System Concept - In A Wicked Age/PBTA mashup

Hi folks! First time poster. Just wanted to say how floored I am at some of the ideas I see on here, and how much they’ve improved my games and helped me and my group to get through all the recent craziness.

Given all that’s been going on, I recently had a chance to reread In a Wicked Age. I was struck by the way Forms can be combined to resemble a wide range of different actions, and it got me interested in using forms in a World of Dungeons style one move system.

My thought was to combine Forms with PBTA style resolutions. Each character would have a number of Forms (i.e. Covertly, Directly, For myself, For others, With love, With violence), with a die value between d4 to d12 for each. Two Forms would be combined to form an action (i.e. Covertly d4 For myself d8 to steal the sorcerer’s amulet, or For others d6 With violence d6 to ward off the ghoul trying to devour the farmer).

The player’s roll would be opposed by the GM’s, using dice based on the threat the opposition poses. If one of the player’s dice matches the GM’s, they succeed. If both match, they succeed without complication.

There’s a few more pieces of it, but that’s the main bit. What I enjoy about use of Forms is that they emulate actions in a similar manner as BitD, while emphasizing approach and character motivation over specific skills.

My question is, are there any limitations to Forms that I’m missing? And, in people’s opinion, will an opposed dice check slow down play too much?


And you’ve found a nice resolution mechanic. I think it has the problem of the opposed roll not for a time related but purely dramatic concern.
I want players to build a situation, get tense about it, and look up the dice result in anguish, before high five and cheering, or cursing their bad luck and the loaded dice, right ? And for that you need to have the player rolling last.
When you mentioned iaWA I thought : “Yay! The Owe list !” I am disappointed on this front.


Welcome to the Forums @PlumBob; glad you’re finding them helpful. Your idea is intriguing, but I have to admit I’ve developed a bit of an aversion to opposed rolls. More power to your elbow.

I appreciate the feedback! Your point about static result ranges and their role in building tension isn’t one I’ve thought of before.

I’ll admit, I’m partial to player-facing rolls, and have been since my first foray into PBTA. However, I was having some difficulty working it into a system relying on multiple die types. I suppose the easy fix is to readjust the traditional 6-, 7-9, 10+ ranges to better fit a 2d8 distribution (what I’m thinking will likely be the average roll).

Concerning The Owe List, it’s something I’ve always loved in practice that I haven’t gotten to try out outside of a few loosely connected one-shots. I think it works extraordinarily well for a Sword and Sorcery game, but haven’t tried to use it to emulate any other genre.

While I’m at it, I was thinking of trying to emulate BitD Effect and Position through a similar mechanism. Essentially, players would roll a third die related to their Effect, while the GM would roll a die related to their Position. You would essentially step up the die type whenever you would improve your Effect. GM determines the Position die type. Player and GM would then compare their two highest dice, in a manner similar to the above.

Any idea how to make this work in a fixed result system?

Sorry I wasn’t clear : just make the GM roll first.
I like the effect and position dice even better, as it makes the notions concrete. Only I have no idea of the probabilities it creates.

There are a lot of things to untangle here!

Is it possible to use a variety of dice types in various combinations to get PbtA-style results, in a single roll? Absolutely. I’ve written several games that do this, and it works really well. For example, my game The Bureau uses this idea exactly like that - the probabilities are absolutely perfect for this kind of application:

There are lots of fun ways to do “combined die types” with PbtA-style moves, and the math is just perfect. Like I said, I’ve used this in a variety of designs. I actually use this kind of hack when I play Apocalypse World and similar games - you get one die based on your character’s state, one based on their ability, and one from the GM, based on your circumstances. It’s lovely, and it’s great because there is no math to do. (Note that I do not use dice quite as large as IaWA’s, though - a d12 would be an enormously powerful die in this hypothetical system, like a +4 in normal PbtA parlance.)

Your idea of rolling two dice and matching (or not matching) with an opposed roll has also seen some use, like, I believe, in Ironsworn (I’m not familiar enough with the game to be sure, but it sounds like exactly that, from what I’ve read - e.g.

