PbtA Entrance Moves

There’s a category of move I encounter in Powered by the Apocalypse games. I think of them as “dramatic entrance” moves. Here’s one example from Masks:

There when it matters: When you defend someone, on a hit you can hold 1 instead of choosing one from the list. Spend your hold when they are in danger later to arrive on the scene ready to help.

I’m interested in how these moves play at other people’s tables. In my experience, these moves have been underwhelming. It always seems that, if it’s cool for a character to be in a scene, the GM will say yes to it, no move required. This makes it feel like a waste of a move.

How have other people used these moves? Any interesting or exciting experiences? Has anyone hacked the moves to make them more impactful?


No experience, but I like the idea of being able to show up in other scenes with consent, or to pop in when someone gets a bad roll and maybe try to pull their fat out of the fire.


I’ve seen some cool uses of the Tainted from Urban Shadows, who has a move that lets them cash in a debt to whoosh into a scene unannounced, but I think that works because everyone has their own independent schemes and whatnot. In a Masks game I’m running, the Bull has a Team Move like this, but the team’s all generally around one another anyway.


That’s an interesting point. Maybe these moves are less interesting in games/genres where we assume the PCs are together most of the time, and more interesting in games/genres where the PCs are likely to be separated and pursuing their own agendas.

Maybe this move category needs to have bigger fictional and mechanical fallout to be fun in more team-based stories. So here’s a hack of the Bull move:

Just in time: When you defend someone, on a hit you can hold 1 instead of choosing one from the list. Spend your hold when they are in danger later to just be there, at the exact right moment, no matter how implausibly, and take the consequence for them.


My other thought with, say, the Bull move, is that maybe I just need to set up more circumstances where people are separated from the group. If the person the Bull has the hold with is being held captive by a villain, for example, that would be a prime opportunity to bust right in using that move.


Also, it certainly depends on the wording of the move in question, but take There when it matters, for example, there’s no reason the other character in question has to be a PC! I think that opens up some cool possibilities for MCs to move the action or otherwise switch scenes in a pretty interesting way if the target is an NPC. :slight_smile:


I used that move every chance I got the one time I played a Tainted and it was awesome. But yeah, I can see if being a lot less useful depending on the game - specifically how likely it is that the party will be split. The tainted one also lets you dodge danger really well, which this Masks version does not allow.


That is an interesting observation. I would say it strongly depends on the game and on the fictional specifics of the Move. It seems from the discussion that the Masks Move is working less well for example than the Urban Shadows version since the idea of the party is so different.

I have to think about one of my favourite Moves from Monsterhearts (The Wyrm):

Plot to catch someone alone and spend 4 Strings on them: you’ll frame the next scene either of you appear in. Describe the place, but leave it unsaid how you came to be there. Until you make a Move, no one else can show up and the someone can’t leave.

Amazingly painful, isn’t it? This Move is strongest before it actually gets used. The gathering of Strings are a constant reminder. I wonder what other Entrance Moves can learn from that design to better fit into their game?


One of the powerful elements there is also the heavy amount of restriction placed on the scene. It’s not really a narrative mobility move, it’s more of a “snowglobe” move that lets you set a very specific type of scene. So it has some overlap, but I think it’s also actually pretty restricted; you can’t use it to just show up in a scene, for instance.


Yup, that Bull Move is a permission slip to the MC to a) regularly nail the Bull with the ‘Separate Them’ consequence, because this Move allows them to bust out of wherever they might be, which is fictionally pretty cool. I would almost certainly require them to say what they have to break through or down to arrive on the scene…

and b) regularly force the Bull to choose between hanging around with the group and running off to defend a loved one or friend who’s in danger, but not in the scene. It’s the player telling you to force them to make that choice regularly.


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I love this idea. WWW has the Run-In move, which lets you butt into almost any situation for dramatic purposes, which highlights the constant shifting stories in pro wrestling. It helps bring characters together for storyline purposes and it really sings when it’s used well.


I’m a huge fan of moves that give players permission to appear somewhere unexpectedly: in hiding, in disguise, or just with a healthy dose of serendipity. It establishes a lot about the character.

In PbtA one could argue that a conversation with the GM might result in the same permision, but I’d argue that players having explicit permission from the rules means that they’ll hit upon that note more often and I feel their extra agency in the situation makes the use of such abilities feel more impactful and satisfying.


I’ve seen this used to cool effect in several PbtA games, especially as a means of reconnecting a split group, as suggested. In my experience, you get two kinds of players who take it. Ones who completely forget about it and others who shape their actions around it. David L in our Reign of Crows Fate game used it to set up his big final scene.

But although its also infrequent, it’s also a potential friction point at the table. I try to make sure we check in with the player whose scene the new player’s popping into. Do they want the assist? Have they gotten what they want out of the moment? I’ve seen a couple of times here moves like this have sucked the air out of a scene or stolen a player’s forward momentum. I’ve seen this happen in WWW more than elsewhere, usually because someone gets excited about the energy of the moment and comes in without checking in a little.

And I mean that surprise and twist is part of the fun, but not when it takes away from someone else’s high point. And there’s a social pressure at the table to accept these kinds of shifts (I hesitate to say intrusions), which can make a player who wants to finish their moment say yes and then be unhappy later. It just means as GMs I think we have to be particular aware of the dynamics of those moments.


What if the move was written like:

When you defend someone, on a hit you can have them hold 1 instead of choosing one from the list. They can spend their hold when they are in danger later to have you arrive on the scene ready to help.

That puts the control in the hands of the help-ee to call on the help-er, which removes the danger of barging in unannounced. “Call on someone for help” becomes an option that the help-ee has in their arsenal of ways to respond to situations. And the help-er then has this debt hanging over their head, this idea that they may get pulled away from their other tasks by their obligation to help a particular friend.

Now, that raises issues of the help-er’s consent to be pulled into helping. But depending on the game it could be coupled with a resistance move (a la Urban Shadows and debts), so that there’s a potential cost to not answering the call.


The Ninja Princess in Princess World has this:

When you want to suddenly appear where someone else is, you may Roll with Threads:

On a hit: You’re there!
On a 10+: You may choose to reveal yourself immediately or remain hidden.
On a 7-9: Others know you’re there.

On a miss: You wind up some place you don’t want to be.

“Roll with Threads” is kind of like Roll+Hx in Apocalypse World; the more strongly connected you are to the character in the scene, the easier it is for you to get to them.


And, technically, another Protagonist Character could use a move to counter that or put a penalty on the roll.

Or the players could discuss it at the table before resolution.

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I actually like the original Bonefeel:

Bonefeel: at the beginning of the session, roll+weird. On a 10+, hold 1+1. On a 7–9,
hold 1. At any time, either you or the MC can spend your hold to have you already be
there, with the proper tools and knowledge, with or without any clear explanation why.
If your hold was 1+1, take +1forward now. On a miss, the MC holds 1, and can spend it to
have you be there already, but somehow pinned, caught or trapped.

Because it also allows the MC to make use of the hold, it creates another level of tension of play between the two. I’ve also used it to great effect, taking this move as an Angel is amazing, for example.


As someone playing The Bull in a Masks campaign who took that move, I feel ya.


When I put together the Faceless playbook for AW I made the Scent of Blood move to give it the Jason Voorhees teleportation flavor, and rolled it into the sex move to give it the creepy protectiveness I imagined the character having. It’s still one of my favorite moves.