I got to run my first session today, and the results were mixed.

I got to run my first session today, and the results were mixed.

I got to run my first session today, and the results were mixed.

One player (for which this was the first ever tabletop rpg experience he’d had) said afterwards that it seems like I was making things up as I went (which I was). He’d prefer there to be stake-setting (my word) before the roll.

What’s everyone’s thoughts on that?

20 thoughts on “I got to run my first session today, and the results were mixed.”

  1. The stakes were unclear to him every time someone used one of the basic moves (we’ll use Volley for example).

    The group was at a cave entrance with 2 goblin guards. The paladin had felled the first guard and the bard decided to shoot at the second guard (who was next to the paladin). He rolled a miss, so I ruled (after the roll) that the bard had shot the paladin instead.

  2. We’re talking about the results of Moves? It sounds like this player may be uncomfortable or dissatisfied with improvisational aspects of role playing (which certainly exist in virtually every tabletop RPG). The thing about setting stakes before the roll is that it doesn’t really make it less improvisational, it just means that you have to make up an array of results from which only one will actually occur. Seems like a lot of effort for very little reward.

    Did they cite any specific moves that came out unexpectedly?

    I would be curious to know more about what the player really wants out of the experience. Certainly some people prefer more rigid mechanics with binary outcomes. Perhaps the player feels that way, or perhaps they were just expecting that sort of thing based on second hand information about RPGs “are”, or experience with other kinds of games.

  3. Jon McCarty II See my comment above for a specific example.

    I think the player’s main issue was that he had a different expectation. I think he was thinking of something far more procedural.

    He also said he doesn’t consider what we did today a game, but that’s a different post I may tackle elsewhere (or maybe not at all).

  4. Honestly, I don’t think it really /hurts/ the game if you say “Hey, if you fail, you’re risking X”. Maybe even offer him a custom move like…

    CAUTIOUS: Before rolling the dice, you may ask “What am I risking on a failure, here?” The DM will tell you. If you revise your course of action more than once, take -1 forward, cumulative (so if you revise your course of action three times, take -2, etc.)

  5. Deciding ahead of time what hard move you’d make on a 6- isn’t how DW works, so you don’t really want to do that, you roll with the fiction. Ideally, the players trust that the moves the game provides to the GM are appropriately calibrated to be the right “scope”.

    That said, I can sympathize with a strongly negative reaction to the consequence being “you hurt another player’s character” because that can be kind of a big deal emotionally, especially if they’re trying to get comfortable in a new kind of group situation. Was that an outlier, or did a lot of the things that caused friction with this player have elements like that?

  6. Sorry, I didn’t see those posts come up when I was typing my response.

    It certainly sounds like that player is looking for a more procedural experience. It reminds me of the perception that I seem to hear from many people unexperienced with RPGs, that D&D (as most people who haven’t played an RPG wouldn’t likely know another game) and games of that sort are more like fantasy board games with some dialog interspersed. Certainly there are games more like those the player is describing a desire for, but the source of the dissatisfaction sounds like a mistake preconception of the genre from my narrow perspective.

    Might I ask what kind of gaming background if any the player in question has?

  7. That sounds like someone who would be much happier with 4e to be honest. A miss is a hard move, it could have been anything. Hitting an ally seems pretty tame over all. Try him out on Wrath of Ashardalon.

  8. It’s a little unclear:  When he shot the Paladin, did you make a Deal Damage move?

    Dealing Damage to another player is a hard move.  The preferred flow of DW is from soft moves to harder moves, which is still a tricky thing that I’m learning how to do).  “You sure you want to shoot him?  That Paladin is awfully close!” 

    Was there a softer setup move made before this hard move, such as a previously missed arrow into a melee sticking into the Paladin’s armor (without damaging them)?  Or maybe a the arrow tripping  the Paladin?  Or slamming into the stone inches from their head?

  9. Jon McCarty II they have little to no gaming experience of any kind.

    Joel Watkins it was my first outing, so the hard vs soft moves are something I’m still getting the hang of. With that said, I gave indications that there was something more than appeared going on, as the guards (although goblins) had rank as insignia on their armor.

    The paladin charged in anyway, after the guards had been alerted to their presence when their thief ended up hanging upside down from a tree due to failed roll. I also had other guards rushing to reinforce. Although I didn’t give the hard vs soft move too much consideration at the time, I stand by my call due to all I’ve just described.

    I’m willing to admit I might have been too heavy-handed, though.

  10. Saga of the Icelanders has some very nice advice for soft vs. hard moves.

    “You always make soft moves first, setting up situations ripe for serious consequences, tethering on the brink. When a player fails to respond to that setup or fails a roll, make a hard move, with sudden and irreversible consequences.

    A soft move is something that a player can respond to. A hard move is something decided and done.

    After every move, always ask the players “What do you do?”. In the case of a soft move, this means they can react to the situation, in the case of a hard move they get to respond to the new, changed situation instead.”

    That’s about the best description of the two I’ve seen.

