Random though from a copy comments I made recently.

Random though from a copy comments I made recently.

Random though from a copy comments I made recently.

I’ve always liked the W feature that the GM doesn’t roll the dice.  I’m starting to think that the other side of that might be that the Players don’t state their moves.  They just describe what the characters are doing.  The GM may need to clarify intent, may or may not ask them to roll something, and may ask some follow-up questions.    Of course, it puts more work on the GM ’cause he has to recall all of the class special moves, but it seems like a fun way to play, especially with a new group.

* Spell casting may be an exception since that’s pretty explicit both that it triggers a move and which move it triggers.  Of course, maybe sometimes it is different moves …  

49 thoughts on “Random though from a copy comments I made recently.”

  1. I don’t think that is a good idea. The moves are there specifically for the players to use. If you don’t know you have access to move X you might never do that. Especially Spout Lore comes to mind. The moves are also there to clarify what is happening and make the risks obvious. 

    Players can state their moves and play with the Intent of using them. You can have conversations like this: 

    “I want to Hack&Slash that guy, but he seems dangerous, what do I need to do to get to him?” 

    Players are allowed the full use of their moves and there is nothing wrong with playing from that more mechanical angle. If a player just states a move simply ask her “how do you do that?” 

  2. Tim Franzke It is funny you mention Spout Lore.  That’s my least favorite move because it is the one where I — the player — am just asking for information without any character action.  Maybe a bit of justification, but it comes down to just roll for the GM to give me a clue using my character’s mouth.

    To be clear about the rest, I’m not saying that the players shouldn’t know the moves.  I can’t  imagine how that would work.  I’m saying the players don’t mention the names of the moves.  In your example conversation, “I want to kill that guy, but he seems dangerous, ….” or “I want to stab that guy, ..” seem just as useful as explicitly mentioning Hack & Slash, while being more tied to the fiction.

    Finally, I’m not saying player from a more mechanical angle is “wrong”.  I was intrigued by the symmetry and now wonder if it might be a fun way to help move the mechanics a bit into the background.

  3. Why is there no character action? 

    To quote the book: 

    You spout lore any time you want to search your memory for knowledge or facts about something. You take a moment to ponder the things you know about the Orcish Tribes or the Tower of Ul’dammar and then reveal that knowledge.

    OF course there is action, especially if you use the bonus from a book. 

    And if your are not speaking the names of the moves, how do you know what to roll for? The same thing might be two different moves, or you understand the intent of the player wrong. In the end you have to call the moves by their names or there will be confusion. 

    And there really is no symmetry there from a game design standpoint. 

  4. Christopher Stone-Bush :nods. That said, it seems to mostly come down to the player saying something like “After a moment’s thought, Pelar says… What?”. As I said, that makes it my least favorite move because you are mostly just justifying asking for a clue.

  5. When you consult your accumulated knowledge about something can be the character simply remembering something. But it doesn’t have to be. There are other character actions that are both more “active” and would fulfill the trigger conditions for Spout Lore.

    Even if you do play it as simply asking for a clue, if the player triggers the move, they roll dice, which means they’re risking a 6- and a GM Move.

  6. I do understand the mechanic.

    Back a bit closer to the topic.. As a player, maybe I do want to spout lore to get some hints about the temple I plan to raid. I describe reading old dusty travel logs in the Merchants Guild and announce that I want to spout lore. Bah, my GM corrects and invokes a custom move for searching the Merchant Guild archive.

    On the one hand, cool! On the other, bah, I just got told I was wrong for no reason. Would have been better to leave it to the GM. The intent was clear, the method of trying to achieve it was clear, he could tell me what to roll w/o my having to name the move.

    (And, yes I expect he would interrupt my narration if assumed too much and needed to make a roll earlier, or if I were coming close to triggering a particularly dangerous move that the character might be aware of. Then again, we expect those two things at all times, and we expect there may be moves we don’t know about before we trigger them (traps),)

  7. I’m a little confused about the triggering narration in your example, Doug Bonar . Is your character searching through the Merchant Guild Archive right now, as in actively wandering through the stacks and opening scroll cases? Or are you narrating something that happened in the past that explains why your character would have that knowledge stored in their brain? Knowing that will help me, the GM, determine what and if a move triggers.

    Regardless though, the GM won’t always have a custom move ready. Custom moves are only for things that are really special, or happen a lot due to location or circumstance. Does your GM often “correct” you by saying you triggered a custom move?

  8. I’m just trying to give an example. As far as I can see, explicitly naming the move as a player doesn’t help make the game flow more smoothly. If it matters, assume either case, but I was thinking more of preparation before a dungeon where each character is doing something to get ready. So, walking through the stacks now with the intent of learning more about The_Temple. As a side effect, it might also provide justification for later spouting lore while at the temple too.

