A matter of somatics.

A matter of somatics.

A matter of somatics. 

Recently, I was talking to a player in my Shawdowrun hack for DW.  He has played DW with me previously.  The perception that he had was that the bad guys are very competent. His argument went like this: When ever I miss or don’t make a complete success the bad guys automatically hit.  They seem to have automatic competence in the situation.  They automatically hit.  Now this is only after one session, that I leaned a little too hard on doing damage to them.  I understand his point and tried to explain that they were missing all the time.  That the situation was that when you hit, they miss.  It is a bit of an interesting situation.  I haven’t quite got it across to him yet that each roll or each “Move” is not a single action but sort of like a sequence in a movie, including many different exchanges and an overall slice of the action.  Sigh, I need to spend more time describing things and bringing about more creative solutions.

On that note, I have been having some problems coming up with NPCs or translating NPC concepts over to the system.  It seems simple but what happens when you get an NPC that is faster than the PC, has hyped up reflexes and a better gun.  Or has abilities that are not simple?  The Move system makes some base assumptions and does make it hard to make an NPC that is on par with a PC, sort of like taking an equivalent fighter and putting him up against another fighter.  Or a fighter with superior gear or a better fighting style?

Just having a bit of difficulty with this and with making things happen outside of the normal sequence of things. 

18 thoughts on “A matter of somatics.”

  1. Hmm. Maybe try useing less moves when describing actions? What I mean is, don’t require a roll. (i know im gonna get heat from that sentence).

    The reason I say this is to get your player acclimated to the flow of fiction and not so hung up on rolls. As the player gets more accustom, then bring in more rolls, as per the rules. Hopfully he’ll see that there is more going on that meets the eye


    As for NPC, hide the stats. Fudge them if needed. Don’t let the players know you are. Do it to keep the game exciting, but DON’T take away the posibility of both death and life. If the players make a decision that would obviously kill them, let it.

  2. Yes, I understand that they don’t always have to do damage.  I leaned on it a bit hard in the fist half of the session, then eased off and did more creative things.  Like instead of getting hit by a bad guys gun he shot the gun out of her hand.  One guy rushed up and took a clerk hostage.  As I said, I did vary it towards the end of the session.  I understand that I can do a number of things.  Also, the damage can come from an unexpected source, such as a trip and landing in something sharp, their own gun exploding (only on a 6 or less, possibly snake eyes), or many other situations.  I understand this.  I am working on changing the player’s mind, working on it with some of the examples already given.  And my own assertion that I need to explain the combat a bit more in terms of the action and following the fiction.  It was a mistake to lean so heavily on damage even given that the opponents were crazy killers that all they wanted to do was loot and kill. I think that I should have even used a hard move to kill a bystander rather than hurt them.  It was a satisfying chaotic battle though.

    But the NPC problem and the fact that I keep wanting to have things happen outside of their rolls and actions.  The nature of the system is that I don’t have much opportunity.  The other issue with creating NPCs is the lack of bringing in bad guy abilities. And beyond the norm attacks and stuff OUTSIDE of the normal “They make a Move and fail or get 7-9, then I get to do something.”  Situation. I shall have to work it out..

  3. Say what honestly demands. Make sure player moves are triggered. And think offscreen too. When the player hits, the bad guys miss. When the player misses, something bad happens; often that means the bad guys hit but it may something else. Sometimes it’s worse than just some hit points.

  4. Matrix Forby You can also make a move when they Give You A Golden Opportunity or when they Look To You To See What Happens.

    So you want an NPC with some preternaturally fast reflexes? Cool. Let’s see how this works.

    Susan ‘The Shrike’, stimed-up street samurai (hp 8, armor 1, katana: 1d6+3).

    The Shrike is an assassin, wearing advanced, form fitting polysynthetic ferro-weave armor, short red hair, and a stern looking face. She is on advanced stims and moves and reacts much faster than a normal person.

