Taking damage/hard moves on a 10!

Taking damage/hard moves on a 10!

Taking damage/hard moves on a 10!

Over on RPGNet there’s a discussion about DW initiative that morphed into being the target of hard moves on a 10+ on a roll.

I gave an example of a fighter attacking an ogre, getting a 10+, and the reactionary move being an orc archer shooting the fighter for damage, and people were saying that’s not how things should work because you shouldn’t use hard moves when the player succeeds. My stance is that even if a player succeeds at a task the GM still needs to make a move (because they’re “looking at you to see what happens next”), and that hard moves can still happen based on things unrelated to the task at hand; i.e. successfully casting a spell at an orc doesn’t prevent you from being stabbed by a goblin. It also came up that the GM shouldn’t use hard moves without giving people a change to react, whereas I said that sometimes a character isn’t going to have a chance to react to something happening to them.

So I guess the question to the assembled is basically if I’ve been Dungeon Worlding wrong. Is making hard moves not directly related to the move in question happen on successes, or without giving the character a chance to react, against the rules or the spirit thereof.


50 thoughts on “Taking damage/hard moves on a 10!”

  1. My understanding is that you don’t make a hard move on a success unless the action generating that success ignored the hard move’s preceding soft move.

    Example: there are two kobolds the fighter knows about. You say, “One Kobold with a spear charges toward the wizard, while another Kobold behind cover unleashes an arrow at you. What do you do?” The player decides to attack the charging Kobold (whether as “Defend” or engaging as “Hack and Slash”) and succeeds with a 10+. The fighter ignored the approaching arrow (soft move: Show signs of an approaching threat), so a hard move (damage) naturally may follow. You should tell the consequences and ask in this example really (“if you attack the charging Kobold without dealing with the arrow, you’re going to get hit – what do you do?”).

  2. Yeah. Definitely a soft move; “You’ve successfully cast your spell, but now the goblin archer looses an arrow at you, what do you do?”

    Better yet, move the spotlight to the next player.

  3. My advice, make the hard move if it follows the fiction.

    Did you make the soft move previously of arrows clattering off the walls nearby? Or maybe another soft move of an Orc getting skewered by friendly fire? If they stay to fight in the rain of arrows, they’ve got to expect some damage.

  4. Joel Watkins That was sort of my original point, though; if you’re in a battle where there are a bunch of archers then “getting shot by archers” is a possibility that’s already on the table.

  5. I think Joel’s got it. You don’t make moves just to make moves; you make moves to illustrate what’s happening in the fiction and its consequences. Rolling a 10+ doesn’t mean that there are no consequences to a character’s choice of action; it just means they’ve successfully done the thing they were trying to do. If that thing is to seize a red-hot magic sword before anyone else does, then of course they still take harm. If it was leaping into an active volcano to destroy the demon-soul within themselves, maybe they’re dead. You just look at the previously established fiction and say what happens. If you’ve told them the possible consequences and asked, then it’s totally cool to follow through on those consequences. In fact, it’d be weird if you didn’t.

  6. Sean Dunstan I think what Joel Watkins is saying is that you should make the archer threat clear & present.

    Describing near misses and arrows whizzing past while the characters make moves underlines how immediate the threat of getting skewered is.

    Don’t rely on the simple presence of archers as a good enough indication of the threat; a player might not think that the danger is already at hand. 

    eg. “I thought the archers were still a ways off…”

  7. J. Walton I think that “If you’ve told them the possible consequences” is where a prior soft move comes in. Show signs of an approaching threat, and all that.

  8. Stefan Grambart Amen, brother!  Make a hard move, but make a soft move first that leads to it.  Otherwise it can seem arbitrary.

     Sean Dunstan I don’t think you’re doing it wrong, but I do think you can do it better.  🙂  I know I can always improve.

  9. When I did a set up move a few moments ago and you forget about it totally then maybe I should remind you, but it is enough of a set up. As long as you don’t use it to play gotcha.

    You are going to attack this women? Sure thing but that won’t help you against the archers over there. Still want to do it?

    Is enough to warrant a hard move on a 10+ 90% of the time(not saying you should always follow up with a hard move there, but you could)

  10. Yeah, you still have to be honest.

    If a room is flooding, they cast a light spell and get 10+, well, the room is still flooded because they ignored it.

    If the room is flooded and they, I don’t know, spout lore, even on a 10+, they are running out of air.

    Same thing with the archers. A 10+ doesn’t by default preclude whatever danger is going on.

  11. Alisson Vitório I disagree with a caviate. The point that was brought up was if you run out to attack an enemy, you gain the attack on the enemy, but get attacked by arrows from archers on a ledge.

    I agree and disagree depending on the situation. I would never make a hard move if the player either doesn’t know about the threat or takes precautions against the threat (ie. grabs a shield and straps it to his back.) I would on the other hand make a hard move if they knew about the threat and ignored it. “I don’t care about the archers, I am taking that bastard down.”

