Somewhere Between Archipelago and PbtA

edited July 2017 in Story Games
I'm looking for games that are somewhere in between Archipelago and PbtA—that is, I'm looking for the games on the spectrum inbetween GMless and indie GMed games, if that makes sense. Games that are in the middle of, and have some of the elements of both GMless and GMed indie games. For example, a game like In a Wicked Age would qualify.

Would generally have these type of game traits:

-Weakened, divided, asymmetrical, or someway distributed GM authority—the roles of players and GM are not so distinct
-Players are not mostly reactive, but have to be inventive, take more responsibility for the story
-An emphasis on collaborative creativity throughout play
-No or low level of required preparation—play to find out what happens
-More PC conflict than in traditional games
-Simple rules
-Little emphasis on simulationist mechanics— rules are framework to establish narrative aims
-A focus on complex and mature (in the best sense) themes
-Experimental and indie

What other games qualify? Thanks :smile:

Comments

    • DayTrippers, using the collaborative method described in the back of the Core Rules book.
    • Any DramaSystem game, such as Malandros or Other Borders
  • The game I am looking at these day, Kingdom of Ooo, does exactly what you're asking for. It's right in the middle of the spectrum.

    Many of John Harper's games do this as well, Ghost Echo, Danger Patrol pocket edition, among others.
  • Jeff,

    I'm going to interpret your question like this:

    "I'm looking for games that aren't in the total 'collaborative storytelling' camp, because they have elements of GM-ship or traditional mechanics. However, they have enough flexibility or other features that they can't be considered a traditional GMed RPG, and are relatively rules-light (less so than PbtA, perhaps, to give a reference)."

    * Lots of my games! We should play some more together. This is kind of what I'm interested in exploring.

    * I think Primetime Adventures is exactly what you're looking for.

    * The Pool, also, but I don't know if you consider that to be a "complete" game (I'm not sure if I do, for instance).

    It's a really fun design space, but tricky.
  • edited July 2017
    @Paul_T
    Basically, yes, what you said. I'm opening up Story Games Salt Lake City to include more games in that direction (GMlite, GMful and GM--ish) with PbtA being the furthest in the GM direction we will play. So I'm looking for the stuff on the spectrum from GMless 'collaborative story games' up until PbtA. Basically, Story Games in this sense. Hope that makes sense :smile:
  • edited July 2017
    Between Archipelago and AW lies…

    All games. I'd say AW goes further along this line than trad games

    Edit: This post was written before the OP was edited. But, I still stand by it. If you go all the way to AW you're already way past 5e, V5, ToC, Dramasystem, 7S, Fate, TRoS, BW/BE/MG/TB, DitV, Traveller/SWN, 3:16, Everway, GURPS etc etc etc. Like 99% of all games.

    And I think AW is a good game.
  • Kagematsu! Serpent's Tooth!
  • Meridian! I'm just going to keep excitedly posting games I think meet these criteria :P
  • Meridian! I'm just going to keep excitedly posting games I think meet these criteria :P
    Yay, Thank you! :smiley:
  • edited July 2017
    Oh, yeah! Kagematsu is a perfect fit.

    (And I like the edits you made to your original post - your criteria are much clearer now!)
  • edited July 2017
    Kingdoms of Ooo is exactly the game you described in your OP.
    Weakened, divided or distributed GM authority—the roles of players and GM are not so distinct check
    -Players are not mostly reactive, but have to be inventive, take more responsibility for the story check
    -An emphasis on collaborative creativity throughout play check
    -No or low level of required preparation—play to find out what happens no prep, check. Play to find out, check
    -More PC conflict than in traditional games possible, depends of the players--check.
    There are rules to allow it to happen, if that's what you want

    -Simple rules 13 pp. with lots of art and whitespace, check
    -Little emphasis on simulationist mechanics— rules are framework to establish narrative aims check
    -A focus on complex and mature (in the best sense) themes depends on the table, check.
    The source text is about relationships, and growing up

    -Experimental and indie check
    It comes out of the DuW, WoDu tradition (2d6+trait), but there are no moves. Players create all the moves during play. GM determines what failure will mean, if it happens before any rolls. Players are also responsible for a lot of world building, monsters, etc. There's a GM but she doesn't role dice (except in one minor circumstance). Take a look. The setting appears light-hearted, but according to the author of the source material, it has dark undertones. In the original source text (Adventure Time), it's a Bildungsroman as far as I can tell.

