It’s been stated in the Tavern time and again, a “+1” is least interesting bonus to award and should be avoided -…

It’s been stated in the Tavern time and again, a “+1” is least interesting bonus to award and should be avoided -…

It’s been stated in the Tavern time and again, a “+1” is least interesting bonus to award and should be avoided – yet “+1” is used often in DW.  So, how does one decide when “+1” is the appropriate bonus to attach to a move?

32 thoughts on “It’s been stated in the Tavern time and again, a “+1” is least interesting bonus to award and should be avoided -…”

  1. Never! I’ve got 7 playbooks written so far, and only one of them has a +1 as a move. The next redraft is going to kill and eat that +1. That’s probably a bit extreme, but I’m definitely of the opinion that making success more likely makes things less interesting.

    That said, Adam Koebel pointed out that applying a -1 is significantly more interesting, as it makes for statistically far more 7-9 results.

  2. I like +1s. Not for everything, not primarily, but sometimes. Even if Dungeon World is great at building a story through improvisational “yes, but…” results, sometimes “yes, and…” is just as much fun. And what player doesn’t occasionally love rolling an amazing result and completely dominating?

    To me, the advice “avoid +1s” is like the advice for writers “avoid adverbs.” It’s less of a rule, and more of guide – those with little experience will rely too heavily on +1s or adverbs, missing out on the better parts of DW or writing. When you get more experience and practice, you’ll understand where to best use either.

  3. Give a +1 forward to:

    Incentivise a certain behaviour (like the halfling fighter showing that she is small)

    Or to incorporatfiction back into the game (like the +1 from acting on a DR question. You are reincorporating info from the move back into the fiction and enrich the game through that)

    Don’t use a +1 forward to show someone is just better all the time without having some change in playstyle attached.

  4. I love +1 for the simple reason that it supports the fiction in a tangible mechanical way. Tags are usefull but the fact is that DW DOES have a dice conflict resolution mechanism for a reason. To say that mechanical buffs are undesirable is to negate the core mechanic of of the game.

    BUT that being said, because of the way the system works be carefull of allowing a player more than one +1 from moves.


  5. There are mechanical alternatives to +1. The quartermaster in my Pirates! sourcebook has “Iron discipline”. When the crew does a loyalty check he can pull rank and say “Youre thinking of mutiny? Its the keelhaul for you!” Mechanically the unhappy crew put their cards on the table (roll the dice) and the quartermaster overrides them. He gets to re-roll one die. My clockpunk sees the future as a possibility tree. So he “tries” one course of action during parley for instance, sees that it will fail and then does something else. Mechanically he gets to reroll a failed parley roll once.

    The point I’m trying to make is that every numerical buff should make some sort of sense in the fiction.

  6. The problem with resolving is that a failed parley MOVE does not necessitate a failed parley. Maybe they give you exactly what they want only to betray you later.

    What then?

  7. Aha! Say you put your foot in it when you get the question “Does this make me look fat?” Don’t you wish you could rewind the tape and give a different answer? The clockpunk can see the result of his intended answer before he says it, and can try something different. So when he rolls 6- he sees that and rerolls. He may be lucky 2nd time round an get 10+.

    So there is a definite difference between 6- and 10+ in parley.

    Of course 7-9 is more interesting than 10+. But as someone here pointed out 10+ exists for a reason. As a GM I find 6- the most interesting because that is when I make hard moves. But I get few of those…

  8. There is no in fiction difference though. The character doesn’t know what he rolled. Lets say he rolls a 6- and i make the 

    “seperate them” move as suddenly 2 other characters get teleported awa. Or i introduce a stone-giant crashing through the wall. 

    There is no relation to the Parley in there. 

    How would turning back the time change the Stone Giant attacking them? 

    This only works if the GM makes a move directly related to your parley. Otherwise you have fiction-mechanics dissonance. 

  9. But 6- also means the parley fails. Which alone is highly significant for the fiction.

    If I have a 6- in parley I always try to make my hard move fictionally directly related to the parley. The guy you try to convince attacks you. The guards come because you are wasting time talking. Etc.

    So you are absolutely correct. I agree.

  10. No it doesn’t! It means the GM makes a move, nothing more or less. It could mean the parley goes perfect but a grim portent advances for example. 

  11. Tim Franzke I LOVE the “+1 to incentivize” method, personally.  Encourage them to act outside their comfort zones EVEN when it’s well within their wheelhouse.  

  12. When everything is special…nothing is.

    Those super cool really interesting oh noes hard decisions…eventually turn into “been there, done that, have the t-shirt”

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a die roll just needs to actually resolve shit and not introduce more crazy.

