I definitely see the issue the OP raises. As I see, it GMless PBTA games pose a number of distinct challenges.
Challenge one is around rules mastery / teaching.
- Without structure, you get the loudest voices dominating
- But structure implies rules
- There’s a need/expectation that if you’re taking on the GM-equivalent role, especially around generating and resolving threats, you’ll have full mastery of those rules
- So teaching/communicating the rules is hella important
- PBTA GMless games tend to take a relatively structured/rules-heavy approach, hence this is particularly relevant to PBTA. (But also relevant to other more heavily structured GMless games IMO.)
Dream Askew has fabulous structure for the Playbooks, displaying everything you need to know in one place (albeit I’ve found with some cognitive load issues). In my experience it does less well on the Situation side, where things are less structured and therefore more freeform by default. That may explain experiences described above with the Situation side fading into the background somewhat.
Flotsam provides core mechanics for both the Playbook and Situation side of the game. This is meant to reduce cognitive load, but it does mean you have to learn that stuff - the information isn’t all there on the Playbook. On the upside, they’re very simple core mechanics and there’s a Teaching Guide to help communicate them. It can be a lot to learn in one go though, especially for one shot play.
Flotsam definitely benefits from having a facilitator who knows the rules inside-out and is watching out for opportunities to support the other players as they learn the game (and having one is explicitly called for in the text). I think this is pretty crucial for any game (GMless or otherwise) that has any real level of rules complexity. Even if everyone did read the book (and they won’t), someone needs to provide that support.
Challenge 2 is getting players who aren’t used to the GM role to be comfortable generating and pushing forward strife. I’m talking here about threats and challenges outside of the player characters’ relationships with each other. I think this is a particular challenge for PBTA GMless games, because they do tend to assume a degree of outside challenge/threats that don’t exist in the same way in (forex) Fiasco. This is culturally just a thing that is seen as hard. Knowing how hard to push things, when to step in - it is a skillset that isn’t that hard to acquire IMO but the prevalence of the GM model means some people have practice at it and some don’t.
What both Dream Askew and Flotsam do that is neat is hand the levers for generating strife over to the playbooks. You gain tokens by doing stuff that will cause you trouble, effectively inviting the Situation players to kick you. That open invitation is less daunting than simply having to make it up. I think that’s a key piece of technology here. But I definitely think there’s more scope to develop approaches that help people unlock the GM mentality.
Challenge three is around agreeing the details of a world and situation. It’s actually wonderful to do this as a group, rather than have it given to you on a plate. Doing this is something that tends to happen in PBTA games of all stripes, not just GMless ones. It’s challenging because it takes time and space, which you might not want to give, especially in a one-shot format. I’ve played quite a bit of PBTA one-shots and they either require a load of prep online to generate the shared creation aspects, or just do it more trad-style and have the GM tell you what’s what. That or go in with a fairly well-understood setting/situation “you’re modern day monster hunters” “you’re teen supers” and go from there.
What I think PBTA needs to do more of - I’ve done this in Flotsam and plan to do it more in future designs - is provide pre-packaged setting/situation stuff that has gaps in it for you to define details, but does a lot of the work for you. It’s a crucial tool that trad games know how to do and PBTA seems to routinely assume isn’t needed. But it’s particularly valuable if you need to get started in half an hour. So more of this please PBTA designers.