I think I got to a nasty point in my DW campaign.

I think I got to a nasty point in my DW campaign.

I think I got to a nasty point in my DW campaign.

As a result of a series of horribly botched roll (one was a 1! rolled two ones and a -1 from stat) the situation degenerated quickly enough that the Big Evil Baddie opened a portal to the Chaos Realm and jumped through it, while the Paladin tripped halfway through it.

All the other characters suddenly dropped everything and started pulling the Paladin, but they managed to “fail” even in this: just a 7, which I deemed would be a nice opportunity to offer an unwelcome truth.

The Paladin emerges from the portal changed. It’s no more the lawful, stern but good fellow they knew. It’s suddenly suspicious of elves and halflings and pretty much every race except humans, sees heresy everywhere. It’s a fanatic!

Everyone was having lots of fun, the Wizard starts thinking about a ritual to cleanse him with the aid of the Cleric….when the Paladin player asks for a talk with me.

We go in the other room and in a very serious tone he tells me: “I don’t want to continue playing this way. This is not my character, I don’t like it.”

I felt awful and I assured him I’d find a way to fix this.

What should I do? The other players seemed to enjoy this weird situation, as a new epic quest to save their fellow companion, but his reaction…

I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, we’re here to PLAY A GAME, but I feel dismissing everything would be bad for all the other players.

What should I do?

24 thoughts on “I think I got to a nasty point in my DW campaign.”

  1. It’s a crappy thing to do to change someone’s character without their input if they don’t like the resulting change, so offer the group a clear way of fixing the situation that won’t take more than a session to do – the #1 priority is for everyone to have fun!

    Ask the Paladin player if he wants it changed now or if he’s okay with playing like that for one more session. If he’s okay for another session, tell the Paladin that an alien entity has entered his mind and that’s what’s doing the whole paranoid racist routine, and write a move for him that lets him fight the alien for control of his body (on a 10+ he regains control for a few minutes, on a 7-9 he only has a few seconds, on a miss the alien entity gets to do what it wants).

    If he wants it fixed ASAP, let the Ritual go through at the start of the next session, but tell the players X amount of time has elapsed, and maybe offer a cost they need to pay back later (i.e. a favour that the Cleric owes her god).

    Either way, be sure to reward them for this: maybe the party learns valuable information from the chaos alien during the exorcism (information that will let them figure out the next place that the BBEG is going to attack and get there before him), and the Paladin gets +1 to fight these chaos aliens or can spot someone who’s possessed by one on sight.

  2. I know it’s awful, but I was spoiled by my players who literally agree with EVERYTHING if it’s cause for adventures and stuff. Hell, most of the time they agree to get their character killed “for plot”. 

    Anywho, that’s not a good reason 😛 

    The “fight for sanity” stuff is great and I’ll definitely use it!

    Reward’s fine too, I already thought  about it.

  3. Change the situation to something else and present it as ‘Things are not what they originally appeared’. 

    A specific examples come to mind.

    *The player is not playing his character but a weird Chaos-duplicate. His real character has been sent somewhere else, and needs rescuing. Alternatively if you want this solution to be quicker the Real character steps through a portal, calls the chaos version an imposter.

  4. This might be controversial but: 

    Dungeon World is pretty much a game about putting the players in hard situations and seeing how they deal with it. Part of this is to be honest about consequences. So when the Paladin jumps in there i would warn him that this is a strange chaos portal that can do unimaginable stuff to his body or mind. If they are okay with this they can jump in, if not then they shouldn’t do that. 

    On the other hand, when there are strong changes to a character the player normally has a say in that. I do not say they should just deny any consequences but they should often choose their own evil. 

    So here is what i would do: 

    Make the player roll a custom move. The first change was only temporary and his mind had a chance to resist the influence of the chaos and put itself partly back together. Roll+wis 

    On a 10+ choose 1(2) on a 7-9 choose 3. 

    And give them a list about changes to their character. 

    – you hate elves and half-elves for they are unpure

    – only the choosen of the god should wield political power

    – The best way to deal with evil is to cleanse it in holy fire


    Give them a big enough list to choose something they can live with. It will change the character and have consequences BUT the player has a say in it. 

