This is hard to write.

This is hard to write.

This is hard to write.  I am not entirely sure what response I am hoping to get for this, but I feel like I am not quite “getting it” yet, and it makes for some awkward moments in game play.

I am running a “testing” game with myself and three other players, using roll20 and skype for voice (since roll20 voice is not so good)  All of us are new to DW, and roll20.  Three of us have a zillion years of roll playing experience, although my only recent GM experience is for a kids and parents game (which has also transitioned to DW).

First off.  There is a mortal enemy stalking the party ( elf, elemental magic, stealth, hatred).  They are in a ruined keep, in high wind at night, withe the sound of the ocean, and a gigantic magical construct “playing with them” .   They are  watching in the direction the elf is, but I can’t imagine them actually seeing the elf.  my front indicates they would see his shadows moving, which they did… and due to the construct they ignored the warning, other then to watch that way.  Do they have any other chance to see him?  is there a move that applies?  They are watching, he is there, but they are in torch light, he is not.  He is hiding, and of course they failed the discern realities roll as they peered into the night.

The next next part of this front is for the elf to dart past them to attempt to steal the magic item from the tower.  This just seems cheap since they are already engaged with a giant magic construct (currently hiding in the rubble).  And I am having difficulty mixing the two encounters together… even though the story provides for it to be ok.

My 2nd issue is the scouting party of gnolls.  The party killed the last three.  But I don’t know how to give them information about the gnolls.  Both spout Lore and discern realities don’t seem to have answers to the questions the players are asking.  Eventually I used a failed discern realities roll to tell them the information I wanted them to know….  but it felt really forced.  We don’t know what the characters know about gnolls yet… and due to the pressure they are feeling from the magic construct, they are uncomfortable taking the time to investigate.

more later….

But I am wondering if it makes sense to try and be a player for a one shot before I run this….


16 thoughts on “This is hard to write.”

  1. timothy Lewis, I recently spoke with a friend of mine about the whole “tell them what I want them to know” mindset.

    I’ll start with a question. What’s stopping you from just saying “there is an elf hidden in the forest. He wants to get by you and steal a magical artifact?” No roll, no spot checks.

    In DW there is little value in hiding or obscuring threats, especially if you want them to know something or you can’t think of an interesting result of failure.

    In this case I’d handle it one of a couple of ways:

    1. Just state the above, then when they ask “how do we know that?” Turn it around and say, “I don’t know, how do you know that?” Then go with what they say. (This could provide some interesting hooks/moments later. Your ranger says he spots some tracks, the wizard says he feels some magical presence, and so forth)

    2. I’d set up a threat and then bring the heat when they fail their rolls. “You feel like something is watching you…no…stalking you, just beyond the tree line.” Everybody goes crazy with their discern realities and spout lores. Oops first person rolled a six. “As you peer into the brush you realize, whatever was here, isn’t here any longer and that maybe it wasn’t stalking you so much as trying to get past you. And now it’s done that.”

    So there you go. Hope that helps!

  2. I’d recommend ditching skype and using G+ hangout.  The tools built into G+ are quite useful for online gaming.  From your description it sounds like there might be just TOO many things going on at once for the players to follow.  Especially if you are relatively new to MCing.  But if you wanted to create a possible interesting scene, the gnolls could arrive only to encounter the construct and the players might get to tip toe away from the whole thing.  But not before some moves were made to get the two together.

  3. You can do an intelligence Defy Danger roll to spot beforehand though why is he after the group? Do they own something the elf is after or is he just after one person that can be used as a lure to draw the elf out? Traps or simple things like clutter balanced to fall might also alert the group of the elf.

    As the elf is after the item in the tower too, instead of killing the party just have the elf make priority with a timeframe so he has to choose between dealing with the party (and losing the item) or slowing down the party to get the item then escape.

    Gnolls are a tribal bunch so have them spot fires at night of the camping gnolls or spot one gathering materials, finding another scout or hearing gnolls yell as they fight some animals which broke into their camp or other traces of them. They don’t have to really investigate the gnolls but should be aware of them still around.

  4. Well, first off, I think you’re misunderstand what fronts are. Fronts aren’t encounters, they’re larger campaign threats that the players can deal with (or not) as they see fit. The impending dooms are events that happen in the world if the PCs don’t interfere.

