[English] What PbtA Moves actually do resolve?

What Moves in games inspired by Apocalypse World („PbtA movement”) actually do? What’s their goal? Do they resolve things or situations? Some time ago, Avery Alder discussed the topic by comparing Moves to „Task/Conflict Resolution” dychotomy. This made me think, however, in regard of „resolution” topic itself. After some discussions in my inner circle, I’ve decided to write some thoughts about it. Does Moves in PbtA only resolve things?

My take is: Moves aren’t particularly tied to either „Task” nor „Conflict” resolution type (I’ll write about that dychotomy in a later article) They aren’t just about resolutions, either. They’re doing something more: it’s beyond „which resolution type” discussion. For a simplicity, I’ll refer to those procedures as „PbtA Moves” in this article.

PbtA Moves are making three things

PbtA Moves do at least one of those three things:

  • Resolves situation.
  • Establishes facts and/or situation.
  • Check conditions and things.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, I’m sure that Baker’s Family invented many more purposes for Moves. I reduced the topic just to „Player Moves” (how player – but not MC – does interact with a game).

For a reference, I define „Move” as „a procedure, which tells you, what’s happening, when certain condition or input is present”.

Resolving situations by Moves

PbtA Moves resolve things, when they call for reaction or action to find out what will happen. In regard of „Task/Conflict Resolution” dychotomy, each Move has their own solution. It’s all about how it’s written! Some Moves just describes a small part of a situation („Battle Moves” from AW 2nd). Some Moves, like „Suffer Harm” or „Aid or Interfere” resolve just a brief moment or a simple task. Hence, they can be called „task resolution”. The first one finds out what happens, when a character gets Harm. The second one finds out, what happens when somebody tries to interact with someone’s action. Both of them don’t resolve the situation in place…

For another hand, a clear example of „situation resolution”: „Perform a miracle” Move from Godsend.

When you channel the power of your Divinity to bend the fabric of reality itself, say what you try to accomplish. You manage to alter the world more or less as you wanted; update the map and add a Quality or erase a Detriment.
Choose also any number of additional benefits up to your Will:
– You fully accomplish what you wanted; the miracle is permanent and affects exactly what you wanted.
– People see the greatness of your Divinity and they begin to worship them; your Divinity’s Faith becomes stronger.
– You have a prophetic vision; the GM will tell you something interesting.
Finally, choose any number of calamities up to your Charisma that won’t happen:
– You exhaust yourself; take -1 on one of your Stats until the end of this Age.
– An important sacrifice to your Divinity has to be made; your Divinity’s Faith becomes weaker.
– Something or someone important to you or your Divinity suffers unfortunate consequences; the GM will make a Move. The calamities you haven’t chosen happen; the GM will flesh out the details.

As you can see, „Perform a miracle” does changed and possibly resolved a situation, by „altering the world” (adding something to a world map). Plus some hard choices and consequences.

Establishing facts by Moves

Some Moves asks us about to introduce some details. They can also asks us for new things, facts and events.

You may answer that Moves like „Read a Sitch” (AW 2nd) or „Discern Realities” (Dungeon World) already are doing it as a task resolution. It’s true: they call for a single action in order to establish facts or reinforce potential ones (into a thing set in stone). Some of Moves – like „Open Your Brain” (AW 2nd) for instance – resolve an entire situation of „looking for facts”. However, I’ll show you an example, which doesn’t fit for any „resolution” at all:

Foretellings: At the beginning of the session, roll with Spirit. On a 10+, hold 2. On a 7-9, hold 1. During the session, you can spend your hold to declare that something terrible is about to happen. You (and your allies) take +1 ongoing to avoid the impending disaster. On a miss, you foresee the death of someone important to you and take -1 to all rolls to prevent it.

Oracle Move „Foretellings” z Urban Shadows 1e

This Move doesn’t resolve anything. It doesn’t say that a character needs to do something, nor what’s their position or situation. It resolves „who speak facts later” at most. This Move is played in the beginning of each session, to introduce some prophecy visions from The Oracle character.

„Foretelling” Move delivers rights to establish some incoming terrible events. A player can establish once or twice something, which starts to be true to the world. MC also can envision a death of a someone, which also starts to be true to the world.

Most „Beginning of a Session” type of Moves don’t resolve things by default, unless they put a character in a certain position or motion. They introduce a new situation, new facts. They can ask a player for something (who marks Faction for another player, for „Session Intro” from Urban Shadows, for instance).

Some Moves in Ironsworn and Starforged do establish facts and features about the world. A worldbuilding thing.

Because Blades in the Dark is aslo „PbtA game”, I also considered „Fortune Roll” framework. We make those rolls in order to: establish a new fact or information, how much NPC Faction pushed it’s agenda, how things are according to one of District traits. Thanks to „Fortune Rolls”, we can introduce new details, establish something.

Checking conditions and things by Moves

PbtA Moves can also ask us, what happens, when certain trigger or condition has been noticed or spoken. In short, when something is present, then something certain follows (or arrives).

Examples can be as simple as those two Moves (The Hocus playbook from AW 2nd):

Divine protection: your gods give you 1-armor. If you wear armor, use that instead,
they don’t add.
Charismatic: when you try to manipulate someone, roll+weird instead of roll+hot.

According to them. The Hocus is „protected by gods” even if they wear no armor, and also they can manipulate people by sole Psychic Maelstorm and their weirdness.

Another, more interesting example:

Whenever someone in your care dies, you gain +1 Arcane (max +3). Anyone you kill while using Blood for Blood counts.

„Collector of Souls” Move (The SCUP) tells us, that The Screw playbook gathers more arcane power by killing people, when they’re in The Screw’s care. This applies to another Move (as mentioned), which – in short – is about healing someone by sacrificing someone!

Moves for XP, like „get XP when something happens or you reset something” or even „get 1 XP when you roll 6 or less” also check things.

Controversy: Sex Moves and Intimacy Moves doesn’t resolve things. Rarely they establish something (it depends of each game and playbook). But they tell you a lot about certain Playbook archetype. How such intimate moment impacts both people engaged? In short, by using those Moves, we check how social dynamics between PC and PC (or PC and NPC) do work!

One strange oddity for the conclusion

I think, that I found a Move, which does all three things I’ve mentioned: resolving a situation, establishing facts and checking things. It’s from Nanoworld:

Something New
When you attempt to do something new and interesting, roll 2d6 and add a stat of the GM’s choosing. On a 10+, it’s something all clones can do. On a 7-9, you succeed this time but it’s something risky for clones to do. On a 6-, it’s something clones just can’t do.

First, we resolve, either clone (that one, so all of them) can do something.

Second, we establish, what all clones can do, and what can’t do.

Third, we check, what can be a risky task in the future (for „Something Risky” Move’s purpose).

I hope I inspired you for something. 🙂

If you want to support me, you can buy one of my games 🙂

Ten tekst powstał dzięki wsparciu: Jędrzej Śmietański, Aleksandra Sontowska, Jakub KucharzewskiErpegowe Piekiełko, Sebastian Żarnowski, Michał LaskowskiPrzemysław Wasilewski i Marcin Zaród. Dziękuję!


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