And my game comes up with an insurmountable issue that some players have with the base system and perceptions.

And my game comes up with an insurmountable issue that some players have with the base system and perceptions.

And my game comes up with an insurmountable issue that some players have with the base system and perceptions.

One player, a noted game designer, has the complaint that with the way percentages work, most of the time you are screwed or asked to screw yourself.  His belief is that unless it is a 10+ success you are screwing yourself.  The one example is my Move akin to Volley: 7-9 you choose one of 3 options. 1: run out of ammo, screwed; 2. do less damage: screwed because most of the time you can nullify all your damage, especially when armor is taken into account. 3: Put yourself in danger (which is sometimes damage and sometimes not): Screwed because you are..well.. in danger and likely face damage or other action that can nullify the effectiveness of the attack.

So the whole Move asks you to screw yourself if you do not get a 10+.  I tried to play up the drama aspect and point out from a game design factor that a 10+ means you succeed with out cost but the 7-9 is like most other games where you use some sort of resource or lower your effectiveness, or, or.. it went on.

He understood the Narrative part of it and many games are partially narrative but didn’t understand, especially when you take math into account, how it is fair for the player that it asks you to screw yourself over on a high percentage of the time (10+ being the only result that it doesn’t do so).  I tried pointing out the differences of Soft Move and Hard Move and that when any roll below a 10+ happens it is the only time that I as the GM (other than the golden opportunity) to interject any type of story or complication or that they face any opposition to their actions.  Math was sited a lot.  And I even tried to get past that with the fact that not every roleplaying action triggers a Move and emphasis that “Fiction First” concept.  But to no avail.

Another couple of players hated the Xp system of getting XP on a failure, seeming to think that it is not a bonus but that if he didn’t roll 6s he would fall behind others in Advances and didn’t get it.  My players don’t seem to understand resolving Bonds either.

This has left me very frustrated with the game and running the system.  Yes, I am running a Shadowrun Hack of it but that shouldn’t change the tone of the game that much.  The fundamental concepts of the system are there.

Ahhhh, Frustrated and disheartened.  I have failed to get them to understand the system.  Math took precedence over roleplaying it seemed.

53 thoughts on “And my game comes up with an insurmountable issue that some players have with the base system and perceptions.”

  1. You tried. Honestly that’s all you can do. Some people simply do not like PbtA games, and it unfortunately seems you group is among them. My advice, hash as it is, is that if you want to keep playing PbtA games you’ll need to find a new group.

  2. While I love the concept of the world games, I have to agree that in practice, the mechanics are wonky for players to actually work with. You have to be much more narratively focused, which is hard for a lot of gamers (like myself) who enjoy the game behind the story.

  3. Yeah, I don’t think your group is really a good fit for Dungeon World – or any PbTA game, for that matter.

    PbTA is extremely narrative focused, and tends to work best with groups that accept that better stories are told when things go wrong.

    I say that because, having a player think that rolling less than 10 is “screwing yourself” – and thinking that’s a bad thing – is pretty solid proof they’re probably not a group (or, at least, not a player) that’s going to do well with any narrative-based game. They sound like they’re very much in-it-to-win-it.

    So yeah, I wouldn’t take it personally. They’re just not a good fit for this style of game. And yeah, I’m seconding “find a new group for PbTA games”. As unfortunate as that is.

  4. Your “noted game designer” doesn’t sound like he makes very interesting games if he doesn’t like the idea of complications as a result of an action.

    All drama and tension is literally based on complications.

  5. Too bad.

    Bonds are confusing for a lot of people, so that is understandable. It doesn’t help that the bonds the game provides don’t follow the structure outlined in the rules for writing bonds. There are lots of discussions about bonds here and in the subreddit that are helpful if you do a search for them.

    The fixation with leveling is something we have been trained to do by other games, and if it is such a problem for your players to be different levels (though it doesn’t make much difference), then don’t give them XP on a 6-. They’ll level together and bit slower, but there is no harm in it. Maybe even come up with more end of session conditions for them to meet.

    This misunderstanding about success is clearly the biggest issue, and possibly an insurmountable one. Game designers can get fixed on how THEY think things should work. Clearly the player has a disconnect, since they can’t see how a 7-9 is a success: you get what you want, just with a little less or more than you wanted. And since it is soft, you have a chance to completely negate any negative effects. In DW even on a 6- you can get what you want, though it may not have been worth it considering what it cost you.

    If your players are having a bad time and no fun, then you need to move on: find new players, or use a different system. I’ve had great fun with RPG newbies playing in systems like DW–they seem to take to it more readily than hose with a lot of RPG baggage.

  6. It’s good that you tried, but it sounds to me like you were doomed to fail. The complaints you relayed sound like the rationalizations of folk who had already made up their minds about the system before play, not actual flaws with the system. In D&D (and other trad systems) turn taking between the players and monsters mean sometimes you do damage without getting hit back (the 10+ in DW), sometimes you do damage and get damaged by the monster in return (the 7-9), and sometimes you just miss and get hit (6-). The basic DW mechanic is, in combat, just a compression of the back and forth rolls into one roll, with more narrative flexibility … it doesn’t have to be damage the monster does, it could be pinning you down or throwing you into a hole or something.

  7. Sounds like this is not a good system for your group, unfortunately. I’m actually not sure what would be a good system if they want to succeed all the time and not have complications happen. Maybe Pathfinder?

  8. I also used to be obsessed with winning. It is not about hard or soft moves (people spouting PbtA terminology at me made things worse), it is about understanding that enjoyable roleplaying systems aren’t about tactical simulation. They’re about creating a story.

    The statistics ARE weighted for failure more than other RPGs. The whole point of this is that you use the rolls to create drama and interesting events. You don’t lean on rolls to determine outcomes. You just tell the story. If you want to find out if something interesting happens, then you start triggering Moves.

    The best you can do is say that the system is designed to tell an exciting drama where interesting things happen. Winning is boring.

  9. Ray Otus Yes, that is a good term, compression of the normal process.  Yes, one player stated to me that the bad guys have unerring aim.  When they miss, the bad guys “hit” and can be of any skill level.  It seems that the players want that back and forth: Roll-Hit-Damage-turn done and now the bad guys get a turn, type of play. 

    Greg Trent Not necessarily an in-it-to-win-it mentality but a I-am-the-Hero-and-should-do-cool-stuff mentality with the desire to be cool and not be bogged down in reality’s costs and thing-that-suck. 

    Aaron Griffin He makes some great games but the inclusion of your action/consequences in one narrative swoop seem to be separated more.  The comment of “I would rather that the bad guys get a turn.” came up and that was a telling thing.  I think that the consequences of actions needed to be separated more and more illusion of the situation to create drama was needed for him.

  10. As the others have stated, if your group doesn’t enjoy losing almost as much as winning, narrative-focused games might not be a good fit.

    It’s a band-aid-over-a-flesh-wound solution, but it might work if your group just doesn’t like the math of PbtA: Give them bigger bonuses, a bad stat might be +1 or +2, a good stat would be +3, +4, or even +5. Give level-ups at the end of every session.

  11. Noah Tucker It is not that the player or players want no consequences.  It is that their consequences are tied so closely to their roll and that their rolls appear to suck, They are not seeing the bigger picture and are bogged down in MATH, not the roleplaying.  One player was frustrated that he didn’t need to roll a lot but that was because of the roleplaying, so of course he was concerned that he got less XP than his other players. With less rolls, is less failure, and less xp from failures.  Coupled with the fact that they are not touching their resolving of bonds, means a lot less advancement.  I can have him roll more but that would be forcing it.  And the preferred system was Savage Worlds type stuff.  Go fig.

    Slade Stolar Yes that would be a band aid situation that would not work.  I have been tempted to damn the rules a bit and collect a copy of all the character sheets, make the rolls for them, and just have them roleplay.  That’s it.  I am also tempted to give the bad guys a definitive turn.  But I was hopping for comprehension of the rules and spirit of the system.  I don’t know.

    Thanks guys for making me feel a bit better.  A lot of my bad feelings at the moment were that I was not a good GM and not portraying the story well.  I may end up modifying it so that when they get a 6- or a 7-9 result, rolling on my own or giving the bad guys a “Turn” and having them respond to that by rolling, almost arbitrarily to see if they hit.  Give them more illusion, less peak behind the screen effect.  Or go completely with all roleplaying, make their rolls for them and keep it to where all they tell me is what they are doing roleplaying-wise, which may seem to be a bit flighty in the decision arbitration of the action.

