Just ran into a problem, and was wondering how other GMs handle this kind of thing.

Just ran into a problem, and was wondering how other GMs handle this kind of thing.

Just ran into a problem, and was wondering how other GMs handle this kind of thing.  

The ‘say what you want to do and roll’ mechanic works beautifully most of the time.  But this situation stumped me:  a warrior in full plate mail wanted to try to climb a wall.  I’d usually say roll+Dex or maybe Con due to the weight, but realistically there is no way you can climb a wall in plate mail.  I’d prefer to just say “impossible!  what do you do instead?” but I’m wondering if others have used a different strategy.  

In other systems, say D20 or percentile systems, you’d just make the difficulty very very high.  Meaning that the chance of success was vanishingly small, but hey, maybe.  Which is kind of fun.  In DW I’m not sure how to give my fighter his chance at his absurd request.

58 thoughts on “Just ran into a problem, and was wondering how other GMs handle this kind of thing.”

  1. Custom Move

    Roll + Suspension of belief

    10+ he climbs a short distance up the wall

    7-9 Choose 1

    Stand staring at the wall wondering what to do next

    Fall on the halfling

  2. Golden opportunity.  Hard choice, take off your armor for the climb (haul it up on a rope with the packs) or defy danger to climb but you only have to look down to know the consequences of failure.

  3. Don’t get me wrong…my move sucks…but you need to customize it to the situation…maybe make them roll it multiple times…each time a harder choice for the 7-9 being rolled

  4. Defy danger is probably the right move then.  I mean, it’s not about simulating the climb, it’s about the excitement of the chase.  Remember what the fiction demands, regarding falling.  Remember that other’s can aid him by pulling him clear.

  5. Just make the move that follows as a GM.

    Otherwise think about the game you are running. If its gritty realistic fiction then of course he can’t do that. If you have Hellenic hero epos then of course THE fighter can climb in his armor. Just look at your fiction and then make a GM move.

  6. Yeah, i didn’t like the roll multiple time thing as well…it makes me think of all the things I hate about Pathfinder.  I like Marshall’s idea of +str – load…or even better just say you can’t.  I mean…I want to go to the moon, just because I want to doesn’t mean I can.

  7. Yeah. Show The Downside: “You scrabble at the wall, but the armour you got on is too heavy. Them trolls are getting mighty close. What do you do?”

    It’s not “Say what you want and roll”, it’s “Say what you do; if it triggers a move, roll the move, if it doesn’t ask the GM what happens.”

  8. What about ask him how he is going to do it…if he says the halfling scampers up the wall, throws down a rope and attaches it to a block and tackle while I tie it to myself etc etc…make a custom move and let them do it…on a 7-9 they either fall to the ground or use up more adventure gear. If he says…I just climb up the wall using my strength…I would use the other points of saying your plate mail makes it impossible to climb up…the trolls are getting closer. 

    Work with the fiction.

  9. Aaron Friesen I know, I was paraphrasing but fair point.  In this case it’s “I climb the wall! Fast!” and my issue was that that definitely triggers a move.  But which one?  Lots of good options here.  Marshall’s cut-and-run is interesting- that’s a definite Show the Downside of Their Equipment.  Plate is great!  Except when you lose your armor in an a effort to scram.  Same with the idea of a custom move, if I’m feeling creative. 

  10. I go with Aaron Friesen on this : if an action is not, from the fiction point of view, possible, then no move is triggered. I do not see any problem with the “you can’t do that” approach. 

    That being said, suggesting something (like a hard choice) is a very good idea (“you can climb the wall if you remove the armor, but those goblins are going to be all over you while climbing/you’ll lose some precious time”). But if none comes on the spot, it is not that bad.

  11. How do you folks handle it when a player and GM just flat disagree about what makes sense in the fiction? This is an old old chestnut but DW really wears GM Fiat on its sleeve. Is GM final arbiter in cases where there’s not a move for letting the dice decide?

  12. So… uh… can I ask the maybe not so obvious question?  Why is this a downside of their equipment?  I mean, other than the gloves, there’s really not much to climbing a wall in platemail.  I say this because I’ve done it.  And, honestly, while it’s as clumsy as opening doors with hockey mits — meaning it’s hard to do detail (fine motor) work — the gross motor control isn’t really that hampered by the armor.  Just curious. 

