So I’m posting because I have a question.

So I’m posting because I have a question.

So I’m posting because I have a question. I love the the idea of making killing and injury difficult in my games because I want it to reflect real life where decent people don’t easily murder people to solve problems because its difficult and squeamish. But if you have a good damage dice and numbers its problem solver number 1. I want characters to be more like Bilbo in the hobbit or Gabrielle from Xena warrior princess or Aang and friends from Avatar the last airbender( who killed almost never and Aang not ever never). So any advice such as penalties, special moves, or hard GM moves or world building would be much appreciated thank you.

32 thoughts on “So I’m posting because I have a question.”

  1. Step one would be to bump up NPC hit points, maybe double or triple, so they don’t go down so easy in a fight.  Then, I guess the thing to do is think about why the characters you like don’t fight a lot.  Bilbo and Gabrielle don’t because they’re surrounded by physically tougher opponents and would just get murdered if they tried to mix it up – you could go that way.  Aang doesn’t because he has a strong code, or perhaps even has powers dependent on keeping to the light side.  You could do a Light vs Dark world where the good guys get magical or divine bonuses but really have to take seriously prohibitions against murder.  The third option that occurs to me is the civilization option, where society is strong and organized enough that thugs get ostracized or actually hunted down by police.  (People usually set up RPG settings specifically to with excuses not to worry about cops, but you don’t have to.)

    As always, when designing a world that doesn’t follow the usual expectations of a generic frpg, make sure your players are on board!  Having your first session dissolve into a manhunt against a murdering PC and her felony accomplices probably isn’t your goal.

  2. That would be a very strong but challenging game changer. I like it. Maybe make hack and slash a lvl 6- 10 move after taking a combat centric lvl 2 – 5 move.

  3. Defend actually allows characters to dish out quite a bit of damage, but only after they’ve levelled up a few times. But if you wanted to go that way, you’d also have to do something about all the other direct-damage abilities including Volley and Shapeshift and Magic Missile or else you’d just gimp melee without slowing down anyone else.

  4. a)Talk it out with your player for Queen’s sake! If they’re not idiots and they want to listen to your input they could have some good ideas.

    b)”Decent”. What if someone does not want to play a decent character? There are quite a lot of situations where murder is a solution or merely perfectly acceptable like when someone tries to rob from you or steal or… well, murder you, you know?

    c)Bump hp is okay. I usually go with something like 10 hp per NPC if he’s inportant. I want to temind you, though, that if players fighting against something truly skilled they could be required to roll two rolls for suceeding.

    d)sighs if you really want to punish your players for killing… for each kill goes karmic retribution. You could do it two ways: 1)Special pool which fills each time group kills. For every point you could spend it and declare, say… a 6- instead of result rolled by one of the players. 2)Make them suffer a condition, the guy who did the killing blow. Yes, it will be -1 to a stat until… they penance, perhaps?

    e)Err… I’ve neder read it, but I heard Funnel World is a game about non-heroes like peasants or something. Maybe you should check it out?

  5. colin roald The very same game I’ve heard so much tales about “burn it to the ground” or “blast this building!”? Yeeeah… characters could go mad, sure, but the easiest way not to is to obliterate everything unhuman with lots of firepower. Even in Howard stories it was kinda the obvious choice.

  6. I wouldn’t mess with the numbers too much, that’s just as likely to end up making combat just less fun. That doesn’t mean players will do what you want and could easily result in unhappy players.

    If your goal is less combat, then I would add new moves that make what you want players to do (social interaction, exploration, etc) more interesting than combat. If you’re not sure what might work, take a look at other Powered by Apocalypse games. I assume most of them don’t fit what you want tone wise (or you’d just go play those), but it should give you a basis to reskin.

    If you just directly want combat to be grittier and feel more brutal, then I would make adjustments to the choices characters make when they roll them. Harden them, and look at the DM moves you make when combat opportunities come up. Some relatively minor tweaks there should go a long way. And if you want to simulate the mental stresses of violence, then consider adding a stress or sanity mechanic. Lots of games have mechanics to inspire that, too.

    But I definitely wouldn’t just make combat harder or healing take longer.

