So this may be an encouragement to GM’s who may have felt they do lackluster, player-disappointing things.

So this may be an encouragement to GM’s who may have felt they do lackluster, player-disappointing things.

So this may be an encouragement to GM’s who may have felt they do lackluster, player-disappointing things.

I ran a game, where there were statues of people with animal heads. When the players walked by, the Statues’ eyes lit up and began to speak to the players. After an exchange and a failed charisma roll, magic was activated and a bunch of the flora in the surrounding area came to life and began to stalk/attack the players.

Post-game, a player reported “That’s too convoluted and involved, why not just attack with the statues and keep it simple”

Taking this into consideration, in another game, I had players walk by some statues, and since no one triggered a DR or SL move, I had the statues come to life and attack the players.

A player responded disappointedly “Really? You’re going to make the statues attack us?” as if they’d seen this trope a million times before.

The Morals:

1. Maybe don’t use statues, unless as a red herring or setpiece.

2. Sometimes, GM’s, it’s not your fault. Player preferences can actually be polar opposites of one another.

3. If you predominantly play, and don’t DM, consider how hard it is for a DM to create truly original content in this age of internet information and media overload, and just try to enjoy the game/free entertainment.

13 thoughts on “So this may be an encouragement to GM’s who may have felt they do lackluster, player-disappointing things.”

  1. I will say, if either of the players find themselves reading this, the players are overall cool people, and I would have no problem playing a game with them again. But yes, that particular thing/moment was a bit thorny for me.

  2. Sounds like the players don’t realize they have agency in the story! DR and SL are there for that, as well as to propel the fiction forward! The MC is being true to their prep work, so when players use those moves to ask questions and add to the story, that’s how they exert their agency and fly fictional flags for everyone as to what they like and want to see.

    A suggestion from me would possibly be to ask more questions and use the answers in the fiction, of course I don’t know if you already are or not. Not to say it’s all on the MC, but if you’re regularly doing it you’ll be hearing a lot more fictional flags during play. If those flags are more about subverting the tropes then you’ll know, otherwise it’s just an individual expectation conversation to have with the table, I think.

  3. I tend to take it with a grain of salt. If I use something once, I will make sure not to use it again and if I do have a similar situation (statues in a room in two different sessions for example) I make them have different functions. My group likes seeing tropes most of the time, but not over and over. I’m glad my players aren’t like these you mentioned though lol

  4. Of the two, I like your first scenario the best: different ways it could have gone, depending on how the players responded, what moves they triggered and how they rolled. One thing worth noting, though, is that your player in that case displayed a fundamental misunderstanding of how Dungeon World works. They saw the statues as something in the world that was going to behave some way and so they thought they just had to figure them out. The earlier attempt at conversation felt like an unnecessary delay to a predetermined outcome.

    I think this is an especially common feeling when players are new to Dungeon World, as they haven’t yet had a solid taste of how much narrative power they actually have. For those kinds of players, I think it can be helpful to do a lot of Ask questions and use the answers. For example, “You’ve seen statues before that looked similar to these. Where did you see them and what was their purpose?” When the player helps introduce their own complications, it can create a sense of collaborative ‘buy-in’ to the ensuing consequences.

  5. Regarding the second case, the statues shouldn’t have started attacking unless they triggered a GM move, though it’s pretty much a golden opportunity if they stand around the statues not doing anything. Just passing through, maybe not as much, unless you already provided some strong clues in the environment that these statues might be dangerous (claw marks in the earth around them, strange sense of foreboding about them, etc.) Or you can do an opportunity at a cost, like, say, a treasure of some sort, but positioned in such a way that the statues appear to be guarding it. Sure, it’s an obvious trap, but maybe the players will react in a non-obvious way? Perhaps they set up some rope to try to restrain the statues prior to taking the treasure?

  6. Dan Bryant​ Great advice on both. I can definitely ask more leading questions. I almost always get a great interaction when I remember to do that. If I overdo it, then there wouldn’t be use for spout lore, but I could do more to achieve a healthy narrative balance.

    I do feel like if something is a trap, I do give extra details in the environment worth investigating. At that point, if they don’t, and they trigger my GM move, well, that’s what makes a trap… a trap imho.

    I’m open to constructive criticism and developing my skills. To my original point though, I just hope there is a culture of fun and understanding at a table, and less of a transactional “I expect this from my dm, I expect this from my players” rapport. Thats not healthy or fun.

  7. Yes, you can have them attack BUT they need not be animated statues or golems. How about a group of smaller creatuers that are moving the armor, like a Rat Horde with a hive mind. They swarm when the armor is busted or simply scatter. Lots of possiblities. Trapped souls of good aligned warriors, conduits of the gods that feel that you need to prove your valor, ect. Yes, you should use the tropes but for those players that want more creativity, twist the trope into a prestel and smack them with creativity. Sometimes their own creativity with the “ask questions, use the answers” from above. I had an “iron Golem” that was a suit of armor over an animated dress dummy. They peeled the armor off and then were effective in dismembering the dummies. They then modified the armor to wear, upgrading the Paladin to Plate armor. But first the Golems played pinball with them with the Forceful tag. Smack! Flying through the air with the greatest of ease, right into another, until the player’s worked together and tackled the Bard out of the air.

  8. I recall a similar complaint (to your first session) in a totally different scenario.

    My prep involved cultists in a big city that, every new moon, sacrificed a beautiful person to their giant bat-god and also shook down the local businesses to protect them from the bat-god’s predations.

    The bard failed some sort of social roll and ran into said cultists on the way out of the pub. They exchanged a meaningful glance with each other, but that was it. (Presented as a pretty soft move, but the hard move was that they had selected him as their next victim.)

    A couple scenes later, the bard wakes up in the squalid rooms of his companion-for-the-evening and hears someone coming. Cultists burst in! There’s a quick fight, but the bard (who’s isolated from the other PCs) misses a fighty roll and gets beaned in the noggin’. He’s knocked out, and comes to at the top of the cultist’s tower, tied to their altar.

    After session, the player complained that the abduction seemed like a railroad, like there was nothing he could have done to avoid “the plot.”

    But I didn’t have a plot. I literally had no idea that the cultists were going to pick him for their sacrifice, or that the bard would separate himself from the other PCs, or that the cultists would succeed in capturing him. It just worked out that way.

    Which is to say: sometimes, when you play to find out what happens, the things that happen end up feeling inevitable. Even though they weren’t. And frankly, that seems more like feature to me than bug.

  9. I had players who found a gate guarded by a giant magical serpent. It would present them with a riddle and the wrong answer meant death. This was said by several npcs in several ways and none of them ambiguous. They found someone who knew the riddle, considered it for a while and made up their mind, but at the last moment, two out of six changed their mind and presented wrong answers. Their characters died. Despite the warnings, however, they were disappointed and some were murmuring “no chill GM” – but they accepted it before the next session.

    Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many tells you give them. Their expectations may diverge from what will actually happen fairly often, but that is also what makes it fun to play. Sometimes it is unexpected that what you foreshadow actually happens

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