Hello people

Hello people

Hello people

I think this is my first time posting here, maybe I know some of you from the Story Games forum though. Looking for a bit of help with MCing misses and 7-9s in a fun and consequential manner.

I’ve played a bit of World of Dungeons but not yet Dungeon World, and am interested in getting a game of DW together with my local group. Another thread here reminded me of something that troubles me, and I thought I would see how it’s handled by people who understand and enjoy the system.

Misses and 7-9s don’t have to be met with damage, but with other consequences, right? As   Delos Adamski says in the other thread,  ‘PC rolls an eight. PC does damage and suffers an attack. Ogre clubs the player and sends him flying across the room and puts him in a crater in the far wall. No damage but he’s now stuck in a wall.’ This is cool and definitely a feature, but when I was running WoD I found it put a bit of pressure on me to try and adjudicate in a way that was fair.

Here’s a play example, from memory but also fabricated/simplified to bring about the point:

Player 1: tries to engage a caveperson, misses

ME: You overstretch your swing, and tumble onto the floor, sword clattering [no damage dealt. As there is nothing imminent I move on…]

Player 2: tries to hit in a reasonably tactical way 7-9.

ME: you deal damage, but… he pulls you into a grapple as you shove the dirk into his guts. His breath is hot on your face.

Player 2: I shove him away!

ME: ok roll STR [this would be Defy Danger in DW, I guess] to see [another 7-9. I decide not to deal damage but establish that he is now shoved to the floor with the caveman’s hands at his throat. Cut to]

Player 3: Tries to attack 7-9 [trade damage. Player 3 loses 3 of his (max 4) hitpoints]

Player 1: ok, I lunge for my sword in a tumble onto my feet! [rolls 10, I judge that he does it. With 3 backing away, I turn back to 2]

Player 2: My priority is to break this grip and get onto my feet. I raise my knees and push him left while twisting right. [another DD-type roll at 7-9… tricky, one hit could kill this character and he hasn’t missed nor done anything stupid yet. Break free for a point of damage? Or maybe…]

ME: You shove him away, spinning but leave the dirk in him – or is that too harsh – ok, you make it away but you attract the attention of these guys who come at you. Roll Agility

PLayer 2: maybe I’ll get to do something active next week, hey?

Afterwards, one of the players complained that it felt very ad-hoc and more or less like I was choosing when their characters suffered damage, because it was a discretionary option on almost everything but a 10+.

Meanwhile I felt like I had a lot of work on my plate, trying to mentally gauge what felt appropriate. I could have dealt damage to player 2, for instance, and I had decided I would on a miss, but they had partially succeeded both times, and it seemed unfair to put them at risk of wiping out – especially when Player 1 didn’t get hit.

And then with Player 1 – am I going too easy on them? They have undone all the failure with a strong roll, no consequences. On the other hand, it’s easy to get into a micro-task paralysis, demanding that they roll to stand up, to reach the sword, etc, and start to get buried under microconsequences, as it started to seem with Player 2. Players started to worry that one non-optimal roll would send them into a sea of further rolls, as the game doesn’t permit you to just assign a one-turn penalty and move on, but creates a fictional state that probably merits a Move to get out of (if it doesn’t, it’s just color and the fiction starts to not matter).

Some of this may be WoD-ness – I’m scared to give casual damage as it can wipe them out – but more generally, it’s a concern of mine.

Do you find that misses and 7-9s can put characters into this situation? A kind of sea of fictional micro-obstacles that can stop them being awesome? If not, how do your non-mechanical consequences actually have any teeth, if we can recover swords, stand up etc without penalty?

Thanks for your thoughts!

16 thoughts on “Hello people”

  1. I should add that some of this was probably just first time anxiety and trying to remap a dungeon crawl experience onto the system. So it might just be a ‘practice/follow the fiction’ thing. But if anyone has best practices I’d love to hear them.

