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Dungeon World

So, we have a 10+ defy danger from the Barbarian, then 2 10+ hack and slashes. The Fighter got a 10+ on the defy danger, and at least a 7+ on the defend. The Cleric got a 10+ on their turn attempt. No one had a partial or failed roll. Yeah, if the dice go that hot, I suppose you just stand and marvel at the blessing of the dice gods.
Yeah, the two warrior classes have some pretty nice bonuses to Strength based moves. Everyone has beefed up their stats pretty high and have taken advanced moves that further limit the possibilities of failure.

Do you have a better example of a combat that didn't work for you that wasn't visited by the dice gods?
I have examples of combats that were challenging, but only because characters were doing actions that were reckless. Such as the barbarian staying out to fight a horde of monsters on his own while the cleric was holding open a closing door to a tomb while the fighter stepped inside to defend the cleric from encroaching ghouls.
 

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@Retreater

Back to front:

1) What a GM can (and must) do is (a) follow the play agenda and GMing principles to a T (read them repeatedly), (b) have an open conversation with the players (which is part of (a) above), and follow the rules (which is also part of (a) above). Sometimes, that means calling out when a player is being questionable in their action declaration...or bargaining them off of it if the GM has an alternative.

In the rules, there are exceptions to the core mechanic. One of those exceptions is embedded in the Hireling/Companion rules. A Protector Hireling has the following ability:

Intervene
—When a protector helps you defy danger you may opt to take +1 from their aid. If you do you cannot get a 10+ result, a 10+ instead counts as a 7–9.
In this case, the 7-9 complication will very likely involve the Protector Hireling.

If I'm running that moment of play, due to my incredulity at the action declaration, instead of saying either "no" or "you can do it, but your shield is toast no matter what", I might offer the above, but sub "Shield" for "Protector Hireling." From a fictional position perspective they're doing the same thing. Which means, the shield is going to be a cost element of the move outcome; either significant or total depending on 7-9 or 6-.

2) All GM moves (creature/world) are both "soft moves" and "hard moves." The only thing that separates them is "are you announcing future badness and putting what comes next into the players' hands? (soft move) or "are you putting into action that badness after you put what comes next into the players' hands? (hard move)"

Example:

GM: Xoldunath bellows "ENOUGH" with enough timbre to shake the earth as he explodes skyward and backward from his perch. His wings beat ferociously and a pair of infernal vortices begin to descend earthward from them...toward the summer-baked orchard that you're standing in...the slightly sweet smell of ethanol pervades your senses...decaying, fermented fallen apples cover the landscape...what are you doing?

That is a soft move.

Depending upon what comes next, the GM may be using a soft move, a hard move, or both (depending on individual player action declarations and move resolution).
 
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pemerton

Legend
@Retreater - it's not that bites are soft moves and wing-generated fire tornados are hard moves. (Or any other similar framework.)

Soft and hard moves are categories of GM narration. The monster (and its damage stats and tags) are tools to help give shape and content to the narration.

So if you are making a soft move (say, show signs of an approaching threat or reveal an unwelcome truth) that might reveal something about a monster that is in the scene - eg that is has teeth as long as knives; or that it wings can whip up fires that would destroy a peasant's hovel in minutes. Or the example that @Ovinmancer gave upthread - you see the maw of the dragon yawn open and inside it mouth and throat the fire is gathering, about to spew forth in a terrible blast.

What do the players have their PCs do in response to your question "So what do you do?" This will determine what sort of move you make next and how hard or soft it is. For instance, if a player narrates in response to your description of the dragon about to breathe fire "I ready my shield to protect me from the dragon's fire" then that sounds to me like CON Defy Danger. On a 10+ it works. On a 7 to 9 you as GM have to offer a hard choice - say either fall back, or lose your shield. If the roll is 6 or less, it seems to me like the shield is burned away and probably damage from the fire is also fair game.

Rather than actions per round or uses per day, the relevant consideration is fairness, fun, and the logic of the fiction. So suppose the PC survives the fiery breath (with or without shield). To me it seems like it would be "cheating" - cheap on the GM's part - just to narrate more fiery breath. That would be to negate by fiat the successful defying of danger. If as GM you still want to focus on the breath, you could narrate something softer like "The dragon finishes breathing but you're still standing there. It pierces you with its gaze while inhaling deeply. What do you do?" Now the player can declare that s/he rushes in to Hack and Slash, or that she runs over to the cliff to unchain the prisoner, or whatever else s/he wants to do. Different response there may require different rolls (eg Bend Bars for the fighter to tear the prisoner's chains out of the rock) and may make it fair or unfair to deliver another breath of fire as a hard move.