  12. Maybe I misunderstood the core issue. If they don’t enjoy not being epic, make them epic! However, if they don’t enjoy the wishy-washiness of PbtA (as compared to DnD, say), I don’t see how going full role-play will help either.

    I don’t recommend taking away character sheets though. Many players would flip if you did this.

  13. Don´t know, this sounds really fishy. While I agree that some people just don´t like PbtA games in general and that if that is indeed the case you should just play different games that click more with your group the actual arguments they use make zero sense: In Dungeon World the PCs are super competent heroes that even at 1st level can achieve incredible and super cool stuff like jumping from rooftop to rooftop with a somersault while throwing daggers left and right. In trad games you either couldn´t do that at all or it would be insanely difficult whereas in DW you might roll + DEX. Sure a 7 – 9 might complicate things but it´s still a success. I don´t want to jump to conclusions but could it be that either your shadowrun hack has flaws or the way you run it doesn´t follow the GM agenda and principles?

  14. I misread your above comment, perhaps. Maybe you didn’t mean taking away the only copy of the sheet.

    However, making their rolls for them is the same thing: taking away the players’ tools. Do not want.

  15. Yeah, I don’t like either of your solutions, honestly. You’re trying to turn the system into something it really isn’t… you’re just going to cripple yourself when making interesting encounters if you add a monster turn, and doing all the rolling for them is… I mean, well, it works, but I can’t imagine anyone being happy with it.

    And if they want Savage Worlds, why are you doing Dungeon World, anyway? Granted, I haven’t played Savage Worlds, but I do know that the World portion is misleading – the system isn’t even remotely related to the *World games/PbTA system, and is a lot crunchier and more in line with what they seem to want.

  16. I’ve been running a DW campaign with a mix of noobs and long-time gamers for the past 3 months. The way that I got them thinking about bonds (and it seems to be working) is by having them pay attention to who they end up helping or hindering while playing. This has resulted in a virtual karma system, where players feel that that they, “owe them one,” whether for good or ill. I have been amazed at the number of times that they have interfered with each other when someone has tried to do something stupid. Such opportunities have led to multiple bonds being created/resolved.

    I have had people in the group complain about the dice system as well. The way that I explained it was that they have many opportunities in the game to aid each other, and give each other buffs to take +1 or more forward. If they are able to work the system to get as many 10+ rolls as possible, I am not able to take actions against them. This has resulted in much more character interaction, more buffing/support, more aid/interfere, and more bond resolution.

  17. Horst Wurst It’s not that they are super competent, it’s that they can’t see beyond the Math.  Can’t see that the mechanics are about role playing, not roll playing.  The concept of a “Weak Success” or a “Success-but”, or a “success with a price” doesn’t seem to sit well, when it the cost is tightly bound to their failure on dice.  When in acutality is a failure to roleplay and a failure to use the role playing as a conveyance to the fun.  Drama=Screwed to some.  Complication=Screw yourself by your roll to some.  I think that ultimately I will need to play a different game, mostly because they don’t truly understand the narrative style and that I can’t seem to overcome prejudice allready in place.

    I think that I will have one more session and then give up on it.  And run it as is, trying to have a bit fewer rolls and let them know that we should go to a more trad style.  Oh, and Savage Worlds system is not related to the Apocalypse games at all, not being a narrative game.  It is a simple system that runs init off of cards, the rolls are based on your skills which is a die type from d4 to d12, 4 is a standard success but higher difficulties are there.  It is a simple system but contains, init, attack, defense, soaking damage, and movement in grid squares, ect.

    I was trying something new and wanted MORE roleplaying than what I have been getting in Savage Worlds. 

  18. Matrix Forby

    roleplaying is something that players do, not rules. You won’t fit a square peg in a round hole. If you like Dungeon World, change players and enjoy Dungeon World.

