I “drank the mead” of DW a while ago (sounds more appropriate than “drank the kool-aid”) but had a bit of a Aha!

I “drank the mead” of DW a while ago (sounds more appropriate than “drank the kool-aid”) but had a bit of a Aha!

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.

9 thoughts on “I “drank the mead” of DW a while ago (sounds more appropriate than “drank the kool-aid”) but had a bit of a Aha!”

  1. In DW is is not the player or the GM that decides if you roll a move but: 

    “Everyone at the table should listen for when moves apply. If it’s ever unclear if a move has been triggered, everyone should work together to clarify what’s happening. Ask questions of everyone involved until everyone sees the situation the same way and then roll the dice, or don’t, as the situation requires.”

  2. Tim Franzke, I’m currently trying to build interest in a BW campaign with my DW players.  Aside from the convention demo scenarios, do you have any suggestions for getting started?   I’d like to burn characters and then ask questions, like in DW.  Would that work for BW?  (Sorry if I’m thread-stealing.  If so, I’ll take it elsewhere.)

  3. David Benson not really. You need to create buy in into the world and the world before you make characters. You create the initial situation first; then you burn up characters that address the situation. 

  4. Glad that things a falling into place Brian Bloom !

    Have you listened to Pete Figtree ‘s excellent roundtable discussions on moves? They will spike your cool-aid into dwarven noggery drunking in no time. And Yes, BW’s task and intent and Artha wheel are worthy of much attention.

  5. I’m reminded of the whimsical definition of an “ignoramus”: “Someone who doesn’t know something that you learned yesterday.”

    It’s always humbling when the Internet shows that your great epiphany was laid out clearly in a conversation 8 months earlier. 😉

    Anyway, thank you Nathan Roberts and Pete Figtree , the discussion in question does in fact exactly elaborate on my realization and go into great useful depth on the whole subject, so I am also linking it here to help others better understand DW moves:


  6. Nowhere does it say that the player’s don’t name their moves. In fact, Vincent has a post somewhere saying that the player’s naming their moves is in fact good communication.

    It depends on which move to an extent. Try and express “I’m going to cast a spell” without using the name of the move. It becomes a ridiculously contrived avoidance.

    On the other hand, “I’m going to Hack and Slash the Goblin” is dangerous. You need to question that with “How?”. And in any case the game is more interesting if if the players describe their combat actions more fully.

    And in all cases, the named moved doesn’t necessarily trigger. “I’m Hacking and Slashing at the Goblin to stop it strangling Sparrow” may well be a Defend move; or maybe a Deal Damage if its hands are fully occupied, or indeed, it may even be Hack and Slash.

  7. Yeah, it was pointed out in the Google Hangout above how not naming the move is strictly a GM thing – Having read the DW rulebook repeatedly with hopes of either playing or GMing it, I now realize I had conflated those two ideas, but the core notion is still there: In D&D players declare their actions.  In DW they don’t — they describe their fiction, which may trigger moves.

    I am still discovering ways I’m trying to make the DW peg fit into the existing hole shaped by my past gaming experience and how I probably have several more lessons to realize in that process. 🙂  But keep pouring the mead, this sure is tasty stuff. 🙂

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