Greetings Adventurers! Brand new Dungeon World GM here (two sessions so far), looking to pick the brains and imaginations of those of you with more experience running the game. I’m finding it difficult to think up interesting GM moves when certain character moves result in failure. Please tell me what move you’d make in this situation:
After dispatching a few frogmen on the muddy shore of an underground lake, a single terrible Thing breaks the surface of the water! All tentacles and mouth, it heads toward the light-carrying cleric. The ranger is out of the creature’s reach and attempts to take a volley. The dice come up 6-. . .
14 thoughts on “Greetings Adventurers!”
Is “you miss” a valid option?
Take a look at the GM moves part of the rule book for ideas. “Use their move against them” or “separate them” or any of the others that apply. A miss is a “hard move.” So it should hurt.
Perhaps the ranger does not pay attention to his footwork as he was winding up and ends up slipping into the water, so now he is in the water, alone, against a water creature. Odds don’t look good!
Perhaps the shot misses the creature, but slings past it and hits something valuable, or something that activates more dangers in the vicinity.
In DW, a 10+ is “yes!”, a 7-9 is “Yes, but…” and 6- is “No, and…”
So “you miss” is valid (that’s the “No” part) but your GM move after that is the “and…” Failure in DW isn’t just failure, it’s failure and consequence.
What that GM move can be depends on the fiction and what you think would be cool. Where is the Ranger standing? The ranger might be out of reach but the Thing’s angry thrashing could loosen the jagged stalactites that hang over his head – maybe one falls upon him (Deal damage) or cuts him off from the rest of the group (Separate them). Maybe the Thing is all up on the cleric now and he’s got one chance to react before he’s swallowed whole (Put someone in a spot). Maybe he DOESN’T miss, but as the Thing draws closer he sees that his arrow is just one of hundreds already embedded in the Thing’s thick hide… arrows won’t do much good against such a beast (Reveal an unwelcome truth). Or maybe the Thing uses one of its monster moves!
It’s up to you! But leaving it at “you miss” is kinda boring. Not that it’s forbidden or anything – if things are moving fast and you don’t feel like there’s time to throw complication on top of a missed roll, you don’t have to – but the complications are part of what makes the system sing.
Yeah, I wouldn’t worry too much about unleashing total disaster with every sub-7. Only when it makes sense. For instance, the misguided arrow sails harmlessly past the creature…
…and several of its eyes swivel in the ranger’s direction (signs of approaching threat – sort of)
…and the arrow disappears into the darkness – from which issues the gargled howl of… the mother?! (unwelcome truth)
…and the ranger fires off several shots in succession but is foiled each time by the creature’s sinuous half-submerged movement: -1 ammo (use up their resources)
As long as it’s interesting & makes them earn that XP a little. 🙂
The tentacle creature bursts into ichor tears at the sight of the dead frogmen, who had been keeping it alive, and angrily demands to know who will take care of it in its old age now that they’re dead. The characters should care because this thing’s mighty death throes, if it expires, will cause rocks to fall and everyone to die.
I think that Chris Whetstone hit the nail on the head. Everything in DW should push the story forward. Simply saying “You miss” or “You deal no damage” on a 6- is a valid GM move. But those responses are horribly boring, and don’t result in anything new happening.
The tentacle wraps around the Ranger and pulls her to the deep!
The arrow hit the lantern/torch and flies from the hand of the cleric in tge muddy water. The cave is now dark and full of terrors 🙂
The arrow could be errantly headed toward the Cleric, putting the Cleric in a spot (between arrow and chthonic creature), too. The miss by itself is not valid (this is what separates DW from D&D most – no boring “whiffs”). However the move you make does not have to be against the Ranger just because they generated the 6-.
On a 6-, you generally make a move and follow through on it to its conclusion (in contrast to a 7-9, where you make a move that might still be avoidable or stymied). When in doubt, scroll over your GM moves and just stop as soon as something sounds reasonable to you:
• Use a monster, danger, or location move
Glance at your monster notes! What’s something it might do right now in the chaos? Seize everyone in the area by the ankles? Done.
• Reveal an unwelcome truth
What is probably the worst thing the Ranger could realize right now? Think about what would be so bad if it were true right now… Then do that.
• Show signs of an approaching threat
Aim the monster at the ranger, or introduce its mate, or its children, or reveal damage to the terrain… If something else could complicate this fight, reveal it now
• Deal damage
• Use up their resources
Ranger shoots too many arrows, or maybe shoots something vital to the party by mistake, whatever feels cool
• Turn their move back on them
You know what would suck? Of this creature could launch spines out of its body, or had an anti-arrow magic shield that reflects ranged attacks, or if it can just grab arrows with its tentacles and throws them back. So cool
• Separate them
Maybe its tentacles crash down and the party is separated by how huge they are, or the ranger gets picked up and thrown aside into some other problem, or somebody gets dragged off by something
• Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities
So this may not at first glance seem right, but remember you can combine hard moves… Maybe you reveal that the arrows are useless, but the ranger barely catches a glimpse of a soft spot on top of the creature’s head. Make it clear only Hawkeye could make this shot, and let the Ranger try and scramble up trees, rocks, the monster itself — all just to find the perfect perch for their next volley.
• Show a downside to their class, race, or equipment
Its valid to make it clear their outclassed somehow. Maybe their pet refuses to fight the monster and runs and hides, if that’s appropriate, or maybe tie the monster into the Ranger’s race if at all possible and maybe it has an ancestral feud with them.
• Offer an opportunity, with or without cost
This is nice if you’ve got an idea in mind of what could be done… Offer the angle, and then explain that its not going to be easy.
• Put someone in a spot
Grab someone with the tentacles, broadcast that another party member is in danger while opening the creature up to attack and make the ranger choose, things like that
• Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask
This one is cool — tell them they can make the shot if something, if you’ve got an idea. Let them choose if its worth it. Maybe tell them if they stand there and keep firing, they’ll eventually hit but it’ll get its tentacles around them when it realizes they’re annoying.
Just a quick glance through these when playing, stopping when something clicks in your head, is a great habit to develop.
The ranger stumbles dropping his bow into the knee-deep water (might be hard to find again).
The scene you’re describing has lots of potential for GM moves:
It’s dark, there’s only one light source. It’s wet, it’s muddy, there’s probably roots and sludge everywhere as well as frogman corpses, all perfect for stumbling, slipping or falling. Any character wading in the water should look out for sudden drop-offs and holes. In fact, any number of unfortunate things could be below the water. The creature might use stalagtites and stalagmites for cover and to maneuver. A trail of bubbles could appraoch the party (maybe there’s another creature, maybe not).
Lots and lots of potential…
What everyone else said, but with a caveat: begin and end with the fiction, right? “Difficulty” in Volley isn’t based on how hard the shot is but rather on the potential consequences.
If the ranger is positioned well out of the monster’s reach, on stable footing, with no foes around, the range of possible hard moves is very different (and probably less unpleasant) than if the ranger is standing knee-deep in thrashing waters just at the edge of the whipping tentacles.
The moves I make against the “safe” ranger are going to be more about putting him in a spot (i.e. taking away his safety) or using up his resources. The moves I take against the ranger in the thick of things will be much more immediately painful.
Oh, also remember: the hard move might be “against” a different PC.
Brian C. Miller I think Brian knows “hard moves against another PC” better than anyone else. 😉
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