So I did my first Session of GMing.

So I did my first Session of GMing.

So I did my first Session of GMing. and I have a couple of problems that need addressing with my GMing. I’d like to address the community to get some advice or ideas on some issues moving forward:

1. Encounters, traps. Situations where mobs and traps act first.  If you only move after a failed roll. What do you do when your Mobs or traps have the drop on the PCs or your PCs fail to act on a threat? Ideas?

2. On the reverse side, my Thief developed the “shoot first” action where she pretty much can never be surprised.  How do you order these actions in a fair and fun way when your thief character always “gets the drop”?  What are some good ideas/moves to surprise my PCs with a thief that inherently knows whats going on at all times?

3. I’m looking for ideas to incorporate ALL the GM moves. I find in my inexperience, that I will all too often deal damage to my characters, instead of destroy their armor, or “put them in a spot”.  I thought about rolling a d12 (for 12 GM moves) when I’m stuck to purposefully mix it up for myself. What are some ideas you all have to keep the action and the experience lively and not just dealing damage back and forth?

4. How do you incorparate stealth? Roll+dex 10+ and sneak past undetected? roll+dex 7-9 incite suspicion? Ideas?

5. The Perilous journey move: I’m almost totally lost on this one, especially with this whole “get the drop” idea how do I do it?  And when my Mobs don’t get the drop on the PCs, the PCs don’t get the drop on them either?  What is that even mean do I make this a game play mechanic?

Thank you for your time!


29 thoughts on “So I did my first Session of GMing.”

  1. Howdy! Welcome to the Tavern. To answer your questions:

    1) I too thought I could only make moves when the players rolled a 6 or less at first. That’s not the case. You, as GM, can make a move whenever it is fictionally appropriate. So that means you can have baddies go first if that’s what they would do. Just don’t make as hard a move as when the players roll a 6 or less.

    2) What do you mean your Thief player “developed” a shoot first action? Did they make a custom move? Or does the character simply shoot first in every situation?

    You’re meant to “be a fan of the characters” which means giving them chances to be awesome. So let the Thief know what’s going on because that’s what they want to do. But just like baddies going first or surprising the PCs if it’s fictionally appropriate, sometimes there are going to be things that are faster than the Thief.

    3) Write all the GM moves on separate index cards. Keep them in a stack and cycle through them as you use them. Or pull two or three when you need to make a GM move and pick the one that seems most appropriate. Or make a list of GM moves and put a tick mark next to them as you do them. Try to ensure they all have an equal number of marks.

    4) There are different ways to do this. Some GMs just handle it as a GM move; present the consequences and ask. Tell the players what it’ll take to be sneaky. Like the Fighter needs to take off that armor to be quiet. Other GMs treat stealth and sneaking as a Defy Danger move. There’s no right way to do it other than the one that you and your player feel works.

    5) The Perilous Journey move is when characters are travelling across unknown and hostile territory. If something gets the drop on the characters, then (just like question 1 above) they characters get ambushed or put into a dangerous situation before they have a chance to react or prepare.

    Hope that helps. 🙂

  2. Christopher Stone-Bush  Thanks for the warm welcome. To answer Number 2. My thief, “Sparrow” Levelled up and took the “Shoot First” move, which is quoted as follows “You’re never caught by surprise, When an enemy would get the drop on you, you get to act first instead.” Thank you for you input, this is already quite helpful and inspiring.

  3. Christopher Stone-Bush Tell me about it… So you’re saying she acts first in an ambush, I.E. “You turn the corner and you see an Axe coming at your head. What do you do?” as opposed to “you turn the corner and an axe hits you in the head, take damage.”

    Its actually hilarious how badass “Sparrow” has turned out: On top of stealing everyone’s kills, Our Ranger, “Cold Todd Cougar” perished and his Last breath was to give his Cougar, “Petunia” to Sparrow, so next session I have to transfer all the Ranger’s pet moves to Sparrow as well… Its really exciting.  I want to have a rad session for next month when we reconvene, so I’m trying to confront my mistakes now.

  4. Firstly, I wouldn’t give the Thief all the Ranger’s “pet moves”. Not yet at least. It the Thief multiclasses into Ranger by taking an advancement then they can take the moves. Until then though, the Thief has a Cougar animal companion, but everything should be handled narratively. Just like your stealth question above, I would handle the Thief  commanding their new cougar companion with GM moves or Defy Danger moves.

    “You turn the corner and see an axe coming towards your head. What do you do?” is a soft move. You’re giving the character a chance to react. “You turn the corner and see an axe coming towards your head take (d6) damage.” is a hard move. You’re not giving the character a chance to react. If the characters have been cautious during their explorations, I would make the soft move regardless of character class. If the characters have been loud, ignored ambush warning signs, or rolled a 6 or less on a move, then I would use the hard move.

