Hoping to make DW the first game I GM after having been a player in a number of other systems.  Starting to get a…

Hoping to make DW the first game I GM after having been a player in a number of other systems.  Starting to get a…

Hoping to make DW the first game I GM after having been a player in a number of other systems.  Starting to get a decent grasp on it all, but found myself unable to answer a question from a friend that seems quite essential:

“How do you account for the difficulty of a move?”

The specific discussion was regarding volley – if it’s always roll+DEX, how do you make it harder to hit a mouse than an elephant?

14 thoughts on “Hoping to make DW the first game I GM after having been a player in a number of other systems.  Starting to get a…”

  1. Welcome to the tavern! Other people have asked similar questions before and the answer is fictional positioning.

    A move only triggers when a character is in a position to achieve its outcome. Look at Hack & Slash. The notes for the move say that the target has to be aware of the attack and that the character has to be capable of damaging the target for the move to trigger.

    There’s been a bit of a debate about it, but I feel that Volley should be handled the same way. Is the character in a position (fictionally) where they are able to both hit and deal damage to a target with a ranged attack? Then the move triggers.

    Difficulty in Dungeon World isn’t increased by raising numbers, but through fiction. Shooting a mouse is probably going to require more time spent aiming than shooting an elephant.

  2. Essentially you don’t. You just make sure that your followup move for a volley failure gets interesting enough to make the difference.

    DW is much more about storytelling then the games your friend played before. You roll your DEX to see if you can affect the story by your great (or not-so-great) dexterity. On a success you affect the story exactly as you planned, on a partial you do, but with hickups and on a failure you don’t, but the story affects you instead. Imagine, that the players roll against the story and not against the mice/elephants. Or, imagine that the game is not about how difficult things are, but about how awesome these characters are. Do not wonder if it’s possible or not, too hard for you or not, but instead question, if the characters have it in them to do it – because if they do, anything is possible.

    Plus, if it really bothers your friends, you can apply those modifiers anyway 😛

  3. These are very much the type of answers I was expecting, and for the most part they satisfy me.  I’ve looked into how to adjust difficulty on the fly, tweaking the scenario so that it necessitates additional moves to do what you intend, etc…

    The one area it doesn’t seem to cover as well (or at least, well enough for me to coherently explain to the group) is things that are just objectively more difficult to achieve – such as shooting a smaller/faster target.

    Sure, if it’s smaller/faster than you could reasonably hit with a bow then don’t trigger the move since the fiction doesn’t call for it.

    And sure, you could apply hard consequences to messing up the roll…  But that that doesn’t make them any less likely to succeed.  I guess I just feel that some things should have lower odds of success.

  4. Why do you want to?

    I’m not being a smart-ass. I’m asking a real question. 

    Some games think it’s really important to account for difficulty mathematically in the dice rolling. And that’s fine. But games in the Apocalypse World line don’t do that. They let the GM adjust difficulty with stuff like when moves are triggered (“No, you can’t shoot a mouse at 300 yards, so you can’t roll Volley”) and what happens as a result of the roll, especially on a failure (“so that’s a result of 5 on your attempt to hack and slash the troll…heheheh:). 

    I’ve run a few DW games and honestly, I’ve just never had a situation where it seemed important to try to reflect difficulty in the dice roll.

    So I’m asking why you think that will be an important component of the game–just because other games have it, or for something else?

  5. How angry is the elephant? You might need a Defy Danger just to get close. Things like that can make one opponent more difficult or dangerous to attack. The more often dice are rolled, the more chances for failure…I mean XP!

    Also the results for failure I often scale accordingly. An angry mouse has fewer avenues to counter attack than an elephant.

    Most importantly keep it in the fiction. Success for killing Drook, the Dullard Hill Giant’s favorite mouse could be for worse than failing to kill an elephant.

    Have fun and best of luck GMing!

  6. In other words, when you want to shoot an arrow at an elephant, maybe it’s as easy as making the volley move.

    When you want to shoot an arrow at a mouse, it’s legit for the GM to say “Nope, it’s too small and you’re too far away.  You don’t have a shot.  You gotta get closer or confine the mouse somehow.”  And then maybe you need to defy danger with Dex to get into position for a shot before the mouse escapes down its wee hole, or make a series of other moves until you’re in a situation where you can make the move.  

    Same with if you’re duelling a master fencer.  GM can say “Sorry, she’s too good.  Hack and slash is for an exchange of blows: this isn’t an exchange, you’re just getting the crap beaten out of you.  She’s too fast for you to land a hit on”, making you reframe your action in terms of getting into a position where you can actually smash her in the face.

    This is explained better in the seminal 16hp dragon post:  http://www.latorra.org/2012/05/15/a-16-hp-dragon/

  7. Carl Gerriets  The main reason is “because a member of the group asked, and I couldn’t give an answer I felt was satisfactory”.  You’re probably right, though – Until I play, I can’t really tell whether such things will be an issue or not.

    Michael Atlin  The 16HP Dragon is the next unread tab open in my browser! Getting through them all! 🙂

    There will definitely be a learning process involved in letting the fiction lead tweaking things in these ways… If I get desperate, I might resort to something like “The mouse is pretty small and fast, so you don’t have the luxury of lining up a well-considered shot – take -1 to the roll”… 

  8. You make it harder by offering them a choice – “You’ll really have to take your time lining up the shot to hit a mouse at this range; do you want to put that much focus on it while the elephant in front of you is already charging?”

    There’s no such thing as “objectively harder” in PbtA games. It’s always a conversation between players and GMs about what works best with the fiction in that moment. Some new players with more hardcore RPG experience struggle with that level of “DM fiat” but most I find embrace it, especially when the GM equally embraces “PC fiat” – giving them equal share in creating the fiction.  

  9. Seems like he is imagining a lone archer, standing in a field, aiming at two targets at equal range, with no pressure of time, etc. Which is probably the most boring situation an adventurer would ever find themselves in. There’s really nothing being tested, so I wouldn’t even call for a Move: “You’re the most skilled archer in all the land, you hit what you’re aiming at, roll damage if it really matters that much.” You’re only going to call for a Volley when something dangerous or exciting is happening, in which case it will not be objectively harder to hit one or the other; the fiction will dictate which is harder and what cost he’ll have to pay to achieve his objective.

  10. As a beginner DW GM, a thing that helped me was to think in terms of movies and books. It’s not about maps, numbers and informed tactical choice, it’s about what is happening.

    It took a few sessions, but I realised (as someone said above) that the tactical and rulesy questions almost never raised their ugly heads. No one ever second guessed a hard move saying “wait, how can the orc chieftain disarm me and throw me in the fire pit?” or “a mouse could never run away so fast, I should have time to draw and fire!”. Not once. It’s the way the game works and people accept it.

    And my answer to the player’s question would be along the lines of “Elephant or mouse, they’re both equally easy to hit. You’re a 200 year-old elf ranger, you can do anything with a bow and arrow.” 😉

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