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Topics - Jeremy

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AW:Dark Age / Fates: a Dissenting Opinion
« on: March 06, 2014, 10:40:10 PM »
I dislike Fates.  I realize I am in the minority.

My initial thoughts were very positive.  I still find them very evocative, and I really like the elegance of "cross one off for every harm you suffer; the top one that's uncrossed is currently true." 

I very much like the lists used for NPCs, Groups, and Monsters.  I could quibble about the wording and the ranking a little, but I think they're a great way to sum up the combination of physical harm and morale.  The problem is, none of the choices on those lists are fates.  They are descriptions of the current state.  Status, maybe.   

As for the PC Fate, I feel that it fails to live up to a promise, or at least its potential. When I first saw the Fates list and the fact that you crossed options off, I was really excited.  I thought to myself "oh, cool, if you ever take harm, then you'll never live to be 100!"  I assumed that crossing off Fates meant that those fates were closed to you, forever.  And that's cool and tragic and hardcore.

But that's not how it works.  The Fates are, when it comes down to it, hit points.  This fine Summer morning, I wake up and I will live to be 100.  I don my helm and armor, heft my shield and sword, and go into battle.  I suffer 3 harm, indicating that I will not live to be 100, nor will I live to advanced old age.  I don't even have more to do before I die.  But I will yet survive this.  So that's cool.

Then some time passes. Let's be generous and say it's a season or so.  The first three heal themselves.  So by the end of Autumn, maybe, I will live to be 100 again. 


If they come back with time and/or medical care, then those fates weren't lost to me.  I'd argue that they aren't even fates at all.  And while they are evocative, they don't actually help me, the player or MC, determine right now what is going on in the fiction.  Not the way the NPC, Group, and Monster lists do.

Vincent mentioned in another post that disease will also eat away at Fates, and that's cool.  Maybe it will address some of my concerns.  But right now, as written, the rows of PC Fates seem to be no more than hit points with labels.

So, what would I suggest instead?  Some or all of the following, perhaps?

1) Rename the current lists of NPCs, Groups, and Monsters to something else.  State, Status, Condition, Plight, Health, whatever.

2) Give PCs a similar track.  For example:
 - am strong, sure, and whole
 - bear the marks of violence or duress
 - struggle to fight on
 - seek only to survive this
 - can threaten no one
 - lay on my deathbed

3) I'd give PCs a set of actual Fates, things they are owed by the fiction.  Maybe the list is generic to all playbooks, maybe playbook-specific.  Maybe some of each.  Examples:
 - I will live to a ripe old age
 - I will see my children happy and wed
 - I will see the Dragon rise
 - I will reclaim what is mine by birth
 - I will die peacefully in my bed
 - I will die a hero
A player gets a certain number of these, maybe 3-6?   Maybe there's a list, and you pick your fates?

4) You can cross these fates off as plot armor, much like taking a debility in AW.  Like, you can cross of "I will live to a ripe old age" to negate an instance of harm.  You don't suffer the harm (or maybe you don't die?) but you are no longer going to live to a ripe old age. 

Ideally, there'd be other things to spend these fates on than just avoiding harm.  Like, you can burn one to turn a roll into a 12+? 

When or if you retire your character to safety, his Fates apply.  If he will live to see his children happy and wed, then the children are off limits for the GM as well as the retired PC.  At least until they are married and the retired PC sees them happy, that is.

Monster of the Week / Evolution of "Act Under Pressure"
« on: January 19, 2013, 12:34:20 PM »
Hi Mike, question for you:

In the original drafts of MotW, you had Act Under Pressure written like this:
When you are acting under pressure, on a 10+ you do what you set out to. On a 7-9 the Keeper is going to give you a hard choice – you can do it, if you pay the price.

In the final draft, it became much more like AW's act under fire or DW's defy danger, particularly on the 7-9 result.
When you act under pressure, roll +Cool.
On a 10+ you do what you set out to.
On a 7-9 the Keeper is going to give you a worse outcome, hard choice, or price to pay.
On a miss, things go to hell.

So my question is: why the change?  What didn't you like about the first version? Why does the new one work better for you?


Dungeon World / How long do your fights usually take?
« on: November 21, 2012, 01:30:13 PM »
In table-time, with 3-4 PCs, how long would expect a fight to usually take against:

a) one or two big, dangerous threats (a troll, a pair of golems, a big-ass crocodilian)

b) a warband of relatively weak threats, maybe with a leader or beastie (say, the goblins in the Example of Play at the beginning of the book).