  7. Mr. Wolfoyote you mean Lovecraft, not Howard, surely?  I’m sure discussing the proper way to run a CoC game would be derailing this thread, but I do believe, first, that a bunch of CoC investigators shouldn’t have lots of firepower, and second, that even if they do, in most cases trying to shoot and/or blow up Things from Beyond will only make them mad … if you nuke Cthulhu, he re-forms five minutes later and now he’s radioactive.

  8. Marshall Miller man, that really got me thinking. I love this idea. But a it still means at like 2nd level with 3 hold you could still dispatch normal humans in one exchange. But that’s okay I think.

    It does put DW back into the AW realm of low harm, quick exchanges, though.

    Very interesting idea.

  9. I’d be thinking about NPCs and how good TV character drama works. It’s a tough question, you might really need to change the focus of DW to do it. I read an essay discussing detective fiction a while back and this really stuck with me,

     “The story is his adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure.”

    perhaps it’s a similar principle, the type of character that’s suited for rich character drama is probably not an adventurer, and likely has interests and concerns that are rooted in his everyday life. But I think i’ve wandered off topic.

    A character like Bilbo uses his wits to survive, because he isn’t capable confronting threats using his might. But likewise, the conflicts presented are solvable through clever thinking. How do you present these types of conflicts, or let the players know they can be solved in a non violent manner, when do you turn to the dice, what does failure mean for the characters? Tough design questions.

  10. I’m going to go a little against the grain here and say you should discuss this with your players. Assuming they’re onboard with playing this type of game, they may well have ideas of their own. If they aren’t, which would require penalties and such, then the question becomes whether it’s the right game for them.

    DW is a collaborative game, so my radar flashes when I read a GM’s post about the type of game they want and looking for ways to enforce it.

  11. While not a fan of the option, you could require characters to have a smaller stat pool. Making feats of strength and dexterity more difficult? You don’t remove the ability to fight but you make it more disadvantageous to do so. Otherwise I think if the players are onboard with the fiction they will try to act accordingly. If they aren’t I don’t picture them enjoying the game. Which is usually entirely on the MC.

  12. Another vote for fiction over mechanics here. Make combat expensive. Use up their resources. Don’t think of the Cleric as an unlimited box of band-aids.

  13. I’ve been thinking about an option for “non-heroic tier” PCs in Dungeon World.

    There are a couple approaches I can think of. One is the Funnel World approach: soft, squishy characters with no special powers and no guarantee of decent stats. There’s all sorts of discussion out there in the OSR realms about the effects this kind of play has (careful & creative play, personality that evolves over time, black humor, etc.).

    But that doesn’t sound like what you’re getting after, Gerard Snow. You’re not talking about effectiveness, you’re talking about willingness.

    To represent actually decent, well-adjusted people who are plunged into the horrible life of an adventurer, I think you need to address the fear. The hesitation. The panic and adrenaline shakes that seize you in a honest-to-gods life-threatening situation. The chaos of a fight where you can’t tell what’s going on. The horror when you’re called upon to do violence to another living, thinking person. The revulsion that comes after it.

    Part of what makes PCs “heroic” in a game like DW (or most RPGs) is that they get to do (or at least attempt) whatever action their player can think of, and the player is usually safe in a comfy room talking about the situation with friends. Yeah, you might get a little stressed and not make perfect decisions, but when you decide to attack the ogre, your character usually just attacks the ogre. Whether your character successfully attacks the ogre (and/or whether there are consequences) is in question, but the initiation of the action itself isn’t really in question.

    You could generate a lot of the feel of “normal folk thrown into a dangerous world” by having a move that interrupts the initiation of the action.

    Like:When you intend to do something scary or against your instincts, describe your course of action and roll +METTLE. 10+, you act without hesitation. 7-9, pick 1:

    – You hesitate and have to work yourself up to it; ask the GM what happens in the meantime

    – Act now, but take -2 forward

    – Act now, but increase your STRESS by 1.

    (METTLE being a new stat, from -1 to +3 as usual. What STRESS does to you as it accumulates, or how you get rid of it, well… that’s got all sorts of options. If you don’t want to introduce a new resource to track, you could make it -1 METTLE instead.)

    You could also have similar moves for when you do or experience something horrible, when you fail yourself or your comrades, etc. Basically, moves that get at the internal toll that adventuring takes and how decent, non-jaded people respond to it.

    But then, that’s getting pretty damn far away from Dungeon World.

