Found a great post by Johnstone Metzger again about why “auto parley” is not a good idea for a move:

Found a great post by Johnstone Metzger again about why “auto parley” is not a good idea for a move:

Found a great post by Johnstone Metzger again about why “auto parley” is not a good idea for a move:

40 thoughts on “Found a great post by Johnstone Metzger again about why “auto parley” is not a good idea for a move:”

  1. But why shouldn’t he be able to do this anyway without the move? When he comes from the biggest, baddest clan than OF COURSE this is leverage. When he comes from a whimpy, nearly extinct clan the moves makes no sense because there is no leverage there…

  2. I would just remove this part from the Clan Ninja. The support structure is good enough. However i would also remove the -1 ongoing from the Shinobi and maybe give them an extra piece of equipment or something like that. 

  3. I will add further commentary in the form of game design. Check these two moves, they are hilarious:

    Boom Boom, Out Go the Lights

    As long as you have a loaded gun in your hand, you can shoot people.


    You can always use your sexuality as leverage to parley, no matter what the situation is.

  4. Yeah, “you always have Leverage when you Parley” moves are right up there with +damage and auto-10+ moves on my list of really bad things you shouldn’t do when writing moves.

    Like damage moves, though, there’s an exception if you can get a really interesting trigger that really tells the table more about your character while having a real impact on the world, but that’s pretty hard.

  5. This is good advice I hadn’t really thought about. I’m trying to update the Merchant Prince book and the background Old Money is like this – using family respect as parley. Problem is what to change it to now…

  6. Something like this seems pretty obvious to me:

    Old Money

    When you do something respectable that supports the dominance of your social class, your peers show up to support you. When you do something disreputable, like adventuring, they desert you.

  7. Duccio Mondanelli That specific instance of narrowed leverage is completely fine.

    Tim Franzke Leverage isn’t about what you can and can’t do, it’s about what the others want. Some ninjas would ordinarily not give a shit about the PC’s clan’s disapproval. Taking that move says that the PC’s clan’s disapproval is such a huge thing that no ninja ever would want to incur its wrath by outright refusing one of its members. This is specifically a good auto-Leverage move because it tells you something about the world.

  8. You’re exactly right that leverage is about what other people want, but it’s also something unique to every interaction and relationship. Writing a rule that universalizes it is an easy way to ruin a fiction-first mentality.

    I’m also kind of sick of seeing the word “leverage” all the time. Monsterhearts does fine without it, all our playbooks can too.

  9. I totally agree, auto-parley moves actually make the game less varied and fun. They’re fairly prolific though; I think it’s one of the most common things to create when making a new playbook as it defines the character fairly well, enables a social option (which is often one of the hardest things to come up with for a playbook) and is straightforward.

    For context, when I was writing The Brute one of the first moves that came to mind was threatening people to get what The Brute wanted. The first move I made along those lines was a pure leverage swap; “the Brute may always use the threat of violence as leverage”. But that was totally rubbish. Either someone is scared of the Brute and you can already use it as leverage, or they’re not and having a hard rule just violates the fiction. Instead, I went with:


    When you threaten someone with violence, roll +STR.

    * On a 10+ they’re scared into doing what you ask.

    * On a 7-9, they don’t think you’re the biggest threat in the room!

    It’s effectively a specialised Parley with violence as leverage, but the player has to justify the move in fiction, and it opens up an opportunity for the GM. On a 7-9, the GM can happily turn round and either ask what this character is scared of, straight-up tell you or make it more sinister: the Brute isn’t scary to this NPC because they have a magic sword/ saw the Brute get beaten up years ago/ know the Brute’s weaknesses. Or perhaps they just cursed the Brute/ put poison in the Brute’s ale/ have a knife at the Brute’s belly.

    Further down in the discussion, Johnstone Metzger says what I’ve been thinking about negative choices: they’re fairly hard to get right, and often end up just removing content! I also think they tend to be fairly confusing, and that’s why there aren’t any in The Brute or Pirate World.

  10. Johnstone Metzger: it’s “fiction first,” not “fiction only!” A move always informs the fiction, and I’d even argue that the better moves are the ones that give you meaningful information (as opposed to “your guy is slightly better at doing this thing”).

    Seriously, there’s a difference between declaring “my clan is so respected that no one would ever dare refuse me” and having a move that says “your clan is so respected that every ninja will always be willing to listen to you when you make a request of them.” The first is a setting detail that’s just begging for something to come along and change it, the second is a hard rule of the setting that is informed by a player mechanic. 

    Re: Leverage, it’s a game term, just like the basic move names or “roll+Str” or whatever. If you’re writing a move about leverage-the-mechanic you should absolutely use the word “Leverage” so it’s 100% clear what you’re talking about (one of the things that bugs me about the base classes is that move names and game terms aren’t capitalised).

  11. Except that Intimidate move is still pretty much an auto-parley move. The player doesn’t have to justify it: the trigger is “threaten someone with violence” not “threaten someone who is scared of you with violence” or “threaten someone smaller than you with violence.” That 10+ result affects anybody, any NPC, and even other PCs, the way it’s written.

    If you changed the 10+ result to be just “they are scared of you” and that’s it, THAT I could see being actually interesting. But I would rather use Interrogator for intimidating people.

  12. Huh, I hadn’t thought of it like that. The intention is that the Brute could only ever use it on people the Brute could scare, and it’s not clear at the time whether they are scared of him or not. I should maybe include a caveat. Makes sense, thanks!

  13. The thing that’s important with Interrogator is that it’s not just “when you Parley using the threat of violence,” it’s “using the threat of violence as Leverage.” That means the other party has to actually accept your threat and feel that you kicking off is something they don’t want. If they couldn’t care less about one guy, you don’t have Leverage and the move doesn’t trigger.

