[PbtA] Elemental *World Moves

This is a thing I put together a while back, but never found a solid use for. I was inspired by how "generic" yet effective the moves were in Ghost Lines, so I tried to make "generic" versions of the most flexible and interesting "basic moves" you can do in a PbtA game.

The "Cunning" move, for instance, is, I think, a nice rewrite of most games' "read a sitch"-type moves, and adapts to the needs of the situation.

Have a look, and let me know if you have any thoughts or if it might be useful to you somewhere.

I really like the odds on the dice mechanics, too (although they'd work fine with 2d6+adds instead, if you prefer).

Elemental *World Moves

Comments

  • This looks like a great concept and, like you say, very applicable to different worlds. I think the rule that any option you don't choose from the list is lost to you is great, seems like that would introduce some meaty complexity to any decision, which is cool.

    Two things come to mind as discussion points:

    1. The idea that "You create an opportunity for another" is tied to Instinct isn't quite intuitive for me. Not that those are incompatible, but it seems as though that could be an option under any of the skills. I wonder if adding that as a universal option to all skills would yield interesting results.

    2. From the way you've written the Bearing choices, there is no way to have someone simply be swayed by your character without promising something in return. Maybe MCs and players can work around this when needed by promising something trivial, but I don't know if you want a system that encourages people to work around the rules instead of within them.

    These are obviously small points; any system that strives to this level of simplicity is bound to have some areas that don't map perfectly to real-world consequences. It's also possible that in practice these don't create issues at the table, in which case ignore these nit picks. Overall, nice job creating a "generic" system that still has sone great flavor!
  • edited March 2017
    Thanks, RickDean!

    I agree on your point (1), although I don't know whether it would be better to remove it or to add it as a general option. For now, I'll leave it as is. "Creating an opportunity for another" is intended mainly for action sequences - perhaps the intruder is running for the door and you throw yourself on the ground to tackle him. Here it would be very natural to "create an opportunity" - it tells us that your allies have the initiative here, not your opponent, essentially.

    As for Bearing, yes, the promise should be relevant to the circumstances, I think. "Hey, officer, I'm part of the press corps, I swear..." -"Sure, I'll let you in without checking your ID. Just don't tell my boss, right?"

    (Do you have a better alternative to suggest?)

    I also figure that, in some cases, the first option would be sufficient for the PC to get what they want - in situations where a promise doesn't feel right, that could do the trick. A simple example might be giving a speech to a crowd, hoping to convince them to vote for you (or your faction): if you manage to "enthrall" them, that will most likely achieve your desired outcome. Similarly for trying to seduce someone.

    The catch is that you don't get to dictate how the NPC reacts; only that their reaction is in line with the means you're using to affect them.

    In general, these moves play with fairly subtle or interpretive outcomes, which depend on the group to use as creative constraints or inspiration. They're not terribly "rigorous" in application, in my view.
  • I think the rule that any option you don't choose from the list is lost to you is great
    Agreed. In general, I think treating outcome list items as operable quantities has a ton of potential.

    I'm imagining a system where outcome components can be selected for or against by specific character attributes and/or player choices. "Here's how I do this protectively" to minimize or rule out personal injury, "Here's how I do this subtly" to minimize or rule out making waves or setting off alarms, and/or characters with traits or stats in "protective" or "subtle", etc.
  • Dave,

    Yes! I talked about this a LOT in the "assets/advantages" thread. I think it's a good design tool which I haven't seen used a whole lot.
  • Yeah, I'm imagining some synthesis between Otherkind/Nodd/PbtA/judge fictional descriptions...
  • (Oddly enough, that's exactly what I was working on for my PbtA In a Wicked Age... game, though I never finished it.)
  • Paul your explanations make a lot of sense, I think I was thinking about these moves too strictly and the way you describe them in actual play resolves most of the concern. Have you had a chance to test these out in a real session yet or is this a brand new concept?
  • These are pretty abstract, which is a weakness PbtA games try to avoid.
  • Indeed! Like I said, they're inspired by the moves in Ghost Lines, which are designed along the same lines. They fit in the same category as something like "act under fire" or "defy danger" in terms of abstraction. I haven't had a chance to play with them, so perhaps they're *too* abstract. However, with abstraction comes flexibility. I'd like to experiment with them further! The idea here was to get as close as *I* feel comfortable to the edge of abstraction and see how it feels.

    I'd mostly likely imagine using them as "groundwork" for a hack, swapping out and replacing them with more specific moves as necessary for that particular game. For instance, if I imagine I were designing AW, I'd swap out the Cunning move with the more genre-specific Read a Sitch and Read a Person.
  • Also, when it comes to using abstract moves (like "act under fire"), my take is this:

    Spend enough time clarifying the situation that you know what the details entail - in other words, to make the abstract concrete.

    "What is the 'fire' here?" "What am I exposing myself to?" "What are you protecting? How?" "What is he threatening me with?" Etc.

    By the time the move is rolled and options chosen, these should be clear.
  • Paul, I might be mistaken but I think you mean Ghost Echo--same designer though.
  • Actually, I seem to be wrong.
  • Indeed! Like I said, they're inspired by the moves in Ghost Lines, which are designed along the same lines. They fit in the same category as something like "act under fire" or "defy danger" in terms of abstraction. I haven't had a chance to play with them, so perhaps they're *too* abstract. However, with abstraction comes flexibility. I'd like to experiment with them further! The idea here was to get as close as *I* feel comfortable to the edge of abstraction and see how it feels.