Ranges of time are fine... just trying to get a baseline.

Thanks in advance,


Dungeon World / AW report, fights too long, and a miserable player
« on: November 20, 2012, 11:00:59 PM »
Our normal D&D 4e game fell through last night, and we were talking about switching over to DW, so we gave it a shot.  I've run the game before; two of the players had played before.  I had a blast, but the initial fight took REALLY long and one of the players had a miserable time.

What follows is a pretty thorough play report, in the hopes that someone can point out where the dissatisfaction came from.  Help?

- Human wizard (new player)
- Human ranger (played DW once before)
- Human paladin (played DW once before)

We did introductions, established bonds, asked questions about the world.  All that.  Went well.  Established that the paladin & ranger regularly guided caravans & folks travelling between settlements.  Wizard took a shine to the ranger and started following along.

To kick things off:  asked some questions about orcs in the woods, established that these orcs were particularly bloodthirsty. Indulged in torture.  Even attacked forces that were obviously superior, getting cut down. 

Initial setup: the party had snuck up on the orcs and their sacrificial rite, and thankfully they hadn't been noticed.  Asking players questions, established that:
-the wizard was the one about to be sacrificed
-she'd heard strange chanting in the night and been compelled to leave the caravan and slip into the woods
-called for help when grabbed by orcs; the ranger & paladin tracked them through the woods to this spot
-the ritual was going to conjure something bad and spidery

Quick sketched out the terrain: a rocky high ground with woods all around it.  Old ruins on the top of the rocks, with a couple bonfires.  Six orcs drumming & dancing in front of a big altar-like stone.  One-eyed orc priest sharpening dagger behind that stone, and two orcs on either side of it, holding the wizard down by her hands & ankles. Altar & orc priest are at 12 o'clock (with larger rocks and ruins behind them), paladin and ranger have snuck up at around 6 o'clock.  Dancing/drumming orcs are between PCs and the altar.

What do you do? 

The paladin asks "what here is evil?"  The orcs are evil, sure, but also that stone is thrumming with evil and the very hill itself seems to be containing something ancient and wicked. 

Ranger wants to try to draw off orcs and give paladin an opportunity to rescue wizard.  He describes moves quietly away from the paladin counter-clockwise until he gets to 4 o'clock, then firing some arrows in the orcs' general direction and starting to run, make noise.  I initially take this as a volley, but after discussing, we decide it's not even a move.  The ranger's not attacking, he's just making noise and trying to get their attention.  I briefly consider asking for a parley roll, but even that wasn't really it and I couldn't stand asking him to roll +Cha for this action.  So I was a fan of the character and just said, sure.

So, the orcs all notice the arrows and turn towards where they came from. The orc priest barks something in orc ("go check it out!" or something), and the six dancing & drumming orcs go running into the woods. 

The wizard takes that opportunity to try and twist free, rolling +Dex to defy danger for a 7-9. I go for a worse outcome: she gets her hands free and sits half-up, but her ankles are still held. So she casts magic missile, gets a 7-9, and chooses danger. She blasts the orc holding her ankles to crisp, but the priest grabs her by the hair and pulls her back. The other orc (the one who had her hands) grabs one of her arms and one of her legs. The priest puts the knife to her throat and hisses something in her ear.

The paladin charges out, brandishing his shield and leveling his sword at the orcs, saying "Let her go and flee this place!" in his best I am the Law voice.  Sadly, he rolls a 6. So the orc priest growls "Your god has no power here!" and starts slitting the wizard's throat (4 damage).

Meanwhile, the ranger is running into the woods, leading the orcs away. I have him roll +Dex to defy danger, the danger being tripping or running into something in the dark woods and the pursuing orcs catching up. He gets a 7-9; I say that he stumbles, hits the ground, and the orcs are going to be on him in a moment.  (In retrospect, I think this might have been too hard of a move.  I'm still torn.)

He stays down, flits his hood up over him, and tries to stay absolutely still in the dark.  It's definitely another defy danger, but we debate whether it's +Dex or +Wis. I opt for +Wis, since the way he described it he was clenching his teeth and trying not to move at all.  He gets another 7-9, and I opt for a worse outcome.  4 of the 6 orcs go running past him, but the straggling 2 orcs stop and start looking around, grunting to each other, sniffing about.