  14. Yes, the move is triggered by stuff that happens in the fiction. Which is why the auto-parley ninja move is still bad, even though it’s narrow. It’s not “this is a thing that exists in the fiction” it’s “this is how the fiction is, always and everywhere, and it can never change.” I guess if you are writing a specific and self-contained setting then okay, but something that people are supposed to drop into whatever else is going on in their fantasy game? No good.

  15. For the “Play to Find Out” principle.

    Threatening someone is a risky act, even for the Brute. The Brute probably threatens people quite a lot, so combining these two means it’s worth making a specific move that gives the player an understanding of the odds.

    That, and it specifically adds to the fiction. That 7-9 result is wide enough to give a whole load of fiction, GM moves and player opportunities (as I posted above) that might not otherwise be immediately clear

  16. Yep!  I said above that I should probably put in a caveat about the trigger, got kinda lost in the wall of text!

    If it’s a tiny goblin or something then the GM just says “that thing is already scared of you, so you don’t trigger the Intimidate move”. If it’s something terrifying then it’s not going to be scared by the Brute, and they can’t use Intimidate there either.

    The most common situation Intimidate is going to be used in is with ordinary NPCs, NPCs you’ve not found out much about or NPCs who’re hiding their background.

    It’s just like normal moves; if you try to stab a dragon with a normal sword, that doesn’t trigger Hack and Slash, for example.

  17. Yeah! Thanks for the criticsm, I reckon with the two changes (“when you threaten someone weaker than you with violence” and 10+ “they are afraid of you”) it should be a better move. Not sure about that trigger though, it should really be something like “someone who might be afraid of you”, but that’s a bit clumsy.

  18. Johnstone Metzger I really like that Old Money, move. It’s a lot more flavorful than just having an extra option for leverage because it offers the player an opportunity to add to the game world by creating “peers.”

    The reason I’m updating the Merchant Prince is because I’m offering it to a player to use in a Dungeon Planet game. I feel like with your help I’ve now come full circle.

  19. James Hawthorne Why not just call it out explicitly? “When you threaten someone and it’s not clear whether they’re afraid of you or not, roll+etc etc” Or maybe “When you threaten someone without knowing whether they’re afraid of you or not.”

    Kirby Bridges Oh, well if it’s for Dungeon Planet, then I feel like someone from “Old Money” should be able to produce artifacts from 20th century Earth at the drop of a hat. If the player’s old enough that is.

  20. That would work too. Since it’s someone else’s playbook and I’m just “updating” it, though, I think I want to keep it pretty general. 

    Something we’ve been doing for Dungeon Planet is just taking general playbooks that fit and each player flavoring them for space. It’s worked pretty well and allowed us to use stuff like the Assassin and Brute!

  21. Johnstone Metzger that’s a great idea. I’ve never tried running a blog or anything about my games, but maybe I’ll set something like that up. I’ve played and ran lots of games of Dungeon World, but my players and I all agreed that our first Dungeon Planet game was one of the best we’d ever experienced.

    Right now it has taken more of a Farscape / Mass Effect vibe than pulp sci-fi, but that’s ok! We’ve even had some space horror ala Dead Space and System Shock!

  22. Just catching up on this now… Tim had a similar complaint about a move I wrote for a Pirate CC called Letter of Marque, that gave a character leverage in the form of political connections. So, perhaps I should specify when and how this leverage can be used. How about, “when you are negotiating terms of a temporary truce”, then you’ve got leverage, because a letter of marque gives you that authority.

    I read a similar discussion on Burning Wheel’s Duel of Wits. It comes down to social skills acting almost like mind control to make people do what you want. I would argue here that Parley requires both parties to stop fighting and negotiate with one another in good faith for at least a few minutes. Shouting, “Surrender or I’ll cut off your head” isn’t a Parley. I’d almost call it closer to Defying Danger with CHA. With Parley, the other party should have the opportunity to not engage. 

  23. I think it is valid to state in a parley move “If it fits the fiction”. Let’s say you have something cool that gives you leverage in some instances, like you are a celebrity and fans want your autograph. You can usually use that as leverage, until you meet a person who has never heard of you (Like  that dude in Notting Hill). The GM can simply veto your move and say, “Sorry, this dude has never heard of you!” of even “This dude saw your movie and hates your guts! Take -1 on your roll…”

  24. As many of you are aware, in apocalypse world the violent parley move is called “Go aggro”. The idea being that you threaten someone to do something. What’s cool about this move, is that it doesn’t dictate the enemy’s actions. It gives them a choice, “Do what I say, or take …” (A bullet to the head, a shotgun to the stomach, a knife to the throat.. whatever).

    Similarly, AW has good rules in place for manipulating with other PC characters, causing them to have to act under fire and/or gain XP. I think if you can write a move and say “would this be fair to use on another PC” and it passes, you’re working towards a good move in this regard.

  25. I’m with Johnstone Metzger, we tried (succeeded, maybe?) to never write a move that said what leverage was. Even the Fighter move that lets you use Str to Parley is predicated on you having leverage based on threats of violence, not on threats of violence always being leverage. Look also at the Thief’s Wealth and Taste: that could easily become leverage, if you so choose, but it could also mean they fight you for it, or go off to buy one like it, etc.

  26. Yeah, even Wealth and Taste doesn’t automatically lead straight into another move, it just produces fiction. You still have to work out that fiction and have a back-and-forth exchange between players before you can determine if another move is triggered.

    I might be happier if the GM picked which NPC, but then again, it’s only easy to abuse as a player if you do it deliberately.

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