Hello to the Tavern – new to Dungeon World and have some basic GM “hard” move questions.

Hello to the Tavern – new to Dungeon World and have some basic GM “hard” move questions.

Hello to the Tavern – new to Dungeon World and have some basic GM “hard” move questions.  

Let me set the context before I jump into the queries, PCs set-out to Undertake Perilous Journey and the scout fails his roll – of course, an ambush was in place so combat ensues.

Because the scout failed his roll, I let the ambushers get the jump and then moved to “Show signs of an approaching threat.”  I let the scout (on point) to Defy Danger to avoid any initial damage – partial success – where I then let him decide whether to stand and face off against the first rush of melee ambushers or expose himself (and, take damage from) a smaller group of slingers.

Question 1 – I feel like the “Show Signs” was an appropriate first GM move but guess it’s more a matter of taste – would you more seasoned GMs have dealt damage immediately, whether to the scout or to the group, for the failure?

Questions 2 – how do you more seasoned GMs feel about the above ugly choice for the partial success?  Too easy on the PC?  

Question 3 – is there a compilation of, or resources for, worse outcomes, ugly choices, and/or hard bargains?

Next situation – the leader of the group moved to defend the scout and failed.  I moved to Separate PCs and ruled that the leader was now cut-off from the group, wedged between the initial rush of ambushers and the second wave.

Question 4 – how do you more seasoned GMs feel about the move?  Again, too easy on the PC?

On his next move, the leader defied danger to try and get back to his group, which was a partial success – I offered him the bargain of getting back to the group but taking damage or staying cut off but no damage.

Question 5 – again a question about hard bargains, thoughts?  Too easy?

I guess I’m wanting to understand how harsh other GMs make their hard moves, as I recognize Deal Damage is always in your kit bag but is often the least interesting option. 

14 thoughts on “Hello to the Tavern – new to Dungeon World and have some basic GM “hard” move questions.”

  1. 1. “You walk into an ambush” is a hard move. You are in an ambush now. That can’t be avoided.

    After that you set up the situation with a soft move, that is all correct.

    2. I don’t understand your example enough to comment but an ugly choice should be ugly.

    In a game recently the choice was “let this thing run away with your bow” or “it bites your hand really hard” (i gave that choice and then remembered that this thing has the messy tag so the player lost the hand. I should have been more clear on that)

    3. I don’t think that there is a big list of ideas for that yet.

    4. Totally okay, especially if being cut off is really a problem. 

    5. The first part is okay, the second one i don’t like as much because it takes away the element of success. Maybe 

    “you make it back to the group but there is an enemy waiting for you” or something like that.  

  2. Answer 1 – The scout failed the roll, meaning whatever was ambushing the PCs gets the drop on them. I would not have given the characters a chance to react and would’ve had the bad guys do whatever it is they intended to do. The first sign of trouble would’ve been a rain of arrows hitting the party. Or whatever.

    Answer 2 – I would not have let the scout make a Defy Danger move to avoid damage. I would have asked them what they were doing and gone from there.

    Answer 3 – Not that I’m aware of.

    Answer 4 – This is hard to answer, as I don’t know who or what the ambushers are, or what they are trying to do.

    Answer 5 – This sounds fine, but again it’s hard for me to say as I don’t know what type of creatures the ambushers are.

  3. I have to agree with Tim Franzke here. While you’ve told us mechanically what happened, many of these questions are hard to answer without knowing what is going on fictionally.

    Also, if I’d been the player who lost my hand without first being told how dangerous that creature’s teeth looked, I would’ve called some major bullshit.

  4. Totally. There was some former indication of messynes but i realised my mistake afterwards and told everyone so. (the hand wouldn’t have been hard to attach though) 

    Stuff like that should be communicated 

    Tell them the consequences and ask

  5. 1) I probably would have had the attackers springing the ambush deal damage first, unless scout was already saying something like “It’s quiet, too quiet…”

    2) Ugly choice for me is usually Bad Thing Happens or Worse Thing Happens but the character advances one of their goals. E.G. Archer could shoot through the hostage into the target or miss entirely.

    3) It’s really situational and I haven’t seen a good big list yet, but have come across quite a few adaptable ideas here.

    4) That’s cool as long as you press it. It gives the Leader a chance to redeem himself for the flub.

    5) “Or do damage” feels flat, like you said – damage is usually the least interesting option. It’s not a big deal though, as long as you’re dressing it up and doing other things occasionally – hitting other resources like statuses, equipment, and advantage. e.g. An ambusher grabs you by the straps securing your pack and shield, you can shrug out of them or give up your chance to rejoin the group.

  6. Thanks much for the comments and I’ll try to add some context where needed and perhaps ask an additional question or three.

    Tim Franzke the ugly choice above was where the scout Defied Danger (7) which I ruled he would be facing off against 5 melee attackers (who would reach him next round and likely deal damage) OR sprint away from melee, facing fire from slingers (which would deal damage but less than the melee – assuming he didn’t Defy Danger or Hack n’ Slash successfully). 

    Christopher Stone-Bush yeah, I thought about that, just dealing damage but was trying to stretch my wings in the system a bit and not go with an old standby.  However, my sensibilities were that I was being too easy on the PC – a legacy of my save or die days.  Also, want to clarify, the Defy Danger roll was in response to the , “I want to high-tail it back to the group,” especially since the scout was on point and had no ranged weapon.  Ambushers were a group of daemon-picts (oh, yeah – this is a mash-up of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea and DW) so, essentially, common orcs – a mix of minions, warriors, and slingers.  Set-up was ye olde standard “orcs are raiding merchant caravans” trope (with some additional flavor).  Orcs weren’t expecting organized resistance.

    Shawn McCarthy yeah, later in the combat, I had an ambusher damage a PCs armor, taking his leather down 1 armor to 0 in response to a further partially successful Defy Danger roll (regarding worse outcome).  Again, was trying to stretch my normal tendency to simply deal damage, making a combat a slog into “roll, mark damage.”

    I’m really digging the free-form but seems it’ll take me a bit to get the hang of pace between dealing damage and introducing interesting choices.

    Also, do any of you (or, others) use a grid to introduce tactical elements?  I don’t want to, it completely takes me out of the flow – but, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think it might help conceptualize the action, i.e. what are the consequences of being cut-off from the group, etc.

  7. > grid

    Nothing with regular lines, no. People almost instantly fall back into “Can I move here?” and over-strategizing, planning ahead and planning for others.

    Whiteboard with minis, or coins on a sheet of paper, sure, I’ve used that to clarify shapes of rooms and who’s where and things like that.

  8. Yup. No grid for me. But just like Shawn McCarthy I often use some visual aid. Scribbled maps, a whiteboard, pennies pushed around a table, whatever. Just enough so that everyone has a decent idea of where everything and everying is.

  9. Excellent – good to know.  

    My biggest problem was managing a situation where multiple attackers were facing a PC – I have a general system for this in B/X, etc. but I’m finding (now) that it is somewhat tied to the initiative system, i.e. I know where everyone falls roughly in combat order and I track who is engaged with whom.  I guess I need to think through the motivation of the attackers a bit more than I am wont and ask of myself, “Orc Minion #2, what’re you doing?” so that I can better convey that threat to the PCs.

    How many enemies do you generally let square-off with a PC, say, medium creatures, roughly man-sized?  6?

    I have generally stuck to 1e (AD&D) guidelines and, honestly, my sense is that, really, any more than that ought to overwhelm a PC. 

  10. Just like in other games, it’s much easier to deal with groups of monsters as a single unit. I don’t have my DW book right now, but I’m pretty sure each additional monster after the first adds +1 to the damage. So a group of six Orcs fighting against a single PC would deal something like 1d6+5 points of damage on a hit. That’s only if they’re all working together though.

    The biggest group of enemies I’ve dealt with at a single time was a pack of about 12 Winter Wolves against a pair of PCs and three Elven Elk-Rider NPCs. Two of the Elf NPCs got taken down real fast (from GM moves due to failed player rolls) but not before killing a few wolves first.

  11. Samers. I’ll +1 or step up dice (d4->d6) for each additional minor baddie. For ones that work together I might switch from d6+5 to b2d6+5 reflecting their teamwork.

    Mechanically it washes out pretty quickly, no matter which approach you use: if an adventurer stays in the fray with 6 or 7 enemies then taking damage at d6+12 (via +1’s) or b2d20+6 (via dice stepping) will take them down almost as quick as saying “They dogpile you.”

  12. Horde & Group (& Solitary) tags suggest how many to throw into the mix and generally follow the Law of Inverse Ninjas. 

    Horde as a type of danger gets its own high-level moves like “Overwhelm a weaker or less numerous opponent”

    It’s still useful to have some strategies for treating ad-hoc collections of enemies as one unit, even when they’re not homogenous or you don’t feel Horde is the right way to go.

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