Back at the ruins, the wizard whispers back at the orc priest "y'know, the blood of a noble paladin would really feed this ritual well."  It's a little weak as far as leverage go, but I figure she's definitely shown that she knows what she's talking about (lightning from the hands and all), so I have her roll +Cha to parley. Gets a 6-, so he growls something like "his blood shall be a fine desert!" and drags the knife farther across her neck (another 4 damage).  I tell her that as her blood hits the altar, she feels a thrumming in her spine, the altar doing responding to it.

The paladin takes that opportunity to charge forward, trying to bowl everyone off the altar. I have him roll +Dex to defy danger to get there in time, and he gets a 7-9. Then I have him roll +Str to bowl everyone over, and he nails it 10+.  Together, I interpret this as him succeeding in plowing everyone off, but not before there the knife at the wizard's neck does another 2 damage. The paladin knocks away the orc holding the wizard down, knocks the wizard off the altar in the other direction, and tackles the priest, landing behind the altar in a heap.  As the wizard flies off, she sees a small spray of her blood, slow-mo, arcing away from her and about to spill on the altar. She asks if she can try to cast Cure Light Wounds to "pull the blood back."  I think it's creative enough, so I let her try, but she'll have to roll +Int to defy danger first in order to cast it before the blood splatters.  She agrees, gets a 7-9, and I say that the only way to pull it off is to lose the spell, no matter what the outcome.  She goes for it, casts a spell with 10+, and the blood sucks away from the altar (sadly, she only rolled a 1 on her healing die).

Cut back to the woods. The ranger stays stock still again, hoping the two orcs sniffing about will be on their way.  Another +Wis to defy danger, this time with a 6-. One of the orcs is sniffing about, getting closer and closer, then stops sniffing and BAM, stabs the ranger 4 damage.  The ranger grabs a handful of dirt and throws it in the orc's eyes, trying to leap to his feet.  +Dex to defy danger, gets a 7-9.  I say it works, but that the other orc is charging at him while he gets to his knees.  He's asks if he can draw his short sword and counter attack, and I say that he doesn't have enough time, he's got to defy danger again first.  Another 7-9, and I say that he parries the spear thrust but the orc plows into him, tackling him to the ground and pinning him with the haft of his spear.  The short sword is just a hand's breadth out of reach.

Back up top, the paladin is on top of the one-eyed orc priest.  The priest has one hand free, grabbing at the paladin's face and trying to get his thumb into the paladin's eye socket. The paladin is lying on his shield, with the priest under him, and his sword in the other hand--but they're too close to bring it to bear.  The orc that had been holding the wizard picks up a nail-spiked club and steps in to bash the paladin on his bald head.  The wizard interjects by casting a Magic Missile at him (I have a "but it's not your turn" moment, but it passes).  She gets a 7-9 on the casting check, chooses "reality unravels around you."  Lighting blasts from her fingers, taking out the orc, but the lightning persists and arcs up to something in the air above the altar.  Energy keeps sucking out of the wizard into this nexus, and then down into the altar--in the very spots where the wizard's blood had dropped earlier. Uh-oh.

The paladin, unable to use his sword, tries to shift his shield so that he drive it into the orc priest's throat. Sweet!  +Str to hack & slash with a 7-9. The paladin deals his damage (only 3).  For the orc's counter-attack, I consider using the move "take an eye," but thought it was too harsh for a soft hit.  I opted to have the priest use flesh-rending magic, dealing 4 damage to the paladin by burning a handprint into the paladin's face. It ignored armor and also gave him the Scarred condition, cuz… well, hand-print-shaped-burn-on-face.

In the woods, the ranger called his familiar (a crow) to get his blade into reach. No move there, really. He then had the crow try to distract the orc so he could stab him.  +Str to hack & slash, with a 7-9. He deals damage, dropping the orc, but in the struggle the orc bats the crow away, knocking him senseless into a tree.  The other orc (the one that had been blinded by dirt) comes charging in. The ranger counterattacks with another hack & slash 7-9. They trade damage, the orc doing 4 but going down from the ranger's 6.

Back at the rock, the wizard spouts lore to see what she knows about this ritual and this effect of the lightning leaching into her.  Gets a 7-9, so I tell her that the ritual appears to be fueled by her blood, that's it clearly no longer under the orc priest's control, and that it's somehow leaching more of her power off of it.  (I think I could have done better, but I was stymied for details that weren't obvious.)  She opts to just move away from the altar.

