I see this coming up once every now and then.

I see this coming up once every now and then.

I see this coming up once every now and then… When a player casts a spell in a place that’s safe, do they still roll? What happens when they get a 6-? So, let’s brainstorm what can go wrong on a spellcast when the party isn’t in the dungeon.

18 thoughts on “I see this coming up once every now and then.”

  1. I completely agree with Jay Vee; regardless of what the character is doing, if there is no threat, really consider just letting them do it. Of course, magic should always be dangerous so part of me feels the player should always roll, regardless of situation or circumstance.

  2. Well in that case maybe it should be Defy Danger? Where the danger is the magic you’re casting vs the external threat of a normal Cast A Spell move?

  3. Part of the reason you ALWAYS roll to cast a spell is because it implies in the fiction that magic is dangerous. Now, that said, the consequences don’t have to be immediate. A powerful entity could have their attention drawn, for example. But all you need to tell the Wizard or Cleric is, “you get the faint sense that something is watching you.”

  4. As I’ve been told there are no safe places, only safe people. Even in real life. Take where you live, it’s safe right now, but it only takes a burglar to change that.

    Well you’re casting a spell, altering reality! Who says there is a safe place?!

  5. Also, review GM moves. What if the spell is cast wrong and something happens to gear. The spell was to light the room, suddenly the fighter’s pants are a blaze

  6. well first of all, it’s not that the gm decides when to roll; you roll when you trigger a move, period. You can play different, but that sort of misses the entire point of moves: moving the fiction forward. Why would you want to avoid something that moves your fiction forward?!

    That said, there are virtually infinite things you can do with a missed cast a spell roll. I think it’s like possibly the most open move regarding missed rolls. You could impose side effects (the dead anwsers your questions… And then proceeds to haunt you), exaggerate the spell effects (permanent invisibility!), twist them (charm person becomes lobotomization) ask a specific ingredient or cost for the spell to come (yes, but you’ll lose a piece of your soul), awaken very unwelcome and very dangerous attentions (you summon the wrong monster!), and whatnot! It’s like, imagination is the only limit! If you feel kind of stuck, just ask the meanest player at the table: “what happened the last time the wizard made a total mess botching this spell?”

  7. As for ideas for a 6-, try using turn their move back on them.  Look at the spell they are casting and ask yourself “how could this go wrong?” 

    Examples (of all the cleric spells I could imagine casting in a “safe” place):

    light: Oh shit, your hand won’t stop glowing.  or Uh oh, the spell seems to be eating away at the sword you cast it on.

    sanctify: The meal you cast it on errupts into sacred flame, consumed as an offering to your deity. Oh, also, the curtains are now on fire.

    guidance: The spell gets hijacked by a powerful supernatural entity.  Think the Eye of Sauron, looking right at you.

    cure _ wounds: as the wounds on your patient close, they open on your own body like stigmata. They won’t stop bleeding.

    sanctuary: you discover that there already IS something in the perimeter with hostile intentions, and the spell just riled it up

    speak with dead: do I really need to spell this one out?

    animate dead: “What could possibly go wrong?”

    darkness: Yup, sure is dark in here.  Wait, what was that? You just felt something cold and clamy brush against your face.


    Revelation: the current situation is way, way worse than you thought. Also, your deity demands that you do something about it. Now.

    Words of the Unspeaking: “Ovid, Sigurd never comes down for dinner. You don’t think anything of it, but when he doesn’t come down for breakfast you start to get worried. You find him in his room, catatonic, with that sword you found in the Crypts of Titch on his lap.”

    Divination: You see them, but oh boy do they also see you. And they know where you are.

    Trap the Soul:  The gem cracks as you cast the spell.  Yeah, it seems like the werewolf’s soul is still in their, but I wouldn’t exactly call it trapped.  And why ARE you craving raw meat anyway?

    Word of Recall: Yup, so you cast the spell.  Seems to work.  Next you say the command word, you’ll all be teleported back to this spot.  Mmm hmm.  Yup, bet that’ll work just fine.

