A Quickie Players Guide to PbtA


Powered by the Apocalypse.

The Apocalypse?

The first game to use the system is called “Apocalypse World”. A bunch of people made “hacks”, or new settings, using the same rules. Eventually it became a thing.

So what’s the deal.

Basic mechanics are 2d6, plus or minus a relevant stat, plus or minus any relevant situational modifiers.

On a 6 or less, you fail whatever; the GM makes a relevant move. On a 10+, you succeed. On a 7-9, you achieve a partial success - success at a cost.

What do you mean, “partial success”?

It depends on the move in question, but in short you get what you want with a side effect of some sort. Depending on the move it’s chosen by the player or the GM.


They’re like skills. They can be broad, like “act under pressure” (what is known as a “basic move” because everyone has them), or very narrow, like “I know people”, a move specific to the Fixer playbook.

Strictly speaking the GM doesn’t roll for anything; instead, they get to take action based on the outcome of failures and partial success rolled by the players. (That said, they are the GM and can still do whatever they want)

A move is a self-contained rule and will explain when/how it is relevant. Sometimes the GM (or player group!) will decide that a particular move is relevant to the situation.

What is “+1 Forward”? What is “1 Hold”?

If told that you get to “take +1 Forward” (or -2 Forward or whatever), this is just a modifier on the next use of that move. Think of it has gaining the upper hand (or someone else doing so).

Hold is like in-game currency. You “spend” hold to accomplish actions freely, without rolling. Sometimes you have to spend hold to avoid a negative outcome, at the discretion of the GM.

How do I make a character

You customize a playbook. Most of the rules necessary are there.


Playbooks are like classes in D&D. It is important to note that you can only have ONE of a thing per player group; you can’t all be the same class, and you can’t have 2 (whatever) in a group.

OK but what’s with this ”starting lists” of names and looks and stuff in the playbooks

That’s just flavor; you can do whatever you want, unless it’s really dumb or totally contrary to what the group is doing.

What about combat

It’s just a move. In the basic system, you roll “mix it up”. I have a slightly more detailed system in the works; I’ll be posting it shortly.

What’s with the clocks?

It’s just a way of tracking the status of things.

So wait everyone has the same “hit points” or whatever?


That’s dumb!

Ok, first, no it’s not. Do you and I have more or less “hit points” that each other? Second, typically, different antagonists have fewer (or more!) levels on their “harm clock”. Usually your cannon-fodder type doesn’t have 6.

What’s with the “phases”?

The Sprawl rules exist in part bc the author got frustrated running Shadowrun at conventions. They mostly exist in the context of one-shots or short campaigns. They’re not entirely necessary for the game to work.

What’s with the “tags”?

Tags are a way to describe things, mostly but not exclusively gear. Examples include “+armor piercing” to indicate that a weapon ignores armor or “+substandard” which means a thing works, but is fragile, of limited power, etc. They’re a combination of story effects and in-game rules.

I don’t like the playbooks

Feel free to suggest changes. That’s why PbtA is cool.