TL;DR: the hardness or softness of a move is about pacing, dynamics of play, being fair while maintaining the pressure; the stats of a monster establish the parameters of what the fiction allows for when the GM narrates it.
 

schneeland

Explorer
Our group is definitely entrenched in the D&D/PF milieu (even if it's OSR).
There has been a lot of solid advice in this thread already, but I will pick out this one because I had a potentially similar experience with my old group (both with Dungeon World and with The Sprawl) - since the player's are used to succeed when they beat the target number for a roll, they felt frustrated when they failed quite often (initially also exacerbated by me narrating a 6- as a failure in a task) and their situation became more complicated.
However, rules-wise PbtA games befenit from these rolls since they drive the story. So what would be necessary is a change of the player mindset mindset to not treat a 6- as a failure (or a 7-9 as a partial failure), but instead seeing them as a source of interesting complications. This is not something that happened for my players, though. After about 1 1/2 years with PbtA games, I came to the conclusions, that the rule set simply is not a good fit and that maybe we should go back to more traditional games.
 

Nebulous

Legend
So...I'm thinking of hopping on someones Roll20 DW game so I can be a player and learn it that way. Any suggestions on how to best do that?
 

Nebulous

Legend
However, rules-wise PbtA games benefit from these rolls since they drive the story. So what would be necessary is a change of the player mindset mindset to not treat a 6- as a failure (or a 7-9 as a partial failure), but instead seeing them as a source of interesting complications. This is not something that happened for my players, though. After about 1 1/2 years with PbtA games, I came to the conclusions, that the rule set simply is not a good fit and that maybe we should go back to more traditional games.
If you spent that much time, I agree, it is probably not a good fit. It seems like it is less heroic than your default D&D and Pathfinder, but as a DM that's fine with me as I don't like the mid to high level of either of those games anyway. 1st to 9th is what I prefer, and the lower the better.
 

pemerton

Legend
initially also exacerbated by me narrating a 6- as a failure in a task
It seems like it is less heroic than your default D&D and Pathfinder
These caught my eye. I'm not sure that DW is less heroic than D&D/PF. (Although D&D varies in its degree of heroism with version - contrast eg Moldvay/Cook B/X with 4e.)

As @schneeland acknowledges, DW can in some ways be more heroic than a more "simulationist" approach to D&D, because there is no need to narrate 6- as failure on the PC's part. Eg if the player rolls 6- when trying to stop the dragon's breath with a shield maybe it is the intense heat of the fire, or a flaw in the make of the shield (curse the lazy work of the Grand Duchy's armourers!).

That's not to say that DW is the same as D&D in its play. (Whereas it is similar in many tropes.) It's not a wargame. And it's not a straightforward power fantasy either. Given that those two things cover a significant block of D&D players, it's no surprise that some D&D players won't like it.
 

@pemerton

That is spot on.

When you combine the fact that (a) its not a wargame, (b) its not power fantasy, (c) it constrains the GM considerably thereby dramatically muting or outright shutting down GM Force and Illusionism, (d) (in no small part because) its overwhelmingly player-facing, (e) not simulationist and requires energetic, genre logic...

(c) - (e) was basically 4e. You had a cross-section of the D&D player-base that relentlessly waged a scorched earth campaign against that game. Now you throw in (a) and (b) on top of it? There can be no doubt that Dungeon World (and the PBtA family of games) won't be welcome in specific corners of the D&D intelligentsia.
 

CubicsRube

Explorer
I'm coming in pretty late but I ran a DW session up to level 10 over 2 years.

It was a big learning curve and I experience what youre talling about in combat acutely. But there are some big shifts in approach vs d&d and the like, much of which was mentioned above.

In practice there were spme thinga that are in the book, but not at all obvious.

1) players have to qualify for a move, and YOU get to decide what move they make. This is important, because sometimes a charavter simple cant hack and slash a creature. Big dragon? Might need to climb it first. Charging an ogre with archers left and right? Might have to deal with those arrows first. Fight with a death knight with enchanted armor? Maybe they're invulnerable until you find a way to deactivate the armor. Make it clear to the players they can't just make a roll, but have to describe what theyre trying to do. Having multiple rolls to get to roll hack and slash etc also is a way of ramping up the difficulty somewhat.

2) Modifying and creating new creatures is absolutely in the book. Maybe you've got a crocodile, but it can breathe fire. If nothing else this makes creatures an unpredictable and interesting discovery.

3) think about hard moves for some locations and monsters you're thinking of using ahead of time. Straight damage is boring. Instead make creatures that can blind the characters, rip their arms off, give them hideous scars across their face, burn them, etc. This in my experience makes players far more afraid as it threatens the concept of their character. That bard might not worry about the goblins if he can recover his hitpoints, but if they mess up his face it might be another story!

4) absolutely communicate this to the players because they need to be onboard with it or DW doesn't work. Tell them not every orc will have the same abilities, thelat they're character can be maimed, or poisoned to death (even while they still have hp) burned so hideously they'll be shunned ny society.

