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Messages - StormKnight

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I feel like the overall goal of the combat rules in MotW is fairly clear; to provide a mechanism for characters to hurt each other, defend others from harm, and escape from or otherwise end combat if desired.

1) How do PCs declare actions in combat? Should:
* All the PCs declare what they are doing, and then start rolling/resolving in a logical order?
* Pick a logical PC to go "first", have them declare what they are doing, roll and resolve it, then move to the next logical person?

2) How often should NPCs "act" or make a move? In between every PC move? When a PC move fails? When every PC has had a chance to do something?

3) Should every PC generally get a chance to do something, or will situations sometimes have one PC taking several "turns" in a row?

4) When multiple PCs are attacking a single foe, how many should have to "Kick Some Ass" and take damage in return, and how many should just get to inflict damage as the monster is unable to fight back?

5) How do you handle highly unconventional "attacks", such as collapsing the roof on a foe? How much damage should something like that do?

6) What if a character that is attacking from a safe position (Ie, shooting from a distance at a foe with no ranged weapon) really wants to be able to get benefits that you could get from a 10+ on a roll? For example, let's say a monster has Armor 3 and the PC has a gun that does 3 damage. If you just allow the PC to deal damage, the shot bounces off the armor. But if they got to make a roll, they could get a 10+ and choose to do one extra point of damage and bypass the armor.

7) What if a PC attacks a foe who is capable of defending themselves, but the GM feels they'd rather do something other than hurting the PC right now. Should you substitute another effect for the foe dealing damage back? Handle that as a separate set of moves?

Wow, its been over two months since I posted here. I keep reopening this thread and trying to post, but I just get so frustrated that I don't bother. I've never gone back to the game we were playing; just left it frozen mid trying to disarm the guy. I would really, really like to finish up the game. It is driving me mad. I mean, I am literally losing sleep over this stupid game, but I feel like it will just be a disaster if I try to go back to it. I haven't the faintest idea how to play - I feel like I have even less of an idea than when this all started, with so many conflicting and confusing answers. I keep thinking I should try the individual move topic threads, but I'd be asking about all sorts of very specific details and I'm not even sure I understand the underlying concepts.

There's a lot of things that have been said that I really disagree with, but I don't think arguing will get anywhere. Munin, I'm sorry, I get that you are trying to be helpful, but I think we are just so out of sync that we're not even communicating with each other.

I'm going to try to revist an example that got made here, but I want to remind people (since this has been a long time) what the context originally was for this example. I posted this example in response to this comment:

The main purpose of the rules is allowing you to keep things moving in a fun direction, where you'd have no clue how to do so otherwise.

Let's again take an example; in our last session, a character attempted to lash out with her chain-blade and disarm the poacher who was pointing a rifle at her. She rolled in the 7-9 range, and the game came to a crashing stop because we just couldn't figure out what should happen next - ie, what would keep things moving in a fun direction. Its been several weeks now. We just haven't gone back because this got so frustrating.

What was actually happening here? Was the poacher threatening to shoot the character? Were they trying to get away? Were they trying to kill someone else?

What was the PC trying to accomplish? How were they doing it?

OK, so more details: Things are going on out on a wilderness wildlife preserve, that a supernatural creature is now stalking. The first thing the PCs found indicating something was going on was a mangled body, which belong to a poacher who had run afoul of the creature. The other poachers had come in a group to find out what happened to their teammate. One was scouting ahead, and she ran into the creature. The PCs heard her screams and managed to get there in time to save her life (though her leg was badly mangled). They fought the creature briefly and it fled. While they were applying first aid to the badly injured woman, the rest of the group found them. The poacher's leader assumed they'd attacked the woman; the PCs tried to explain how a monster had done this and they were all in danger, but didn't succeed (failed Manipulate Someone). The poacher leader demanded that the PCs drop their weapons and come along. Beth wasn't willing to drop her weapon. The poacher approacher her, threatening her with the rifle. Her weapon is a mystical artifact; a set of blades built into gauntlets with an extendible chain allowing them to be whipped out at a distance. Since they were retracted when the poachers showed up (plus its a really odd weapon), he had no idea that he'd come within her reach, and she lashed out the chain to try to grab the rifle out of his hands. The PCs don't want a fight, nor do they want to have to go with the poachers.

Again, what I was trying to figure out here was not "what are things that could POSSIBLY happen", but "how do I use the rules to get to something fun happening?" Because I'm just not seeing that.


Back on actual example, I really have no idea what to do after this bit gets resolved. They'll probably try to get back to the main complex, getting the injured person to medical aid. They took a jeep out, but wrecked it (on a mixed success when they heard the scream, I gave the option to either get there in time to help but damage the jeep or get there safely but probably too late), so it will be on foot. Should the creature attack them and harry them along the way? Trying to get through wildlands with an injured person and some hostile traveling companions sounds like, in theory, it would be pretty interesting, but I haven't the faintest idea how to run a situation like this in the game.

Or, since my countdown didn't include "creature stalks the PCs while they travel" (which, obviously it wouldn't since I didn't know the PCs will do this) should it just keep heading towards the main base and eat a bunch of people. That's a possibility, but I think it would be pretty boring and basically make the PCs "fail" when they had practically no info to go on yet.

So, do you find that most games only have a single investigative "scene"? Since with a decent number of players, they can easily get enough questions to ask everything they would want to know, they'll know everything useful after one "scene" anyway, no matter how unimportant it seems like the scene should  be.

