One of the things I like to do in the games I’m mastering is the following:

One of the things I like to do in the games I’m mastering is the following:

One of the things I like to do in the games I’m mastering is the following:

Me: “you arrive at the house you’ve been looking for. What do you do?”

Player: “I’m going to try to open the door using locksmithing!”

Me: “Ok, seems like that’s a check + DEX, roll it 🙂

Player: “Ok, I succeeded in the check, what does the door do?”

Me: “It’s locked”

Players: “But he/I just made the check.”

Me: ” True, but you never tried to see if the door was unlocked before.”

Now they know they just need to check the door first 😛 Which makes it easier to put traps on them ‘w’

Now my question is, does this make me kind of an asshole? Or do you have similar things in your game?

59 thoughts on “One of the things I like to do in the games I’m mastering is the following:”

  1. I dunno, I find this sort of thing annoying. I can see it if there is a point to it, but in general it implies a smart-assed GM who invites players to roll their eyes as they say (in an exhausted tone of voice), “Okay, I check for traps, I check to make sure the door can be opened, I check to see if it’s unlocked…”

    At this point, the game becomes a slog, and players tend to lose interest to checking iPhones.

    That’s my experience, as a smart-assed GM.

  2. 1)Yes Yes it does make you an asshole DM, and everyone will dislike your game and yeah like the above person said it would just make a slog where they just check everything which is not DMs style

    2)Thats not how the machinics work, you don’ just make a Dex check to unlock the door unless there is danger in unlocking the door so basically they can just open the door without rolling.

    3)I want more people to decide to roll because then it creates danger and drama and allows me the GM to change the world through the failing of those rolls. So for example there may not be any traps in my mind but the Thief rolls for traps and they fail so I can jus tsay yes there are traps, an axe trap that you set off no the door is blocked by a swinging axe.

  3. That’s not how DW works. What move are they triggering that would warrant them rolling +DEX?

    Even if we assume that this is a thief and that the DEX “check” you’re calling for is them rolling Tricks of the Trade… you’re still not playing the game by its rules.  *Moves are indivisible.* You can’t call for the roll and then not give them the outcome they earned.

    More importantly: what possible value does this sort of interaction add to the game?  

    “I want to do X.”

    “Okay, roll for it!”  

    “I passed, yay!”  

    “It didn’t have any effect because you didn’t guess what I thought you should do and didn’t say please!”


    If you’re trying to correct them for saying “I use move X” instead of describing their actions, there’s a much more effective way to do that:  say “cool, what does that look like?” or “okay, how do you do that?”  

  4. So much wrong here!

    A) the GM in Dungeon World is not an adversary to the other players.  You are a fan of their characters.  Making them do boring skill tests is NOT living up to your GM agenda.

    B) You are trying to outsmart the players.  Stop that.  It’s arrogant, and no fun for anyone else.  Check your ego at the door, and join the group to have fun WITH them.

    C) if someone is trained to pick locks, there is NO reason to have them roll simply to see if they can pick a simple lock in a stress free situation.  

    If the lock is special, or a guard may walk by, or there is some other trap, the die roll would better be used to determine if something else goes wrong while trying to pick the lock.

    If you want to set them up for a trap, spring a trap on them.  Don’t “soften it” by making it their responsibility to “detect traps” every five feet, so that the moment they don’t you can “get em!”

    When my players go through a complex dungeon and search every nook and cranny, it takes only as long as me saying:

    “You spend a few hours combing through the maze of twists and turns.  It has been picked clean; nothing of interest left behind, no loose sconces have opened secret doors.  Quite boring, really, until you get to THIS room.  There’s blood and chunks of torn flesh on the floor.  One piece still has a shoe on it.  Not fresh, from the flies buzzing around it or the smell in the air, but not so old that the flies and smells have left the room…. What do you do?”

    Skip the boring stuff, get them to the exciting stuff.  When they get there, just give them enough to react to, and then build the scene in responses to their actions and questions.

  5. I don’t like it, but I won’t call you names. Look, anything where you feel like you are being “tricky” and “getting” the players … don’t do that. The game takes place in this crazy mental space where no one is imagining EVERYTHING and everyong is assuming SOME THINGS. Don’t play “guess what’s in my head” with players or assume some bit of dungeon furniture is “obvious.” Strive for clear communication. Just ask “Don’t you want to check the door first to see if it’s even locked?” [BTW, that’s advice for every RPG, not just DW.]

  6. I agree with Jeff Johnston. That’s bad form, and definitely not in keeping with your GM  agenda and principles. Are you portraying a fantastic world? Filling the characters’ lives with adventure? Playing to find out what happens? Being a fan of the characters?

