26 thoughts on “As a GM do you have trouble making moves in combat due to a player’s vague descriptions?”

  1. You might find you have less trouble making moves due to vague descriptions if you ask for clearer descriptions.  “I attack him with my sword.”  Cool, how exactly?  Overhand swing, horizontal swipe, thrusting with a blood chilling scream, etc.  If you set the expectations for players to describe the fiction in this way you might find yourself asking less often for clarifications because players enjoy getting descriptive.  

  2. Matt Miller : yes, a lot.

    But Travis Geery already answered on how to solve this.

    For some players you will need more time and effort to have them starting “being visual” in their descriptions, other ones will go that way with no effort.

  3. My biggest headache is to keep my current group from simply saying “I use Hack & Slash”…

    So far, just asking “How?” hasn’t been enough. They just look at me with a strange look in their eyes…


  4. Kasper Brohus Allerslev, I hate that for you. Perhaps you could implement a house rule where, just like the GM rule, players cannot speak the name of their move?

  5. Chris McGee No, that’s probably a bad idea. I can’t remember all their moves.

    I have tried to tell them why they have to tell me what they do, not what move they want to trigger. They understood, but I just think it’s so deeply ingrained in them.

  6. Yeah, not a fan of players forbidden from speaking the name of moves.  Seems like a good idea for fiction, but just leads to further recoding of the words of the move at best and further confusion at worst.  Personally have some seriously unfun memories of trying to hint repeatedly through fiction to a GM that my character would like to discern realities.

  7. Kasper Brohus Allerslev Have they played any other games with more structure or defined abilities? I think many player are used to that. I know I was before I started playing DW. The Freedom DW provides is exciting but it can also be intimidating to those who are used to being present with a series of limited choices. 

        I think of all the things I used to do in Dragonquest and try to figure out ways to incorporate those into a Dungeon World conversation. 

  8. I just introduced the game to a group of junior high students.  They tend to name the move and occasionally add some short description of what they want to do.

  9. To paraphrase Jason Morningstar (i think) 

    A GM that is not naming their move is a good storyteller.

    A player not naming their moves is making the conversation harder for everyone. 

  10. To give an example. 

    “I make an X strike with my two swords and then go berskekcrazy on his weaponarm”


    “I got an 8” 

    Now what do you do as a GM? You have to ask them what move that was. 

  11. Tim Franzke Couldn’t weapon tags add some clarity to the effect of such an action? That move sounds like an attempt to do damage and then disarm or impair an opponent. Since an 8 was rolled, only one was successful.  You do damage but your sloppy bersekercrazy move causes you to lose your guard and you suffer. . . 

  12. I’ve been trying to draw my struggling, shy player out of her shell. In the meanwhile! I have to divine interesting, plausible and fun moves from relatively vague descriptions of action. It is a bit taxing on the creative mind but I feel like it will be worth it in the end.

  13. My method would be to respond, “Cool. Describe it.” Also, I am using RP points as rewards for players who really put some effort into describing their actions. Another response is, “YOU are rolling hack and slash, yes, but what is your character doing?

  14. When a player gets vague, expand on it yourself with leading questions, occasionally describing the clearly stupid-wrong approach… This will lead the player to give you the needed detail.

    “I attack the Ogre.”

    “Okay… So, you, what? Rush in, sword held forward, like you’re gonna skewer the big ugly and just take whatever huge-mongous beating he gives you?”

    “What, no way!”

    “Oh, well, he’s not just standing there waiting, buddy, he’s a-movin’ and a-fightin’, so what do you do?”

  15. The Jessa Channel I think Kasper’s confusion arises from the fact that DW doesn’t use anything called roleplay points. Sounds like a house rule…? Do they function as XP or fate points, a combination thereof or something else entirely?

  16. My players are too used to D&D to be properly descriptive. They just say “I use hack & slash” or “I attack,” which saddens me, because I’ve seen a lot of people who are crazy descriptive and the story becomes way more fun because of that. I try to elicit those kinds of responses by having my monsters attack in certain fashions to show how they could be doing it, but I guess the “I hit it with my axe”-mentality is too entrenched in their memories.

  17. Matt Miller sometimes (or always) you can just tell the player “if you don’t describe me how you do it, I don’t know if you can just roll for H&S or you have some additional difficulties.” Maybe add a couple of choices (tell them the requirements, then ask). If they get that when they get better fictional positioning have an easier time fighting, they will try to do it every time (non DW principle: teach by showing)

  18. How about making a cheat sheet with the player(s) before a session that gives 10+ descriptions for the attack? A brainstorming session like this ahead of the session should help define for them what you are looking for, stimulate their creative juices, and provide them with a default list of descriptions in case they get nervous during the game they have a list to fall back on.

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