Is "say yes or roll the dice" part of DW?

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Is "say yes or roll the dice" part of DW?
« on: March 13, 2012, 11:46:42 AM »
In the third session of the DW beta campaign I'm running (available on my podcast, if anyone wants to listen) the thief in the party said he was examining something for traps. It sounded to me like he was obviously intending to use his Trap Expert move ("When [you] spend a moment to survey a dangerous area, roll+DEX..."), but as the GM I was following my prep and knew that there weren't any traps on the thing he was examining. I felt a little weird, because I didn't think it felt fair to expose him to the danger of failing when there was no point to succeeding, so I wanted to say "you don't need to roll for that, there aren't any traps here", but that also felt wrong to me since I thought he was obviously trying to use his move, which calls for a roll of the dice. I "resolved" the situation at the time by interpreting the fiction as if a Discern Realities was warranted, but it felt like I was fudging something when I did that, and it did force him to roll his worst stat instead of his best. (Now that I read the move's trigger explicitly, I think I may have accidentally done it right, since the "dangerous area" part of the fictional trigger didn't apply).

In the fictional positioning thread, Zac offered this opinion about how certain things should be adjudicated in the game:
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the game works better if you use only use Moves when a risk of failure would be interesting. Yep, that's the GM's call, big time, but I find myself frequently letting people do harm as indicated (or whatever) because there's no "seed of uncertainty" that could make things go awry.
To me, that sounds like "say yes or roll the dice", a principle which games like Burning Wheel embrace. My reading of Dungeon World is that the GM isn't the arbiter of whether a roll is warranted, but is an interpreter of the fiction like everyone else:
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The basic rule of moves is: take the action to gain the effect. To make the mechanical aspect of a move happen the character has to do something that triggers that move. Likewise, if the character does something that triggers a move the mechanical portion happens.
One of the consequences of that (at least the way I interpret it) is that it isn't the GM's job in DW to decide if certain actions are "important enough" to warrant dice rolls, but that the dice rolls always happen in the fictional situation and therefore might become important even if we don't think they're that big a deal before we roll. Is that the way other people interpret it? How would other people have handled this situation? Would that change if the move were something like "when you spend a moment to survey an area for potential dangers" instead of the "dangerous area" thing is says now?

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sage

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Re: Is "say yes or roll the dice" part of DW?
« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2012, 12:06:45 PM »
Short answer: No, "Say Yes" is not a part of DW.

Long answer: If a move applies you use it, always. However "applies" is something entirely dependent on the situation. Like you mention, if it isn't a dangerous area then the move doesn't apply.

(Though, tangentially, this does suggest making Trap Sense depend on Discern Realities. That's be an interesting design. "When you Discern Realities on a 10+ you also hold 3, on a 7-9 you also hold 1. Spend you hold as you move through the area to...")

DW actually sort of breaks down if you start using "say yes." The moves are there because they are dangerous things to do. Take Hack and Slash as an example:

If you're attacking an opponent ready to fight and able to harm you, and you are able to harm them, you're Hack and Slashing. Its a dangerous situation.

If you're swinging your weapon at an opponent who has no chance of defending against you in any way or even making a counter attack (a helpless defender) you're not really "in melee" the move doesn't apply. It's also not a dangerous situation (though it may be soon after).

If you're swinging your weapon at something that just can't be hurt by that weapon, like a insubstantial ghost or a dragon with inch-think steel scales, you're not really "attacking" since attack implies some possibility of hurting them. It's probably a dangerous situation, but you have no control over it. The GM will be making a move most likely.

If you start skipping the roll against enemies who can be hurt and hurt you back Dungeon World kind of becomes a different place and you stop engaging some other parts of the rules. The HP system stops coming into play as much, monster creation now means something different, and the GM doesn't have a clear framework for making those decisions. There are playable games down that way, but they'd need a different design.

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sage

  • 549
Re: Is "say yes or roll the dice" part of DW?
« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2012, 12:12:19 PM »
Speaking to Trap Sense directly: don't think of it as a wasted roll. If your player makes the roll they get the assurance and certainty that there are no traps when they ask. That's useful knowledge there, probably worth the risk of a roll.

There's no sign of this in your post, but it's related so I want to mention it: also don't think of a failure as a trap being missed or something like that. It could be the simple passage of time, using a move like "tell them the requirements or consequences and ask." "Oh, a 6, that sucks. Well as you start to look over the area you realize there's a lot to cover, this stonework is intricate and could be hiding all sorts of nastiness. You can take your time to cover it and I'll tell you truthfully what traps, if any, are here, but the guards down the hall will have more time to prepare their defenses. Worth it?"

That's not the hardest of hard moves, but it does make them make a choice RIGHT NOW that is irreversible, so I'd say it's hard enough.

Re: Is "say yes or roll the dice" part of DW?
« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2012, 03:03:06 PM »
Sage: I'm surprised by your answer. I'm pretty sure Vincent Baker coined the "say yes or roll the dice" phrase, so I assumed it was incorporated into the DNA of the *W games. The idea certainly SEEMS to be part of the game with all the stuff about being generous with information.