    I understand custom moves are rare, that doesn’t mean the shouldn’t be included when thinking about ways to play. Contrary to Tim Franzke s earlier comment, I do think there is an interesting symmetry. I’m not saying hide the existence of moves from the players any more than we hide dice from the GM. I’m still failing to see where things would go wrong if players never spoke the names of moves, but roll as the GM asked them to and, when necessary, selected from resulting choices.

  9. Vincent Baker recently wrote: 

    ” as a GM, not naming your moves is good storytelling. As a player, not naming your moves is poor communication.”

  10. I honestly don’t mind if players use the names of moves or not. But I will heartily agree with what Tim Franzke just quoted about good player communication.

    Some moves are easy for the player to convey without saying the move’s name, but simply by narrating their character’s action in the given circumstances. Other moves are not so clear or easy to narrate, however. In my opinion, although I prefer player narration whenever possible, saying the name of the move you intend to trigger removes a lot of the ambiguity for me as a GM.

    During one of my first games with completely new players, the Elf Bard fell off his Giant Elk while the party was being pursued by a pack of Winter Wolves. The wolves surrounded him, putting him in a spot. The player of the Dwarf Cleric narrated his PC jumping from the elk he was riding, and charging into the pack to save his friend. It was a great narration, but I as the GM was unsure what move should trigger.

    The player of the Dwarf Cleric had described his PC laying about the pack and doing damage with his warhammer, so Hack & Slash could be the move. But he was rushing to the aid of his friend, so Defend could trigger. He was also making his way through a swarm of enemies, so Defy Danger could trigger. And lastly, he could simply have been attempting to help his friend through an Aid move.

    There were three things I could have done as GM. 1) I could have asked him to rephrase his narration so that his intent was clear, 2) I could have guessed what move he was trying to trigger, or 3) I could have asked him what move he was attempting to trigger.

    1 feels too much like a do over for my tastes. “Your narration wasn’t good enough. Do it again.” 2 runs the risk of pissing players off by triggering a move, and the resulting consequences, that they honestly hadn’t intended. 3 can take you out of the fiction, but it is clear and direct. You can probably guess which option I went with. Turns out the Dwarf Cleric wanted to trigger Defend, and the damage inflicted on the wolves in his narration of the action was just “color”.

    Later in the same session, the Elf Bard (who survived the wolf attack) struck up a conversation with one of the tower guardians (while within the area of protection from a Sanctuary spell the Dwarf Cleric had cast). We role played out the conversation for a bit, and then the player says “So does my Charming and Open move trigger yet? I’ve been speaking frankly with this guy for a while now.” I did a face palm. I know the Bard has that move, and I know what it does. But in the chaos of GMing the game, I had missed the player’s clues. Looking back now, I remember the player actually saying, in character “So, my friend. Let me be frank here…” I apologized and asked the player what his question was.

    I realize this is a long example, but it illustrates my point. You certainly can play with the players never saying the names of the moves they want to trigger. I prefer it whenever possible, as I said. But some moves and some situations do run more smoothly when the player clearly indicates their intention by saying the name of the move they want to trigger. So I don’t sweat it when the player includes the move’s name in their narration, or when they ask “That’s [move X], right?” after they narrate their character taking action.

  11. In the first example it seems to make sense to clarify intent. I don’t object to that being in term of the move names, but don’t see why it needs to be. Something like do you intend to hurt the wolves, defend your friend, aid your friend in what he’s trying or something else? It seems similar to asking for more detail from an intent that left the method ambiguous.

    The later -GMs being human – is an issue. I like his approach of first trying the role playing, them reminding the GM.

  12. When people vividly describe their actions and other people pick up on the move they’re telegraphing it’s a fun and cool experience, basically it’s the equivalent of the writer’s advice “show, don’t tell.” Since it’s possible to do that some of the time with *W derived games it can be very tempting to make it a rule that you have to do it. But the actual *W games we have aren’t designed to work smoothly with that rule added on, e.g. the moves aren’t always distinct enough from each other, some are somewhat internally focused and therefore awkward to portray, etc. It’s probably possible to create a very cool game using the “fictional trigger” style mechanic that would let you institutionalize the “show, don’t tell” thing, but it’s not a simple add-on hack that you can just put on top of existing *W games and have them work well.

    When I first played DW I thought this “don’t mention the name of your player move” thing was the “good” way to play, but I found in practice that it quickly became frustrating and exhausting. It also put my focus on talking and trying to be clever with how I described things, which had the effect of distancing me from the imaginary situation as it was happening because I was focused on a player-to-player interaction instead of where the game wanted me to focus.