    Can you post the front so we can see it?

    If they don’t see the elf, then they don’t see him unless there’s another opportunity later. If there’s no way for them to see the elf, they don’t see the elf. That’s what “following the fiction” and “play to find out what happens” means; don’t think of situations in terms of moves and what should happen, instead do what makes sense in-game. If there’s someone sneaking around the PCs and they don’t have a reason to look for someone sneaking around, then they don’t see him.

    Also, did you tell the players to Discern Realities, or did they look into the shadows to trigger the move?

  5. The first part sounds awesome to me. So their rival steals the treasure while they’re busy with the fight? Sweet. What are they gonna do about it? What are the consequences?

    On the second part, the characters don’t really need to know any particular thing for the story to work. You may have cool stuff in your prep that you’re burning to tell them, but they can figure that out or not, really. The story is about the characters and what they do, so your prep only matters to the extent that it shows up in the game. If they have limited info on the gnolls, cool. What do they decide to do next? And in the meantime, what are the gnolls doing off-screen that may eventually bring them back in-screen? You get to advance that Front if they don’t do anything about it!

    That said, it’s hard to get a full read on your situation second hand. But it sounds like you’re doing great! I hope you push through and tell us how it goes!

  6. As for the second question, what kinds of information are the PCs looking for? If they just want general information on gnolls, then that’s Spout Lore to get something interesting and/or useful.

  7. you make me want to type up the full back story….

    Before I reply to you all…

    My third confusion was about a trap.  the Thief in our story climbed up a crumbling stone wall, in high winds.   He perched on the top, and prepared to drop parts of the wall on the magical construct, when it came for the bait which was prepared by the mage.  Part of this wall were actively falling due to the high winds.  He defied danger to get to the top, but dropped some wall on the fighter.  Whose armor took the blow.  After some time, the trap worked and he managed to drop a large section of the wall onto the magical construct.   I rulled this as a hack and slash, and with a roll of 7 I gave him is damage +2, and he fell of the wall.  He felt that damage was not nearly worth the effort.   (The fighter managed to catch him as he fell, reducing the damage he took).  The player was not pleased by the results.

    Sean Dunstan     here is my fronts sheet:

    The discern realities was in response to the character watching for potential threats while another character was searching a gnoll body.  He failed the roll.

    As far as we can tell the characters have never seen a gnoll, or heard of a gnoll.  How can we find out what they know about them?  on a spout lore roll that fails?  on a 7-9?   I am used to tracking, and tactics, and other skills to give the players some information about what they find.    I guess I am struggling with determining how much information to give them before they make these rolls.  The question  “What here is not what it appears to be?”   Tells me that I should be telling them something…. but I don’t know what, or how much.

    Matt Smith  guess I kept the elf hidden because I could not think of a way they would know about him, or identify what was making that shadow.  It would certainly be interesting to simply tell them he is there, and see what happens.  I will consider how to add that mentality for next time.

    They do know there is something else moving out there.

    Darren Priddy  There is a long back story the party made up in session 1 about why this elf hates the characters.  He is after the artifact, so he can later use the artifact to kill the characters.  We all know he can’t face them directly yet.  (and due to player answers he was not able to bring henchmen to this event, so he is alone)

    The gnoll scouting party was mostly dead before the party arrived.  The party simply finished off the last 3.  This is a grim portent that a large gnoll population is relocating to the area (details to be written by the players), as part of the campaign front.

    again… enough for now.

  8. Typing up at least part of the backstory would help; Dungeon World is a game that relies heavily on context. 😉

    Okay, about the wall thing: when you get a 7-9 on Hack & Slash, the character opens himself up to a counterattack. What that means is that the move you make in return should be one based on the construct attacking the person who attacked it. What you should have done is had the construct perform one of his moves at the thief: dealing damage (if it has a ranged attack), or one of its creature moves. If it had a move like “Destroy something with its inhuman strength”, then it could have tried to destroy the wall the thief was on. When that happens, then you give the thief a chance to react (and probably Defy Danger to avoid getting hurt in the fall).

    Second, if the PCs search and fail the Discern Realities roll, then they don’t see anything, and the scene plays out that way.

