Powered by the Apocalypse

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Powered by the Apocalypse
Powered by the Apocalypse logo.png
Powered by the Apocalypse logo
Designer(s)Vincent Baker
Publisher(s)Lumpley Games and others
Publication date2010
Genre(s)Role-playing game

Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) is the name associated with a game system developed by Meguey Baker and Vincent Baker. This term is closely associated with role-playing game mechanics developed for the 2010 game Apocalypse World and later 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 centered around resolving what characters do as Moves. Characters have access to a default selection of moves based on the expectations of the game setting. In the fantasy game Dungeon World, characters have access to a hack and slash move, as combat is central to the dungeoneering experience. Alternatively, Apocalypse World has a "seize by force" move, as the game assumes a setting where collecting scarce resources is part of the game-play experience. Apocalypse World, Dungeon World, and most other PbtA games are class-based. Character classes have access to a number of class-specific moves.

Moves are resolved by rolling two six-sided dice and adding the relevant modifier, should modifiers be a mechanic in the game. Success levels fall on a scale of total success, partial success, or failure—referred to as a "miss" in the system.


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.

A list of Powered by the Apocalypse games, who have obtained permission to use the mark, is available on the Apocalypse World website.[5]

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
Dungeon World is a fantasy game, created by Sage LaTorra and Adam Koebel. The game is advertised as having old-school style with modern rules.[6] The text of the game was released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.[7] The setting for Dungeon World is Dungeons & Dragons-esque fantasy. Rather than present a pre-written setting, the game master is instructed to "Draw maps and leave blanks", meaning to not put too much detail in the setting but allow it to emerge in play.
Epyllion is a game where you play dragons in a dragon-centric world about dragons, published by Magpie Games.
Fellowship is a high fantasy game where players control every aspect of their chosen race. The player who controls the Elf, for example, is the only person who has the final say in anything regarding elves. The goal is to defeat the Overlord, a GM controlled character, by gathering sources of power while trying to prevent the Overlord from destroying communities that could be helpful in defeating them. The game was successfully Kickstarted in 2015 and released in 2016 by LibriGothica Games.
Divinity Lost: KULT: Divinity Lost is a reboot of the contemporary horror role-playing game Kult, originally released in 1991. This Kickstartered version of the game features a completely new rule-set, and the setting is updated to present day. Published by Swedish Helmgast and distributed by Modiphius.
Life Among the Ruins: Legacy is a game of survival and rebuilding in a world ravaged and altered by incomprehensible calamity. Its biggest feature is gameplay at multiple levels: each player builds a Family of survivors and a Character from that family. Stories take place across multiple generations, with each generation creating new characters and altering the families. Family stats are Reach, Grasp, Tech, and Mood, with playbooks including The Enclave of Bygone Lore, The Brotherhood of Gilded Merchants, The Tyrant Kings, The Servants of the One True Faith, and The Lawgivers of the Wasteland. Character stats are Steel, Sway, Force, and Lore, with playbooks including the Hunter, the Envoy, the Seeker, and the Sentinel. Designed by James Iles and successfully Kickstarted[8] in December 2014. After another successful Kickstarter campaign[9], a second edition was released in June 2018.
MASHED explores life in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) during the Korean War. Default statistics are Luck, Nerve, Skill, and Tough. The character playbooks are the Angel (nurse), Corpsman, Cowboy (pilot or mechanic), Cutter (surgeon), Doc (physician), Grunt (aka pogue), and Padre (chaplain). Designed by Mark Plemmons, MASHED was Kickstarted[10] in October 2016 and published by Brabblemark Press in January 2017.[11]
Masks focuses on the lives of a team of teenage superheroes, inspired by the Young Avengers, Teen Titans, and Marvel's Runaways. The playbooks include the Beacon, the Bull, the Doomed, the Legacy, the Janus, the Transformed, the Protégé, the Delinquent, the Nova, and the Outsider. It was successfully funded on Kickstarter in fall of 2015 and subsequently published by Magpie Games.
Monsterhearts is "a story game about the lives of teenage monsters"[12] by Avery Alder. Default statistics are Hot, Cold, Volatile, 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 six separate awards, although it didn't win any.[13]
Monster of the Week
"An action-horror role playing game"[14] 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 Divine, the Spooky, and the Wronged.
Dawn of Empire: Ruma: Dawn of Empire is an upcoming game by Martin Greening.[15] The game is set in an alternate Roman Empire, called the Ruman Empire, where magic and mythology also exists. The project was launched on Kickstarter where it was successfully funded, having raised $10,046.[16]
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."[17] 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.
Spirit of 77
Spirit of 77 is an action RPG based on 1970s pop culture, including The Six Million Dollar Man, Shaft, and the Dukes of Hazzard. Popular music of the time plays heavily into its gameplay, including the option for players to play 1970s "rockers", ala Fleetwood Mac and Kiss. The game includes multiple adventures packaged as "Double Features", including titles such as "Women's Prison of the Apes", "BEAST: Bound and Down", and "Jurassic Parking Lot". Published by Monkeyfun Studios.[18]
The Sprawl
The Sprawl is a cyberpunk RPG in which parties of underground criminals run missions for and/or against vast megacorporations while trying to avoid exposure and extermination. William Gibson's Sprawl trilogy is cited as a major inspiration. Graphics, editing, and supplemental fiction for the RPG were funded via Kickstarter. Game books began releasing in early 2016.[19]
The Spaceship RPG: Transit: The Spaceship RPG is a 2019 science fiction game of Artificial Intelligence, interstellar craft, and galactic exploration. Players take on the role of AI inhabiting interplanetary vessels, with different AI Types and Ship Classes combining to form unique characters. The fleet will expand the universe through play while contending with the needs of their headquarters, external threats ranging from hostile ships to bizarre cosmic phenomena, and even their own biological crews. Transit is sold exclusively through DriveThruRPG[20], and is published by Fiddleback Productions.[21]
A storytelling RPG in the style of the works of H. P. Lovecraft, Tremulus was Kickstarted and raised over $60,000.[22] 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.[23]
Uncharted Worlds
Successfully backed on Kickstarter,[24] Uncharted Worlds is "a Space Opera pen-and-paper roleplaying game of exploration, combat, politics and commerce across the stars." Designed by Sean Gomes.[25]
Urban Shadows
An urban fantasy game set in "a dark urban environment drowning in supernatural politics",[26] 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.[26] Written by Andrew Medeiros and Mark Diaz Truman and published by Truman's Magpie Games as a result of a successful Kickstarter campaign.[27] 2016 Ennie Award Nominee for Best Game[28]
The Warren
"The Warren is a tabletop role-playing game about intelligent rabbits trying to make the best of a world filled with hazards, predators and, worst of all, other rabbits. It is a game about survival and community."[29] Published in 2016, "This game takes inspiration from classic rabbit tales such as Watership Down, Fifteen Rabbits, and Peter Rabbit. It uses a heavily-modified version of the game mechanics from Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World."[29]
Worlds in Peril
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

