So I just wanted to share a mechanic my group has started using that worked very well for us and I believe could…

So I just wanted to share a mechanic my group has started using that worked very well for us and I believe could…

So I just wanted to share a mechanic my group has started using that worked very well for us and I believe could work for others who have played RPGs that use initiative. I found that Dungeon World was just a bit too chaotic for my group during combat, with everyone wanting to attack several times and some people not wanting to speak up over other players, etc etc. So, my answer to those chaotic groups who are accustomed to initiative is very simple:

Action Tokens

Before anyone starts to argue with me about the cinematic narration of Dungeon World, I know that is what is intended and I appreciate that style of play. This is just what works for my group. 

With Action Tokens, I give each player the same, small item (It doesn’t matter, as long as its something they can associate with being for their action) and when combat comes along I make them spend their action token in order to do any item that isn’t Defy Danger or another simple or reactive move. Pretty much any move that deals damage or some combat effect requires the use of their token. Once all of the players have used their tokens, then they get them back to be used again. The last person who spent one has to wait for at least one person to spend their token before they can spend their token again, so they don’t get two hack and slash moves in a row or whatever. 

So then we just repeat that process until combat ends. I just wanted to share our method so maybe other groups could benefit from it or alter it for their own purposes. If you want to state your thoughts about it, thats cool too, but thats not why I posted it. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for the read! 

15 thoughts on “So I just wanted to share a mechanic my group has started using that worked very well for us and I believe could…”

  1. Every now and again I run World of Dungeons for the kids at my daughters’ school, and I regularly have to turn people away after we hit nine players. I absolutely cannot handle free-form turn sequences with that many, it’s just too much chaos.

  2. My group gets a little hectic too. This sounds like a great idea.

    I’m curious if the players only use these tokens when prompted to roll for a move, or if they use them to get a “turn” which is to describe what they are doing (as their description doesn’t always trigger a move, such as moving into a more strategic position, like up a flight of stairs or something)

  3. Only on moves that cause damage, spells, and other moves along those lines. Moving around, defying danger, shapeshifting, spouting lore, etc don’t cause a token to be used.

  4. I don’t think the idea of an action token itself is contrary to DW in spirit.  It encourages making sure everyone gets a moment in the spotlight, and that’s a good thing.

    I don’t like that you associate a cost of an action-per-token, as described in the original post and in your clarification at 3:28.  One of the great bits in Dungeon World is that each spotlight can be a little vignette – it doesn’t matter how many ‘actions’ it takes – what matters is that something cool happens; it was worth the camera catching THAT scene for the audience.  Part of how this is facilitated is by letting moves snowball into greater moves.

    I’d encourage you to think of scenes, instead of “actions” – it’s already such a chore to break out of full/half/move action thinking in RPGs!

    A limitation of tokens, aside from reducing spotlight to an action-per-token, is that it would make it tough to smoothly transition to the next player, when dramatically appropriate.  If the Thief throws a sword to the recently disarmed Fighter, i’d like to see what happens.  Part of the Thief’s reward is seeing the Fighter go to town!  But if the Fighter just spent her token… do we have to wait?

    What i prefer to do is look for natural points in the narrative to draw in players that a) logically fit and/or b) haven’t seen spotlight recently.  And toward this end, i enlist each player to incorporate others in their action, and to help me keep everyone involved.  And when i’m a player, i like to call on the quiet ones to help me set and accomplish some short term goal, drawing them into the play.

  5. I like the concept of being able to give a player a hard choice to spend their token as the result of a failed defy danger or non-combat move (or even combat moves as well).

  6. Andrew Fish Good advice! In your scenario, if the fighter lost their sword, it most certainly came from a fail or partial fail. The thief tossing them their sword wouldn’t use the thief’s token and the fighter would not have to retrieve their own sword when they used their next token, giving them the option of picking up the action with “I catch my sword and…” next time. I guess it’s just how people choose to word things. But like I said, it just works for us. I do like the narrating of a scene you described though.

  7. Really interesting ideas. I’m curious about the rule that you can’t be the first in the pool to spend your token if you were the last one most recently to spend it – preventing double moves as the pool recycles.  I imagine that lifting that restriction wouldn’t hurt; it enables the most patient player last time ’round the table to shine a little more this time. It also means that in those rare circumstances when narrative drama really calls for that last person to kick extended butt, they can (even though I imagine letting other go next would normally make more sense anyway; the GM still has final call, I presume, over whose token to accept next). Anyway, I like this thought-provoking idea overall.

  8. Andrew Fish I agree with you entirely re: the vignettes of action and composing a scene; I think you could compromise in a situation like this, though—to take your specific example (though I understand the need to keep use cases flexible) if I were running this game, using action tokens, and my Thief goes, “I toss my sword to Fighter!” I would expect my Thief’s player to literally toss his token to Fighter, who can now spend her new action token.

    Obviously, this is a pretty limited kind of scenario but as someone who runs a large (7-PC) group, I’m always looking for ways to not only keep track of what’s going on, but make sure every one of my players gets a few minutes in the spotlight.

  9. Ok, Thinking about this I may employ it.  If I do, I wont call them Action Tokens,  Since it’s about the Narrative and each bit is more a slice of the total action that can encompass many different things at once, I think that I shall call them Spotlight Tokens.  You don’t spend it with a reactive move but with an active move, not an “Action” but an active point in the Spotlight.  Then you can share the moment with another, they jump in and help or are acting in a combined manor.  Yes, it’s all about the wording here.  Spotlight Token gets more to the point.  I think that this mechanic might be easier for the tactical players to deal with.  I think that I might also include into it a Spotlighted Character Bowl.

    When you describe a scene and ask, “What do you do?” to a player, you hand them the spotlight bowl, indicating that they need to put their token in others that are jumping in on the spotlighted action, toss their coin in too.  This indicates that the series of scenes or slice of action or SPOT LIGHT MOMENT that they are in it directly.  You have the player describe first, then the others on what they are doing to share the spotlight.  Conclude the biz of rolls, describe the scene, then empty the bowl and move it to another player, Others toss in their coins, and go from there.  When only one person has a coin, they are acting alone in the spotlinght, shouldn’t happen often.  Then when all coins are in, Pass them out again and go with a descriptive Move with a different person than who you started with based on the fiction.  Try to have the bowl go to everyone as the first player before you repeat.  I think for large groups this may be necessary.  Also, with the nature of Dungeon World, you can split up the group easier.  A combat can happen while others are exploring elsewhere.  Speed of Plot.  It all happens as a conversation with no difference in combat or non-combat.

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