Also...if every question can be answered regardless of how logical it seems or what the approach is...doesn't that kind of take all the fun out of actually "solving" a mystery?
OK, two things here: first, you can absolutely have more than one investigative "scene," especially once minions etc. are factored in. Figuring out just WTF is going on is likely to be a multi-step process.

Second, don't just have all of the players roll to investigate willy-nilly. Instead, have one or two take the lead and have the others roll to help them. Remember, the PbtA mantra of "to do it, do it" reigns supreme here.

And actually, this may be part of the disconnect you're having with these rules: the moves are triggered by the fiction, not vice-versa. If what you are doing fits the trigger condition for a move, you roll. If it doesn't, you don't. So if all of your PCs are in a scene that might involve investigation, don't settle for having a PC just say, "I roll to investigate a mystery," because that's not good enough. Ask them how. What are they doing to investigate this mystery? How, specifically, are they going about it? And if they can't tell you, or if their answer is lame and unconvincing, don't ask for a roll. But if they have a good approach, use their answers to help you decide in turn how to answer the questions they ask. Incorporate their back-stories and particular strengths. How the Psychic investigates a mystery is going to look totally different from how an Expert does it, and it's going to yield different results.

Which gets me to my next point, which is that just because a player gets to ask a question doesn't mean you have to tell them absolutely everything pertaining to that question. This circles back to your point about multiple investigative scenes and PCs piecing together the answer. So when they ask, "what kind of monster is it?" you don't have to say "yeah, it's totally a vampire." But you can say, "The bodies are eviscerated - seriously, organs everywhere - but there is a surprising lack of blood. Whatever this thing is, it likes blood." This could be a vampire, sure. Or it could be something else, like a Red Cap. You have to be honest, but you don't have to (and shouldn't) take all of the mystery out of it in a single go.

I am so confused. I feel like this is a complete contradiction. Earlier you said that the PCs should be able to answer any question they want, and the Keeper should produce the evidence to do so. Now you are saying it should be limited. If we're just poofing up whatever evidence we want, then surely then can run some test to figure out exactly what monster it was, or the victim just happened to drop their diary describing exactly the monster they were hunting, or something like that.

And, again, you seem to be saying that all the PCs should declare all their actions up-front before starting resolving things. That really isn't how I'd pictured it working it all. I'd figure "Help Out" would go something like:

Beth's player: "I'm going to dig through the files and look for anything unusual about the murders".
Jasper's player: "OK, I know the organization of this place well, so I'll help with cross-referencing details and stuff".
GM: "OK, sounds like Jasper is "helping out", so roll to see if you help Beth.

Whereas two characters investigating would look like:
Beth's player: "I'm going to dig through the files and look for anything unusual about the murders".
Jasper's player doesn't interrupt.
GM: "OK, Beth, roll to Investigate a mystery" (rolls, asks some questions)
Jasper: "While she's doing that, I'm going to go down to the lab and run analysis on those scrapings I got earlier".
GM: "OK, Jasper roll to Investigate a Mystery" (rolls, asks some questions)

So do you go with declaring all actions first?

If so, most likely unless a PC intends to help another specifically they are probably all doing kind of different stuff; one PC is examining the body, one is calling some of their contacts, etc, etc. Would you just arbitrarily pick some to be "investigating" and some to be helping?

And what would keep them from just investigating some more (assuming there isn't an immediate pressing time limit; ie, the creature only comes out and night and they are investigating first thing in the morning)?

That's why when you say things like...
None of the mechanics actually cause unexpected things to happen - its just all based on player input and GM fiat
...I quite literally have no idea what you're talking about. Because it's not just "GM fiat" if you're doing your job well - it's a consequence of the fiction. And because the players have input into that fictional landscape, the results of following that fiction can come as a surprise to everyone involved - including the GM.
GM fiat is the GM making a decision, as opposed to a rule or mechanic doing so.
A pistol doing 2 damage is a rule.
A collapsing bridge doing 10 damage is GM fiat.

In some RPGs, whether or not a monster can get out of a trap (especially if there don't happen to be PCs around) might be decided by a check for the monster - a rule.
In MotW, that question would just be decided by "whether or not the GM thinks it should get out" - GM fiat.

Deciding what is behind a door with a wandering monster table would be using a rule.
Deciding what is behind a door by making up something to be behind the door - GM fiat.

Is there a better word?

You can totally be surprised by what the PCs do (in any game). But I don't see how you can be surprised by something that you have to make up. (And again, I think this line of discussion is pure theory - it doesn't have any actual practical value for figuring out how in the world to play this game).

What you're talking about is what you do before the campaign ever starts, i.e. "session 0," when you're deciding the tone of the campaign and creating characters. I'm talking about the stuff that happens during the course of any given session. It's what saves you from being this guy:

You know, I've seen a few friends post that on FB recently and I just can't make any sense out of it. I really have no idea what this is supposed to mean...I gather a lot of people have kind of dysfunctional groups I guess, so you sit down to play a game about fighting monsters and they decide to be merchants or something? I don't know. I don't think I've ever had that happen. OK, I do remember a time in one game, when two players completely ignored an arrow that whizzed out from a window and nearly hit, just kept on going with their conversation. That was pretty baffling. All the other player's at the table besides those two were equally confused about why they were ignoring a possible imminent threat to their life, but...that was pretty anomalous and strange. :)
Is that the sort of thing this refers to?

But yeah, during play, PCs will say things like "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if..." or stuff. Again, there do tend to be problems with it being too immersion breaking.

SO...I think that perhaps that you assume players will take actions that really interest them, whereas what I've seen is that players take actions that are what they think their character would do in that situation. So, to you, if a player says "I'm going to look through the files", that means they want looking through the files to be important. While I can very well see a player saying that because it would be careless NOT to look through the files, and their character is a smart and organized person so of course they would do it, but not really having much interest in the details of that.

