My problem at being the GM

  • 26 Replies
My problem at being the GM
« on: August 19, 2012, 04:55:33 PM »
In my groups, usually I'm always the one proposing new games and explaining the rules. More often than not, if in these games there's a GM, I take on the role. And it happened also with DW.

My problem is, everytime a player describes what is a move, they always look at me waiting for me to say "hey it's that move, roll for it". Even if we played for 3-4 sessions, I printed out basic moves sheets for each player and told them about this. In every group, they can't manage to understand when it's a move and when it's not, it's always my call. Even with very simple moves like hack & slash or defy danger. They always wait for some kind of authorization, like if it's me who decides if it's a move or if it is not. It's totally stressful! I understand how that can happen the first times we play, but this thing keeps going on, and in EVERY group!

So, did you ever feel the same problem? Do you have any suggestion? Am I just going crazy?
Oh, the things we tell ourselves to feel better about the long, dark nights.

Re: My problem at being the GM
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2012, 05:30:07 PM »
I don't see how this is a problem. In most every rpg the GM is the person that decides which rules applies to character actions.

To be honest many players are players because they don't want a huge amount of decision making or involvement in the game. It's sort of how most people in life prefer to work for a boss vs run their own company. Or how many people in a MMO group prefer to be DPS rather than lead the group as the tank. It's more fun for many people to just be pointed in a direction and be told to "kill it with fire!"

It's just easier to follow the lead, pick from a few choices and enjoy the depth involved in those few choices.

So players waiting on the GM to say "go ahead and roll hack and slash" would seem to be pretty normal to me and something you're not going to change.

Re: My problem at being the GM
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2012, 05:58:33 PM »
No, there's something different here. Either I can't explain properly how DW works, or my players totally burned their brains. Probably we got too much used with stake-based conflict resolution. We played a lot of solar system, some dogs in the vineyard, some trollbabe, and some primetime adventures. Also we played a lot of the one ring and icons rpg, both of them a bit drifted to have a true stake-based conflict resolution system. I'm starting to see clearer all the thing—every time they freeze waiting for me they are sort of waiting to hear the stake of the conflict. Next time I will insist that DW does not have stakes and they should not wait for them.

However, keep going on with comments and thoughts, they are much appreciated!


OR... Maybe we are too much used to "say yes or roll the dice". They are always waiting for me, as the GM, to say "no" and then roll. This could be very true. I have to insist even on this point.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2012, 06:12:05 PM by (not that) adam »
Oh, the things we tell ourselves to feel better about the long, dark nights.



  • 777
Re: My problem at being the GM
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2012, 02:42:43 AM »
Hey Adam, I think I know where you are coming from. I played with my partner after having done a year of one on one burning wheel, and the whole stake-setting thing cropped up initially too.

I found the best way to go about it was to ignore the mechanics and just keep talking, and probably the most important was to address the characters. It was so easy and somewhat habitual to ask about the characters as avatars of the players, as a tool to flag their interests in the game, instead of asking the players as if they were the characters. We looked for an almost conflict resolution paradigm. Nutting out Task and intent, (often at a scene level), agreeing to the stakes then rolling.  DW is different. Your moves snowball out of the fiction, and the narrative cues imbedded within the moves. You need to almost forget the mechanics for a while.

Perhaps try and approach the roleplay from the descriptive side of things first. Instead of thinking prescriptive and asking: 'Hey Nathan, do you want Hruthgar to spout lore about that?', remind the players of the fictional triggers, agreeing with them by addressing the characters. 'So, Hruthgar that sounds like you are totally consulting your accumulated knowledge about something yeah? That's spout lore my friend, roll + INT.'

I would write out all the fictional triggers of the basic moves on index cards in bold big print and just have them on the table. So when a player's description matches the trigger and it feels like a roll, they can simply flip the card where you have printed out the move on the back side.

I don't think its such an uncommon thing, and really don't stress yourself about it, just keep asking questions when you are a bit stuck for what to say. Throwing in an impending doom as a soft GM move and asking 'So what do you do?' of the quiet player is a sure fire way of at least sparking the table into conversation!

Re: My problem at being the GM
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2012, 01:43:52 PM »
You could always just look right back.  After about 5 seconds of silence, make a hard move.  Eventually, you will condition them to reach for the dice. [mostly joking]

It might be worth reminding them that they can roll the dice and that the worst thing that will happen is that you'll ask them to go into more detail about how they're triggering the move.

To be honest, I'm just starting a new game and my big fear is the opposite, that I will describe my actions and roll the dice and the GM will be feel like I'm being too brazen.

Re: My problem at being the GM
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2012, 05:16:47 PM »
I've only read Dungeon World for now, but I've played a whole lot of Apocalypse World, and in this specific regard I had the impression they don't differ.

So, Adam, I think there's nothing wrong with the other players waiting for you to tell them what are their characters doing in term of moves. That's a feature of Apocalypse World engine based games; specifically, that's how character moves and Mc moves interact with the fiction and with eachother.

When a player says: "Im' going to cut its throat with my sword," as Mc you could answer with a lot of different reactions, depending on the fiction, your preparation and your principles.

For example, it could be hack and slash, if the monster is ready to retaliate; it could be inflict harm on the monster without needing the move, if the monster is not retaliating for whatever reason; it could be defy danger, if the monster is (let's say) invisible, or surrounded by a cloud of dense gas.