Having said all that, the format you are considering isn’t applying the basic principles of In a Wicked Age…, which are really important to that game and the design. Simply grabbing those Forms isn’t necessarily going to make for a good game.

First of all, the game design depends very heavily on the subjectivity of the Forms: you see, choosing your strongest Forms in that game is not a smart long-term move (since it takes you out of the running as a long-term protagonist). Playing with your weakest or strongest Forms is a big part of what allows each player to decide whether they are playing an underdog hero or a terrible villain we’ll never play again. Without this piece, you’ll likely find the Forms to be too “loose” for any kind of play which doesn’t expect the characters to succeed more often than not (since, without the We Owe List, there’s no incentive not to use your best Forms all the time, and they tend to be subjective enough that you can grab them almost whenever you want - how hard is it to justify rolling “For Myself”, for example?). In IaWA, though, that’s a meaningful choice all the time, because of the Owe List.

The Owe List is the most important design feature of IaWA, and you have to find a way to make it work with your hypothetical hack. It provides long-form structure and the necessary counter-balances for the Form choice to work in the first place.

So, what’s your goal? To redesign IaWA with some PbtA mechanics (I have a draft for this somewhere, actually…)? In that case, you need a clever solution to the Owe List under this new hacked design. Or is it to use IaWA Forms in regular, PbtA adventure play (with no Owe List)? In that case, you’ll need different Forms (and possibly different die sizes).

I hope that’s helpful! As you can tell, it’s something close to my heart: I’ve given this a fair bit of thought. :slight_smile:


Wow. Thank you for such a thoughtful answer! Just so you know, The Bureau was one of the first PBTA games my group stumbled upon after moving on from Fate Core. We had a blast using it for a fantasy setting a friend homebrewed.

I never considered the importance of The Owe List to IaWA in those terms. However, I’m aware of a few similar concerns about FAE approaches as the one you raised about the use of Forms without the balance of the Owe List.

My idea to incentivize players away from using their best Form at all times was to tie Forms to experience. A player would mark each Form every time it was used in a roll, and only after all Forms were marked they would take XP. This would require them to at least use a weaker Form with a stronger Form if they wish to progress their character.

This hack is much more using Forms in PBTA than a redesign of IaWA. The reason why I’m so keen to use them is that I really enjoy how Forms blend three aspects of an action; answering a character’s approach to a problem, the tools they use to solve it, and their motivation for doing so. I’ve considered expanding the number of Forms, and intend to tweak them to fit the setting that I eventually land on.

Additionally, by default I’m not expecting any Form to be higher than a d10, and a player’s forms average at d6. Forms are only raised up to d12 through a subsystem heavily influenced by Fate Aspects/13A Backgrounds. Each character would start with 5-10 points to divide between Backgrounds of their design (501st clone trooper, Legion of Doom mook, etc.), and write a small description of the Background. When an action falls under the purview of a Background (i.e. Fighting droids as a 501st clone trooper), players can spend points from that Background to step up their lowest die. Background points can also be spent to declare facts about the world related to their Background (with the GM deciding how many points that takes), create contacts, etc. It’s an idea that’s been stewing for awhile, and is still very raw and likely prone to some of the same problems as other systems face with such open-ended Backgrounds.

I also don’t think the d12s would be as much of a problem in an opposed roll resolution system (which, by the way, was definitely unconsciously influenced by Ironsworn. Read through it two years or so, completely forgot about it until you just mentioned it). It does make the challenge quite a bit more swingy in either direction.

Curious about any criticism of the above, especially concerning the Background subsystem. That’s definitely going to need some playtesting, and as of now I can’t quite predict how big of an effect it will have on the rest of play. And again, I really appreciate all your feedback!

Wow, how interesting! I have lots more to say, but I want to hear more about your campaign of “The Bureau”. Would you write to me about it, or chat with me online? However you want to share.

Absolutely! Feel free to shoot me a message. It was a ton of fun and I’d be happy to talk about it.

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The owe list gets to little love!!! Heck, In a Wicked Age as a whole gets to little love!