Hello tavern! Newer GM here, and I have a question about “trying again” and how to handle it when players want to do so.
Let me paint the scene:
Our Fighter has recently acquired a cursed item that attracts undead. The characters do not know about the curse. The adventurers return home after some time away and learn that right after they left home last time, there was a bit of an undead rising issue. They were only home briefly, then. Now, they decide to go check out the local cemetery. The Fighter’s presence in the cemetery causes more undead to rise and basically try to eat him.
So the characters are in this graveyard, fighting wave after wave of undead. The Druid, who is shapeshifted as a wolf, describes sniffing out to see if she can smell evil magic, or a necromancer, or a person that’s not one of the characters. She Discerns Realities and gets a 7, and asks “who or what is in charge here?” I tell her that the Fighter is in charge.
The Cleric, who is a valkyrie, describes herself flying over the cemetery and trying to spot signs of an arcane ritual or something like that. She Discerns Realities and gets a 5. I choose to Reveal An Unwelcome Truth and tell her that there are no signs that a necromancer is here or was recently. Perhaps I could have been more descriptive or shared different information or something, but that’s what happened.
So here’s the problem: all my players are used to D&D. They think in their heads, oh, the cleric failed their Perception check, there was something to notice but she didn’t notice it.
So the Thief then describes that she will climb on top of a mausoleum and look around. I am dubious, and ask what she thinks she can discern that the cleric couldn’t. In other words, how is she doing something different than the cleric. She explains she’s looking for ambushes or something. It was thin, but I let her go ahead and roll Discern Realities. She got a 3. I confirm that she doesn’t see any signs at all of an ambush, or anyone else in the cemetery besides them and the undead, and I deal her some damage for her trouble as some of the undead climb up the mausoleum and attack her.
Then the Barbarian is like “I’m going to roll too!” And at this point I say no. I ask what he thinks he can contribute over and above what the Druid, Cleric, and Thief already did, and he admits he can’t think of anything.
We wrap up the scene, and have a bit of an in character chat afterwards. The Druid insists that this is somehow the Fighter’s fault (and indeed, I described all the undead swarming around him and attacking him when possible), and the Thief suggests it might have been the cursed item. But the other party members are skeptical, and ask some allies to look into the undead problem for them.
After the session, the Fighter’s player confesses to me that he didn’t have a great time “because too much relied on us passing these rolls that we kept failing.” He also complained that we couldn’t pass because “we don’t have an arcane character with the right skills.” Now this player is a close friend that I trust, who also GMs many different game systems but not DW. So I peel back the curtain and explain exactly what moves I was making (Reveal An Unwelcome Truth) and explain, again, for the hundredth time, that they are not failing rolls the same way that you fail rolls in D&D.
Anyways, I have two questions that came out of this.
1. More generally, how do you handle situations where the characters want to “try again” at something?
2. More specifically, how do you describe outcomes, in particular to Discern Realities and Spout Lore, that don’t make the players feel like they are missing a clue?