Looking for ways to fold these components of old-school play into the move set. Feedback welcome.

Looking for ways to fold these components of old-school play into the move set. Feedback welcome.

Looking for ways to fold these components of old-school play into the move set. Feedback welcome.


The first time you reduce an enemy’s headcount or hit point total to less than half its original value, roll +LUC: on a 10+, they flee, perhaps to fight another day; on a 7-9, they flee if they’re cautious, but otherwise continue fighting; on a 6-, they will fight to the bitter end. Fearless and mindless enemies are immune to this move.


When you encounter a person or creature who has no particular predisposition toward you, roll +nothing: on a 10+, they react as positively to your presence as their alignment allows; on a 7-9, they react warily, waiting to see what you do first; on a 6-, they react with as much hostility as their alignment permits.

19 thoughts on “Looking for ways to fold these components of old-school play into the move set. Feedback welcome.”

  1. For comparison, I wrote up (but have never used) this move a while back:


    When you approach a wary or hostile NPC and try to communicate, roll +CHA: on a 10+, they’ll hear you out and choose 1 from the list below; on a 7-9, they’ll hear you out.

    • They are impressed, intrigued, or amused by you, as the GM sees fit (otherwise, they remain wary or hostile)

    • You’ve got their complete attention, for now at least (otherwise, they remain alert)

    • You glean a valuable insight; ask the GM a question about them and take +1 forward to act on the answer

  2. In regards to your two moves:

    1) On both, I’m not a huge fan of the triggers being something that the players don’t really actively do. They’re both situational things that the GM has to be paying attention to rather than agreeing that, yeah, the player just did this.

    2) On Scatter Them, specifically tying it to HP loss or killing half their numbers seems… off. Like, what if I kill the boss? What if I dispatch one of the seven gobbos in a particularly brutal and devastating way? What if we just take them by surprise and trick them into thinking that they’re under fire from a much greater force? Etc. etc.

    Combining 1 & 2, I’d personally prefer something like “*When you’ve shaken your foe’s resolve and you goad them or give them an opportunity to flee or surrender*” for the Scatter Them move.

    3) On Scatter Them, again… what about surrender? What if they can’t flee but they want to?

    I really like using the cautious tag to influence the move, but I wonder if there couldn’t be more variety or nuance built into the outcome. Maybe a pick 2/pick 1 list, or on a 10+ they pick 1 from list A, on a 7-9 they pick one from list B (or A)… like Go Aggro?

    4) Regarding Get a Reaction… don’t the tables in Freebooters typically dictate the initial disposition of most beings you’d encounter? It feels more appropriate there than a roll +nothing move. And then the PC-facing move could be more about improving the initial disposition (or screwing things up).

    5) What is Get a Reaction a +nothing roll? Seems like a CHA roll for sure. Even if it is meant to be a generalized reaction check, the idea that a high-CHA character would get generally better reactions from everything (including monsters) is a pretty fun idea.

  3. Good points!

    I see what you mean about the triggers not being based on strong actions by the players, but I don’t think I have a problem with that. I’m going to have to see how it works in practice.

    I will re-word Scatter Them to include surrender, but I want the morale effects of things like killing leaders to be left up to the players initiative (“I’m going to take out the leader; maybe that’ll scare the rest of them off”) and common sense on the part of the Judge. I’m using the old-school morale model because I like the clarity of a numerical trigger.

    I want these both to play quickly, with minimal decision-making, which is why there are no pick-lists. I find pick-lists in the wrong place can really kill momentum. Since both of these will be relatively common rolls, I want them to be resolved as quickly as possible.

    The tables in the Perilous Wilds do include disposition, but Freebooters 2e is going to incorporate all of the stuff that TPW does, so I want to more clearly mechanize some parts. This move would obviate the disposition table, which was always optional anyway.

    The way I see the reaction move playing out is that it’s a neutral read on the creature’s state of mind when you encounter them, so +nothing. Depending on the result of Get a Reaction, a CHA roll to Negotiate or a CHA saving throw might come into play, but I don’t like the idea of CHA dictating things right out of the gate.

  4. These are interesting ideas but I feel like they’re maybe better handled by fictional positioning. Is there a particular reason why you feel that there needs to be specific moves for them? I mean the former is a thing that I will often do just because it makes the most sense fictionally and honestly I think that creating a mechanism could make it more confusing. Let’s say we’ve established the goblins are cowardly creatures but someone rolls a miss on scatter them so now we essentially have the goblins acting in a way that’s inconsistent with their character. Etc…

    I don’t have as many thoughts on the second one. I could see it being fun but like the first one it seems to maybe add unnecessary rolling. This is the sort of thing that can be dealt with just role play or just depends on the disposition of the NPC that I randomly chose and then we play it out from there with Judge moves as appropriate, as hard as make sense.

    In the end though I guess it just depends on you and your table’s disposition. I can see how mechanizing this could be fun for certain types of GM’s and players, but I don’t really see it particularly working at my table you know?

  5. Would Reaction Check be subsumed into the new version of Parley you wrote? Trying to negotiate with someone wary or hostile might fall into the category of “influence or manipulate an NPC to do something they normally wouldn’t do”.

  6. For Scatter Them: I feel like this would be better triggered off of whether you have killed a leader or maybe if you decimate a group or legion of foes in one blow.

    Alternately, it could be an option on a 12+ for Hack & Slash

  7. I hear you, Jeb E, and of course in my own games to date I’ve been relying on my own judgement and instinct in these types of situations, the way you describe. I think that because I’m striving for a particular kind of “emergent” play for Freebooters, I’m always looking for ways to disclaim decision-making. These moves are probably going too far—especially if they add confusion or clutter up the flow of play—but I’m going to give them a spin on our next playtest to see how they feel. Morale checks and reaction rolls are key parts of a certain brand of old-school play that I enjoy, and I’m curious if they can be effectively integrated. Shunting them off into “Advanced Freebooters” as optional rules is something I’ll consider.