  13. Brennan OBrien- I agree. The issue is the GM here disagrees with your anecdote. The GM feels it should be impossible (or just as near as it gets), thus that is as far as he’s concerned “The Downside of Their Equipment

  14. Chris McNeilly – The fiction’s not clear, and so you ask more questions until it is. The GM’s not the final arbiter per se, but if two people can’t come to an agreement at all after asking each other questions about it it’s time for a smoke break.

  15. Pg 16: “If it’s ever unclear if a move has been triggered, everyone should work together to clarify what’s happening. Ask questions of everyone involved until everyone sees the situation the same way and then roll the dice, or don’t, as the situation requires.”

    If everyone can’t work together, well, that’s a different situation altogether.

  16. Sounds easy enough, but as you can see we have the situation occurring even now in this discussion. Prior to Brennan’s comment several folks had already relegated the situation to “just say no, not possible”. Now perhaps they’re willing to back down from that view of the fiction considering Brennan’s input. Just wondering what we do if they’re not though.

  17. Then we take a step back from the game and figure out why we can’t agree on something. If nobody sees the situation the same way and nothing can change that, folk need to take a step back.

  18. The above passage is really about wondering whether a move has been triggered, right? I’m assuming we’re past that, it’s not a move, and now there no dice to decide for us.

  19. Well, if the decision has been made that a move hasn’t been triggered, then we turn to the GM to find out what happens. They make a GM move, whatever that happens to be. Only requisite is that their move has to follow from the fiction. If what they say doesn’t sound like it makes sense, well, we’re back at the “clarify the fiction” place.

  20. The final arbitrator is the fiction and your principles. Sometimes you have to decide whether to stick to your guns (“make Dungeon World seem XYZ”) or go with it (“be a fan of the characters”). Neither of those options is a problem, but also: the players should be game for either one too. Sometimes they’re in a really bad spot! And that’s okay. It’s DW!

  21. Wow, this is becoming quite the discussion.  

    Brennan OBrien I’m not talking a 4 foot fence, I’m talking a 20 foot castle wall, I should have made that clear. I’m a pretty avid boulderer and ain’t no way you are scaling a wall with minimal holds that high in plate.  It’d be reasonably tough in just your loincloth. 

    Tim Franzke It triggers a move (IMO) because the fighter is trying to do something that definitely has the possibility of failure.  That may not be DW law, but it’s how I see moves working for the most part.  

    I have a great crew so we just went with “can’t be done!” and moved on.  I would have liked to offer up the “cut off your armor” option- that would have been fun.  My entire reason for the original post was that I hate saying you can’t do something in the game. I was hoping for some better and more fun options.  Which I got!

  22. hey, I liked one of the previous posts – this specific situation is more a matter of style and atmosphere than what’s realistic or not. I know that in my current game the fighter can hop and jump as she likes because we’re in a lighthearted game full of foolish heroic acts, and that’s because we always played this way in this campaign. If I played in a game where armor have always been like in the movie excalibur, well, nothing to do here. If it’s the first time in the first session you confront with such a situation, you should simply ask to the group: “what kind of story are we telling? The one with anime-styled mighty-leaping fighters or the one where armor is a heavy burden and rare is the warrior who actually wears a full plate?”

  23. First:

    .”. historical sources tell us of the famous French knight Jean de Maingre (ca. 1366–1421), known as Maréchal Boucicault, who, in full armor, was able to climb up the underside of a ladder using only his hands…”

    From here: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/aams/hd_aams.htm#weight_b

    Second, is the armor making it dangerous for him? Then its Defy Danger, if there isn’t any danger? He should be free to get up there (somehow.)

  24. Also keep in mind that climbing a wall in plate isn’t that absurd. Most RPGs ascribe far more hindrance to armor than was actually the case.

    A period French training manual required knights to be able to vault into the saddle without use of stirrup and to chimney climb in full mail.

