"lose your footing" and effect on play - OR - acting at a disadvantage

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I'm trying to work this out in my head as I prepare to run DW for some friends, particularly friends who are weened on D&D4e.  I've read a lot about AW & DW, but never had the chance to play.

One of the unfortunate outcomes of Saving Throw is "you loose your footing."  Fictionally, I can totally see how this comes into play.  You're on your back or your face, or you're struggling to hang on to the edge of a cliff.  You probably can't move about freely until you address the situation and regain your footing. 

But say you don't really care about not being able to move, but your situation would still hinder you, but prevent the action? How would you handle that?

Consider:  You're fighting a skilled warrior, a real martial artist.  He's +2 levels above you, and you take harm.  Your saving throw is mixed, so the GM says "his kick is right in the knee, and your leg crumples underneath you.  You face plant in front of him.  What do you do?" 

Yeah, your fictional moves are now limited.  You can't say "I charge him" or "I run away" or "I dance a jib" because you can't.  You're on your face.  But what if you say "Screw it, I'm right in front of him?  I slash out at his ankles with my sword."

Hack and Slash, right?  But fictionally, you're at a significant disadvantage to do so.  Crappy leverage, limited range of motion, he's more mobile.  But there's no mechanical penalty, right?  I don't think you'd be Defying Danger at the moment; you're clearly hacking & slashing. 

I'm curious how others handle situations like this, where the fictional circumstances don't preclude a course of action, but DO put you at a disadvantage or impose a constraint.  Apply the -2 penalty (similar to "interfering")?  Let it slide for the immediate move, but keep working it into the fiction?


So, wait, you're crawling over to him and slashing at his ankles? Um, yes, Defy Danger.

What about range? Slashing someone with a sword while standing toe-to-toe with them makes sense. Slashing at someone while on your back or belly...? Not so much. Maybe if you had a spear you could thrust at them from that far away. Maybe kicking at him to keep him at bay (watch some MMA and you'll see what I mean). Sure. But, your reach is severely limited on your back.



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No, he's not out of range.  That's the point.  Fictional setup is that he just kicked your legs out from under you, and he's standing there, right there.  You're swinging at his ankles.

More importantly, it's just an example.  There are situations, have to be situations, in which a course of action would be difficult but not precluded.

Other examples off the top of my head: 
- You're taking a shot at someone (Volley), but there are high winds.  Shot's not impossible, just harder.
- You're bluffing your way past a guard, and try to Discern Realities.  But your well into your cups and drunk, bleary-eyed, and tired.
- You're trying to burst the manacles that have you tied down (bend bars/lift grates), but you haven't eaten for a week.

I could go on.

If the answer is "yeah, just roll normally and assume the fiction & mechanics will take care of themselves," then that's fine.  But just claiming that these situations won't come up doesn't answer the question.

1) That's not what I said.

2) An experiment. Stand next to your mirror and throw a punch at it. Don't actually hit it of course, just get close enough so you can see how close you would need to be to actually hit it. Now, lie on your back with your feet toward the mirror. Throw a punch at the mirror now. Hell, throw a punch at your feet. Let me know how it goes.



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If you really, really want that, there's a move for it. Unfortunately we haven't released the same material to everyone (time constraints), but it's in the custom moves section of both AW and DW (print preview version, at least).

When a player’s character makes a move and the GM judges it especially difficult, the player takes -1 to the roll. When a player’s character makes a move and the GM judges it clearly beyond them, the player takes -2 to the roll.

There's a reason that its only mentioned as an option to both, though. First of all, it relies entirely on GM judgement. There isn't a clear fictional trigger, and it's a trigger of degrees. It's a little too prone to contention and dead-end discussions. "Well, I think this wind is enough to give you a -1. Or is that -2? Hmmm..."

It's also worth running this past your agenda as a GM:
Make the world fantastic
Fill the characters’ lives with adventure
Play to find out what happens
None of those is particularly well served by that kind of graded difficulty.

Finally, it's also not part of how we really envision Dungeon World. Recent D&D editions tend to put things mathematically out of your range: making a certain shot, or stabbing a dragon, or whatever. That's not really how DW works. Everything bleeds, everything can be stabbed. You just have to be able to stab it fictionally, which is much more interesting.

Put another way: the "hack and slash a dragon" example comes up often here. The way to handle a dragon isn't to say "You hack and slash a dragon at -1" because that doesn't really say much about dragons. It's all about fictional positioning: dragons are hard to get to, and not much harms them. If you've managed to catch a dragon, get past all its traps and guards, and you've actually got something that can harm it, the roll isn't any harder.



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Hack and Slash, right?  But fictionally, you're at a significant disadvantage to do so.  Crappy leverage, limited range of motion, he's more mobile.  But there's no mechanical penalty, right?  I don't think you'd be Defying Danger at the moment; you're clearly hacking & slashing. 
I'm not the guru for this that some of the others are, however my take as a DM:

If it's impossible, you're well within your rights to say "yeah, no, you can't do that, you're on your face remember?".  In the specific instance, I'd say "ok, sure Defy danger first, then hack and slash".  If the defy danger goes well, they've earned the right to Hack and Slash, if it goes poorly, well they made a tactical decision to attack from a risky and poor position, maybe the fighter kicks their sword away and puts his blade to their throat before they even get to swing.

