Draft: Parley (Rewritten)

Draft: Parley (Rewritten)

Draft: Parley (Rewritten)

Short version: Here’s my stab at rewriting Parley to be more applicable, flexible, and useful in Dungeon World. Comments and feedback appreciated!

Longer version:

A few weeks ago, Johnstone Metzger posted a really insightful discussion of how Parley has problems:

I end up having to think about whether a PC actually has leverage or not. … [N]ot considering leverage very thoroughly can result in NPCs doing things for reasons that don’t actually make sense, but if I actually take the time to think about whether or not the weird, inhuman NPC could be swayed or not, rolling for parley feels like an extraneous obstacle because I’ve already decided what should probably happen. In essence, it asks for a great deal of decision-making to happen in the time right before the roll, instead of after. And then I’ve already decided the leverage is either no good, or enough that the NPC should just say yes, and either one can make Charisma seem like an extraneous, useless stat.

You can read the whole thing here (and if you haven’t already, you should!): https://plus.google.com/+JohnstoneMetzger/posts/1aGUjQTU6Nc

Sure enough, I’ve had plenty of trouble with Parley myself. I’m consistently finding that it doesn’t trigger when we think it should, or we just decide that it’s Defy Danger with CHA, or we struggle to resolve the promise/concrete assurance outcomes.

I’ve tinkered with alternatives before, but never found anything I though was substantially better. But the idea from Freebooting Venus, of using a Ritual-style list of requirements/consequences… that struck a cord. And the idea that the attempt to provoke a reaction could reveal said requirements… that really got me thinking.

Plus, I wanted it to be clearer that the PC’s attempt to persuade the NPCs, the thing that triggers the role, it might be enough by itself.

So, here’s an attempt at doing that. Feedback appreciated!

Bonus: this revision still works with playbook moves like “When you Parley using threats or intimidation, roll STR instead of CHA.” (It doesn’t really work with moves that are like “your approval always counts as leverage,” but I’m okay with that because I think moves like that are bad.) It also keeps moves like I am the Law or Charming and Open still viable. I am the Law provides a specific, reliable way of provoking specific reactions from anyone, and Charming and Open lets you learn things without trying to manipulate someone.

Bonus 2: You could make this move work PC vs. PC pretty easily, just replacing the GM with the target PC’s player. The target PC’s player would have to play their character with integrity, but I think that’s a fair assumption to make.


27 thoughts on “Draft: Parley (Rewritten)”

  1. I’ve been thinking about this move recently as well. In my case for a hack of The Sprawl’s Fast Talk. Right now someone finds out about your lie on a 7-9, but I want to swing it that someone will find out if you don’t meet the NPC’s requirement. I like the list of options you have there on the sidebar.

    The only thing that rubs me weird is the GM picking on a 7-9. I know that is standard in DW and AW, with go aggro and manipulate. I guess i’d want another if statement in the player facing move to inform them?


    “on 7-9…

    If you offered enough they react as you hoped but its messy. PC choose 1:

    not for long

    take it too far

    someone else reacts badly

    If you offered too little, NPC will make a counter offer… PC decides to accept it or move on.”

    Just my thoughts. Nice layout.

  2. That’s a nice list of requirements, I’ll probably have to steal a few. “Endeavour” feels just a little vague to me. Still looks functional, I could use it in play and all that, but stylistically I generally prefer something that seems more like a concrete action, like “when you state your case to an NPC” or something. No other criticism though, and I’d like to hear about how it goes for you in actual play.

  3. I like the move. I can’t quite follow the pronouns in the options sidebar text. They seem like they’re written as if the player would be reading them but the sidebar is addressing the GM. As it’s sidebar text I think it would be clearer with actual nouns or rephrased to remove pronouns. E.g. Instead of “Your help or participation” either “The PC’s help or participation” or just “Help or participation”.

  4. Johnstone Metzger yeah, I struggled with the trigger a lot. “Endeavor” is definitely a bit wishy washy, but the vagueness is somewhat intentional. A nice specific trigger like “demand something of someone” or “state your case to an NPC” or “provoke a reaction” all serve to limit the use cases of the move, and I’d love to find something that’d cover any and all of the following:

    * Chatting up the duke’s man in a pub, to get him to trust/like/confide in you

    * Coming at the goblins like death incarnate and hoping they’ll scatter before you

    * Spending a few weeks doing genuinely nice things for the town matron in hopes that she’ll forgive you

    * Strutting/gliding across the ballroom and giving the mark your best come-hither eyes, hoping they follow you to somewhere a little more private

    * Trying to distract the guard with a little flirtation

    * Pretending to be a bumbling drunkard to get the town watch to ignore you

    If you can come up with a trigger that hits all of those and is still nice and specific, I’m all ears, man!

  5. Yes, covering all those possibilities is a tall order. In the move I intended to cover similar territory, I simply called it “seize an opportunity to sway someone”. (“Seize an opportunity” is then explained as a significant part of the trigger – you can’t just try this any old time, you must do something to grab their attention or find a time when they might naturally do so.)

    I’ve also just come from a Monsterhearts game, and I was surprised by how effective the Manipulate an NPC move is. That accomplishes much of the same effect in a pretty effective way. It might be interesting to see what it (or the Demand Something from Someone) move is missing, and start to design from there.

