I have mentioned here before that I am GM’ing for a group of mostly RPG-newbies who tend to carefully and…

I have mentioned here before that I am GM’ing for a group of mostly RPG-newbies who tend to carefully and…

I have mentioned here before that I am GM’ing for a group of mostly RPG-newbies who tend to carefully and systematically interview NPCs, gather information, scout the land, grill the NPC’s some more, and and then have endless discussion amongst themselves on what to do next, rather than, you know, actually doing something next. Bless ’em. 🙂

It therefore did not come as a complete surprise to me that when our shy Fighter finally levelled up to Level 2 (after only nine sessions!), she chose Heirloom as her first Advanced Move. Heirloom, in case you need a refresher, is defined as:

“When you consult the spirits that reside within your signature weapon, they will give you an insight relating to the current situation, and might ask you some questions in return, roll+CHA. On a 10+, the GM will give you good detail. On a 7-9, the GM will give you an impression.”

Personally, I would have thought that in a group that already includes a Wizard with a Detect Magic cantrip, a Paladin with a “what here is evil?” race move, a Druid with Spirit Tongue, and a Ranger with Wild Empathy (plus of course everybody capable of casting SL and DR), the very last thing they’d need was another “tell me more about my situation” infodump effect, but hey: I’m a fan of my players characters — even if those characters are overcautious little engineer heroes.

What I would like to ask the Tavern is for some ideas on how to make Heirloom fun and a bit different from the other infodump Moves. What I came up with myself was that I could have my Fighter’s weapon indeed contain several spirits, each with wildly different personalities and interests. That way, when the Fighter calls upon them she’ll never know who she’ll get. The cowardly spirit will focus on escape routes, the gung-ho spirit will focus on enemy weaknesses, etc.

Does that sound like a cool idea? Any other suggestions?

I am also a bit unclear about this whole “the spirits might ask you some questions in return”. Why would they do that? What would they ask? Is the idea simply to provide a hook for bits of player-driven world-building? Or is there another angle I’m not seeing here?

As always, many thanks in advance for your thoughts and feedback.

14 thoughts on “I have mentioned here before that I am GM’ing for a group of mostly RPG-newbies who tend to carefully and…”

  1. I would use the fighters blade to foretell some awesome danger. Start with the question “why now?” there’s a reason the blade is talking. Something that must be solved… Quickly.

  2. You could have the spirit(s) in the weapon be just scornful of the fighter and his friends and their cautious, tiptoeing ways. And ask questions that express that scorn.


  3. Tim Jensen Yeah, it’s a bit weird, isn’t it? And it’s not just the Fighter. I only have one player who’s managed to reach Level 3 so far, after a year of gaming. I think it’s a combination of this being my first GM / DW attempt, our relatively short, widely-spaced sessions (we play for three hours or so every month), most players’ inexperience (with RPG, with improvisation, even (maybe especially) with fantasy tropes), the large group (five players), and, as I said, my players being talkers, not doers, who are more interested in logic than in fighting or treasure.

    On the one hand the sessions are almost always great fun, so I’m not necessarily too fussed about the glacial pace. But on the other hand, yeah, there is sometimes the feeling that we’re collectively, in-fiction, not really getting anywhere, and the constant discussion/bickering even gets on the players’ own nerves, sometimes.

    The solution, as I see it now, is not so much to force/gently guide my players to do more fighting / swashbuckling (because I have learned that’s just not where their hearts are), but to provide them with much more concrete goals and information about the ‘plot’ and their options regarding it. This is rather contrary to the DW ethos of RPG as a mutual conversation, but with these players I think it’s the only way to truly move them along, while keeping things fun for everyone.

  4. RPG newbies that tend to act carefully, asking questions, scouting the land, and discussing amongst themselves about their next move, instead of just being psychotic murder hobos? Man, I truly envy you!

    This idea sounds truly awesome, just don’t make too many spirit NPCs, three of them would be the ideal number IMO.

    Another cool idea is that maybe there aren’t real spirits inside the weapon, but actually the fighter is just so obsessed with his/her weapon that he/she would swear that he/she can hear it talking to him/her (of course you would have to ask the player if he/she is fine with it)

  5. Unsolicited advice re: “not getting anywhere” … maybe you’re not turning the heat up on them enough? Raise the stakes. Apply Chandler’s Law liberally. Bad people do bad things and they don’t just wait around for good people to stop them.

  6. Are you using the fronts rules? They’re designed so that if the players don’t act, bad stuff comes to pass. I don’t want to be a hypocrite here, so I’ll acknowledge that I don’t really use them. But then my players are more than happy to take action. Bad guys shouldn’t just on their hands while the PCs prevaricate.

    What your story reminds me of if the Friends at the Table podcast. I’ve only listened to the first few episodes, but they’re also playing DW at a pretty leisurely pace. It’s still entertaining, but can drag a bit. It might be worth having a listen to compare and contrast with your game.

    Also: have you considered that DW just might not be the right game for your group? There are lots of other options, even within the pbta ruleset.

    (I realise that none of this addresses your specific question, sorry.)

  7. Thinking on this a bit more, I realised that even if I’m not using fronts by the book, I have had very explicit pacing mechanisms that serve the same purpose in place in all my games so far.

    Both of the one-shots I’ve run used in-fiction countdown clocks (in one I was dropping dice into a glass jug as a physical representation of the impending badness).

    In my campaigns, the pacing has come out of the initial narrative conceit. In one the PCs are in pursuit of a kidnapped prince, and so time is of the essence. In the other, their ship was caught in a supernatural storm, and they are stranded far from home with a leaky boat and little food.

    Sorry, for the ramble. Hope it’s of some use to hear how other people have done things.

  8. I’ve never had the problem of overly cautious players, so I can’t speak to that, but remember that whenever a players fails a roll, or you make a move for any other reason, you can ratchet up the tension. If the characters are chit chatting too long make something happen to move them along. It doesn’t need to be moving them towards combat, just MOVING.

    I like the multiple spirits idea and agree that 3 is probably plenty. The question that the spirits ask could also move them along, maybe as a hook to get the encounter started.

  9. My thanks to everyone who’s responded so far! If anyone is still reading this thread, I must admit I feel I could still do with some more specific advice on what kind of questions the spirits could be asking of the player. They are spirits of ancient dwarven ancestors — what could they possibly be asking my Fighter that would make sense in-fiction, and that would make the game more fun? (Jeremy Strandberg’s taunting questions are rather rhetorical — I fear I need a bit more than that…)

  10. Leo Breebaart The thing that comes to mind for dwarf spirits is questions relating to grudges. “When will you seek vengeance on the goblin lord who dwells in the halls of your ancestors?”, that kind of thing.

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