The main purpose of the rules is allowing you to keep things moving in a fun direction, where you'd have no clue how to do so otherwise.
That would be great, but they don't do anything of the sort. If I have no clue how to keep moving, there's absolutely no support at all for it!

OK, I had to cut short my writing and didn't get to elaborate on this, because this has been a big problem with MotW for me.

Let's again take an example; in our last session, a character attempted to lash out with her chain-blade and disarm the poacher who was pointing a rifle at her. She rolled in the 7-9 range, and the game came to a crashing stop because we just couldn't figure out what should happen next - ie, what would keep things moving in a fun direction. Its been several weeks now. We just haven't gone back because this got so frustrating.

So, what rules would tell us what to do here? I am not asking "what would YOU do", or "what are some possible things I could have done", but how do I FOLLOW THE RULES and figure out what happens next here? Because that's what you are saying the rules do, but I don't see any rules that even relate to that.


Your second point about "protecting" NPCs and "keeping them alive" is a little unclear--could you explain a bit more about the comparison you're drawing between MotW and "most RPGs"? To me it seems you're saying it's easier, in MotW, to apply the rules for bystander, minion, and monster creation to create an NPC that the hunters cannot eventually kill (or otherwise remove from the action).
OK, example here by way of explanation. A while ago in a very MotW themed Savage Worlds game, a PC was on the phone when demons attacked the mall she was at. A demon down the hall from her lunged for an innocent victim. She was too far away too reach it and had no ranged weapon, so in desperation, she threw her phone at it.

Now, in MotW, you might decide that would distract the demon. It might do damage, but its an improvised attack, so probably just 1 point - if it gets past armor.

But we were playing Savage Worlds, where you roll for damage and damage can "explode", where you keep rolling the die again and again. So we all stared in amazement as the mere d6 damage exploded several times, and the demon fell dead with a phone sticking out of its forehead.

That couldn't happen in Monster of the Week. One shot like that could never kill a monster.

(Now, granted, there are many RPGs that are less unexpectedly lethal than Savage Worlds; that couldn't happen in most versions of DD& either!)


If a hunter hits on investigate and supplies the right fictional explanation, I'm obliged to give them an answer, even if I didn't consider that the vampire left some bloody rags at the scene of its last attack.
This is super-important, and something that is easy to miss. As the Keeper, your job is not to consider the scene of the investigation before the PCs get there and predetermine the available clues; rather, your job is to honestly respond to the questions that their successes allow them to ask. So if the PC asks, "What sort of monster is it?", your job is to come up with some kind of "evidence" that reveals this information. You might have originally envisioned an attack that left no witnesses, but if the players ask something that only a witness would likely have known, congratulations, you've just invented a witness! Now tell the players who they are, how they saw what they saw, and how it is that the monster left them still alive:[/quote]
OK...yeah, this is a very different approach. It really isn't explained in the rulebook at all; there's not much for advice for how to approach this. In fact, the way the intro scenario is presented, bothering to come up with dozens of witnesses, would seem to preclude "inventing" a witness; why bother with coming up with all of those people in advance if you are just going to wing-it and new ones anyway?

So, do you find that most games only have a single investigative "scene"? Since with a decent number of players, they can easily get enough questions to ask everything they would want to know, they'll know everything useful after one "scene" anyway, no matter how unimportant it seems like the scene should  be.

Also...if every question can be answered regardless of how logical it seems or what the approach is...doesn't that kind of take all the fun out of actually "solving" a mystery?

It's the same with read a bad situation - you come up with the answers to their questions in the moment, adding to the fictional landscape as necessary to answer their questions and propel the story. Once you get the hang of it, this is an incredibly useful and powerful GMing tool because it lets you alter the direction of the story based on what the players are doing (as opposed to plotting/planning everything out beforehand). So if they ask, "what's my best way in?", invent a way in. If you already did a little prep and you have something in mind, great. But if not, make something up right now. "Well, there's an old storm-drain that runs under the property. Gods only know what's down there or where it comes out, but that certainly would get you inside the perimeter." This is you presenting an opportunity, with or without a cost, which is one of your basic Keeper moves.
I don't see how that's a tool at all. You can always do this; the only question is whether you have an idea or not.

If nothing is pre-planned, why even have the player ask the question? Instead of asking a question that the GM doesn't know the answer to either, why not have the PC just declare what the "best way" is?

Granted, I still haven't a clue when "Read a bad situation" would ever get used in the first place!


Because you can't know what's going through the players' heads, PbtA games give you mechanics to drive the story based on what the players show an interest in (as reflected through their moves, questions, etc) rather than what the GM thinks might be cool.
Well, sure you can know what's going through the player's  heads. You can talk about it, decide what interests people and what doesn't. Though generally that breaks up the pace when it happens during the game.
I don't see how the moves/questions reflect that; those reflect what the player has the PC try to do, not what their interest level is. If they are bored with a situation, they are still going to be trying to find a way to resolve it.


You might have an encounter already planned for the aforementioned storm drain, but what do you do if the players don't ask "what's my best way in?" at all?
If you have something interesting planned for the storm drain, and they don't go in the storm drain, you'll have to improvise what happens.

If you don't have anything planned for the storm drain, you'll have to improvise what happens whether they go in the storm drain or not.

The best case with not planning is the same as the worst case with planning!