The paladin drops his sword, grabs the orc priest (who's still prying at his face!), and twists, trying to bash the orc's head into the nearby altar.  He rolls +Str to hack & slash, getting a 10+, and pulls it off just fine!  I figure that while he's not "armed," he's using the altar as a weapon just fine, so he rolls damage.  Gets more than enough to kill it, so I say the orc's skull splatters open and it's blood covers the altar!

The lighting being drawn off of the wizard stops almost immediately, but the altar seems to thrum (to the wizard especially… she seems it almost visibly shaking).  The paladin runs down to the wizard to tend to her wounds, and as he gets there they both here the hiss of release.  The see a dark, misty shape in the night sky above the altar, with little arcs of lightning flitting through it and glowing red eyes.  A wind whips up and it darts northward into the woods. 

Out in the woods, the ranger hears the four other orcs off in the distance, still running about.  Then he hears the hissing sound coming from back the other way, feels the wind change, and shortly thereafter hears the orcs make some noise and head off in a totally different direction, kind of panicky?

Ranger makes his way back to the hill & the ruins, finds the paladin using lay on hands on the wizard.  A 7-9, and only 2 damage healed, but the slice on the wizard's throat stops bleeding and scratch appears on the paladin's.

The head back to the caravan.  There's a little discussion of what comes next and what they might do.  The wizard spouts lore about the spirit-thing they saw, getting a 7-9.  I defer to the ranger, asking him what he knows about the old religions and spirits of the people who used to inhabit these lands.  He gives us some great material to work with: old hunter-gatherer tribes living off the land, until one tribe got more aggressive and warlike than the others.  Really powerful, backed by their vicious spirit-god.  The other tribes banded together to defeat them, and their shamans sealed the old spirit away.  Party decided that they needed to see this caravan through to the next town, then they'd head south to the White Havens where the best arcane library the wizard knew of could be found.

Specific Issues:
1) So the fight scene above, from setting the scene through the lay on hands part, took 90 minutes.  That seems REALLY LONG to me.  Sure, part of that was us getting into the groove of things.  But still… really long.  That same fight in D&D 4e would probably have taken 60 minutes? 

Does that jive with other's experiences?  If not, any insight on where the length is coming from?  If so, thoughts on how to make it move more quickly?

2) I really enjoyed the way the fight played out; I think the wizard and paladin did, too.  The ranger's player was MISERABLE.  His main complaint:  since he never rolled a 10+, he never got to succeed without something awful happening. That could partly have been me making too hard of moves on his 7-9 results.  They didn't feel particularly hard to me, and they definitely felt like they followed from the fiction. But it made him DREAD taking any action, or having the spotlight come back to him.

I'm really not sure how to respond to it. Part of it might have been a matter of zoom. The ranger's player wasn't interested in the fight scene. He wanted to lure the orcs off into the woods so that the paladin could try to rescue the wizard.  In hindsight, he would have been perfectly happy with his original Defy Danger 7-9 result being something like "you can lead them on a merry chase through the woods, losing them eventually, or you can loop back to help your friends but they'll be hot on your heels."  And then leaving that all "off screen" and resolving the fight at the altar more quickly. 

The "zoom" thing is only part of it, though.  If he hadn't led the orcs away from the thick of the fight, that wouldn't have really been an option and he'd have been stuck in this fight with the other PCs, and probably experiencing much the same feelings.  Maybe not, since he'd probably have been rolling volley a lot more and that move is a lot less painful on a 7-9.

I think the really stumper for me, though, is that the 7-9 results that kept the situation fluid and dynamic are what make the game fun and interesting for me but that made it TERRIBLE for him.  The paladin and wizard player expressed similar concerns about the range of outcomes and the unlikelihood of getting "free and clear" success, but they were still engaged in the fiction and playing well off each other. 

The ranger's player really enjoyed the communal world building, and was interested in investigating the released spirit and what its up to and the history of the thing and talking to folks. But he HATED the fight, and the scale of it.

Is this just a difference in what we enjoy?  Are there ways of running DW differently that would make the fights snappier and less drawn out?  Is his reaction to 7-9 results something others have seen before, and if so, how have you dealt with them?

Thanks in advance for any insight.

brainstorming & development / A potential XP mechanic
« on: November 13, 2012, 12:13:09 AM »
Idea for advancement in hack. Assume that you've got basic moves that everyone can do, plus playbook-specific moves like most hacks have.

You only start with one playbook-specific move; heck, maybe you don't start with any.

You also start with a handful of XP.  2-5, you'd have to play with the #s.

You can use any move in your playbook, but must spend 1 XP on it each time you use it.  After you spend a certain amount of XP on a move (3? 5? varies move-to-move?), you permanently gain that move. No more need to spend XP on it.

