So… Powered by the Apocalypse Games Aren’t Terrible

Last week, you might have read Angela’s con report for DexCon 2017. I too went to Dex Con with Angela. I had a fun time. Met some people. LARPed a little bit. I also got the chance to play some roleplaying games. And when I say roleplaying games, what I mean is that I accidentally only signed up for Powered By the Apocalypse (PBtA) games.

If you remember Fandible’s Dungeon World fiasco, you know that we pretty much hate PBtA with the exceptions being to Masks which we only marginally hate. We’ve tried PBtA fantasy games, sci-fi games, and supernatural games! Regardless of the setting and genre, the system does not mesh well with Fandible! So you can imagine my surprise when EVERY game I signed up for ended up using that DAMN system.

Admittedly, I knew what I was getting into with Masks. One of the writers of the game ran it for our group, and I can honestly say I had a good time. Then I was in a Monster of the Week game – and again, I should have remembered Fandible had played Monster of the Week before. Anyways, that game was fine. Then I played an Expanse-like game that used PBtA which was interesting.

It was around the third game that I realized I wasn’t hating the system…

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think PBtA games fit Fandible. However, after the third game with that system, I began changing my view of PBtA! See, the issue I was running into with the system was I was viewing it as your classic roleplaying game. And yes, in a sense, it is. However, the way I think best describes PBtA games is it is a hybrid of Chess and RPGs. Chess has moves, in PBtA engines, you have moves. See where I am going with this?

So, by the third game of PBtA, I was starting to see the allure of it.

Then I went into a playtest for a game called The Ward by Kevin Petker. Basically, it’s a medical drama in RPG form. When I sat down at the table and heard it was yet another game using the Apocalypse engine, I let out a sigh and prepared myself.

People… I loved it. I absolutely think it was the best use of the Apocalypse engine I’ve ever seen. It is easily one of my favorite games I’ve played at a con in my many years of doing this, but of course it will never beat the games I used to play from Klikk her. I got to play a doctor who dealt with a bunch of family crap while trying to keep a hospital in order during a blackout. How fun is that?!

The Ward isn’t out yet, but when the kickstarter comes out, I will be sure to announce it to the heavens. I’ll even probably convince Fandible to give the game a try!

After my amazing experience with The Ward, I played one last Apocalypse World game which was called Zombie World. For anyone who knows me, you know I love drama in a zombie-infested world. Again, this was just another playtest. I had a fun time giving it a try, offered a few suggestions, and I am looking forward to trying the finished product in the future!

So! Does this mean Fandible will be launching into a new series of Apocalypse World games? No. Sorry. The system still isn’t a good fit for us. However, did Dex Con teach me to finally understand the like for the system? Yes.

Keep an eye out for future PBtA system games on Fandible. Now that I like them, I might convince these jabronies to give them a try occasionally!

Do you enjoy PbtA games? If so, which ones and why?

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About the Author
Billy started out his roots like many roleplayers - D&D. Playing it and then Vampire all through highschool and college, Billy picked it all up again when he made the move from Michigan to New York. Now working in publishing, Billy does what he can to view roleplaying games through a narrative's lens. Does that sound classy as balls? It should.

3 comments on “So… Powered by the Apocalypse Games Aren’t Terrible

  1. Fairystail says:

    Not really my preferred system (that honour goes to unhallowed metropolis ) but I did enjoy running a session of The Happiest Apocalypse in Earth.
    I had my players apply for a job at mouse park, get almost killed by animatronic cowboys and dragons, watch someguy give birth to a hoard of rats alien style. And one of the characters somehow ended up in a relationship with a cannibalistic princess who couldn’t speak.

  2. Volsung says:

    I love Pbta games so much That I launched a (french) Actual Play podcast mostly dedicated to those games more than a year ago.
    it’s a matter of taste, obviously. But the experience can change drastically from a game to another, and even more from a MC to another.

  3. Steve says:

    I have two PbtA games I like. They are The Sprawl and Dungeon World. The reason I like them is not the player moves (which can be somewhat stifling at times). What I like about these games is their approach to GMing. I’ll start where I started with The Sprawl.

    The Sprawl is an Episodic cyberpunk game. Each session is a mission you do. Think of it kind of like the A Team or Leverage. This week we are robbing a research lab or kidnapping a scientist. What the system does well is teach you how to structure that kind of game. What are the phases of play? How do you get a game to move instead of bogging games down (the typical shadowrun problem)? The GM section gives you a set of tools you use to create a blueprint and improvise upon it. In essense, it teaches you to GM! Combine this with a low cognitive load (you don’t need stat blocks or anything fancy to run the game) and its a good intro to GMing.

    Dungeon World is more of an open role game. Where The Sprawl is episodic, Dungeon World pushes the campaign. It comes in with its own set of tools which helps you World build and prepare to be unprepared (which I’ll explain shortly). Both The Sprawl and Dungeon World guide you through ‘GM Homework’. That is what prep you actually need to do in order to be ready to run the game. What’s awesome about Dungeon World is that it opens up the tight framework to a broader area. Not only are you prepared for this ‘adventure’, but you should have enough that if the players take a left turn you can follow them with little difficulty.

    What I most enjoy about PbtA is the simplicity of the game system and the tools it provides which taken together allows me to run games on as little as a few minutes of prep (more often its 30m-1h). I couldn’t do the same thing in a game like D&D. There are other reasons to like the system, but I think those are my big draws to it as a GM.

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