On another message board, a GM wrote “I liked [Dungeon World] fine … but my players didn’t. The dissociated mechanics were too weird for them.”
I didn’t know the term “dissociated mechanics”. It comes from http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/17231/roleplaying-games/dissociated-mechanics-a-brief-primer. The brief version is “look at the player’s decision-making process when using the mechanic: If the player’s decision can be directly equated to a decision made by the character, then the mechanic is associated. If it cannot be directly equated, then it is dissociated.”
Most DW moves are associated. Like, in Hack And Slash, “At your option, you may choose to do +1d6 damage but expose yourself to the enemy’s attack.” The character can choose to expose himself for a benefit and a cost.
Some others are disassociated. A Wizard “Cast a Spell” 7-9 option:
*The spell disturbs the fabric of reality as it is cast—take -1 ongoing to cast a spell until the next time you Prepare Spells.
That’s a player choice, not a character choice; the character didn’t choose to disturb the fabric of reality, but the player did. The sort of decision that’s only made GMs, rather than players, in many other RPGs. And some of my correspondent’s players find that weird.
What I’m wondering is: Does it have to be this way?
If the 7-9 Wizard cast a spell were instead:
“✴On a 7-9, the spell is cast, but takes significant extra effort. Choose one:
You make abnormally loud commands and wild gestures. This draws unwelcome attention or puts you in a spot. The GM will tell you how.
You force the spell out through sheer willpower. This disturbs your previous preparation —take -1 ongoing to cast a spell until the next time you Prepare Spells.
You use the spell’s own energy to release itself. After it is cast, the spell is forgotten. You cannot cast the spell again until you prepare spells.”
We get the same effects, recast as player choices. No disassociated weirdness any more.
So then the question is, can we do the same (or similar) for every disassociated move for the benefit of those players who don’t get along with them? Can we find examples where we can’t?