log in or register to remove this ad

 

D&D General Why defend railroading?

I'm not trying to be difficult, but this response increases my perception that you're running Dungeon World as a D&D campaign with some different mechanics and a bit more player input. Dungeon World's moments of play are meant to be a cascading snowball of peril. Downtime for the characters happens, of course, but it's a montage, off screen, narrated stuff about what they do with the time they have. It isn't moments where you are roleplaying things like researching golem creation by finding and visiting libraries that may or may not have the book you want. This is not how the game is built to run because you can't drive the fiction with failures and framing new dangers because you have to fit in that it's downtime and less threatening. This pulls the teeth from the mechanics.

And, fill their lives with adventure isn't a broad, on average thing. It's a thing you do every moment of the game. All of the principles are. They aren't 70% things, they are 100% things. Dungeon World is meant to focus entirely on the adventure part. The "end of session" rules are the only bits of downtime that Dungeon World acknowledges -- everything else is just narrated, like "I tend the homestead for the winter." This is because of how the move structure works, the need to make soft and hard moves against the characters, and how those moves are framed. Studying to make a golem, for instance, would require soft and hard moves from the GM on checks, but what soft and hard moves are there during a downtime phase where nothing bad is supposed to happen?

And, finally, the adventure you described sounds, again, like a typical D&D adventure and not a Dungeon World adventure. I'm not sure how puzzles work in Dungeon World, but more than 1? Traps, also, are rarely a discreet encounter in DW, but rather complications to other actions. The monsters sound good, though. The overall structure of you example implies that there was a good deal of prep here -- having puzzles to be solved, placing traps to be bypassed. This isn't how Dungeon World is supposed to be played -- if anything, you have a starting situation in mind, a solid prep to set the tone of the dungeon/adventure site and introduce a theme for that dungeon, but, after that, play should spiral very rapidly into places where you can only have a sketch of prep -- a monster roaming the dungeon, or a neat piece of set dressing to use, or a list of likely new challenges if the first one peters out due to lots of great rolls. Puzzles, though? Not really a large part of the DW wheelhouse because puzzles directly test players, and DW is not at all about that. If you're using a puzzle in DW that doesn't test players, by keeping it vague in description or malleable in solution, then you're just asking for die rolls.

There's not a specific moment of play here for me to point to, but overall, when you talk of your Dungeon World game, it feels very off. Not as in not fun, which I'm sure it is, but off to someone that knows how that game works and runs. The things you're talking about feel like they come from a D&D game, not a DW game. The same "oh, and holy poop, then this crazy stuff happened!" is missing, and there's a lot of setting that seeming to be constraining play. Heck, the fact you have an order of wizards and such? In the DW setting (what there is of it), there's just the one Wizard, and he's adventuring. And just the one Fighter. And just the one Barabarian. The conceit is that these are heroes of legend setting out to make that legend, not Bob from accounting that just quit due to a midlife crisis and went adventuring. And, it's not bad to change the setting, not bad at all, but the ways you've related it feel very much like a D&D style setting, where setting is very important and constraining on the characters and comes from the GM (mostly). And that feels like a normal D&D setting.
I dunno... I think there's a lot of leeway there in DW. I mean, think about how the design of PbtA is explicated as a sort of 'onion'. It seems to me that maybe the way @EzekielRaiden brings out elements in play, and his pacing, could be a bit different from what you, or perhaps the designers of DW, are aiming for. I'm not nearly as convinced that this produces a wildly different game at its core. DW DOES ask for a significant amount of GM prep! You are supposed to produce 'maps with holes', Fronts (up to 5 or more, possibly even more in a substantial campaign), etc. There are also few moves in DW which actually have the PLAYER purely injecting fiction directly into the narrative, vs the more typical situation where the GM is constrained to answer in a certain way, or obligated to ask questions and use the answers.

The point being, while I guess if I was there and playing in that game I might change my mind, there's no real reason to think that the game, as described, is "not really DW" vs that it is simply a DW game in which the style of play is a bit different, and maybe there is more emphasis on people at the table and the story in front of them, vs constantly getting right back to the core techniques in the very next sentence. Since I have paid very little attention to podcasts and such from PbtA authors (or any others) and haven't joined a wide variety of PbtA games run by 'experts' in story games, I cannot even really gauge what is considered 'typical'.

My own games read more like 'Indiana Jones' or something than @EzekielRaiden's do, but as I said earlier that's more me than anything else. I just get all muddled up with too much detail of plots and clues and whatnot and then something crashes through the roof and off we go! Maybe that means I'm the heavy-handed one, lol.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

No. Even then, there's a big difference between "I spent some time thinking about this and considering its ongoing consequences" and "I made this decision on the fly and am going to stick with it."



At that point, they've become house rules, albeit not particularly thought-through ones.
Yeah, I don't think rulings are 'just houserules by another name' either. House Rules are an organized alteration/addition to an RPG designed for a specific purpose and introduced by the GM, almost always at the start of a campaign. It may be that now and then a ruling rises to the level of creating a house rule, so it is discovered that something doesn't work 'right' and the GM makes a 'ruling' and then that produces a variation of play that is codified as a genuine house rule. 99.99% of rulings IME however are simply two people parse English a bit differently and the GM decides "because there's no comma here, it means X" and goes with it.
 

