Tell me about your experiences with the Shoot First move (Thief advanced move).

Tell me about your experiences with the Shoot First move (Thief advanced move).

Tell me about your experiences with the Shoot First move (Thief advanced move). It’s always struck me as an interesting, powerful move but I’ve never seen it at the table.

As a player, have you taken it? How does it play out? Do you find yourself interrupting the GM’s moves with something like “I have Shoot First, so I do __”? Or what?

As a GM, how do you deal with it? It seems like a fair number of your hard moves would get pre-empted. Do you find that you change your hard moves to account for a PC with Shoot First?

Regale me!

19 thoughts on “Tell me about your experiences with the Shoot First move (Thief advanced move).”

  1. Honestly, it feels weak to me. Without an initiative roll, surprise is fiat and players can sometimes explain away surprise (“but we had our weapons out and Clara was listening for crunching on the gravel!”).

  2. Aaron Griffin Ideally the entrance of foes would flow through the description pointed at the player with Shoot First. Instead of simply saying “The Orcs bound from the shadows above you” the character with Shoot First would go first and it would be “The Orcs bound from the shadows above you, but you knew not to fall for that trick. How did you know they were there and what do you do?” Let the narrative make the scene awesome through that player instead of just letting things happen.

  3. Jeremy Strandberg the above was a play experience as a GM. The thief had it, but the group was typically able to not be surprised as a whole because it made fictional sense. The move didn’t work out all that different than a normal “what do you do?” after presenting something.

  4. Karlen Kendrick Sounds like the move doesn’t actually change the flow of play, in your example, so much as it means that the narrative is just re-fitted to say “And you weren’t surprised because X, so…”. Which is to say, now the GM just doesn’t surprise the character/party, whereas before he would or wouldn’t according to the fiction.

    It seems like a flag saying “We want to be never-ambushed,” in other words, which is or isn’t useful to the degree that (a) it’s not so much a mechanical or narrative potency as saying “this is the way we want the fiction to look,” and (b) only comes into play to the extent that the MC remembers to keep saying “And you were totally awesomely not-ambushed” repeatedly, to make the move feel good.

    IOW, it sounds like what Aaron Griffin is describing.

  5. Aaron Griffin So the party is being hyper-vigilant, cool! But that just means you make a soft move at them (show signs of an approaching threat) instead of a hard one. “Yeah, you hear a soft crunch in the gravel… there’s something moving out there, outside of your light, what do you?”

    That’s not where I’d expect Shoot First to come into play. I’d expect it to be interrupting the GM’s hard moves.

    Like, say Clara says “I cock my head to the side and try to determine where they are, how many there, what they’re up to… Discern Realities?” Sure, and she rolls a 6-. And my hard move is like “Whoosh! Whoosh! Thunk thunk! You each take d8 damage as you start getting peppered by a hail of arrows, what do you?” And that is where I’d expect the Thief to be like “oh hell no, I’ve got Shoot First. I get to act before the arrows start raining down.” “Okay, sure, cool… you’ve got this inkling of an attack incoming but it’s not like you can see the attackers… so what do you do?” “I’ll tackle Clara to the ground, so that the arrows go flying over our heads!” “Sweet, Defy Danger with DEX. Everyone else, take 1d8 damage from. Not you, Clara, let’s see what the Thief rolls…”

  6. Jeremy Strandberg my experience with the move does not look like that.

    But you’re coming at a move with a GM’s interpretation. A more traditional player is going to take “surprise” a bit differently. That said, I don’t think I’ve ever responded to a Discern Realities failure with damage like that, so maybe they would have acted as you predict.

  7. The first time our thief tried it was after a failed roll had her ambushed. I said that the failure invalidated the move but it would totally apply in camp. I’m unsure about scouting…if it applies to a failed Scout roll, then I cheated her out of this situation.

  8. Matt Horam

    “The first time our thief tried it was after a failed roll had her ambushed.”

    I’d feel like I was violating the “Be A Fan” principle by using a hard move to directly override a PC’s “I’m never ambushed” ability. Seems like it’s the perfect time to actually let them make use of that ability – when else would they? – or else make a different hard move. They spent an entire advance on making sure “Not Ambushed” was part of their shtick.

  9. Jeremy Strandberg This definitely led to some retcon situations early in a game or in a campaign until I was able to consistently remember that it was the player’s ability. I always let them react to it as if, “this would have happened but you see it coming, what do you do?”

    However, I think it would make sense for this to be only locally effective for the thief, meaning only if something is directly affecting them. Definitely not if the group as a whole or some other player is about to get jumped. Not unless it made sense for the thief to have seen it coming. Often I would have to understand who is in the front/back of the group just loosely to know if something would work out that way.

  10. Maybe the best way to train the GM is for the player to respond to any ambush moves with NOT SO FAST or I DON’T THINK SO, etc until it is locked into the collective memory. I must make more of an effort to ask the players which advances they are taking…

  11. Damian Jankowski Just so I can picture what you’re describing… would you make a hard GM move, and the PC would be like “but Shoot First!” and then you’d backup and let them “interrupt?”

    How did your GM moves change as you internalized the fact that the Thief had the move?

    Did it ever cause any actual problems in play? Or just some momentary retconning?

  12. Jeremy Strandberg Worse than that, actually. It was usually met with resentment like:

    GM: “This happens!”

    Player: “Um, well I am never caught by surprise so…”

    And so the momentum and any potential surprise element fizzles. However, this happens less than a handful of times before I can narrate the scenarios more appropriately and take it into account.

    I actually enjoyed the move after this. It let me set things up in a way that I intentionally make things seem like the player’s move was saving them from something. It makes them feel a bit more powerful and provides me another way to narrate the story.

    So… overall, a few retcons before it actually becomes interesting.

  13. Damian Jankowski Gotcha.

    I’m thinking about using a version of this move for a Stonetop playbook, and I think (based on this discussion) that I’ll rephrase it like so:

    Constant Vigilance

    Requires level 6+

    You’re never caught by surprise. When an enemy would get the drop on you, you get to act first instead. If the GM describes an enemy taking you by surprise, even on a 6- result, remind them of this move and say what you do.

    I think including that specific wording at the end will help establish that, yes, this move can interrupt GM hard moves and also empower the player the player to speak up and assert their character’s awesomeness.

  14. The Thief in my game took this move and I think it’s come up once or twice, but it’s an easy one to forget about. I think at our next session I’ll tell him to remind me about it when it comes up.

    For what it’s worth, I like the “that’s not how it happens” approach to the move. Have any of you seen John Harper run Blades in the Dark? He does that kind of thing all the time, describing the consequences of an action fully, then asking the players to tell him why it doesn’t happen that way. I like that approach because it makes the actions of the PCs feel really weighty – all this terrible shit would have gone down if they hadn’t acted quickly! It’s almost like Fronts on a micro-scale.

  15. If you look up John Harper’s YouTube channel, the videos are all up there. The moment like that that most sticks out in my mind is in the second or third episode, I think.

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