  19. Actually, I agree with a lot of the stuff in the thread but I don’t necessarily agree with the kind of simplistic division of D&D as “mathy” and DW as “narrative.” (I know you all don’t mean that as an absolute either; it’s just a generalization.) Yes, DW very much pushes story. Yes, D&D pushes simulation more. But, there’s obviously plenty of story in D&D (and sometimes that story is more rich because it rolls along at a slower, more detailed pace). Conversely, after playing DW for months and switching to Pathfinder this last weekend, (also I ran tons of 3.5 some years ago) I was very nonplussed by the ridiculous swinginess of the d20. I felt like DW was more mathematically satisfying/interesting.

    The DW curve of the 2d6, with bonuses that usually hover from 0 to +3, make the world feel a lot more “realistic” to me in terms of how skill levels work out and heroes feel more powerful to me (at least at lower levels). So, to bring this down to a practical thing. The 1st level fighter in my Pathfinder game had a BAB of something like +3 on his longsword. (This could easily have been +4 or +5 with better stat rolls.) A first level fighter in DW would probably have a +2 to hack-and-slash. But I feel like the fighter in DW is more likely to consistently hit without taking damage (41.67% to get a 10+) than the D&D fighter is to hit and then not take damage (lots of variables, hard to say). One way to look at it is the +2 to hack and slash in DW is a difference of +25% whereas a +3 in D&D is +15%. You would need the +5 to be “as” powerful. Though, again, it’s not apples to apples. Here’s another quickie comparison. Again, a DW fighter rolling 2d6+2 and a D&D fighter rolling d20+3. The chance to “hit” an unarmored figure/AC10 is 83% for DW and 70% for D&D. The chance to be hit back varies by your armor in D&D, but it’s something like 41% in DW (83.33 to get a 10+ minus 41.67 to get a 7+) and 40% in D&D if your AC is 14 in your opponent has a +1 to attack. Whew. But keep in mind that the armor in DW will often negate a hit anyway from a weak weapon.

    🙂 Anyway. My group switched to Pathfinder NOT because of the dice but because they wanted a story that moved a little slower and was more thoughtful. I have remarked previously that I feel like D&D is a canoe whereas DW is a jet ski.

  20. Paride Papadia I understand that.  But in many ways the Roleplaying can be helped or hindered by a system.  I you have a game that relies on maps and grids for combat, the moment the map gets drawn you have combat.  You also have the map describe for you the lay out and that takes a lot of the mystery and suspense out of the game, providing less opportunity for role playing.  Many situations are improved by a “Theater of the Mind” and you can get suspense, tensions, and a sense of wonder more into the game.  Confusion spells and illusion spells have to be faked and that artificiality breaks the fiction a bit. An Advantage is that the game facilitates the action.  Back in the old days of AD&D you had people needing to describe the world, the players created the map, if they needed it.  The players created with the GM more..descriptions, feeling of being in the world, and much more beyond the tactical set up that is akin to a miniatures game.  DW was a way to get back to some of that great roleplaying.  Now, my descriptions and storytelling may be some of what is to blame but it is also the players either not liking or comprehending the way the system works.  And some of that is not going to be correctable.  Mores the pity. 

  21. Matrix Forby I’ll echo that, yeah, this might not be the right group. I’ve had players make the exact same complaints: the math is stacked against them, they want a success to be a success, they want to feel like heroes kicking ass and instead felt like schmoes doing the best the can. 

    Partly, I took that feedback to heart and took a hard look at how I was narrating my 7-9s and my misses.  But largely, I just don’t play with that group anymore.

    One thing to consider, though, is whether the moves you’re using match up with the desired gameplay. Volley, H&S, and HP work pretty well for Dungeon World and its roots in D&D. But for gunfights, I’d be more interested in moves that accounted for supressive fire, cover, advancing or holding a position, stopping to switch clips, etc.

    I’d make taking a bullet suck, but give the PCs (and important NPCs) options for turning that deadly bullet (or katana blade) into a flesh wound and/or complication rather than a bloody mess.

    Not sure how comfortable you are doing some serious hacking, but it’s something you could try.

  22. If they think heroes never roll a 7-9, they need to re-watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indy spends most of the movie bouncing from one 7-9 result to the next.

  23. Two issues. First you have a player that is appealing to authority to tell you how to play your game

    Second, they are either deliberately misunderstanding that the DM is the FAN of the characters or need that explained one more time. They need to understand the DM does not make rolls so your roll is rolled into theirs.