Rulings can definitely become house rules. I think that is actually how a lot of house rules emerge (people take the rulings that worked great and start applying them to the game all the time). I think people just have different thresholds for how big they want their house rules to become (I may turn one or two rulings into a house rule over several years and don't like to have too many additional rules floating in the system)
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I dunno... I think there's a lot of leeway there in DW. I mean, think about how the design of PbtA is explicated as a sort of 'onion'. It seems to me that maybe the way @EzekielRaiden brings out elements in play, and his pacing, could be a bit different from what you, or perhaps the designers of DW, are aiming for. I'm not nearly as convinced that this produces a wildly different game at its core. DW DOES ask for a significant amount of GM prep! You are supposed to produce 'maps with holes', Fronts (up to 5 or more, possibly even more in a substantial campaign), etc. There are also few moves in DW which actually have the PLAYER purely injecting fiction directly into the narrative, vs the more typical situation where the GM is constrained to answer in a certain way, or obligated to ask questions and use the answers.
I am convinced it creates a wildly different game. I can sit at a table where DW is being played in D&D mode, with lots of GM prep for the setting and with D&D pacing, and that game will be wildly different from a game where you lean into the game as presented because that game will be frenetic, have lots of player definitions of the setting and plot elements in play, and will not feel at all the same.

Specifically, the principles of play are rules, not suggestions, for how you are to play PbtA games. Not following through on them to the best of your ability is like ignoring AC when you want a monster to hit in D&D. The principles of play are as definitional as the 1-6, 7-9, 10+ of the checks. There's room for interpretation and execution there, yes -- your DW game will not be like mine exactly, but when we compare notes it should be about how we leveraged the principles differently -- maybe I prioritized fill their lives and you prioritized ask questions in this moment of play, and that will give different results. But, you can't just decide that "fill their lives" is an occasional thing and you want to run some slow downtime with the game -- you've now stepped outside the principles and therefor the intended game.
The point being, while I guess if I was there and playing in that game I might change my mind, there's no real reason to think that the game, as described, is "not really DW" vs that it is simply a DW game in which the style of play is a bit different, and maybe there is more emphasis on people at the table and the story in front of them, vs constantly getting right back to the core techniques in the very next sentence. Since I have paid very little attention to podcasts and such from PbtA authors (or any others) and haven't joined a wide variety of PbtA games run by 'experts' in story games, I cannot even really gauge what is considered 'typical'.
And this is importing how D&D works, and D&D sensibilities, into a game that isn't D&D. It's dragging culture in that doesn't align with the intended play, and then using that dragged culture to explain that it's not not playing DW to play it a different way. I don't agree, and I think that this culture of "anyway is fine" that is true inside the D&D community is not universal. I find this argument expects system to support the imported mode of play and then blames the system for failing to provide for the assumed mode of play. You see this with 5e all the time. DW will fight you if you try to play it like D&D, and then you have to spend the extra time dealing with that, or restricting what happens in play.
My own games read more like 'Indiana Jones' or something than @EzekielRaiden's do, but as I said earlier that's more me than anything else. I just get all muddled up with too much detail of plots and clues and whatnot and then something crashes through the roof and off we go! Maybe that means I'm the heavy-handed one, lol.
Couldn't say.
 

I'm gonna still have to disagree. Other than the initiative issue, once you had the Greyhawk weapon tables and such, I think most of the process (outside initiative) was pretty obvious given the other table and how hit points were phrased. Yeah, there was a bunch of other stuff that could confuse you in Chainmail if you paid it any mind, but I'd be surprised if even one in five GMs did.
I guess we will have to agree to disagree to a degree. I'm pretty sure that D&D in the group I first gamed with started up purely by virtue of someone in our Boy Scout troop finding a copy and buying it. There was a 'hobby shop' (game store) a few miles away, and by around 1974 I would go there now and then and use my allowance/paper route money to buy some Avalon Hill game or other. So did a few of the other boys. One of them bought D&D, possibly there were rumors going around about how it was some cool new thing, I'm not sure.

Anyway, the guy who ran it had Chainmail, I guess he thought he had to buy that too. The upshot is, there is a really large paucity of actual rules for how to play, like almost none at all. Even if you read between the lines there's no such thing as a solid initiative rule (witness, J Eric Holmes' cleanup of the D&D rules includes a totally different rule/process for running the combat loop). So, I KIND OF agree with you, there were some logical choices, assuming you had Chainmail, but they were not cast in stone.

The first group I played with did it pretty similarly to what I expect Gygax did, based on what is in 1e and assuming that codifies his practices. OTOH I then played with a bunch of other groups that had many other interpretations, and they all thought they were 'canonical'! These were all Army guys mostly, so they probably started playing in various places all over the world at military bases (D&D was big there in the 70s, something I've rarely heard discussed). Our own group that I ran used the rules from Holmes Basic, until 1979 when we adopted the 1e combat rules.
 

I'll step up. I've been GMing a long time, and have done a lot of thinking about how games work, generally and specifically. My on-the-fly rulings leverage this understanding and are often immediately candidates for house-rules without further effort. Experience and foundations count for something in this.

On the other hand, I can point to a few examples of long discussed house rules on this very forum that display a lack of understanding about the game and that are essentially doomed to fail to achieve what they hope to achieve. Yet, they're very thought about.

I stand by my opinion. All other things being equal, on-the-fly decisions, while a necessity sometimes, are inferior to ones made with time to think. And I don't think that changes just because someone has plenty of experience and has spent a lot of time thinking about games (both those apply just as much to me).
 