    And the best die rolls to resolve shit are the ones where a character is doing their special thing that they’re super good at.  Because you know the character is super good when they not only succeed…but when they succeed without further complication.  And THAT is when having a +1 is fantastic.

    So I’m going to go so far and say the exact reverse of James Hawthorne 

    All classes (most anyway) SHOULD have at least one special thing they do that they get a +1 when doing it.  It should be something not easily spammed, but it should be something that a clever player can maneuver towards such that at least every now and then they can fully resolve a thing with no more twists and turns while doing something unique to them.

  13. That’s an interesting point, Ralph Mazza. I agree that classes should have something that they’re good at and will succeed more often with, but I’d argue that move is integral to the character; it is the perfect place to express why and how they’re better. A good trigger for the +1 will add to the book’s character, but I reckon the result of the move is also a good place to hone it in!

    Pirate World’s Pirate, for example, is all about leaping around, grabbing attention and causing chaos. They could easily have +1 to Defy Danger with Dex when they’re jumping from an explosion, getting fired out of a cannon or flinging themselves off the rigging, but I wanted to really express why they’re the best at throwing themselves around. Here’s their core move:

    Crazy Leap

    When you hurl yourself through the air, roll +DEX. On a 10+ hold two, on a 7-9 hold one. Spend hold one-for-one before you crash into the ground to:

    * slash at something

    * grab something and pull it with you

    * gain the attention of everyone nearby

    Pirates will always land on something improbably soft (a nobleman, crate of gunpowder, a kraken’s tentacle) when using Crazy Leap.

    So, the Pirate has an opportunity to cause chaos while falling, and that’s explicitly written in to their character. As it’s one of their core moves, the player will be looking for opportunities to use this, shaping quite definitely how they play.

    The final part is important; it could have been expressed as one of the hold moves and been a non-choice, or separately as “the pirate will always land on something soft”, and that would have been good for an agile class. However, tying this in to Crazy Leap means the Pirate’s focus is all about taking advantage of a crazy situation (them jumping off something) without having to put too much forethought into it, which is exactly the character type and playstyle I’m aiming for.

  14. Sure.  That’s a great move.  But that doesn’t preclude the pirate from also having a move that gives him a +1 to defy danger when when being attacked by multiple opponents on his own ship (or something to that effect).

  15. But how much does that really add? A move that only you can trigger when you are defending your ship makes you much better at doing that then just getting the +1 on DD.


    When your ship is swarmed by landers, roll+DEX

    On a 10+ hold 3, 7-9 hold 2

    Spend your hold to

    – deal an additional d8 to someone attacking your ship

    – close the distance to an attacker through a quick dash

    – make your crew make a coordinated advance against someone

    Or something like that.

    That is actually better AND more interesting then the +1

  16. And then this move doesn’t make you do something you wouldn’t otherwise do, take this as a counter example:


    When you endanger your life in direct pursuit of your research, take +1 forward to ignoring any danger standing in your way

    This creates a unique playstyle and not only makes you better at something.

  17. The thing about the +1 is that it makes failure results signficantly less likely.  Which makes hard moves signficantly less likely.

    Which is what you want.

    You want a scene to evolve like this giant web of stuff going on with failures and partial successes adding twists and new branches and more options in an explosion of awesome.

    But what you also want is for those exploded branches of potential to periodically collapse into a definitive resolution.  All good stories require that.  You can’t go gonzo cranked to 11 all the time.

    Having characters have an arena where they get a +1 means that each player has the opportunity to periodically maneuver things into that arena where they have a higher probability of achieving an actual resolution that brings a sequence of events to a close without spinning off additional branches the way a partial success or failure does.

    That’s a big deal.

    It will happen randomly, but IMO not at a rate that helps keep the expansion spiral reasonable.  Salting moves with +1s increases the rate at which that happens.

    Sure it seems boring and tame and “just +1?…lame” when its static and on paper.  But when viewed according to its impact on how it helps pace the ongoing events of extended play…its pretty important.

  18. That’s a straw man argument.  Don’t even go there.  

    Of course you play to find out.  But if you don’t have some kind of pacing to what you find out, the end result is a hot mess of crazy.

    Even the most sandboxy of GMs understand pacing, so lets not pretend it doesn’t apply.

  19. It comes down to balance. To reiterate someone else’s comment, the anti-+1 argument is mostly against making that your go-to playbook move option. It IS boring compared to a true custom move. On the other hand, mathematically, a +1 IS significant and generally builds on another + from a stat. There ARE times when this is desirable, just not most or even half the time. It should be an exception – not a rule. All the arguing here is really just proving both sides – neither is wrong. But personally, I will choose a true custom move over a +1 bonus most of the time because it actually makes a character more interesting AND good at something specific.

Comments are closed.