  25. Ladders != Walls.  But I’m not here to argue the physics of climbing, it was clear in the fiction that this would be mildly absurd to achieve.

  26. Man, you guys are really into wall climbing in plate.  For anyone in the NYC area, I will show up at Brooklyn Boulders with a crisp $100 bill in hand for anyone who can get 20′ up the wall in plate and boots on a V1 level climb.  And I will buy you a beer.  

  27. Kay, so Brian Moroz, DW is very much /not/ “Its a move because there’s a chance of failure”. I mean, if that’s how you want to drift it, cool, but that’s not what it is at all. DW is “If you do the fictional trigger for a move, you do the move.” If the action doesn’t fit any of the fictional triggers, you don’t do a move. Again, though, a custom move for that is easy, I guess. 

    If you perform an action that sounds like it would have a significant chance of failure, roll with no bonus, or with an appropriate stat at 2. On a 10+ … on a 7-9 … On a 6, good luck!

    And I can see the point on scaling a wall with crap for handholds. I figure the plate armor thing is just icing at that point, given the difficulty in scaling a wall like that in the best of times. 

  28. Chimney climb isn’t a ladder. Its when you wedge yourself into a corner or between two paralellel surfaces and brute strength your way up.

    There was a whole list of things you had to able to do to earn your spurs…such as polevault across a moat.

    Anyway, just trying to say that a defy danger with success on a 10+ wouldn’t really be unreasonable from a probability perspective.

    Unlike D&D the French expected Fighters to be able to climb walls in full armor…not just thieves.

  29. Ralph Mazza I was referring to Tim Kirk’s comment which referenced a ladder.  But we digress.  Heavily.  I will however rethink what kind of encumbrance armor really has from now on, given all the input.  Who knew?

  30. This discussion holds value, for me at least, regardless of how you view this wall situation. Sounds pretty clear to me they all in your group found it absurd. Everyone agreed with the fiction, so no problem.

    The value though, just like we see here in the discussion, is that there will be bumps in the fiction because we often have different perceptions of what’s plausible. Even if we’re all crystal clear on the details. I can think of many situations that will likely pop up in my game, just like this one. Just curious about how to work it out.

  31. Aaron Friesen Yep, I’ve read the book, my point is that moves only occur on chance of failure.  If there is no chance of failure, it just happens.  Moves require a roll so that you can determine if something  succeeds that might not.  It’s why moves are triggered only in circumstances where something might not go exactly as the character wants it to.  Our games run great, so it’s all gravy.  

  32. Pff, in my games, you can climb a sheer surface in DW. “Scuse me? I’m the Goddam Fighter! I take out my two daggers and stab them in, each time hauling myself with my own Goddamn Fighter Strength and baddassery.” “Welp, sounds like you’re defying danger through brute strength. Go for it, and take +1 forward cause you’re the Goddamn Fighter, apparently.”

  33. No, moves require a roll to have the fiction go in unexpected ways. A missed roll on hack & slash may very well mean that you torn your opponent apart with a single strike, only to discover that it was your mind controlled brother with a mask (reveal an unwelcome truth).

  34. Alessandro Gianni Right:  “when something might not go exactly as the character wants it to” as I said above- should have used that language not ‘fail.’  Semantics aside, we’re all (I think) clear on how moves work, I think it’s actually the most natural part of the game- usually they trigger very clearly for everyone.  Which is why this situation stumped me.  

  35. So, just a couple of thoughts to bare in mind. First, until you put on the helmet and gauntlets, most well fitting armor is as encumbering as heavy jeans and a jeans jacket. It’s meant to be moved in smoothly. Gauntlets destroy your fine motor control, while the helmet whacks with your senses (particularly hearing). Not saying this to change anyone’s mind, just to put it out there.

  36. That video is rad.  Should be mandatory viewing for fantasy roleplayers.  Will definitely change how we handle a fighter in full plate.  This is a great community, many thanks to all the responses and debates!

  37. Brian Moroz Still want to put that bet out there??  😉  A V0 or V1 shouldn’t be much of a problem so long as I took the gauntlets off.  

    And hat’s off to you!  Not many people are willing to publicly back down from their viewpoints!  

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