Skyworld a PBTA game

I’ve been having fun playing PBTA games lately, and have some friends I wanted to play a fresh one with. For fun I decided to put together this:
Skyworld rules

I thought it would be good to throw it out there to the world and see if anyone can get some value from it.

The design intentions were:

  • Streamlined, low friction rules (for some this is their first PBTA game).
  • Characterful playbooks that broadcast how they play.
  • World building for everyone and zero prep outside of scheduled sessions.
  • Adventure genre excitement, and exploration.
  • Steal everything I like that fits!

I would love to hear what is good/bad about it and get some insights into where changes could be made or where to look for inspiration?


This seems like a fun game! The ship playbook is a nice touch. It’s more fleshed-out than Rapscallion, a pirate PbtA ashcan on sale from Magpie Games.

I really enjoy the inter-party dynamics of hero worship (and occasional pickpocketing of one’s heroes) built into the Cabin Boy playbook. A few of my other favorite moves: The Captain’s mano-a-mano and the Stowaway’s offscreen awesome.

I have a question about this part of the introduction:

It is very common for the GM to ask, what do you do? Or something to a similar effect. Whenever your crewmate wants to react to the world, narrate what they intend to do. A move will be assigned in order to resolve how successful they are.

This seems to imply that everything a player narrates will trigger a move. However, that’s rarely the case in PbtA games, and I’d advise you to be explicit about this. In general, players should narrate their character doing or saying anything plausible, and only sometimes will it trigger a move. What exactly triggers a move is a decision that PbtA designers have to make, and usually they’ll go for exciting, high-stakes, genre-appropriate triggers. You probably don’t have to roll to tie your shoes (unless there’s meaningful time pressure), or get someone to help you if they’re already inclined to do so (unless there’s something significant holding them back from helping)!


Thanks, I’m glad you found stuff in there you liked.

You make a good point regarding the introduction. It certainly wasn’t meant to imply you should be making tests for everything so I will do a little rewriting there.


This looks great! Fun premise, and a lot more polish than I was expecting for something “fun [you] decided to put together”. I think you undersold it. I’d say it seems like you accomplished your design goals, although the world building part isn’t as clear to me from the parts I read.

A few thoughts…

  • I would be clearer about the discussion for “Game Etiquette”. Honestly, this is probably fine for a game you’re just playing with friends, but if somebody else is interpreting that for another table, more structure would be helpful. I’m not sure what could be unleashed by just saying “let’s have a quick conversation about every controversial topic we can think of”.
  • I was kind of expecting some specific Ship moves. I guess it would mostly be Use Daring and Use Danger? Hm.
  • “We Can Be Heroes” is a great move. Once someone’s a hero, are they a hero forever? It feels like there should be a way to remove some.
  • I like the idea of Moment in the Sun, but some of the costs feel unequal. Specifically, I’m thinking of “Dominoes” which doesn’t have as obvious of a downside.
  • I thought it was interesting to see some Dungeon World Barbarian moves re-flavored as Captain moves. I wouldn’t have thought those were the same, but it works here. One concern I’ve always had with the “complication” from the d6 being higher is that I feel like it functionally turns successes into mixed successes, and then I’m not sure if the move is actually better than just 2d6. Not sure on the math.
  • I think the Gunner’s moves lack the style of most other playbooks. A lot of Gunner moves are just “roll move with different stat”
  • The Hunter playbook feels very niche, but I’m not sure. This could depend on the kinds of adventures you’ll go on. I read this trigger a few times, but I’m not sure what it means: " wish to stumble upon the first clue to prey that can’t be ignored"
  • Does the Old Sea Dog’s Moment in the Sun mean they have to retire if they use it? That feels like they’d be a lot less motivated to use it, which takes away a big power for them.

Cool game! @Zeid


Thanks so much. You’re feedback confirmed a lot of design concerns I had and also highlighted a couple of things I had overlooked.