I guess we will have to agree to disagree to a degree. I'm pretty sure that D&D in the group I first gamed with started up purely by virtue of someone in our Boy Scout troop finding a copy and buying it. There was a 'hobby shop' (game store) a few miles away, and by around 1974 I would go there now and then and use my allowance/paper route money to buy some Avalon Hill game or other. So did a few of the other boys. One of them bought D&D, possibly there were rumors going around about how it was some cool new thing, I'm not sure.

Anyway, the guy who ran it had Chainmail, I guess he thought he had to buy that too. The upshot is, there is a really large paucity of actual rules for how to play, like almost none at all. Even if you read between the lines there's no such thing as a solid initiative rule (witness, J Eric Holmes' cleanup of the D&D rules includes a totally different rule/process for running the combat loop). So, I KIND OF agree with you, there were some logical choices, assuming you had Chainmail, but they were not cast in stone.

The first group I played with did it pretty similarly to what I expect Gygax did, based on what is in 1e and assuming that codifies his practices. OTOH I then played with a bunch of other groups that had many other interpretations, and they all thought they were 'canonical'! These were all Army guys mostly, so they probably started playing in various places all over the world at military bases (D&D was big there in the 70s, something I've rarely heard discussed). Our own group that I ran used the rules from Holmes Basic, until 1979 when we adopted the 1e combat rules.

I played the game exactly twice at a convention before I'd run it, and I seemed to figure it out. Other than having some background in chit-and-hex wargames I don't think I was that special. And I didn't do more than glance through Chainmail since it didn't seem to relate to the tables in the actual D&D books.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I stand by my opinion. All other things being equal, on-the-fly decisions, while a necessity sometimes, are inferior to ones made with time to think. And I don't think that changes just because someone has plenty of experience and has spent a lot of time thinking about games (both those apply just as much to me).
Be my guest. I don't agree, have personal evidence to refute, and can point to strong evidence on the boards as well. I'm comfortable in my position that it's not nearly as clearly cut as that.
 

Be my guest. I don't agree, have personal evidence to refute, and can point to strong evidence on the boards as well. I'm comfortable in my position that it's not nearly as clearly cut as that.
You don't think that having more time to think will on average improve the quality of a house rule, everything else being equal? Because to me it seems blatantly obvious that it does. That's why people who write the official rules spend a lot time doing it and do not just publish the first thought that happens to pop in their head.

This of course doesn't mean that taking the time to think will guarantee that the rule is good, but it will definitely increase the likelihood of it!
 

pemerton

Legend
I did not ask for any rolls. I assumed the PC knew more about golem-crafting than I did, and thus that, if he was interested in creating a golem, he knew better than I did what library to go to. I guess you could say that I presumed a successful Spout Lore, since I volunteered useful information rather than asking for a roll.
Dungeon World's moments of play are meant to be a cascading snowball of peril. Downtime for the characters happens, of course, but it's a montage, off screen, narrated stuff about what they do with the time they have. It isn't moments where you are roleplaying things like researching golem creation by finding and visiting libraries that may or may not have the book you want. This is not how the game is built to run because you can't drive the fiction with failures and framing new dangers because you have to fit in that it's downtime and less threatening. This pulls the teeth from the mechanics.

<snip>

Studying to make a golem, for instance, would require soft and hard moves from the GM on checks, but what soft and hard moves are there during a downtime phase where nothing bad is supposed to happen?
I got the same impression that you (Ovinomancer) did, further reinforced by the quote above.

I can envisage golem creation as a dramatic arc in DW play, but it would be Spout Lore to identify the process and necessary ingredients, and perhaps Discern Realities once the process of actually summoning and embedding the animating spirit has begun (assuming the GM is narrating that with appropriate fervour!) As well as unwelcome truths (as things go awry) and damage (due to the powerful magical forces), there could be loss of gear and/or separation from companions as possible moves for failure. I'll admit I'm leaning here on my greater familiarity with Enchanting and Summoning in BW, but I think some of the basic concepts should bleed across.

Of course that means it's not downtime in any mechanical or thematic sense.

@EzekielRaiden, if someone asked me to identify the essence of play in DW or AW, from the GM/MC perspective, I would say (a) drive play towards conflict, and (b) follow the players' leads in that respect.

These two principles I've put forward interact, in the actual process of play, in the following way: because of (i) the basic tenet if you do it, you do it (that's the AW formulation; in DW it's stated less pithily on p 18: "When a player describes their character doing something that triggers a move, that move happens and its rules apply"), then (ii) if you as GM, in driving play towards conflict, are keeping in mind the basic genre and themes of the game, and if (iii) the game has been well-designed with its playbooks and moves so that these capture the basic genre and themes appropriately, then (iv) the players will have their PCs do things to respond to the GM's pressure, which will trigger moves. And (v) many of those moves will, in their resolution, require the GM to make moves which (typically) increase the pressure but also (vi) give the opportunity, in so doing, to ask questions and build on the answers. And (v) and (vi) help bring my (a) and (b) above into interaction with one another.

