11 thoughts on “Actual play examples of the Discern Realities move?”

  1. Yeah, don’t forget that some playbooks have more advanced versions oft he basic move.

    From actual play:

    What here is not as it seems?

    The fungal blooms cascading over the waterfall are not just pretty flora – they are a deadly enticement. Something beneath the water wants to eat you.

  2. Under the heading of : Draw Maps, Leave Blank Spaces…  One of my players did Discern Realities in a mundane area of a dungeon, and rolled really well.  He asked “what here is not as it seems,” and I put in a secret compartment for him to find, complete with a minor item and a clue as to one of the dangers deeper down.

  3. The PCs followed a tunnel into an old cellar, looking for a missing comrade that had been dragged off by orcs. A miss on the wizard’s Spout Lore just revealed that orcs often butcher and eat their captives, so they’re in a rush.

    The tunnel entrance had been dug into the cellar walls, quite some time ago. And the cellar itself had been ransacked, but the hatch in the ceiling (the only obvious other entrance) was still strewn about with cobwebs. Discern Realities with a 7-9…

    What happened here recently?  Well, clearly its been ransacked by the orcs, and somewhat recently. And you spot drops of blood on the floor, leading right up to the far wall, like they just went right through it.  

    The cleric turns his attention to the ransacked stuff while the paladin searches the wall for a secret door.

    What here is useful or valuable to me?  At the back of one of the less-disturbed shelves, you spot a glint of dust-covered silver.  When you pull it out, you find a… … a small statue of silver, about 9 inches tall, of a six-armed dancing girl in the style of the Emirates. Probably hidden down here because it was valuable, but too scandalous for the prior owners to display openly.  

    Meanwhile, the paladin’s discern realities was a 6-, but he was clearly looking for a secret door.  I said he found a seem in the brickwork, and a loose brick that slid when he pressed it. It gave a nice click but it was shortly followed by grunts of surprise, and then BAW the secret door was kicked inward by the two orcs who were guarding it on the other side.

  4. In brief, here’s the example from our first game, which prompted me to ask the question:

    GM (me): The tracks end at a blank cliff face.

    Ranger: I’m studying the cliff carefully.

    GM: Discern Realities! Roll?

    Ranger: 11! [good roll + high WIS] What here is not what it appears to be?

    GM: You’re pretty sure the wall is illusory; something just isn’t right about the way it catches the light.

    Ranger: What should I be on the lookout for?

    GM: Um…

    Ranger: What is about to happen??

    GM: Uh…

    … and I found myself without answers for the two extra questions. Since it was our first game, the player and I talked it over a bit. I could have answered question 2 with “more illusions!” I guess, which I could then have made appropriate, but seems obvious. Question 3 was especially troubling. In the fiction that had been established, nothing was about to happen. Ranger was following a trail, and the trail led through the illusory wall, and beyond.

    Of course I could have used either question as a prompt to “have something happen,” but this didn’t feel right in the moment.

    Instead we mutually decided we’d leave it at answering the single question.

    Have you found it appropriate when this move is used to sometimes say something along the lines of: “That question isn’t applicable, ask another”? Or, in answer to the especially troubling “What is about to happen?” have you ever answered: “Nothing!”

  5. Andrew Codispoti In response to your last two questions:  yes, but I try not to. If you interrogate the fiction enough, there’s usually some useful answer you can give.  

    I like to think of it this way: every question they ask, you answer it with a GM move, following your principles. 

    “What should I be on the lookout for” is basically an invitation for you to shows signs of an approaching threat. If no threat jumps to mind, interrogate the fiction that’s already been established, and make some decisions if you need to. What would be likely?  What has already been established?  What does that suggest?  What else could you add to the mix?  When in doubt, ask the characters (not the players, the characters) what they know about about threats in this region, and build on something they suggest.

    In your specific example, I’d have asked myself “what do I think is coming in and out of this place? what (other) dangers are present?” and then show signs of that. 

    Maybe in addition to the tracks they followed, they spy more tracks, lots more, coming and going, indicating there are more foes than they suspected! If these were, e.g., goblin tracks, then maybe the ranger spots human-sized or ogre-sized footprints, so they better be on the lookout for that.  Or, crap, they’re gaping at an illusionary cliff face that they know contains something… maybe they should be on the lookout for alerting whatever’s inside to their presence as they hem and haw.  

    If you draw a total blank, ask the ranger what natural dangers this area is known for. “Puff adders, huh? Well, this rocky cliff face is exactly the kind of terrain puff adders like to nest in, and the sun themselves on the rocks… if you climb, you better be on the lookout for them.”

    As for asking “What is about to happen here?”, you’re right that the question is opportunity to have something, y’know, happen.  I think when players ask that in an otherwise static situation, they’re basically asking “HEY GM WHERE’S THE GAME AT?” They want something to react to, or some guidance on where to go.

    The obvious answer to me is that they hear voices, someone on the other side of that illusion is approaching, and you’re right on the other side, what do you do?

    But if you think about it, and you really don’t think anything is about to happen standing out there, then tell them some consequences and ask.  “Well, nothing seems to be happening right now. If you wait here long enough, someone or thing is sure to come or go. Or you can plunge through that illusion and see what’s there.  Or something else.  What do you do?”

  6. Jeremy Strandberg gives the more eloquent answer, but if they ask what should they be on the lookout for? Just hit them with a GM, Dungeon or Danger move.

    This will obviously tell you (and them) what is about to happen.

    For instance, if it was me, and I came up with ‘um’, I’d quickly scan the GM moves, and like Jeremy, ‘show signs of approaching threat’ jumps out at me. Since I’ve just watched the fellowship of the ring, I’m reminded of the Gates of Moria, and the hordes of Goblins (or kobolds or lizard folk or whatever) that infest the tunnels beyond the the illusion.

    What is about to happen? Oh you know it…. Ambush!

  7. I also see it as a golden opportunity to add a new challenge. “What is about to happen here?”, even if I hadn’t prep any danger here, it’s a golden opportunity to add creatures trying to hide in the dark “You hear whispers in the dark and spot glowing red eyes… goblins are on the prowl!”

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