    Or you could just re-skin it--use the rules without the flavour text.
  • edited July 2017
    I like the suggestions so far (DramaSystem, PTA, Pool). We've already talked about my Directions that also falls into that category.
    Further, I suggest looking at Blades in the Dark. It has simple basic rules similar to AW, is zero prep, lot of depth and can be played with rotating GMs.
  • edited July 2017
    Other ideas:

    Gun Thief
    Dream Askew
    Remember Tomorrow
    Misspent Youth

    (My guess is that Blades in the Dark will be both too trad and too rules-heavy for you, Jeff.)

    Some of Vincent's draft-status games might be right up your alley, too: games like The King is Dead or Bedlam Beautiful.
  • (My guess is that Blades in the Dark will be both too trad and too rules-heavy for you, Jeff.)
    Fair enough, the core rules are ca. 35 pages. If you play any of the hacks, you may have a more compact game.

    Another suggestion: Deniable.
    http://rpgknights.com/deniable-the-review/
    It's a lite, humorous, under-rated game somewhat between PbtA and Fiasco maybe.
  • edited July 2017
    This is awesome! There are actually some games in this thread that I've never heard of and don't known. For example, Deniable, Gun Thief, and Kingdom of Ooo I can't wait to take a look at the :smiley:
  • edited July 2017
    Between Archipelago and AW lies…

    All games. I'd say AW goes further along this line than trad games

    Edit: This post was written before the OP was edited. But, I still stand by it. If you go all the way to AW you're already way past 5e, V5, ToC, Dramasystem, 7S, Fate, TRoS, BW/BE/MG/TB, DitV, Traveller/SWN, 3:16, Everway, GURPS etc etc etc. Like 99% of all games.

    And I think AW is a good game.
    I think I know what you mean: are you saying that the GM in PbtA games has more authority than in the other traditional games (that it's more GM-y)? Or are you saying something else about PbtA going way past the other games? I actually added the caveats to try to clarify a bit. The only reason I included PbtA games is that sometimes the GM asked players questions that lead to world building; I've only played them a couple times. I would definitely be interested to here you expand on the PbtA going further than the trad. games idea. Thanks :smile:
  • edited July 2017
    I'm probably saying things you know already, but...

    Swords Without Master is a no-brainer.

    Have a look at Bliss Stage (by Ben Lehman). A milestone towards such games as Polaris, it sits closer to (later) games such as IaWA: there's a "GM" who is a participant with different venues of contribution, but more or less equal weight.

    In a different vein, also have a look at The Drifter's Escape (also by Ben Lehman): simplistically, I could describe it as all but one player forming a committee to GM the game for only one PC.

  • I think I know what you mean: are you saying that the GM in PbtA games has more authority than in the other traditional games (that it’s more GM-y)?

    99% this. Thanks, I couldn’t find the words for it.

    The moves. For example, in a Stars Without Number TV show “Swan Song”, once the GM was doing all sorts of non-referee-y shenanigans; the party was going up against a super-assassin. And I noticed how weirdly the GM was holding back. And in the Q&A to the viewers, he said (paraphrased because I only slept 4 hours and can’t find the quote) “I was doing ‘Announce future badness’ soft moves before really pulling the trigger with the hard moves”. (Ofc the other viewers had been asking “How could you even put them up against such a super assassin?” not “Why was the super assassin so soft in the beginning?” like I was wondering.)

    So many other examples. The DM/GM/MC can just… make things up. “Oh, you dropped your sword.” etc etc. Again, there are mechanics in place for this + this is the game. Again, I like AW well enough. But there are things it tells the DM/GM/MC to do that to me are like “Okay, so that’s ok in this game?”

    Or are you saying something else about PbtA going way past the other games?

    The other thing I wanted to say was that that “ask questions and build on the answers” part is how many (not all) people play trad games. Some times informally, sometimes part of the game. GURPS: “Oh, you took”Dependent: Human daughter" with a frequency of appearance Quote Often“. That’s going to have a big impact on the game.

  • ... the GM in PbtA games has more authority than in the other traditional games (that it's more GM-y)?
    After playing a lot of PbtA in 2016, I've turned more to other games in 2017 (and back to Fate, too). This was one of the main reasons, I guess, yet it was never so clear to me.
    This is also an aspect that I personally like better (compared to PbtA) in Blades' resolution system (still keeping the 7-9 roll feeling).