With the Golem example, for instance, at every point where the wizard has consulted his accumulated knowledge about something, it seems to me that Spout Lore has been triggered. And Spout Lore also says (p 66) "The GM might ask you “How do you know this?” Tell them the truth, now." This is a special case of asking questions and building on the answers, and is meant to help you as GM follow the player's lead, particularly for any 6-down results and even results that are interesting but not useful (eg "Your master taught you that a wooden golem can only be built of acacia grown in a millennial faerie glade; and she herself had the last such acacia kept under a spell of preservation in the storage rooms of her tower" - that's interesting, but it's on the player to make it useful, eg by trying to get the wood from his master in some fashion).

What has caught me by surprise in your accounts of your DW play is that I don't see much of either (a) or (b) in what you're describing.

Conflict-wise, it played into the character's ongoing personal feud with the Waziri establishment (who tend to be officious, pedantic, hypocritical, power-hungry, and incredibly unwilling to change), as well as his expanding interest in the fundamental laws of magic, in this case, giving magic itself "life" in some sense. It was a relatively focused vignette fitting into the character's larger story

<snip>

He wasn't really anyone, just a dude they happened to come across and feel pity for. Having asked one of the players, there were several reasons. First and foremost, it's a matter of a personal commitment (as both a player and a character) to saving people when you can save them. If there's something you can do, you should strive to do it, even if that's costly to yourself--there are of course limits, but this being an adventure game, to some extent a power fantasy, those limits are a lot looser than they are IRL, and this player is quite animated to save anyone that can be saved as a result. It was also something of a personal victory, taking something away from a rapacious consumptive evil, proving that that evil was not an unassailable thing. The group overall generally also felt pity for the dude (he really was just some merc, not anybody of prominence or power), and saw helping him as a useful step toward greater support from other allies.

The need for the mirror arose from the party's previous failure (not on a single roll, but on a selection of them) to meaningfully hurt or impede the Song of Thorns itself. They already knew they were going to need more mojo, so they consulted allies and did research, "what do we need in order to fight this?" It wasn't specifically the result of Spouting Lore per se, and I definitely admit that the mirror itself was something I inserted into the fiction in response to their inquiries and petitioning their allies for aid.
Again, I'm not seeing a lot of (a) here and am unsure of the (b) too. I'm not seeing the moves; I'm not seeing the snowballing from 7-9 and 6-down results; I'm not seeing the players using their moves like Spout Lore and Discern Realities, nor their moves that fail, to push play into new and unexpected places. The injured dude is a soft move - an unwelcome truth - but I'm not getting a sense of where this came from as a piece of GM narration.

I'm not sure exactly what petitioning allies for aid means, but if that's a Parley move then leverage is important, and I'd expect the players' leverage to feed in especially via a request for concrete assurance. Whereas what I'm seeing is the mirror introduced by you much like a MacGuffin in traditional FRPGing.

"Huh. We haven't been northwest of here, what's out there?" "Dunno. What IS out there, Ranger? You've been travelling the deserts for ages."

<snip>

"The Sultana herself has made a request for you to help with a mysterious problem in the catacombs beneath the palace."
Examples chosen to show a gamut of possibilities, all of them actually from my game. Some are (what I see as) conflicts/situations pretty clearly driven by me (Sultana), some pretty clearly driven by the players (exploring NW)
I don't quite see how exploring the northwest is a conflict. What is at stake?

As with the golem example, I'm not quite seeing what the pressure is. It looks to me like very exploratory play, where the exploration is of a mix of GM-authored stuff and stuff that people are making up at the table. In the Sultana case, where does that come from? Or to put it another way, what move triggers that request from the Sultana - it doesn't seem to be part of providing concrete assurance to achieve a successful Parley, for instance.

Later, when they actually performed the healing, that was absolutely a process based on a number of rolls, but it also exploited prep work I'd done (which is something the DW rules explicitly tell me to do) and featured other important actions on their part. In the end, they managed to get the guy mostly healed (well, fully healed but still super weak), as noted--the final push was only a partial success, but a success nonetheless.

<snip>

In this past session, our Bard, who owns a Bestiary of Creatures Unusual, got back-to-back opportunities to consult his knowledge of beasts. That meant he got to ask one question each time, and I answered that question as comprehensively as I could. Does that mean I "authored" the content? If so, it really does seem like even DW rests pretty heavily on GM-authored content, if even things like Spout Lore and Bardic Lore (and thus, implicitly, Discern Realities, Parley, and most other moves) are automatically "GM-authored" simply because the rules tell the player to ask me a question that I must then answer.
As I understand it, the function of prep in AW and DW is to help provide a consistent and focused body of fiction to draw on when you (the GM) make a move. And you make a move either when the resolution of a player move requires you to do so (most obviously on a 6-down; also often on a 7-9), or when everyone looks at you to see what happens next (that would normally be a soft move, probably most often the revelation of an unwelcome truth). It's not the function of prep, as I understand it, to provide answers to player action declarations prior to, or outside of, the framework of if you do it, you do it.

When it comes to answering questions, at that level of abstraction this is a feature of most RPGs: the players declare actions for their PCs that oblige the GM to tell them what the PC knows/learns/sees as a result. (Probably the paradigm of this is forcing open a dungeon door in classic D&D: the GM then tells the players what they see in the room.) So what distinguishes DW, again as I understand it, are the principles that inform the way the GM decides what to say. Consistently with my (a) and (b) above, I would normally expect the GM to say something that will drive play towards conflict and that follows the lead of the player. And if the GM's not sure what the player is aiming towards, s/he can ask - eg what do you think is happening here? or so what exactly are you hoping to learn here? or similar.

