I’ve often had problems using the Parley move in Dungeon World (and the Seduce & Manipulate move in Apocalypse…

I’ve often had problems using the Parley move in Dungeon World (and the Seduce & Manipulate move in Apocalypse…

I’ve often had problems using the Parley move in Dungeon World (and the Seduce & Manipulate move in Apocalypse World) but until now I never tried to express them in a communicable form.

In the linked post I try to explain my gripes, and to offer a possible alternative solution. One that is now part of my personal DW reimagining, jokingly called #AdvancedDungeonWorldNext2 (or just #ADWN2 for short) (just a funny placeholder name for the project).

Am I the only one experiencing those problems?

What are YOUR problems with that move?

How do you like my alternative move?


6 thoughts on “I’ve often had problems using the Parley move in Dungeon World (and the Seduce & Manipulate move in Apocalypse…”

  1. Looking at your analysis, we ended up very similar final moves.

    I definitely agree that the “must have leverage to trigger the move” is a big part of the issue, especially in a fantasy setting where people have alien goals and wants and you’re dealing with dragons and all that.

    I actually don’t think it’s a problem in AW, because:

    1) Act Under Fire is not the same as Defy Danger; it’s much more specific, and the overlap between it and Seduce/Manipulate isn’t significant.

    2) The “give them a reason” is pretty easy to parse in a setting that’s all about scarcity and sex. If you wheedle the bouncer “c’mon, you gotta let me in,” it’s easy to say “uh yeah, they just stare at you like, fuck off. You wanna Seduce/Manipulate, give them a reason.” You can lie about the reason (“Dremmer told me to meet him here, he’s gonna be pissed he finds out you kept him waiting”) but good luck with that concrete reassurance on a 7-9. I think that’s perfect, really.

    3) Read a Person gives you a reliable way to find out what a good reason would be.

    But in DW, yeah… what the hell counts as leverage over a dragon? Or a mind flayer? By the time you’ve figured out whether what you’re doing/offering counts as leverage, it feels like you’ve decided already whether the NPC will do what you want, and the roll is superfluous.

    So, I went with a trigger of “When you press or entice an NPC…”. The idea being: have a clear trigger, where we can tell that the move is being triggered easily just based on what the PC is doing. Wheedling the guard with “c’mon man, you gotta let me in” WILL trigger this move.

    It’s also usually pretty distinct from Defy Danger CHA. Trying to get someone to do a thing? Parley. Trying to fit in, pass off a lie, stall for time, or otherwise avert disaster through charm and grace? Defy Danger. (And if you call it one, and then realize it’s the other, it’s easy to switch.)

    Then, they clarify what they’re after: “…say what you want them to do (or not do).” That’s often going to be obvious, but having there in the move is good for clarifying expectations and setting stakes.

    Next is the caveat of “If they have reason to resist, roll…”. You only go to the dice if they have reason to resist you. If you’ve just murdered a small horde of goblins and there’s only one left and he’s cornered and you’re like “throw down you weapon!” there’s no reason for him to resist, he makes with the grovelling.

    The roll then leads to “On a 10+ they either do as you want or they reveal the easiest way to convince them.” The GM has to decide, now: is what the PC did to pressure/entice them enough? If not, how could they be convinced. And then they reveal that, through the NPCs words or deeds or the PC’s shrewd insight. To make this decision, the GM needs to consider what the NPC’s reason for resisting is (good news: they should have already thought of that, to determine whether a roll was even needed) and whether the PC has addressed it. The fact that the GM gets to pick also prevents the move from being a Jedi Mind Trick.

    “On a 7-9, they reveal something you can do to convince them, but it’ll likely be costly, tricky, or distasteful.” And here we get the NPC’s counter-offer, their ask for a bribe, the opening they give you for a big fat like that you’ll need to pull off, the unfortunate revelation that you’ll need to torture them, etc.

  2. Patrick Schenk

    I agree, but HOW this is done makes problems for me, both as GM or Player. I wanted a less problematic Move 🙂

    Haven’t you ever had problems putting the 7-9 result into practice?

