This applies to Dungeon World as well.

This applies to Dungeon World as well.

This applies to Dungeon World as well.

If you do make players skip rolls; why do you do it?

Originally shared by T. Franzke

A theory on why people use “Say Yes or Roll the Die” in Apocalypse World and games inspired by it.

Disclaimer: I believe that using SYoRtD in AW or related games is not supported by the game. You shouldn’t be doing this by rules as written. Using it can still create a very enjoyable gaming experience. There is no fundamental thing that gets broken beyond repair by doing this. 

I do also believe though, that saying you can do this in a post of a newer player is hurtful to the discussion because it can confuse them and lead them down an understanding of the way the game works that is not intended. If you want to use this in your game; go ahead. I just don’t like it when you don’t mention that this is basically a hack of the game. 

Okay with this out of the way? Why is this happening? 

Dan Maruschak made a great point about it earlier today that I’d like to mention here too: 

“My theory on “say yes or roll the dice in DW” is that “it’s all about techniques!” is the story-gamer-friendly strain of System Doesn’t Matter. People think that any idea that’s good in game X is “a good technique” and therefore something they should import into every game. ” 

This is definitely one of the major reasons, I do however want to propose an additional one.

It creates a better story

Quite often I found people arguing for saying yes with mentioning an example where it wouldn’t be interesting/realistic/good for the story when a character would need to roll for a move and the 6- or 7-9 result doesn’t mix with what everyone else thinks should happen there. They do that because it is better for pacing and for the story as they think of it at that moment.

The problem however; is that AW and others don’t care about “The Story” from what I understand. They care about how interesting and cool characters react to different situations. The story emerges of characters doing cool things in tense situations and succeeding or failing. A narrative arc is not something that you should care about as for the principles. Still a lot of people care about it. 

That is understandable. I think it is a pretty human thing to strive for dramatic build-up and conclusion. AW doesn’t. 

It seems like a lot of people aren’t used to letting go of “The Story” and I don’t really know how to address that in talking about it. It doesn’t help that the texts (that I have read) aren’t very clear about this either. 

Do you think that this need for “telling a story” has a hand in this?

17 thoughts on “This applies to Dungeon World as well.”

  1. I think when people talk about the “story” they are not talking about the story. Replace story with tension/need.

    Some things that s character can do doesn’t need a roll and the problem is there is no real way of knowing when and where to place a dramatic roll.

    Fot example there is a pit, now you could say thats a perfect time for a roll but really what is it adding if you roll? Maybe some danger. But you would definitely roll if you are being chased by monsters and the pit was the only chance to escape.

    Thats how i see say yes or roll working. Basically that pit on its own is not an interesting avenue for a roll so i eould say yes you can jump it unless something changed.

  2. I believe this rule is needed in original AW so that getting XP for trivial and boring stuff is prevented. If you kill your 100th sand rat the MC can say yes and you won’t get any XP. In DW there XP is bound to 6- it is not needed but helps to streamline. It is like saying you travel the 200 miles to the capital without problems arriving after 2 weeks…

  3. I am not sure what the term “Say yes or roll” means, I suspect it means “Never say no”?

    In my games I say no a lot.

    “I leap across the ravine.” “You see that it is farther than you can jump. Do you really want to end up as jam at the bottom?”

    “I seduce the barmaid.” “She tells you she is happily married to a 10th level Babarian fighter.”

    If your fictitious world is to make sense, some things should be clearly impossible, and other things should sometimes be impossible. If anything always has a chance of success (either a yes or a roll) you may, at some stage cross over to the ridiculous. Like a Bard seducing every woman in town, or people jumping the Grand Canyon. When this happens you will lose your suspension of disbelief.

  4. It’s by Vincent Baker in Dogs in the Vineyard

    “Every moment of play, roll dice or say yes. If nothing’s at stake, say yes to the players, whatever they’re doing. Just plain go along with them. If they ask for information, give it to them. If they have their characters go somewhere, they’re there. If they want it, it’s theirs. Sooner or later— sooner, because your town’s pregnant with crisis— they’ll have their characters do something that someone else won’t like. Bang! Something’s at stake. Launch the conflict and roll the dice. Roll dice or say yes. Roll dice or say yes. Roll dice or say yes.”

    It is an idea used in many many games but doesn’t in DW. 

  5. The only rule is : “If a move is triggered, roll the dice”.

    But every trigger is subject to interpretation, particularly for Defy danger.

  6. If something triggers or not is a different conversation though. The problem is “well normally this would be X but I just let you succeed right now”. 

  7. This situation is not implemented in the rules (or in chapter 19 – advanced delving). The only time you roll the dice is when a move is triggered. If you follow the rules, the only question should be “is a move triggered by the PC action ?”. If you do something else, it’s a hack and you should inform your players.

