Powered by the Apocalypse

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Powered by the Apocalypse
Designer(s) Vincent Baker
Publisher(s) Lumpley Games and others
Publication date 2010
Genre(s) Role-playing game

Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) is the name of the system developed for the 2010 game Apocalypse World and also used for Dungeon World, Monsterhearts and numerous other RPGs. Apocalypse World won the 2010 Indie RPG Awards for Most Innovative Game[1] and Dungeon World won the 2013 ENnie award for Best Rules.[2]


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 was Seize By Force in the first edition of Apocalypse World.

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 additional resources, such as the Apocalypse World Driver's "My other car is a Tank," or may simply make them better at moves everyone has access to, like the Apocalypse World Gunlugger's "Insano like Drano."

Some moves resolve automatically, but most involve an element of randomness. A player whose character makes a move rolls two six-sided dice and adds the relevant modifier, which varies by move and game. A result of 10+ is a total success, and the character achieves their goal. On a result of 7-9, the character achieves a partial success, in which they mostly get what they want but also face some consequences or have to make do with a lesser version of their goal. A roll of 6 or less results in a "miss," and the Master of Ceremonies or Game Master makes a move of their own, with negative consequences for the acting character.

Published games using the Powered by the Apocalypse system[edit]

Because of the simplicity and the flexibility of the Powered by the Apocalypse engine, and Vincent Baker's encouragement of publishing hacks,[3] there are at least four dozen fan-made hacks that have reached the point of public playtesting.[4] This list only covers the ones actually published.

Apocalypse World[edit]

Main article: Apocalypse World

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[edit]

Main article: Dungeon World

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.


Epyllion is a game where you play dragons in a dragon-centric world, published by Magpie Games.

Legacy: Life Among the Ruins[edit]

Legacy is a game of survival and rebuilding in a world ravaged and altered by incomprehensible calamity. Craft characters and families, head out into the wasteland and create true, lasting changes in the world. With cutting edge rules, a highly flexible multi-generational system, and more than a dozen character playbooks to choose from. Designed by James Iles and successfully kickstarted [5] in December, 2014.


Main article: Monsterhearts

Monsterhearts is "A story game about the lives of teenage monsters"[6] by Avery 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.[7]

Monster of the Week[edit]

"An action-horror role playing game"[8] 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.[9] 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.[10]

Sagas of the Icelanders[edit]

"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."[11] 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.

Uncharted Worlds[edit]

Successfully backed on KickStarter,[12] Uncharted Worlds is "A Space Opera pen-and-paper roleplaying game of exploration, combat, politics and commerce across the stars." Designed by Sean Gomes.[13]

Urban Shadows[edit]

An urban fantasy game set in "a dark urban environment drowning in supernatural politics",[14] with Archetypes including vampires, werewolves, wizards, ghosts and human monster hunters using the main stats of Blood, Heart, Mind and Spirit. Urban Shadows introduces systems to emphasize the political, tragic and horrific aspects of the genre: characters must interact with different Factions to advance, or mark Corruption to gain unique and powerful moves while drawing closer to being retired from play dead or to become antagonists.[14] Written by Andrew Medeiros and Mark Diaz Truman and published by Truman's Magpie Games as a result of a successful Kickstarter campaign.[15]

2016 ENnie Award Nominee for Best Game[16]

Worlds in Peril[edit]

Worlds in Peril is a tabletop roleplaying game designed to tell collaborative stories about superheroes taking on both the challenges faced as a superhero, with the villains and public image and fame (or perhaps infamy) that goes along with it, as well as the challenges they face in their personal lives when they take off the mask and have to deal with everyday problems and relationships like everybody else. Designed by Kyle Simons, Adam Bosarge, Jason Faulk.

Reception and analysis of the System[edit]

In addition to other awards won, Apocalypse World won the 2010 Indie RPG Award for Most Innovative Game[1] and Dungeon World won the 2013 ENnie award for Best Rules.[2]

Multiple reviews, including Play Unplugged's review of Apocalypse World[17] and on the streamlining and focus on the fiction the system's reliance on moves produces.[18][19] Bitch magazine has commented on the messy interconnected relationships the system produces.[20]