I see no problem setting up moves as a stepping stone towards the players goal. 
"May the Gods always stand between you and harm in all the empty places you must walk." - Ancient Egyptian Blessing

I've encountered this before as well.

I don't want to do the "difficulty" move, but in that case, what should I do?

If a PC trying to shoot somebody, and it's fictionally established that there are high winds (but not impossibly so), then what do I do?  Roll normally and let the wind account for the failure if it happens?  I'll accept that answer, I'm just wondering what the best practice is here.



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Ludanto, it sounds like what you really want is to make a GM move: tell them the requirements and ask.

Making a move is one way to respond to something that's not a player move, and that's what it sounds like you want here. "You line up your shot but compensating for the wind's going to take some doing. You'll probably have to leave your little sniper nest to do it." or maybe "You'll need to figure out some way of weighting the arrow."

What you're really saying is: this wind means the fictional action required to "line up a shot" is greater, so you'll have to do that.

It's kind of like when you say that, for a dragon, swinging just some normal steel blade isn't Hack and Slash.

This is an issue that runs throughout DW and AW both, and is compensated for through the fact that the game is a "conversation" and not a math game.

What I've found is that in play, and with some experience with the game, players automatically adjusts what they believe to be acceptable fictional actions / mechanical moves based on prior outcome and narration. In the case of having your legs kicked out as an outcome of a Saving Throw gone bad, the player recognizes that they suffered a setback and recognize their task is now to get out of a bad situation before they can proceed with weening down the monster's hit points and winning the encounter. The bad roll resulted in an opportunity to overcome a challenge, and that is presently more exciting than the hacking & slashing. Not necessarily so in a math game, where your goal is to overcome the encounter rather than have an engaging conversation about fiction.

If this situation does happens in play, seize the initiative and make a move. I'd agree that the correct GM move is indeed Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask, as Sage says, or maybe Offer an opportunity, with or without cost:

"It'll be hard to get in a good hit from where you're laying. If you want a good, clean hit you'll need to get on your feet first, but he's stomping and slashing at you - you'd need to Defy Danger to do that. If you really want to swing wildly at his ankles, you may be able to get him to give you a berth wide enough that you could stand up unharmed, though. But it won't be a hack & slash move that deals damage."

or simply:

"You hack wildly at his ankles but he simply laughs and hops away. He gives you a wide enough berth that you can get up and dust yourself off though, before he comes at you again with his broadsword raised high above his head... what do you do?"

In the case of no prior setback but established fictional difficulties (such as strong winds etc), in a modifier-driven game the player doesn't say "Well, my bow arm is so awesome I'm sure I won't get any penalties, so I'll shoot anyway", they say "I want to try to take the shot anyway, what's my difficulty modifier?". In DW/AW, this "difficulty modifier" is captured in Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask and the move they make. They'll say:

Player: "I'm going to try to make the shot anyway."
GM: "The winds are very strong. It's unlikely you will hit. You'll have to take a very steady aim, and that means you might lose track of the rest of the orc patrol."
Player makes a Volley roll, gets a 10+, deals full damage.
GM: "Wow! You spy the arrow zooming right in on the target. You hear a chunk sound with a subsequent squeal carried on the wind and the orc drops in the distance. But in the interim, you've lost track of the remaining orcs. What do you do?"
Or on a 7-9:
GM: "You have to shift a bit, leaving your hideout, to make a clean shot. But you hit! The orc drops. When you look up though, you realize the other orcs have wandered into your territory. They're almost upon you, though they may not have spotted you yet. There are a half dozen of them and they wield wicked, rusty blades. What do you do?"

You haven't penalized the player exactly for trying to make the shot regardless of strong winds, you've put them in a more interesting situation than they would've been in if the winds were calm and it was an easy shot. The player accepted the additional complication and got a chance to shine. Win win situation.
« Last Edit: July 27, 2011, 06:03:18 PM by lachek »

Re: "lose your footing" and effect on play - OR - acting at a disadvantage
« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2011, 02:22:42 PM »
So, in that context, what does having your feet knocked out from under you really mean? Perhaps it sets up the DM to make a harder move if you miss your next roll, in the spirit of announcing future badness. That makes sense to me.



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Re: "lose your footing" and effect on play - OR - acting at a disadvantage
« Reply #10 on: September 28, 2011, 02:13:07 AM »
Listen to Sage. His intention with DW has been to get away from all the curly 'what if' scenarios and exceptions towards a more narrative based story game. What makes sense in the fiction right? Siguson and Iachek give great advice too.

Also, John Harper makes some good suggestions about the DM's (MC's) role in escalating the fiction through making moves on his blog. The gist of it being that when you make a move as DM, set yourself up for a harder move in the process. Put the players in a spot and ask what do they do? If they hand you a golden opportunity then tell them the consequences and ask. Think of your move as the set up and the HARD move as the follow through in the fiction. This generates fictional tension with DW, far more so than just applying a -1 or -2 to the roll for being prone (or whatever).

Rather than looking to the player moves for 'hmmmm. what am I going to do on my turn?' Just takes turns in the conversation, asking 'What do you do?'  instead of 'What move do you do?' is rather powerful as a narrative prompt. This gives the players far more creative leverage in the story. They have unlimited options for what they want to achieve in any given situation rather than focusing on the three results for each move.

remember that when there is a lull in the conversation, the snowball has slowed.... Respond with a DM move, and make a set up for a future harder move you want to make. Get away from the 'modifiers' and focus on telling an awesome story!