  8. Wynand Louw “Say yes or roll dice” doesn’t mean “never say no”.  It means that if a PC wants to do something within the realm of possibility and there are no stakes involved or low probability of failure, say yes to the PC accomplishing it without a roll. If something is at stake and the PC has a chance of success or failure, call for a roll.  If it is a task the PC has no chance of succeeding at, then say no without a roll.  The purpose here is to avoid trivial or punitive rolls that add little to the narrative.  Also, “Say yes or roll dice” does not mean you should ever skip a roll when something is at stake.

    I always thought “Say yes or roll dice” was somewhat inherent in the DW mechanics since there is a specific trigger for each move.  For example:

    Say Yes when:

    -The PC wants to leap from rooftop to rooftop across a very narrow alley.  The PC succeeds at the leap without a roll.

    -The PC attacks an elderly, unarmed orc with her longsword.  Since the enemy is essentially helpless, the PC slays the orc without a roll.

    Roll Dice when:

    -The PC wants to leap from rooftop to rooftop across a 10 foot gap.  There is a danger of falling short on the leap so roll Defy Danger.

    -The PC attacks an axe-wielding orc berserker with her longsword.  The enemy is a trained combatant and a threat to the PC so roll Hack and Slash.

    Say No when:

    -The PC wants to leap from rooftop to rooftop across a 4 lane roadway.  There is no chance of the PC making the leap (without magic or some other aid) so inform him of this fact.

    -The PC attacks an iron golem with her rapier.  The blade bends when it strikes the enemy’s metallic hide and doesn’t penetrate.  Hack and slash is not triggered since the rapier is useless against this enemy.

  9. You are right of course Robert because in some sense this game does have Say Yes… 

    When they do something that doesn’t trigger a move you tell them yes or tell them the consequences and ask. 

    That doesn’t mean you can skip over moments when moves actually trigger. Defy Danger and Hack & Slash are the usual cases. 

    You do however not roll because no move is triggered; not because the GM or anyone else decides that in this specific case you don’t need to roll. 

    It is a fine and distinct line but there is indeed a difference. In one case the fiction decides, in one case it is the GM.

  10. Hmm but it isn’t as clear cut as that sonmetimes, sometimes the GM has to decide because the fiction isn’t clear and so they are deciding the fiction in this case.

    For example the Sleeping King, you cvould say definitletly you kill them, but then there are guards outside that could hear the death which means you would roll for that, or the king could have magical protections on them so you can never roll. You as a GM can and have to decide which one you go for with that one.

  11. Correct, james day – there will be a number of factors that are used to adjudicate whether or not a move is triggered including the fictional positioning of the scene, details that have been previously established, and even how the player declares an action.

    -Are there guards standing right outside an archway leading into the king’s room or might the sound be muffled by that heavy, oak door.

    -Is the king known to “sleep with one eye open” or does he frequently get drunk such that a herd of rampaging oliphaunts would not wake him.

    -Does the player declare he is just rushing in to stab the king or does he declare that he is covering the regent’s face with a pillow to keep him quiet and then slitting his throat. 

    Also, don’t forget that it is not just up to the GM.  As the book states:

    “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.”

  12. In my Cowboy World hack I state explixitly to roll only “when in danger, under fire, or when the stakes are high.”

    I still shudder when I think of the pit trap we fell during a Pathfinder game. We kept failing our climb checks so sat in the pit for 30 minutes table time…

  13. What are you on about here? I can’t even understand.

    Say Yes is a fundamental principle of improv. If you want a scene to work you can’t just shut down whatever the other people are trying to bring to it.

    Now, RPGs are one step up from improv in that there’s actually a conflict resolution system in place to handle disagreements about things like whether or not Brianne can kill all those kobolds, so you expand it: Say Yes Or Roll The Dice.

    For Dogs in the Vineyard that’s actually full inclusive, since its conflict resolution system is designed to encompass everything down to verbal disagreements.

    A Powered by the Apocalypse game has a wider sphere of conflict resolution, so you can expand it a little bit further: Say Yes Or Make A Move. Player move, GM move, doesn’t matter which, really.  Say yes or:

    – ask them to Spout Lore

    – turn their move back on them

    – ask them to Discern Realities

    – show signs of an approaching threat

    – ask them to Defy Danger

    – offer an opportunity with or without cost

    – offer an opportunity to use a specific class move

    – tell them the requirements or consequences and then ask

    Or you know, to pull back to a more general case:

    – describe the situation around the players

    – exploit your prep

    – follow the rules

    – make moves

    The spirit of Say Yes Or Roll The Dice is still there, you’ve just got other codified alternatives to rolling the dice that will still help push a disagreement to resolution quickly.

    When do I “make my players skip rolling”? When there’s no conflict. You don’t have to Spout Lore to recognize your own country’s flag, even if I’ve never described it to you. You don’t have to Discern Realities to get me to describe the surface details of a room, if you just want a clearer picture and aren’t after implications or hidden stuff. If you set yourself up well enough fictionally or with moves like Defy Danger, you can just deal damage as established.

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