Maybe it would be worthwhile to unpack what people mean when they say "say yes or roll the dice." My impression (and I could be wrong) was that it was more or less equivalent to "skip over the boring stuff" (e.g. uneventful travel).

In the Trap Expert example, the move only triggers if the thief is in a dangerous area -- if the area is NOT dangerous, then the GM would just say that -- no roll is needed (that's the "say yes"). If the area IS dangerous then a roll is required. If the thief is successful and uses his hold to ask about traps, the fact that there are definitely no traps in the area is valuable information. If the thief fails the roll, well then . . . I guess we find out what it is that makes the place dangerous. Dun Dun Dun!

No?

A.

Re: Is "say yes or roll the dice" part of DW?
« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2012, 03:12:32 PM »
You don't always 'say yes' in DW.  For example, you 'say no' when the prep or fiction dictates.  That said, you'll still say 'yes'.  Most often, you'll 'say yes and roll dice'.  
« Last Edit: March 13, 2012, 03:16:47 PM by mease19 »

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sage

  • 549
Re: Is "say yes or roll the dice" part of DW?
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2012, 03:18:20 PM »
"Say yes or roll the dice" is one way of knowing when to roll the dice. It's great for games like Dogs because in Dogs you roll for conflict and you have to know where conflict is.

Here's the relevant defintion from dogs:

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If nothing’s at stake, say yes to the players, whatever they’re doing. Just plain go along with them. If they ask for information, give it to them. If they have their characters go somewhere, they’re there. If they want it, it’s theirs.

I guess you could say that DW (and AW) use "say yes" but it's so far baked into the game that the GM shouldn't be thinking about it. If a move comes up that means there's something at stake.

Take Perilous Journey for example. We could have said "here's the system for journeys, use it when there's something at stake on a journey." That's say yes or roll the dice. Instead we have a trigger "When you undertake a perilous journey..." This way instead of the GM thinking about "should I just say yes? Is this a conflict?" the GM looks to the fiction established: "is this journey perilous?"

The danger to saying "yes, say yes or roll the dice is part of DW" is that then the GM has to be double checking the moves all the time and might end up skipping moves that should be used or using moves that should be skipped. I know I probably would. The hard work of figuring out when to say yes is already baked into the game.

With the "skip over uneventful travel" example: yes, you do that, because the move only applies when the travel is perilous. You don't have to judge that again: is this perilous and uneventful? Of course it's eventful if it's perilous.

So yeah, I guess you can say "say yes or roll the dice" is part of DW, but it's part of it way down inside, not something the GM needs to do.

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sage

  • 549
Re: Is "say yes or roll the dice" part of DW?
« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2012, 03:21:40 PM »
mease19 brings up the other side of it. There are kind of two say yes-s: there's "say yes when the players establish something about the world" and "say yes or roll the dice when the players attempt to do something."

My post was mostly about the later, mease19 is talking about the former.

mease19's post also applies to Dogs, by the way, for certain things. In Dogs you know what's going on, the sin, and you don't just say yes over that.

Re: Is "say yes or roll the dice" part of DW?
« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2012, 03:26:39 PM »
By the way -- to me, the fictional action that makes Trap Expert happen is pretty much identical to the fictional action that makes Discern Realities happen. The character is poking around and looking for trouble. If the Thief is a Trap Expert and the thing he's trying to discern is the presence of hidden danger, then he should get to use Trap Expert where everyone else would use Discern Realities to attempt the exact same thing. The perks with Trap Expert are 1) it uses Dex (which presumably benefits the Thief) 2) the Thief gets holds on success instead of being forced to ask questions on the spot, and 3) the Thief gets much more specific information than a lay person.

A wizard could look for traps too. He'd use Discern Realities, and on a success, he might ask, "what should I be on the lookout for?" The GM would say, "watch out for traps!" The Thief with Trap Expert, by contrast, would get to know exactly where the trap is and how to deal with it.

I say this because, to me, it's not really EVER a compromise to make the Thief use Discern Realities instead of Trap Expert -- all that does is deny the Thief his fancy advanced move for no reason.

What do you guys think?

A.

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sage

  • 549
Re: Is "say yes or roll the dice" part of DW?
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2012, 03:28:39 PM »
Intent certainly enters into it, as it does with many moves. If the thief just says "I look around" I'll ask her to clarify: "are you hunting around in this room in particular, or getting a lay of the land so you know what traps to be on the lookout for?"

Re: Is "say yes or roll the dice" part of DW?
« Reply #9 on: March 13, 2012, 03:34:55 PM »
Re: the "say yes/roll dice" issue -- Sage: your explanation makes sense to me. And, that's pretty much what I meant. The concept seems very much built into the rules as written -- but, yeah, not an extra thing to worry about.

It's like, if a player triggers a move, that is a per se important moment -- so you roll dice.

A.

Re: Is "say yes or roll the dice" part of DW?
« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2012, 04:45:55 PM »
I guess you could say that DW (and AW) use "say yes" but it's so far baked into the game that the GM shouldn't be thinking about it. If a move comes up that means there's something at stake.

