A minor issue I encountered with my first DW session (and first session GMing anything) was a player who would do…

A minor issue I encountered with my first DW session (and first session GMing anything) was a player who would do…

A minor issue I encountered with my first DW session (and first session GMing anything) was a player who would do Detect Trap and Discern Reality in just about every room we entered.

It was reasonable to do so given the fiction, but it became clear at times that he was doing it at least partially to try and farm XP (funnily enough, he kept passing the rolls though)…

I struggled a bit when he did it on a room where there was nothing to find from what he was doing – both when he succeeded (just telling him “You don’t find anything” / “There are no traps”) and when he failed (nothing happens…).

I’m guessing this is mainly my fault for having too much of a pre-planned idea of what the room contained, rather than leaving blanks and playing to see what happens…  But it seemed that if I had made a trap (or other PoI) go off or be found in every room he checked based on the success or failure of the roll then it might seem… odd.  Overpopulated, in a way.  And that it would encourage the “I walk around poking everything with a stick” ritual in every single room…

Anyhow, I’m rambling and not doing a great job of describing the issue, but if anyone has had similar experiences or can suggest ways to deal with it (not necessarily eliminate it, just ensure that it is interesting/varied…) it would be appreciated.

19 thoughts on “A minor issue I encountered with my first DW session (and first session GMing anything) was a player who would do…”

  1. Since I’m thinking up a pile of things that COULD have happened when he did this that aren’t necessarily triggering a trap or similar, perhaps I should write a list of them (perhaps grouped by / tagged with GM moves) and pick one at random whenever appropriate…

  2. When a player is making moves like this, he is saying that he wants lots of traps to me.

    Even if I was working with something preplanned, and the room didn’t have a trap, somewhere… a trap would be sprung.

  3. About Discern Realities. First, make sure to tell the players everything their PC could see/hear/smell/feel with their senses. Tell the players they can trust you to do that. All this stuff is not triggering Discern Realities, it’s just good DMing. Maybe the player won’t feel so much need to always trigger the move then.

    The move is triggered when the PC focus their attention, looking for a clue or something off (keep in mind that the move may be triggered by more than only looking : a PC may have to knock lightly on the walls, maybe tasting dirt.)

    This move is a fantastic way to fill blanks in your prep. Don’t hold back : even if you prepped a lot of stuff, you can always add even more on the spot. On a success, the player ask question(s). The answers should be used to fill their lives with adventures. Maybe there was an unexpected monster here. Maybe there are traces of some monsters you prepped (Announcing future badness). On a miss, that’s a golden opportunity. While he was loosing time, some bad stuff happens somewhere else (strike a Grim Portent) or a part of the ceiling collapse (separate them) or a gust of foul wind low their torches or you activate some alarm or trap (maybe you prepped it, maybe not).

  4. If you have someone farming XP by trying to fail, you’re not making hard enough moves when your players fail. That was the hardest thing for me to learn in DW. Take a look at your principles and your DM moves, and use them.

  5. A lot of good stuff has been said already, so I’ll be brief.

    Honestly describe everything the characters could see/hear/smell/taste/touch at all times.

    Moves like Discern Realities and Detect Traps require the player to narrate how their character is attempting to figure things out. Hold the player to that. (Actually, all moves in DW require this.)

    If your players are trying to fail to get XP, yeah. Your GM moves aren’t nasty enough.

    Being a fan of your players’ characters does mean giving the Thief traps to deal with if that’s what they seem to want. But it doesn’t mean you have to give them what they want all the time.

  6. To me it sounds like your player might have a few bad habits developed from other games. If I read it right the process looked like this: Character walks in a room, player says “I discern realities”, GM gets a little more frustrated and says “fine…roll”.

    What if it looked like this?: Character walks into a room, player says “I discern realities.”, GM says “Great, how do you do that?”

    Rinse and repeat until the player describes the character doing something that triggers a move. Then and only then, should they roll.

    It might also help to ask your player:

    “What about this way of playing is interesting to you?”