    Unless the character has “Shoot First”, in which case, as long as they are capable of reacting (not tied up, paralyzed, stunned, knocked out, etc.) then they get a chance to react.

  5. Alexander Stanton golden opportunities are when a player describes his/her character doing something that must be immediately addressed by a GM move, be it soft or hard. At least that’s what I gathered.

    Imagine Harrison Ford jumping from the dam in The Fugitive

    Edit: 25 year old spoiler alert

  6. Alexander Stanton I might be talking out of turn here, but yes the ranger acts first surely the rest of the group is ambushed/surprised, or doesn’t necessary get the benefit of the Rangers increased perception.

  7. The thing with the ranger depends on how it happens. When it’s “you keep her” they don’t get the move, only the animal. When the ranger transferred their mystical connection to the thief then they should get both. It’s descriptive advancement. The interesting question would be how the ranger transferred this connection and if some part of the ranger’s soul is now in the thief.

    Do you need more info on how to handle animal companions?

  8. You walk into a room and the floor collapses under you, the ranger what do you do?

    Ranger: warn the others

    Gm: great while you try to explain what’s happening, you all fall in the hole.

  9. A tip to clarify your mind:

    You seems to be tied to DnD rules, forget em.

    DMing DW works like a Romance, an Adventure Book.

    Tell your players what is happening, and ask them what dey do.

    1. You move first: Put your PCs in danger and ask what they do. (A troll surprise them and is ready to attack. They can try to defend, evade, use tools or even counter attack.) Let the history flow.

    2. She will not be surprised. It just change how she will react in narrative ways.

    3. You can make a card with all gm moves. You can look it up for a hint for what to do. Maybe you can roll some dies.

    4. There are 3 ways to cover stealth moves: Using defy danger or creating specific custom move. Or let the narrative lead the results. DONT test your PCs if they gonna be successfull anyway.

    5. Players will organize themselves an decide whos on charge of what (their jobs/roles), and then roll.

    Quartermasters will divide food equaly for the journey, you waste less rations. trailblazer: Self explanatory. If the spoter Fails, you can surprise the team with anithing. Monsters, Thunderstorms, Rainds or Invasions, Random thirdparty conflicts at the camp. Anything that may cause truble.

    Try to NOT think mechanicaly with DW. Let the history flow naturally. 

  10. Hey, welcome to the hot seat!  Hope you’re having fun with it, troubles aside.  (Nothing ever goes 100% smoothly right off the bat.)

    1 : I see three different states for each threat in DW :

    * Not ‘present’ or ‘sprung’ (Ohhh, there’s a spooky ghost three hundred miles away from you somewhere! Ooooohhhhh.)

    * Present and acting (The giant statue’s stone axe begins to fall from the mantel – you’re right in it’s way, and it looks HEAVY.  It looks like the blade is heading for that tripline you saw earlier… what do you do?)

    * Something just Happened (The axe grazed you, take 1d6.  Advanced [Hard+Soft] : The axe hit the tripline too, and suddenly the whole floor starts dropping away.  What do you do?)

    I escalate from one to the next (and then keep hitting the Hard Moves until something changes if appropriate)… so if there’s not indication of danger, I wouldn’t start dealing damage right off.  Allow for a Defy roll or something.  If there’s a hint that something is going on …

    (“You smell the stink rancid meat wafting in from around the corner”, “The tiles on the floor here around the doorway are all scuffed up and broken in places”, “Lights dance through the tavern window from outside, and you can hear the loud angry murmuring of the peasant folk.  Sparrow, you think you catch your name repeated a few times.”)

    …that can count as the Soft Move, and player action (even ones not needing die rolls) can exacerbate into Hard Moves.

    2 : Your Thief has a chance to right things before they go wrong… sometimes.  Let that happen if the player strikes on a good plan.  Occasionally put them in a tough spot between protecting one PC or another, or themselves or another PC, or having to make another difficult choice.  If they hear the bowstring snap inside the alcove, do they tackle the armored Fighter taking point (requiring a DEX save to knock her down in time) even though it exposes them to danger?  Often enough you’ll be able to use the Thief’s response (and result) to gauge who needs to act ‘next’, because they’ll either be in imminent danger or have a golden opportunity.

    3 : Print out the GM Moves sheet in the back of the book, or put a bookmark there.  Try at least one session where damage moves NEVER act alone.  Every damage event also requires something from that list.  You’ll get the hang of it, and at the very least learn the moves pretty well. 

