I’ve don’t think I ever noticed before.

I’ve don’t think I ever noticed before.

I’ve don’t think I ever noticed before… Dangers (as in fronts) have an impulse. Monsters (e.g. goblins) have an instinct.

Both are written as “to .

Both describe the general behavior of the thing. An danger’s impulse is “its crucial motivation,” and “what pushes it to fulfill it’s impending doom.” A monster’s instinct “describe its goals at a high level” describe “what does it want that causes problems for others.” They seem pretty similar to me, at most just a difference in scale.

Given that it’s pretty common for dangers to also be monsters… it seems redundant to use two different terms.

What about you? Do the two terms mean something different to you?

For things that are both dangers and monsters (e.g. a dragon, a lich, a demon lord)… have you gotten value from having a separate impulse and instinct?

15 thoughts on “I’ve don’t think I ever noticed before.”

  1. I suspect it’s worded that way to help you conceptualize it, since inanimate things don’t really have instincts. It’s helpful to think of the moves that stem from them as being driven by an impetus, an impulse.

  2. Aaron Griffin huh. That goal/plan/itches thing makes me think of Vincent’s “coherent contradictions” from Play Unsafe Unframed. (Which I think you turned me on to in the first place?)

  3. In my actual play, I can’t remember having just one monster as a Danger. When it is a monster, it’s usually a monster that implies a lot more—like a deity (with followers), a noble (with armies). Even a monster monster doesn’t qualify as a Danger in my book unless it is or has an ecosystem, like a lair full of associated resources and threats.

    I don’t always write down an impulse for a Danger, but I use it when I do. The big difference between a monster’s instinct and a Danger’s impulse is that the book gives you a menu of impulses that point toward Gygaxian fantasy adventure. The book doesn’t provide a menu of instincts for monsters you create.

    Of course you can create your own Danger templates with your own impulses, but the game suggests you chose a danger template with an impulse from the menu. It’s kind of like the list of character names on a playbook: “These are impulses that will provide the kind of adventures we had in mind. Here are some names for Thieves that will give you some flavor to work with right away.” It’s not a straightjacket, but it gives you some furniture.

    So, I do see the impulse and instinct as serving two distinct purposes. Impulse is for defining the type of adventure in broad strokes, and it gives you a more limited pallet by default. Instinct is more wide-open, but it only directs that creature’s behavior as an individual.

    Maybe impulse is similar to a person’s agenda as Head of State, where instinct might be the same person’s driving desire as a private citizen. Or another way, impulse might be a company’s marketing campaign, while instinct would be the day-to-day urges of the company’s agents. They would absolutely be interrelated, but in many cases they would also be distinguishable.

  4. Andy Hauge I suspect that “impulse” is pretty much copied over directly from Apocalypse World. 🙂 But I agree, “impulse” is a better term for inanimate/non-sentient dangers.

    But given that, I don’t quite follow why Adam Koebel and Sage LaTorra introduced “instinct” for monsters instead just using “impulse” for them as well. Adam or Sage, any insights?

  5. John Henry, I was already thinking about giving locations, points-of-interest, and non-monster hazards instincts (impulses?) and bullet-point GM moves (thanks, Ray Otus). And maybe tags.

    Monsters and followers already have instincts, bullet-point GM moves, and tags.

    So… yeah?

  6. My take is that instincts aren’t always antagonistic to the players plans. On the contrary – some monsters could actually have instincts that the players need to take advantage of to achieve their goals.

    Dangers on the other hand are ALWAYS antagonistic to the players in my games. They are the clocks of AW and BitD, they have an impulse that will cause consternation for the players if left unchecked.

  7. I’m intrigued by this discussion. Thanks, Jeremy Strandberg!

    It might be helpful to think of the threat presented by a Danger as something unrelated to the PCs, something that is happening off screen. It is the Danger’s impulse; their tendency; it’s what they’re either passively inclined or actively intending to achieve. If the PCs (or some other Danger) don’t get in the way of it, the Danger will move toward that end.

    A Monster’s instinct is similar, but may not have any impact off screen. It simply provides us with some guidance on how to apply its moves, a lens through which to interpret our GM agenda and principles while narrating that Monster in a scene with the PCs. We only look at the Monster when the PCs are on stage with it. For all intents and purposes of the GM, the Monster practically ceases to exist when the PCs are not there (edit: fixed usage of their/they’re/there!) to see it.

    If this is acceptable, then a Monster that starts to have significance “off screen” becomes a Danger, and we develop Grim Portents and a Doom for it, along with the impulse, so that the things it is doing outside of the direct presence of the PCs will start to be a significant thing in the world.

  8. I’d never though about it. But to back-port a reasoning:

    Instinct is what a monster does by default, but you may be using it differently. It gives you an idea, but the general Goblin Orkaster instinct doesn’t necessarily help you play this specific Goblin Orkaster.

    Impulse is something that drives a front. It is what that front is working towards, a motivating force. Since your fronts are for you, you always use it.

    It’s a tiny distinction, but I like it.

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