    They also need to understand that they advance through bonds, alignment and failures. It’s good to fail. It allows you the Gm to give them more adventure and more fun and them to level.

    Fan, fan, fan. You are the number one fan of Gort the Barbarian, Friar Tuck the Cleric, Shadowblade the Thief, and Galahad the Paladin.

    The other commenters are right. They could be doing ridiculously adventuring things that you either flat cannot do with other systems or at impossible odds.

    They drive the combat, they drive the narrative. I’ve GM’d an excellent game designer. He was a ‘sideways’ player but always fun. He never tried to tell me how to GM. Even his system and setting. In fact I didn’t know he was ‘that’ guy until we’d played together a while. Don’t let the guy buffalo you. If you enjoy their company then of course you might want to change systems but if they are just players for DW. You will find no shortage of players. Run something on Roll20 I’ll join you. :>)

  24. Rainforest Giant Matrix Forby Hear hear! I’m deep into hacking DW to my liking (sometimes at the pains of my poor beleaguered players) and will happily play on Roll20 in your Shadowrun hack if you’ll accept some input on moves as we go. Will certainly help me improve mine.

  25. The group is my normal gaming group.  The game was for them.  I am afraid that I don’t game well through a computer.  I like face to face.  And the player was not trying to tell me how to run the game, in my perspective, just having a few complaints and misunderstandings of the system and the Shadowrun world is abhorrent to his type of fictional world.  As it is very hard to “Do the Right Thing” strait away and you never know who you are working for and there is a high chance of getting screwed over.  That was one player’s opinion of the world.  I couldn’t overcome the prejudice there, coupled with the prejudice of the system mechanics..well it killed the game.

    For those that are interested, I cobbled together from 4 different versions my Shadowrun Hack of the DW system.  Here is the link.  Unfortunately it is large as I have not had time to shrink it or make the font size smaller.  One is the character sheets and the other is the file itself. I am not good at font setting and type setting at this time.  I call it Shadow*World. Please feel free to use it, abuse it, or modify it as you please.  The only SR hack for DW that I did not use was Pink Mohawk as it didn’t have the right tone and I didn’t do anything with drugs.


    Character Sheets

  26. My group (that are unfortunately too tied to D&D and d20 systems) had the same reaction. They saw partial success as failure, and failure as failure…

    I’m also struggling on how to make them adhere to this different mindset… For now I moved back to 5e, to my great disapointment. 🙁

  27. yeah, I have friends who see the 7-9 in PbtA systems and the mechanics of Burning Wheel systems as promoting failure and thus promoting the player to fail, and it’s difficult to convince them otherwise

  28. Promoting failure. Well that is one of the more false ideas I’ve heard about rpgs ever. And I lived through ‘Mazes and Monsters’, ‘Chick Tracts’ and ‘BADD’.

  29. Well. I think we can (or should) all agree that RPGs are meaningless when the succeed/fail balance is out of whack. True? If you succeed 95% of the time it’s boring. (The exception being competence porn, James Bond stuff, where you succeed at a specific thing all the time. You don’t see Bond playing piano.) If you fail 95% of the time its frustrating. So give me a system where the characters succeed more than they fail, but the two are in an interesting balance. In DW it’s enforced by the dice, mostly. In D&D it’s enforced by the arms race/escalation – as the PCs get more badass, so do the villains. Any supposed criticism of a system for promoting failure had better mean failing more than 65-70% of the time. (E.g. Unknown Armies. LOL) Otherwise it’s a bullshit argument.

  30. Ray Otus And a partial success isn’t a failure in DW. It is just what it says a partial success. It drives the narrative, gives you roleplaying opportunities, and allows for some of the DM moves. Usually chosen by the player!

    DW is not broken. It is highly recommended by one of the most math crunchy game designer out there Ken Burnside of Ad Astra games. You simply don’t understand math and crunch as well as he does. Nobody does. But he loves DW.

  31. 🙂 I suppose it’s glass half full, glass half empty kind of test. It might be more accurate to say that people who respond to it negatively don’t like any “gray” in their success/fail mechanics. They only want a pure succeed or fail. And then the monster can succeed or fail in response. I guess I get that. But I personally love all that gray.