I only had one death in my campaign, but plenty of scares and close calls. Someone blew out the bottom of an island floating in the sky and managed to jump to safety before they fell to their doom. There were magmin that shot vaporising rays from their hands that luckily no one got hit with. There were vine creatures that burrowed into your brain and made you a thrall and a crocodillian that held a barbarian in its mouth unable to do anything except luckily end it by digging his hand in its eye and ripping it out.
 

JeffB

Legend
I'm coming in pretty late but I ran a DW session up to level 10 over 2 years.

It was a big learning curve and I experience what youre talling about in combat acutely. But there are some big shifts in approach vs d&d and the like, much of which was mentioned above.

In practice there were spme thinga that are in the book, but not at all obvious.

1) players have to qualify for a move, and YOU get to decide what move they make. This is important, because sometimes a charavter simple cant hack and slash a creature. Big dragon? Might need to climb it first. Charging an ogre with archers left and right? Might have to deal with those arrows first. Fight with a death knight with enchanted armor? Maybe they're invulnerable until you find a way to deactivate the armor. Make it clear to the players they can't just make a roll, but have to describe what theyre trying to do. Having multiple rolls to get to roll hack and slash etc also is a way of ramping up the difficulty somewhat.

2) Modifying and creating new creatures is absolutely in the book. Maybe you've got a crocodile, but it can breathe fire. If nothing else this makes creatures an unpredictable and interesting discovery.

3) think about hard moves for some locations and monsters you're thinking of using ahead of time. Straight damage is boring. Instead make creatures that can blind the characters, rip their arms off, give them hideous scars across their face, burn them, etc. This in my experience makes players far more afraid as it threatens the concept of their character. That bard might not worry about the goblins if he can recover his hitpoints, but if they mess up his face it might be another story!

4) absolutely communicate this to the players because they need to be onboard with it or DW doesn't work. Tell them not every orc will have the same abilities, thelat they're character can be maimed, or poisoned to death (even while they still have hp) burned so hideously they'll be shunned ny society.

I only had one death in my campaign, but plenty of scares and close calls. Someone blew out the bottom of an island floating in the sky and managed to jump to safety before they fell to their doom. There were magmin that shot vaporising rays from their hands that luckily no one got hit with. There were vine creatures that burrowed into your brain and made you a thrall and a crocodillian that held a barbarian in its mouth unable to do anything except luckily end it by digging his hand in its eye and ripping it out.
Excellent advice.

I also cannot emphasize #1 enough. Don't speak in "moves"


generally speaking-
I'm constantly saying "what do you do" (And I always use the PC's name not the player)- If they come back with the name of a move, I tell them they need to tell me how they are doing it-- eventually they stop using the move names, and just describe the fiction that triggers a move- In DW combat, it's easy to assume Hack & Slash for things, BUT- if the players describe what they are doing, you often will get another triggering move that makes things MUCH more interesting (defy danger most of the time).

I'm going to H&S the Ettin….

OK, but tell me what you do Aragorn....

so I run up to him from behind, and try to stab him in the back..

You run up to him...roll + dex to avoid him...he has two heads and long arms....
 

@Retreater

What you may want to do is post a singular instance of play from your next session which you found troubling in execution.

When I say singular instance, I don’t mean “at the conflict/encounter level”. I mean quite literally “one micro-moment if situation framing (GM Soft Move) > player action declaration that triggered a move > the move and its results > how you moved the fiction forward post-move.

From my vantage, that tight zoom and forensic level of post-mortem is the most helpful thing for a burgeoning GM (regardless of game, but especially this sort of system). All a play session is is the aggregated continuity of all of those moments together.

So maybe post one of those.
 

Darth Solo

Explorer
This game is bad because it controls players decisions.

Everything about it is control.

What if FATE characters were free if GM control?
 

Panda-s1

Scruffy and Determined
This game is bad because it controls players decisions.

Everything about it is control.

What if FATE characters were free if GM control?
yeah, no, it doesn't "control" player decisions, it decides when a decision is up to probability and how to resolve that decision.
 



@Retreater

What you may want to do is post a singular instance of play from your next session which you found troubling in execution.

When I say singular instance, I don’t mean “at the conflict/encounter level”. I mean quite literally “one micro-moment if situation framing (GM Soft Move) > player action declaration that triggered a move > the move and its results > how you moved the fiction forward post-move.

From my vantage, that tight zoom and forensic level of post-mortem is the most helpful thing for a burgeoning GM (regardless of game, but especially this sort of system). All a play session is is the aggregated continuity of all of those moments together.

So maybe post one of those.
We should be playing this Monday, so I'll hopefully have either a positive report or an example of what didn't work.
 