    John Layton and Anton Dominic, I think you guys will both enjoy this thread as well as the one on RPG.net

  12. Tim Franzke My point is this; the player ignores the archers and gets a10+ on his spell casting, only to be auto-hit by arrows doing X damage.

    However, the threat of the archers wasn’t clear; they were described as being “over there”, and that could be interpreted as approaching, but not immediate.

  13. Yeah, everything in the AW engine is founded in the idea of “fictional positioning,” so if that’s not clear — if there are disagreements or misunderstandings about who was where or what was happening — then those often need to be resolved first before players and GMs can make moves. Sometimes that means rewinding things or changing declared actions and trying again. Like: “Oh, those archers are within range? Well, I’m going to do something else instead.”

  14. Yeah, that was the problem that I think started all this mess; in the thread, we were all focused on how This One Move Here works without any context or preamble, and one thing all the *World tgames have in common is that context is _extremely important.

  15. Stefan Grambart Agreed.  I think a vague description of some archers over there is too soft of a move to follow with a hard move.  Make a harder move before bringing the pain.

    Tim Franzke I think the reminder is a great idea.  It really clarifies the fiction for everyone in the liminal gaming space.

  16. This discussion (and the RPG.net one) has shown me some of how we should address this better in BSR.

    Moves aren’t a GM economy. Moves don’t limit when things can happen. If a player would take damage, based on the fiction, they take that damage.

    Think of it this way: as GM, your responsibility is to portray the evolving world. Moves are a prompt to some of the most important times to do that, but you don’t get to shrug off the responsibility otherwise.

    A 10+ means it works out as well as could be hoped for. Depending on the situation (and some GMs will tend towards nicer or meaner situations) that could mean, for example damage on a 10+.

    Personally I’m too nice and rarely have bad consequences on a 10+, because I don’t establish situations that are that dangerous. If you do set things up that are that dangerous, awesome, follow through on it.

  17. Sage LaTorra I think it’s a problem of people going “But the book/rules say…”, and not considering that the book isn’t going to cover every situation.

    It’s a thing that happens when people don’t get the system, I’ve noticed.

  18. (It doesn’t help that everyone in that thread just seemed to assume that I was having the archers or whatever just popping into existence do deal “fuck you” damage. That’s the part that aggravates me the most.)

  19. Yeah, the GM is making moves all the time. Nearly every time the GM does anything, it is a move. The moves you make on failures and other mechanical prompts are just places where the game is pushing you to make specific types of moves. This is certainly something that could be clarified in future AW hacks/revisions.

  20. P.S. One thing that really helped me: the GM typically makes a move following a roll or move by a player, NO MATTER THE RESULT. The move is just different based on the outcome of the roll/exchange. Like, if a player rolls a 7-9 on Defy Danger, then the GM still makes a move; they offer a choice, or make the danger happen, or whatever (often the player-side moves even tell you what kind of move to make, as Defy Danger does), but it’s different from the move you’d make on 6-. Even if the player succeeds, the GM still makes a move in response, because everything snowballs forward to the things that happen next. It’s definitely NOT the case that you’re only making moves on failures, which makes the consequences of success or partial success easier to think about.

  21. J. Walton Is the GM “offering a choice” on a 7-9 making a move, or just completing the player’s move?  I am confused by this occasionally, because I’m not sure if I should make a move after the 7-9 result is completed.  

    It does feel like I’ve made a move already on a 7-9, so maybe the answer is to move on to another player?

  22. Joel Watkins So this may be getting into splitting hairs or crazy AW theory, but my perspective is that player-side moves often contain or require GM moves. Calling them “player moves” is mostly a convenient thing based on whose sheets they appear on, but they are often things that require engagement from both the player and GM. Often they explicitly tell the GM to make a GM move, like when Defy Danger tells them GM to offer a bargain or choice. Offering a choice is also a move on the GM sheet, so that one’s pretty obvious.

    Sometimes other player-side moves tell them GM to do a thing that may not as clearly be something they might do already, as a standard GM move. Hmm, maybe Last Breath is a good example? Sure, the GM could have death make a bargain with the player any time they wanted, theoretically, but this move lets you do that without having the necessary fictional positioning established beforehand. Death just spontaneously comes out of nowhere and does their thing, even if that possibility hasn’t been hinted at previously in the fiction.

    So, basically, I don’t tend to think of the GM moves triggered by player moves as being “in addition” to the things the player move is already asking the GM to do. I just think a lot of player moves also engage the GM and require the GM to make GM moves.

    Does that make sense? It’s definitely not explained that way in any AW-based text that I can think of, but makes sense in my head.

  23. This is something that I think I’d clear up in some future version of DW (and its lack of clarity, I think, speaks to us lifting a lot of the language directly from AW). 

    The GM is making moves all the time. Whenever they open their mouth to speak, they’re either making moves or asking questions (to help them better make moves). I might actually change “ask a question” to the GM moves section and say outright that whenever the GM says anything, they should choose a move and make it.

    Then we could explain more clearly the differences in hard moves, soft moves, etc.

