Some late night musing about “move mechanics”

Some late night musing about “move mechanics”

Some late night musing about “move mechanics”

Originally shared by T. Franzke

I start to think of mechanics for moves in PBTA games like card game designers think about card mechanics. I don’t know if that is a good thing. 

Like let’s say I have this idea about a DW class that get’s a specific kind of ressource, let’s call it Moxy or Rage that they can spend after they rolled a move to increase it’s effect in some way. 

That is a cool mechanical tool you can use right? It makes a move more complex but might give you an interesting decision after you rolled. 

Anyway; let’s say i put this mechanic into a class and create  the whole class (like i ever would finish a Dungeon World class…) and then i call it the Hellhound. It’s about a guy that escaped hell and now fights demons. Because that is what i came up with at the time.

That is a terrible use of the mechanic! That is also a terrible class!

Because you shouldn’t make a class that is only about this one thing. But we know this.  

My problem however is this: I just “made” this cool mechanic that creates interesting gameplay. Unless you want to create a demonhunter from hell, you are screwed. You don’t get to play with that mechanic at all. 

When you create a “mechanic” with a lot of designspace, don’t put it on something highly specific because it wouldn’t see play and you did all the work with nothing to show for it. 

Then, when you put the mechanic on another class you have repeated yourself and that looks bad right? Also, most of your best ideas are probably in the hellhound and now you need to stretch to find new ways to use the mechanic! 

Vincent Baker pushed the envelope when he redefined how the different result levels play out in AWDA. But there is really little talk about that, what that means and what it does to a game. 

You can also go and link different classes thematically together by using the same(ish) special move mechanic on them. For the Dungeon World Psionic classes i did; they all got to hold psi and had moves that only worked while they hold psi. But psi could also be spend for effects. So you have a little bit of tension if you want to spend all your psi or still have access to some of your moves. 

See, this is me thinking like a card designer… 

Is it worth to think about different ways to make moves work like that? 

Because there is more room to make neat things with moves and hold. With choose 3/1. With asking questions probably. 

But we shouldn’t hoard them too! Give people access to that shit if you come up with something but can’t make anything with it. 

Unless you are really determined to do something with these ideas, talk about them! I would like that. 

3 thoughts on “Some late night musing about “move mechanics””

  1. One possible solution is to insert the mechanic in a compendium class which is generic enough in prerequisites that many players could choose it. 

    Another one is to create custom thematic “campaign moves” that can be used by all characters in the game.

  2. Ironically, the last dozen custom moves I have written for DW are on blank playing cards, tucked into the page of my notebook related to their trigger location.

  3. Tim Franzke In my opinion designing a class is very much like designing cards. But not just one card, a deck. Your hellhound example sounds a bit like a single card. Or maybe a combo of two or three.

    I try to build classes thematically around at least three things. These things should make the character both unique and awesome. They are:

    ☆Social interaction

    ☆Utility / support


    Then I try to find the mechanics to support the three thematic things. So far I don’t think I have used one mechanism that ties all three together. But they should definitely be a tight thematic (read fictional) unit.

    When I think of mechanics I first and foremost look for existing mechanics in the playbook canon that I can use and tweak because I believe one should have unity of design across the whole game. Using a weird cool new mechanic for something that already exists is in my opinion poor design, UNLESS you have a good demonstrable reason to do it.

    So to sum up my opinion on this

    ☆Mechanics follow theme and fiction.

    ☆It is cool if they work in synergy like a deck of cards, but there should be variation in the deck that supports the theme, not the mechanic.

    ☆Use and tweak existing mechanics from the class canon to create unity of design and synergy across the game.

    One last thought: I use mana (or moxy or whatever) mainly as a limiting resource so that awesomeness does not get out of hand.

    Sorry if this post goes a bit tangential…

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