It’s given: “Powered by the Apocalypse” is an effective brand, and “Apocalypse Engine” is common usage for a presumed mechanics base. I’m not challenging either of these. I’m investigating what they may mean, and whether meanings differ.
This is the first formal seminar activity for the new structuring of Adept Play. The activity was announced for patrons-only at my Patreon, where I provided the topic, the starting requirement (in this case to bring a PbtA game that isn’t Apocalypse World), and the Discord link. All patrons are eligible and don’t have to sign up or formalize their participation, just show up.
In attendance (games in hand) were Ángel García Jiménez (The Watch), Gordon Landis (Sagas of the Icelanders), Herman Duyker (Dungeon World), Santiago Verón (Monsterhearts), and Ross Hunter (Masks). The Discord venue holds up to 9 participants, so I guess if it runs over some day I’ll schedule a follow-up for the overflow.
Part 1: Loosening up with a brief comparison of attributes.
Part 2: Examining the spectrum of fictional content from (i) Required and fixed to (ii) Optional and open (see the attached file), per title. Note that “setting” is a very flexible term in this context.
3. Examining the two levels of change that I identify using Apocalypse World: improvement of any kind vs. transformation of a character, the setting, or the story. Note that not all advanced Moves are necessarily the latter, nor is criss-crossing skins necessarily the latter.
Part 4: Comparing each game’s overall story/arc/saga, including if there is any, in terms of both structure and emergence, and in terms of where the primary adversity comes from.
The point I’d like to follow up with here in the comments is this: in designing a PbtA game, the power will be found in the second level of Part 3 above, and secondarily perhaps in the meaning of 7-9 in the rolls, not in the parsing of skins or the elaborations of the Moves. Without that power, your game is a 2d6 resolution roll and a bunch of character classes, which is fine I guess, but has no “PbtA” in it, but only a label on it for marketing purposes.
Inevitably the question came up about Moves as a distinctive design feature. I’ve made my point in the past that they are superior pedagogy but not a distinctive technique, and please let Vincent respond to that (as I invited in the video) in the comments.
I'd also love to see the comments full of other eligible titles, adding them to the comparisons in the video. In a big way, this seminar isn't over!
The Discord venue works pretty well, and I’ll be using it from now, but this event shows all the ways things can go wonky with sound and connections. We even lose the visual just before the end. The good news is that I've been training in all the ways to do it right and all the coming videos will be a jump-up in quality.