This approach would only really work for moves that were intrinsic to the character. For things like "My Other Car is a Tank" or "Collector," you'd probably need more of an "upgrade" or "add-on" option where you bought the character trait with a big batch of XP.  That'd also cover things like the gunlugger getting a gang.

For added fun, make there be a basic or peripheral move that you can spend XP on.  Like, "when you take harm and spend 1 XP, take 1 harm less but lose something: your footing, your grip, something valuable."

Take it another step, and you could have "move trees," where permanently getting a move unlocks another move that you can now use by spending XP (which can itself be eventually paid for permanently).

I'm not even sure I like the idea, but thought I'd put it out there.


Dead Weight / Joss Whedon supports Dead Weight (sorta)
« on: October 30, 2012, 06:56:17 PM »

"Money is only so much paper to the undead. The 1% will no longer be the very rich, it'll be the very fast. Anyone who can run, fight, make explosives out of household objects, or especially do parkour of any kind--you'll want to stick with them."

Dungeon World / weapons, tags, weirdness
« on: July 08, 2012, 05:24:19 PM »
Some questions I've been meaning to ask for a while: 

1) What's the design decision behind daggers not having the "precise" tag?  If any melee weapon ever rewarded speed/precision/reflexes/agility over power/size/strength, it would be a dagger (or knife, shiv, whatever). 

It appears to me that the intent is to make "precise" a rare tag, via cost.  It costs 25 coin for a rapier (the cheapest precise weapon), and 8 coins for a short sword/axe/mace/etc.  The only difference is the precise tag. 

But why is Precise so valuable?  I mean, I get that it's basically a purchased stat substitution move.  But it's a situational stat sub move, one that's dependent on the weapon being at hand.  If I use up their resources, disarm them, take away their stuff... then the move is gone.  Plenty of ways to do that.

(And, yes, I know I can hack my games to make different tags apply to different weapons.  I'm wondering why Sage & Adam made this choice for the core rules.)

2) Aside from the fighter's signature weapons, no weapons (even magical ones) are Forceful or Messy.  No weapons at all have the Awkward tag.  Why not?  It seems to me you could easily have such weapons on the standard equipment list.  Like:
-Maul, greatclub:  close, two-handed, forceful, awkward, 12 coins, 3 weight
-Greataxe, claymore: close, two-handed, forceful, messy, awkward, 25 coins, 3 weight
-Spiked warchain: close, reach, two-handed, awkward, 15 coins, 1 weight

I'm not claiming these are "balanced" at all. Maybe the right thing to do would be assign a coin value (positive or negative) to each tag, as well as a coin value to the weapon's weight.

(Again, I know I could add these to my game.  I'm wondering why these tags aren't in any of the standard gear. And for Awkward, why it even exists as a tag if it isn't used with anything.)

Dungeon World / Dwarven fighters?
« on: July 03, 2012, 07:25:01 PM »
I find the dwarf racial move for fighters kind of weak.  Anyone else?  I see the value in it, but it's so situational that I have a hard time seeing it come up in play.  Also, it's the only one of the fighter racial moves that doesn't make you better at fighting

Have you had dwarf fighters in your game?  Have they gotten much use out of their racial move?  Have you had anyone actively pass over choosing a dwarf because the move was weak?

A proposed alternative (drawing on the 3.5e/4e notion of dwarven stability):
Dwarf: While you have hold from defend, you are immovable. You can't be pushed, picked up, thrown about, or knocked down.

Dungeon World / "Faith" quote on page 45
« on: July 01, 2012, 05:45:45 PM »
Page 45 of beta 2.3:

“It’s not about… making sense. It’s about believing in something. And letting that belief be real enough to change your life. It’s about faith. You don’t fix faith, River, it fixes you.”

Pet peeve, but clerics in DW don't have faith.  "Faith" is belief not based on immediate or testable proof.  But the Cleric has proof.  He communes with his deity. He casts spells granted by said deity, spells with clear and observable effects.  If he completes a petition, he gets divine guidance.  There's no faith there.  (Sure, it might have required faith to get to the point of communing, casting spells, etc.  But it's not faith anymore.)

What clerics have is grace, or favour, or zeal.