  6. Yeah, the problem is you want an all-purpose “social” move here and there’s no genre constraints to guide you. I’m actually not sure even “endeavour to change an NPC’s mind” covers all of those situations.

    In my current designs I favour stuff like a split between “draw someone out during an interaction” to collect information about them vs. “make someone an offer and gove them a reason to take it” when it comes to influence. Obviously, if they have no reason not to take it, they do what you want, and if they do have a reason not to do what you want (i.e. they have to decide between accept and refuse) that’s when you roll. Or I split “attract attention” off from one or both of these two, or instead of “make an offer” I use “when you do someone a favour and ask for a favour in return.” But those are also decisions based on genre constraints.

    “Present someone with a call to action” might work, except distracting someone is more of a call to inaction and switching to “present your case” sounds too much like you’re making an argument. Like, really the only thing that covers all those situations is “having a single social influence move in your rpg” but even using the words “When you influence someone socially” or “in a social context” can be inaccurate when “coming at the goblins like death incarnate” fits the legal definition of assault.

    “When you try to influence an NPC’s behaviour through coercion, deception, favours, fellowship, gifts, intimidation, manipulation, or persuasion” might cover everything, but it’s also pretty long, and still feels like all I really did was write a wordy version of “endeavour to influence an NPC.” I do like the word influence though!

  7. For a “dungeon crawl”-type game, I could see having two moves, one for opening negotiations and another for closing them.

    The first would be all about engaging someone in conversation, instead of fighting – “Can you get those weird creatures to be willing to talk?”

    The second would be about sealing a deal or reaching an agreement. (With friendly humans, you could start with this one right away, but it would be explicitly about offering and deal-making.)

  8. Paul Taliesin yeah, I’ve been thinking about that, too. Given how much of DW is homage to old school D&D, I’m retroactively surprised that Sage and Adam (and Tony Dowler in the earliest versions) never included a Reaction Check move.

    Anyone want to try writing a trigger for Reaction Check (the Move)?

  9. Jeremy Strandberg isn’t that just a Defy Danger with Charisma? The danger being situational (they may attack, they may not help, they may not sell to you)

  10. Aaron Griffin Maybe? Probably? I think it depends on how you wrote up the results. If it was “10+ they talk” and “7-9 they talk but…”, then yeah, it’d be the same as Defy Danger w/CHA.

    But maybe it doesn’t have to be that way? It could be that on a 7-9 they talk and on a 10+ you (or the GM) pick 1 of two or three things (they’re well-disposed, you get some info, etc.)… well, that’d be a different move for sure. And it might lead players into leading with words instead in swords.

  11. I like the sound of that, Jeremy Strandberg! What excites me about the idea is fooling around with the trigger of the move. Perhaps doing some funky stuff with positioning so as to get to roll it could become a big game feature. For instance, I know I can’t parley with the cannibals in the upper caves – they hate our kind. But maybe if we dress up as Orcs and bring them a form of tribute, we could get them into a parley, instead?

    Depending on how you set it up, you could get that kind of thing happening.

    Ultimately, though, that sounds more dungeon crawley and less Dungeon Worldy (which is more adventure and less dungeon crawl, I would say).

  12. Jeremy Strandberg very nice! It definitely feels like this move supports a wider range of social interactions than vanilla DW does, and the social interactions it posits feel more complex/real than just “do you have something they want”.

    For playtesting (My group is starting next week! Very excited!!) are you interested in seeing how this draft move works out in play, or would you rather I stick to the original Parley?

  13. The main weakness of this move is precisely the same thing which it takes as its strength:

    By giving the GM/MC wide latitude in determining whether the attempt might sway the NPC, it takes itself out of equation. This is good when what you want is to be true to the fiction; it’s not good when you want some “feedback” from the move, or when you want to “disclaim decision-making”.

    It forces the MC to do that themselves, with less support.

    However, I really like how your 7-9 options create some room for compromise results. There’s a lot of potential here!

  14. Paul Taliesin the compromise results on a 7-9 could be swapped in pretty easily into the standard Parley move. For example:

    When you have leverage on an NPC and manipulate them, roll+CHA. Leverage is something they need, want, or fear. On a 10+, they’ll do what you want; on a 7-9, they’ll do what you want but the GM picks one:

    * They take it too far/get it wrong/soon revert to form

    * They stall, take their time, or drag their feet

    * They need some concrete assurance from you first

    That doesn’t fix the “decide if this counts as leverage before the roll” issue.

  15. So, another thing that’s bugging me… and maybe this is just pedantry: the name of the move is “Parley.” But a parley is a specific thing:

    “a discussion or conference”; “to speak, talk, or confer.”

    “an informal conference between enemies under a truce, especially to discuss terms, conditions of surrender, etc.”

    “a conference with an enemy”

    It’s a discussion, a conference, probably fraught. A prelude to violence or a way to prevent it. It’s not “manipulating someone” (though might happen when you parley, sure).

    This really does make me me want to envision a Parley move as some sort of “enter a charged conversation.” Hmm.

  16. Yes, my reading (as someone who hasn’t played DW) is that it’s really about negotiating with monsters or other significant characters: you’re making offers and cutting deals in a tense negotiation.

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