  • I will definitely consider reworking the Game “Etiquette section”. This is certainly not something I gave much thought too.
  • The lack of ship moves echoes one of my biggest concerns, the generic nature of the basic moves and how far I’m pushing them. It is definitely something I’m really thinking about and struggling to tackle.
  • I’ve done a little reworking of the “We can be heroes” move to include a simple way of removing heroes. It definitely felt like a missed opportunity not having mechanics behind that. Hopefully this will encourage the removal of heroes when the Cabin Boy wants to grow up and become a different playbook, or when something fictionally happens with another character.
  • I definitely thing some of the “Moment in the sun” moves need reworking. I will likely do another pass over them.
  • Yeah, the 1d6>1d8 mechanic certainly feels like a detriment more than a boon. I was thinking of making it start with as 1d6+1d10 and having the level up be 1d6+1d12 instead to make it more desirable?
  • This definitely is how I was feeling about the Gunner, I certainly felt it was the weakest playbook from a design perspective. This definitely makes me want to rework it to push the stubborn angle more in ways with less combat/danger focus.
  • I definitely was concerned with the Hunter feeling too focused. I think that will be something I can confirm/dismiss with some play testing. Their moment in the sun was poorly worded, essentially it’s meant to get the GM to give you a full adventure suited to your playbook (you get a prey to track, and a big payoff at the end for the crew).
  • The Ol’ Sky Dog’s moment in the sun is currently meant to retire/kill them. I like the flavouring, but yeah it certainly does make it seem like they are missing out on a move. Furthermore, killing a character through exposition mightn’t feel as impactful as if the game pushed it through other forms of play.

Again thanks for all the feedback, I’ve already made some tweaks based on what you’ve said, but there is a fair bit more I will need to consider to address all mentioned. Any and all suggestions on amendments are welcome.


I think all of these things have fairly easy fixes. Ship combat / basic moves is the most complex so I’ll address that last.

  • For Game Etiquette, I wouldn’t re-invent the wheel. A lot of good safety tools already exist. I like lines and veils best, but also recommend check-ins, and I think the x-card has a place too.
  • My edit to “We can be heroes” would be that if they roll a 1, in addition to the meddling, the hero verbally snaps at the kid, and the hero bond is broken. Seems simplest, but a little harsh, so I’d probably also let them both mark XP.
  • The Moment in the Sun moves are really great and flavorful, so I’d be nervous about messing with them too much. Then again, you’re clearly a competent designer, so whatever new stuff you come up with will probably be good too. I mentioned the specific parts I’d re-work. Give Dominoes a clearer penalty. Don’t make the Sea Dog retire. The Hunter I’ll address below. One other concern might be players’ reluctance to ever actually use the move, if you can only use it once. Like how we play Final Fantasy games and never actually use the elixirs because we’re saving them.
  • I think the simplest re-write of the Barbarian move is the advantage mechanism that’s been catching on in games like Impulse Drive and Demigods: roll 3d6, keep the two best. If you STILL fail, maybe it can be extra bad (ex. “someone sees your naked greed”)
  • I would just combine the Gunner and Hunter playbooks. They both feel like half of a great playbook. Not sure what I’d call it. Skyranger? This is a personal design philosophy, but I don’t like classes that are good in certain situations and bad in others. It just makes the players take turns being bored in a scene that’s not “for them”. I prefer to make classes competent in all scenes, but have very different methods towards success. Sometimes even competing methods, which can inspire the fun kind of party bickering.
  • There have been some good discussions in this forum about whether universal basic moves are a good thing. I’d encourage you to check out the Uncharted Worlds 2nd Edition thread if you haven’t. It also links to a thread about whether Defy Danger is a bad move. For ship combat, I think you can get away with out basic ship moves if you do something else to make it feel different. In my game, I’m giving starships different resources (ex. fuel, shields, cloaking) but they still follow the same rules and basic moves. At least that’s currently the plan. If you want design references, my main ones are Impulse Drive and Starfinder, which handle starship combat very differently, but there’s some overlap in picking modules and creating your ship. However, my main reference is actually movie scenes, like the one where Drax hangs out the back of the ship in Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2

Your friends are lucky to have someone who’s tailor-made such a great game for them. Have fun playing it!

EDIT: Thought of a few caveats to mention…

  • rolling a 1 to remove heroes may not happen as often as you like. Could be every time the hero doesn’t use their dice.
  • 3d6 drop lowest is considerably more powerful than 1d6+1d8. It’s roughly equivalent to +1.5 on a roll

I’ve been playtesting and adjusting the game a lot. I made some sweeping changes, and it is likely more will come in time, but for now I thought it would be a good idea to get some more feedback:

Skyworld rules update

Some of the big changes:
Dice system overhaul.
Modifiers, including traits are now associated with d4 through to d12 instead of +/- numbers.
This has been working better than expected. There are of course trade-offs, but I’m liking this twist.