In D&D (as the DMs I've played under do it, at least), when somebody does something, they consult their prep and, half the time answer with "Well, you don't accomplish anything".
I've had bad GMs do that, but in a normal game there's no good reason for that to  happen, prep or not. I feel like what we've played in the past as an "RPG" seems to be totally different.

Though...I guess in the first game of MotW we played, a player ran off to gather up stuff to fight vampires, when there wasn't actually a vampire. Would you count that as "you don't accomplish anything?"

Which creates a vastly more pacy experience in which every player is guaranteed to feel as involved regardless of the quality of their ideas or rolls.
Shouldn't clever ideas yield better results that bad ideas? And don't bad rolls in MotW get you in trouble, while good rolls help you out?

It also allows you to truly "play to find out what happens" and have a story spill forth from the dregs you actually planned, which is incredibly exciting.
But nothing ever happens unless you decide it does, and there's very few mechanics covering most of that. That's why I get the feel that MotW is much LESS about "finding out what happens" than most RPGs. None of the mechanics actually cause unexpected things to happen - its just all based on player input and GM fiat.

Again, an example;  a while ago in a miniatures based RPG a random "push" effect knocked a character through a portal to the elemental plane. That wasn't planned; it wasn't something I (as the GM) particularly wanted to happen. But hey, miniature got moved there, makes sense. It took the game in a very unexpected direction.

Now, a character could get knocked through a portal in MotW, but only if I specifically make the decision that it happens. I'll never be surprised by something like that.

The main purpose of the rules is allowing you to keep things moving in a fun direction, where you'd have no clue how to do so otherwise.
That would be great, but they don't do anything of the sort. If I have no clue how to keep moving, there's absolutely no support at all for it!

Hey all. Been pondering how to respond to this for a while. I keep just running into walls with figuring out what to say. Still haven't a clue how to play the game - in some ways I feel even more confused than when I started. I think this particular thread has gotten way too off track; I keep thinking I should try some more specific questions, but I don't know if it will help. Its clear I don't even have a good grasp for the overall format for what a fight would like and play like, or how an "investigative" scene would go.

For ganging up:
several people attack a foe at once, it starts to get narratively really odd when its hitting back at all of them at the same time (assuming its not something with super speed or lots of arms)
. If the monster has established it has limited attacks, then some hunters cannot be harmed - good for them, bad for the monster. (Note that I'd usually have a dog-pile like this be a single kick some ass roll, with the other hunters helping out or even protecting someone, which simplifies things a bit).
This wouldn't have remotely fit with how I'm gotten the idea MotW worked. I was assuming that generally, when someone says they are doing something that triggers a move, you would fairly immediately roll and resolve the move. The situation Mike is describing would require everyone to declare what they are doing, and then resolve it all; while some RPGs use that type of "initiative" mechanic, I really don't see it here.
Further, with a party of 4, that would take 4 rolls to only inflict 1 attack worth of damage; it would take a lot longer to accomplish things. And a "help out" move would still expose the person to trouble, so you'd still have to figure out what goes wrong on a bad roll.


They do, but, again, I think the other players in this thread have all done an excellent job demonstrating how those exact questions can be interpreted and applied in wildly different ways, depending on the in-game situation. Then again, if you want to go ahead and just let your players ask whatever they want, do that and see how it works! I'd be willing to bet that they still ask variations on those same questions. Just make sure you have them back up those questions with the appropriate fictional posturing--testing blood samples, collecting bone fragments, and so on.
I think we've pretty well established that nobody here actually strictly follows the rules. :)
(The very first person I got advice from stressed very strongly that I really should follow the rules very close and strictly and not be tempted to apply things loosely - that's clearly not the popular advice!)

But once again your comment kind of confuses me - you say that I "just let your players ask whatever they want and see how it works" - but aren't you advocating that that's exactly how its supposed to work?

A 'crossroads' is a place to meet someone, so you are pre-defining that the PCs will meet someone there.

Not exactly. You're making a place where the PCs could meet someone, and maybe you're populating that place with some bystanders they're likely to meet if they go there. But, you're not saying that they must go there to find or kill the monster. Playing to find out what happens means--in part, for MotW--having stuff ready, using it when it makes fictional sense, and ignoring it otherwise.
But, its not like the PCs couldn't meet someone somewhere else, right? A motivation defines what is most likely to happen there, which to me is exactly what the prep for a normal RPG is doing - except that in a normal RPG, you'd spend time on figuring out the useful details, which increases the odds that things will be consistent, won't be skipped over or bogged down, etc.
Whether or not the PCs "MUST" go there is highly situation. There won't be many places that PCs MUST go..but if, for example, there's a swarm of alien bugs and they need to destroy the hive, it is very, very, very likely that they will go to the location of the hive to resolve the situation. That's pretty much a "must", and its going to be in MotW as well as in anything else, right?


In Monster of the Week, a good investigate a mystery might let a hunter discover the transmissions/Amelion Institute without ever going to the city or talking to the soldier. And that would be completely fine! MotW has a move that--if the hunter gives appropriate fictional justification--forces the Keeper to make with some juicy info. If you only dole out info when you planned to, you're fighting the game and your hunters will be salty.
Wait, that's not fighting me - I WANT the PC to go there! That's the point! The NPC has noticed this transmission because this is info that I really want the PC to have, so I'm thinking in advance about how the PC will get that information. If the PC gets to it another way, that's great.

I mean, I've had it happen a few times where after a session PCs will ask "Wow, how did you know we were going to come up with that to deal with that situation?" and invariably I had no idea they were going to that; I'd planned like three different ways to handle the situation, and the PCs came up with a completely different one. That's cool. Good planning isn't meant to limit, its meant to keep you from being stumped in the middle of a game!