Fact is, as Mc you know what the specifics of the situation and of your preparation (including, let's say, monster hidden resources) are, the other players don't. So, if they went: "I totally hack and slash that lich," you could say: "Wait! When you draw your sword from the sheat, the monster turns gas" (maybe the lich's "release a perfected spell"), depending on the fiction, your principles and your preparation. Or you could say: "No need to hack and slash, it's still distracted by the wizard's spell... Just inflict your damage!"

So, wrapping it up: I don't think there's anything wrong with palyer waiting for you call as Mc on their actions. It's the normal flow of the game.

[Obviously, everything I've said could be totally useless if DW and AW were different in this regard, but they didn't seem to be, reading DW's rules.]

Re: My problem at being the GM
« Reply #6 on: August 20, 2012, 10:46:36 PM »
Yeah, I agree with Matteo.

And here is why: link where John Harper explains it all.



  • 378
Re: My problem at being the GM
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2012, 10:44:05 PM »
Matteo sounds right to me. My players sometimes offer up the move but sometimes look to me. When they do, I'm just like, "Yup, roll +STR for that Hack & Slash."

This discussion is kinda weirding me out, though, because I feel like there ARE stakes in DW. Sometimes I have to stop a player mid-roll because we haven't set the stakes of a Defy Danger yet. Is that wrong? I feel like it's sort of conditional, but there are definitely moments in my game when we define the stakes beforehand, and moments where the outcome is only announced after the dice hit the table.

Re: My problem at being the GM
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2012, 10:52:21 PM »
The moves are the stakes.



  • 777
Re: My problem at being the GM
« Reply #9 on: August 22, 2012, 12:26:53 AM »
That should be in the rules Marshall! Under the section entitiled "there are many ways to play fantasy RPG's.... This is how you play DW".

Re: My problem at being the GM
« Reply #10 on: August 22, 2012, 03:05:54 AM »
Marshall's right, in a way.

The Defy Danger problem happens because you don't yet know exactly what the character is doing and what is happening. When you know those things, Defy Danger is super easy. When you don't, it crashes.

Don't roll yet! When you know the danger and how they're defying it, you're good to go.

Re: My problem at being the GM
« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2012, 10:54:54 AM »
Yeah, we also played a short-term campaign of burning wheel... However, I tried to emphasize the ficional triggers but it does not seem to work. I'll surely try to make index cards with the fictional triggers! Maybe in a gigantic font.

I'll also try the hard way to condition them! It sounds fun :D and since «if you are not making a move, then the GM makes a move!», it's all ok.

@matteo, scrape, john and the others again
Yes, of course when I have to give more fiction for the move to have place, I speak first. But I have a deeper problem. Even when they cast a spell, they wait for me to say "roll to cast a spell!". They are so used to "I can do anything I want until the gm says no" they can't manage to roll at all. Once it happened something like this:

wizard: I cast magic missile!
gm: fine by me.
wizard (feeling awkward): shouldn't I roll for this?
gm: what do you think?
wizard: I don't know, should I?
gm: yes. I already told you like ten times. Read on your sheet: "when you unleash a spell..." you always have to roll.
wizard: oh, I got it! Let's roll then!

And it was like, at the third session. And apparently, he didn't get it at all.

The fact is: I have to actually say the word "ROLL" before they understand it's time to roll.
Oh, the things we tell ourselves to feel better about the long, dark nights.

Re: My problem at being the GM
« Reply #12 on: August 22, 2012, 11:37:41 AM »
This seems like a completely alien concept to me. I usually have the opposite problem, where dice are slamming into the table and I have no idea why (players rolling for moves rather than engaging the fiction).

I would recommend that you call for moves/rolls when players do things that would trigger the action, as it is a powerful pacing mechanism, and  to signal to the players when they need to engage the mechanics. So, if the wizard says, "I cast magic missile," I would respond, "so, you're casting a spell?" or "roll+int."

It sounds like what you want is for the player to say "I cast magic missile" and then immediately roll on their own. If they do that, they are skipping stakes/move negotiation. This usually isn't as much of an issue with the above example, but I frequently run into the situation of "I swing my sword at it," and the player rolling for hack and slash, but I would call for defy danger, because simply swinging their sword at the thing wouldn't trigger hack and slash.

Re: My problem at being the GM
« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2012, 11:57:08 AM »
jjafuller - If I were running DW, I'd put one set of dice (2d6; oversized dice if you have them) in the middle of the table and make everyone roll using The Dice.  Not only does it put the focus on the fiction/move at hand, but when you see them reach for the dice you have a moment to say, "Hold up there, how are you hacking and slashing" or "Could you clarify what you're doing a bit more, I want to make sure that we're applying the right move" or "They're totally unaware of you, you won't need to roll, you'll just cut them down - are you sure that's what you want to do?"  That extra moment or two should give you the buffer you need without leading to the problem that Adam seems to be having where players are really making the flow of conversation choppy.

Re: My problem at being the GM
« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2012, 01:07:18 PM »
@mease19, ah, I get it. I was approaching this from a game perspective, but it really doesn't have anything to do with the game. Its a matter of unclear social expectations between players.

@(not that) adam, didn't mean to derail your thread.