I'm not suggesting that anything seriously change.  It's just that quote in the margin that bugs me.  And in the spirit of "don't criticize without offering an alternative," how about:

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you."
-EDIT Ezekiel 25:17 Pulp Fiction

Dungeon World / AP: In the Dark of the New Moon
« on: June 10, 2012, 11:21:01 PM »
Got to finally run a game of Dungeon World.  Sorry for the length and the multiple posts. I think best by writing, and there are a lot of thoughts and a lot to recount.

First up, background.  I run a bi-weekly 4e game. Two of the players were from that game.  Been gaming with one of them for ~15 years (all sorts of stuff), the other for ~1 (4e only). Third player was briefly in my 4e game, but left due to scheduling conflicts.  All of us have experience with different versions of D&D. None of us have played AW (etc.) before.

Me, I'm an avid devourer of indie games but rarely have a chance to play them.  Half-designed a few games, never got to the point of publishing any of them. 

Two of the players had looked over the Beta 3.2 (?) rules that J. Kim posted as a web doc. I printed off the artless character sheets (found a link on these forums), which appear to be Beta 3.3 (no cleric spell tags; updated fighter racial moves). 

Dungeon World / Charming & Open
« on: June 07, 2012, 11:28:41 AM »
The "Mansion's Cavity" thread got me thinking about Charming & Open. Starting a new thread to avoid jacking that one.

Just ran a game with bard (full AP coming), and I think I totally misread Charming & Open. I assumed that when the bard spoke frankly with someone, the bard could ask the question and I had to answer truthfully.  I assumed it was a variant on Read a Sitch in AW. 

1) Why is the choice built in? My principles (be a fan, give monsters life/NPCs names, ask questions) would lead to me to pretty much always answer the questions.  I can maybe see the value of choice in PC-v-PC interactions, but even then I think it's more fun if the questions are flying.

2) Given that there *is* a choice, how should I, the GM, be making the decision whether to answer? Like I said, most of the principles make me think I should answer. But some (make a move that follows) make me wonder. If I'm considering things from the point of a view of my skeevy, devious NPC, making a move that follows would lead me to not answer. Should I be considering this from the point of view of the NPC being portrayed or the GM running the game? 

3) I also assumed that these questions are (or at least can be) player-to-player questions and NOT character-to-character.  Like, the bard doesn't have to actually ask "so, old chum, what would it take for you to look the other way while we slip through this door here?"  The player can just ask that of the GM (or the other PC's player).  Yes?

4) When I (the GM) choose a question to ask back, what should I be basing that on? What the NPC wants to know? What *I* think is interesting as the GM?  Does the NPC I'm running know the answer?  It's fuzzy to me.  Maybe the move needs some rewording or clarification. Maybe the answer is "all of the above, whatever's appropriate given the circumstances."  If so, I'd recommend addressing it in the Class Moves section.

Dungeon World / Under the Dark of the New Moon
« on: June 04, 2012, 01:38:54 AM »
I’m running my first session of DW tomorrow night (quite excited). I’ve been reading some of the old Roy Thomas Conan comics of late, which are seriously affecting my thoughts.  Thought I’d put this together, in the spirit of Marshal Miller’s dungeon starters.
Suggestions?  I’d love to hear them. (it feels a little light in the things and custom moves).

  • Aside from its rampant thieves and general debauchery, what is Shadizar the Wicked known for? How does it continue to exist?
  • How did you respond when the guards at the city gate tried to shake you down for a bribe?
  • What is Valleios, that dog, hoping to sell in this cesspit of a city? Why is it so important that you stop him?
  • Who else would pay good money to see Valleios dead?  Why?
  • After last night, which thieves' guild is howling for your blood?  Why?
  • The last time you were in Shadizar, who went missing just before the new moon?  Why didn't you try to find them?
  • Where do you plan to sleep tonight, since you've only paid for your room through last night?
  • Who was it told you that Velleios had been seen in this seedy tavern?
  • What is about that serving wench, aside from the obvious, that caught your eye?
  • What did you say to this half-orc brute to get him so upset?
  • Shadizar the Wicked, a city with a well-named sobriquet
  • Rocky hills surrounding the city, pocked with caves and tunnels
  • A tower of jet-black, topped with a strange, hollowed-out minaret, Temple of the Night God
  • A city watch only interested in lining its own pockets

  • Red-robed cultists of the unseen Night God, collecting "tithes"
  • A tavern filled with thieves, smugglers, and bravos, and the seedy lot that accompany them
  • A young and hedonistic prince, too concerned with pleasure to rule
  • A dancing girl, beautiful and forward, mayhap with ulterior motives
  • A portly merchant of clayware, secretly Oshur, the fence among fences
  • The monthly disappearance of a youth (not necessarily a virgin) of great beauty
  • A well-known secret, that the Cult of the Night God is behind the kidnappings

