When the players make all the GM moves against themselves?
After another pulse-and-pulp-pounding session of Planets Collide, I can finally share some of the stuff that has been a long time boiling in my campaign.
But first, here’s a new thing: This session, almost all my GM moves were provoked by misses and golden opportunities. Usually, I’m making GM moves left and right, snowballing the moves, which pushes the players to take decisive action.
This time, the setup gave them a few charged situations and it was the players who escalated and ratcheted up their own tension.
The party was so overwhelmed by the weight of the choices before them, and so conflicted about what to do, that they spent much of the session laboring and disputing in character about their power and responsibility.
It did trigger their moves, which gave me a string of misses to deliver hard moves with. (They don’t always bring their own dice, and they blame my dice for the heavy hits they endure, and consequent XP gains.)
And sometimes their deliberations triggered golden opportunity moves, as the fiction changed around them. There were also times when they looked to find out what happens, but the intra-character conflict was coming so thick that I didn’t make nearly so many moves with that prompt. I mainly had to interrupt a few times to show how the world didn’t stop because of them.
The upshot is: The tension still reached a crescendo and prompted decisive action from every player. Each adventurer not only had a character-defining moment, but those moments changed the campaign irreversibly.
Previously, there was a witch who took the Bard’s heart.
✴The Bard just watched while the witch used his heart to kill Death right in front of him.
✴The Ranger shattered a relic that could destroy that same witch, in order to break the lock on the Black Gate. The dead were crowded outside, unable to enter—including the Barbarian’s ward, who was killed last session.
✴The Bard donned Death’s golden crown, taking the role of Death in Last Breath from now on.
✴The Barbarian, who vowed to put the Bard’s head on a stick for his past betrayals, demanded the crown, and then repeatedly backed down when he refused.
✴At the moment of highest tension, the Druid used Death’s abacus to restore the Barbarian’s child to life. But the Barbarian’s closest NPC ally fell dead in her place.
✴And then, the Druid gave Death’s abacus back to the Bard, while telling him to his face that he is not worthy to hold it!
✴The Bard left in disgust through the Black Gate, as it opened to take the Barbarian’s ally.
✴And the Ranger followed him through the Gate!
As the GM, I’m usually a lot more involved in bringing the danger. I can hardly believe how much tension and drama there was while I exercised such restraint in making GM moves.
Here are the custom moves I brought to this session. Each was based on the situation in the fiction before we began:
But now the situation is so different. 😉