  7. Probably over the line.  They’re manipulating the tumbler to rotate the shaft, which the lock converts into lateral movement of the bolt.  Right?  It stands to reason if they knew enough about what they were doing to align the pins they’d know which way to turn it to retract the bolt instead of extending it.  So they might double-unlock it (which I do at home all the time) but it’s unlikely they locked it.

    I had a DM once who in a modern-timeline game told a player to take damage for shooting themselves in the foot, on a successful attack roll, because they didn’t specify that they were drawing their pistol and aiming it first.  He is a friend of over a decade, and very imaginative, and a good player.  We never allowed him to lead a session again.

    Part of the idea of knowing possible consequences, a core element of what separates a game (fun) from a crapshoot (boring), is that the players and GM are working from similar implied information.  I’d assume it’s implied that ‘picking the lock open’ includes a cursory check to the lock’s current state, and that a success in using a specialized skill like that wouldn’t mean moving the bolt in the unintended direction.

    I’d double down on the statement Strandberg made too – if there’s no immediate danger they’re escaping (“The guards are chasing you!”  “The wall of water has consumed half the town, and if you don’t get in the waterproofed cavern system in ten second you’ll be swept away!” “Old Man McDonald is tending his garden across the street – is he going to catch you at this?”) – there’s no call for a roll.  DW characters are very confident, larger than life characters (check out the HP difference between a level 1 fighter and a career soldier) and they succeed in no-stress situations if success is on the table.

    Have your GMs run sessions where that kind of thing happened to you, Kevin?  How much fun was it?

  8. Jeremy Strandberg The only time I’ve ever done this is with Magic. Basically my wizard cast a light spell but they were in magical darkness and so a light spell wouldn’t of worked and I said basically even though you suceeded it didn’t work. But every other time after that I said you know this spell wouldn’t work so I’m not going to have you roll.

  9. Ok, guess it is kind of harsh on the players. Mind you they throw much harder things at the others when they’re gming other games.

    Thing is, there aren’t a lot of doors in the game I’m mastering (most are either totally open or missing) So at the few points they find a door I try to make to most out of it.

    They also didn’t state they wanted to open the door, they said they wanted to unlock it, which isn’t the same.

    I do make it up by giving them huge fights in which they are absolutely fantastic. I have some fond memories on a fight with a huge crocodile in which one player was so awesome I couldn’t help but give him a +1 ongoing on fighting for that particular fight (he tried to save another player and to do so he had to jump into the water, which was too deep for him to normally stand so he had the trouble of breathing, staying up, looking around and battling the croc. he won by a straw because he rolled some good things after getting hit once and stabbing the croc in the stomach and practically gutting it.

    I am a fan of my players, but we tend to put some random bullshit in there to make some groan inducing moments. Haven’t heard them complain about anything yet 😛

  10. Obviously this is something that comes out of your group culture. I think some folks upstream were a bit harsh, even if correct, in their advice. I applaud you for not getting defensive in response. I would just say that things like this “They also didn’t state they wanted to open the door, they said they wanted to unlock it, which isn’t the same” tell me that your game group is fairly “legalistic” and has a low level of trust. I would seek to change that. DW is a good tool for it. It’s all about players punishing themselves really. Ask them questions and then use their answers to make up dangerous shit. Let them be bold and when they roll — and fail — move hard against them! In the above situation all you had to do was let them roll. If they failed you could have said, “You basically fall through the door. You didn’t check to see if it was unlocked first and just assumed it needed picking. As a result you shoved your tool in expecting resistance and the door popped open. You spill onto the floor and there are several pretty surprised orcs looking at you wide-eyed. They recover before you do and charge!”

  11. PS. I’m not sure but I think in the above situation you could proceed directly to do a little damage like “One of them stops on your hand and you hear a sickening crunch [GM rolls a d4 for damage].”

  12. Ray Otus Well, it’s not that we don’t trust eachother, it’s just that we can be assholes during games. example of another game: “Why would I help you? – Because that would be the right thing to do! – Meh, I’ll help if you pay me.” I did give the one in need an easier time after that, can’t say the same for the other guy 😛 Also, dying isn’t easy in my games (although the croc got close with one player, but they enjoyed it nonetheless) In another game we play we’re very much a team, we even have our own “band” ingame 😛

  13. I appreciate people’s efforts to make this sound less rude than it is, but I think this is really a pretty egregious GMing offense.  It’s a milder version of “You didn’t say you were wearing pants, so you’re actually naked.”  but essentially the same thing.