  • edited July 2017
    ... the GM in PbtA games has more authority than in the other traditional games (that it's more GM-y)?
    After playing mostly PbtA in 2016, I've turned more to other games in 2017 (and back to Fate, too). This was one of the main reasons, I guess, yet it was never so clear to me.
    This is also an aspect that I personally like better (compared to PbtA) in Blades' resolution system (still keeping the 7-9 roll feeling).


  • edited July 2017
    Jeff,

    Dog Eat Dog is another good one! (And on my list of games to try; we could play it together next time, if you're into it.) Kind of like Kagematsu: vaguely GM-like role, light mechanics, no prep.

    On the subject of PbtA:

    There's nothing about the concept of "PbtA" which specifically mandates more GM force or less GM force.

    However, most PbtA games belong to a culture of play which has two features which most trad games do not share:

    1. The culture of shared worldbuilding, disclaiming responsibility, and so forth. In "by the book" AW play, for example, the MC comes to the table not knowing what kind of setting it's going to be, what the themes will be like, and so forth - it's up to the players.

    (However, it would be easy to play the game in a more "traditional" style without changing any of the rules; it's kind of a "culture of play" thing.)

    2. The design of many of the rules and moves give PCs and players greater authority over outcomes than in typical 'trad games', which creates a very different dynamic over the long term.

    For instance, NPCs not having stats or difficulty numbers means that no one is "invincible"; the PCs can pretty much seduce, manipulate, or kill anyone they want.

    Further, many moves build in aspects of play which push against a lot of "traditional" GM practices (e.g. the ability to convert people into "allies" in AW with advanced moves, moves which allow you to declare really major aspects of the setting and its denizens, and so forth). A great example is the "start of session" moves, which allow players (effectively) to declare what's going wrong in the city where they live, who's deserting their gang, or what is true about the past of the setting (e.g. the Quarantine's start of session move).

    Many of the "tricks of the trade" strongly associated with "traditional GMing" aren't really possible in AW without breaking rules (for instance, stuff like asking the player to repeatedly make Climbing checks until they fail, fudging die rolls, assigning a bad guy so many hit points they can't be overcome until later in the game, assigning difficulty levels/target numbers to fictional obstacles which we don't want the PCs to be able to overcome, or influencing the direction of play by handing out XP rewards for specific actions the GM wants the players to take).

    (A parenthetical for Sandra: generally speaking, discussions like to draw a distinction between "trad play" - which typically involves a pre-plotted scenario and lots of "Rule Zero" use by the GM in order to "let the players play in the GM's story" - and "old-school play", where the GM acts as an impartial referee and players attempt to face challenges in a consistent fictional environment like a dungeon. Those are quite different styles of play!)


    ETA: A perfect example might be the "adventure hook" construction of many, many traditional adventures:

    They involve the characters being assigned a "mission" by a reputable and trusted NPC... later, the PCs discover that the NPC lied to them, and they were in fact betrayed!

    This works great with most traditional systems (assuming you're into that kind of adventure, anyway...), where the PCs are all adventure types forming a group looking for treasure or experience.

    It's not hard to see how that kind of plot would fail immediately in a game of AW - first of all, the playbook choices would immediately disqualify many/most of the characters from being interested in the "plot hook" in the first. They have other priorities and other interests, chosen by the players - the idea of chasing a "plot hook" isn't even on the radar here. Further, those who would decide to interact with the NPC could easily manipulate or read the NPC and discover the deception immediately. The entire concept of the adventure unravels almost instantly.

    In this sense, PbtA play feels very different from "trad play", at least for groups who understand the culture of play it's associated with.
  • Dreaming Crucible and Shooting the Moon also have asymmetrical player roles.
  • edited July 2017
    …? I if anyone know that! Lilla gumman?!
    :heartbreak:
    And I see PbtA as a third thing.
  • edited July 2017
    @Paul_T
    These differences are all interesting and most make me more eager to include PbtA games in our play at Story Games SLC. One thing that I don't like is that PbtA games have specific outcome lists. If they're just suggestions that's fine, but I think it be more interesting if you could improv a complication (i.e. Roll from 7-9). Paul, Iactually wanted to ask you, can you improv the results of a move or are you supposed to stick to the lists. I don't know if you remember my half RPG half Story game based inspired by Fate and PbtA, but in that game I didn't have lists the outcomes of moves, I had the GM improv the results. It kind of sucks that BitD pretty much incorporated Fate in a very similar way to how I did in my design. Anyway, are the move outcome lists just suggestions? I never read a complete PbtA game and there's a lot that I don't know still. Thanks :-)

    Also Paul, do you think any important/worthwhile PbtA games are missing from this list that I should pick up?