  2. Best practice number one is let the moves follow the fiction.  This basic principle of DW is so important it can’t be understated.  Another way of saying it is don’t roll dice unless something in the narrative triggers a move.  As an example, let’s look at your Player 1 scenario.  Swings, rolls a 6-, and you take away a resource (the sword) – good move!  However, the player then says they’re going to get to their feet and grab the sword, then they roll.  At this point in time, nothing the player says or that you have said prior to it establishes the need for a roll.  You’re right, though, that it’s boring to say the consequence is they lost their sword momentarily and get it back without effort.  

    Here’s how I would handle this, playing off what you already established.  PC is already separated from sword and on ground.  When I come back to them, I open with, “The caveman you tried to kill saw your sword go clattering away.  He realizes your weapon is bigger and better than his – he moves to pick it up – what do you do?”  Now things get interesting.  Getting to his feet isn’t an issue – no need to roll for that.  But if he wants that sword, he’ll have to Defy Danger, the danger being that the caveman will club him (or whatever he has for a weapon) in competition for it.  

    Now let’s look at Player 2 (might as well go in order!).  Defy Danger is a good call, the danger being that he’s going to get squeezed to death.  He’s got a 7-9, though, so you have to make a move against him.  This is where it makes good sense to say, “You shove yourself free of him but your dagger remains in his body.  He turns to swing his club.  What do you do?”  You don’t want to put him on the floor the way you described because a 7-9 is ultimately a success, but with consequences.  That means that he succeeds in pushing the cave man away – see?  So, he loses his dagger in the bargain, but moves away to safety for the moment.  How he gets the dagger back is another question.  

    Player 3 is obviously handled fine, just requires good narration (I assume you’ve left it basic for this forum, not in the game!).  

    Does this help?

  3. My number one recommendation is to picture the action in your mind. By that I mean you as the GM need to visualize the entire scene and not just the PC’s/NPC’s. What’s the weather like? How is the area constructed? What’s laying around? You don’t necessarily need to mention everything up front (although it won’t hurt) but you need to be aware of everything in the scene because that is where you are going to draw inspiration for GM Moves that are much more interesting than “take damage”. You should be asking yourself, “What could possibly go wrong (for the PC’s) here?” I don’t know about you but my personal life has shown me over and over again what kind of things can, and do go wrong! You virtually never need to concern yourself with what happens when things go right, the players know what that is. You are the master pessimist, king of ill fortune! Focus on that.

    On a practical note keep a tight grip on player dice rolling. Most RPG players never hesitate to grab the dice and roll because in most games the worst that can happen is that the player doesn’t do something, a sort of non or anti-result. In DW if you don’t roll a 10+ some crap is going to happen. Impress this upon the players by making them feel the sting of a 7 – 9 and the outright agony of a 6-. This isn’t a game where everyone makes a Knowledge check until someone gets the info. Why? Because no party should want to risk three or four GM Moves just to figure out something. It takes a while for most players to get this, if the heroes can find a way to succeed without rolling the dice they are better off.

    One last thought. Pacing and rhythm. Keep things moving at a rapid fire pace. Try to avoid looking at books, charts, or anything else that disrupts the flow. Make eye contact, stand up, physically move around the game space, point at people when you say, “What do you do?” Have people on the edge of their seats not knowing when they’ll have to react. This game requires players to focus because there isn’t a standard turn/round structure, use that to your advantage. Someone looks at a text? Hit them with a charging troll. Coming back from the fridge? Guess who has a boulder flying at their head!

    If you can remember to always keep the players reacting to what’s happening. It should feel like a breath of fresh air when a hero gets to do what they planned on doing instead of being forced to react to something. 

    Hope some of this helps.

  4. If you can remember to always keep the players reacting to what’s happening. It should feel like a breath of fresh air when a hero gets to do what they planned on doing instead of being forced to react to something.

    This is pure poetry John Lewis, simply beautiful ^_-

  5. This is all good stuff, thank you.

     The bit about ‘always reacting’ reassures me a little, as I felt that I was going down a wormhole of too much pressure to react to, all initiated by rolls of 9 or lower and then realised through the fiction. I think 2 things could make it more fun:

    1) the players not being so constantly stressed out because their (WoD) HP was so low and so these ‘always reacting’ riffs felt whiffy and dangerous. Especially as I was preferring to put them on the back food to dealing damage and potentially killing them, so the riff never reached a natural break point. Moreso

    2) I should make sure that the fictional consequences following a 9- – my part of the conversation – don’t feel whiffy.

