Kicking around a rewrite of Parley for #Stonetop. Feedback appreciated!

Kicking around a rewrite of Parley for #Stonetop. Feedback appreciated!

Kicking around a rewrite of Parley for #Stonetop. Feedback appreciated!

Originally shared by Jeremy Strandberg

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!):

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.

20 thoughts on “Kicking around a rewrite of Parley for #Stonetop. Feedback appreciated!”

  1. The change of the trigger is interesting, though I still would not discount the concept of leverage so easily. The reason why leverage is necessary is, in my opinion, to prevent social moves from becoming a Jedi Mind Trick; if you roll high enough, the NPC does what you ask. But realistically, people don’t do things that go against their own interests without reason. That’s why you need leverage.

    The “tell me how” caveat you added was a good idea, since I could see players trying to trigger this move too much, for the above reason. With regards to the move, here’s one more option to add for 7-9:

    “They react as you hoped, but their actions will be in a way that benefits themselves more.”

    Alternatively, you could take Johnstone’s move and apply your “What will it take” list. So, I think it would look like this:

    When you endeavor to change an NPC’s mind, say what you’re hoping for and roll+CHA. *On a 10+, the GM chooses one from the list, they’ll do it if you meet that request first. *On a 7-9, the GM chooses two, and you must meet them both.

    Violence or a credible threat

    An offer of something they want or need, or a way to get it

    Convincing evidence of _____

    A chance to do it safely/freely/discretely

    Your help or participation in something else

    A promise, oath, or vow

    A bribe or gift

    Pressure or permission from their peers

  2. I have a problem with the second 10+ result. It feels like a 7-9 result to me, as if the GM is taking a clear success away from the player. I would, instead, allow the GM to state whether you need leverage or not ahead of the roll, and add a 12+ result that works even without leverage. (The 10+ working if no leverage was needed or if you have leverage.)

  3. I love it at first brush, and the “What Will It Take?” sidebar looks especially useful for the table. Thanks!

    My only misgiving at first is the 7–9 option “someone else reacts poorly”. That suggests that on a 10+, no one else, maybe no one in the world, would react poorly to the bargain. That seems infeasible, but maybe I’m not thinking of the move in the right context.

    Suppose I persuade Vinny the Snitch to fork over details about the Thieves Guild. Whether he tells me the schedule and staffing of their headquarters or reveals grim portents, it seems like there are a lot of people in the organization who would not be happy about this, right?

  4. John Stephens ah! That was meant to be someone on the scene who reacts poorly. You’ve got a point though; that could and maybe should be entirely based on the fiction. I mean, if try to get the Devil to help me out by offering him the Bard’s soul (true story, BTW) then the Bard at least is going to take it poorly. Hmm.

  5. Ray Otus That second result is sort of the point of the revision (and Johnstone’s initial beef, which I think is solid analysis). Determining whether your approach constitutes leverage prior to triggering the roll means a lot of discussion and consideration and decision making before we even go to the dice.

    And if I’ve got the leverage, and we all agree that it’s leverage, and you’re using it to manipulate them, then what’s the point of the roll? Yes, yes… not everyone is as persuasive or as commanding or as confident, but the interesting stuff has largely been resolved.

    Similarly, that second choice on the 10+ is what prevents the move from being a Jedi Mind Trick. You give it a go using the angle that first occurs to you, and if you’re a charming SOB then they might not do what you want but you’ll get a handle on them that you can (maybe) exploit later. If you’re a little less charming, maybe it gets out of hand or maybe the turn it back on you.

  6. That’s a good explanation. I would have to see it in play some to see if I agree fully, but I understand where you are going with the design. Part of me just itches when I see a 10 that’s doesn’t look like a success. But I think there may be precedents and you could argue that it’s still a success. (No real drawback or negative.)

  7. So, the 10+ throws the decision back to the GM? It sounds like the options are either 1) The GM decides what is offered is sufficient, and they react as you hoped, or 2) the GM decides that it is not sufficient, but they tell you what would be.

  8. I’ve been mulling it over more. If you want to steer away from Jedi Mind Trick, I’d suggest revising the trigger.

    “When you endeavor to change an NPC’s mind…”

    “Endeavor” is a fancy word for “try”, and it doesn’t suggest any specifics. All of the basic and special moves have more concrete triggers than that, and most are triggered by a specific action. (To be fair, Parley’s “manipulate someone” trigger isn’t nearly as specific as H&S or Defend.)

    “Endeavoring to change someones mind” seems like it could be just about anything, and it almost reads as if it’s the intention (to change someones mind) that triggers it. That would be a Jedi Mind Trick.

    Without Jedi powers, changing someone’s mind could be the effort of a manipulative spiel, a round of drinks, or an entire mission, quest, or campaign.

    “How do you do that” is always an option for clarifying any ambiguity, but a more definite and concrete trigger can help bring focus to the action and make it easier to bring it into play. I like the trigger from Johnstone’s move: “When you demand something of someone”—that leaves little room for ambiguity.

    If you want to leave scope for something more subtle than a “demand”, you could put an array of verbs: “When you beg, ask, hint, or demand something from a GM character…”

    I hope this helps! All of this is because I appreciate what you’re doing.

  9. John Stephens funny! Johnstone had similar on the original thread. Here’s my response to him:


    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!


    Your suggestion of “beg, ask, hint, or demand” might be the right direction, though it’s prone to parsing. Like, where does an impassioned speech fit in?

    I was just tinkering some more, and hit on “When you influence an NPC’s toughts or actions…” It’s vague enough to allow for a great variety of approaches, but implies that doing something that can in fact be influential.

    The danger, of course, is wording that implies success prior to the roll, which leads back to the “do you have leverage” question.


  10. I may reply further another time, but I had a quick thought about this: “Like, where does an impassioned speech fit in?”

    As a web designer, something I think about on any given page is helping the visitor identify what they are looking for and choose their next action. Part of that is creating a “call to action”, often a trail of “calls to action”.

    Persuasive speeches and writing have calls to action too. Calls to action can be subtle or overt. The art of rhetoric is making your call to action sticky through reasoning, emotional, and moral appeals (or their diabolical surrogates and opposites). But a subtle call to action given with a come-hither look can be every bit as persuasive as overt entreaties, demands, or threats.

    I don’t know exactly how to put that in a trigger, though. Maybe: “When you urge an NPC to do what you want…”?

  11. To me, the problem with the trigger is that is sidesteps the fiction for situations in which it would be totally reasonable to change the person’s mind without a roll.

    If the players offer a deal that the npc would be eager to take, then roll a 6-, it jars continuity to me. It forces you to leave “what would change their mind” up in the air until after the roll. Id be tempted toward something like,

    When you try to change their mind, ask the Gm what it would take; give it to them or roll.

    But this is a bigger drift that gives the players a lot of free info

Comments are closed.