    Heal: Yup, it works, but go ahead and roll your Final Breath.  (Yeah, ok, maybe this one is too brutal.)

    Mark of Death: “Ovid, you know Sigurd was up in his room working on some pretty heavy magic. Well, all the light sources in the inn just snuffed out.  Everyone’s freaking out, but over the commotion you’re pretty sure you hear some otherworldly screaming.”

    Control Weather: Weather, yes.  Control, no.

    Repear: Your deity appears before you. “I’ll do this for you, but you gotta do something for me in return…”

    Divine Presence: And before you know it, you’ve got a cult following you around and declaring your True Divinity. This is how heresies get started.

    Plague: Oh, good, you just fullfilled one of the signs of the apocalypse.  I was wondering when that was going to get started.

  8. Happened in our game tonight. Mage cast a levitate spell to get out of quicksand. Player: “Oh crap I rolled 5, am I still sinking?” Me: “Nope but you go up and keep going up and up. Man the ground seems so far away.”

  9. I’ve read an awful lot on GM’ing in general and I a core concept, no matter the source, is to always say YES. If there is no looming threat or something that would otherwise disrupt the casters attention or interfere with the spell being cast, then I treat it as an automatic success; similar to Take 10 or Take 20 in D&D 3.X+.

    This falls back to being a fan of the characters. Sure you could make the game more interesting with a botched roll, but the game will still likely be interesting if their spell succeeds. The question is, how much do you want to complicate their lives just for the sake of having the unexpected happen. A little reliability isn’t really a bad thing. I really dislike the idea of a player being afraid to use their special skills at any given time or in any situation because their skills are simply unreliable.

    The game says you aren’t just another Cleric, you are THE Cleric. You aren’t a run of the mill Wizard, you are a Wizard of LEGEND! I feel making them roll even in safe situations or when they have all the time in the world to get it right/proceed carefully seems to go against this idea. A roll no matter what very much humanizes this supposedly larger than life character. I simply can’t have that at my table X_X.

    Mike Wice I look forward to this compilation you are working on ^_^

  10. But DW is vastly different from D&D. Things that work with D&D (to the point that are needed to make D&D actually work) may even produce the opposite scenario in DW. Moves are not skill checks to see if you fail. Moves are mechanical bits whose only purpose is to move the fiction in an unpredicted direction. That’s why there are no difficulty modifiers, because it’s not a matter of failing or not. You roll because you want the fiction to go in an unforeseen direction. Also: i’ts not the gm that lets the players do the roll. Usually may be the gm calling a move, but in general, as a group, you want all player paying attention and be on the same page whether a borderline situation triggers a move and when it doesn’t (like some cases of defy danger). To put it in another way: when playing D&D, you want to skip rolls because sometimes rolling is boring, sometimes it just subtracts from the game. In DW, every roll adds something interesting, in one way or another. You may house rule that the gm has the authority to decide when to roll, but why? What does it add to the game? You’re just keeping the players from earning xps and missing an opportunity to twist the story in an unpredicted direction.

    Obviously, if you’re the wizard, you may well say: “hey, my magic is punctual and precise, a spell’s effects are always the same, no way it can fail of fizzle or whatnot.” Fine then! You roll, and on a 6- the gm’s move will be directed on something else. Worst case scenario, you advance a front! But you may use whatever move applies to the situation. You reveal an ugly truth, you attract some attention not because you failed the spell but for some other reason, and so on. It’s not about punishing the players, it’s about playing to find out what happens.

    PS: being a fan of the character surely doesn’t mean “let the win”. Being a fan of the characters means giving them incredible challenges so they can show-off and be awesome!

  11. Marques Jordan, “say yes” isn’t part of the DW rules, like, at all.  “Moves are indivisible,” however, is.  You can’t perform the fictional trigger for a move (e.g. casting the “light” spell) without triggering that move (the cast a spell move).   That’s a core part of the game. 

Comments are closed.