    Maybe there’s some room for a “DM’s Guide” to DW, or a book like the Burning Wheel Adventure Burner to lay out some of the guidance and specific play-examples we’ve all learned in the time since Dungeon World was released.

  24. Tim Franzke Oh totally, if a player misread a situation and wants a “do-over”, that’s totally acceptable.

    However, rewinding moves is a grievance of mine; I feel that it really breaks the action and pulls the characters out of the fiction.

    I’ve had a lot of success mitigating the need to step backwards by simply making all threats to the characters clear and present. A positive side effect is that it ramps up the tension in a scene by keeping threats in the forefront of the players’ thoughts.

    let’s call it a “best practice” for GMing

  25. Also, declare the possible consequences and ask is your best friend here. “Cool. So you’re going to step out into a hail of arrows and stab the guy? Is that right?”

  26. “How does that look”

    “Are you sure you want to do _____ while ___ is going on too?” 

    “If you do that ____ will happen most likely”

  27. Also this is why “put someone in a spot” is my go to move in an action scene.

    Telling players the most likely things they can do right now, given what is going on around them and how they acted in the past while clearly telling them what the consequences would be; and that they can’t do both at the same time. 

  28. P.S. I tend to try to frame it in a positive way, because otherwise it can seem kinda railroady, like you’re trying to hint that the player shouldn’t do that, which can lead to players minimizing risk-taking and being super boring and uncreative about their choices.

    If you’re like: “Ooooo, do you really want to do that?” Players tend to back off.

    If you’re like: “Awesome. So you don’t give a crap about those arrows and are going to stab this douchebag in the face?” Then sometimes they’re like “Yeah, totally.”

    So, tell them the possible consequences, but still try to value and support dramatic choices by the players.

  29. Adam Koebel That’s also a really important point; the “why” or “how” of stuff can be the difference between which move triggers. With new groups or players, I use the example of trying to stop an orc from attacking an ally. Are you trying to kill the orc before he gets there (H&S) or get between the two (Defend)?

  30. Think of hard and soft moves like the swing and the follow through.

    “Orc growls through his tusks and swings his stone headed club at you” is a soft move. Dealing damage is the classic hard move.

    The soft move presents a decision; the hard move is the consequence.

    Hard moves might be preventable if the players act on info given in the soft moves. A hard move that doesn’t start with a clear soft move to predict it feels like a sucker-punch for the players.

  31. I’ve always felt that a 10+ means you managed to perform your action as well as it could be expected without additional complications arising. Occasionally a player wants to do something that the best case scenario is still going to result in something bad happening. So long as the player understands this going in, you’re good to go.

  32. So at the risk of being branded a heretic: I don’t think deal damage is always a hard move, at least by itself.  (I’m not saying anyone in particular IS saying that, but I feel like it’s a common assumption.)  I actually think it’s often a pretty soft move if it’s not accompanied by a tag (like messy or forceful) or more immediate fictional consequences (poison, having something grab onto you, getting knocked down, etc.).

    Say the PCs are huddle around their camp fire in the dark of night, woods and ruins all around them, and they know a swarm of goblins are creeping up on them from all around them.  I’ve decided that the goblins include a pair of sneaky archers that are going to stay well outside of the light, because, hey, sneaky goblins. 

    Those two goblins are going to deal B[2d6] damage when they fire away at someone. 

    Now, early on in the fight, assuming the PCs are fresh and ready to go, pinging them with B[2d6] damage isn’t very hard. I feel very comfortable inflicting in on my players as a way to establish a threat.  “You stab that goblin through the throat, but as you pull your blade free a volley of arrows comes flying out of the darkness; take the best of 2d6 damage! There must be snipers sneaking around out there. What do you do?”

    Later in the fight, as hp get closer to 0 and the situation gets more chaotic, that same B[2d6] damage becomes a harder move.  But early on, when the PCs are fresh sussing out the situation, that 1-6 hp of damage is a lot less worrying than “oh shit, there are snipers out there!”

  33. The rule text is explicit about the difference:

    – “A soft move is one without immediate, irrevocable consequences.”

    – “Hard moves, on the other hand, have immediate consequences.”

    What I’m saying is that “taking 1-6 damage” doesn’t strike me as having (or being) an immediate consequence.  It depletes my resources, brings me closer to a serious consequence (Last Breath), and affects my behavior and my decisions. But by itself, losing hp doesn’t MEAN anything.

    Yes, I realize that you begin and end with the fiction, and that the damage shouldn’t just be “take 4 damage, Krikor!”  But without additional tags, I (and I suspect many others) would treat an arrow or two for 4 damage to be “just a flesh wound.”  And if the PC has armor that negates the damage, well, it’s not even a thing at all.

    Now, when the damage comes with a tag (messy, forceful), yeah, there’s usually gonna be an immediate consequence. But unless the damage brings me to 0 hp (or close enough that I’m scared that the next blow might), it’s not a big deal in and of itself.

    I realize that mostly this is a semantics thing. But I’ve been thinking a lot about HP, damage, armor, and how they work in the game.  Might be something to move to a top-level post. 

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