversation!
[I really love the variety of PbtA games out there! It’d be fun to do a guide that compared/contrasted PbtA games in the vein of Brent Newhall’s OSR Handbook.]
Paul Mitchener hmmm. Sagas, The Warren, Dungeon World (with major caveats and ‘splaining, and only in hushed tones), Apocalypse World itself, Urban Shadows (mostly I ragged on its problems, but out of love), Night Witches (ditto) and…shoot I know I’m forgetting at least one. Maybe the other roundtable members
didn’t overdrinkcan remember the titles.
“Getting” PbtA might be an interesting thread at some point. Maybe when I’m decompressed we can take a swing at it? I’ve got players in my dedicated home game circle who still don’t “get” it, so I’m familiar with some sticking points.
Marshall Miller your ears must have been on fire. I think Jason Morningstar’s Grand Warren mega-event was one reason it was so front-of-mind right then and there.
Also Vincent Baker’s ears of course, what a thing you’ve unleashed.
Those’re some of my favorites, for sure. I’d add The Watch and Moonicurn.
Dang hate that I missed that!
Eric Duncan I’m bummed our paths didn’t cross. Good venue, very happy to have a big airy lounge space, but even then it was hard to fully mingle.
I got so much Moonicorn hype at BBC y’all. Am excite.
I really wanted to say Bluebeard’s Bride, Masks, Undying, and Firebrands as well, for various things they each do.
Also Jeremy Tidwell’s psychic maelstrom dustbowl game and Gary Montgomery’s gunners in trucks game are things I want to play right now.
I think John Harper’s World of Dungeons and the Big Bad Con metagame do some great stuff with the system as well.
Right right, Undying, that was a title I know came up. I have no idea when I’ll be able to play that other than at a convention.
I really like Undying – it is as much a predator game as The Warren is a prey game and an excellent counterpart.
Jeremy Tidwell’s defense of The Warren was that he felt like it was really compelling to play prey. That stuck with me.
Paul Beakley double if you play it my way. I laugh at my own reputation but I did get a PC killed within five minutes of starting the Grand Warren. She volunteered for death.
Jason Morningstar, how am I supposed to beat that? Run Traveler?
Jesse Coombs just take away their half-finished character sheets and scream like an eagle.
Jeremy Tidwell‘s psychic maelstrom dustbowl game
That sounds amazing. I would be very interested to learn more off-thread.
Great, more games to check out…
Both me and World Wide Wrestling have been erased from this record.
This thread is rigged!
John Aegard OH SNOT I’m sorry.
World Wide Wrestling! Curse you IPA! John Aegard, you and Nathan Paoletta should powerbomb us all in table match!
That game though. So good. I can’t wait to play it. The commentator rule alone thrusts it to the top of the list. What else do you like about it…?
World Wide Wrasslin and Monster Hurts. Then a long gap before whatever the rest of the games are
Pro wrestling is about hyper-stylized and niche-protected performers collaborating/competing to make an awesome and crowd-pleasing match while being subject to the whims of third-party writers.
It’s ridiculously natural subject matter for a tabletop roleplaying game.
That’s not a very pbta-specific answer, tho.
pbta-wise, World Wide Wrestling adds an explicit initiative/narrative authority mechanic (“momentum”) that very vividly models the ebb-and-flow of a wrestling match. It works a lot like Montsegur 1244 — you say what happens for awhile, then I spend a resource, claim momentum, and I get to say what happens. This resource has an economy and is generated via moves, and I haven’t played enough to know what happens if bad rolls starve a player of momentum.
The momentum mechanic means that the stuff in your head flows directly into the fiction of the game when you do have momentum, and the people without momentum are like your backup singers, putting little flourishes and embellishments in the action, making you look more awesome. Then someone else takes momentum and you switch back to backing. It’s the same kind of thing you’ll see in a hot bluegrass jam when players trade the solo around.
The game also has economies that address every layer of the metafiction of wrestling — it models the audience popularity of the performers (and the risk of losing one’s career), the audience investment in the rivalries between performers, the risk of actual injury, etc. The “breaking kayfabe” move allows a wrestler to bleed their real-life issues into their matches and promos, which feels super fresh and pertinent and #indieAF in a world where we’re all talking about larpy bleed.
