Custom Moves or Advanced Moves

  • 9 Replies
Custom Moves or Advanced Moves
« on: March 03, 2012, 08:14:29 PM »
In our first game, the fighter swung his sword in a wide arc to gut two goblins at once. There was some confusion at the table about whether that was possible or if it was the kind of thing that a fighter might not learn until a higher level as an "advanced move." The GM decided that it was fine to let the fighter take out two goblins at once and we moved on. But, it got me to thinking . . .

I have seen posts in different forums about "custom moves." Basically a move for a situation that isn't expressly covered in the text of the rules but that the GM, nonetheless, allows a player to make (if I understand it right).

So, I wonder, when is something a "basic custom move" and when is something an "advanced custom move?"

Also, if anyone has any guidance for custom moves in general, I'd appreciate your insights.

Thank you,




  • 549
Re: Custom Moves or Advanced Moves
« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2012, 09:07:45 PM »
There's an entire section in the forthcoming game about making your own moves and the uses for it.

There are a few approaches you can take:

Write a replacement for an existing move. Maybe you want Hack and Slash to work differently.

Write a new basic move. Maybe there's something that you feel should be a move that isn't by default.

Write a new class move that your fighter can take.

Write a world move that you as the GM present to cover some specific circumstances in the world. These are moves like "when you enter the waters of Ethumiel" or whatever. They cover specific things in the world.

All of these are custom moves, ways of adapting the game. They're great stuff, but by no means required. In fact you're better off playing without any custom moves at first: find out how the game works, then go from there.



  • 777
Re: Custom Moves or Advanced Moves
« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2012, 09:59:07 PM »
OF COURSE THAT SHIT IS POSSIBLE!!! Jeeze, a fighter chopping off two goblin heads at once with a wide arc of their signature weapon?! That is Dungeon World!

I like to remind everyone at the table that DW is a fictional game. We tell awesome heroic stories at the table. So if you want to narrate something cool into the story then go for it! Its never using a move first to shoehorn the story to match its mechanical expression.

In your example Ambayard, when the fighter said they gut two goblins at once with a sweeping arc of their blade I would have jumped up in excitement! Woo Fighter! That's AWESOME! That is just what the rules ask for! To do it do it, right? It sets up all sorts of author 'hooks' for both you and the other players to riff off. If they had said 'I hack and slash the goblins', I would have said 'sure, what do you do?' You want this sort of detail in the players descriptions :)

So then back to the rules.... Sounds like Hack and Slash right? 'When you attack an enemy in melee'.... You could be pedantic and point out it says 'enemy' not 'enemies', so no, you just attack just one of the goblins. (LAME - and castrates the players fun and goes against your principle of Give Every Monster Life)

You could strike a compromise and make a quick custom move on the spot. 'Sure! that sounds epic and heroic! If you deal damage, you divide it amongst both goblins, kay?' Note that on a miss or goblin attack in return, dealing damage to the fiighter is the waste of an amazing fictional opportunity!

Or you could go all superheroic 4e style. You say YES! to as much as you can, rewarding the player's authorship with your own. Taking their exposition, riffing off their story and making moves to suit and that make sense within the fiction. Use your principles in situations like this, that's what they are for!

Dig a little deeper first.... Talk about the action before the players roll the dice,  perhaps embrace the fantastic, or ask questions and use the answers. (note that the Walking Eye Podcast has a very good example of just this sort of thing in the fight with the Guaraxx)

'OK Cool! Tell us how you set up your whirlwind attack!'
'I crouch low and swing my custom tulwar in a wicked figure eight, the hook catching the second goblin behind the ear and evicerating the first in a pool of gore!'
'Awesome! The goblins are taken aback at your full frontal assault, so if you hit you are able to deal your damage to both of them, no worries!'

On a near miss or miss though, you have so many fictional 'grabs' to propel the fiction now. The fighter could 'pop' their knee when they crouch, and be unable to rise, or their hook on the Tulwar catches the goblin and drags him into the wizard, interupting his incantation, or the goblins perform a comic 'leap' above the swishing blade as it scythes into the thief behind, breaking his poison bottles and spraying the contents all over the fighter. The goblins watching on learn from this encounter and prepare for the next by flinging a net over the fighter, or herding him into a small space. Whatever.

See how that works? Its not about arguing what is and isn't possible 'by the moves'. Its playing your character as a Fantasy hero and having the GM fill their lives with adventure!

Re: Custom Moves or Advanced Moves
« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2012, 10:55:31 PM »
sage: Neat. I look forward to it!

noofy: I wholeheartedly agree with your post. Personally, I've never understood the need to be precious about monster hit points in the first place. (And I felt that way waaay back when I was playing 2ed AD&D) I'm inclined to say sure, kill both goblins. Heck, take out a dozen! Assuming it's consistent with the tone of the game, why not? It's not like the GM is going to run out of goblins. Frankly, I think that dealing damage to a monster always seems kind of silly in games where the GM has unlimited power to create the monsters. The players don't know how many hit points a monster has, and the characters wouldn't know how much life is left in a foe at a glance, so if the GM is the only one who knows the monster's hit points and the monster's hit points are not part of the shared story, why pretend that monster hit points even matter? If the hero says that his blade is slick with neon green blood as it protrudes from the goblin's back, then that should happen -- that's going to be better than "I rolled a 3" every time. I think dealing damage to monsters mostly just exists as a vestige of player vs. player war simulations  -- (and because it's fun to roll a d10.)

