One of the my favorite new game mechanics in Perilous/Freebooters is DURATION.

One of the my favorite new game mechanics in Perilous/Freebooters is DURATION.

Originally shared by Maezar

One of the my favorite new game mechanics in Perilous/Freebooters is DURATION. As a reminder, duration is a “resource” that defines how long an effect or condition lasts. A Cleric’s blessing might have a duration of 1. A Magic-user’s spell might have a duration of 2. Duration is elapsed one “unit” at a time as a GM move. This is analogous to the orthodox Dungeon World move: “Use up their resources.” I place glass beads of a particular color into the central dice tray for duration effects and then remove them one by one until the effect ends.

I have a question about how other GMs might handle the moment of expiration for duration effects. I’ll set up an example first:

Jessoc the Figher uses Mettle to inflict the condition of “Stunned” with duration of 1+INT (=1 in this case) on her opponent, a Brigand. Another of the Brigands, enraged by Jessoc’s success, charges in with blood in his eyes. Jessoc turns, swinging her sabre to foil the oncomer, but… oops… rolls a 4. The GM takes this opportunity to “expire” the duration 1 “Stunned” effect and the first Brigand snaps out of his daze.

Jessoc sighs with relief. She has only a few HP left and the damage from that attack might have been fatal.

Now the question.

After making GM move concludes, the GM will normally turn to the players and ask, “What do you do?” This finds the player in a favorable position. With one roll they can deal damage, make an escape, change the story. But this doesn’t feel right to me after expiring duration. The “redirection” of the failed roll to expire the effect served as a kind of unexpected “buffer”—a secondary benefit on top of the obvious primary benefit that an opponents was stunned and out of the action for some time.

Instead, I feel that it should possibly be the GMs prerogative to ask, after expiring a duration effect during combat, to ask the player to Make a Saving Throw (aka Defy Danger). Jessoc escaped the immediate damage but must now act quickly as both charge in.

Maybe she’ll succeed and then carry on the attack. Maybe not…

What are your thoughts?

PS: Yes, my players are learning to stack up such effects, forming multi-layer “duration shields” to absorb their failures! I would probably like to discuss what happens when duration is expired by failures outside of combat as well.

9 thoughts on “One of the my favorite new game mechanics in Perilous/Freebooters is DURATION.”

  1. Perhaps the duration expiring should carry on further than just “the brigand snaps out of his daze”… “the brigand snaps out of his daze, glares at you with murder in his eyes and draws back his throwing knife… what do you do?”

    In other words, show the victim of the long-lasting effect recover and become a threat again… tie the expiring duration to an additional soft move.

    The resource you’re using up (duration) is pretty renewable, so using it up is already softer than using up a resource the PCs can’t easily replace on the fly (such as ammo or other equipment). As such, it doesn’t seem too unreasonable to me that you throw in a soft move on top of “use up their resources”… it’s still worthwhile for the players to create effects with duration, but not quite as good at stun-locking enemies.

  2. A couple of initial thoughts. The first is trying to address the problem you are presenting as-is, the second questions the whole premise a bit.

    1) on a real fail 6- you could do damage AND the soft move of ticking down your Duration mechanic. On a 7-9 I could see ticking down Duration instead of Do Damage. One of the designers of DW (I think it was Sage) once said in a thread here on G+ that he does both Damage AND a hard move on a fail of 6-. That seems legit to me. Otherwise a 6- and 7-9 are basically the same. Combat is dangerous! But if you don’t like that then I have a quibble with this statement: “This finds the player in a favorable position. With one roll they can deal damage, make an escape, change the story.” Eh. They can also fuck up the roll and make their situation worse. All rolls are player facing so Defy Danger isn’t much different than asking them what they do. In your hypothetical if Jessoc said he leaps back away from the fight, that’s dangerous! That in itself would call for a Defy Danger roll (Dex prop) to dodge out without taking damage.

    2) This layering of bonuses and incremental Duration stuff sounds too much like a trad RPG to me. This is Dungeon World. The move “Use Up a Resource” is not “Diminish a Resource” for a reason. Use it up! Take it away, burn it out, terminate it … in one move. I don’t think Duration should be allowed in DW. It conflicts with the +1 forward model of thinking which says you get an effect until the fiction would remove it. Incrementing it’s duration down by 1 over time until its gone gives players a lot of power to have these multiple continuing effects. Again, if you don’t like that answer, here’s another one. Any chance that multiple spells interacting might cause a problem? You bet. If the spells are exactly the same (and cast by the same class), then they probably shouldn’t stack. A shield is a shield. Maybe at most it ticks UP the Duration of the original. If they are different, they might cancel each other out, cause the subject to gain an aberration, or even blow up. Make players fear layering that shit a little. On a successful roll, no problem, on a fail … Think Dangerously!

  3. I wouldn’t even dare quantify a duration. It’s pointless in a pbta game, or a narrative game. It’s either gonna last too little, more than enough, or fail at a crucial moment most of the time. Whatever isn’t covered by those three, is marginal.

    For this argument, I think this point is valid. The GM doesn’t do anything during combat. He just tells the consequences of the PC’s action. He doesn’t need to do no more.

  4. Freebooters is not DW, though. It specifically has a Duration mechanic, and Duration is specifically there as a resource to use up. If you just take away the thing the the resource represents, you’re nerfing the entire point of the Duration being there.

    (Obviously it will sometimes make sense to completely deplete a Duration. If my move is to knock the torch your hand, and you’re waist-deep in water, then the torch is going to be snuffed out even if it has 3 or 5 Duration.)

    Maezar, to your original question: first, I’d probably tick off 1 Duration for a “stunned” effect with every exchange the fighter made after it. So if he inflicted “Stunned” for 1 Duration, he’d basically get a chance to do 1 “thing” before that guy was back in the fight. In a 1-on-1 fight, that could be “shove a dagger in his throat.” But in a chaotic free-for-all, it’d be a chance to maneuver away or FIGHT the victim’s allies on more favorable terms.

    When the duration ran out, I’d narrate my next GM move with that guy getting back in the fight–but as a soft move, not a hard move. So, like, the fighter gets a 10+ against the Stunned McStunnerton’s best bud, and rolls damage to take him out. But that move used up the 1 Duration, so I’d be like “yeah, so you drive this guy back with like three or four chops, then finally get through his guard and SCHNICK into his gut. His eyes bulge, he goes limp, and you have to yank your blade free. As you do, you hear footsteps and a yell from your left. McStunnerton is no longer stunned! In fact, he’s charging straight at you, murder in his eyes, what do you do?”

  5. What about simply thinking of duration as if it were spell/condition “ammo”? Then that’s consistent with other mechanics and we know how to handle it.

    As for duration running down/out, that sounds like a classic golden opportunity. Like Ray Otus says above, on a 6-, yeah you can stack damage with a soft move. For example, Jessoc gets poked by the enemy they’re engaging just as the other shakes off the stunned condition and begins a charge. What do you do?

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