Ok. Just wrapped up my Dungeon World session this evening. Here's how it went down for the first scene (putting all two hours of gameplay would make a long thread). (Looking for feedback/criticism/advice/etc):
Barbarian, Cleric, and Fighter pushed their way out of the subterranean fungal forest (completing a Perilous Journey from last session) and broke into the Goblin Slave Pits of the nefarious Black City of the Fallen Dwarves. The goblin miners, searching for chaos stone, were surprised and the Barbarian tried to show they were no enemies. (I had the player roll Defy Danger - Charisma. Result was a 7-9.) The goblins did not attack, but were instead frightened of the Barbarian, who could either jump in and attack or allow them to run away. The player chose to allow them to run away. They were heading to get their Orc overlords.
The barbarian tried to climb out of the trench. (I had the player roll Defy Danger - Strength to climb out. Result was a 7-9.) I gave the option to ruin the climb for the other players by knocking loose the handholds or to make enough noise in the ascent to let the Orcs know the group's precise position. The player chose the second option.
Two orc slavers with whips and a huge brute orc mutant berserker barreled down the trench to their positions. The berserker swung his jagged blade wildly. The fighter stepped forward to Defend the cleric, but the slaver ensnared him in a whip (failed a Defy Danger with a 7-9), but he broke out with a Defy Danger - Strength (10+) and was able to Hack and Slash the slaver and cleave off his head. The Barbarian leapt from the high vantage point, making a Defy Danger to avoid the attack. He rolled a 7-9 and the Orc mutant clipped him for 1d10+5 damage before billowing out a howl to awaken the slumbering chaos stones, which erupted into flailing fleshy tentacles. The cleric Defied Danger to get to the mutant and Hack and Slashed (10+) with his mace. He did the damage, but I said a pustule popped, spraying acid at the Barbarian and Cleric engaged with them. They'd have to defy danger. (The cleric argued that he hit with a success and that I shouldn't have done the attack - is that right?) Anyway, they failed the Defy Danger and took damage. I had them Defy Danger against the mutating effect of the damage, and they both succeeded.
The fighter attempted to grapple the second slaver. He got a 7-9 on a Defy Danger - Strength. He tackled the slaver, but they slid further down the trench, away from the rest of the party. He was surrounded by four panicked goblin miners who turned their weapons on him. He did a Defy Danger - Strength (10+ result) to use the slaver as a shield and the goblins pummeled the slaver to death.
Two more good hits from the barbarian, and the orc mutant was killed. The group was able to heal up, but now rolling for rotes, the cleric got unwelcome attention from his magic. The sorcerer-priest of the Black Fire Ziggurat, Balthazar, called out to the party to come see him. The group decided to head that direction.
By the end of the session, the group had ended up on the run from the dwarven guards, having lost their weapons and armor, spells running low, and looking for a place to catch a break.
I don't know if I overdid it this session. The players did seem to have fun, but were frustrated when their failures (rolls of 1-6) had ramifications that hurt the rest of the party (like losing their weapons and armor), being captured, etc.
 

Alright @Retreater . Good stuff! Thanks for posting that.

I don't want to do this lump sum in one post and I don't have time. So lets just focus on a couple things and move through it in continuity of your post.

1) I'm assuming the following is correct about the Undertake a Perilous Journey move:

a) The destination was the Goblin Slave Pits of the nefarious Black City of the Fallen Dwarves.

b) They knew their way there either via map, they'd been there before, a guide, instruction of some sort.

Remember if both (a) and (b) aren't in play, you don't UaPJ, its just typical move structure as you set out to wander the wild in search of x. For UaPJ, the move requires, hostile terrain, a destination, and the PCs know where they're going.

2) What were the results of the UaPJ move (the mechanics and the fallout you put on the group, please)?

3) On this:

(I had the player roll Defy Danger - Charisma. Result was a 7-9.) The goblins did not attack, but were instead frightened of the Barbarian, who could either jump in and attack or allow them to run away. The player chose to allow them to run away. They were heading to get their Orc overlords.
How did you convey the fiction (your soft move) after the player made their move? As close to verbatim as you can get off recollection, please.

What GM move did you attempt to make (from the list)? How successful do you think you were at it?

Here, might be a way I would have done it (I'm assuming no one speaks Goblin):

GM MOVE - Tell them the requirements/consequences and ask

"The barking tongue is foreign to you, but you've soaked up a few words in your time. The one with a chewed off ear, rotted teeth, and a slick red tuft of fur as a neckbeard is gesticulating wildly at the others who are frozen in fear. His brow is furrowed as he points at you and then points upwards out of the trench toward the encampment proper. He violently shouts the word <master>, which you're familiar with, and then vomits out an Orcish name that is borderline impossible to pronounce. He does this repeatedly with greater vehemence each time.

When the frozen goblins don't respond, he huffs and makes a purposeful rush for the rickety ladder that leads from the pit up to the encampment.

Are you letting him go?"
 

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