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I already made some general remarks about making Pbta hacks, and gave some opinionated advice about basic moves. These will be some suggestions about playbook moves, starting with a Do and a Don’t.

  • DO: Playbook moves should make characters feel special.
  • DON’T: Playbook moves should not encapsulate what any character might resonably try.

To give an example about the DON’T, I remember the first draft of my Star Trek hack (this is the current one). I had observed that from time to time, characters on the show redirect energy to change functionality of the ship. Now it is not so common, as to make it a basic move, but I thought it might be a nice move for one of the playbooks. Except, it wasn’t. The problem was that another player had seen the shows too and casually declared they would redirect energy. And you do not want to genitalia block your players. So this got wrapped into a basic engineering move as a potential requirement (dismantle something else).

There are special engineering moves on some of the playbooks, though. Like Belana’s signature move of percussive maintenance. That works fine, because most Starfleet engineers are not the type to kick a console in frustration. Nor do we usually expect it to work then. So characters without the move might certainly kick a console, but we wouldn’t consider it a reasonable attempt at anything.

As for the DO, we want the playbook moves to evoke some image. This might be some actual actions the character takes that others usually wouldn’t, like the Kick It above. These are other sources we can exploit though.

  • Iconic possessions, maybe they have a magic sword, hideout or special pet.
  • Past experiences. They might be Well Travelled, Friends with Dragons, or anything else a player might incorporate into their role-play.
  • Things that regularly happen to the character without them doing much, maybe they just happen to find magic items, or people always tell them their problems.
  • Changes that happen to character. Maybe they develop some new magic or grow wings.
  • Catch Phrases.

A catch phrase might seem very similar to an action a character might take, except it can be used if there is not really a separate action to be taken. That’s because many playbook moves are not actually moves in their own right. Often they are modifications of basic moves. The most typical ones are +1 bonuses and stat changes (roll +Vanilla instead of +Chilli). As such the general consensus is that they should be used sparingly.

Usually those riders are connected with certain situations: When you trigger_basic_move and condition, [roll +Vanilla instead of +Chilli / take +1]. You can also add some further details to drive that point home, like on a move with choice you can have: … and you must choose X, or: …and you cannot choose Y.

Speaking of choices, you can also use a rider move to…

  • offer new choices (you may also choose…)
  • offer an additional choice pick on a hit.

Alternatively, you might offer a reduced effect / single choice on a miss as a kind of consolation price. That is, you incure what ever bad things happen on a miss, but you at least get what the playbook move offers. I found that people often have problems wrapping their heads around such consolation moves, so you might want to explain carefully how they work.

Of course, you can write completely new moves, including a trigger, possibly a roll and some effects thereafter. You have two options then, you can either do something that does something that is completely removed from what the basic moves do, or you can take something that is similar but more specific than what a certain basic move does or offer more control. Let’s compare the basic engineering move, with Belana’s.

When you work on a piece of tech, say what you want to achieve and the Prophets will tell you some of the following:

  • It takes seconds/minutes/hours/days.
  • You can’t do it alone.
  • You can’t do it from here.
  • You can only achieve a lesser result or a single shot.
  • You need some resources or you have to dismantle something else. (Can happen multiple times.)

vs.

[  ] Kick it: When a system shuts down, you may kick it and roll +Aggressive. On a hit, it will work one more time. On a 7-9, take Angry or something similar as a condition.

The Kick It move has more specific conditions and much more limited effect. It is also much quicker than working on some tech. The player also knows exactly what they will get on a hit, whereas the the basic move takes more negotiation.