  13. What I am trying to do in my games is have the players not name their moves unless I, as the GM, do not pick up on what they’re trying to do. Then they should specifically interrupt me, and say “Hey, whoa! I was trying to describe something that triggers Defend here. Why is that not happening?”

    So far, that’s working pretty well for me.

    It’s also important, I believe, to point out that since there are no turns or initiative or whatever in *W games, it’s also very possible for someone to be attempting to trigger Defend or Aid or whatever, but for the GM, for example, to throw a Defy Danger in front of that: “You can rush to your companion’s aid, placing yourself in front of the charging warg, but first you need to barrel through those goblins. Defy Danger first, then let’s see how that goes before we resolve your Defend.”

  14. ” as a GM, not naming your moves is good storytelling. As a player, not naming your moves is poor communication.”

    I was trying to remember who said that!  Thanks Tim Franzke!

  15. I prefer games where players aren’t always naming their moves too.  It gets tedious and breaks us out of the fiction a bit.  But it’s still important to name moves and clearly communicate what you’re trying to do.  H&S is easy to see and trigger–no need to name it.  Spout Lore and Parley, etc?  Much less obvious.

    EDIT:  This is about player communication and intent.  Just because a player says they Parley doesn’t mean they do.  There’s still a discussion about whether there is leverage or whether what the character did was enough to trigger the move, etc.  

  16. especially because you should aim to bring parley up more often, especially with a Bard in the group. Be quite lenient with what counts as leverage. 

  17. I encourage my players to just narrate their actions, and then I decide what moves they trigger. So far it hasn’t caused any problems. The more savvy among them will occasionally name the moves they want to make, which is fine, but it always breaks immersion a little.

  18. It is not YOUR job to decide that though. It is a table decision. 

    “Everyone at the table should listen for when moves apply. If it’s ever unclear if a move has been triggered, everyone should work together to clarify what’s happening. Ask questions of everyone involved until everyone sees the situation the same way and then roll the dice, or don’t, as the situation requires.”

  19. This discussion was very helpful to me. I think I (subconsciously) got the same impression that Doug Bonar expressed.

    from Making Moves:

    > When a player describes their character doing something that triggers a move, that move happens and its rules apply. If the move requires a roll, its description will tell you what dice to roll and how to read their results.


    > A character can’t take the fictional action that triggers a move without that move occurring… and he can’t [make a move] without [narrating an action that triggers the move]. The moves and the fiction go hand-in-hand.

    I found this section a lot clearer than Apocalypse World’s “to do it, do it”, but it did seem like it was recommending narration over naming the move. I’ve had a couple slightly awkard situations like Christopher Stone-Bush described above. It’s helpful to know that naming player moves isn’t just a sloppy necessity while we learn the game, but a valuable asset to communication at the table.

  20. As a point of clarification, everyone at the table includes the GM as well as the player who is potentially trying to trigger a specific move. So, it’s not solely the GM’s job, but it’s also not not the GM’s job (if that makes sense). 😉

  21. I’m certainly cool with players naming their moves. It clears things up, and it can remind me of less common moves, especially advanced moves. I do occasionally have someone name a move instead of describing an action, in which case I ask things like “What does that look like?” or “How are you going about that?”

    Spout Lore is a slightly different beast, I frequently use it when a player asks “Do I know anything about X?” Then the description isn’t important (“I think real hard”?). I find questions like “Where did you learn that?” to be more interesting.

  22. Making moves in DW isn’t like submitting orders in Diplomacy.  You can take back what you meant, redescribe, talk and navigate towards intent. You work on it as a group – so there are lots of ways to get at engaging the mechanisms. There are also lots of ways to get what you want without engaging them, too.

  23. I prefer to have the players simply act instead of naming moves. In fact I explicitly ask them not to name moves. The reason is I want them to think outside the box, instead of limiting themselves to what’s on their character sheets. This doesn’t work so well for class moves, since I can’t remember all those. In that case i’d have the player prompt me: “player: I do X… that sound trigger Y. GM: cool, roll it.” This respects the show-don’t-tell bit, gives me a chance to override with a custom move if appropriate, but still allows the player to name his move. But for standard moves (hack n slash, spout lore etc) I prefer they never name them, as these are easy to remember and generic. I want them to work for it with good description and roleplay.

  24. Adam Koebel That style of play seems to contradict the way some people tdi, yhtdi. Not wrong – tdi, yhtdi always seems a bit confusing as a guideline – but not the way I’d like to play. Clarify where you need to, but not a lot of taking back, redescribing and negotiating about the character actions.

