An open letter re: Powered by the Apocalypse
Dear friends, fellow designers, critics, and concerned citizens,
It was a going topic, not to say a sore point, at Gen Con, so please allow Meg and me to define once and for all what "Powered by the Apocalypse" is.
"Powered by the Apocalypse" isn't the name of a category of games, a set of games' features, or the thrust of any games' design. It's the name of Meg's and my policy concerning others' use of our intellectual property and creative work.
This policy appears in all of Meg's or my public statements on the topic, we hope, and we try to include it in our answers to all private inquiries. It's possible that some of you have never happened to encounter it before this, but our hope is that it's more or less common knowledge. It's stickied at the Barf Forth Apocalyptica forum, for instance.
Here's the policy:
If you've created a game inspired by Apocalypse World, and would like to publish it, please do. If you're using our words, you need our permission, per copyright law. If you aren't using our words, you don't need our permission, although of course we'd love to hear from you. Instead, we consider it appropriate and sufficient for you to mention Apocalypse World in your thanks, notes, or credits section.
It's completely up to you whether you call your game "Powered by the Apocalypse." If you'd like to use our PbtA logo in your game's book design or trade dress, ask us, and we'll grant permission for you to do so. This isn't a requirement of any sort.
In other words: Is Apocalypse World an inspiration for your game? Enough so that you want to call your game PbtA? Did you follow Meg's and my policy wrt publishing it? Then cool, your game is Powered by the Apocalypse. Get with us if you want to use the logo.
To answer one of the funnier questions posed to me at Gen Con, Meg and I (a) consider Apocalypse World to be significantly inspired by Apocalypse World, in that the game's design and text express the ideas that inspired them, and we (b) sought and acquired our own permission to publish our words. Thus, yes, Apocalypse World itself is Powered by the Apocalypse.
The directory here at apocalypse-world.com/pbta follows this definition and no other. For ambiguous cases, I've relied on explicit guidance from the creators, as in the cases of Blades in the Dark (included), The Bloody-Handed Name of Bronze (included), and Malandros (not included). If you "disagree with," or more properly don't understand, a given game's inclusion, I hope this clears it up for you.
Again, "Powered by the Apocalypse" isn't the name of a kind of game, set of game elements, or even the core design thrust of a coherent movement. (Ha! This last, the least so.) Its use in a game's trade dress signifies ONLY that the game was inspired by Apocalypse World in a way that the designer considers significant, and that it follows our policy wrt others' use of our creative work.
Meg and I are happy as always to answer questions about this, but aren't likely to entertain any arguments contradicting it. As far as we're concerned, this statement is definitive.
Thank you for your kind attention, and sincerely, your true friends and colleagues,
Meg and Vincent
P.S. From Vincent, a couple of personal notes:
1. After I first published Apocalypse World, I quickly understood that I had signed myself up for any number of confused and circular arguments about what "Powered by the Apocalypse" secretly really means. But friends, you didn't! And while I know that there will always be confused and circular-thinking people to bring those arguments to me, you don't have to be them, if you don't want to.
I'd encourage you instead, if you can, to take the above statement as straightforwardly final. Leave the confused and circular wrangling about what games are "really" PbtA and what PbtA "really" means to people who can't help it.
2. I understand at second- and third-hand that there are people out there who make it their business to shoulder in on other game creators' decisions about whether to use Meg's and my PbtA logo, or even to try to lead their judgments about whether their PbtA games are "really" PbtA. I can only see this as an illegitimate effort to manage and incorrectly enforce Meg's and my policy, in a manner materially hostile to Meg's and my interests. I am its enemy. Those people can please reign themselves in and knock it the heck off.
Love, truly, Vincent