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One of my players has taken the Hunches move, and I'm confused as to how its supposed to work. Primarily, my confusion stems from who triggers it, and how often it is likely to trigger.

The move reads:

Hunches: When something bad is happening (or just about to happen) somewhere that you aren’t, roll +Sharp. On a 10+ you knew where you needed to go, just in time to get there. On a 7-9, you get there late—in time to intervene, but not prevent it altogether. On a miss, you get there just in time to be in trouble yourself.

So to the (hopefully linked enough so I don't have to post them separately) questions:

  • The implication here is that this move can trigger before the bad thing happens, but the only person who would know whether this is going to be the case is the Keeper. So how does it trigger in this case?
  • How often can the move trigger? Depending on how you define 'bad' in the trigger, it could trigger many times in a single mystery. Is this intended?
  • Do things only directly related to the mystery trigger the move, or can other bad stuff trigger it?
  • Does there have to be a plausible way for how the hunter(s) get to where they need to be? How far should I 'bend' the fiction to help here?
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Because the Powered by the Apocalypse games are so heavily story-driven it helps to understand what sort of trope or genre convention the move in question is trying to evoke. In this case, there are two prominent ones that I would look to. The first is a case where our hero is trapped in some bad situation with no obvious way out, when suddenly, their friend who wasn't there swoops in and shoots the bad guy, grabs their hand as they slip into a bottomless pit, blocks a fatal blow, etc. Think of Han Solo suddenly returning to shoot down Darth Vader's TIE fighter right before Luke is shot in the trenches of the Death Star. The second is the case where an innocent victim is being stalked down a dark alley by a bad guy, about to be murdered or kidnapped, when out of nowhere our hero steps out of the darkness and intervenes. Those are the sorts of scenarios you should envision when thinking about when it's appropriate to use the move in question.

With that in mind, it can be used in several ways. If the party is split up doing different things, then as something bad happens to a friend the player declares that actually they had a hunch that they were in trouble and were able to show up just in time. Of course, if they roll poorly they might be in just as much trouble, but if the roll really well then they might have a gun to the threat's back before they're even able to strike. If the Keeper chooses to they can also describe scenes which the PCs are not participating in, either to establish tone by showing an innocent person falling victim to the monster, build tension by threatening friends or loved ones, or just to give the player the opportunity to use moves like Hunches to be heroic.

To address your questions specifically:

  • The player can choose to use this move whenever there is a bad situation that they know about out-of-character, but not in-character and the Keeper should give them opportunities to do so. After all, one of the core principles of PBTA is that the storyteller should be a fan of the characters.

  • It can technically trigger as many times per mystery as you want, but I would suggest saving it for dramatically relevant situations. No magically showing up at a friend's house because they stubbed their toe.

  • Anything that would reasonably be considered seriously bad stuff can trigger it, though generally the Keeper shouldn't be constantly throwing in problems unrelated to the current mystery.

  • My advice would be not to worry about how they get there. The trope of someone saving the day at the last second doesn't always make perfect logical sense, but it makes for good storytelling.

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"There's no time to explain! Follow me!"

Moves happen when everyone at the table agrees that they happen.

Rarely, this is purely logical and consequential - someone takes harm, so the Keeper makes a harm move.

Often, this is pretty danged obvious - someone wading into a combat situation is probably looking to kick some ass, someone working a ritual is looking to use magic, or maybe use big magic.

But there have already been times when you weren't sure if someone was trying to trigger a move or not, right? Are they trying to manipulate an NPC or just making small talk? Are they trying to investigate a mystery or just asking you for a better scene description? So you ask them what they're trying to do and break one way or the other depending on the answer.

And of course there are times when someone just says they want to make a move, with little or no extra description. What do you say then? Well, I know what you should be saying then.

"Cool! What's that look like?"

So, leveling up is a move too. It's not a mechanical artifice separate from the story. Sometimes it's pretty danged obvious how it happens, especially if you're not grabbing a move outside your playbook. Hunches make perfect sense for The Spooky, their playbook of origin, because an uncanny six-year-old abruptly showing up in front of you and telling you to run is really just par for the course for uncanny six-year-olds, right?

But when other playbooks grab it, the lines get a little blurrier. The Divine, The Chosen, The Monstrous - all of them are on a level where uncanny appearance is probably well up there. The Expert, The Initiate, or The Spellslinger may have finally decided to dedicate some space to a proper divination orrery - The Flake and The Wronged did the same, except to plot out the true depths of the conspiracy they're about to blow wide open.

...and then there's The Mundane.

And maybe that schtick doesn't really fit the other playbooks as your players have realized them, either. That's fine. This is a world where any of the PCs can Use Magic. Maybe it's not a good idea for a few of them, but it's a world where the supernatural exists and you can, say, make the inexplicable acquaintance of a magical corgi who fetches you next week's alternative weekly newspaper this week. Or maybe you're not trying to stumble on people in trouble just in time to save them, you're trying to do what you've always done, which is get away from all this madness, but something out there obviously has other plans!

So when you ask your player "Cool! What's that look like?" to find out the answers to all your questions, it's not to find traps in their narrative, places where they're weak and you can exploit them. You're the Keeper. You can drown the world in demons if you want and no one can stop you. You're looking for their narrative so you can play along, so when somebody honks an investigation move you can narrate to your player with Hunches just what's bunching their hunch before you zoom the camera halfway across town, narrate a bit, and call for a Sharp roll.

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