So I’ve been mulling over this PbtA stuff that is pretty popular right now. It’s the indie, check-out-my-Kickstarter system. It’s got some really, really interesting ideas.
The most interesting ideas (to me) are the ideas of partial success, a loose collection of systems that have a unique flavor while retaining the same basic mechanics (e.g., countdown clocks), and playbooks.
But what I couldn’t wrap my head around was the mundane stuff you learn in a new game system: like, combat? And why does Dungeon World have a single roll called “undertake a perilous journey”? What the fuck.
It was this video from the PbtA hack Uncharted Worlds that not only gelled what I wasn’t getting it, but why it bothered me.
It’s that combat is too abstracted. (Other things too, but mostly combat)
D&D is too mechanical: you spend a lot of time doing math, rolling LOTS of dice, and looking up tables and charts and stuff. Rolling lots of dice can be fun but switching to a tactical war game from a storytelling game is … well it’s why Storyteller, PbtA, et al gained traction.
It just reads/feels like …
“OK, roll.” *dice clatter*
Success! Hell yeah! “OK, so, I charge in and slash the first orc in the face. He collapses in a gurgle of blood and viscera. The next runs at me screaming, and I throw my dagger. It hits him in the throat … “
That’s cool, narratively, because now the player is directly involved in the action (as opposed to “ok, I hit, 10 damage, chopped that fucker in half!”). It’s even better when the player rolls a partial success, because now the fight gets interesting with the GM adding complications.
Still: it’s too loose. Breaking down the combats in PbtA seems to not only break the flavor of the system but the balance. Other stuff (the aforementioned “undertake a perilous journey”) is likewise too brief, too … terse.
Would reducing the amount of narrative effect ruin the entire point of PbtA? Am I just over-thinking this?