    It is CRUCIAL that the GM give players the benefit of the doubt on their actions, because, at the end of the day, if the players don’t know something about the world, it’s usually the GM’s fault for not communicating it clearly.  Unless of course you want to play the “Okay. I look forward down the hall to make sure there are no dangers, walk forward ten feet, then check the walls, floor, and ceiling for traps. Then do it again.” gameplay mode.

    I could write a huge rant about this, but instead I’m just going to link to this article, which is not a rant, and explains why it’s important to make sure everyone is on the same page:

    And even setting all that stuff aside, this is particularly a problem in Dungeon World because:

    A) Yeah, unless this was a dangerous situation in some way, there shouldn’t even have been a roll

    B) If a player succeeds in their roll, they get their objective.  Not some sort of weird, literal interpretation of what the GM “thinks” should happen, but what they actually WANT.  In this situation, they should have gotten the door open.

    C) Assuming that the PC is so incompetent that they can’t tell if they are trying to pick the lock of unlocked door is contrary to the GM principle of “Be a fan of the characters.”  Being a fan of the characters includes assuming that they’re not stupid and incompetent.

  14. Kevin Kloek Ah, I see. Well, every group defines its own fun. If that’s what floats your group’s boat … I just have a hard time seeing that as fun. Sounds more like a locker room than a game table to me. Admittedly, I’m kind of a hippy when it comes to gaming though.

  15. I don’t think you should do that, no. But I also think we should all keep in mind that this community is here to help fellow Dungeon World players have fun (GM and PC), not to bring down the thunder down on the ones asking for honest feedback.

    So keep on playing a posting, Kevin Kloek​! Don’t be afraid to try stuff : we all make mistakes sometimes.

  16. Kevin Kloek Ah it sounds like yyour players are those kind of players, wanting to be all Han Soloish types only caring about the money(not realising that Han Solo saved Luke for no money at the end) I really hope you play DW the right way with them because basically it says i nthe rules to cut that out.

    I don’t like that kind of thing and it doesn’t I think add to the fun or anything. Also the GMing side of it whre you say oh you didn’t say you checked the door massive axe for 10 million damage is also something I don’t like either.

  17. You kinda lost me at “check + DEX.” That’s not Dungeon World. As for pulling the moral equivalent of practical jokes on the players, depends on the group. 🙂 But this isn’t teaching them about DW… On a success, they should get what they want, and as has been mentioned, no move is triggered by a Thief busting out his kit, only to realize instantly that the door’s unlocked. (“Be a fan of the characters.”)

  18. let us be very clear with the player intent:

    player: I want to open the door.

    you: roll plus dex.

    player: success.

    you: you do not succeed.

    That is now how the rules work.  If you ask to have a player roll for their intent, and they succeed, then they succeed.

    The way you describe the scenario is that opening a locked door is liking making a wish in D&D, if you don’t word it exactly right the GM will punish you.

  19. Seriously though, I would say that when the player said “I want to unlock the door using locksmithing” he was making a fictional move to be cool. I would either say – you did it and you look like a bad ass! (If I didn’t want to bother with a roll.) Or I would say roll+Dex to defy danger if I had interesting failure in mind. On a success he looks like a badass. On a medium success he finds out it’s unlocked and looks a little foolish but the door is open. On a fail, he tumbles through the door into the laps of orcs playing poker.

  20. Kevin Kloek this is a great post, and i thank you for putting it here, and responding well to feedback.

    What i really like about it is that we have a demonstration of the mindset of players coming from other gaming styles into Dungeon World.  I get the feeling that you feel the dissonance between how you typically play and what Dungeon World encourages, and hope you keep exploring Dungeon World and other game styles.

    In your first response to the feedback, you mention that the other players throw harder things at each other when they run games.  That doesn’t make it right to do it also.  but we’re talking about a game, so instead of moral theory – that doesn’t make it FUN to do it also.  If it isn’t fun for the group when they do it, it isn’t fun when YOU do it, either.

    You also stated that there aren’t a lot of doors in the world you’re all playing in.  In Dungeon World, the only things that exist in the world are the things the players currently see or have already seen.  You discover the world through play.  So instead of waiting for the players to discover where a door really is, if it makes for good adventure, put a door right where it’s needed in the fiction.

    Second, you mentioned giving a player a +1 ongoing for the duration of a fight because that player was “so awesome” – and there are several problems i can see here.

    1) uneven rewards – you’re being a fan of one player/character over others.  Your job is to encourage players, but using uneven rewards simply breeds division between them.

