Converting PbtA to GMless

I have a 1000$ question: what is the state of the art concerning converting a PbtA game into a GMfull experience?


Tracking this because I’m curious!

Dream Askew is GMfull, from what I experienced. Just a little bulky, because it’s sooo much to keep in mind when starting off the first couple of scenes.


I mean to convert a strictly GMed PbtA game, like Apocalypse World, and play it GMless.
We could play the Setting and GM moves in AW as in Dream Askew, but I doubt that would be so simple. Well, maybe it is.

So the closest thing I can think of re this is Alicia Furness’s game Paranormal Inc , which is largely a GMless/ful hack of Brindlewood Bay, though with a modified setting and premise.

She clearly lays out the structure of play, and the order in which certain phases happen. There’s no GM to adjudicate results, but she does suggest having a Host (i.e. someone who has actually read the rules) to keep things on track procedurally.

She uses a deck of cards shuffled into a pile for each suit, and an interpretation guide, to deliver

  • clues (clubs)

  • NPCs (spades)

  • locations & set-the-scene questions (hearts)

  • paranormal events (diamonds)

Each card usually has a few options for each result.

She suggests rotating who draws what cards. They then deliver that context to the active player, so if e.g. I say I want to poke around for clues, someone else draws a clue card and describes what I’ve found.

She still uses the 2d6 resolution system for moves.

There’s no dark conspiracy: that’s probably harder to do GMless.

Differences she introduced that are probably more about making a new game rather than a requirement of GMless play are

  • a modified setting and premise

  • multiple playbooks, each with their own special moves, rather than a single playbook drawing from a shared pool of special moves, as BB does

  • the crowns mechanic is simplified

It’s a fun game, and worth a try if you’re interested in this question.


If I’m reading your response correctly, I think the answer is the same as for “how do I make any game GMless”, I don’t think there’s anything special to consider if it’s PbtA. Identify the core responsibilities of the GM, and find a way to distribute them to the other players. The full answer depends entirely on the specific game, and since “PbtA” is such a broad label, I’m afraid that’s not a super helpful place to start in nailing things down.

Ironsworn is one of the best GMless/full PbtA games that I’ve seen. (Since Dream Askew has already been mentioned. :slight_smile:) That’s a great place to mine for inspiration. Also, The King is Dead, Firebrands, Spin the Beetle, all those are existing GMless PbtA games, so maybe take a look at what they’re doing?


Considering the way that GM responsibilities are strictly codified in PbtA games, couldn’t you break the GM playbook into it’s component moves and distribute them amongst the players? When built from the ground up, the story roles could work to complement or contrast the character role. Something like sly rogue controlling or manifesting traps and surprises, or the healer determining the power and aggression of enemies.

There’s a game Shock: Social Science Fiction where each player is responsible for their own character and the antagonistic force (either a character itself, or something more meta like “evil robots” or even “anti-clone bigotry”) of a different player’s character. That’s mostly what I’m building off.


I’d have to dig into the mechanics of how it does it if you want details but Noir World which released at the end of July does this by rotating the GM (director) each scene.
It’s available from my marketplace (among other places)

If Noir Cinema sounds like fun to you, consider checking it out.

– edit to add - looks like I don’t actually have the “PDF Only” option up we’ll try to get that sorted soon.

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