    Jeremy Strandberg eeeeh, great minds ;D

    I can see how the trigger expresses the same things in a very similar way. They could almost be interchangeable.

    I’m not convinced by your 10+ result.

    But maybe it just serves a specific purpose in #Stonetop that is different from #ADWN2 ?

    On a superficial level it looks to me that 10+ and 7-9 do the same thing.

    7-9 is supposed to be more problematic.

    10+ is supposed to be less so.

    But in the end both outcomes seem to me to amount to

    What you did/said is not enough. Here, do/say this other thing.

    Which opens up the possibility that even a 10+ condition might result very problematic, fucking up a “good success”.

    Maybe not in the GM’s head, maybe not intentionally, maybe it was just meant to add a bit of color … but I had Players hang grudgingly on some stupid detail that for me was meaningless, while to them it meant the world.

    On the other hand, the 7-9 could be as bland as, following one of the suggestions, ask the PC for a clear promise.

    Which in and of itself is not a problem… 7-9 is supposed to be a success… but then it really becomes interchangeable with 10+ 😛

    Am I wrong?

    What was your aim there?

    About the rest.

    1) In AW the overlap isn’t with Act Under FIre but instead with Go Aggro.

    If I point a gun at you shouting “step away!” the fiction fits both Moves.

    Then we must enter an open conversation about what the PC really means to do… and get into all the intricacies of Go Aggro.

    2) The problem is still there. You give them a reason but then somewhere else in the rules the procedures say that the MC has to evaluate your “reason” as leverage and decide IF the move is triggered or not.

    Then, if you ignore this and just roll, and get a 7-9 … the game grinds to a halt.

    The PC won’t know what to offer.

    The GM won’t know what to ask.

    And if the GM asks for something the PC can’t deliver here and now then the Player might feel cheated out of a successful roll, as the Move does ZERO to set the correct expectation for the outcome.

    3) In #ADWN2 you have both a Read a Person move an a Threaten move (equivalent to AW Go Aggro).

    Still, a PC might not perform a Read Person before starting to Parley.

    If the PLayer doesn’t describe the PC as observing the NPC, it’s not the move.

    If the World suggest that observing the NPC might be helpful, but for any (legitimate) reason the Player thinks to describe otherwise, it’s not the move.

    There are plenty of instances in which a PC might get into a Parley “blind”.

    Besides, that’s not the problem, for me.

    Figuring out the leverage is not the problem I’m addressing.

    My problem is that the classic AW/DW wording for the Manipulate/Parley move makes it difficult for everyone to resolve the move as written.

    About the fictional clarity of the trigger, I’m with you 100% 🙂

  3. I don’t have problems with DW’s Parley move anymore, though I definitely used to. Coming from D&D made much of the game confusing to me for a long time.

    It looks like your main issue with Parley is that there’s nothing that defines what to do if something the players offer as leverage is actually not leverage for an NPC. What I’ve found with Dungeon World is that we’re meant to be far more fluid in our GMing, making the game more of a conversation, rather than a mechanical thing.

    In D&D, I had fully built NPCs with motivations and desires. In Dungeon World, my NPCs are built through their interactions with the players, and often it’s their Parley rolls themselves that decide whether this leverage is appropriate to the NPC.

    However, you’re fully free to step out of character and say, “This is not leverage to this character, you’d have to find something they want, but usually I let the roll play it out. This is just how I run it though, and I don’t like to over-complicate things anymore.

  4. Also, I see Defy Danger as completely different to Parley. Defy Danger+CHA is clearly when the players don’t have leverage. I leave it simply at that. When they are Defying Danger without leverage, they risk something going really wrong, even on a 7-9. A Parley, however, can go reasonably well even on a 7-9, only requiring maybe a little extra work to get what they want. Parley would nearly always be preferable to Defy Danger+CHA, at least in my games.

    Again, I don’t claim to be the expert on Dungeon World, this is just how I run it at my table, as it seems to work great for me.

Comments are closed.