I would like a little advice. How do you handle monsters that try to ambush the PC’s?

Let’s say there is a kind of choke point in a mega-dungeon, and the monsters have rigged up a big cargo net to drop on the characters at that spot. It is well-hidden.

Now, how do you work up to the point where the PCs are either caught by the net or not?

* How much do you look for signals that the PCs are actively searching for ambush? (i.e. someone scouting ahead, using Trap Expert, explicitly saying they are checking the ceilings, etc.)

* How much would you base on a 6 or less roll on a move? (i.e. unless someone misses, they’ll not get caught)

* How much do you telegraph the ambush to prompt the PCs to even roll a move? Just walking down a hall doesn’t trigger any moves, right?

* How much to you just treat this as a hard move?

Any thoughts are appreciated. I’m up to almost 30 sessions of GMing DW now, and feel confident in almost all areas, but traps/ambushes are still a soft spot for me.

6 thoughts on “Ambushes”

  1. The simple answer: when they walk down the ambush corridor, describe the net falling and ask what do you do?

    Most people will try to step away, That’s a defy danger+DEX.

    If they are actively looking for ambush, it’s a Discern Reality roll. A great trick you can do is tell them you will continue the description of the area and they can ask the question whenever. That way the result of the DR feel organic. If they fail to ask all the questions before quitting this area/triggering another move, then too bad for them.

    All in all, it’s always super important that the fiction be clear between you and the players.

  2. An ambush doesn’t need a 6-. It’s a Golden Opportunity.

    You should probably foreshadow it a bit, or else the players will feel robbed of being able to make a decision.

    That said, I’m a fan of the “two things happen” approach.

    “As you’re boldly strolling down the eerily empty corridor, two things happen at once – you hear a twang and a whoosh from above, and clangs and thumps from in front and behind. Armed goblins pour into the corridor around you as a large weighted net comes crashing down. WHAT DO YOU DO?”

    Now they have a choice to make: flee the net right into the armed goblins, or take the net and try to cut themselves out or something to give them space to defend themselves.

  3. Ruminate on the ambush but don’t write it into the map yet. Wait for the opportunity to make a hard move, then insert the ambush into the blank you were careful to leave. The ambush could net all of them (maybe with a chance to defy danger to dodge or slash themselves free) or some of them (dividing them) or something/someone they have with them (take their stuff).

  4. Vincent Quigley, Aaron Griffin, Marshall Miller such good thoughts, thanks!

    Marshall your advice about leaving it blank is particularly important to me, because as this is a mega-dungeon crawl I am running right now (first time I have ever done such a thing in any system, really, not just DW) there is a tendency to fill in all the stuff in the notes before hand. Its good to be reminded to leave blanks.

  5. Here’s my copy-pasted answer from a previous, similar question of “how do you handle monsters attacking from stealth?” It’s mostly applicable, though obviously you’d change the details quite a bit to fit your fiction. (If I have time, I’ll write up a more specific response later).

    From this thread:


    First, you set the scene…

    “You step into the room, torches flickering. It’s long an narrow, with these deep cluttered shelves on either side and another door on the far end. The stuff on the shelves is super weird, like the collection of some deranged rag-n-bone man. Rusted tools, cracked religious icons, dolls, freaky idols, a dozen or so pots, a bunch of vials and bottles of who-knows-what.”

    Then you make a soft move, most likely show signs of an approaching threat or point to a looming threat. Do something that builds tension.

    “As your torchlight passes over these things, you could swear you see something move out of the corner of your eye. When you glance back, something is missing. Wasn’t there a creepy little frog-man statue there a second ago? What do you do?”

    Now you follow the player’s actions.

    Do they look more closely at the shelves, trying to find where it went? Roll Discern Realities. On a miss, they get a face-full of homonculus stinger. If they get a 7-9 and ask “what should I be on the lookout for,” your answer is the darting shadowing shape scurrying away from your light, and did that thing have a scorpion tail? If they ask “what is about to happen?” you answer that with them spotting the homunculus again, just as it’s about to pounce, what do you do?

    If they ignore the soft move, that’s a golden opportunity. Maybe it waits and pounces on the last PC to leave the room. Maybe it follows them for another couple rooms and then appears.

    If they do something else, like Spout Lore about this stuff on the shelves, a 6- is a perfect moment to reveal the threat they’ve ignored, again with a face-full of homunculus stinger.

  6. This is the way we have been handling it . . . Probably not exactly the way the game designers would do it, but it seems to work for us.

    First I describe the scene and environment and drop a few clues about the area being perfect for an ambush, without actually saying the word “ambush”.

    If they ignore it, then they are giving me a golden opportunity. Their enemies get the drop on them and attack. Typically, the lead character or characters are going to take damage, no way around it (Hard move). Depending on the fiction, the rest of the party might take damage or if it makes more sense, give them the opportunity to defy danger.

    If they decide to go on high alert, I borrow from the take watch move. I ask the character in the lead to roll+Wisdom. *On a 10+, they detect the ambush in time to warn the party and manage to gain the upper hand on their advesaries. Everyone in the party takes +1 forward. *On a 7-9, they detect the ambush, but neither side gains the upper hand. *On a 6-, they walk right into it, and their enemy gains the upper hand. Everyone in the party takes -1 forward.

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