Powered by the Apocalypse
|Publisher(s)||Lumpley Games and others|
Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) is the name of the system developed for the 2010 game Apocalypse World and that is also used for Dungeon World, Monsterhearts, and numerous other modern RPGs. Apocalypse World won the 2010 Indie RPG Awards for Most Innovative Game and Dungeon World won the 2013 ENnie award for Best Rules.
Powered by the Apocalypse games are all centred round resolving what characters do as Moves. All characters have access to a default selection of moves that vary from game to game so, for instance, the default attacking move in Dungeon World is hack and slash and in Apocalypse World it is Seize By Force.
Apocalypse World, Dungeon World, and most other PbtA games are class based with the class selected for the given character giving them access to a number of moves beyond the default. These moves can allow them abilities above and beyond the normal, like the Hypnosis ability of the Monsterhearts Vampire, can give them resources like "My other car is a Tank" from the Apocalypse World Driver, or can just be abilities they can do like the ability of the Monsterhearts Ghost to walk through walls.
Some of the moves granted by the character's class resolve automatically, but those that don't always follow the same format. Roll two six sided dice and add the character's relevant statistic (which again varies from game to game) - on a 10+ the move succeeds, on a 7-9 the move partially succeeds and the acting character picks off a list of either partial successes for a hard choice, or they pick one of a selection of consequences, and on a 6 or less the move fails and the Game Master makes a 'Hard Move' with negative consequences for the acting character (for instance dealing damage).
Published games using the Powered by the Apocalypse system
Because of the simplicity and the flexibility of the Powered by the Apocalypse engine, and Vincent Baker's encouragement of publishing hacks, there are at least four dozen fan-made hacks that have reached the point of public playtesting. This list only covers the ones actually published.
Apocalypse World is the post-apocalyptic game the system was created for and is set after an unspecified apocalypse (which may be specified either in the course of play or left a mystery) that created a psychic maelstrom.
Dungeon World is a Dungeons & Dragons based game with playbooks based on the core Dungeons and Dragons classes, and in which you gain experience points by failing rolls.
Monsterhearts is "A story game about the lives of teenage monsters" by Joe Mcdaldno. Default statistics are Hot, Cold, Violent, and Dark, and the playbooks presented in the main rulebook are The Chosen, the Fae, the Ghoul, the Queen, the Witch, the Werewolf, the Infernal, and the Vampire. It was nominated for or runner up for five separate awards, although didn't win any.
Monster of the Week
"An action-horror role playing game" about a group of monster hunters, written by Michael Sands. Statistics are Charm, Cool, Sharp, Tough, and Weird and the default classes are the Chosen, the Expert, the Flake, the Initiate, the Monstrous, the Mundane, the Professional, the Sidekick, the Spooky, and the Wronged.
A storytelling RPG in the style of the works of H. P. Lovecraft, Tremulus was Kickstarted and raised over $60,000. Statistics are Reason, Passion, Might, Luck, and Affinity, and the default classes are The Alienist, The Antiquarian, The Author, The Devout, The Detective, The Dilettante, The Doctor, The Heir, The Journalist, The Professor, and The Salesman. There were plans for the kickstarter to produce a "The Congo" playset, allowing characters to explore "the Heart of Darkness" - this idea was dropped after a backlash.
Sagas of the Icelanders
"The game is set sometime after the year 874, when the first Norse settlers set foot on Iceland. They were escaping war, poverty and the dissolution of their political freedoms on the mainland." Statistics are Versed, Young, Gendered, and Wyrd. Default classes are The Child, the Woman, the Man, the Matriarch, the Godi, the Seidkona, the Wanderer, the Shield-Maiden, the Huscarl, the Thrall, and the Monster.
Reception and analysis of the System
Multiple reviews, including Play Unplugged's review of Apocalypse World and on the streamlining and focus on the fiction the system's reliance on moves produces. Bitch magazine has commented on the messy interconnected relationships the system produces.
- Most Innovative - 2010 Indie RPG Awards
- 2013 ENnie Awards
- Forum statement - Vincent Baker, 11 June 2010
- Big List of Apocalypse World hacks
- The Monsterhearts website
- RPG Geek Monsterhearts profile
- The Monster of the Week website
- Tremulus Kickstarter page
- RPG Cultural Appropriation, RPG Review issue 17, September 2012
- Red Moose Games website
- Review of Apocalypse World Play Unplugged, July 2012
- Apocalypse World Review Flames Rising
- Barf Forth Apocalyptica Critical Hits review
- The Sexuality of Monsterhearts, Bitch magazine