    Special: improved reaction, increased speed

    Moves: dodge a bullet, advance in a blur, tumble out of the way, attack in a flurry

    While this doesn’t seem like much, it should evoke this idea of a woman who can move much faster and attack in a blur of motion.

    The Special qualities imply that permission needs to be achieved to even attack. Improved speed and reaction time? One person firing isn’t going to have permission to shoot her. But you need to make this clear.

    “I shoot her in the face”

    “Before you even level the gun at her, she’s gone in a blur, off to the side now, and still advancing. Now she’s smiling. What do you do?”

    “I try to shoot her again!”

    “Just like before, she appears fuzzy and is suddenly elsewhere… you’re going to have to find a way to slow her down, or maybe apply some team work if you want to hit her”

  5. Aaron Griffin has the exact right of it here. Give NPCs special qualities or tags that give them fictional permission to do things. So a tag of “hyped up reflexes” does exactly what Aaron just narrated: the NPC is simply too fast to just shoot normally.

    But make sure you narrate that to the players, again as Aaron has done in his example. When they pull their gun, describe how The Shrike already in a spot they don’t expect her to be, shaking her head and laughing at them. Dungeon World and it’s related games make situations more challenging through narration and fictional positioning.

  6. Aaron Griffin I like it.  I have always been a bit fuzzy on the Give you a Golden Opportunity bit.  It is defined differently that when they get a 6- you make a hard move or when the players look at you to tell them what is going on.  I always figured that Golden Opportunity was when they were looking at you for what is going on.  But it seems to be a bit more than that.  If I read into it a bit a “Golden Opportunity” is when you have something set up narrative and they open the door to it.  Such as..The PCs dodge out the side door where the enemy is waiting in ambush.  It may be more of a time for a soft move such as a Defy Danger where they shoot and the team dodges out of the way or tries to take cover, ect. 

    I also have a bit of trouble with having groups of NPCs do different things individually.  It seems the game is set up for more of a one on one type of interation.  Or one vs group is just more damage.  I need to work on my narrative more.

    Having a group distract them, a couple firing guns, a couple breaking through a door to enable an escape and cover, and another tossing a grenade to provide a flash bang.  That is a lot to pack into one Golden Opportunity or one failure, or success+Drama.  To do it that way feels like I am cheating and making multiple Moves.  But do you think that that situation would be alright?

    Chris Stone-Bush Yes, I see know how both the description and the tags are important.  Having the tags prevent triggering a Move because of narrative is good and ups the tention level, but it does seem like cheating or running to roughshod on the players.  I don’t know.

  7. Matrix Forby narrating large brawls is hard. It’s usually best to hand wave a lot of it – this is why AW and DW both have rules for handling things as singular “mobs” or “gangs” or “hordes”.

    My advice is usually the same: if a group of NPCs is doing tons of different things, stick to one more than the PCs can deal with. If there’s 4 players, and three are engaged in direct combat, have the group to two additional non-combat things for a total of 5 situations they need to deal with.

  8. > but it does seem like cheating or running to roughshod on the players

    You might be forgetting to Be A Fan Of The Players.

    Dungeon World uses a LOT of GM fiat. But it’s constrained by the principles and agendas. DW should not be played adversarially.

  9. Aaron Griffin Maybe a little forgetting.  I try to provide a challenge.  There is no joy if it isn’t challenging.  And if I don’t give the possibility that they could fail then overconfidence sets in and then the game gets a bit boring.  A fine line between challenging to hard and to little.  I always want the players to win but it isn’t fun if they don’t work a little for it, either with creativity, luck, planing, or some method.  I don’t want them frustrated but want to build dramatic tension. I don’t want them to be board, felling that they will walk all over the bad guys.

  10. Matrix Forby  failure comes from all sides, not just from damage and combat. You can still succeed in a combat but not achieve your goal – if you need to get to that ship before it launches, and you have to kill 16 guys to get there, it might just take long enough to miss the ship!

