Any opinions on having players make moves without telling them the outcomes right away?

Any opinions on having players make moves without telling them the outcomes right away?

Any opinions on having players make moves without telling them the outcomes right away?

I’m thinking of, for example, what would happen if the players inhaled spores from a mind-controlling plant. A custom move might be:

When you inhale mind-control spores, roll+con. On a 10+, you’re fine and immune to further infection. On a 7-9, you’re not infected but you’re not immune. On a 6-, you’re infected.

If the PCs don’t know they’ve been infected by a mind-control plant, telling them would ruin that. On the other hand, it takes away a bit of their agency.

How would y’all handle this?

12 thoughts on “Any opinions on having players make moves without telling them the outcomes right away?”

  1. I would tell them. Just let them know the intention of the mind-controlling agency and they can RP as mind-controlled. Or give them -1 ongoing for anything other than what the control wants from them. I don’t think DW works without complete player agency.

  2. I created a custom move in a Monster of the Week game where the characters either resisted (10+), picked between taking harm and giving me 1 hold (7-9), or giving me 3 hold.

    Whenever I spent hold, they did what I told them to do, but between me spending hold, they acted normally. It felt like a good trade off between taking away agency and adding in the trope of being mind controlled.

    It also communicated to them that I had a currency that I was spending to control them, and it would eventually run out.

  3. I’ll disagree. Just because you’re spending hold doesn’t mean you’re not taking away agency. I get that mind control is a trope, but prefer Jason Cordova ‘s method of offering an XP to take the suggested action. If that’s not heavy enough, -1 ongoing to do anything except what the controlling entity wants to do would certainly pack a punch. Simply saying “your character does this because I spent a hold” would make me leave the table, and not want to play a game with that GM again. See also:

    Edit/update: to address your specific issue, I think adults should be able to play with a “writers room approach”, where we can have player knowledge that’s not character knowledge. Example: PC Bob encounters strange plant. Soft variant: “what does Bob sense that lets him know this plant is dangerous in a psychic / telepathic / mid-controlling way? What do you do? [give him a chance to just run away]” Hard variant (or if they don’t run away): You inhale some [weird smelling] spores, roll plus con. Read the move as is. Let them know how “mind control” works, mechanically (preferably with the dangling XP or -1 ongoing method), play to find out what happens.

  4. Charles Gatz I definitely wouldn’t use a mind control monster with a player I hadn’t played with before. But my players and I are friends, we tend to hang out outside of gaming, and I think everyone knows everyone else is acting in good faith at the table. I think that’s necessary for a move like this.

    Edit: In general, I think DW is a game that kind of requires everyone to act in good faith because the rules are often left intentionally vague. For instance, there’s nothing stopping me from saying “you take 100 damage” when the rules tell me to make a hard move, since “deal damage” is a move. It’s a very easy game to break if you’re not acting in good faith.

  5. Taylor Wofford To specifically answer your question: assuming that the players are seeing (or hearing) the full text of the move, I think it’s a brilliant sleight-of-mind. Because the text of the move makes the general stakes explicit. You know that these are mind-control spores and you know that on a 6-, you are infected, and jesus christ that’s scary. It’s scarier because I don’t know exactly what that’s going to mean.

    As far as actually implementing the mind control, here’s my go-to move:

    When you are compelled to act against your will, mark XP if you act as bidden. If you resist, roll +WIS: on a 10+, you shake off the compulsion and act as you wish; on a 7-9, choose 1:

    * Stand dazed, fighting for control of your mind

    * Start acting as compelled but stop yourself at the last moment

    * Harm yourself to regain control (1d6 damage, ignores armor)

    On a 6-, you come to your senses having done gods-know-what.

    I’ve got a whole write-up on Mind Control moves in here: – Drowning and Falling: Custom Moves for DW

  6. More broadly, I am of the unpopular opinion that mind control affecting your character isn’t the same thing as a player losing their agency. Far from it. It’s the character losing their agency, which IMO isn’t significantly different from (e.g.) a character breaking their leg or having a hand chopped off or being imprisoned. It’s a bad thing being done to a PC, and let’s see how they deal with it.

