Custom move for rallying the troops

Custom move for rallying the troops

Custom move for rallying the troops

Hi all,

I’m a fairly new GM, both to DW and RPGs in general. I’ll be having my third DW session soon, and was wondering if I could get some input on a custom move (if you’re Jonathan or David, stop reading this now!)

At some point, I expect my PCs to try to rally a group of soldiers to fight a big baddy. Thing is, the baddy will have announced that he’s sent his own minions to the place where the soldiers’ families are staying. Knowing my players, I think they’ll try to argue that the soldiers should stick around and help kill the big baddie because then his minions will also die (he’s magic that way), thus saving their families. But that’s a risk, since they don’t know for sure the minions will croak along with their master. Here’s the move I came up with:

When you rally the troops in the face of threat and terror, roll+CHA. On a 10+, the soldiers’ wills are steeled. On a 7-9, you must promise them that their families won’t be harmed. If your promise isn’t kept, the soldiers will hate you permanently. On a 6-, most of them flee.

The idea for this is that, if the PCs get a partial success, they have to reassure their allies that everything will be OK — not knowing that it will be. And if they gamble wrong, there will be permanent consequences, and the quest won’t turn out as well as they’d hoped.

What do you guys think?

6 thoughts on “Custom move for rallying the troops”

  1. Personally, I’d be in favor of just calling for a Defy Danger with CHA on the fly if they try to convince the troops to rally using their words. This gives you more flexibility to adapt the partial/miss cases based on the fiction at that moment. For instance, what if the PCs end up creating an obstacle to keep the NPCs from fleeing? How do they respond then? Be careful not to plan the outcomes of your moves too explicitly or you may find it difficult to incorporate them into the narrative.

    In general, I think a good custom move inspires interesting choices rather than tightly constraining outcomes. You want to find the right balance between providing creative fuel for the narrative and inadvertently building yourself an awkward element that you have to try to jam in where it might not fit.

  2. I think this isn’t a good time for a custom move, but rather a good time for you to think about the motivations, fears, personalities, and politics if the NPCs, and the GM moves you might make to manifest them.

    When you make a custom move, it’s locking you in to a particular way of resolving an issue. Sometimes that’s exactly what you want. It’s nice to have a standard, preplanned way to address the sorcerer’s mind control or the basilisk’s petrifying gaze.

    Here, though, you’ve got a complex, dynamic, fraught situation that has a bazillion possible solutions. Rallying the troops is one way they might do it. But they might also seek out the leaders and try to convince them. Or read the group of soldiers and try to identify what will convince them to fight, and then lean on that. Hell, they could threaten to kurder the soldiers’ families themselves if they won’t fight.

    “They want or need reassurance that their families will be safe, and if you goadir force them into fighting without addressing that they’ll resent it, and if they lose their loved ones as a result, they’ll never forgive you.” I think that’s a fantastic insight. But you don’t need a custom move to express it. You should express it through your descriptions, your GM moves, your answers to Duscern Realities questions, etc. Then follow the PCs actions and use Parley and Defy Danger and other moves as they are triggered.

  3. Awesome, thanks so much for your comments. I do have a tendency to try to script certain things because I want them to be as cool for my players as they are in my head, but I know it’s a bad tendency.

  4. I like it, but I agree with what Jeremy Strandberg and Dan Bryant are saying. MOST of the time when I go to make a custom move I look at the basic moves first and see if there’s one similar to what I’m trying to accomplish. In this case, it’s DD with CHA as Dan said.

    Also, similar to what Jeremy said, writing that move pre-supposes that they’ll try to rally the troops. Maybe they won’t, and maybe something will happen that kills the troops before the PC’s ever get a chance to rally them. Maybe something will be said or done that makes you decide at the last minute that the baddy has ALREADY sent his minions and destroyed the families in an attempt to completely demoralize the troops.

    Now I’m interested to see how that plays out lol. Keep us posted!

  5. Since y’all asked, here’s how it played out:

    During the previous session, my PCs made a deal with a local baron to get rid of some bandits. The baron sent one of his lackeys along to keep tabs on them. But when they found the bandit camp, they discovered that the reason the bandits had turned to banditry was because the baron had conscripted all the fighting-age men in his barony for the king’s new war. These men refused, and turned outlaw instead. So the PCs agreed to help the bandits kill the baron, instead, and the paladin killed the baron’s lackey to keep him from blabbing (he’s a strange paladin).

    This session, they came back to the city where the baron lived. They tried to bargain their way through the front gate, but were instead directed to a secret entrance that led through an undercroft beneath the castle’s chapel. Here’s where things got interesting. The PCs brought all the bandits with them into the dungeon.

    I had expected it to be two adventurers against a handful of zombies (did I mention the baron was actually being controlled by a necromancer, and that the “conscripted” men had been turned undead?). Instead, it was two adventurers and 100 bandits against what I then decided was about a dozen zombies. Needless to say, they did really well, but a few of the bandits got bitten and turned into zombies themselves. By the time they got out of the undercroft, they’d lost about 20 bandits.

    Then they stormed the castle. Here, the necromancer (who turned out to be known to the paladin) told them that the lackey the PCs had killed was — surprise! — also undead. Once the PCs had left the bandit camp (where the bandits’ families had been living, too), Mr. Lackey got up and opened the gate, letting a bunch of zombies in. It was essentially the PCs’ original plan, but in reverse. The PCs found a note basically explaining the necromancer’s plan in the undercroft so that they would have a sense of the stakes when the time to make a choice came.

    The necromancer, faced with this bandit army, told them that, if they fought him, he would have his zombies kill their families. Like I guessed, the PCs tried to persuade the bandits to stay and fight. I had the bard roll Defy Danger+CHA, and he got a partial success, so I had the lead bandit make him promise that their families would be OK, which he did.

    The PCs defeated the necromancer and, afterward, discovered that the baron had been dead for some time. One of the bandits suggested that the bard could try being baron. He accepted.

    Now, though, they have to deal with the fact that the necromancer did indeed kill many of the townsfolk’s families. His rulership is off to a rocky start.

    Thanks for all your help, I’m glad I used Defy Danger instead of a custom move!

  6. Looks good! There are a lot of times when I’ll spend an hour or so working on a custom move and then ask myself if it could be accomplished with Defy Danger (or a slight variation) or a variation of Discern Realities. I need to ask myself that BEFORE I spend an hour working on it LOL, because often (for me at least) those are the basic moves I end up altering the most to fit a situation.

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