    Another example of 2: The players fell into a trap – an exploding ceiling on the ground floor of the finale tower – and those that hadn’t been smart (eg staying in the doorway) took evasive action that involved a roll. One rolled low and I ruled he wasn’t hurt but his foot was pinned by a pillar. Under threat from enemies he tried to break out but Missed, so I ruled he was still under the pillar but (can’t remember, took damage perhaps, some escalation of threat).

    Being under the pillar for a stretch of the fiction was a bit deprotagonising for the player. Again, it’s that issue of whether the impediment carries any (ha, ha) weight. Perhaps he should have defied danger/rolled to defend against the enemies, without the possibility of dealing damage, clearing his foot in the process.

    Just thinking aloud here. Maybe it’s trying to get a bit more cinematic: what would be the next shot in a movie if the protagonist was about to be served more trouble?

  6. Getting his foot out, to me, isn’t a roll. You could argue Defy Danger, the danger being he shifts wrongly and injures himself, but that would feel ticky-tack to me. The scenario presented is mostly up to interpretation. On the light side I would say, “you’ll be able to pull your foot free easily enough, but the ensuing soreness and stiffness causes you to take -1 forward while you work out the kinks.” However, I would only do this if I’d inflicted damage when the tile fell. On the heavy side (if I did not inflict damage from the falling tile, this becomes harder), “you aren’t able to easily pull your foot free right now because a ______ sees that you’re pinned and comes in to finish you off. If you focus on getting free, the ____ will attack you. If you focus on the ______, you take -1 ongoing until you break free. What do you do?” If they chose the latter and still managed to get a 10+, I might say they pull free accidentally as part of the strike. If I’m feeling generous.

  7. Alex Fradera Envisioning your encounters through a “film maker’s lens” is a great way to run DW. Where would the camera focus? How would the action flow? What peril would the characters face?

    I love the final battle in New York in the Avengers movie. The action flows smoothly from hero to hero. Camera follows Iron Man flying but stops on Hawkeye, who in turn fires an arrow at Loki, who in turn has it blow up and crashes on Stark Tower, where the Hulk suddenly arrives, etc. 

  8. No, I think most of this is the WoDness. Since damage also comes in d6s, almost any amount of damage has the potential to kill a first-level character. And if you’re worried about dealing damage to your characters at all, whether or not it happens is a lot more obviously arbitrary.

    Dungeon World, you’d be pretty hard-pressed to find a circumstance that could one-shot even a Wizard, so you can always establish damage “safely” and then crank up the peril.

  9. I was wondering if this was part of it. I was definitely playing ‘tentative’ at points – I wanted to bring the old-school peril, but kept choking before applying it!

  10. Yeah slap them around with the moves and reward them when they do something awesome about it.

    Chris McGee I need to get a Word document together with all of the awesome quotes I read in this group. I love this line!

  11. Because you always have the option of having an “attack” to damage or produce some other effect/situation you really don’t have to worry about killing a PC on a one-shot. Besides, you should get used to what you can do because the PC’s max HP’s rarely change throughout a campaign.

  12. John Lewis No, this is World of Dungeons. World of Dungeons gives you d6 “hit dice”, initially 1 + CON, which you roll and keep a number equal to your level. 

    Damage also comes in d6s.

    So there’s no such thing as a first-level character with more than 6 hit points, and it’s only rarely (in the case of a good roll and heavy armor) that characters can have even one safe hit.

  13. All my answers have been in DW terms for that reason. Dealing damage is less lethal at first, it sounds like. With that said, it’s not difficult to kill characters, either, but I find throwing hard moves at them causes the player to think as if they WERE the character and react accordingly, instead of taking a less realistic (D&D tactical) approach. Hard moves in this case being damage, lost equipment, being put in a spot, etc.

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