    You could also add that it is boring your socks off  😉

  7. To the player’s credit, he did always explain exactly how he was checking for traps / searching / etc*.  He is definitely the sort to try to minmax or abuse game systems (he’s completely open about this, and usually doesn’t do it to anyone’s detriment or displeasure).  If it was becoming a significant problem, I’m confident that a little chat would sort it out, but at the end of the day I think he was just playing as he thinks a thief should more than anything else…

    I agree that my moves probably weren’t hard / nasty enough – first time GMing anything, and was trying too hard to stick to my prep.

    Thanks for the feedback!

  8. Are you familiar with the old Grimtooth’s Traps books published by Flying Buffalo? There’s a lot in those to inspire nasty failures.

    Sometimes on a failure it’s OK to just bust out the weirdness. The thief pokes at a jar; and opens a small portal to an endless swarm of hornets. Or the walls turn into a cage and the characters find themselves being served up for dinner to a giant beast. Don’t do this too often, but it sure beats “nothing happens/there’s no traps here”.

  9. Note the trigger for Trap Master is “When you survey a dangerous area”. If the area isn’t dangerous, there is no roll, and you should say “There are no traps”.

    Discern Realities can also be used to find traps, but is (according to the book) much more dangerous, because there is always a roll. A success might be “There is nothing here to find”, whereas a failure is “Something Bad Happens”. You should never say “You find nothing” on a 6-, because that means they might look again, and isn’t “something bad”.

    But, really, talk to the player. DW isn’t supposed to be the “trap and secret door finding simulation” that other games are. If there’s something to be found, drop a hint that it is there. Tell the players you’re going to do that. If the players carry one anyway, and keep looking without a hint, ignore the (according to the book) part, and just say “there’s nothing here to find” without rolling, and get on with the rest of the game. 

  10. Yeah. Adrian Brooks has a good point about the trigger for Trap Master requiring the character to survey a dangerous area. No danger means no move and no roll; just the GM describing what the character sees.

    Of course sometimes the player will narrate their character investigating something they assume is dangerous but really isn’t. In that case I think it’s perfectly fine for the GM to say “Oh yeah. You’re totally right. This thing is dangerous for exactly the reason you just said.” and steal the player’s idea. It makes the player feel like their character is knowledgeable and give you a great idea. It’s win win.

    Lastly, I think it’s fine to say “There’s nothing here to find” on a 6-. But that’s not the GM move. The GM move is when you follow it up with “But you do notice a faint charge in the air. A telltale sign there’s an Eye Tyrant very, very close by.”


  11. Adrian Brooks you are filling their life with adventure though. The area SHOULD be dangerous, otherwise why are they there? 

    Steven Quillen You can’t skip the roll completely if the players are describing the character meeting the trigger. “Say yes or roll the dice” is not a thing in Dungeon World. 

  12. I’m not a fan of Trap Expert as written, for reason I gave in another thread (see my previous comment). One reason is that it kind of encourages a PC to always trigger the move, making it less and less interesting and leading to a situation like the one you described in your original post. I’d change the move to something like this :

    Just before you or a nearby ally activates a trap, you spot it. Roll +Dex. On a 10+, you recognize the design and spot a weakness : take +1 forward to interact with it. On a 7-9, you react at the last possible moment : the trap will activates if the person who nearly activated it does not remain still. On a 6-, you reacted half a heartbeat too late : the trap is triggered.”

    The roll can then naturally snowball easily in Tricks of the Trade or Defy Danger. 

    I’d modify the Cautious advanced Thief move to ” When you Discern Realities, you always spot trap without triggering them, even on a 6-.” The Extremely Cautious could require, not replace Cautious and could become “When you use Trap Expert, a 6- is treated as a 7-9.” Not sure about those two moves, though.

  13. Tim Franzke Sometimes your prep says the Adventure is -> There, in which case, why are they faffing about Here?

    Ok, it’s mebbe a sign something else is wrong. It could be me – Why did I prep this uninteresting Area? It’s sometimes them – the player’s think someone’s domestic space might be trapped, while I think that’d be asinine. And in the OP’s case, it’s a player who thinks (from other games) that this faffing about what he’s supposed to be doing, regardless of circumstances. Anyway, they just need to move on

    The other way, of course, is to say: “Guys; you’re done here. There’s nothing left to find. A gentle breeze comes from that place you haven’t yet been. What are you going to do?”

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