View Full Version : PbtA Combat Example

Koo Rehtorb
2019-03-16, 03:28 AM
Over the years I've talked with a lot of people about PbtA games and how they work. A lot of people native to D&D-like systems seem to have trouble understanding how these systems work. With that in mind I decided to write up a recent combat I did in Masks: A New Generation, a teen superhero system.

Ash has powers of lightning control and hacking. Something weird about the system right away that might surprise people, none of these powers have mechanics attached to them. Having them gives you what we call "fictional positioning". Which is to say, the ability to make rolls at all in matters related to these things. Ash tracked down Metallica to a luxury hotel suite and decided to go in alone to threaten her into staying away from the rest of the team. Cue extended conversation making it clear Ash was here to mess her up if she didn't agree to leave Death Metal alone from now on. She wasn't in a position to be threatening Metallica for various reasons, so no roll ensued. End the conversation.

Ash: "So are you going to do it?"

Metallica: "**** no. I have a job to do. And I like doing it too."

Ash: "I form lightning around my hands and start walking towards her."

Me: "As soon as the lightning starts forming she reaches a hand back and whips her arm around, hurling the couch at you. What do you do?" (Metallica is extremely physically fit with all kinds of enhanced physical abilities, Ash is not, so I give her the "initiative" so to speak)

Ash: "I dodge out of the way and into the kitchen."

Me: "The couch is coming in awfully fast and you don't really have any powers of being physically fit, and you're a sickly dying girl besides. Take a powerful blow."

Ash: *rolls, gets a partial success, picks the "give ground, the opposition gets an opportunity" option from it*

Me: The couch clips you and knocks you off your feet, sending you spinning into the kitchen and dropping you on your back. As you struggle you regain your senses Metallica sprints across the room, moving faster than you thought she could. Before you can react she reaches down, picks you up, turns, and hurls you through the 100th story window. You're falling to your death. What do you do?"

Ash: "Is there a fire escape or balconies or something I could grab onto?"

Me: "There's balconies, but they're kind of far away, and again you don't have any real physical prowess to speak of."

Ash: "Okay. I mark a doom to give myself the ability to fly." (Ash's "class" is the Doomed. Someone powerful, but also dying. Among her abilities is the option to get closer to death while gaining temporary powers in the process)

Me: "Okay. You suddenly begin to fly before you fall too far. You're hovering there a ways outside the 100th story window. You can see Metallica standing there inside the apartment looking out at you. What do you do?"

Ash: "I use an electrical charge to start ripping spare change out of my pockets and flinging them at her like a railgun"

Me: "Roll Directly Engage."

Ash: *rolls, gets a partial succcess* "I resist or avoid their blows."

Me: "You start bombarding her with pieces of metal, the coins ripping their way out of your pockets as you hurl them into the building. She grabs a few pieces of furniture and throws them back at you as she's being pelted but her aim is off as the coins impact against her body. Eventually, with a snarl of frustration, she ducks out of sight behind an interior wall. What do you do?" (Every time an NPC takes damage, they make what's called a "soft move". Which is to say, they do a thing that changes the scenario, but gives the players a chance to react to it. "They punch you in the face" is a hard move. "They swing their fist at your face, what do you do?" is a soft move.)

Ash: "She's in the building. I make all the electrical conduits in the wall where she went start exploding."

Me: "Roll Unleash Your Powers"

Ash: *rolls, gets a full success*

Me: "There's several explosions, and a scream of pain. Moments later Metallica comes stumbling back out into your sight, looking badly singed, patting out smouldering fires on her jacket. She fixes her eyes on you and charges across the room, throwing herself out into space as she grabs for you. What do you do? Also, the building's on fire now."

Ash: "I fly at her and slam her back into the wall."

Me: "You're a frail sickly girl, she's big and heavy and partially made of metal."

Ash: "I mark a doom to give myself super strength."

Me: "Okay. Also, those powers are for one roll so your flight is wearing out and you need to land soon. Roll Directly Engage."

Ash: *rolls, gets a full success* "I resist or avoid her blows and take her position from her as I slam her back into the wall over a balcony."

Me: "You fly her back into the side of the building, losing some altitude as you do so and start slamming her into the wall of the 97th floor a few times, making some dents in the concrete as you both land on the balcony. Then you hear a few loud stamps and cracking stone. She's slamming her metal foot into the balcony trying to break it off from the wall. She can survive a fall from this height and you can't. What do you do?"

Ash: "I let out a blast of electricity to blow us both through the wall and into the building."

Me: "Roll Directly Engage"

Ash: *rolls, gets a partial success* "I take her position on the balcony away from her and move her into the room where I'm not about to fall."

Me: (she didn't take the resist or avoid their blows option this time) "As you're both flying into the room her metal foot lashes out at your face, take a powerful blow."

Ash: *rolls, gets a failure* "I remove myself from the scene. As her foot hits my face I get knocked unconscious and fall to the ground." (there were a few other options she could have picked here instead, none of them good. She could have stayed in the fight a while longer but she would have started causing serious collateral damage in the process. Instead, by removing herself from the scene, she'll be in a bit better condition for the next one when she's awake).


Cue scene change to a furious Metallica taking her phone and calling Death Metal with it, telling him to get his ass here right now, alone, or she's going to kill Ash. Team breaks down in internal drama that comes to blows over whether to honour the terms or try an ambush and extraction instead.