Here’s another.

Here’s another.

Here’s another. When a player Discerns Realities are they absolutely limited to the list of questions provided? Would it break the rules to allow other questions or variations of them?

Thanks to all of you for the help these past few days. I’ll try to find the time to write a recap of our first two sessions so far with everyone, including myself (GM), being new to DW.

32 thoughts on “Here’s another.”

  1. I had a similar question initially. I’ve found you can be pretty broad in interpreting “What here is useful or valuable to me?” to cover just about anything.

    Since that’s the case, seems like most any question you want to allow is fine.

    Just my experience.

  2. I’ve heard people who adhere to the questions pretty rigidly. I also have heard people who are open to variations on the questions, as long as they encapsulate about the same amount of information / ambiguity. I can’t honestly say if there is a hard and fast rule.

    It’s like the character names. My favorite is the: “If the player doesn’t ask and uses another name, great. If they ask if they can use another name, the answer is: No.”

  3. Mostly what I’ve heard from folks who ditch the fixed question list is that people (a) are generally kind of stumped to come up with good questions on the fly, and (b) most of the questions they want to ask really are just variant phrasings on what’s on the list.

    Which is to say, the list isn’t critical, and those who remove the list seem to say “it’s not a big deal, but it’s a bit less fun/smooth.”


  4. My go-to answer on this is actually from the book, under the detailed description of Discern Realities:

    “Unless a move says otherwise players can only ask questions from the list. If a player asks a question not on the list the GM can tell them to try again or answer a question from the list that seems equivalent.”

    (Emphasis added).

    I’ve got strong opinions about the value of the limited set of questions, as discussed here:

  5. There are class abilities that explicitly broaden the question sets, so I would say that the questions should be firm or you are taking away the impact of players’ choices to play (or not play) those characters. That said, your answers to the questions can and should be flexible.

  6. My understanding of the intent of the move is this: if you’re rolling and what you want to know isn’t on the list, that probably isn’t a situation where you should have rolled.

    I have expressed my problems with DR a few times here, but I have slightly revised my sentiment: DR works great when used as intended (in a charged situation) and not as a roll to gain information. Information gathering is a basic Q&A with the GM who might ask questions in response, or reveal an unwelcome truth, or present an opportunity with or without a cost. The player asks, the GM makes a move.

    That said, some PbtA variations have moves that effectively roll for “who gets to answer and how” and that’s what I was hoping DR was to be used for. “Can i see anything dangerous in the river? Rolled an 11 so I get to answer – yes, there’s a giant cat fish the size of a wagon”

  7. Generally, I will answer most player questions without a roll to get away from DR being a default perception roll. I will refer to DR when a casual observation wouldn’t cut it. I then refer the player to the questions and help them recast their question into that format. This often lets me give them more information than if I just answered the thing they asked.

  8. “Powered By the Apocalypse”. It’s the collective name for Apocalypse World-based games, like Dungeon World, Monsterhearts, Sprawl, Urban Shadows, etc.

  9. Joseph F. Russo “Generally, I will answer most player questions without a roll to get away from DR being a default perception roll. I will refer to DR when a casual observation wouldn’t cut it. “

    I think that, as a first step, is critically important. As Urban Shadows put it, “Don’t mess around with what the characters see or hear, either: “Olivia, the man who scheduled the tarot reading is sweating bullets; it’s obvious he’s here about his cheating wife.” Give the information as if the player was standing in the room, as if you were right fucking there pointing out things that are obvious to anyone. And if their Archetype gives them greater access to obvious information—the kind that comes with a wizard’s magical sight or a

    werewolf’s sense of smell—give that information to them too. Fucking gratis.”

    Discern Realities is what you get when you “closely study a situation or person.” To quote, “You must closely observe your target. … You’re not merely scanning for clues – you have to look under and around things, tap the walls, and check for weird dust patterns on the bookshelves.” The DR question list is actually extremely apropos when you keep in mind it’s not a random perception check – that shit’s supposed to go to the players for free – it’s what you get when the character is actively scrutinizing and investigating.