    You don’t have to make everything obvious either –

    A missed casting results in magical energies flying off through the tunnel, and somewhere deep below, something moves..

    A missed arrow flies into the darkness and they hear a “Arc–Owwww!”  Is that someone in league with the monsters?  A hostage they just shot?  An ally, come to help them, now bleeding out and in need of treatment? 

    That kind of thing.  Don’t forget about ruining their stuff, the surroundings, nearby innocents, and giving the occasional golden opportunity to Save The Day.

    4 : Not-Getting-Seen Stealth : Defy Danger DEX (Assuming there’s a legit threat)

    Hiding-In-The-Open Stealth : Defy Danger CHA (Assuming there’s a legit threat)

    Anything that makes stealth impossible or improbable needs to be dealt with, within the narrative, before the roll.

    5 : Ever go walking in the woods and run into another person going the other way?  Where you both see each other at roughly the same time?  At that point, if you jump off the path into the brush to hide in ambush, they’d be warned.  Same the other way around.  Set the distance at an appropriate amount for the terrain.

  11. First off, sounds like you did fine and they had fun. A nice thing about *w games is that if you focus on your agenda and principles, you should do ok. Improving the rest is gravy.

    1. From AW- The main time you make a move (just as much or even more than on a failed roll) is “when the players look to you to say something”. So basically any time there feels like a pause where something should or would happen, that’s where you can bust out a move.

    Also like Christopher said, a soft move is when you give them a chance to react before the consequences happen (maybe they can minimize or avoid them). A hard move is the very same thing but where the consequences happen and they only get a chance to react after.

    2. You can have a lot of fun not surprising your PCs, even if you never surprised them. The most tense scenes in a movie are when they can see exactly what’s coming for them.

    Mostly, though, keep surprising them, let the thief have the first go, to take a shot or warn their friends or whatever they want in that moment. There’s still enough orcs to go round.

    3. Good advice here about how to help yourself use other gm moves, I’d add spend some time before the game looking at a move or two and thinking of ways you could use it, or when you could have used it last game (don’t make a rigid plan, don’t regret what could have been, just consider possibilities so they’ll come easier to you in the moment.

    But. I wouldn’t worry about using them all equally. Your players don’t use all their moves, either. I bet they’ve got favorites and others they only use rarely. That’s fine.

    Deal damage, specifically, you can decide now to keep as a last resort, or to never use twice in a row. That’ll probably be enough to mix it up and keep things dynamic.

    How’s that sitting with you? Need more on any of those points?

  12. Defy Danger is your friend!

    If someone is going to walk through an area where there is a trap and havn’t made any rolls or have an ability to help, make them roll Defy Danger vs Dex/Int/Whatever. ‘Fill their lives with danger’ is a move you should be using near constantly when things get quieter or too easy.

    ‘Failing to act on a threat’ is failing a move, even if they havn’t rolled dice!

    likewise, in a combat situation make them defy danger to avoid getting split off from the rest of the party if they arn’t being proactive. Anything a player does is, IMO, them making a move… I think its unlikely that they’re trying to game the system by not making rolls so they can never be attacked, but i’ve certainly noticed that one of the two groups I run games for have questioned why enemies only attack when the players fail.

    Re: Your theif issue…

    Well, again, Defy Danger is your friend! If she constantly ‘gets the drop’ on something by shooting first and asking questions later, start testing her on it by making things not nessicarily what they seem. If she snap-fires at an Orc as soon as she hears you describe it, ask her to Defy vs Int – if she fails, she shoots the orc but misses the fact that there was someone hiding in the shadows beside her using that other orc as bait. If she partially succeedes, make her choose between one or the other. If she suceedes, let her shoot the orc AND get into a good position to deal with the other attacker.

    Alternatively, if thats what the player is enjoying doing, i’d say let her go for it – the character (and the rest of the party…) are heroic individuals and you’re a Fan of the characters!

    Re: Stealth…

    Sneaking and not getting caught? I’d personally say thats a Defy Danger 😛

    Alternatively, if its sneaking through a really easy situation? Just let it suceede.

  13. When they are just walking into an ambush they are not actively defying a danger though. That is not who it works. They are giving you a golden opportunity, use it mercilessly.

  14. Btw: if you mentioned last session that the dungeons of the fallen Rathi empire are full of traps, or if that was established in world building them that counts as setting up. You don’t need to (and you shouldn’t) telegraph every trap. There is a cost to

    A not having a thief

    B not being careful in a dangerous environment

  15. Thank you. These are all so helpful. What a welcoming community to work with. I have a ton to work with here and ill let you know how my next session goes next month. Tons to prepare.

Comments are closed.