In vanilla Apocalypse World (which this example gels with better, I think) you've got an even harder time of it. Your PCs might just walk off into the desert, in the opposite direction of the town, completely ignoring your plot. You're playing to find out what happens, so you're obliged to follow them. You're not obliged to punish them for ignoring those plot hooks, and you absolutely shouldn't try to guide them back to that lone city.
Well, players can do ridiculous, suicidal or absurd things in any game system, but I think its reasonable to assume that you'll be playing with people interested in doing reasonable things with their characters, and invested in pursuing the genre. But yeah, in D&D you could set up a city and dungeons and whatnot and have the player decide to go be merchants in a far off land. In Call of Cthulhu your characters could decide to immediately flee the country at the first hint of something supernatural. You Star Wars pilot could decide to vent all the air on the spaceship just because. In any of those cases, its a good time to stop and check your expectations. :)

The design of MotW doesn't seem to be tremendously strong-handed in terms of fighting GM Force (a term for when the GM takes too much authority over the game's direction into her hands), but it will fight you in subtle ways. If you're trying to hide information, the "reading" moves can give it to the players. If you're trying to kill off someone, they can Protect them; if you're trying to protect someone, they can Kick Ass (and likely kill them). Most of the moves give guarantees of certain outcomes; in a group which understands the rules and uses them functionally, it's very hard for a GM to contrive a way to take away those guarantees without having the players call shenanigans. The specific Hunter moves put that even more into perspective. The Use Magic guarantees a variety of results, as well.
There's nothing unique about players being able to interfere with things though. Getting information is based around being able to logically do so; most RPGs would have you able to use skills to get info logically available. Setting up to kill a protected person is probably easier in MotW than in, say, D&D 4e where a determined party can set up some really effective - and very mechanically defined defenses. An NPC you want to keep alive in MotW can probably take way more damage than PCs can dish out before they can escape and there's not going to be any huge damage swings, while in Savage Worlds damage rolls can explode out to any value, so a stray thrown knife could get insanely lucky and kill an elder god!

Now, I'd classify most of those as bad planning.

Good planning is not "the PCs can ONLY get info this way". Good planning is "Hmm, the PCs are going to need info to move forward. How are they likely to get it? Are there people they are likely to need so I should give thought to where they will find them? Of these possibilities, which one will lead to the best game?"

For example, a while ago I was running a improved investigation bit and made a lot of bad calls, to where we redid it. For example:
* I decided that a certain NPC had used an alias. This was a huge red herring; it didn't lead anywhere fun, it just made things much harder and duller for the PCs. It might have been a smart thing to do, but it was much better for the NPC to not do that. And it could be easily be justified; the NPC was arrogant as hell.

* I decided that a 'control' panel was controlled by mystic energy. While this was technically fine, its not something the PLAYERS can intuitive mess around with. Within the fiction, it was a mix of tech and magic. Giving it actual controls gave the PCs something easily recognizable to spot and mess with.

Another game hit a big stall because neither I nor the player could come up with what evidence that would be useful to the players a criminal might have left behind - because we were improving and hadn't planned that part in advance.


In similar fashion, most of the player moves gives very definite results on what happens. A 7-9 result on Kick Some Ass means you take damage, and that's it. The opponent can't disarm you or do something else. Just do damage back.

The harm move lets you have a hunter "drop something" when they get hurt--even if it's a 0-harm "hurt". (In fact, the harm move lets you drop all kinds of nasty consequences!) That drop could be because they stumble and let go of their dagger, or because the werewolf wrenched the weapon out of their hand while attacking. Also, you're allowed to have a monster just try and disarm a hunter on its own! Describe how that zombie looks like it's trying to grab Zoe's baseball bat, and give them a chance to act under pressure. If they botch it, you're well within your rights to take away some of the hunters' stuff by having that zed grab the slugger.
Good point that you can have the harm effect drop something. And you can have a monster initiate it. But I think both have a very different feel from using it as a result of an attack.

Mostly this comes from having read the description for Dungeon World combat, in which, AFAIK, a failed or partial success attack could result in a great number of things happening; the MC is basically supposed to pick an appropriate move for the foe to do as a result. But in MotW it is fixed to just doing damage.

The big difference is when you might prefer to NOT deal damage; by the rules you would still deal damage even if you then had the monster try to disarm them, or push past them to get inside somewhere, or whatnot. You wouldn't JUST have the monster do that.

Which way to you actually play? Do you treat failed/partial Kick Some Ass results as open opportunities to do something unpleasant, or do you always deal damage?

On a related topic, from what I can understand, if a PC, say, shoots at a monster that does not itself have a ranged attack from a short ways away, I guess I should just have it deal damage and not make a roll at all? I think that's what the rules describe, but its a bit odd either way. If I just have it do damage, it eliminates the possibility of the shot going wrong or the monster notably retaliating at all.

But if I have the PC roll, the monster will usually deal damage, and that often doesn't fit if the monster is out of its reach.

Actually, in many situations it seems odd to the monster deal damage back all the time anyway. If, for example, several people attack a foe at once, it starts to get narratively really odd when its hitting back at all of them at the same time (assuming its not something with super speed or lots of arms). Or, if the PC is shooting at it and it has a limited ranged attack (like, maybe it throws spines) but at the moment its is kind of distracted by the hero shoving a sword through its face, it seems strange to have it ALWAYS do damage back.

Thoughts, how is this handled?

Watch the Roll20 series with Adam Koebel (co-author of Dungeon World) and his group playing 2nd Edition Apocalypse World. I can't seem to find the direct link to the first session (originally intended as a one-shot), but here's where they pick up and start the actual campaign:

Sorry, I have absolutely no interest in Apocalypse World.