  10. My way of handling it is similar to Aaron Griffin​; if what the player wants to know absolutely can not be answered by a question on the list, the move should probably not be triggered. When players say “What I want to know isn’t on that list”, I’ve found they usually want information that should be readily available to them. I ask what they want to know, and answer them based on their character’s senses and position.

  11. Wynand Louw The challenge with treating rules as guidelines is that this can mean you don’t get to experience the game as it was designed to operate. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, it can be a lot of fun to put on the game designer hat and tweak things, to fine tune the experience toward how you and your friends prefer to play, but I think it’s important to realize that this is what you’re doing: you’re designing a different game using the DW rules as a springboard.

    With this understanding in play, you can reflect more readily on exactly what you’re changing and why you’re changing it (i.e. how do I want to change the experience?) This, in turn, gives you something against which to evaluate your play sessions; is that change achieving what I wanted to accomplish? The core DW book actually has a lot of cool stuff to say on this topic.

    Regarding Discern Realities in particular, it’s been discussed a lot here, as it can be a bit awkward to play with (especially if you’re used to perception checks) and the way it’s constructed is a reflection of a subtle underlying design philosophy that you find in Pbta games, where you can have a fictional search going on with your character while simultaneously asking some pretty ‘meta’ questions as a player. I know this took me a while to start to feel comfortable with (and even now it’s somewhat uncomfortable, but in more of a good way, as in, how can this questioning reshape our reality?) It’s a funny thing, but in DW, discernment can be what leads to definition (and probably danger.)

  12. Wynand Louw I notice that for some reason you state, explicitly, tabletop games require rules – and by contrast RPGs, don’t. Why do you take self-evident that one set of games has rules as mandatory, and one set as optional? I’d think in either set you’re free to tweak, given you understand why you’re tweaking. Never trust someone to take down a fence if they can’t explain why it was put up, and so on.

    I’d note I don’t recall AW, nor DW for that matter, having a “First Rule / Golden Rule” of “these rules are just suggestions,” that I often see in the old WW and DnD books. Do you think you’d still feel “rules are for tabletop games; they’re just suggestions in RPGs” if you didn’t have that background informing your view?

  13. Slightly tangential to the OP (though still related I think), check out the Advanced Delving chapter of the book for a lot of great information on how to hack DW and the possible implications of changing various moves/rules. In particular, there’s some interesting discussion near the bottom about the GM Agenda/Principles and what might happen if you change them (these are actually the core of the game.) You can certainly tweak Discern Realities for your table, but I recommend reading this chapter carefully first. – Advanced Delving

  14. J Stein

    RPG’s need rules. (Because they are games. Unlike Calvinball)

    But the goal of an RPG (in general) is different to that of boardgames (in general.) In boardgamed you win by beating either your opponent or the system. In an RPG you win by telling a great story.

    Since beating the system or an opponent needs to be fair, it is cheating to bend the rules. Since telling a great story needs not to be fair, it is not cheating to bend the rules.

    So it really depends on what your goal is: Beating the system fairly or telling a great story.

    In neither scenario the rules are the ultimate goal, but in both scerios the ruls play slightly different roles to reach different goals.

  15. Wynand Louw What purpose is it they serve, if not to guide actions and interactions so as to create a pattern of play? Why is the purpose of “to tell a story” one that implies “all rules must be optional”? Is telling a story not a pattern of behavior?

    And if all rules are suggestions-at-best, why do different games give rise to different experiences? Do you feel when you use different games, the experience is fundamentally similar?

  16. J Stein

    Their purpose is ” guide actions and interactions so as to create a pattern of play”.

    Exactly. I could not have said it better!

    But the rules are not the goal of the game. The rules serve the goal.

    Example: In the “Read a Sitch” move, would you as MC allow the question “Which one of them is hiding my mcGuffin?” ?

    If it follows from the fiction, you absolutely should, even if it is not “in the rules”

    the MC might answer, “Bugeye looks like hare caught in a spotlight. You notice a bulge under his coat as he edges towards the door…”

  17. Aaron Griffin Which is absolutely OK. 😁

    “Rulings, not rigid rules” is a philosophy and aesthetic that comes to us from the first days of RPG’s via the OSR. Although I am firmly narrative games camp, this OSR sentiment I will always firmly endorse.

    It takes all sorts!

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