    2) arbitrary rewards – there is no rule that tells the GM to award a +1 ongoing for the player/character “being awesome”.  Once you’ve done that, the next time you don’t give a +1 ongoing you’re either implying they are NOT awesome now, or are demonstrating your inability or unwillingness to be consistent (which breeds distrust).

    3) breaking the rules – you’re encouraged to write custom moves, which stem from the fiction.  You can write a move which gives +1 ongoing, and then put that move on the table and make it available to any player who triggers it (although giving ongoing bonuses is overkill, and often boring).  Simply giving arbitrary rewards, meaning outside the context of an established move, goes beyond simply being inconsistent, it’s breaking from the GM moves that you’re allowed.  As the GM of Dungeon World, you are NOT the god of the world.  You are another player at the table, playing to find out what happens.

    4) and finally – instead of rewarding +1 ongoing to improve a player’s rolls, make the results of 6- or 7-9 FUN for the group.  You don’t punish a player on a 6-.  Instead you follow the GM agenda and apply a hard move (or as prescribed by the failed move).  A 6- should be fun for the players, all the players.  Even character death should be fun.  Every time the dice roll, something MEMORABLE should happen.

    Keep reading Dungeon World, keep playing, and keep having fun.  

  21. Well, you’re u are encouraging GMs to skip rolls when their players are clearly triggering moves. That is not an asshole thing but very unwise and not helping to new players.

    Ray Otus

  22. Ray Otus when you ask “Am I an asshole?” roll +CHA.

    On a 10+, “you are NOT, we love you!”  On a 7-9, choose one:

    “You are simply misunderstood.” or

    “You are an asshole, but you have redeeming qualities too.” or

    “Significant and identifiable populations have reason to think so….”

  23. Did I, Tim Franzke? I thought I was coming down on the side of you should have the player roll. See my previous, previous post. And Andrew Fish – that’s hysterical! Love it. 

  24. ” I would either say – you did it and you look like a bad ass! (If I didn’t want to bother with a roll.)” 

    It is not your decision if the table should bother with a roll. If they are triggering a move, most likely Tricks of the Trade then you have to roll it. There is no choice. 

    If you can’t come up with a failure consequence, look at your move list. 

  25. Andrew Fish Thanks for your input, I’ll try to implement that in my next session. I never bothered to make a custom move, but the way you explain it makes it sound better to use them 😛

    Maybe you can help me a bit further…

    One of the problems I’m facing a lot is the way the group behaves in a battle. My group consists of three player: a bard, a druid and a paladin. Now the problem is that when I throw monsters at them, I try to make it so that everyone gets to do something, but it more often than not ends up in the paladin taking on all monsters while the bard plays support by playing a song and the druid tries to do something, but usuall not succeeding (he did transform in a huge spider once and ended up trapping all enemies in a web though). How can I make it so that this doesn’t happen too much (the paladin hogging up all the limelight that is)

  26. Tim Franzke Gotcha Tim. Yes, I own that statement. I’m not sure there is a problem because I am not shutting down the player at all and it is unclear (in my mind) whether a move was triggered. There are some things I might say in-character that explicitly trigger a move – “I cut at the vampire’s head with my vorpal blade!” (Hack and Slash OBVIOUSLY). “I unlock the door with locksmithing” definitely seems like it would trigger Tricks of the Trade. That move says “When you pick locks or disable traps” — but as the GM I think (?) I could just decide that there is no locked door and no trap here. Obviously it would be wrong of me to spring a trap on them without a roll or have them try the door and find it locked, if I skipped the roll. But I’m not entirely sure I have to make them roll if there is nothing for them to use the move on. Frankly, I would because I can think of interesting moves to use if the roll fails. It’s an interesting question because what you are really saying is that the move creates the fiction, not follows from it. If we make the player roll, a success means there was a lock or a trap there that maybe wasn’t there before in the GM’s head. That is super cool, which is why I usually push for the roll. 

  27. If there is no lock, no roll.

    If there is one you roll.

    You decide if there is a lock. You don’t decide wether they need to roll.

    Hope that makes sense.

  28. Kevin Kloek the battle scene you identify actually sounds ideal.  don’t focus on the “person doing damage” as the only hero.

    A player choosing to play The Bard might (most likely does) want to sit just outside of the combat and play support.  When they do it, take the time to appreciate what they’re doing. Ask them questions about their arcane art.  When they roll and The Paladin a bonus to damage, for instance, ask the Bard how they inspire their ally.  Then use that to ask the paladin something tied into the Bard’s performance.  Let the monster take a back seat momentarily – “As this slavering owl bear is clawing at your shield, you hear Bard’s song punching through the monsters’ threatening cries.  The owl bear fades, for just a moment, as the song puts you in your deity’s presence.  What are you feeling/remembering/wanting?