I guess I'm a little unclear as to what a "player-authored plot moment" would be? I felt like a mere facilitator for the described things, not the person "in control" doling out things to extremely passive players, which is part of why I've pushed back on this. The consistent implication is that my players sit there quietly doing nothing at all until I shove something before them, which...doesn't feel at all correct.
Here's an example of a player-authored plot moment, or rather a sequence of them. It's from my own BW play (as a player, not a GM). I'm summarising from my own player's campaign notes of 5 sessions (probably about 10 or so hours) of play, some of which are in this actual play post (which itself includes a summary of some of the earlier points in this list); I've s-blocked for considerable length:

* The PCs are built - Thurgon, a knight of a holy military order (the Knights of the Iron Tower), and his sorcerer sidekick Aramina. The GM tells me that we're starting play on the Pomarj-Ulek border - that's a bit warmer than I had expected (in my initial conception Thurgon is rather Germanic) but I roll with it.

* The backstory I've written for Thurgon includes that "Thurgon left the Iron Tower only weeks ago. The Knight Commander of the order sent him forth into the wilderness. He does not know why." And also that Thurgon has not set foot there in Auxol, his ancestral estate, for over 5 years, since he left to take service with the Iron Tower.

* Now there are some ambiguities in Thurgon's background as represented by some build elements: there is an Affiliation with the Order of the Iron Tower; and also a reputation as The Last Knight of the Iron Tower. So it's not clear if the Tower has fallen, or is falling. The GM doesn't push for certainty in that respect. Instead, he starts fairly low-key and as one might expect: we (that is, Aramina and Thurgon) are travelling along the river frontier (between the settled lands of Ulek and the wilder lands of the forest and the Pomarj), where there are old forts of the order (now abandoned) and also abandoned settlements.

* At one of the homestead, I declared a couple of checks: a Homestead-wise check (untrained) to learn more about the circumstances of abandonment of this particular ruined homestead, which succeeded, and hence (in this case) extracted some more narration of backstory from the GM; and then a Scavenging check, looking for the gold that the homesteaders would have left behind in their panic and which the orcs would have been too lazy to find. Unfortunately this second check failed, which meant that Orcs from a raiding party had virtually infiltrated the homestead before I noticed them. Here we have an attempt at a player-authored plot moment, but the failure tilts the balance of narrational and hence situational authority back to the GM. The fight with the Orcs engaged Beliefs and Instincts, so there were local moments that expressed Thurgon's character in this bigger GM-established context.

* The Orcs (as the GM narrated things) were part of a larger raiding party, with mumakil. I think the GM was hoping I might chase the mumakil, but I have no animal handling, animal lore etc and so the mumakil remained nothing but mere colour. The larger raiding party was chased off by a force of Elves, again narrated by the GM. I wasn't surprised that Elves should show up - my GM loves Elves! I tried an untrained Heraldry check to recognise the Elves' arms, and failed - so the Elven leader was not too taken by me! In this there was cross-narration by me and the GM, but it ran in the same direction: as I was saying (in character) that I don't recognise the Elven leader's arms and wondered who he was, he (spoken by the GM) was telling me that he didn't like my somewhat discourteous look. I don't know what, if anything, the GM had in mind for the Elves, but one of Thurgon's Beliefs was (at that time) that fame and infamy shall no longer befall my ancestral estate. So I invited the Elf to travel with his soldiers south to Auxol, where we might host them. The GM had the Elf try and blow me off, but I was serious about this and so called for a Duel of Wits. Unfortunately my dice pool was very weak compared to the Elf's (6 Will dice being used for untrained Persuasion, so slightly weaker than 3 Persuasion dice vs 7 Will dice and 6 Persuasion dice) and so despite my attempt as a player to do some clever scripting I was rebuffed by the Elf without getting even a compromise. Here we have a player-authored plot moment. Although it ended in failure for the PC, it was all about what I as a player had brought into the situation. I'm pretty sure the GM hadn't anticipated this. So I don't know what he anticipated for the Elves' departure, but in the game it followed my failure to persuade them to join me.

* In the course of discussion the Elf did mention that one Orc - who may or may not have fallen in battle, he wasn't sure - was wearing a shield bearing the crest of the Iron Tower. I think the GM was expecting me to pursue this Orc, but I didn't, for two reasons: (i) having been rebuffed by the elven leader, I wanted to head off in a different direction, and (ii) I was a bit worried that Aramina is too squishy for hunting Orcs!, and Thurgon's pretty vulnerable too to being swarmed. So Thurgon and Aramina road off to the northwest, following the river.

* The GM wanted to skip a few days, but I insisted on playing out the first evening, as Thurgon and Aramina debated what to do. Aramina - being learned in Great Masters-wise, believed that the abandoned tower of Evard the Black lay somewhere in the forest on the north side of the river (a successful check, initiated by me as her player), and wanted to check it out (and find spellbooks!). Thurgon persuaded her that they could not do such a thing unless (i) she fixed his breastplate, and (ii) they found some information in the abandoned fortresses of his order which would indicate that the tower was, at least, superficially safe to seek out (eg not an orc fortress a la Angmar/Dol Guldur). My notes are a little incomplete here, but I think we resolved this as a Duel of Wits with me scripting for Thurgon and the GM for Aramina. This was a player-authored plot moment.