  5. When I GM, I shy away from changing things about a player’s character without that player’s permission ahead of time, even if there’s a way to change back. I don’t think what you did was really revealing an unwelcome truth; the move didn’t REVEAL anything, it CHANGED something. I suppose you revealed an unwelcome truth to the other players, but to the Paladin you made a much, much harder move. In a way, you’ve put the Paladin in a spot, but it’s an unusually long-lasting spot.

    I’d suggest that you give him a way out of it sooner than later. Maybe consider that he was possessed, and when the players do a (relatively easy) ritual to cleanse him, the possessing entity might not be totally cleansed, but instead inhabit one of the Paladin’s favorite items, from which it keeps trying to influence him and making it hard to use that item properly. Maybe it possesses his sword, or even his mark of faith.

  6. Yes.

    Not a very hard question to answer: you’re only justified in cutting a limb off if you make it 100% clear to the player that that’s going to happen, and make it 100% clear what they can do to avoid it, and even then I’d only do it if there’s a way they can get a replacement limb of some kind, or at the very least if it doesn’t interfere with what their class is really about.

  7. I get the “don’t be a dick” and “be a fan of the characters” angle BUT in my game it works like this: 

    “Hey this monster nearly ripped your arm off, it’s all covered in blood and hard to use, you really want to go at it again?” 

    and not 

    “Hey so you know, this monster would like to rip your arm off. Is it okay if i do this as a GM?” 

    this is not “beginning and ending in the fiction” to me. On a miss or golden opportunity i am allowed to make a move as hard as i want as a GM, following the principle (mostly being a Fan and starting/ending in the fiction). Therefore i see no reason to discuss this with a player. 

    There is a saying in german:

    “Those who work in the kitchen have to get used to the heat” 

    Fighting things with Messy tags will give you Messy results. There will be a soft move to set it up but after that everything is fair game. 

  8. Then I’m happy I’m not playing in your game. 😛

    Here’s how it’s supposed to work, as far as I’m concerned: did you tell the player “this monster rips off arms, dude! Do you really want to fight it?” Did the player go “yes, I still want to risk my arms to fight this monster?” Did you offer the player a chance to get away without having their character that they’ve spent several hours roleplaying and building up as an interesting PC get crippled in a way that’s going to stop the character from doing its job forever (or at least for a significant amount of time, assuming you have regen spells or mechanical arms or whatever)? Did the player refuse to take the out you offered and go “yes, I am okay with my arm being ripped off?”

    Then you rip the character’s arm off, once you have the player’s informed consent. The same thing goes for anything that would make the character significantly weaker or unable to fulfil their role (including death) – you don’t spring “surprise! Your character is now utterly useless!” on a player in a campaign, ever

    The only exception is if the table doesn’t care about having long-term characters who get character development (fictional or mechanical) and you’re just going to immediately reroll a level 1 character because you’re playing DW Paranoia- or oldschool-style (in which case losing an arm isn’t hampering the player’s effectiveness anyway), in which case go ahead anyway, the table will probably get a laugh out of Bob no.3’s untimely death and Bob no.4 will get to make jokes about it.

    edit: for the record, I also dislike Last Breath as a move, because I feel it’s torn between two different assumptions: either death is never cheap and comes with plenty of warning, and therefore the move should be a final “save vs. death” move and dying on a miss is fine; or being reduced to 0HP is going to happen frequently, and Last Breath should exist as a way of introducing cool new elements/complications. I personally houserule it so that on a 10+ you’re not dead, but on anything else (9 or less), Death offers you a bargain that you must take or else die. That way, anything less than a full success on Last Breath results in interesting complications.

  9. You can “ask for permission” in subtle ways. When you introduce the messy monster, show them ripping someone to shreds with ease–someone who looks tough makes one wrong move and has their leg ripped off or something. Then have the monster turn to the party with a hungry look in its eye, maybe even have it glance at the Fighter’s arm. If they engage in melee at this point, they PRETTY much know what’s in store.

    That said, the amputation-causing attack shouldn’t be the first hit on a given character. On the first hit, make it clear to the Fighter that the creature’s claws are tearing deep wounds into him–this thing is trying to maim you and then kill you. Then on the second or third solid hit, you’d be justified in causing amputation: the player has had several warnings, and it wasn’t as the result of ONE bad roll, but several bad rolls and a stubborn insistence on staying in melee.

  10. As a GM I wouldn’t have prescribed what the specific change to the player’s character was.

    Rather, I would have asked “as your friends pull you out of the portal, you come back changed. What about you is now unrecognisable?”

