My group played another session last night, and on the whole things went pretty well.

My group played another session last night, and on the whole things went pretty well.

My group played another session last night, and on the whole things went pretty well. One thing I was a bit unsure of in retrospect is when the wizard decided to investigate a vial of mysterious green oil they had found earlier. He described in detail how he was holding the vial to the light, sloshing the liquid, unscrewing the top, carefully wafting and smelling the air above the opening, etc.

This seemed to me like a clear Discern Realities trigger, so he rolled, it was a 10+ — and at that point I of course realised that it was pretty much impossible for me to, within the fiction, describe how the answers to his three questions would map to something that could come to him from investigating that vial of oil. In the end, I decided to go with:

– Q: What here is useful? A: This oil will give you defensive lizard scales if you rub it on your skin.

– Q: What is about to happen? A: It is a very ethereal oil, so better get the vial closed again or it will all evaporate before you know it!

– Q: What should I be on the lookout for? A: Don’t ever apply this to your eyes or other body orifices, not unless you want a mouthful of reptile hide…

Fictionally not too bad, I suppose, and the players were satisfied — but the more I think about it, the more it annoys me.

Should DR not have been triggered? Would you have chosen other ways of answering these questions? How do you guys handle these kinds of DR rolls?

10 thoughts on “My group played another session last night, and on the whole things went pretty well.”

  1. I’ll repeat what I always say here: if you think of Discern Realities as “Read A Sitch” all the questions suddenly make sense.

    The player wasn’t “reading a charged situation”, they were investigating something. So, mechanically, this means the player is doing something and looking to you to see what happens. That’s a trigger for a GM move, so…

    reveal an unwelcome truth – you can easily tell by the bits of skin and bone, the goo was once human…

    show signs of an approaching threat – you notice a whole bunch of it around the rim of… a grate? They poured it into the sewers! It must be all throughout the city now.

    deal damage – it sloshes on you and sizzles and burns… you can see bone! Take 7 damage.

    use up their resources – it sloshes out and lands in your hip pouch. What was in there? It’s now useless.

    give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities – it’s herbal, natural in some way. The ranger might be able to make something of it, perhaps if you had all the ingredients she could figure out how it’s made.

    offer an opportunity, with or without cost – hmm it smells sweet, and all your senses are saying to drink it. What do you do?

    Etc etc etc

  2. Contrary to Aaron Griffin, I think this is probably a fine place for Discern Realities. There is a situation, right? The situation is: you’ve got this vial of unknown stuff, probably in a dangerous location, and they’re studying it closely.

    Now, before triggering the roll, I might clarify intent: “Are you, like, seeing if this is something you know about? Or are you trying to discern its properties through investigation?” Then trigger Spout Lore or Discern Realities as appropriate.

    Assuming they are Discerning Realities, remember that the move isn’t magical; you don’t owe them anything that they couldn’t somehow perceive or deduce. With that in mind (and luxury of time to think about it), I’d answer like so:

    1) What here is useful or valuable to me? Well, it sure seems to be some sort of magical salve or ointment… it’s too thick to drink, and the way the colors shift… sure doesn’t seem natural, right? At the very least, this would be valuable to a collector or a merchant of arcane stuff.

    2) What is about to happen? Huh? Well, are you willing to dab a little on your finger? Yeah? Okay… as soon as you do, the flesh hardens, thickens… holy crap, it just sprouted scales! So what would happen if you applied that all over, huh? (Notice that with this one, I asked if they were willing to take a specific action to get this answer. If they said ‘no,’ I’d probably respond with something like ‘there’s no real way to answer that without applying it so something.” Depending on how much I felt like the player trusted me, and how much they were comfortable with this sort of thing, I might just presume and say that yeah, they dabbed a little on their finger, because it’s a hit and I’m not actually doing them harm, right?)

    3) What should I be on the lookout for? Well, it’s not at all certain what this affect actually is, right? Like, it didn’t hurt your finger… you can still feel, though it’s a little deadened. But, like, will it just make you scaly? Will it turn you into a lizard? What happens if you get it in your mouth or something like that? (Notice here I’m just telling them the logical follow up of their lack of information. There’s only so much that this sort of tentative experimentation can do.)

    I might also follow up by offering an opportunity and be like “Did you maybe study this sort of thing as an apprentice? Want to Spout Lore about it?”

  3. Thanks for the answers. Upon further reflection I think my instinct still sides a bit more with Jeremy Strandberg than with Aaron Griffin — it really felt like a DR trigger, rather than just an opportunity for a GM Move. I also like the idea that investigating an object closely through DR can lead to a Spout Lore as a follow-up, or that I could ‘transfer’ the situation to a class that’s better suited to it.

  4. Leo Breebaart is it possible you just wanted dice to resolve how you answer? I found myself shoe horning DR into a lot of situations, simply because I wanted dice involved.

  5. Aaron Griffin Fair point. It’s not so much that I want the dice involved myself, but that I am always happy if my players “roleplay in the fiction” in general, and trigger Moves based on fiction in particular (which are things that as relative newbies they still have some trouble with), so perhaps I was too eager to support the player’s obvious attempt to DR here.

    On the other hand, I really like DR as tool for storytelling, because in our games I find it generally works quite well to propel the fiction in interesting directions that the players buy into, because with the DR questions (and whatever they do to trigger it) they feel more involved with it themselves. This as opposed to them just looking at me saying “what’s the deal with oil, huh?”, and me then making GM moves which often come across (to these players) as arbitrary and not-fun.

    So for example, I think the fairly hard “use up their resources” GM Move you proposed above in response to them merely investigating the vial, would sit very badly with my players.

    But now that I think of it, maybe that is actually a problem with my style of GM’ing. I tend to be a very neutral GM, who patiently answers tons of player questions, but I don’t really make hard moves (or even that many soft moves), until they really are ready to have their characters take some physical action. Which they therefore tend to do only after they’ve milked me (or the NPC I’m playing) for all the information I’m willing to give.

    If I start using the “whenever they look at you” more as a trigger for GM moves, it could well speed up our sessions a bit (still at the risk of alienating the players. I need to talk this over with them).

    But then on on the third tentacle me being much more generous then I was in the past with basic information and answers and clues has in fact already sped up the sessions, and increased player enjoyment a lot. Presumably I need to find some sort of balance here…

    Thanks for the food for thought!

  6. Leo Breebaart​​ just remember that GM moves don’t always need to be bad. “Is there anything in the desk?” might lead you to think… well I hadn’t really thought about that, I bet the Dean would have kept important paperwork… And whiskey in there “there’s a lot of papers, some in sealed envelopes, and a bottle of expensive whiskey” (give them an opportunity, without cost)

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