    Of course RPGs should be challenging. But if it’s challenging because they will just lose HP, that gets old. You should always challenge their INTENT not their actions.

    Why are they fighting this guy? What’s the goal? It’s probably not “to kill him because I just want to”.

  11. Noted.  In the last scene it was a bunch of Gang members that were just causing havoc.  It was just a way to get them jump started in the game and let them know what to expect.  Admittedly, I didn’t handle it perfectly.  But it’s a start.  We shall see.  I think that I just need to develop my portfolio of responses to Moves and NPC types of descriptions to bring in the fiction more.  And thing of alternate responses based on my Moves and such. 

  12. Just some brain storming: Why did the PCs care about the gang causing havoc?

    Did someone hire them? Have the gang offer them more money

    Did the gang destroy one of their houses? Have them produce and threaten something fragile that they stole

    Is it simple revenge because a family member was hurt? Have them reveal that the family member was actually a gang member

    Maybe they’re just trying to be good guys? Have a local cleric vouch for the gang members

    Etc. These are just off-the-cuff ways to add a twist that complicates things as a GM move.

  13. Thank you for the suggestions.  If I have the situation come up again that will be useful.  According the the adventure: Food Fight, out of the base 1st edition SR book, the Gang members were hitting the grocery store for 2 reasons, for kicks and for loot.  They just burst in and start threatening and killing people for the fun of it, being a thriller gang.  They had not concept of self control or fear of anything and were there to shoot anyone that got in their way and blast about.  So, really, there wasn’t much there plot-wise in the situation.  It was a quick one off intro to combat and getting used to the style.

  14. I’d encourage you to have your players talk about why their character is involved in a thing. Ask them point blank: “Why would Jammer care about this gang or grocery store?” if he says he doesn’t, then ask what it would take to make Jammer care. Then make it happen 🙂

    It also helps to have your players say their goals or intents outloud. “We kick in the door and scream” could mean very different things if their intent is to scare the bad guys away vs drawing them to the front to allow Slizzy to come in through the back door.

  15. Interesting.  So a couple of things that I am keeping and may use a bit.  One person said that on a 7-9 roll, tell them that they succeeded but something went wrong, “What went wrong..” and have the player describe the drama.  Often the players may be harsher than I would be.  And your advice of stating the action and then explaining the intent behind the action, what the character is trying to accomplish with the action.

    I like both methods.

    During the Legwork process they earn Prep points that can give a boost but they also get complication points that is something of a deviation or twist of a complication with the information, not a falsehood but a twist.  Like a guard’s schedule but tonight is the playoffs so they did their rounds a bit quicker to gather in the security station to watch the game, so the timing is off.  I think that I may ask the players how can it get complicated with the information still being true.

    My next adventure is the Silver Angel adventure that game with the 1st ed SR GM Screen.  It is interesting and simple.  I plan on going through, roughly, the original SR adventures.  They did such a great job writing them that I can use everything but the stat blocks.

  16. Yes, I understand.  The terminology that I was thinking was going about it the other way.  Not “Preventing” but in some cases not Triggering the Move.  And, as you said, permission to narrate it a certain way.  Like narrating a person with wired reflexes as being fast and a normal Mix it Up (My move for melee) by someone that does not have wired reflexes would not ordinarily Trigger the melee move unless the description of the attack can bypass or compensate for it.  Now that is not always the case but using a simple enough example, you get the idea.

    Just like in DW, a fighter is not going to be able to get close enough to a Giant to damage it with a normal Hack&Slash.  They may need to make a Defy Danger to get close enough OR have a narrative description of the action to allow them to get close enough.  Like climbing a table and leaping to the attack or using teamwork with the other party members to distract it.  Something along those lines.

    The way I see it, according to the rules (RAW), you do not “Prevent” a Move.  If the situation calls for it, you make the Move BUT the situation or fiction, if you will, needs to Trigger the Move.

    I didn’t mean to make it seem otherwise.  Sorry

Comments are closed.