Last Breath Questions and Revelations
A few weeks ago we had a character bite it, and when the player heard Death’s offer, he wanted to make a counter-offer.
In that moment, my judgment was that Last Breath doesn’t let you Parley with Death. And besides, making Death an offer on Last Breath is an advantage explicitly granted to the Barbarian class, and it would devalue that class a little to let anyone do it.
Have you ever had players bargain back with Death during the Last Breath move? What did you do?
The player rejected Death’s offer, but after the session I got to thinking that the offer I gave was kind of lame, on the verge of not being a fan of the character. We decided to “re-shoot” the scene with a more interesting offer. Mistakes can be corrected.
It taught me a lesson, though: No matter what has happened before in play, the 7–9 result on Last Breath has an unstated requirement: Death wants the character alive for some reason.
Maybe that’s obvious to everyone else who ever read the move, but events in play really pushed the boundaries this time.
That requirement was blurry to me in the moment, because this character had cheated Death repeatedly, gave his heart to a witch to further escape Death, and later even stood by idly while the witch “killed” Death. It has been an ongoing drama in throughout the campaign, and I couldn’t help seeing the 7–9 bargain in that perspective.
But looking at it from the perspective of “Death wants this character alive” immediately suggested a much more interesting bargain.
This reminds me of something else I notice in every Dungeon World game I’ve played for more than 1 session: Death’s “agenda” comes up a lot, because of the Last Breath move: Who makes it (by sheer chance)? Who doesn’t make it (by sheer chance)? What offers does Death make? What gets narrated about the Black Gate and the world beyond?
I’ve given Death a different persona in every campaign, sometimes more or less fleshed out through these encounters. But Death’s “agenda”, whatever it is, always tends to come into focus based on how the questions above shake out—through chance and through the offers—and even become a major theme of the campaign.
Is finding out Death’s interests an inevitable feature of the Last Breath move, in your experience?
Have you played Dungeon World in which the Last Breath move (as written) came up more than once without Death’s interests becoming focal, at least as a subtext of the campaign?