  • A bazaar swiftly closing as dusk falls, the streets emptying quickly
  • A moonless night in a city bereft of torches and inured to screams for help
  • An alleyway, eerily quiet in the darkness; even the rats are hiding
  • A boarded-up old manor, supposedly abandoned, but connected to secret tunnels
  • Valleois, pockets laden with coin, stumbling through the darkness
  • Curious trilling noises in the distance
  • The flapping of wings and high-pitched chittering in the darkness
  • Screams in the darkness, of pain and terror
  • Short bronze whistles strangely placed holes

  • Strange, high-pitched whistles echoing from the Night God's Tower
  • A dark form blotting out stars as it passes
  • Dozens of chanting cultists in the firelight
  • A haughty, dark-skinned high priestess, adorned in dark robes and platinum symbols
  • A human sacrifice, the missing youth, writhing on an altar
  • Sudden darkness as the braziers are covered
  • Rushing sounds in the dark, flapping wings and horrid, high-pitched squeals
  • A scream in the darkness
  • A giant, horrid bat-thing, not a god at all
Bronze Whistle -- 0 weight
Found beneath the red robes of the cultists (and maybe in Oshur’s hands?). When you play a bronze whistle in the presence of an Eater of Light, roll (+nothing, just roll). On a hit, choose 1. On a 7-9, the GM will pick one as well.
-The Eaters fly into a fit of rage
-The Eaters flee the scene
-More Eaters are drawn to your location

Elfin Chain -- 2 armor, 1 weight
Made for a noble of the elfin courts, but somehow fallen into Oshur's hands. Hides under clothes and makes nary a sound. Should word get out that you have it, though, expect the attention of greedy thieves and indignant elves.

Custom Moves
When you sneak through the streets of Shadizar in the dark of the new moon[/b], choose a leader to roll +Wis.  On a 7-9, pick one. On a 10+, pick two.
- You arrive at your destination
- You don't draw attract any Eaters of Light.
- You learn something useful

When you try to do something without drawing the attention of the Eaters of Light[/b], roll +Dex. On a 10+, no problem.  On a 7-9, pick:
- You do it
- You don't draw their attention

Valleios  (solitary, intelligent, devious)
Instinct: to profit at other's expense
-Slip free
-Steal something
-Cause a distraction or inconvenience
Knife (d6, hand)
HP: 12, 1 armor

Red Robed Cultist (group, intelligent, organized)
Instinct: to give praise to the Night God
-Beat senseless over the head
-Overbear with numbers
-Call or dismiss an Eater of Light
Club, staff, etc. (d8, close)
HP 6, 0 armor

Assassin (solitary, intelligent, devious)
Instinct: to complete its assignment
-Stalk its prey
-Pass unnoticed, in shadow or disguise
-Poison someone
-Take its own life in failure
Knife, garrotte, (d8, piercing 1, close)
HP 12, 0 or 1 armor

Corrupt Watchmen (group, intelligent, organized)
Instinct:  to lord over others
-Shake down for a bribe
-Turn the other way
-Hold someone at spearpoint
Spear (d8, close, reach)
HP 6, 1 armor

City Rogue (group, intelligent, stealthy)
Instinct: to take advantage of weakness
-Lead into a trap
-Retreat from a fair fight
Daggers, cudgels, shortswords (d8, hand, close)

Oshur, Fence of Fences (solitary, intelligent, hoarder, devious, stealthy)
Instinct: to come out on top
-Reveal an advantage previously unseen
-Adapt quickly
-Offer a deal
Crossbow (d8, near, poison)
Dagger (d8, hand/close)
HP 12, 2 armor (elfin chain)

Eater of Light (horde, small, stealthy
Instinct: to swarm and devour
-Attack suddenly from out of sight
-Consume a light source (unharmed)
-Knock someone down
Flies, blindsight
Tooth & claw (d6, piercing 1,
HP 3, 0 Armor

The Night God (solitary, large)
Instinct: to carry off a sacrifice
-Grab someone
-Carry someone aloft
-Screech horribly, and painfully
Flies, blindsight, blinded by light
Claw + fang (d10, piercing 1, close/reach)
HP 16, 0 armor

Blackrat, Fafnir, Nughur, Jowls, The Tooth, Two-Fingers, Mul   
Taurus, Maldiz,  Naram Seen, Raaq, Salfir, Graamis, Jelal, Aras
Arbella, Ninsina, Jasmina, Milta, Hajii, Sonay, Esra
The Two Coppers, Delica’s Inn, the Sign of the Crone, the Swine and Whistle, Old Kellak’s

Dungeon World / How to handle "Grease" (or similar) in DW
« on: May 25, 2012, 10:01:00 PM »
I was looking through the D&D5 playtest spells, and saw the description of the Grease spell.  Short version: you grease up an area, it's slippery, and any creature that enters it makes a saving throw or falls down.