Have you ever had the chance to read or listen to or watch a "replay" or "actual play" of the game? The PbtA texts I'm most familiar with - Apocalypse World and Monsterhearts - both do this really well, showing you how to use the moves in play. If you have the patience for it, watching a good group play can be really eye-opening, too.

I think watching a replay of people playing an RPG has to be one of the most boring activities possible. :)

However, I was so determined to figure this out that I did try a few youTube videos of people playing MotW to figure this out; they seemed to be stumbling and having problems with the same things we are. I also tried reading PbFs on RPGG, but I find those really, really hard to follow.

Anyone got any recommendations for something good to watch/read that really gives solid examples of people playing the game well?

StormKnight, regardless of how many diehards like me tell you otherwise, if a game isn't fun for you, then it's not fun for you, and it's fine to admit that and move on. If you're still interested, though, we can keep trying to address some of your issues.

So, a confession here is that while, in theory, I really like RPGs, I don't think most RPGs are very good. Part of my annoyance is that most provide helpful mechanics for combat but very little past that, failing to provide any real mechanical support for many of the things that could happen in the game. (MotW seems to have this failing as well).

Another, quite large part of my annoyance is that most RPGs are unreasonably complex, with too many pages of rules, tables of modifiers, more stats than are needed, etc. This is a problem for me, and it is frequently even MORE of a problem for people I game with. (I find the list of modifiers for, say, Savage Worlds, annoying, my players find it utterly ridiculous).

So when I started to try Monster of the Week and I have someone who normally HATES making characters being enthused about how easy it is to make a character, and being excited about how simple the rules are and how there's not a ton of stuff to remember or look up, I really, really want the game to work out. Which is why I'm finding it totally infuriating that I just can't seem to run this.

Actually, the book LITERALLY describes the keeper moves as being restrictions on the Keeper's actions, and the phrasing in the book is very consistent for them being restrictions. It never says things like "ask a question such as". Everything is written as a limitation, a restriction.

Can you provide the exact quote from the book where it says this? I can't see a passage where the Keeper moves are presented in this fashion. Here's what I found which best describes the general principles behind Keeper moves. [/quote]

Page 166:
"To help you make your decisions about what happens next whenever the outcome is uncertain, the rules restrict you to certain options. These parts of the conversation are called "moves".

So broad, but definite, which doesn't quite equal "restrictions." Also, you say that the book never tells the Keeper to "ask a question, such as." That's not accurate. The below is from the Keeper moves section, describing what a Keeper can do when they're not sure what move to make.
I'm referring to several moves that result in asking specific questions, such as Investigate a Mystery and Read a Bad Situation. They specify exact questions.

In similar fashion, most of the player moves gives very definite results on what happens. A 7-9 result on Kick Some Ass means you take damage, and that's it. The opponent can't disarm you or do something else. Just do damage back.

Paul T's advice is absolutely in keeping with the spirit of the game. The question you seem to be hung up on is "Are the Keeper moves rules that I have to follow, or advice for good roleplaying?" The answer is: both. In PbtA, the rules are often indistinguishable from advice. What a move like "separate them" is really saying is that it's often a neat story beat to have the PCs separated.
Note that this isn't really an issue except in the theoretical sense; it is now mostly obvious that most people just treat it all as guidelines. However, it then gets confusing when people talk about, for example, "creating a custom keeper move" - why would you ever need to "create" a move if the moves are all just guidelines?

For the most part it seems like the thing to do is just ignore all the keeper "motivations" and "moves". They don't actually DO anything or add anything to the game. They are just there for inspiration, and if I don't find them at all inspiring (indeed, I often find them annoying instead), that's no use.

When it comes to the "forcing a plot" issue, I'm not sure what else to say to convince you that MotW isn't asking for a plot. You say MotW seems like a game that wants you to pre-plan a rigid series of events, but at no point does the book ask you to do that. Can you go over the section on mystery planning again, and provide the specific examples from the text that are leading you to the conclusion that MotW isn't about "playing to find out what happens"?
I don't think I've ever said it wants you to pre-plan a "rigid series of events". It does ask  you to plan a great deal. All of the 'motivations' are about defining what a location or person is going to do with the plot. A 'crossroads' is a place to meet someone, so you are pre-defining that the PCs will meet someone there. What it doesn't seem to want you to do is decide who they will meet or how they will meet them, so its like it wants you to define the plot without actually defining anything useful to know about the plot.

Other elements include things like pre-defining how the players will defeat the monster (its weakness), pre-defining the "destiny" of the chosen. the whole "something bad is going to happen" result on the chosen's premonitions (what in the world does that even mean? What bad will happen? What if something bad doesn't really present itself? What if the character consistently makes good rolls that would avert something bad happening?)

Mostly I just have no idea how the system would "fight" you if you pre-determined a "plot", which is something people keep saying. Maybe we're just talking about totally different things. For example, this is basically what I "planned" for the first few sessions of one of the last non-MotW games I ran; a time-traveling action/adventure game using Savage Worlds:

1) PC is in a remote cave when massive apocalypse occurs. Part of backstory and set-up.
2) Nearest city has one building that is surrounded with wrecked military vehicles and has a flag with 'SOS Survivor" or something like that hanging out of the window. Inside is a wounded but stable soldier (with name, personality, stats).
3) Soldier has been picking up radio transmissions urging that if anyone is alive they should go to the Amelion Institute, with locations.
4) Amelion institute is run by an AI with limited abilities, and has a time travel device. Automated defense are in place that it cannot turn off.

