How many playbooks do I need?

  • 4 Replies
How many playbooks do I need?
« on: May 08, 2017, 02:54:16 AM »
Hi all, first time posting here, and, I'm still very new to PbtA, but, I've played Dungeon World, ran a teeny tiny bit of Urban Shadows, and have been reading AW.

I'm starting a PbtA hack, as I really love to work with game systems and build on them, and am going to start running it for my meatspace group soon, I have enough of it functional for them to dive into, but, I'm running into an issue of, AW has soooo many playbooks, to really give enough options for different characters, it seems like I should have a similar number.

I have 7 playbooks mostly nailed down (though I expect them to go through changes), but, that feels like not enough to avoid eventually having a lot of overlap in characters because there's just not that much to choose from.  I can kinda think of a potential number 8 & maybe 9, but, beyond that, really not coming to me for this game.

So, is there an ideal number of playbooks?  Is 7 or even 9 really just not enough variety? Should I be stressing about this?

Re: How many playbooks do I need?
« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2017, 04:37:02 AM »
I'd say it depends.

I could see a game with just 4 playbooks, if that game is about just playing those 4 archetypes.

7 playbooks widen the field, but is still pretty focused. Players have a choice when the game starts, but there is not a lot of choices if they can change playbooks during play (can they change playbooks during play?) Though this also depends on how flexible the playbooks are. Can a player pick the same playbook as another player, and most of the time not be stepping on that player's toes?

Original AW has 11 playbooks (if I'm counting correctly), with 5+ more extended playbooks. They run the gamut from hyper-violent to very social, from loner to leader to team player. So even if they aren't that flexible, you can play a lot of different scenarios.

I wouldn't stress out about it at this point. Try it out with 7 playbooks. That should be enough to start. And then you might find that you need more. Or maybe you'll find that you don't need more. Unless you already predict that your players will be swapping playbooks a lot. Or unless you want the game to encompass a lot of different scenarios from the very start. (Playstyle vs. Scenario: To allow a playstyle, you need a single playbook with that style, so a player can follow that playstyle. To allow a scenario, you need enough playbooks of that style that all or most of the players can fit into the scenario.)

Re: How many playbooks do I need?
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2017, 01:12:22 AM »
Main thing is I have 6 players (and an extra that occasionally visits when we have an extra seat open), but... they like to sometimes switch up characters too, which makes it possibly a bigger issue if I really want niche protection.
Anyhow, good to know it isn't like there's some established minimum that there really needs to be beyond maybe 4, and I suppose with a group like this perhaps I'll have to accept some overlap for a while. I'll try not to stress on it.

I'm starting to have more ideas come to mind... wrote another playbook today and realised I could actually go in some very different directions with this than what I was initially thinking.



  • 18
Re: How many playbooks do I need?
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2017, 12:47:27 AM »
If I was designing something for a specific bunch of players, and giving them the choice of finished playbooks (rather than designing specific characters with/for each of them) then I'd try to make sure I had half again as many playbooks as players, so they get the illusion of choice, while making sure that whatever combination they chose produced a viable party.

That's tricky in abstract, because a group of six bricks doesn't work, and a team without a brick might struggle - but since you know your players you can cheat a little.

Re: How many playbooks do I need?
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2017, 06:15:20 AM »
For a specific group I'd go with working with them to make specific (and clearly different) archetypes using Simpleworld.

Avery took it down because she felt there wasn't enough interest, but it's still availabe on the wayback machine thank goodness.

If you are looking for an excuse and a deadline to make a hack, then what I do is choose the stats, than generate every permutation of major and minor stats for a playbook. So 2 stats means four playbooks, 3 stats means 9 (which is what I used - Fighter, Thief and Wizard).

I figured out an archetype that roughly lined up with those stat combinations, then I just rolled up moves randomly. There's always a few pairs turn up to theme the archetype's playbook, and I end up editing them to be tighter as the game settles. This is a huge amount of work to take on, but satisfying: