Power your Index Cards by the Apocalypse



Disclaimer: this is what I would call “Schreibdenken” in German, so writing something down as a means of thinking about stuff. Which also means: this is just thinking and writing out loud.

There was a little discussion in my post Make failures more interesting: degrees of success in ICRPG about to which kind of checks PbtA-inspired degrees of success should apply. Since I took the idea of degrees of success from something Connie Chang said in one episode of Adventuring Academy (probably behind a paywall, but Dropout is really cool and you should check it out if you can) I only wanted to apply the degrees of success to saving throws or other similar situations and not to checks in general. But then a post by @edensuko got me thinking: why not write “moves” tied to attributes that codify the outcome for checks and make them (a) more narratively interesting by supplying the GM and the player with a guideline and (b) enhance player autonomy by letting them decide the outcome.

“Noooooo, why!!!?”, I hear you scream. “What are you doing, man? You are reverse engineering to hack PbtA into your game, instead of simply playing Dungeon World. ICRPG is a combat-focused game and does not need narrative mechanics and codified moves. You can simply wing it at the table. You are doing the same thing, D&D players do, when they try to make investigative scenarios work in D&D instead of playing a different game.”

All I can say to that is: Probably true, but I want to think and write about it anyway. So here goes nothing.

Say you wanted to introduce narrative variety into failed checks, but you are not good at improvising and failing forward and all that stuff. You find the idea of moves from PbtA interesting but understand enough about probability that you know, that rolling a d20 and rolling 2d6 are really not the same. Say, you also don’t want to change any of the math, because you think it’s good as it is. Thinking and writing aloud, I might have an idea, so let’d dig in.

“Moves” in ICRPG (with their names sometimes blatantly stolen from DW)

Hack & Slash
When you make a melee attack, roll +STR
Success: You deal damage. Deal additional WEAPON damage by triggering an opportunity attack.
Failure: You deal damage but also trigger an opportunity attack.

Shoot some shit
When you make a ranged attack, roll +DEX
Success: You have clear shot and deal damage.
Failure: You deal damage and choose one:

  • you have to move NEAR
  • you do less damage (subtract GUN damage from your EFFORT roll)
  • you have to shoot several times and take your next action to reload

Spout Lore (really like the podcast)
When you want to use or remember your knowledge about something, roll +INT
Success: The GM gives you useful facts about a situation.
Failure: You get interesting facts. Not really what you asked for but interesting nonetheless.

Discern Realities
When you want to closely study a person or a situation, roll +WIS
Success: Ask the GM 3 questions from the list below.
Failure: Ask only one question from the list below:

  • What happened here recently?
  • What is about to happen?
  • What should I be on the lookout for?
  • What here is useful or valuable to me?
  • Who’s really in control here?
  • What here is not what it appears to be?

When you want to convince, intimidate or manipulate an NPC, roll +CHA
Success: The NPC does what you want.
Failure: The NPC does what you want, but needs some kind of reassurance.

Other possibilities to use the “move”-template in ICRPG

Write class specific moves that reinforce the narrative themes you want to see in your game or write feats that function the same way the above “moves” do by introducing different outcomes when the related rolls fail. I am not going to write them all out. Have a look at class moves in Dungeon World to see what I mean.

As you can see, I have not “written” (copy-pasted) a move that uses CON. Maybe you have an idea. Let me know. The more important thing is: what do you think? I think, ICRPG works perfectly fine without this half-baked hack. I’m still curious though what you think. Maybe I should really just play Dungeon World? :stuck_out_tongue:
Take care y’all. :slight_smile:

Make failures more interesting: degrees of success in ICRPG

Hi, and thanks for sharing this.

I did a recent Schreidbenken as well about this subject here Choices even in failure where I refocused the PbtA mecanic of choice about the weapons and tools you use rather than the character.

The main idea is that a tool has a main property and 2 sides properties.

Example :
You have a sword with these properties :
Main : Deal 1d6 damage to target
Side 1 : Shove
Side 2 : Inflict debuff

On typical PbtA rolls, this would translate to :
10 or more : Do 1d6 damage + chose one of the side properties to apply to the target
6 to 9 : Do 1d6 + suffer one of the side properties (shove or debuff, chosen by DM)
6 or less : Don’t deal damage, but inflict a side property of your choice to the target. You suffer the other side property (so either shove or the debuff)

I’ve been play-testing this for 3 months now and it works well. The only strange thing that occurs is the “why would you suffer your own weapon side effect” when explaining to players, but it can be explained in fiction with stuff like “you block with your poisonous sword, but the impact of the hit is strong, so your blade scratches your skin. You feel the poison acting already”

I’m trying to do roll tables for the property each type of tool could have before I’m spreading it here and there on the internet, with the idea that DM can create LOOT on the fly with different properties. Finding 2 swords doesn’t mean finding the same item twice anymore, since their properties won’t be the same.


Yeah, I’ve read that and felt motivated to write the stuff that I wrote. :slight_smile:
Thinking in “moves” would also work for special quest items. That’d be kind of cool. Like, not only doing certain weapon-y mechanical things like shoving or inflicting debuffs but also doing narrative things.
For example: a sword that drains your life force if you miss with it but has the potential to absorb chaos or steal the soul of your enemy. A weird take on Elric’s sword Stormbringer, maybe.

Stormbringer: A chaotic sword to slay the gods.
When you attack with Stormbringer, roll +STR
Success: You deal damage.
Failure: You deal damage but choose one of the following:

  • Stormbringer absorbs the energy of your enemy. If they are lawful your sword turns bright silver. You can not attack chaotic enemies with the sword until you kill someone pure of heart.
  • you absorb the soul of the enemy you have slain, your sword will now speak in your enemies voice
  • you can erase one of your cherished memories to deal additional ULT-damage.

Did you have something like this in mind or were you more thinking along the lines of mechanical/tactical extras?


What I’m taking away as the big difference here is that you’ve done away with the difference between the weak hit, and the miss. They’re the same in your scenario, which I think makes this a great way to teach the idea of failing forward, and puts a lot of agency in the players’ hands as to whether they want to take the failure, or pay the price. It’s a little bit like the way karma works in EZD6.

As for the equipment based moves, I think it makes sense (at least the way I imagine it) the weapon you use makes you vulnerable to similar forms of attack. Like, with your great axe you can keep enemies back with wide sweeping strikes, but it also makes it easy to overextend your own attack, and end up getting moved around.


I personally really like the idea of making failure more interesting by using some PbtA style moves.

My main gripe with PbtA is that there are often way too many rules to remember. ICRPG’s greatest strength is that the only time I open up the rulebook is to roll an item table.

If you can keep the moves to a minimum I really like what you have so far and think it will only add to your experience. They make sense and aren’t too hard to remember on the fly. I like the idea of giving the player some choice even when they fail to make at least something interesting happen other than “you failed”


Changing the rules would of course change the feel of the game and introducing moves would make the game “more complicated” in a way. I personally don’t mind that. The moves can all be printed on one page and can be consulted by the GM if need be.
The idea of “moves” really intrigues me though since they are not limited to player moves. They could also be used for environments, important NPCs etc.