My most recent DW session led to two GM questions that I am hoping you guys can, once again, help me with.

My most recent DW session led to two GM questions that I am hoping you guys can, once again, help me with.

My most recent DW session led to two GM questions that I am hoping you guys can, once again, help me with.

First, I cannot seem to get a proper grip on the Volley move. For example, my Ranger player frequently wants to do fictionally sensible things that involve using her bow in ways other than just shooting to kill. However, ‘Called Shot’ explicitly requires a surprised or helpless target, so what do I do when during a fight against a non-surprised opponent she says things like “I aim for his legs”, or “I just want to disable, not kill him”, or even “I want to shoot out the lights”? Until now I’ve just said, sorry, Volley doesn’t work like that, you can’t shoot unless you mean it, and it is a fighting move so it has to involve an opponent — but to be honest neither my players not myself find that very satisfying. How do you guys handle this? Any pointers to better deal with this sort of thing?

Second question: as I understand the rules, player Bonds are uni-directional in terms of XP. Although both players should agree with the Bond when it is created, and agree that it is resolved, only the Player who has it written on his or her sheet gets XP when it is resolved. Is there a specific reason why a bond doesn’t give XP to both people involved? My players really seemed to expect that, and I was a bit unsure of how to explain the reasoning behind this not being the case.

As always, many thanks in advance for your advice!

18 thoughts on “My most recent DW session led to two GM questions that I am hoping you guys can, once again, help me with.”

  1. For “shoot out the lights”, Defy Danger +DEX seems reasonable.

    For the “aim for the legs” or “disable, not kill” you could also say it requires a Defy Danger (usually +DEX but possibly another stat depending on circumstances) roll to allow the Ranger to do a Called Shot on a non-defenseless opponent — so two +DEX rolls instead of one. 

    Or loosen the rules for Called Shot so that the opponent needn’t be helpless as long as the Ranger isn’t under pressure? 

  2. Russell Borogove But isn’t Defy Danger for “shoot out the lights” (or any other form of non-human target) cheating a bit? I mean, how do I sell to my Ranger that shooting out a light from a distance constitutes a Danger to be Defied? Sure I can come up with something after the fact (“your arrow hits the light but the glass shards fall on the goblin, enraging him” etc. etc.), but I’m not sure my players would swallow my responding to “I aim for the torch on the opposite side of the room” with “ah, you’re defying danger, roll +DEX!”…

  3. What I think you need to do is define the possible consequences ahead of the roll, if only to yourself. If you really can’t think of anything negative that would happen if they fail (plenty of time to aim, no enemies threatening, no environmental difficulties), then don’t have them roll. If it seems possible, they do it; if it’s impossible, they can’t.

    If a ranger wants to shoot through the rope holding a chandelier and plunge the room into darkness, fine, they do it. If they want to do it while the Sheriff’s men are charging towards them, then they are defying danger.

  4. RE: Bonds – They only give XP to the owner, because it’s not a back and forth relationship between the characters; the bond only describes how A relates to B. B could feel differently, be lying, whatever; Only A’s perception matters for the bond. The agreement about a Bond being resolved is between the players, not the characters. Char b has his own bonds to resolve.

  5. Just use the Volley move, but instead of damage the ranger get the intended effect on a success, with a 7-9 result just use the usual options (except -1D6 damage).

    As for the bonds, I don’t know what’s behind the design choice but for the players could be an option two write bonds that are mutual.

    For example:

    Ranger: I don’t trust the wizard

    Wizard: i have to earn the trust of the ranger

    In this way there’s a chance to resolve both bonds at the same time.

  6. Be a fan of the character. Let them make the shot successfully. If there’s no danger to anyone from the action, then that’s that.

    If there is danger, use Defy Danger to figure out the fallout of the shot.

    Definitely look beyond the “danger is that you miss the target.” How do you make 7-9 results if the Danger is a clean miss? Think about the other risks the archer is running by standing still and carefully aiming while a fray is nearby.

    And also look beyond direct consequences to the archer, you can target the danger on any other characters who might be struck by her arrows, who might have a burning lantern fall on their heads, or that shooting out the lights causes a fire / slippery floor as lamp oil sprays.

  7. Above all, remember that the fiction comes first. Don’t worry about pigeon-holing player intention into the basic moves. Think of it as a custom move. “I want to shoot out the lights!” “Awesome! Roll +Dex!” (while you think: on a 10+, the lights go out; on a 7-9, they go out but are exposed to the bad guys’ attacks; on a 6- not only to the lights not go out but now it’s even brighter because things are on fire).

  8. Yeah, for a lot of actions there comes a moment when you need to ask, “would it be awesome to do this? Is there any danger?” if the first one is yes, then go for it. If the second one is yes, then defy danger while they make the attempt, otherwise just let it succeed and move on. 

    But on the defy danger : let them know the threat and ask how they will work around it. That’ll determine how they’ll roll.

  9. Bill White shows exactly how you use “conflict resolution” – state the thing up front, state the potential consequences of failure, and roll “Defy Danger” (or just say “roll plus X”). Conflict resolution is awesome

  10. Another perspective on what Bill White is saying: from the initial post it looks very much like you and the player are expecting/trying to execute skill rolls. Thing is, Dungeon World doesn’t do skill rolls, because skill rolls are dull as hell unless there are consequences to failure.

    That is, the following exchange sucks in any game: “I want to do X.” “Ok, make a skill roll.” “I fail.” “You don’t do X.” “Ok, I try again. My skill roll succeeds.” “You do X”. That behavior boils down to “hey, let’s all stop and watch this player roll his dice until he hits a certain number”.

    What actually matters on a skill roll isn’t “do I succeed?” but “what happens if I fail?”. Consequently, Dungeon World realizes that if you just focus on that, you don’t actually need “skill rolls”. You just need mechanisms to see if you can avoid negative consequences and DW has two: defy danger and custom moves.

    For the “shoot to maim” thing, a custom move is probably better. Defy danger may be better for cutting ropes (where the danger is usually “do I cut the rope in time?” before, say, the noose strangles the guy or the pendulum swings back). In other words, it matters why you want to cut the rope. It actually matters in all games, but DW admits this while, say, Pathfinder doesn’t. And, as mentioned, if there is no consequence for failure, there is no point to the roll in the first place.

    Also, when dealing with ranged stuff, always remember that your move on their failure can be “take away their resources”, such as demanding they mark ammo.

  11. I would also add you can use the normal Volley to maim and either [a] trade the damage for precision, [b] make them take -1 to simulate difficulty, or [c] demand a 12+ . There are countless ways to skin this cat. Find the one you and your group like the most.

  12. I also think you can add non violent risk/danger to any roll.

    Your shooting the rope? Dex roll. 7-9: you hit the rope, but your arrow broke, -1 from your ammo. Or man, that makes a lot of noise. Or, you hit the rope, and it disturbs a previously unseen bat that attacks (the closest PC).

    For called shots in combat, it’s really the same thing. If the PC’s intention isn’t to kill the target, 10+ roll lets him do what he intended. The shot hits the target in the leg, and it drops its weapon to scream and try to remove the arrow!

    On a 7-9, he hits the target in the leg, but the target is enraged! It turns it’s attention to you and….or the target is hit in the leg, and blood pours from the wound…you’ve hit an artery.

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