On writing moves:

On writing moves:

On writing moves:

Some moves are purely mathematical: When you do x, roll+y and on 10+ take z 

(Ok the x is a fictional trigger and not maths, but y and z are.)

Other moves dictate fiction:

When you do x, roll+y and on 10+ you mother in law comes screaming out of the house with her broom and eleven cats and charges the villian.

My gut feeling is that moves should change the direction of the fiction without dictating the fiction. In other words: They are triggered in the fiction (“When you”) and then drastically determine the direction of the fiction (Roll+y) but they should not tell the story itself. The story should be a continuation of the fiction that triggered it.

I find it difficult to put into practice. For one, purely mathematical moves look boring on paper. 

Or am I barking up the wrong tree?

12 thoughts on “On writing moves:”

  1. Well I think it depends on the move. In your example above, if the x is “When you scream to your mother for help…” then your 10+ result is perfectly valid. In this case, the move isn’t dictating the fiction; the player is, by activating the move’s trigger. What happens as a result of that action…well, that’s where the dice come in.

    I think the big picture idea I’m getting at here is that the trigger and the results have a very interconnected relationship. When designing a move, it’s not enough to think about the result; the trigger matters just as much.

  2. I agree. Bu the problem is, the existence of a trigger “When you call on your Mother in law for help” will sort of dictate the fiction in the first place. If that is something that sets my class apart (Like the Mommy-in-law’s Boy class) it is good – but where do you draw the line? 

    Please understand that I am not trying to be controversial or anything, I am trying to get a handle on stuff here. And writing down silly ideas helps with that.

    For instance, I want to write a move for a rat animal companion, so I say “When you are hungry roll+x, on 10+ your rat brings you food.” I think that would not be a bad move but “When you command your rat to do something, roll+x. On 10+ he does exactly what you tell him to” would probably be better. 

  3. You’re asking great questions. I don’t think you’re being controversial at all!

    Personally, I think there are two kinds of moves: “character” moves, and “adventure” moves. A character move is focused on actions a character takes, like your pet rat example. An adventure move is anchored in the fiction of the story. The mother-in-law move is, to me, an adventure move.

    The important distinction between them is one of utility. Character moves can happen, conceivably, any time, so they need to be broad in scope and open to interpretation. That’s why the second version of your rat move is better than the first version. 

    Adventure moves, on the other hand, are often only relevant within a context that may or may not happen, depending on whether the trigger is “pulled.” I agree that the mother-in-law move is a bad one for a character, but if you happen to be fighting a vampire or frankenstein or something outside of your mother-in-law’s house, suddenly that move could mean something…

    And this all comes into prep. When I make adventures for any of the *World games, I absolutely stuff them with custom moves. Hell, my adventures are typically nothing BUT custom moves! 

    And THAT leads into another issue, which is just a question of GMing style. If you want to freestyle an entire adventure, with the moves doing nothing but indicating direction, go for it! That’s great! But there can be something to be said, too, about highly-specific adventure moves that you, say, print, cut out, and then throw on the table when somebody triggers it!

  4. However, hungry is never defined anywhere. It depends on a GM setup move and therefore is, in a way, only reactive. 

    “When you whisper what you need into your rats ear” however works better. 

  5. Ed, what you say makes a lot of sense!  I think when writing playbooks (Character moves) one should probably be as broad as possible, giving a character a skill without dictating a story.

  6. For me it is important that every action type move should have a clear trigger action involved. When you need to clarify with other people if this was the right action or not then the trigger isn’t good. A trigger should always be obvious.

    Now let’s get to the action part. A god trigger action needs to be something you do. There are moves that are about stuff happening to you (defy danger can be that) but mostly it’s you doing something. The something you do shouldn’t be instantaneous. It also shouldn’t be easily repeatable. Like shouting for your mother, you could so that all day and trigger the move very time and solve every problem like that.

    The same way I think I a Druid that transforms into an animal should need some time and concentration for that. The reaction to an Orc stabbing at Druid should probarbly be dodging, not transforming because they will get hit during the transformation.

    So a trigger should most times cost time to activate so that there is opportunity cost and choice and should also not be totally easily be repeatable to encourage diverse play and stories. Not one solution fits all.

    Give a man a hammer etc…

  7. But the problem is, the existence of a trigger “When you call on your Mother in law for help” will sort of dictate the fiction in the first place

    No. A move triggers when the character performs the trigger in the fiction. It’s not the other way round! You don’t look at your sheet and go “Okay, I use my Scream For Mother move,” you go “I scream for my mother” and then check to see if your actions have triggered any moves.

    For instance, I want to write a move for a rat animal companion, so I say “When you are hungry roll+x, on 10+ your rat brings you food.” I think that would not be a bad move but “When you command your rat to do something, roll+x. On 10+ he does exactly what you tell him to” would probably be better.

    You’re right that the latter is a better move, but that’s because it has more applications than the former, which means that:

    a) it’s a better pick for a player, since they get to use it more often.

    b) there are more possibilities for players to use it in clever and amusing ways.

    It’s not better because it tells you less about the fiction; on the contrary.

    (It’s also a question of scope and power. The first move has a very narrow scope, so it’s only a worthwhile pick if hunger is a big thing in your game – having a reliable way of feeding yourself could be a huge boon. In your average DW game, it’s not, so the limited scope makes it a bad move.)

  8. Also:

    Not every trigger needs to have a cost, and not every move needs to be broad in its applications. These things are all part of how you balance a move, as is the power of the effect (mechanical and fictional). Generally, you want moves with a powerful effect to have a rare or costly trigger (it still needs to be something the character can use frequently, though, even if it’s rare), and moves with a broad trigger to have weaker effects.

    You’ll notice that the playbook starting moves can normally be sorted into ~3 categories: short moves with limited scope (e.g. Armored); long, complex moves that define a class and are meant to be its most obvious feature (e.g. Quest); and moves that are less complex than the signature moves, but still have a fair bit of scope (e.g. Spirit Tongue). The last group is also the category that advances-that-are-new-moves fit in. *

    A good balance for starting moves when making a class, for example, tends to be 1 signature, 2 mediums and 1 minor, but this isn’t a hard rule (for example, the Bard has three moves that all sit somewhere between signature and medium depending on use and circumstance). It’s also generally a good idea to make sure every character has some kind of social or utility move as part of this mix (I Am the Law, Hunt and Track, Divine Guidance) – it doesn’t need to be the signature or even one of the mediums, just make sure they have something to do outside of combat, even if it’s just creative uses for Discern Realities or a limited-circumstances stat swap on Parley.

    * there’s a fourth category, sort of – moves that aren’t a separate thing the character can do, but are just some clarifying or supporting rules text to a bigger move. Examples of this are Born of the Soil, Deity, Spellbook or Prepare Spells/Commune. If you want an example of a move where the supporting text doesn’t take up enough space to justify making into a separate move, you can also look at Bardic Lore.

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