    Then incorporate their answer as you bring them back into the fiction.

    And Druid is my favorite class to play.  Having a druid turn into a spider and bog the enemies down with webs is perfect.  And if they screw up, have them bog their allies down with webs!

    The trick is letting go of getting the players’ characters to do what you WANT/EXPECT them to do, and instead being a fan of what their characters choose to do. 

    Once you let go of the reins, you can instead sit back and really explore what the other players want to contribute to the session.

    The reason i love GMing Dungeon World so much is that i am the players’ audience, instead of the other way around, and they constantly entertain, surprise, and amuse me. My favorite moments are when i craft a scene provocative enough that the players jump into it, fully invested, and i can sit back, shut up, and watch them interact with each other in the world we’re building together.

    Quite frankly, that you’re here asking questions is a great start.  Keep playing, keeping thinking about what is going on in game, and stay mindful of “Is this fun?  Is this (whatever thing) contributing to the kind of game we want to play?”

  29. Ah, yes it does Tim Franzke. You are pointing to the way I dismissed the roll by describing the thief (presumably) going through the door by picking the lock. Technically (and here I am stressing the word “technically” because I think this argument is just a bit academic/silly) I should have said “No need to pick it, the door’s unlocked.” 

  30. Andrew Fish I can see where I am going wrong now. I never thought of watching the game like that (having only played games where the things you can do are limited by what’s written on your paper)

    Thank you very much in helping me here, it means a lot to me actually 🙂

    I’m very much going to try to get all you’ve told and more into the next game, can’t wait for it actually 😛

    I wonder how they’re going to react on that 😀

  31. Tim Franzke – i disagree with you wholeheartedly.  

    When we enter a scene, i have a bare sketch of what is around.  If during play we come across a place that should have a door, there is a door.  If the context makes it reasonable that the door should be locked, the door is locked.

    If we have a player who can pick locks, whether they have Tricks of the Trade or not, and they want to pick the locked door, it is NOT necessarily going to be a move.

    if the context has already established that it is safe to do so, i’m going to assume the player is skilled enough to get it done, no move is triggered.  Much like if The Fighter wants to punch a baby, Hack & Slash is not triggered.

    If the context has not established that it is safe to pick that lock, then the move is most likely triggered, so we can play to find out what happens based on their roll.  But if a scene built around unlocking the door is not interesting, i may well decide there is no danger and they can get in.  We may have a better idea of what fun to have once they get THROUGH that door.

    If the context makes the attempt dangerous, then we will definitely trigger the move, and roll to find out what happens.

  32. “Much like if The Fighter wants to punch a baby, Hack & Slash is not triggered.”

    Wow. That is a great point Andrew Fish .

    (No sarcasm. It really is a great point.)

  33. The comparison does. It work though. H&S is triggered when engaging an enemy in melee. Pushing a baby is not that.

    Tricks is triggered when you pick a lock though. It doesn’t matter if you have time or not or if people are watching. You SRE picking a lock. You have to roll. As a GM you might think that nothing bad could happen but a player ,ignited still fail a roll and you get to make a hard move. Turns out it wasn’t quite as safe as everyone, including you, thought. Time to make up a reason. Play to find out.

    Maybe there is something bad waiting behind the door.

  34. Also, it’s explicit in the rules. Somewhere they say that you don’t trigger Hack and Slash when you try to punch a dragon because you have no chance of really hurting it. So I’ll stand a little firmer on my reaction above. I could wave off the roll and say the theif breezes through the door picking the trivially-simple lock on the way.

  35. Well are they picking a lock or not? Look at the move trigger condition.

    H&S is famously one of the most situational while tricks is not. When you pick pockets, locks or disable traps you HAVE to roll it. 

    I have Sage and Adam (and Vincent) backing me on this. Can post links tomorrow if you really want to.

  36. Also (and I know a lot of people are going to think this isn’t a good idea for me to do) I’m going to be playing this game (or similar) with a bunch of kids (who have never played any rpg’s before). Anyone got any tips on that? (ages are between 7 and 13) Probably make sure they know at least a bit of the rules, maybe some handholding (like: “look, there’s an open door there and you see something moving on the other side. It doesn’t look friendly from the way it looks at you, what do you do?) and perhaps have some coloring pages so they stay put for a while 😛

  37. I disagree. (And it’s okay for us to disagree.) I don’t think you HAVE to roll it. You can just “be a fan of the characters” and let them do it and get the fiction fucking moving along. Context always matters I think. And while some moves seem more situational than others, I kind of think that they are ALL situational to some extent. I think you could even wave a roll on a spell casting or a druid’s shapeshifting if the context outlined it as a completely trivial thing.