    Peter J, I imagine an unbiased encounter as starting with this reaction check (which I should probably just call “Reaction Check” as in Jeremy’s example); on a 7+, there would be room for Negotiate to come into play, but on a 6- it would probably be off the table. I would need to revisit the wording of Negotiate in conjunction.

    Justin Ford, good suggestions! Those are great examples of the kinds of calls I imagine the Judge/GM making in context, with no move to help them out. I’m specifically interested in the numerical trigger, and whether it feels like too much to track or an interesting mechanical pivot point.

  8. In regards to reaction: I feel the Die of Fate covers this, so long as you need to roll. Personally, as a GM, I’d not be interested in having players roll each time they meet something new. That said, I feel both of these moves are ripe for an advancement for a particular prestige class or what have you.

  9. Thinking about Scatter Them a little more, I think part of why I’m having a hard time with it is because as written it feels like it’s a GM-facing move rather than a player-facing one, and there aren’t really any other moves I can think of that feel that way. Part of it is because it’s generally on the Judge/GM to be tracking HP etc so the players don’t even know they’re triggering a move, and the other thing is the lack of specificity that Jeremy Strandberg discusses. What’s a more specific trigger that’s based on player choice and action? Moves are (almost always) triggered because of player assertiveness, so passive moves like this feel strange to me. But any specific player action that could work as a trigger here seems like it’s already covered by an already existing move.

    That all said, I may give these a try at a session just to see how they go over with the group. They’re pretty open to experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t (for example we’ve added Defend back in to see how things change). I feel very thankful that even though they are all DW/PbtA novices they are cool with testing new ideas.

  10. I’m a big fan of morale systems and how they can prevent hit point grinding and trigger further complication, so I’m v happy to see a move like Scatter.

    I really love the use of the cautious tag too. Potentially players could impose a cautious or shaken or similar tag on an enemy with the right actions, too.

  11. I like them both. I also think leaving it up to chance is good and can drive interesting stories. (“These cowardly goblins aren’t so cowardly! But why?”)

  12. Proposal:

    Break Them

    When you try to break the morale of the opposing force by significantly decreasing their power or motivation, roll +CHA:

    * 10+, they no longer have the appetite to fight: they attempt to flee, negotiate or surrender according to their nature and situation;

    * on a 7-9, if they’re cautious (or other applicable tag) treat as 10+, otherwise treat as 6-;

    * on a 6-, they fight on.


    * “significant decrease to their strength” would typically mean halving the number of combatants, halving their hitpoints, or removing a main weapon or champion,

    * “significant decrease to motivation” might be demonstrating greater power, removing influence of their leader(s), or removing the chance of them succeeding in their aims.

    * Fearless and mindless enemies are immune to this move.

    * If they fight on, PCs may attempt to Break Them again later by causing a further significant decrease to their power or motivation.

    (Design notes:

    PCs should be trying to break them for this move to trigger – in some situations that might not want them to flee or surrender [although they might still do so as a GM move, just not caused by this move].

    It’s “CHA” because this is about influencing others. You could kill someone very efficiently in a quiet non-charismatic way, but that wouldn’t have the same effect on morale as dramatically killing the same person in a very charismatic way while loudly vowing to visit the same retribution on their nieces’ puppies for seven generations. Incodentally this introduces an interesting difference between charismatic and non-charismatic fighters. )

  13. I think the issue with “Get a reaction” is that it’s usually closely tied to the notion of regular random encounter rolls. In FotF, at least last time I ran it, the idea was that you don’t have encounter rolls, instead you use Threads or GM moves to introduce Dangers. In this case the random encounter roll is replaced by a non-random GM decision. Why then have a random reaction roll? I mean, if the GM decides to introduce a danger, and then rolls and figures out that the monsters are friendly, it defeated the purpose of introducing a danger in the first place. It seems a bit weird to me that you decide to have an encounter but roll to determine disposition. I would be inclined to roll for both or decide for both. Although I like the idea of reaction rolls and morale being part of the game!

  14. Tom Walker I like your take on the trigger a lot since it ties it to something the players are actively trying to do. That also means that at times when the players don’t want them to run away, the move doesn’t still get triggered automatically. I think it still need some tightening, but this seems like a step in the right direction.

  15. Nicolas Francart, Freebooters 2e is very much driven by random rolling for all kinds of things, including encounters, but all filtered through the Judge’s common sense and personal taste. Freebooters 1e was a Dungeon World hack, and thus more in line with the decision-driven DW approach, but I am working toward more emergent gameplay in the vein of old Judges Guild products like the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

  16. Tom Walker, nicely done. However, I want the foe to act in their own best interests, not driven by specific player goals; they should break when they want to break, not only when the PCs are trying to break them. I want the players to deal with the fact that enemies might split if things look bad, and then deal with the repercussions. If the PCs don’t want enemies to run away, then they’ll need to figure out a way to keep them from doing so, before or after the move triggers.

    I’ve rewritten it to include “attempt to flee or surrender”:


    The first time you reduce an enemy’s headcount or hit point total to less than half its original value, roll +LUC: on a 10+, they attempt to flee or surrender, whichever seems best to them; on a 7-9, they attempt to flee or surrender if they’re cautious, but otherwise continue fighting; on a 6-, they’ll fight to the bitter end. Fearless and mindless enemies are immune to this move.

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