    Apocalypse World
    Dungeon World
    Monsterhearts
    Sagas of the Icelanders
    The Sprawl
    The Veil
    Blades in the Dark
    Cartel
    Masks
    Undying
    Epyllion
    Urban Shadows
    Fellowship
    The Warren
    Night Witches
    Bluebeard's Bride
    City of Mist
    The Watch
    Black Stars Rise
    World Wide Wrestling
    Capes
    Tremulus
    Monster of the Week
    Firebrands
    Dream Askew
    Action Movie World
    The Sundered Land
    AW: Fallen Empires
    Uncharted Worlds
    The Sword, the Crown, and The Unspeakable Power
    World of Dungeons
    Edit:
    Ghost Lines

    (I also plan on picking up Noir World when it comes out). If you could let me know if I'm missing something worthwhile I super appreciate it :-) Thanks :-)



  • Jeff,

    That's an incredible list! I can't think of anything, with the possible exception of The Bureau, which I'll mention here since it does what you're suggesting (no outcome lists), and has been well-received.

    A lot of the "magic" which comes with PbtA games has a great deal with the culture of play surrounding them - it's not always (or not always entirely) codified in the rules to the same extent that it is in other games.

    * Let's chat about this some more when we meet up next - come a bit earlier and we'll talk.

    * There's really no need to quote entire posts in your replies on this forum - unnecessary and takes up a lot of space. Not a big deal, but I bet it bugs some people!

    Your list is... very thorough. Wow!

    Not sure that Firebrands is really a clearly PbtA game in the same sense as the others on your list, however. It's a bit of a different animal. (I can't even remember whether it has a GM, for example!)
  • edited July 2017
    I think @Paul_T's explanation of GM authority in most pbta is spot on. Yes the GM could totally control everything and force the outcomes they want, but that doesn't happen because culture of play. The GM/MC principles are very clear on that.
    Jeff,
    1. The culture of shared worldbuilding, disclaiming responsibility, and so forth. In "by the book" AW play, for example, the MC comes to the table not knowing what kind of setting it's going to be, what the themes will be like, and so forth - it's up to the players.
    Exactly!

    One thing that I don't like is that PbtA games have specific outcome lists. If they're just suggestions that's fine, but I think it be more interesting if you could improv a complication (i.e. Roll from 7-9).
    I would say they are very much suggestions, they are usually not super specific and the player who rolled gets to chose. The GM/MC and player can totally interpret in an improvisational way, and there is inherent negotiation in this as well.

    Let me say what I love about the lists. Rather than having a binary outcome from rolls, the player can choose how they want their player actions to go after you know whether its a hit, partial hit, or miss. Versus trad play where the roll outcome is completely GM interpretation. The lists outline a set of stakes that keep the action feeling grounded, but they should always take their cue from the established fiction.
  • @Paul_T I am surprised you didn't mention Ghost Lines. You started a thread about it a few weeks ago.
  • edited July 2017
    I think the Dungeon World Guide does a very good job explaining what makes AW-style play different or special.
    It kind of sucks that BitD pretty much incorporated Fate in a very similar way to how I did in my design.
    Why is this a problem? I would see it as something encouraging if you choose a new path that becomes also adapted by others. It probably is a mechanic that seems to work well!
  • Thanks for the Bureau, Paul! I'll read the knew version. Have you played it much?

  • edited July 2017

    Let me say what I love about the lists. Rather than having a binary outcome from rolls, the player can choose how they want their player actions to go after you know whether its a hit, partial hit, or miss.
    Yes, I personally dislike binary outcomes quite a bit. The game I'm currently designing only has...
    "Yes, and"
    "Yes, but"
    "No, but"
    "No, and"
    ...outcomes. I think it is great that the lists can be interpreted widely and that using them as suggestions is an option. Thanks for the info :smiley:
  • do you think any important/worthwhile PbtA games are missing from this list that I should pick up?
    I don't know what your definition of "important/worthwhile" is, but there are a few outliers in the fictioneers database...
    http://fictioneers.net/games?field_game_type_value[]=PbtA



  • edited July 2017
    @Aslf
    Thanks, Tod! :smiley:

    We all have to do a lot better at entering stuff into fictioneers.net ...I will try to enter stuff more often and ask others on SG forums to do the same ...it's a great resource and it wouldn't be very hard to make it more complete if we all chipped in and added a couple games each week :smiley:
  • edited July 2017
    .
  • Much appreciated, Jeff. I am so far behind...!

  • Questlandia?
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