Take Perilous Journey for example. We could have said "here's the system for journeys, use it when there's something at stake on a journey." That's say yes or roll the dice. Instead we have a trigger "When you undertake a perilous journey..." This way instead of the GM thinking about "should I just say yes? Is this a conflict?" the GM looks to the fiction established: "is this journey perilous?"

...The hard work of figuring out when to say yes is already baked into the game.

Well said! The conditions for the Move must be clearly met for the Move to work well and not require double-checking, as you said. If I attack an opponent in melee, then by god I am Hacking and Slashing! Volley is equally concrete, and Defend is pretty clear.
Defy Danger is broad ("act despite an imminent threat, or suffer a calamity"), but the different options for each stat give us much narrower fictional cues. It's more interesting than its direct ancestor, Act Under Fire (the most-used move in my AW games, omg), and it reinforces niche protection. It's really colorful and rad!

The problem I run into is that I can't picture what Spouting Lore is really doing. Is your character standing there talking aloud? - - that's how I interpret it when someone Aids another on a Spout Lore check: they have a conversation.
But whaddya do if you roll a 6 or less when you Spout Lore, or Discern Realities? You have to make up your own answer, more or less, and this is also how I felt about Open Your Brain from AW.

It's like Say Yes is baked like apples into pie when it comes to most Moves, but the information-related moves (in AW and DW, that is) feel a bit more raw and uncooked - they stand out from the rest of the "pie" of play that much more in that they require longer pauses while the GM thinks up a reasonable answer.

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sage

  • 549
Re: Is "say yes or roll the dice" part of DW?
« Reply #11 on: March 13, 2012, 05:01:10 PM »
Some of my favorite hard moves for information:

Whatever they described they're taking time to do it: racking their brains, consulting a book, searching an area. Use that against them. "While you're searching the area you hear footsteps coming down the hallway..." (Put them in a spot)

If they're getting information in relation to something that could reasonably be spread out, tell them they need to get somewhere else first. "You recall an old trick your master taught you for finding the source of a spell, but to do it you'll need to be in the light of the moon first." "You're pretty sure you're on the trail of a hellhound, but the only way to tell for sure is to tiptoe through the guardhouse and peek at the kennel. You willing to do that?" (Tell them the requirements and ask)

Give them far more information than they could want, Cthulhu-style. This works great for magical information and investigations. "As you look over the runes they start to swim in front of you, squirming like worms. You're getting to the important part, about where the tomb is, when you have a vision of you and everyone else hear being work food, literally. You feel shaky every time you think about it, going into that tomb is going to really test your nerves." (Show signs of doom, made in a hard way)

Tell them what they don't want to know. "Well, you figure out what's dangerous to you, but a second too late: the walls start sliding together." (Reveal an unwelcome truth)

And, making a comeback in Beta 2, turn the move back on them: "You're looking for a way into the sunken temple? What kind of safeguards are you looking for?" (PC answers) "Well, those are exactly the safeguards you find."

Re: Is "say yes or roll the dice" part of DW?
« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2012, 05:20:29 PM »
Yes! I was wondering what happened to "turn their move back on them". I've been doing it regardless; it's one of the real highlights of AW (no pun intended) and it's really helped me engage the players (while taking the pressure off myself! ^__^)

Re: "put them in a spot" - I also need to watch out for the equivalent of taking 10 or taking 20 - - when a player describes being really meticulous, obviously that's gonna cost them more time - it just follows in the fiction, ya know?

Re: Is "say yes or roll the dice" part of DW?
« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2012, 05:33:09 PM »
Whoops! Meant to add:

Sage, when the rule is "say yes, or roll the dice", it kind of implies that the GM is the focus of the decision-making process. Conversely, when the rule is "to do it, do it", it makes the role of the fiction sufficiently explicit.
Say Yes was a push in that direction, for its time - it was saying "Hey GM, don't just make 'em roll for no reason! WHY are they rolling?" It's imploring you to consider the fictional situation, or at least be prepared to justify your gut feeling in terms of what's happening right now or what has already been established.

It's a classic principle of play - - sometimes, dice rolling isn't the right move. Dogs changes things by making its play principles super explicit, and that's the deeper value of Dogs - - it led fairly directly (if slowly, over years) into AW territory, where play principles are super-explicit so you can spend more time inside some fruitful creative constraints and benefit from them, and spend less time "out in the cold" and totally freeform.

(incidentally, in the sordid world of RPG identity politics, it was always weird being the guy who disliked both freeform and super-crunchy play styles.. AW is a nice middle-of-the-road approach for me.)

Sage, overall, it sounds like what you're saying is "Don't think about it so hard. Let the Moves do the work for you - that's why they're there!" And I completely agree.

Re: Is "say yes or roll the dice" part of DW?
« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2012, 08:30:08 PM »
I think the equivalent rule in *W is "Tell them the consequences and ask". Sometimes there will be no consequences, which is a lot like saying yes.