It got me thinking: how would I handle that in DW?  Or anything similar, like throwing a bunch of ball bearings on the floor.  It's really a question of: how do you resolve a clever ploy that might work but sure isn't guaranteed to?

There's no basic move that directly applies. I suppose you could make a custom move (roll +?, 10+ they fall, 7-9 they're off balance, etc. etc.). But that's kinda boring, and I don't really want to make up a custom move like that on the fly or for just one spell.

So that leaves you with GM moves, principles, and agenda.  Which pretty much boils down to "what flows from the fiction?"  An orc charging down the hall hits the grease patch?  Falls.  A wraith floating by, no way.  A kobold approaching cautiously?  Maybe?  Being a fan of the PCs makes me think "yes, he falls." At least for the first kobold. The others behind him would realize it was slippery and be more cautious.

Not sure what the point of this post is. Just thinking in public, I guess.

blood & guts / what if Read a Sitch/Person worked differently?
« on: January 22, 2012, 12:03:51 AM »
I'm thinking about a hack, and wondering what effect the following version of read a sitch/person would have:

When you assess the situation, ask the MC one of the questions below and roll +Sharp. On a 10+, the MC will answer, clearly and truthfully. Take +1 forward when you act on the answer. On a 7-9, the MC will either give a vague or incomplete answer, or tell you how you could learn the answer.
<insert list of read a sitch/person questions here>

What I like about this version is that, in play, it seems like players ask one of the questions first anyhow, which is what triggers the move. But on a hit, they end up with more questions to ask.  Not so much a problem when reading a person (unspent hold isn't a big deal), but sometimes it'll drag out when reading a sitch (no one wants to give up a question they earned, so they obsess over which ones to ask; plus it's pressure for me to come up with an answer).

What I don't like about this version is that it loses the limits imposed by the current Read a Sitch/Person moves.  When you use one of them, there's an understanding that you can't do it again until the situation changes--so pick your questions carefully.  With the rewrite above, that expectation goes away. After asking "what's the best way out" you could easily ask "what else should I be on the lookout for? and roll again.

Thoughts? How would a change like this influence play?

Apocalypse World / "It's a... trap???"
« on: October 08, 2011, 06:25:00 PM »
Where is the line between "MC makes as hard of a move as he wants on a miss" and player control of their character's actions?

Say the characters are navigating a ruined and unstable set of buildings (landscape: mirage; entice & betray), tracking this cannibal butcher that's hold up in there.  He's led them into a trap, a room with a floor that's really unstable.  People walk on it, they fall through.

One the players is suspicious, so before entering the room he asks "does it look safe?"  I tell him roll +Sharp to read a sitch.

If he gets a hit, no problem.  I answer his question: the floor's unstable, looks like it could cave in with enough weight on it.  Maybe he gets to ask more questions.  What he does next is his business.

But on miss… how much control do I have over his character's actions when I make my hard move? There are all sorts of good moves suggested by the fiction (put him in a spot, separate them, inflict harm) that involve him stepping out on the floor.  But do I get to say that he stepped out on to the floor because he missed the roll?

I can see many of the folks I play with getting very irate over me saying "it looks safe, but when you step onto it, the floor gives way!"  "But I never said I stepped on to it!" And they've got a point. Just because the floor looks stable doesn't mean they're going to step out onto it.

If I don't have the right to say "it looks safe, so you step onto it…," then what options *do* I have for a hard move in this situation?  I can't lie and say "it looks safe!"  And even if I did, that's far from an irrevocable hard move, especially since the player *knows* he rolled a miss.

I suppose I could have the cannibal attack from behind while they assess the situation.  But beyond that, the best I can think of are setup moves that give the players a chance to act (like "you see movement on the other side of the room, it's that bastard you're tracking, but he's leaving now… what do you do?").  And again, the missed "read a sitch" roll is still hanging out there as a metagame indicator that the room is NOT in fact safe.

How do y'all play this sort of thing?

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