Hello, tavern! I have a DMing advice question for you!

Hello, tavern! I have a DMing advice question for you!

Hello, tavern! I have a DMing advice question for you!

A while ago, my players came across a magic item (a spear) that has some specific properties when it interacts with a particular named monster (a campaign villain).

However, they never actually bothered to identify the item (they don’t have any wizards/similar, so they didn’t even try). But they used some inference and deduction to know that it could be used against the villain.

I remember one of the players suggesting that maybe the spear did X, which was untrue. But this was speculation; they knew that they didn’t know its actual properties. I think the plan was to talk to a wizardly ally when they got the chance.

But they never followed up, and over time they’ve all decided that the spear does X when actually it does Y. I’ve tried to remind them that they never got it actually identified but they always conveniently forget that I told them that.

Last session, they heard a story about some magical legendary spear that did Y and their response was like “oh, that sounds like our spear except it must be another version because ours does X, not Y.” So they are now, apparently, 100% certain that the spear does X even though they have no reason to be so certain.

Part of the issue is that its usage is limited – only against the campaign villain, and they’re not quite there yet, but they’re planning for the ultimate showdown, in which this spear will come into play.

What they think it does is summons the villain (if you plunge it into the ground or something like that) but what it actually does is immobilizes the villain (if you stick him with it). So as you can see, the actual usage is quite different. They are planning around using the spear to summon the villain when that would have no effect.

My question for you, oh Dungeon World Tavern, is what should I do about the spear? What would you do? Should I let their plan work? Should I let their plan fail? Should I have a wizard tell them what the spear does?


8 thoughts on “Hello, tavern! I have a DMing advice question for you!”

  1. I think you got 3 choices. 1) Throw your idea out and go with the players. This will make them feel smart and they’ve had an impact on the fiction.

    2) Stick to your guns and this is the perfect reveal for “Reveal an Ugly Truth”.

    3) Why not both? Its magic. It doesn’t need to have finite amount of charges… it can just give out when it’s function as been performed and the villain is neutralized.

    Personally, I LOVE the idea of the spear summoning the villain. Make a move for it. If the roll is good, Villain is summoned. if the roll is 7-9, the Villain is summoned and he has brought friends, or is supercharged by the spear temporarily and even more powerful or some awesome soft or hard move. IF the roll is 6-, the spear doesn’t summon the villain and you can reveal the Ugly Truth… it binds the villain, not summons him.

  2. Storn Cook has it covered, but I’d like to add that I really like to roll for it “just when it’s happening”.

    GM: “So you all mused that this spear summons [the villain], and is not in fact the rumoured weakness that binds [the villain’s pronoun]? Interessting. So how do you go about summoning him? … sounds good, roll+[relevant stat] and on a 10+ you get him mid-shave/having brunch.”

    The first or second time having them roll “Spout Lore” could have been a solution.

  3. I say stick with your original plan and don’t bail them out. Remember in DW, you don’t pull your punches. The first time they try it they’ll instantly figure out their mistake, probably ask themselves how they got here and have an “aha” moment, and be more careful next time.

    I think DW’s biggest weakness is that the world sometimes doesn’t seem “real” because it’s really a schrodinger’s world — it doesn’t exist until you look at it, and then it exists as you wish it to be. Verisimilitude requires that sometimes you are wrong, sometimes things are not what you think or expect or want.

    I think this is a golden opportunity to let the world be real and objective. Do the players a favor by letting them be mistaken.

    Depending on what they are planning, their mistake could cost big. If the BBEG somehow manages to capture the spear (due to a botched confrontation and not knowing what to do with it), it would kick the stakes up a notch and create a whole new problem for them to chew on. Is there any way the BBEG could get wind of what they are planning, and play along to fool them? Lots of potential here.

  4. While this is hilarious, and will make a good story in retrospect, I wouldn’t make the spear summon the villain anymore than I would let the Thief have poison just because they won’t listen when I remind them that they ran out last session. Sounds like it’s time for the PCs to meet an expert in the Spear of Immobilizing who is being harassed by the villain’s agents, so they can correct this weird path the party has wandered down.

  5. Also, it seems that if you go with the original ability, the players’ mistake will be mostly harmless… they get all prepared, stick the spear into the ground, nothing happens, and they go “huh”. Presuming they do that in a controlled environment, there’s not much risk to them… perhaps some lost face if they had allies standing by to help in the fight. The biggest danger might be that they don’t re-examine their assumptions, and instead start to try to work out what they did wrong with the “summoning ritual”, imagining all sort of additional things they didn’t do (“Maybe the ground needed to be swamp-mud! Maybe we needed to coat the spear with weasel blood!”)

    It would be much worse for them if it was the other way around – they thought the spear immobilized the villain, but it actually could be used to summon him. They’d only discover that they were wrong during the actual showdown, where the stakes were high, time was of the essence and they wouldn’t have a chance to make elaborate alternative plans and arrangements.

  6. A roll is the best option in my mind. They may not be scholars, but trial and error is a great way to identify an item. Let them use it, have them roll for it and depending on the result, they could be right or they could be Dead wrong

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