    But you’ve got a few great suggestions here for how to fix things with the Paladin player.

    As for amputation… AFAIK there’s no mechanical loss; char damage and stats stay the same. Losing an arm would make it hard for a ranger to use a bow, but the Paladin could still swing a sword, etc.

    I agree that it’s a consequence that should be duly foreshadowed, but I wouldn’t go so far to say it would render the char useless.

  11. It’s a *World game; that you stats say the same means absolutely nothing if you can no longer accomplish an action in the fiction because you’re missing an arm – so no more using a shield and a sword at the same time, or using two-handed weapons, or being able to do anything that requires two hands (which might be a lot depending on your GM and how “realistic” the table wants things to be).

    Although this is really veering off topic from Duccio Mondanelli’s original post, so maybe we should make a separate thread rather than cluttering his up. 😛

  12. Ahah don’t worry.

    Yeah, I felt bad as soon as I made that move, mainly because he’s not a player I know THAT good to know that “yeah, losing my mind is part of my job, whatever” is an option. 

    TIL that I’m still a noob 😛

  13. It’s very wrong to tell a player what their character feels. You can fill their senses with lies, hack off arms and legs, but never tell them who they hate. The only things players get to say are what their character thinks and feels and what they (try to) do and say. Don’t take that away from them.

    You say he sees heresy everywhere? Show him heresy everywhere! But don’t put that on the player, tell him about the demonic insignia the shopkeeper has on a necklace under his shirt. You want him to act paranoid? Tell him about all the hateful, conspiratorial glances he catches between NPCs. Their conclusions are their own, but you control their senses.

  14. In Sorcerer, one of AW’s ancestor games, you never every get to tell the player what they do, think, how they feel, etc.  If something happens that would influence how they think/feel/whatever, they get a bonus that applies to actions which are consistent with the influence, and a penalty for going against the influence.  In Monsterhearts, another AW game, you are in very specific circumstances allowed to force a character to feel something (if you successfully Turn Them On), but even then, the influence of being Turned On doesn’t result in forcefully changing how you play your character, it results in a String (like a Bond) which can aid or hinder you.  It might be a good idea to consider some kind of compendium class which, when you’re under the influence of the chaos world, gives you bonuses/XP for doing things that are awful and penalties for avoiding those things, and your chance of successfully breaking the influence is based on how many times you’ve sucked it up and taken that penalty.

    Just off the top of my head here.  Take the “thing which makes them all messed up” and have the character engage with it as if it were some kind of external enemy and give him the challenge of dealing with it and eventually throwing it off…. (or the seductive possibility of running with it because going that way gives him some huge bonuses and makes him powerful)


  15. Just a note on the tearing off limbs part: I did that in my first time GMing. After the session the players gave me feedback and said it was a really dick move. To put in context they were hunting a creature that they knew could rip people to shreds, and the character who had their leg ripped of was a Drider, and still had 5 more. And this was also a oneshot. Seeing the negative reaction I got to just doing that, I can’t imagine how devastating it would be in a long running game where a four limbed character got one of their limbs ripped off with little prior notice.

  16. Fast track the wizard on a spell to cleanse the paladin. Auto-succeed with the help of the cleric and the paladin’s willingness. “I don’t want to continue thinking this way” is perfect. His character feels the same way and comes out of the ordeal with an even stronger resolve, no?

  17. Alex Norris ‘s advice is solid. Also, if the paladin player is amenable to it, you could get them to use their quest move to combat the chaos alien personality. Immunity to xxxxx could be immunity to the brain parasite’s control, so long as he sticks to the virtues etc.

    If the Pally player is interested, have ridding them of the curse be the focus of the beginning of the next session. Fast forward to the ritual to rid them of the influence, or if the paladin prefers, to just after.

    “The ritual was successful and the Paladin is free, but the ritual wasn’t perfect. What did you have to sacrifice? Where did the entity possessing the Paladin escape to?”

    It’s important to be honest with your players about the risks of their actions, and the examples of showing that risk through the fiction is what brings dungeon world to life.

    DW, and PBTA moves in general are all about the risk and danger of the actions that trigger the moves rather than difficulty.

  18. Man, the Quest thing is a great idea. Have the Paladin fight for control with the chaos parasite, then when he gets control he can go on a quest to save himself and pick “immune to mind control/possession” as a boon. He totally just outwitted a parasite thing from another dimension!

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