Just a thought I’ve been having on GM moves. This is deeply theoretical, but please chime in with your thoughts.

Just a thought I’ve been having on GM moves. This is deeply theoretical, but please chime in with your thoughts.

Just a thought I’ve been having on GM moves. This is deeply theoretical, but please chime in with your thoughts.

Assume that we remove all player moves from the game. Every time a player does something, the GM will explicitly give the player a means and a cost for success, in the vein of “tell them the consequences and requirements and ask”.

Instead of having moves, we use tags to make truth statements about the PC’s, based on their class. A cleric could have favored by , a fighter could have unmatched martial prowess. A thief might have all sorts of dubious connections. You get the drift. Bonds would work as tags as well.

Instead of rolling dice by meeting triggers, the player simply say something like “I draw my blade and swing it at the minotaur in one fluid motion. I do not fear it, for my martial prowess is unmatched!” reminding the GM that the cost for defeating the minotaur should be smaller than if any other player had attempted the same feat.

How would this variant play out? Would it be any fun at all for the players?

21 thoughts on “Just a thought I’ve been having on GM moves. This is deeply theoretical, but please chime in with your thoughts.”

  1. Oooh, sounds like World of Dungeons with tags to me 🙂

    Losing some sort of randomising effect is kinda anti-climactic though. You would end up with all these stake negotiations that take time away from the fiction.

  2. This is the basic structure behind Avery McDaldno (still at Joe Mcdaldno for now)’s Dream Askew, a game of the queer post-apocalypse. No dice. Every playbook has soft moves that are disadvantageous, normal moves, and hard moves that require a token to use. You get token for different things (acting at a disadvantage for some playbooks, usually).

    All the moves are rendered like MC moves. Every playbook also has its own personal agenda and principles. There’s no MC, but certain players portray threats to the enclave — in a similar way to portraying their PCs.

    So, yes this would work and its pretty cool.

  3. I’ve never cared for diceless games, so I don’t have a lot of input other than to say such a system can work and has done in various incarnations over the years.

  4. So, when will you run a beta test for me? xD Seriously, that seems really cool.

    The reason I posed this question is because of a train of thoughts I’ve been having about GM Moves versus Character Moves.

    The game is flowing in the direction the GM wants every time they make a GM Move. The only way players have to “disrupt” the flow of the game and change direction is through character moves.

    It seems that Character Moves are all about seizing opportunities, gaining something beneficial from situations, whereas GM Moves are all about actually creating the situations.

    I was thinking about how it would impact the game if the players couldn’t trigger moves. The game evidently couldn’t work without GM Moves as it is, because the GM wouldn’t be allowed to say anything, and the players only have control over what their characters do, not what they perceive and experience.

    I’m not sure how this will end in my head.

  5. Have you heard me talk about Vincent’s concept of “the onion” before? The idea is that AW (and other games) are set up in layers, where they are functional all the way down to the core.

    The foundation of everything is the conversation and the fiction. You are having a conversation about fictional circumstances with your friends. This works great without any rules at all, as long as you treat your other players and their contributions with respect. But it may be missing some of the depth and nuance that can be provided by other layers.

    On top of that conversation goes the (GM+player) principles and agendas, which help you figure out how to make decisions. What is the conversation about? What kinds of things are likely to occur? What are your responsibilities as a respectful participant in the conversation? You can add these to the conversation and play just with conversation + principles. This works fine.

    Then comes (GM+player) moves, which can be as simple as a list of things you can do, with no real mechanics or die rolls, just a diceless freeform thing where different players make moves as the principles and fiction demands. Like my fighter moves might be: “inflict terrible harm,” “read my enemy’s movements,” and “use strength to overcome an obstacle.” You can play this way and it is totally fine. Don’t need the other stuff.

    Then comes the mechanical depth and various specific moves, which expand upon the stuff on the layer below. This lets you have more nuanced outcomes specified by the rules. You can play the game with this stuff too; it’s totally great.

    Basically, when you do design work you are building on one of the various layers. And when you play the game, you move between different layers as appropriate: sometimes you make decisions at the level of the conversation, sometimes you engage with principles, sometimes you move out and deal with specific mechanics. And if you want to streamline the game, you can rip entire layers off the outside and just play using the inner layers, which can function perfectly fine on their own. You can play DW (or any AW hack) with just the GM principles and nothing else, as you say. You can play with just very general player moves (as in World of Dungeons). You can play with or without dice. You can play collaboratively with no GM. But sometimes you’ll want some of the nuance or other details that can be provided by additional structure or fixed player roles or whatever.

    Does that make sense?

  6. P.S. This also means that when a player does a thing and it’s the GM’s turn to say something about it, you can do it in several different ways:

    – talk about it until you figure out which move that is and have them make it

    – make a GM move

    – make a decision about it based on your principles and agendas that’s not an explicit GM move

    – deal with it at the conversation level (“that’s so awesome” or “hey, that makes me uncomfortable; can we do that a different way?”)

    – probably some other ways

    How do you decide which one of these is appropriate at any given moment? Answer: You follow your principles and agendas, but also show respect for your fellow players and the fiction you’ve created together.

  7. I’m not gonna lie, this is almost exactly how I plan on running Nobilis. I keep reading it thinking, “Where are my Principles? And Moves!?” So I’m writing my own, basically starting with “Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask” and going from there.

  8. Andy Hauge List of moves for the playbooks. Players make normal moves all the time. GM rolls. On a miss the player makes Hard Move. On a 7-9, offer choices. On a 10+, the GM tells them what goes wrong/player picks a weak move from their playbook describing what kinds of things go wrong for their particular playbook?

  9. I like that approach Alfred Rudzki. This has been a fantastic conversation which I’ve really enjoyed reading. Thanks to all, especially to J. Walton for the onion analogy!

  10. For me there isn’t an immediate gain so much as there is now a deeper understanding of how DW/AW is designed. It has me looking at the game from a completely new perspective. I find the better that I understand a system the more numerous the opportunities I see in the future for solving problems or introducing cool new things.

    I have read a lot here in DWT that didn’t seem immediately beneficial to me but I found myself later using it at my gaming table. This seems like gold, though I couldn’t tell you much more than that.

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