I think the converse is true too. There should be times when an enemy is so overwhelmingly Balroggy that the puny swords and spears the PCs carry should be useless no matter what they roll. 

That said, when there are mechanics for fighting and -- illusory though it may be -- players are getting the signal that their Hack & Slash Move is having a mechanical effect on the world because they are "rolling damage," it's counterintuitive to think that a character who is only capable of "dealing 10 damage" could possibly take out 8 goblins -- no matter how cool it would be. So, I understand why there was confusion at the table.




  • 777
Re: Custom Moves or Advanced Moves
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2012, 12:13:47 AM »
Sure, that's great! I seee where you are coming from, and I'm happy we interpret the rules in a similar way. Thanks for the context in your game. Two gobbos for a first level fighter who can deal 10 damage? No worries, but eight? or ten or the whole tribe?  That definately is the stuff of high-level legend, and you'll have to adventure your way up to that level of brutality :)

Like I said in another post, its all context. A monster (or any obstacle for that matter) is far more than a bunch of HP / Damage / Armour. These simply give you a broad base for comparison to the PC's 'level'. So why the confusion?

The fighter (and the party) know through experience that the fighter can cut down at least one gobbo with one narrative iteration of Hack and Slash move. (for what its worth I often encourage scaling in and out when describing the effects of a move - so blow by blow, flurry by flurry, or sometimes 'exchange by exchange'.)

But if he is set apon by 8? This may take some wading through melee to resolve, or some other, equally as satisfying (to your group) means of dealing with the goblins... Talking perhaps? Or maybe the initial beheading of the lead two sends the others cowering in fear?

Re: Custom Moves or Advanced Moves
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2012, 10:06:46 AM »
Good morning:

I don't know why I wrote 8 goblins. I meant 2 goblins. Anyway, even with two goblins, I understood the table's confusion. According to the GM, each goblin had 5 HP and 1 armor, so players were concerned that one sword strike -- even on the highest possible roll -- could not kill them both. They were thinking of every goblin as an independent entity with stats.

And, that's not a silly way to think. That's actually the most natural way to think. They were reasoning that "goblin #1 has stats, so goblin #2 probably has stats too." But, if I understand you, you're saying that one SHOULD think about goblins in a different way . . .

Sage had a great post in another thread about fighting multiple monsters where he described a room full of goblins as the environment and only the individual goblin who is up in the fighter's face as the monster who has stats. If we think about it that way (which I loved) then decapitating goblin #2 with a wide swing is just colorful description and not a mechanical issue because goblin #2 is purely fictional. The players can use the goblin filled room in their descriptions in the same way that the GM can use the goblin filled room to create dangerous situations without meticulously monitoring the stats of each jerky goblin.

I think we're on the same page. This forum is very helpful. :)

Re: Custom Moves or Advanced Moves
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2012, 02:31:37 PM »
I'm the GM at ambayard's table.

I just said, "Yes, you can do that," and had him roll separately for each Goblin. I thought this would be interesting to the narrative, because hitting one Goblin but not the other would have been interesting. Hitting both goblins (which is what he did) was fun and climactic... gave the feeling of being on a streak.

I think one of the things we were afraid of was that we'd give the Fighter use of a custom move that he would learn at level 6 or so. Obviously, if he could do this all along, it would be an anti-climactic point. I shouldn't fear this too much, worse case scenario, I'd give it to him for free.

Though, I just looked at all of the Advanced Moves and noticed, happily, that few/none of them are the kind of thing you'd stumble upon. They tend to really kinda break the rules in (I spotted) three different ways: auto successes, auto bonuses, and doing something a human couldn't normally do.

I'll be less weary to create custom moves on the fly in the future. Though... I think I like just rolling Hack and Slash twice for that maneuver.



  • 777
Re: Custom Moves or Advanced Moves
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2012, 04:59:45 PM »
Thanks for the recap Quizoid and Ambayard, that was enlightening! I think we are all most definately on the same page, I'm really enjoying these discussions :)

Ambayard, I'm totally behind Sage's (and your) 'view' that the most immediate threat behing the mechanical 'touchstone' in a combat encounter, whereas any other potential combatant is just environmental colour (which still has narrative power!) until 'engaged' by the system. I agree that this is the most satisfying way to interact with the move paradigm of *World games.

That said, I think that your solution Quizoid was fine! I caould understand that you'd be worried that you might set a precedent for giving PCs on-the-spot custom moves that replicate advances at a higher level, but in the heat of the moment? When you are telling a great story together? I wouldn't stress about it too much.

The three ways that advanced moves 'break' the usual iteration can be balanced somewhat by a harder move on your behalf if the player misses or near hits. So I'd take that into consideration when making up a custom move on the fly? Say YES, but...... and make the but quite strong. This gives weight to the player's fictional choice, plus it absolves you of higher level 'move mimicry'.

Perhaps you fictionally author it in by suggesting to the fighter that their 'custom' move they stumbled onto whilst fighting the goblins is available as an advance and suggest that they can take it next time they level up?

Anyways, great discusssion lads! Sounds like you a are having a blast with the game, and I'd love to play with you guys (as a player for a change Quizoid) anytime!

Re: Custom Moves or Advanced Moves
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2012, 11:55:53 AM »
noofy: Word. Let us know if you're ever in Colorado. :)

Re: Custom Moves or Advanced Moves
« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2012, 12:54:04 AM »
dittoed :P