So the assumed plot is that:
1) PC will go to nearest city.
2) PC will meet up with survivor.
3) They will go to investigate transmissions.
4) They will get into the institute.
5) They will use the time travel device.

Now, if that was my "plot" (again, just for the first bit) and I was running this in MotW, how would the system fight me on any of that?

So what do people actually feel that they GET out of MotW? What does it do for you over just freeform roleplaying? What is awesome about it? What am I missing here?

And finally, for the manipulation roll with the crazy, alien-hunting doctor, a good 7-9 result would be to have the doctor demand proof; "A Fed, eh? Where's your badge and gun?" Or better yet, "A secret division, eh? Let's call your supervisor right now. I can help you people, you know." This might snowball into another PC having to fake being an FBI director over the phone (certainly actingunder pressure) lest their teammate get hurt.
Incidentally, the characters actually ARE with a secret division of the FBI (one officially, one as a 'consultant'). :p

For the most part, again, that just seems to take it back in a circle.
"I try to convince him to trust me"
7-9..."OK, convince him to trust you"
Its just going back to where things started. A clever PC would quickly learn to always phrase things to allow an easy escalation; that would be silly and gamey, but I think it would be hard not to do it.

But it doesn't sound like most people actually use the rules anyway.

OK, I mentioned a bit back that I thought there were a few conversation topics going on here. Finally getting around to addressing another. I think this all more "behind the scenes theory", and I'm not sure its very practical.

* You are definitely reading the MC moves too specifically. Remember that when you make a move, you're supposed to 'Use the Keeper moves, without names'. (Ugh. I don't love that phrasing. I prefer AW's "Make a move, but misdirect".) This means that you get the effect the move describes, but make it in a way which flows logically from the fiction. In other words, interpret it loosely. They're creative prompts, to be interpreted by you, and then narrated into being in a way which creates whatever your group considers to be exciting.

For example, can a monster "capture someone"? After all, that's a minion move, as you say.

Yes, it most definitely can. How?

1. The MC move separate them: "The monster grabs Lily and pulls her into the parallel dimension. Suddenly you can't see or hear her anymore."

2. The MC move put someone in trouble: "The monster lashes out with a tentacle and grabs Lily, throwing her into the pit."

3. The monster move seize someone or something: "The monster grabs Lily, wrapping its coils around her neck, and drags her away."

4. Make a custom move for the monster (which could include on the spot, so long as it makes sense, given the fiction): "This monster can strike out of the darkness, blinding a victim/This monster has claws which, once closed, are almost impossible to pry open/etc."

5. Make a custom move for the monster: "This monster also has the move 'capture someone'; it's something it does a lot."

Really, the moves shouldn't feel like restrictions. They should cover pretty much anything which seems logical. They're creative prompts, not constraints. Some people find the specific list unnecessary; others like the inspiration they provide. ("Oh, man. I can't think of anything for the minions to do now. Oh, but wait: it says they could capture someone. Hmmm. Who are they interested in? Oh, they'd probably love to get their hands on Lily. Ok, I'll narrate that!")

The monster moves are a *description* of how the monster typically acts; not limitations on its behaviour. If the write-up for this monster says that it has the moves "capture someone" and "lash out with a prehensile tongue", that doesn't mean that's ALL it can do, it means those are two behaviours it often engages in - things it might do by instinct when it can't think of anything (or if you can't think of anything else!).

Actually, the book LITERALLY describes the keeper moves as being restrictions on the Keeper's actions, and the phrasing in the book is very consistent for them being restrictions. It never says things like "ask a question such as". Everything is written as a limitation, a restriction.

If the rules are intended as restrictions, it is very clearly violating the spirit of the game to interpret the actions as you have described above; if they are meant as restrictions and a certain action is clearly and specifically on the list for minions but not for monsters, then obviously the monster shouldn't do it!

But, on the other hand, if the list is just meant as inspiration and not as restrictions, there's no point to "justifying" the action as you've done; it doesn't matter if it can be mapped to a move or not; the moves are just there to inspire you anyway.

I get the idea that most people don't actually treat the moves as restrictions at all, and just as inspiration, which I guess is the best way to play.

"Play to find out what happens" means that you do not try to force a plot or specific outcome on the players. You come to the table with an open mind about outcomes, and "don't always decide what happens". (I am going to guess that the book tells you how to accomplish this, specifically - if not, look up Apocalypse World; it describes this very well, and gives you multiple options for doing it.) This means you shouldn't use this move simply to "make things happen the way you want it to".

"Be a fan of the hunters" means you're looking forward to their success. If having the monster "escape, no matter how well contained it is" cheapens their achievement or success, or makes them seem incompetent, or if it feels unfair... again, don't do it.
I still am really not sure what is meant by "do not try to force a plot". What puzzles me most is that MotW seems far LESS like a game you can "play to find out what happens" than the vast majority of other RPGs. The prep all seems to be about forcing the plot - just not in any useful ways.

I cannot imagine any situation in which a monster escaping no matter how well contained it is would NOT cheapen their achievement or success or seem unfair. The only reason I can see for writing it that way is to "allow" the Keeper to let a monster escape even if it makes no sense for it to happen; otherwise the 'move' would be "The monster escapes if there is any reasonable way for it to do so" or something like that.