  • The consolidation of forward, ongoing, and hold has helped streamline gameplay.
  • You always have the chance of a miss, no matter the bonus.

Clocks are cited and integrated more.

  • I’m personally a fan of clocks for giving clarity to players, having the players be able to call for this is as a move is nice.
  • The referencing of ‘commit’ in moves is there for the GM as a reminder. It tells the GM, yes they can do this activity with a bonus, but don’t feel you need to let the players completely blow through the obstacle.

Integrating bond mechanics to try and encourage role play.

  • These are in need of more play testing. This latest pass will hopefully hold up well.

Encumbrance and survival mechanics have been added.

Tags are now emphasised and codified much more.

  • The tag changes have been well received, there was some discussion about putting more ways to access new tags.

Massive move overhaul/cull.
I tried to narrow the number of playbook moves and change them so that they were:

  • moves that would trigger reasonably often.
  • moves that wouldn’t feel awkward if used over-and-over.
  • moves that were quick to parse.

There may be a need to add some more, we will see.

Added art.

  • Art is pretty.

There are still a number things I’m trying to get right:

  • Experience and the bond mechanics.
  • Damage/proficiency (I feel it is clunky, I’m tempted to incorporate the move roll into damage dealt/received)
  • Potential introduction of a currency system.
  • Tweaks to basic moves.

All in all, I’m fairly happy with where things are, I’m trying to be careful not to add too much more to the game as I want to keep it easy to pick up and play. I am thinking about extending it out with how to play content.


Wow! That’s a really complete system! This looks like it’s ready for release!

(I haven’t read it in detail yet… Just greedily skimmed over the document, to get a feel for what you’ve made.)

Four fairly tiny things…

  1. The Celtic-font you’ve chosen for the four attributes is very difficult to read. I like an “r” and a “D” to be instantly recognisable.

  2. I’d pay a bit more attention to gender and shape diversity. The pictures are neat. But I’d want a “Preferred personal pronoun” section and a name section on the character sheet, reminding people that they can be he/she/they. And I’d change “Cabin Boy” to “Cabin Hand” or “Cabin Lackey” or something non-gender-specific. Maybe also have some heavier people represented? Maybe some disabled?

  3. Racial diversity needs a tweak. The drawings are mostly people who aren’t black, though their skin tones are quite diverse. A tad more representation might go down well in the world nowadays.

  4. The “damage” note doesn’t make sense to me: “When proficient in a weapon, also roll this and choose a die.” What does this mean? What must the player do?

You’ve got a great game here! I hope you’re going to release it somewhere!

Blue skies


Thanks. I will likely flesh it out with some extra side content and release it when done. Just not sure what distribution would be best.
In regards to the feedback:

  1. My girlfriend called me out on the font long ago, so she appreciates the backup :stuck_out_tongue:. I will have to find a nice font to replace it.
  2. and
  3. I’m currently using an AI to generate the characters as placeholder images. It is a little hard to push it for diversity and this has been a problem. I intend to either commission or redo the art myself if I publish it at all. The Cabin Boy name has been on the chopping block for a while, I was struggling to find a better name. Cabin Hand sounds pretty good, I was also looking at Scallywag, but not sure.
  4. I will rework this to make sense, but I’m thinking of removing/reworking the system for damage so will see. Essentially, if you know how to use a weapon, roll the weapons damage, and your playbooks, then use whichever die you like. Otherwise, you roll just the weapon damage.

Thanks for the feedback, I will definitely endeavour to get it out and finalised sometime soon.

Any ideas on where to look for distribution/publishing would be appreciated.


Excited to see this up again! Haven’t had time to read it closely, but I see some changes. The dice for stats is an interesting one.

Did you use artbreeder? These characters look a lot better than what I’ve been able to get out of it.

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Thanks, playtesting with the dice stats has gone well so far. I’m thinking up other mechanics I could introduce to capitalise on this twist, but not sure if any will make it in.

Yeah artbreeder and a bit of tweaking with photoshop.