I “drank the mead” of DW a while ago (sounds more appropriate than “drank the kool-aid”) but had a bit of a Aha! moment just now. I decided to share this distinction with others in case they hadn’t noticed also.
Before DW I used to play D&D (oldskool first edition, then 3.0E, then 3.5E) and was slowly becoming frustrated with the d20 mechanic. It was too … random for my liking. The flat distribution of the d20 (5% chance for any result) thwarted my expectations of a simulationist system, which expected bell-curves and “likely” results. But if you failed a roll, you failed a roll, and got what you had coming to you. There was no way for the narrative to smooth over a failure like that.
DW I liked after reading about because it felt “softer” and “squishier”. The GM and the players both got a bit more permission to create fiction that was cinematic and interesting. But my desire for “realistic” simulation still struggled with this new mechanic and I could see that others did too, like this excellent discussion initiated by +DanielPegoraro – https://plus.google.com/+DanielPegoraro/posts/RsbfTDEbDbk
My “Aha” moment was the realization that in D&D the players declared their moves then rolled to see their success or failure of that move. I thought DW was the same way. I mean there are instructions in there not to name your moves (especially for the GM), but I thought that was just meant to keep the fiction more “real”. Like there was still an understanding that’s what you were doing, just cloaked in different words: “I heft my sword high and bring it down to hack at the goblin, then slash across his chest! >wink< >wink<." and then I roll my Hack & Slash, right?
But Tim Franzke and others in that thread exposed that there is a huge and fundamental difference in DW:
The players not only don’t name their moves, they don’t even get to decide if a move is invoked!
In the thread cited, the scenario of attacking a master swordsman is used. Buried among the debates about how many different move rolls this should entail is the brilliant insight that sometimes it doesn’t involve any! Like had I used the same fiction as above: “I heft my sword high then bring it down to hack the master swordsman, then slash across his chest!”, my GM can simply say “The master swordsman easily bats aside my attack”. No roll, no move[*], no simulation, no “is my dice roll high enough?”. I, as a player, really am just supposed to narrate a compelling fiction, and the mechanics only step in when needed to resolve things that have a chance of happening. And sometimes there’s no mechanics at all! We don’t need to invent house rules or challenging strings of moves just to decide the fiction for us. We can actually just do it using more fiction with or without moves…
I am really liking this mead more and more… 🙂
[*]footnote: technically, there’s a GM move, just not a player move.