* We now did the travel-for-a-few-days montage and the GM told us we found an abandoned fortress of the Iron Tower. This situation was framed by the GM, and he introduced a lot of content, some of it in response to multiple failed checks on my part and some as part of his ongoing framing. But the key event was when Thurgon and Aramina found themselves magically trapped in a crypt of dead knights of the Order, one of whom had gone made and lingered on as a skeleton. The GM kept trying to goad Thurgon into a fight with this skeleton, but I refused on the grounds that I (which is to say, Thurgon) would not turn on one of my Order, even a twisted skeleton. A Duel of Wits was lost by Thurgon, and an initial prayer to reverse that outcome failed too. But then Thurgon and Aramina found some books, including a prayer book (I think this must have been a Scavenging check) and guided by the book Thurgon performed rites for the dead and then was able to succeed on a prayer of Purification to free the skeleton from its curse. And so we were able to leave. This was a GM-framed situation, with a lot of GM-authored content, but the crucial plot moment - a victory of peace and prayer, rather than arms - was player-driven. We also had some clues about a magical fiery assault on the fortress - this was GM-authored, responding to some my failed checks.

* We then travelled to Evard's Tower. A successful Circles check for Thurgon enabled us to meet Friedrich, a former knight of the Order, who took us down the river on his raft to where Evard's Tower is. This was all player-authored, although not itself a major plot moment.

* The GM also introduced another NPC around this point, travelling on the raft too. This NPC was an echo back to a NPC from another campaign of ours. The GM clearly liked this idea (he'd hinted at something similar with the Elves) but I wasn't interested. The GM took the hint and the NPC left the scene in fairly short order. At Evard's Tower we encountered a demon - this was the GM's introduction of a content into a situation that was otherwise player-established (ie the presence of the Tower). The demon was looking for information and compromises, as the GM had it ask questions and hint at things that pertained to the information that we had learned in the abandoned fortress, but my approach here was the opposite of what it had been there: Thurgon would not compromise with a demon, and fought it to a standstill (its summoning ended, and it departed the scene). As a result the GM decided that Thurgon had gained a new Reputation, and Infamous Reputation among demons as an Intransigent Demon Foe. This was a plot-moment which was instigated by the GM - a demon at the tower - but which was player-driven. And the GM recognised this with the decision about the Reputation.

* Aramina had tried to call down a Rain of Fire on the demon but failed and Taxed herself into unconsciousness. Thurgon made sure she was safe, and then explored the Tower while she was unconscious. He found letters that implied that Evard was the father of his mother (with whom he has a Relationship from PC build; and who, as per the backstory I wrote, still lives in Auxol). I can't now remember whether this was a narration of failure (seems more likely) or success, but it was driven by a Scavenging check. Thurgon burned the letters in the campfire - this was in part because he has an Instinct When camping, always ensure that the campfire is burning. This was a plot-moment that was player-authored. The GM's role was one of mediation: wending together the Thurgon-Auxol/family and Aramina-Evard/spellbook strands, using the letters as the device for that.

* Once Aramina regained consciousness, a series of misadventures flowing from the campfire led to the Tower catching fire. Thurgon wasn't able to put out the fire; but the burning down of the Tower did reveal its basement. This was clear GM situational authority, retaking the "initiative" on the back of a sequence (five, I think) of failed checks. In the basement we found fairly rough iron - Orc work, it seemed, perhaps to build something - and some sort of magical circle. Thurgon was able to identify it as a teleportation circle (my successful check, but from memory the GM's content). Thurgon then used his Ritual skill to try and open it, conjecturing that it led to Auxol or the vicinity - how else could his mother have sent letters to Evard when she was young? But that check failed, and so the GM explained that it led to an (unfamiliar) cave. Aramina was able to tell (by reading the symbols of the circle) that it travelled 100 miles east. The was eager for us to go through, and narrated the circle as flickering as if the portal was about to close. But I wanted us to go and get our gear that was still upstairs, and so made another check for Aramina to alter the symbols so as to hold the portal open longer. This failed, and so the portal collapsed shut. And further misadventure (consequent on a failed Scavenging check to try and find coin in the basement) led to the basement also collapsing when Thurgon shoved something that had already been damaged by the fire. There are two real plot-moments here - the circle being opened but then closing before we could explore it; and the burning and collapse of the tower. The latter was clearly GM-authored consequent on failed checks. The former flowed from player decisions made within the GM's framing of a teleportation circle.

* We decided to head East the old-fashioned way. A successful Circle check revealed Friedrich returning back down the river on his raft. Looking at the map, we (ie the GM and I) agreed that Thurgon and Aramina would disembark at a particular point. This also happened to be back in the general vicinity of Auxol, and so Thurgon kept his eyes open for friends and family. A Circles check was successful again, and so Thurgon and Aramina came upon Thurgon's older brother Rufus driving a horse and cart. As plot-moments, these are definitely transitional with rising action at the end, rather than climaxes. They were player-authored. Rufus was described in my written backstory (as having mundane interests, including a mistress in town), but as I have not purchased a Relationship with him, a Circles check was necessary to meet him.