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[30] and on the streamlining and focus on the fiction the system's reliance on moves produces.[31][32] Bitch magazine has commented on the messy interconnected relationships the system produces.[33]


  1. ^ a b Most Innovative – 2010 Indie RPG Awards
  2. ^ a b 2013 ENnie Awards
  3. ^ Forum statementVincent Baker, 11 June 2010
  4. ^ Big List of Apocalypse World hacks
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ "Dungeon World: A Game with Modern Rules & Old-School Style". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  7. ^ LaTorra, Sage. "Open License". Dungeon World. Retrieved 16 March 2016.
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ [3]
  10. ^ MASHED Kickstarter page
  11. ^ Brabblemark Press website
  12. ^ The Monsterhearts website
  13. ^ RPG Geek Monsterhearts profile
  14. ^ The Monster of the Week website
  15. ^ Girdwood, Andrew (2017-05-29). "Ruma: Dawn of Empire – an alternative Roman Empire". geeknative.com. Retrieved 2017-06-29.
  16. ^ Greening, Martin. "Ruma: Dawn of Empire RPG". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2017-06-29.
  17. ^ Red Moose Games website
  18. ^ The Monkeyfun Studios website
  19. ^ The Sprawl RPG Kickstarter page
  20. ^ https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/267812/Transit-The-Spaceship-RPG
  21. ^ https://www.fiddleback.me/transit
  22. ^ Tremulus Kickstarter page
  23. ^ RPG Cultural Appropriation, RPG Review issue 17, September 2012
  24. ^ Uncharted Worlds Kickstarter page
  25. ^ Uncharted Worlds page
  26. ^ a b "Urban Shadows (official page)". Magpie Games. Retrieved 2015-11-23.
  27. ^ "Urban Shadows Kickstarter". Kickstarter. Retrieved 2015-11-23.
  28. ^ http://www.ennie-awards.com/blog/2016-ennie-award-nominees-and-spotlight-winners/
  29. ^ a b "The Warren". Bully Pulpit Games. 2014-09-08. Retrieved 2016-11-11.
  30. ^ Review of Apocalypse World Play Unplugged, July 2012
  31. ^ Apocalypse World Review Flames Rising
  32. ^ Barf Forth Apocalyptica Critical Hits review
  33. ^ "The Sexuality of Monsterhearts". Bitch Media. Retrieved 2019-07-10.

External links