Sigh...tried to get back to the game this evening and it was just a complete disaster. We quit literally in the middle of an action/attack...just were totally stuck for what to happen. So much time spent looking at the moves list and hemming and hawing about what stuff should mean. Generally trying to cut combat to be way shorter because its really lacking in excitement. I guess maybe its just time to give up on this. :(

Let me give your first scenario a shot StormKnight, since I'm familiar with that example mystery. But, before I do, a suggestion: download the reference sheets here, if you don't have them already: . The archive you want is "Monster of the Week revised files". Take a look at the shared moves in the hunter reference sheet--they don't have any miss (6-) stipulations listed. Does it alleviate any of your problems if, instead of doing a specific thing on a miss, you instead just choose to make a hard keeper move, as described on page 174?
Lol. I not only downloaded the references before playing, I then made my own version of the reference since they didn't include the miss text. :p

When treated as examples, the miss text is fine...but there are still a lot of things where we just don't seem to know how to handle successes or failures.

Anyway... your first example. Let's say it's Roy the Professional who's taking the lead on this investigation.
So this brings up another question - would  you tend to have everyone PC who is there make an investigate roll? Have some of them 'Help Out'? or just have one person make it?

Also, how does this actually tend to work out for you in play? We started with a lot of roleplayed conversation which covered a lot of the "basics" - stuff that you categorized in "what happened here". After all that, we used to move to dig deeper and get more answers - or we tried to at least.

(From the included intro scenario) The investigators arrive and talk to the sheriff (the Professional works with the FBI, so he's said its related to a case they are investigating). They get access to the police reports from people that have been assaulted and are looking at these and discussing them with the sheriff. We really struggled to find questions that fit or made sense. The adventure specified that the victim's couldn't remember what happened. There was no real physical evidence. So...what can they find out from that?

Oh, except for "what happened here", which is very confusing as a question to me - usually "what happened here" is pretty obvious and would be the sort of thing I'd include in the description without calling for any sort of roll. Often, that's pretty well established before people even start looking around. I mean, if they didn't know that "people are being attacked by a mysterious assailant that no one can seem to remember" (which is WHAT HAPPENED HERE) they wouldn't have come to investigate in the first place!

What happened here?
Keeper: Roy, you have a pretty good rapport with this sheriff, yeah? He thinks you're a fed?
Roy: Absolutely.
Keeper: Cool. He makes good with the details--who, what, where, when, and so on. *I give Roy a big ol' info dump* Also, the sheriff stresses that each victim was cut in the same way, with significant--but not life-threatening--blood loss.

What sort of creature is it?
Roy: "You have any pictures from the scene?"
Sheriff: "Sure. Take a look."
Keeper: He hands you some crime photos. There are some close-ups of footprints in the mud. Big ones. Deep, too. Wow, whatever made those must be huge. There are some notes attached from the CSI team. We're talking, like, seven, eight feet? 300-something pounds?

What can it do?
Roy: "Not one of the victims remembers anything?"
Sheriff: "It's the damnedest thing. I can figure one, maybe even two people might forget an assault. Post-traumatic stress, ya know? But all of the victims? Doesn't make sense. Maybe our doer did something to 'em."

What can hurt it?
(You're right that this question doesn't fit this particular investigation--that's okay! The below is how you can work that out with a hunter without just saying "no.")
Keeper: Roy, how would you find that out?
Roy: I, uh, I guess I couldn't, huh? Let me try something else...

Where did it go?
Roy: "Any pattern to these attacks?"
Sheriff: "Well, most happened around this area..."
Keeper: The sheriff circles a few areas right around the nature reserve.

What was it going to do?
Roy: "Anything odd about the wounds on these victims?"
Sheriff: "Well, we did find a few of these. Lab guys can't tell what kind of thread it is, but it's covered in blood. Soaked, actually."
Keeper: He holds up an evidence bag with some crusty, dark red strings in it.
Sheriff: "These were deep in the cuts. Like some kind of cloth was jammed in there."

What is being concealed here?
Keeper: Roy, you look over and see that the Sheriff's microwave has been thrown in the trash, as well as an electric shaver and a laptop.
Roy: "Tech problems, Sheriff?"
Sheriff: "Yeah. Just up and quit on me these past few days. Had a guy try and take a look at it--he said it looked perfectly fine, 'cept it didn't turn on. Same thing happened to my cousin. And Bette down at the grocer, too. Strangest thing--stuff's breaking all over town it seems."

Does the above make sense, StormKnight? If you were a player, would you be satisfied with these answers? I could keep going with your examples, but I want to see if you have any issues with what I've written above.

Well...first of, you are clearly better at answering these questions than I am. :)

But several answers we just covered in conversation; like I said "what's going on here" doesn't seem like the sort of thing you need to roll for. Same with the victims not knowing what happened. And the 'random stuff breaking and strange stuff going on' was part of what drew their attention to the area in the first place, so that really wouldn't be news to them.
Nothing about huge footprints is mentioned in the write-up (which really does make it sound like there's basically no evidence at all!), and again that seems like that would be pretty obvious - not something that should require a roll to discover.

The thread in the wounds is a good idea - my mental image is that he was cutting them, and then 'draining' the blood into his cap. Your idea leads to better clues. This is why I tend to think that advance planning (which MotW says not to do!) is a good idea - some things lead more easily to clues than others!

We sort of did a 'where did it go' similar to what you mention, except there was no real easy way to get to that specific question from the info. What the player wanted to ask was "is there any pattern to the location of the attacks?", and I decided to specify that they had been spreading out from the nature preserve. (Though both your response and mine bother me - in a small town, I doubt he'd have much choices for victims, so its far more likely to be 'wherever he happened to find someone out late alone').

We actually pondered over "what can hurt it", and I said that since it was cutting all of the victims it must need blood. I was told that this was an extreme jump of logic, which I agree with. :p

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