* The interaction with Rufus was quite intense. As described by the GM, it was clear to Thurgon that Rufus was not who he had been, but seemed cowed - as Rufus explained when Thurgon asked after Auxol, he (Rufus) was on his way to collect wine for the master. Rufus mentioned that Thurgon's younger son had married not long ago - a bit of lore (like Rufus himself) taken from the background I'd prepared for Thurgon as part of PC gen - and had headed south in search of glory (that was something new the GM introduced). I mentioned that Aramina was not meeting Rufus's gaze (as per one of her Instincts at that time), and the GM picked up on this - Rufus asked Thurgon who this woman was who wouldn't look at him from beneath the hood of her cloak - was she a witch? Thurgon answered that she travelled with him and mended his armour. Then I switched to Aramina, and she looked Rufus directly in the eye and told him what she thought of him - "Thurgon has trained and is now seeking glory on his errantry, and his younger brother has gone too to seek glory, but your, Rufus . . ." I told the GM that I wanted to check Ugly Truth for Aramina, to cause a Steel check on Rufus's part. The GM decided that Rufus has Will 3, and then we quickly calculated his Steel which also came out at 3. My Ugly Truth check was a success, and the Steel check failed. Rufus looked at Aramina, shamed but unable to respond. Switching back to Thurgon, I tried to break Rufus out of it with a Command check: he should pull himself together and join in restoring Auxol to its former glory. But the check failed, and Rufus, broken, explained that he had to go and get the wine. Switching back to Aramina, I had a last go - she tried for untrained Command, saying that if he wasn't going to join with Thurgon he might at least give us some coin so that we might spend the night at an inn rather than camping. This was Will 5, with an advantage die for having cowed him the first time, against a double obstacle penalty for untrained (ie 6) +1 penalty because Rufus was very set in his way. It failed. and so Rufus rode on and now has animosity towards Aramina. As the GM said, she better not have her back to him while he has a knife ready to hand! This was a player-initiated situation. Most of the content came from the player - the GM embellished a little. It was definitely a player-authored plot-moment, although it didn't work out quite as I (and the PCs) had hoped.

* The PCs The characters continued on, and soon arrived at Auxol,. The GM narrated the estate still being worked, but looking somewhat run-down compared to Thurgon's memories of it. An old, bowed woman greeted us - Xanthippe, looking much more than her 61 years. She welcomed Thurgon back, but chided him for having been away. And asked him not to leave again. The GM was getting ready to force a Duel of Wits on the point - ie that Thurgon should not leave again - when I tried a different approach. I'd already made a point of Thurgon having his arms on clear display as he rode through the countryside and the estate; now he raised his mace and shield to the heavens, and called on the Lord of Battle to bring strength back to his mother so that Auxol might be restored to its former greatness. This was a prayer for a Minor Miracle. A mix of resource expenditure (including "raising the death flag") and lucky rolling meant it succeeded. So a beam of light shot down from the sky, and Xanthippe straightened up and greeted Thurgon again, but this time with vigour and readiness to restore Auxol. The GM accepted my proposition that this played out Thurgon's Belief that Harm and infamy will befall Auxol no more! (earning a Persona point). His new Belief is Xanthippe and I will liberate Auxol. Turning back to Aramina, I decided that this made an impact on her too: up until now she had been cynical and slightly bitter, but now she was genuinely inspired and determined: instead of never meeting the gaze of a stranger, her Instinct is to look strangers in the eyes and Assess. And rather than I don't need Thurgon's pity, her Belief is Thurgon and I will liberate Auxol. This was the most dramatic plot-moment of the five sessions. It was largely player-authored (PC backstory, plus the Relationship meaning I can meet Xanthippe whenever fictional positioning permits), and while the GM had an idea of where it would head I was able to seize control and begin the process of redeeming Auxol.

* There are various loose ends - the fate of the Order (as came out in the interactions with Orcs and Elves, and the abandoned fortress); the connection of the Order to the demon at Evard's tower; Evard's relationship to Orcs, and to the demon, and to Xanthippe and hence Thurgon; and who is Rufus's master? These are all GM-authored content (as a player I can't surprise myself with my own content, only my action resolutions!) But they orbit around the Beliefs and goals of my characters.

This is a BW example, not DW. But I think my (a) and (b) above are evident. The GM is authority. But so am I, the player, and even when the GM is framing I am - as much as possible - bringing that back to player-authored plot-moments.
 

I'll step up. I've been GMing a long time, and have done a lot of thinking about how games work, generally and specifically. My on-the-fly rulings leverage this understanding and are often immediately candidates for house-rules without further effort. Experience and foundations count for something in this.

On the other hand, I can point to a few examples of long discussed house rules on this very forum that display a lack of understanding about the game and that are essentially doomed to fail to achieve what they hope to achieve. Yet, they're very thought about.
Yeah, in fact, TBH, I'm not much of a fan of house ruling. My experience is that GMs who are really into tinkering are mostly obsessed with their opinion of how things aught to work, rather than some broad (or even narrow) conception of altering the play of the game in any logical or coherent fashion. So, if I run into a GM who's going on about how they reworked half of some game, ESPECIALLY if they habitually do this with every game they run, then that's a Red Flag moment for me. lol.

PERSONALLY, I really don't run games with house rules much. I added a couple of very minor practices into my running of 4e, and ignored a couple of things, which technically might be considered 'house rules', but well within normal table variation for that game, as an example.

There are just so many games out there these days. If I want to do something, there's a game for it. Or else I can create one based on an existing game, as really a whole new game, like my current 4e-like hack game, which is NOT 4e, so not 'house ruled'. I'd happily build a PbtA game if I felt no existing one did something I wanted too. Those situations are getting rare though!
 

