I think this is my first time posting here, maybe I know some of you from the Story Games forum though. Looking for a bit of help with MCing misses and 7-9s in a fun and consequential manner.
I’ve played a bit of World of Dungeons but not yet Dungeon World, and am interested in getting a game of DW together with my local group. Another thread here reminded me of something that troubles me, and I thought I would see how it’s handled by people who understand and enjoy the system.
Misses and 7-9s don’t have to be met with damage, but with other consequences, right? As Delos Adamski says in the other thread, ‘PC rolls an eight. PC does damage and suffers an attack. Ogre clubs the player and sends him flying across the room and puts him in a crater in the far wall. No damage but he’s now stuck in a wall.’ This is cool and definitely a feature, but when I was running WoD I found it put a bit of pressure on me to try and adjudicate in a way that was fair.
Here’s a play example, from memory but also fabricated/simplified to bring about the point:
Player 1: tries to engage a caveperson, misses
ME: You overstretch your swing, and tumble onto the floor, sword clattering [no damage dealt. As there is nothing imminent I move on…]
Player 2: tries to hit in a reasonably tactical way 7-9.
ME: you deal damage, but… he pulls you into a grapple as you shove the dirk into his guts. His breath is hot on your face.
Player 2: I shove him away!
ME: ok roll STR [this would be Defy Danger in DW, I guess] to see [another 7-9. I decide not to deal damage but establish that he is now shoved to the floor with the caveman’s hands at his throat. Cut to]
Player 3: Tries to attack 7-9 [trade damage. Player 3 loses 3 of his (max 4) hitpoints]
Player 1: ok, I lunge for my sword in a tumble onto my feet! [rolls 10, I judge that he does it. With 3 backing away, I turn back to 2]
Player 2: My priority is to break this grip and get onto my feet. I raise my knees and push him left while twisting right. [another DD-type roll at 7-9… tricky, one hit could kill this character and he hasn’t missed nor done anything stupid yet. Break free for a point of damage? Or maybe…]
ME: You shove him away, spinning but leave the dirk in him – or is that too harsh – ok, you make it away but you attract the attention of these guys who come at you. Roll Agility
PLayer 2: maybe I’ll get to do something active next week, hey?
Afterwards, one of the players complained that it felt very ad-hoc and more or less like I was choosing when their characters suffered damage, because it was a discretionary option on almost everything but a 10+.
Meanwhile I felt like I had a lot of work on my plate, trying to mentally gauge what felt appropriate. I could have dealt damage to player 2, for instance, and I had decided I would on a miss, but they had partially succeeded both times, and it seemed unfair to put them at risk of wiping out – especially when Player 1 didn’t get hit.
And then with Player 1 – am I going too easy on them? They have undone all the failure with a strong roll, no consequences. On the other hand, it’s easy to get into a micro-task paralysis, demanding that they roll to stand up, to reach the sword, etc, and start to get buried under microconsequences, as it started to seem with Player 2. Players started to worry that one non-optimal roll would send them into a sea of further rolls, as the game doesn’t permit you to just assign a one-turn penalty and move on, but creates a fictional state that probably merits a Move to get out of (if it doesn’t, it’s just color and the fiction starts to not matter).
Some of this may be WoD-ness – I’m scared to give casual damage as it can wipe them out – but more generally, it’s a concern of mine.
Do you find that misses and 7-9s can put characters into this situation? A kind of sea of fictional micro-obstacles that can stop them being awesome? If not, how do your non-mechanical consequences actually have any teeth, if we can recover swords, stand up etc without penalty?
Thanks for your thoughts!