Limiting myself to only games that are available to the public and games that I have actually played, there’s quite a list of amazing games that have come into my inbox in the past 12 months. Like Monster of the Week, Spirit of 77, and Community Radio. Like Crone, and The Clay that Woke, and Legacy Life Among the Ruins.
For today’s post, I’d like to talk about Spirit of 77. Here is a game which takes the Apocalypse World engine and throws everyone into a weird, groovy world of the late 70’s.
The playbooks are evocative– and their permutations are fantastic. You have a role and a background– each piece is one half of your character sheet. So you could be the Glam Rocker (David Bowie), with moves that highlight your performance as well as your charisma. You can play an All-Star turned Sleuth, as I did, playing a former Olympic gymnast turned private eye. One of the roles has a gang– sure, you could make that a traditional group of thugs. But what if you paired it with the All Star or Glam backgrounds to lead a group of cheerleaders?
In addition to the various ways you can combine your role and background, everyone gets a "thang" that is their signature item. It can’t really be threatened or taken away from you– it’s yours. Your thang could be a business you own. It could be a sidekick. It could be a piece of equipment, a weapon, or even a pet (monkeys are a common theme in this game… just saying.)
And then you get into the adventure. The moves work very much like they do in any PbtA game. But Spirit of 77 has done something really great with the way they write adventures. After all, a core concept in any *World game is "play to find out," right? And yet, I’ve played some amazing mystery stories with this system. How do you plan a mystery if you’re letting the players decide how it turns out?
The trick is in having multiple fronts in the adventure, and letting the players select which one is the "real" front, based on how much they interact with it. Oh, you have three main suspects? When the players zero in on one of them and interrogate him more than the others, that’s your guy.
This player-driven adventure design works really well in PbtA games, and it’s nice to see "play to find out" codified and explained more distinctly. I’d say that, plus the extensive musical suggestions, have really helped me grok that particular principle in the PbtA genre.