  11. Yeah, I think pretty much all the *W engines suggest hard moves on a failed roll are totally kosher. It’s when you make a soft move to set up a hard move and they don’t do anything about it that you’re authorized to make hard move without having to wait for that.

  12. Even so, Hard moves have to follow from the fiction and one of the Agendas is to make the world believable.  That means details.

    So my expectation as a player would have been that the MC would have described enough details (up to and including “always draw maps”) that the bard could tell that the Paladin was in the way and might get hit.  

    Looking at Icelanders again (just cause I currently have it open) it says “Always let situations and consequences grow and follow naturally from what’s already there and established in our shared imaginations. Don’t make things happen without in-game justification.”

  13. I dunno, I mean that specific example, I think I’ve internalized “shooting arrows at a dude my friend is swordfighting with is a little risky to my friend”, although I might see how someone newer to gaming might not make that assumption.

    I’m reminded of the old “Common Sense” merits in certain systems where the GM would explicitly tell you when something was a bad idea, which admittedly is actually sort of what my hypothetical move above does, too. Hmm.

  14. I’m finding that Icelanders is a really solid distillation of the *World rules…more understandable than the poetic, but more obscure AW and more concise than the sometimes verbose DW.

    With respect to the new player’s desire for “stakes” I encounter this passage from Sagas: 

    “When the PCs want something, tell them what they will have to pay or sacrifice for it. When they want to do

    something, tell them what the likely consequences will be. Tell them “yes, but…” and then the cost. Ask them if they’re

    willing to pay the price to do what they want and achieve what they want.”

    This was under the MC Move “Put a Price on it”  I believe its called “Tell them the Consequences” in DW.

    Also there is Offer them an Opportunity which reads  “When you know they want something or are tempted by something, give them an opportunity, however slight, to reach for that thing, to seize the moment. This move can be easily combined with others, you can offer an opportunity but put a price on it for example.”

    An MC could easily use these moves to give players a bit more structure and a bit less “making it up as you go” — dialed to taste.

    For instance:

    Player:  I draw my bow and send an arrow into the heart of the second goblin guard

    MC:  The Paladin is squaring off against the first guard, but you’re able to shift to the side to get an opening against the goblin [present the opportunity] but in the chaos of melee anything is possible and your shot would fly pretty near your companion [put a price on it], are you sure you want to take the chance? [ask].

    I suspect from what’s been said that that approach would have satisfied this player while remaining entirely within the framework of the MC’s job in *W games.

  15. Jeremy Morgan: “The group was at a cave entrance with 2 goblin guards. The paladin had felled the first guard and the bard decided to shoot at the second guard (who was next to the paladin). He rolled a miss, so I ruled (after the roll) that the bard had shot the paladin instead.”

    I’d say that’s a fair comment.

    What probably happened here is that he didn’t consider the fiction (the paladin is next to the guards) and didn’t think it through logically – which is odd, as that’s normally a mistake that people used to RPGs make, since DW works so differently.

    This is going to require a little more work on your part as GM, but it’s perfectly fine thinking about the situation a little bit before the move – in this case, reminding the Bard that shooting at two people engaged in a mêlée might result in hitting the wrong one.

  16. I’d still like to know if there were other examples of problems this player had that weren’t related to making a hard move against someone else on 6-. Did the player have issues with believing hard moves were fair when they fit into the normal *W pattern, or only in this unusual configuration?

  17. If you manage to make a second game with the same group, talk about the issue that came up in the last one, whenever you make a hard move like this, ask them if they are cool with it, if they are not enthusiastic, make up another option and let the player who rolled pick one of the two.

    This will both give you a fun-meter for the group and let them know you are worried with how they want the game to proceed.

  18. It is a thing with the way * World game moves are usually written that the consequences of failure are not mentioned at all.  Even for GMs, it can take a while to wrap your head around the idea that a failure means you can do anything you want, more or less.  (Within the principles, okay, but that doesn’t limit very much at all.)  For a player who hasn’t read the whole rules, it’s really easy to look at the Basic Moves summary, read Hack and Slash, and think:  ok.  On a hit, I do damage;  on a partial we trade; and on a miss nothing happens.  After all, that’s usually how it works in other games!  Well, the partial part is new, but then, it’s called out explicitly.

    This unhappy player is completely new to RP, you say, but probably has expectations from somewhere.  Board games, World of Warcraft, something — and this “on a miss, anything can happen” idea is really unusual, and is also kind of buried in the rules.  Maybe their expectations weren’t set correctly?

    On a different note, “It seems like you were just making it up” is kind of a simulationist complaint, like the player wants to be immersed in the alternate reality, and “seeing the wires” of making things up maybe is hurting that.  I would guess that the answer, if there is one, is not to ask them if they’re cool with hard moves after the fact like Raoni Monteiro suggests — that might just sound even more like “nothing is real, do whatever you want” — but more to offer the choice ahead of time.  “Tell possible consequences and ask” is a good solid DW move, after all.

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