  38. Kevin Kloek i think playing this game with kids is a great idea, and i hope you have a lot of fun!

    i’ve run a few sessions in which a friend’s 12 year old son played, and it was fantastic.  He was extremely imaginative, and kept surprising all of us with his ideas.

    Dungeon World also has nothing innately too adult oriented.  The violence is all quite abstracted, and you can make it kid-safe easily enough.

    That said, i don’t have the patience to have a table full of kids and try to get them to sit still long enough to play, so i can’t comment much on that.  In my example, the youngster was twelve, mature for his age, and was trying to “be one of the guys” so he stayed in the game pretty well, though it was obvious when his boredom set in and he lost interest.  Perhaps take frequent breaks to have them run laps around the house to burn energy?

  39. First off, on roll/don’t roll. I agree that if something is trivial enough, and you don’t have any reason for anything bad to happen, then don’t bother with the roll. 

    I have a mage in the group I GM for. If he’s doing some sort of trivial “detect magic”, odds are, I’m not going to have him roll for it unless I think failure (or semi-success) could have some sort of consequence.

    They’re now in a tower where bad things happen with magic miscasts, so I will have him roll ANY time he casts a spell, even if detecting magic on a wand that has “this wand is magic!” written on the side and sparks shooting from the tip. (Of course, if he DOESN’T detect magic on the wand and takes it, and later tries to use it, there’s a good chance that it was never magic to begin with, and the equivalent of a “BANG!” flag will shoot out of the end of it during a crucial moment)

    But normally, depends on the context. If they’re in a room where there are things that are clearly magic, then I just wave the roll.

    For the lock-pick example, if you have a thief in the team (I wouldn’t do this for a team with no thieves, of course) and he’s picking a trivial lock with no witnesses and you have something else planned inside, then just let him pick the lock — it gives a storyline reason that other people just don’t walk in and out of the room — no other reason. Otherwise, what are you going to do?

    “You open the door which should be locked but isn’t because I didn’t think it was crucial to roll but I’ve got to ‘follow the rules’. Unfortunately, 18 other ‘lesser thieves’ are there playing pinochle, having already cleaned the place out!”

    If it makes people feel better, here’s a move:

    Simple Door Unlocking

    If you find a door with a simple enough lock that you wouldn’t have any trouble with it, roll + DEX

    On a 10+, the door opens without issue. In fact, the breeze it makes while opening is refreshing. Take +1 forward to your next DEX roll.

    On a 7-9, the door opens, but squeaks a little bit, not really enough for anyone to hear

    On a 6-, the door squeaks a little more. Still not really enough for anyone to hear, but it makes you nervous. Take -1 forward to your next roll.

    Annnnd, it’s done. Now we can all feel good about simple doors.

    As for playing with kids, this game is AMAZING for it — just let the younger ones focus more on story, and the older ones more on mechanics. (I’ve GM’ed this for groups with several 8-year-olds and a bunch of 11-year-olds). When the younger ones do something, guide them in the right direction, but try to let the older ones take the helm.

    BTW, OP, your example just makes the game unfun. It becomes a game of people needing a checklist to make sure that you can’t screw with them. I don’t know about you, but I’d never come back to a game where I need to be more worried about the GM gaming me than having fun with the game itself.

  40. I played with teenagers last weekend. We were previously doing 5e, which was killing my soul. (Nothing wrong with 5e, but I just can’t handle the bookwork.) They love DW. Turns out my 12 year old has the soul of a creepy necromancer hidden inside of him. 🙂

  41. Ray Otus  — I’ve found my tolerance for bookkeeping in RPGs dwindling more and more each year. I just can’t be worried if I have a rule right, which is why I LOVE DW. 

  42. The no roll argument is where the GM has predetermined that there’s nothing bad happening and no dire situation possible. So they let them through reinforcing the talent of the character.

    The pro-roll argument simply doesn’t know if something bad will happen. This style asks for the rolls so more challenges can come into play (play to find out …).

    While the rules may favor one or the other, I do not think either is incorrect or harming the game.

  43. @Jason– I don’t think anyone is really debating that. I think that the contention is that one camp says “you MUST roll because the situation deems you must roll”, whereas the other is saying “In certain cases, it’s ok not to roll, regardless of the situation”.

