I will be GMing my second session soon and I was hoping for some advice about some GM moves to make out of combat.

I will be GMing my second session soon and I was hoping for some advice about some GM moves to make out of combat.

I will be GMing my second session soon and I was hoping for some advice about some GM moves to make out of combat. In my first session, in combat, I felt like it flowed well and I had a sense of moves that made sense. However, out of combat on either failures or partial successes I felt like I defaulted to attracting the attention of enemies or using up resources. 

For instance, say someone is in a town and is attempting to Spout Lore about a castle they have just heard about. I am not sure what I would do on a 6- or 7-9. Similarly for a 6- on casting a spell. Any creative suggestions? Thanks for the help!

14 thoughts on “I will be GMing my second session soon and I was hoping for some advice about some GM moves to make out of combat.”

  1. It can sometimes be hard to come up with GM Moves. But remember, players should only be making Moves (and therefore rolling dice) when there is a chance of some sort of consequence, fallout, or risk from them taking action. If an action a character takes doesn’t seem like it has a logical consequence,  I often just let it happen with no Move being triggered.

    Look around at the fictional situation. Can/Will something happen as a result of the character messing up this action (by rolling a 6-). If the answer is “Probably not” then I wouldn’t call for a Move. I just narrate the result of the action. Is there some kind of consequence that’ll happen as a result of the character producing incorrect information about that castle? If not, then don’t bother with the Spout Lore Move. Just have the character say what they remember.

    But if the answer is “Yes, there will be consequences for messing this up”, then use the appropriate Move. Remembering incorrect information about this castle (getting a 6- on Spout Lore) means the character thinks the ruler of this castle is a staunch ally of the king (when they are actually deadly rivals). Or the character thinks this castle is the resting place of a powerful artifact (when it actually isn”t).

    Also remember that a GM Move is to advance one of your Fronts. If the situation really calls for the character to make a Move, but there doesn’t seem to be a logical consequence of failure for that action, look at your Fronts and tick off a Grim Portent.

  2. When I’m not sure what to do int that situation, I turn to my players. I start asking them questions, somewhere along the lines of ‘what are you trying to achieve with this move?’ Or ‘why do you want to know it?’ By having them talk about and clarify what they want, I can get ideas of what they don’t want. Is the person spouting lore trying to remember something about where the thieves guild is so they can join up? Then when they fail a guard shows up asking questions cause they are loitering for to long. Maybe taking to long spouting lore in the town square has the Nature loving Druid notice the mistreated dancing bear. Maybe their bad role has the character believing a wrong detail or lie. Ask for details! And use those details to craft a interesting dilemma tailored to your group.

  3. Chris and charles have great suggestions! I like having my GM move sheet in front of me and if I feel ‘stuck’ just glance down and go with whatever prompt seems right. ‘Turning their move back on them’ or ‘showing a downside to their class’ are good options for ‘falling forward’ and allowing the moves snowball to continue.

    I Like to turn to another player as well. So when the wizard fails their spell, turn to the barbarian and ask, ‘Hey Brack, you’re wary of magic right? What was the worst thing you’ve heard happen to a wizard that mucked up their casting of a spell?’. Not only are you encouraging shared authorship, but you are establishing some nice backstory for both Brack and the wizard to cement into your version of Dungeon World.

  4. That’s a perfect explanation: “Is there a chance of this causing a potential danger?” Spout Lore just while looking at a castle? Hmm, would that information potentially offer them a safer entrance? That could be the decision that gives you, as a GM, the path in. Use it as a plot supplement or turning point in a situation. A bad roll could be a more difficult or dangerous access point.

    Everything can be a potentially dangerous situation. I think it just depends if you feel it will add substance to the story.

  5. Like Charles Persall , I often ask my players what their intention with an action is. Not only does it help me clarify if a Move should trigger (and if so, which one), but it often give me ideas about possible consequences for failure.

    In an early game I was running, one of the PCs (there were only two in the party) had been knocked off his giant elk and had a pack of ice-breathing Winter Wolves surrounding him. The other player described his PC (who was a short distance away) charging forward, laying into the wolves to protect his friend. This could have been either a Hack &  Slash or Defend, so I asked the player “Are you trying to get between the wolves and your friend in order to protect him? Or are you trying to kill wolves?” The player responded that he was trying to protect his friend, and so I called for a Defend move.

    Not only did that help clarify what the player wanted to do, but it gave me ideas on what to do if the player got a miss or needs to be given a hard choice. He could not get there in time. He could have to drop something important to get there. The ice could give way beneath him. Etc. Basically, once I know what the player wants to achieve, I know how to either make them pay for it or screw them on a miss. 😉

  6. Thanks! Lots of great suggestions. I will be especially mindful of thinking about potential negative effects. If there are none, then why role? So counter-intuitive coming from a Pathfinder/D&D background.

  7. Spout lore and discern realities, I either give them bad news or tell them they could find out what they want, but it’s going to take time to research.

    You can also have danger that isn’t directed at them – a distant explosion, a scream from an alley, a runaway horse.

  8. Also, for spout lore, if it’s something that would just be obvious to them, don’t make them roll. Just say it.

    You can also muddy the waters. “You heard that werecows are allergic to silver, or was it iron? So hard to keep all of theses legends straight!”

  9. Christopher Stone-Bush i completly disagree. When you roll there IS ALWAYS a chance of it going wrong. When you say “No. I as the GM don’t think there could be something bad happening here.” you are not playing to find out, you are deciding what is happening. That is not part of the principle. 

    When you hit the fictional trigger for a move you HAVE to roll it. There is no way of ” consulting your accumulated knowledge about something” or “closely studying a situation or person” without triggering Spout Lore or Discern Realities. 

    Its the job of everyone at the table to look for these triggers, not to decide whether there is potential danger here. There is always danger in the Dungeon World. Fill their life with adventures and think dangerous.

  10. Damn. G+ just ate this long response I typed out, Tim Franzke . Basically, either I wasn’t clear, or you misinterpreted something I said. Here’s what I typed out before in a nutshell.

    1. If you roll the dice, you abide by the rules.

    2. If you trigger a Move, you follow through.

    But the trigger phrases of Moves are open to interpretation. If a character wants to know about a castle in the center of town, and uses their own memory or their big bag of books to find the answer, then Spout Lore triggers.

    But if the player says, “Nah. I just want to walk around and ask people about the castle.” What move triggers then? Possibly none. If the townspeople are open, friendly, and don’t mind talking to strangers, then I would simply narrate what the player learns or roleplay out the individual conversations. If the townpeople are hostile or cautious, then maybe a Parley Move is in order. Or maybe a Defy Danger Move to trick someone into spilling the beans or to find someone who will talk.

    Also, if the person who owns the castle doesn’t care about people asking questions, I would say there’s no consequences for the PCs gathering information, and no Move triggers. But if the owner of the castle does care about people asking questions, then perhaps a Defy Danger Move is in order to make sure that doesn’t get back to the castle’s owner.

    Hopefully that clears things up. 🙂

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