    If a player at my table is like “I find mind control stuff to be really squicky, can we not have that?” then of course I will respect that. But I am perplexed by the general taboo that seems to have cropped up around mind control.

    But that is a much larger post for another time.

  7. Isaac Eccles heh… strangely enough, it just never came up in the games I played back in the day. However, my cousin (13ish) relayed a story of a friend’s grandpa running a game for them where he played a caster. He suggested an indirect approach to some bandits in a building (fog cloud), but the DM said, “you’d do more damage with your scorching ray, just do that”. He protested a bit, but the DM just said something like, “Let’s just say you use scorching ray…” I was appalled, and had never heard of such an instance of denying agency. It’s out there. And I realize the OP is about mind control, so I’ll grant that with appropriate “safety tools” in place, there’s room to explore the trope. I’d just say that it warrants a CATS-type table discussion. ( )

  8. I’m with Charles Gatz on this one. Use a Jason Cordova incentive approach, or Jeremy Strandberg’s move. Only change I would make to Jeremy’s is on a 6- double the exp if you do as bidden, or choose 2 of the 7-9 effects.

    I’m in the party that feels strongly about keeping control of ones character in their player’s hands. If they want a scene of them being fully mind controlled then they’ll do it themselves. If they prefer showing resistance on screen then they should have the agency to do so.

    Jeremy Strandberg I’m going to have to disagree with you on the mind control affecting your character not being the same thing as a player losing agency.

    My view is when the character still has their mind, the player maintains a minimum level of control over how their character is perceived. You can lop off hands and break legs, but the player is still able to describe their character’s on screen reaction to these changes. I think control of character perception is very important to players and probably has something to do with human psychology (we like some semblance of control of ones self and surroundings?) and behavior (we value perception of self and by others?).

    You might say that the player can still describe what their character is thinking internally, but if people are playing their characters honestly, based on what’s on screen, you may have forever changed the social perception the party members have towards that character without that player’s input and I think that is losing agency.

    I’m sure there are success stories out there using a harder approach, but due to the sensitivity player’s can have towards it as well as the risk of GMs taking it too far, I think the carrot over the stick approach is extremely elegant.

  9. Andrew Alwood I get what you’re saying, but I think there’s no one right answer to this question. Your group matters and the tone of your game matters. I think mind control is par for the course in games with a gonzo, pulpy style. Having your mind temporarily taken away from you is no worse than turning into a pile of sludge when you try to cast a spell, after all.

    But my original question was: do you think it’s OK to have the players make moves when their characters aren’t aware of the outcome? Because you’re addressing yourself to the players, not the characters. E.G. “Your character just inhaled mind control spores. They’re not aware of it, but roll+con.”

    Seems to break the rules as written, but also, with the right group, could be pretty fun.

  10. Taylor Wofford I think there is a right answer or at least one that leans right on the spectrum. It goes without saying that group and table tone should always be taken into account, but if the players are on the same page as the GM, they will follow that tone with an incentive approach without the GM taking away player agency.

    If mind control is par for the course in a game with a gonzo, pulpy style then the GM should put it all over the place, but he/she should trust their players to provide what it looks like on screen themselves.

    I believe having your character’s mind taken away temporarily from you without your buy in IS worse then turning into a pile of sludge. In my previous post replace “losing a hand or breaking a leg” with “turning into a pile of sludge” and I think the argument still stands.

    To your original question: It’s totally fine. There are many scenarios where player knowledge exceeds character knowledge (e.g. off screen moves, hold mechanics, story hook discussions, etc.). If you wanted to increase the mystery you could certainly just tell them they inhaled some unusual spores and they feel funny; see if they go for SL or DR to find out more. However, I would not do this if you are going for a hard mind control approach. It would still work well with an incentive approach.

    Hope it helps!

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