    I love the ‘roll and see what happens’ nature of DW and have people roll a ton to see what happens. But I serve the story, and if having something random happen because of a bad roll would slow or break the story, then I don’t bother with it. Given all the time and no possible consequence, my thief can pick simple locks, my mage can detect the presence of simple magic, my fighter can punch a baby.

    For example, I had someone roll Discern Realities, and he found a hidden cache (which in theory, I could have had him “just find” since he was alone in the area with plenty of time to look).

    As such, he found it, but made so much noise looking for it, he brought a group of goblins into ambush position, rather than where they’d been earlier (which was a scene I’d set up so that the heroes would get a clue to NOT fall in a big hole protected by an illusion — one of the heroes fell in the big hole)

    If I’d determined there would be no real consequence for finding it, I wouldn’t have had him bother rolling — he had plenty of time there to safely poke around (he was actually waiting for the rest of the heroes).

    It wouldn’t have added any drama to the proceedings, and wouldn’t have served the story in any way for him to get injured in an out-of-the-way room for a handful of gold. But since it COULD serve the story, he rolled.

  44. I have the same take that Tim Franzke does: when a thief “picks locks or pockets or disables traps,” they roll +DEX and resolve the outcome as described. The move is triggered, the rules kick in, resolve according to the rules.  And it’s hard to argue that “I open the lock using my skill in locksmithing” doesn’t meet the fictional trigger of “pick locks.”

    If you consider the game as a set of procedures to follow, that’s what the game tells you to do.  That game does not tell you to judge whether there’s danger, or dramatic tension, or bored players, or whether this is a good use of your time. It sort of says the opposite: play to see what happens.

    There’s also the argument the moves as written say something about how DW works. Picking locks or pockets is always something chancy, even for the thief.  Casting a spell is always somewhat dangerous, even in the safety of your sanctum sanctorum.

    But (and this is a big, huge, all-caps BUT), the text and procedures of the game are filled with inconsistencies and tensions. Be a fan of the characters is often in creative tension with other principles, such as make a move that follows or think dangerous or name every character.  And that’s a good thing. Any given decision you make as the GM will probably favor one principle over another.

    And the game gives you plenty of tools to resolve these tensions while still playing the game as-written. You can make custom moves as the GM. You can decide as a table to change how a given move gets triggered.

    The biggest tool, IMO, is that the GM can make a GM move that negates the need or opportunity for a player move. That’s basically what’s happening when you say “no, rushing the dragon doesn’t trigger hack and slash; you’ll need to find a weak spot in it’s armor first, and then get past its fiery breath and snapping jaws; what do you do?” You’re telling the requirements and asking. And if you decide as the GM that this lock is like way below the skills of the thief and there’s no possible way there’d be cost/danger/attention, that’s cool too: you can just say “yeah, it’s a crap lock; you can just torque it open with a hairpin. What do you do?” That’s give an opportunity that fits the class’s abilities.

  45. From two things from an earlier post of mine:

    General Disclaimer about my stance on the topic

    “I believe that using “Say yes or roll the die” in DW 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.”

    And about “The roll doesn’t serve the 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.”

  46. See, here’s the thing.

    I think a lot of this discussion is all determined by how you interpret this GM Rule (from pg 162 of the softcover, so it IS in the rules):


    Everything you and the players do in Dungeon World comes from and leads to fictional events. When the players make a move, they take a fictional action to trigger it, apply the rules, and get a fictional effect. When you make a move, it always comes from the fiction”

    To ME (a writer, to whom fiction is the beginning and ending of all), that means that if something doesn’t serve the FICTION, then it doesn’t serve the game. You can ask my players (they’re all on G+), I’ve never railroaded them, and have asked for their opinion on everything, and have done a TON in the game based on the results of their rolls. (Without their knowledge — in fact, they’re now facing a potential threat that didn’t even exist when I thought of ideas for their adventure. Since several of them want to GM DW now, I’m going to send information to them as to how I came up with things I came up with… after the next session — I don’t want to ruin any surprises).

    That said, if I feel something, like rolling a roll that serves zero purpose (such as rolling a Tricks of the Trade roll on a door that doesn’t matter and is only locked for mundane purposes), doesn’t “Serve the fiction”, I’ll hand-wave it, even if there is an explicit move that “requires” it.

    It isn’t a hack. In fact, based on the text above, it’s well within the GM ideals of the game.