It’s got great participationism — one GM (“Creative”) schedules the matches and decides match outcomes, though those outcomes can be subverted by certain moves. The Heel can spend resources to impose their own outcome on the match, for instance. The other GM (the “Commentator”) gets to chatter about the match and occasionally bestow bonuses on the wrestlers. Thanks to MvM, I love audience mode play, so I really dig games that include explicit audience mode roles.
Like any good pbta game, it also teaches its subject matters — I started our game having only the haziest notion of how wrestling worked, and by the end I was ready to appreciate it on a much higher level.
For example, playbooks are based on your wrestlers’ gimmick, so it’s very natural to switch playbooks — that just means your performer is being repackaged by Creative.
This is all based on a single play with a high-powered table, tho. Lots of limerance in this post!
Maybe Tomer Gurantz wants to kick in here (if he’s physically able to type after the beatdown I put on him during the Fall Fracas.) He was at the table too before he left the learned discussion to play some non-pbta game. (I know, right?)
Thanks Paul Beakley. I’d be interested in anything people have to say in a future thread. I won’t further derail this one (or start trying to get too involved with questions when you’ve just got back).
John Aegard delivered that speech at the PbtA roundtable but with all the additional body language and vocal inflection. It was genuinely effective! It got me pumped to get WWW to my table at some point.
Before I played WWW, my game advocacy was weak and mousy!
Now I am mentally triggering Cut a Promo every time I take to the keyboard…
Ahem. I was at the table until I left to play ANOTHER PbtA game…
This time Legend of the Elements (aka Avatar the Last Airbender World, written by Max Hervieux) which was run by Andy M. I had just played it earlier that afternoon with Andy, and my body and mind wanted to stay and chat with you guys, because, well, love.
But when Stras Acimovic ran over like an excited puppy about this game, my heart gave in, and it was off to game more. Our table also had Morgan Ellis (and given his Fate experience I was curious what he’d think about this games heavy use of “tags” on PC and NPC characters, and environment).
That was a seriously fun game. I look back on those 2 sessions and can see the cartoon in mind, and wish I could play then on the TV for my daughter (but then again, that’s what the table is for! we’ve already done a char gen session). The rules don’t enforce the humor or fiction of the Avatar stories, but damn do they help encourage and facilitate it. We had so many scenes that felt straight up silly and cute and funny, but combined with the epic sadness of that world in chaos.
To add to John Aegard’s comment “[WWW ‘momentum’] has an economy and is generated via moves, and I haven’t played enough to know what happens if bad rolls starve a player of momentum”. I was a player who was starved at one point for momentum (and looking across the ring at 2 opponent wrestlers that had stacks) and was wondering exactly that: “what next?”
Well, before much time John did something that generated a momentum for me (there are moves and rolls that do that), but I am curious how that plays out more.
+1 to everything John said about WWW, except for the “beatdown” comment… that gets a -99, and I’ll see him in the Super Novae vs Sam Nostradamus cage match in ‘Fall Fracas 2017!
Also, in The Grand Warren game, we were just starting to get exploring with our GM Colin Fahrion, when Jason Morningstar runs over (yes, 5 minutes into the game), saying he’d killed one off. I think we all starred wide-eyed. It was probably the moment that immediately got us immersed as bunny prey. Shit, that’s a dangerous world. Couldn’t have been timed better.
We’re gong to need to start a missing persons report on this thread.
I blame beer! And exhaustion!
None of the bunnies died at my table like did at Jason Morningstar’s but wow did they play up their battered and scarred, limping along selves. The scene of pregnant Tkon’E getting taken off in the mouth of a big hunting dog only to come back weeks later battered (down 4 scars!) but with a bunch of baby bunnies was great! That Marked by the Black Rabbit card rocks!
Paul Beakley To be fair, I think that PbtA defense segment might have come just after I left. I was there for just a sprinkling of the dazed and confused post-con lovefest.
Also, I can’t find this video directly (cause internet) but this is pretty much what playing WWW feels like, if you got a facebook to view it with: https://www.facebook.com/NateTalksToYou/videos/1070392593017230