  25. I feel like there is a difference between anything that leaves a players’ mouth being canonically what they do and recognizing when someone has hit on the right description of their action. Consider that while my description might sound like one move, I may intend another and just be having trouble getting there. You see this a lot with hack and slash vs defend, for example. Both descriptions can include violent swordplay, but intent might need to be dug at to get to the point of what one is doing, fiction-wise.

  26. Sure. The whole thread is about that one way or another. I think there’s a difference between clarifying intent after the statement of action or interrupting it partway through, vs a general back and forth adding in and taking out bits of description as the group discusses possible moves and results.

    On a more specific note, this is a second time a hack/slash vs defend confusion was mentioned. I have to admit, I don’t get that. It seems like making your statement clear about do damage vs protect should be easy. (Perhaps harder in the mechanical edge case of a high level, not very combat oriented character whose defend move could do more damage than his attack. )

  27. Nothing about that involved taking back anything you said, working on it as a group or “navigating” toward intent. You described action, GM was unclear about intent and asked a clarifying question. You clarified – unnecessarily mentioning a move name, oh well. We go to dice.

    The part that gets potentially confusing, time consuming and at timed frustrating is that when asked for clarification you did more than clarify, by also trying to change the action. I would generally say you can’t, the character ‘did it’. (Of course, we are people, special cases abound.)

  28. While I agree that once the dice get rolled, you can’t change what you are doing, but up until that, there is room for negotiation. When the GM says “that sounds like defend” the player can say “I didn’t mean defend, let me try that another way”.

    Dungeon World doesn’t have a “no take-backs” rule.

  29. If there was a misunderstanding, sure, or clarifying what your intent is.  Not if you just want to change your characters actions ’cause you don’t like the results.   

    If you describe standing in front of a companion stopping the goblins from getting to him, there may be uncertainty about your intent (above).  But when someone suggests that sounds like a Defense move, you shouldn’t suddenly shift the description to charging into the horde of enemies.

  30. BTW, I think I’m done with the thread.  If it goes on much longer I’m going to start disliking DW.  I know, people are having fun playing and I’m pretty sure I would have fun playing with any of you.  That said, I’m getting the picture of people talking primarily in mechanics, arguments over whether a particular move applies or not and occasional does of retconning character actions when the GM says they trigger unexpected outcomes (e.g. traps or hidden monsters).  

    Or, to take the positive side of the same old-school D&D experience, maybe a lot of group chemistry around the table is a big part of what makes the game fun.   

  31. +Doug Bonar I disagree, though there is always room for table variance. It makes little sense, to me, to force players to make moves they don’t want to. The narrative is a fluid thing and unlike, say, Torchbearer, the difficulty of any given thing is set. As long as the players are all being reasonable, I think changing your description flat out to change the move you’re triggering is a matter of clarification. Like so;

    GM: The prince lies prone at your feet, maybe bleeding to death. You see his attackers, a band of orcs, approaching with bloody weapons drawn.

    Lux: I snarl, slam the visor of my helm into place and take a swing at the first orc who approaches.

    GM: You’re Defending, roll + CON.

    Lux: That doesn’t sound right, I don’t want to Defend. I want to Hack and Slash. How about this, I shove my visor down and leap into the orc band, swinging my sword wildly?

    GM: That sounds like a Hack and Slash. Go for it.

    Again, until the dice hit the table (obviously there’s no weaselling out of a roll you don’t like) I think there’s room for the conversation to roll backwards.

    It’s just like how the GM can jump straight to a hard move as a result of a perceived golden opportunity and a player can say “whoa there, hold on, I definitely would have…” 

    All that slavish adherence to the principle of “you said it, you have to do it” does is increase the chances of a Mordenkainen’s Faithful Watchdog scenario, which may be heavy on “realism” tends to be pretty shit for the sake of fun.

  32. On the retconning I think DW does have an applicable rule: don’t change the fiction. Once established, fiction can’t be changed, only added to. Not sure whether it’s explicitly stated, and actually I don’t care as I think it’s the spirit of the game and is how I play it.

    So on the subject of take backs I’d suggest: once you state either an action or a fact, it cannot be undone. You can add to it to clarify but cannot deny it or change it. Say what you mean and if you make a mistake by being unclear or indecisive or silly or imprecise… chalk it up as a fumble or something and do damage control in the fiction.

    I’d hold the gm to the same standard; truth telling is already an established principle. This just takes it to its logical consequence.

    You could even take it a step further: if someone does manage to contradict an established fact and nobody in the group catches it, then both the original fact and the contradiction are true; the group now has a new question to answer in reconciling the paradox.

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