    You may disagree. The “rules of the system” may be gospel to you. But for a flexible system like DW, I personally think that that’s the wrong stance to take. That’s my OPINION, but it doesn’t make it more or less valid than yours.

    Crazy that different people can approach the same situation differently.

  47. But the fiction is not the story. It reads to me like you think it does maybe? 

    To me the fiction is everything that has been said about the world and the characters. Most of that has been said at the table between players, some of it might have been said by the GM in prep. It is everything the table has agreed on to be true. 

    However, the rules also have an input into the fiction. The Wizard can only prep so many spells. The Druid can only turn into such and such animals. That is the rules enforcing things on the fiction that the table has to give context too. The rules also say that when you pick a lock or cast a spell something unforeseen can happen. 

    “Everything you and the players do in Dungeon World comes from and leads to fictional events. When the players make a move, they take a fictional action to trigger it, apply the rules, and get a fictional effect. When you make a move, it always comes from the fiction. [So when someone does something in the fiction that triggers a move you make it]” 

    Is the second, not mentioned part, for me in this quote. To do it, do it and when you do it, you have to do it. 

    To give the full quote from Apocalypse World: 

    “When a player says that her character does something listed as a move, that’s when she rolls, and that’s the only time she does.

    The rule for moves is to do it, do it. In order for it to be a move and for the player to roll dice, the character has to do something that counts as that move; and whenever the character does something that counts as a move, it’s the move and the player rolls dice.

    Usually it’s unambiguous: “dammit, I guess I crawl out there. I try to keep my head down. I’m doing it under fire?”

    “Yep.” But there are two ways they sometimes don’t line up, and it’s your job as MC to deal with them.

    First is when a player says only that her character makes a move, without having her character actually take any such action. For instance: “I go aggro on him.” Your answer then should be “cool, what do you do?” “I seize the radio by force.” “Cool, what do you do?” “I try to seduce him.” “Cool, what do you do?”

    Second is when a player has her character take action that counts as a move, but doesn’t realize it, or doesn’t intend it to be a move. For instance: “I shove him out of my way.” Your answer then should be “cool, you’re going aggro?” “I pout. ‘Well if you really don’t like me…’” “Cool, you’re trying to manipulate him?” “I squeeze way back between the tractor and the wall so they don’t see me.” “Cool, you’re acting under fire?”

    You don’t ask in order to give the player a chance to decline to roll, you ask in order to give the player a chance to revise her character’s action if she really didn’t mean to make the move. “Cool, you’re going aggro?” Legit: “oh! No, no, if he’s really blocking the door, whatever, I’ll go the other way.” Not legit: “well no, I’m just shoving him out of my way, I don’t want to roll for it.” The rule for moves is if you do it, you do it, so make with the dice.”

  48. YOU think the fiction isn’t the story. To me, it is.

    Obviously, in most cases, the story and the game go hand-in-hand (I’ll leave “fiction” out of the equation since it’s a point of contention here)

    If someone comes to a door “that matters”, they’ll be rolling. That’s true in both of our opinions. If a door is locked where something can change because said door is locked (and how people roll against it), then they will be rolling. In my games, that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of about 90% of the doors.

    In your opinion, even doors that “aren’t important” (in my opinion) should be rolled against.

    To YOU, that’s a necessary part of the fiction. If the door is locked, then it triggers the move. End of story. Results will change the story. Otherwise, the door would be unlocked.

    To ME, that slows down the game with unnecessary rolls, and takes away from the fiction. The result won’t change this particular part of the story, and will only slow things down. In my game, it’s possible that a particular door is easily breakable by a “hero thief”, so why bother rolling?

    (Case in point. I’m a computer programmer. Odds are, to write a simple function, I wouldn’t be rolling against anything because it would be rote to me. The computer wouldn’t explode on me, nor would security be called because I was writing a simple program. There are certain things I can “just do”.

    Granted, if I was writing even a slightly complex program, or hacking a system (both things I do on a regular basis), I WOULD roll.

    If something is so mundane that a character of a certain type could “just do it”, they “just do it”. In my opinion, of course). 

    As I said in my post above, we’re both serving the fiction, but in our own ways.

    Difference is, I’m not trying to convince you that your way of looking at it is wrong or a “hack”. (When, to me, your way of looking at it just seems terribly unfun — even in DW, I think people are looking to be entertained AND help mould the world).

  49. The funny thing is, I am a big fan of Say Yes or roll the die. My favourite game doesn’t work without it. It does great things for a game and DW does totally work with this technique. It just isn’t how it is supposed to work based on the rules text and therefore I don’t use it there. 

    But yeah, let’s agree to disagree. 

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