  32. Does anyone remember this quote from a 4th ed D&D developer (Mike Mearls?)? Something about how players feel that hitting (in combat) less than 75% of the time makes them feel like the game system is too hard/makes them feel like they are failing “all the time”?

  33. anyway, it was a comment on how players have a skewed view on how math is “supposed” to work in rpgs. I feel for the OP, Dungeon World has a lot going for it, and for me, does a lot to fix the problems I have had with traditional D&D. But there are players out there that don’t see those problems as problems, so will see DW fixes as making things worse

  34. I would argue that if you even approach an RPG with the mindset of “this is a fix for …” you are going down the wrong road. Why put that pressure on the experiment and make it an “argument” at the outset? Why do they have to be antithetical at all? I would just say that DW is a different form of trad fantasy gaming, in much the same way that Runequest feels different from D&D or Bx D&D play feels different from 3.5 D&D play.

  35. Ray Otus I think I agree with you? Although I don’t quite understand why I shouldn’t use the word “fix”? Is it because it is wrong to think I am dissatisfied with a game system?

  36. Well DW wasn’t created out of dissatisfaction of d&d system so I agree it sounds weird saying it’s a fix. It certainly is shifting the point of view and mindset kinda in opposite directions though! Crunch binary vs narrative gray zonish (if that’s even a word lol) 

  37. I just can’t get why my players don’t see that DW is always moving the game forward by creating constant struggling instead of lagging it down with binary noes.

  38. Addramyr Palinor I know this will be difficult to hear but I think it is willful. I believe they want an excuse to go back to the plodding dungeon crawl.

    Also min-maxing is much more easy with certain games. DW does not really allow min maxing as failure is how you advance. You can customize DW but not munchkin with it.

  39. Monte Lin I meant there is a big difference between approaching a game with the question “is this a fun game” and approaching it with the question “is this better than D&D.” The last one begs an argument and it really doesn’t give the game a fair shot to “be its own game.” (It’s sort of like being a younger brother, which I am, and everyone looking at you like “is this kid better than his older brother?”) It’s more fair not to have any thought in your head about which is “better,” or which does things a “better” way. It’s hard to do, but it’s good to stay away from value judgments and just say, how does this game play? Did we have fun? Do you want to play this again or do you want to play something else next time?

  40. Okay. I didn’t see it. Hope you don’t feel like I’m putting you in a “camp.” I don’t know that you are approaching the game in any kind of “wrong” way. I’m just spitballing. Also, if you think my rhetoric is too aggressive, you are probably right. I should stay off the Net today because I had a shitty weekend and have been about two steps away from a heart attack for two weeks. (Prepping 7 presentations for a huge training conference and my boss decided to go insane on me at the same time.) 🙂

  41. Tell them to do their sodding math properly. No-one in their right mind uses a +0 bonus skill for combat. They need to form teams with one tank and other people doing Aid actions. At +3 there is a 21/36 chance of getting a 10+. Even on archery you can have a helper spotting and passing arrows, all justifiable. What a bunch of wussy powergamers. Tell them to work the system and don’t whine about it.

  42. In no way am I suggesting that D&D is broken or that D&D players are broken. The use of “fix” appears to lead the suggestion that way, so I formally withdraw the use of the word “fix.”

    I suppose what I am saying is that D&D and its system tends to promote a certain kind of play, and Dungeon World and its system tends to promote a certain kind of play.

  43. The problem came to my table as well when a couple PF players wanted to spend an evening trying DW. The disliked the system a lot because they can’t min\max it on their favor. All they like in the end is being able to manipulate dice rolls to “win” all the time, that is a problem when the GM wants to challenge the PCs and let’s be honest, that’s what makes the game exiting. DW seems designed to beat that problem. Still power gamers don’t like that.

  44. Is see several people saying it is not possible to min/max DW. Of course it is possible to min/max DW. Rorty playbooks aside, it is true that each individual player has limited min/max capability but in a group making teams with interlocking moves you can certainly min/max. Only, please to be calling it teamwork (with apologies to Tom Lehrer).

  45. Matrix Forby The bad guys DO get definite turns: Everytime you make a soft move.

    Maybe you should explain it like this: Bad guys attack when it is their turn, but since the GM is too lazy to roll, instead of the baddie getting a to hit roll you get a saving throw. If you are successfull you get a free attack of opportunity.

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