    As for the gnolls: if the characters have never seen or heard of gnolls before, then it’s completely fine to just say “you have no idea what those were” without anyone rolling, and have the PCs go to a scholar or whoever and just ask for information through roleplaying with NPCs. A character can still try to spout lore, but if they succeed you should ask them how they’ve heard of these creatures nobody else seems to know about (which is part of the move).

    The skills that give PCs the info they need are Spout Lore and Discern Realities, and what you should tell them to the question “What here is not as it seems” is just that: you tell them what in the immediate area is not what it seems (“Do what honesty demands”). It’s okay to say “Everything here is as it seems, there’s nothing hidden or secret.”

  9. For the gnolls I’d say let it go for now as they can run across escaped slaves, maps of the area or other traces of the gnolls when they leave the location the party is at. As the elf is outnumbered, he should only try to delay or mislead the party but they might find traces of him as he needs food/sleep too while after the item.

  10. Okay, now that I’ve looked at the Fronts:

    The idea of Fronts is that they’re larger campaign threats, and the Grim Portents are how that threat advances if the PCs don’t interfere.

    The one you have for the gnolls is great. But the reason you ran into trouble is that fronts don’t work on such a small scale. Also, you seem to be using the front as a script as to what will happen. Don’t do this. DWorld works best when you leave things open and have things happen in reaction to the players.

  11. Sean Dunstan  interestingly enough… the construct was in the process of trying to knock the wall down (it is capable of this) which enabled the hack and slash roll.  So rolling a 7 on the roll allowed both the construct and the thief to partially succeed in their actions.  (The construct is mostly interested in playing fetch and keep away with the party, at least until they get the artifact anyway)  — here it is by the way:

    huge, individual, reckless, playful

    close, forceful, swift, reach

    — 6 hp damage from the wall.

    d10+3 (why would it attack?),  use environmental damage. 26 hp

    Instinct keep things in the courtyard, take things from people


    take an object

    throw a person

    break something large

    As for your response to my fronts….   how?

  12. How which part?

    As for the construct, then you did what you should have done, but something to bear in mind in the future is to give people a chance to Defy Danger if they’re in a tight spot and there’s a chance they could get out of it.

  13. timothy Lewis, the construct doesn’t partially succeed at anything. It is an npc. Simply a backdrop for making your characters look bad-ass.

    The thief got a partial success, and the cost of that success was his perch falling down.

    As a side note. If a player successfully defyed some danger to set up a trap, then the trap is set. I think I’d just let them do their damage at least once. After that, I think volley would be more appropriate than h&s. Partial success for volley means the player can put themselves in a spot, or run out of ammo, or something like that. I wonder if your player would have been happier with these results.

    If I were a thief and setting up a trap, I would be rather frustrated if all my attempts to be sneaky we’re taken from me and brought me into direct combat with a creature I was successfully avoiding.

  14. timothy Lewis My advice is: take some time to PLAY as player (not GM) in an experienced party. I think you can do this easily in an Hangout (I see often those events here).

    The first time I tried to do the GM in Apocalypse World (slightly different, however the core mechanics/philosophy are the same), after about 20 years of D&D, WoD, Savage World etc. I was TOTALLY FREEZED! I told my players: “Friends, I can’t master this THING, I can’t understand how to play with this rules…”. Time passed, I played as player, before to become a GM again, and now I can tell you that this *World thing rocked my boat completely. 

    So, again, stop mastering, and start to play. You risk to “ruin” the *World experience (to yourself, and to your players), if you don’t fully understand that you need to completely change the way you play roleplay games. I felt on my skin that sensation.

  15. With your NPC’s, think of what they want, and what they would do to get it. Think of the situation at hand, and how they would react to it. If they have a plan, have them try to enact it or modify it when the players interfere.

    When you have something being sneaky, hint at it with glimpses or small signs you encourage the players to investigate. If they don’t, they’ve given you a golden opportunity to act when the time is right.

    In dungeon world, you’re there to find out what happens. No plan survives contact with the enemy, and no plot survives contact with the party. When the party surprises you, think about how your NPCs would react when surprised, and go with it.

  16. thanks to all the great responses.  I have learned a lot from your help.   Also I put the “back story” under actual play.  Feel free to comment there if it sparks anything.

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