    I'd mostly likely imagine using them as "groundwork" for a hack, swapping out and replacing them with more specific moves as necessary for that particular game. For instance, if I imagine I were designing AW, I'd swap out the Cunning move with the more genre-specific Read a Sitch and Read a Person.
    They could work that way. I see Fortitude as a potentially pretty good move, as you can ignore negative effects from all kinds of situations, and Cunning as a pretty weak move, as it never solves a conflict by itself. But I guess the GM's interpretation is crucial here, as in PbtA generally.
  • edited March 2017
    Yes, indeed. This approach to writing moves calls for a lot of interpretation.

    As for the "Cunning" move, it's supposed to replace the various "reading" moves in various PbtA games.

    You can imagine, for instance, using to in a dungeon crawl-type game when faced with a trap. Your character is in a room and she has just stepped on a pressure plate, which goes *click*. If she can find a way to explore the situation or interact with the trap, she might roll Cunning to represent this tense situation.

    The options would play out as follows:

    * Can she understand how the trap operates, or what is about to happen? Where is the actual source of danger, and can she identify it?

    * Can she find a way to turn the situation to her advantage? Can she reach a heavy object nearby to place on the pressure plate, or find a handhold on the nearby wall?

    * And, finally, does she need to expose herself to further danger to do so?
  • I can imagine using more generic names for the moves, as well, perhaps:

    * Focus
    * Toughness, Grit, Steel (?)
    * Presence
    * Instinct
    * Force, Brawn, Vigor (?)
  • As for the "Cunning" move, it's supposed to replace the various "reading" moves in various PbtA games.

    You can imagine, for instance, using to in a dungeon crawl-type game when faced with a trap. Your character is in a room and she has just stepped on a pressure plate, which goes *click*. If she can find a way to explore the situation or interact with the trap, she might roll Cunning to represent this tense situation.

    The options would play out as follows:

    * Can she understand how the trap operates, or what is about to happen? Where is the actual source of danger, and can she identify it?

    * Can she find a way to turn the situation to her advantage? Can she reach a heavy object nearby to place on the pressure plate, or find a handhold on the nearby wall?

    * And, finally, does she need to expose herself to further danger to do so?
    Yeah, I can understand this. However, would a successful Instinct or Fortitude roll just save her from the consequences directly? How is spotting the trap useful in mechanical terms vs just brutally surviving it?

    It's possible these kind of dilemmas exist in PbtA games, though, and your moves only reflect this.
  • Is survival the only criteria for success, here?

    Under these rules, it's really not the meaningful thing on the line.

    Avoiding a death trap seems like an obvious benefit to me! Would you rather have a chance to figure out and avoid a trap, or have it spring on you and roll to see if you come out alive, dead, or just badly injured, instead?

    Notably, the Fortitude move doesn't "erase" a fictional event; it just tells how badly it's affecting the character.

    It's possible that you would roll three "hits" and, essentially, be able to shrug off an injury with little effect. However, first of all, you still got injured - it's just not mechanically meanignful. This could have other implications, like leaving a trail of blood behind you, being delayed, causing someone else to overreact, attracting monsters which smell blood, or whatever is relevant to the situation (e.g. if you are fight a duel to "first blood", you've still lost).

    More importantly, that's an extremely unlikely outcome - depending on your dice, it might be much less likely than rolling a natural 20 on a saving throw. You could rely on that if you wish, of course, but it's not an attractive option!
  • Avoiding, sure. But I understood from your example that you can merely identify the danger by making a Cunning move, instead of avoiding it outright. My point was that if information doesn't solve the situation in itself, moves that obtain information are weaker compared to the moves that solve situations with one roll. I might have been speculating too much here.

    You should talk about stats, and how they relate to your model, btw. Right now I'm confused what the relationship is.
  • Upstart,

    The Cunning move is quite similar to most "reading" moves in PbtA games; most of the time they help the character position herself, but do not necessarily resolve a danger or conflict. Sometimes they do; more often, however, they set up another move. This creates a nice flow, step by step, which enriches the fiction and helps the character achieve their ends (in AW, it's a +1forward; under these rules, it's a soft injunction for the MC to give the player a path forward and then hand over a bigger die if they follow it).

    What do you want to know about stats? As written, each move has a dedicated stat. So, your character have great Instincts but not be very Cunning, for example. I think a more interesting relationship might be possible, but for the purposes of a "proof of concept" it seemed sufficient.
  • As written, each move has a dedicated stat. So, your character have great Instincts but not be very Cunning, for example. I think a more interesting relationship might be possible, but for the purposes of a "proof of concept" it seemed sufficient.
    Gotcha.
  • I think the rule that any option you don't choose from the list is lost to you is great
    Agreed. In general, I think treating outcome list items as operable quantities has a ton of potential.
    I'm confused, I thought this was case in most pbta games, that naturally if you didn't choose a list item then its lost to you and becomes a thing the GM can do to you [or to the situation].

  • (I agree. But there are some/many exceptions to that rule.)
  • edited April 2017
    Fair enough. Making it explicit rather than implicit could definitely be a good thing. I like the direction this is going for sure. In general I think that's whats cool about what you have here, the explanation on how to use these moves is very clear and solidifies a lot of the advice/culture how pbta moves should be used.

    Of course I see this right as I finish up my new basic moves sheet. Which is differently going in this direction but I think what you have here is even more concise. But i cannot return to the drawing board now...

    Im not sure about the dice, it could be cool, its kinda a hybrid of AW and Dogs.
  • Thanks!

    I've fooled around with dice pools and PbtA before:

    story-games.com/forums/discussion/17652/apocalypse-world-for-kids-the-bureau-an-aw-hack-with-different-die-types

    And here:

    alternate dice (barf forth forums)

    I find that dice pools, when set up properly, can give some really nice odds for a PbtA-type roll.
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