I am convinced it creates a wildly different game. I can sit at a table where DW is being played in D&D mode, with lots of GM prep for the setting and with D&D pacing, and that game will be wildly different from a game where you lean into the game as presented because that game will be frenetic, have lots of player definitions of the setting and plot elements in play, and will not feel at all the same.

Specifically, the principles of play are rules, not suggestions, for how you are to play PbtA games. Not following through on them to the best of your ability is like ignoring AC when you want a monster to hit in D&D. The principles of play are as definitional as the 1-6, 7-9, 10+ of the checks. There's room for interpretation and execution there, yes -- your DW game will not be like mine exactly, but when we compare notes it should be about how we leveraged the principles differently -- maybe I prioritized fill their lives and you prioritized ask questions in this moment of play, and that will give different results. But, you can't just decide that "fill their lives" is an occasional thing and you want to run some slow downtime with the game -- you've now stepped outside the principles and therefor the intended game.

And this is importing how D&D works, and D&D sensibilities, into a game that isn't D&D. It's dragging culture in that doesn't align with the intended play, and then using that dragged culture to explain that it's not not playing DW to play it a different way. I don't agree, and I think that this culture of "anyway is fine" that is true inside the D&D community is not universal. I find this argument expects system to support the imported mode of play and then blames the system for failing to provide for the assumed mode of play. You see this with 5e all the time. DW will fight you if you try to play it like D&D, and then you have to spend the extra time dealing with that, or restricting what happens in play.

Couldn't say.
Yeah, I honestly haven't participated in a DW/PbtA community, per se. I have played, mostly with various people who have a lot of D&D experience, and talked with people here. So my perceptions of what DW does and how to use it may be super ideosyncratic and whatever. I do agree that my games are a bunch more 'frenetic' MOST of the time, than @EzekielRaiden's game SOUNDS, but we have little feel for the pacing of his game either. There have been times when a bunch of non-danger/adventure stuff happened in my game, but it was A) off screen and not during sessions, and B) any significant stretch of down time was largely elided from description so that the TABLE PACING was not slowed, though fictionally "several years pass" could happen.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
You don't think that having more time to think will on average improve the quality of a house rule, everything else being equal? Because to me it seems blatantly obvious that it does. That's why people who write the official rules spend a lot time doing it and do not just publish the first thought that happens to pop in their head.

This of course doesn't mean that taking the time to think will guarantee that the rule is good, but it will definitely increase the likelihood of it!
That's not the position taken. And, given some of the discussion threads here at ENWorld, there's evidence to the contrary. Bad assumptions in, not questioned, lead to bad assumptions out not matter how long you think about them.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
That's not the position taken. And, given some of the discussion threads here at ENWorld, there's evidence to the contrary. Bad assumptions in, not questioned, lead to bad assumptions out not matter how long you think about them.
One advantage time gives is seeing it in actual play more (assuming I is something that happens frequently enough to worry about).
 
Last edited:

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I don't know Urban Shadows but from your reference to a "move" I'm guessing that it's PbtA?

Correct.

Burning Wheel uses "objective" difficulties (called Obstacles) rather than "subjective" difficulties (as in 4e D&D, MHRP, HeroQuest revised, etc) or fixed spreads (as in Apocalpyse World and other games that adopt its move structure). This means that, for a Circles or Wise check, a difficult has to be set, and this is based (respectively) on the improbability of an encounter with this sort of person here-and-now, and on the obscurity of the information being recalled. So in BW there has to be specification of the hope or the conjectured belief as an input into the resolution process.

In this example, though, the PC can (and must) state at least the topic and kind of information they are seeking. How probable the results are is based on the information requested. The person narrated is, at this stage, merely color, as you can't use the invoked person for anything else without further moves, and the difficulty of those would be set independently.
 

pemerton

Legend
In this example, though, the PC can (and must) state at least the topic and kind of information they are seeking. How probable the results are is based on the information requested. The person narrated is, at this stage, merely color, as you can't use the invoked person for anything else without further moves, and the difficulty of those would be set independently.
Sorry, I haven't quite followed this. Which system are you referring to?

Just to tell you where I'm coming from: I think your suggestion about leaving some of the specification abstract at the input stage, and precisifying it at the output stage, is workable for a PbtA resolution framework (because of the "fixed" spread for all checks) but is not workable for BW (because of the need to set a difficulty that depends on that specificity).

Are you agreeing? Or disagreeing? About one or both approaches? Or have I got even more confused than I think I am?
 



Dausuul

Legend
So why are people arguing about PbtA games on the D&D general thread?
The alternative is to discuss the actual topic of the thread, which is doomed to an endless loop of "Railroading is any time X!" "No, that's not railroading, railroading is only when Y." "You're both wrong, railroading means Z, and that's why railroading is a good thing."

I'd rather read debates about PbtA than take another ride on the quantum ogre train.
 

pemerton

Legend
And now I'm curious if all PbtA's combined are less played than Halflings in D&D games/spinoffs...
Dungeon World typically has a couple of race options for each class. There are Halfling Druids, Fighters and Thieves.

Burning Wheel doesn't have Halflings in any official publication - I think for good reason. But I have read an account of a playtest in which one player was playing a Halfling called Biggie Smials.
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top