  14. Peter J also: have NPCs react to thuggish characters the way you would if El Chapo wanted to visit your house, or ISIS placed an order for drone parts.  If a murder occurs, have the community be shocked, and close their doors against frightening outsiders.

  15. i think the solution is far more easy than you think it is:

    Simply describe things differently.

    Doing Damage doesn’t splinter Bones and splashes Blood. Its simply a hit. Maybe they fall back a bit and loose their breath. Its just not something that kills right away. You can only knock someone unconscious like that and have to say explicitly “I kill him” while he is completely helpless to kill him.

    The Consequences of the Actions in the Fiction are up to you 100%. That includes what damage represents and what it means to be defeated.

    Make it clear in your World that fighting to the Death is a thing no one really does and killing is a savage thing to do. That includes that enemy’s try to negotiate even when they have a huge advantage and that they try to do any precautions to not let killing happen.

    If you kill someone make it hard to hide it and let some of his Family/Friends follow them and make life harder permanently for them.

    Just change the Fiction. Problem solved.

  16. Reread the 16-hp dragon and impose much stricter narrative conditions for being able to use a move like “hack and slash.” Create a world in which the narrative complications of killing are immediately apparent–have the relatives of slain enemies show up IN LARGE NUMBERS demanding a blood price.

    Focus on the narrative rather than changing the mechanics–or else look for a game that isn’t built around combat to the extent that DW is.

  17. It sounds like the issue is that you feel that the mechanics are driving players to have their characters act implausibly, looking at every problem as a nail to be hit with their hammer. And the primary solution has already been given, which is to ensure that the fiction is clear as to how that’s implausible, if you find it to be.

    But if you want to make your game a bit more gritty, and reflect the fact that killing is “difficult and squeamish” work, then there’s a move to apply whenever somebody does something of this sort that you deem might cause them some mental anguish. Which is that those doing so are defying danger of a specific sort.

    I actually spoke about this recently with regards to the Carouse move, and how to incentivize folks to use it. Basically if characters are always doing very stressful stuff, they should have to roll to defy danger, or come down with debilities related to not dealing well with the stress. You can rationalize any of the debilities available as symptoms of un-dealt-with stress.

    Note that this is also how you can deal with what would be “Sanity Checks” in Call of Cthulhu. If the PC comes across something particularly horrific, they have to defy danger to avoid issues related to having seen what they have seen. And just like in CoC, killing somebody in cold blood causes just such a San Check. So you can see how this all fits together into a single model of how to deal with character mental state, if you want to add that element to play.

  18. There is an option that I was considering for my next campaign. Hiding the players current HP from them. Keeping track of all the numbers yourself.

    Rather than just dealing 7 damage to a player, there arm is sliced deep into, causing it to fall limp at their side. Slowly cripple the players forcing them to either flee or push themselves to super-human feats.

    This way a player cant think “Well this thing can do 7 damage, and I have 14 HP, so I should be able to throw myself into it without having to worry about death”. Its that uncertainty of “Do I really have enough HP to fight this thing?” that hopefully makes combat scary and a thing to want to avoid.

    (It also lets you fudge roles so that a character doesn’t die from that 1 extra point of damage!)

  19. You could also just give everything the messy tag. Attacked with a machete , messy. Shot with a revolver, messy. That way everything but unarmed brawling could be potentially crippling.

  20. If you don’t want your PCs to kill their problems, don’t give them problems they can kill.

    I mean, people don’t solve their problems with murders because doing murders is hard or just unpalatable, they don’t solve their problems with murders because how many problems are encapsulated in the life and death of a single other person? If nothing else, you immediately get the problem of how to hide the murder from the disapproving.

    Divine wrath, natural disasters, magical catastrophes, mortal armies… all of these are problems that you can’t just hack and slash.

  21. OP–I’d sincerely recommend playing a different game. Dungeon World is far too caught up in OSR pastiche to really gamify anything other than tomb-robbing murder-hobos. You should look into Legend of the Elements of you want to stay in the PbtA realm, or The One Ring if you are hardcore about your Tolkien bent, or Fate (probably Accerated, but CORE could work too with slight tweaking). Or Swords Without Master, which is my ATF.

  22. Marshall Brengle I believe that with some edits to agenda and themes with players as well as the right use of moves, setting and flavor, one can do much more than just murder hobos. I’ve even made a bender class for dungeon world inspired by the mage. ( though it’s on paper and not the DW class sheet format.

Comments are closed.