Battle, hard moves, and golden opportunities

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cds

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Battle, hard moves, and golden opportunities
« on: September 08, 2012, 08:59:13 AM »
I'm a good part of the way through the prerelease DW book (currently in the monsters chapter), and I've also previously read Apocalypse World, but haven't yet played either.  I have to say, though that I'm finding DW really cool and inspirational.

One of the things which is starting to gel for me, but isn't quite there yet is some of the things which can happen in battle which aren't directly or aren't only HP related.

The 16 HP Dragon thread gives some examples, like the Dragon's bite is messy, so it can rip people apart.  Or the Earth Elemental might turn the ground to quicksand and meld someone into stone.

So, as I understand it, when players miss a roll or ignore a threat I can make as hard a move as I want.  So, for example, if they are confronted by an angry Ankheg, and decide to Spout Lore and roll a 6-, the Ankheg could spray forth acid and destroy the Fighter's signature weapon.  Or, for a less abrupt example, during a fight, a bear could rip someone's arm off in response to a failed Hack and Slash.

Now, doing it like the Ankheg example, right off the bat, probably doesn't lead to satisfying fiction.  It's too abrupt, and feels too unfair, at least to me.  Does DW give any guidance (or do people here have guidance) on how to decide how hard of a move to make?  Is it just based on trying to make an exciting story?

In the systems I'm most used to, like D&D, or Ars Magica or lots of others, this type of thing doesn't usually come up.  You might be severely injured (in a generalized lost HP way) but it's rare that loss of a limb or loss of a character defining object like the signature weapon is on the table (unless you did something specific to risk it maybe).  And I've been in games where the GM destroyed a major possession or maimed a character and it just felt unfair or unwarranted, so I guess I'm trying to figure out how that type of thing fits into DW in a way which makes good stories, not bad ones.


Another question about battles comes from the play example at the end of chapter 2 where Rath gets an "arrow to the knee" and the GM asks what he's going to do about it.  Or somewhere there was an collar bone cracking and I think the suggestion that they probably couldn't use that arm now.  I'm also curious how people work these types of things into fights.  They're not as difficult to fix as losing a limb, since they will probably heal, but they put limitations on the capabilities of the character (can't run or can't use arm), at least for the duration.

I guess part of me wants major events like these to have a mechanism driving them, but DW doesn't have that (or if it does, I didn't catch it).  So, absent a mechanical system, how do people generally decide between, "The arrow hits you in the arm and you drop your weapon," and "The arrow hits you in the arm and you drop your weapon... and your arm is now useless!"


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Scrape

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Re: Battle, hard moves, and golden opportunities
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2012, 10:46:49 AM »
Those are good questions, and I don't think there's a rule for it. I only give out tough injuries during climactic battles or from very tough opponents, basically I think of DW as an action movie and frame scenes that way. Does the hero get hurt by the introductory moll's? Nope, but he might when he meets the bad guy's lieutenant. But that's just me.

Remember, though, that you're not limited to breaking arms or destroying weapons. There are tons of less perment things that make battle more interesting- knock them down, damage the weapon instead of breaking it, or make the fighter drop it to avoid losing it. Make them sprain the arm or something. Back them into a wall, give the enemy some cover, force them back... you can do all sorts of fictional positioning during combat that isn't permanent injury, if you're not comfortable with it.

Remember, it says make as hard a move as you want.[/I]

Whenever you find yourself thinking "Gee that was a pretty brutal hit..." and thinking it should be more than Hp damage, then you can dish out more. Just save it until you think it makes sense.

Re: Battle, hard moves, and golden opportunities
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2012, 01:26:47 PM »
You may want to take into account the characters' goals. "Win a fight" it is not the goal; it's what they are fighting for a worthy target to aim for with hard moves. Last night, the heroes were trying to climb the sky chain; and during the first fight, the thief's right arm was gnawed by a flying rat. That meant to us that the thief could not climb on his own anymore until the injury was healed. So the paladin lay-on-handed  on him; but he rolled a 7-9, shifting the damage instead of just healing it. The paladin described a trickle of blood coming out his own gauntlet, but hey, he's a paladin! He stoically endured the pain, not even telling the others about that, and climbed without fear.
Oh, the things we tell ourselves to feel better about the long, dark nights.

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Scrape

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Re: Battle, hard moves, and golden opportunities
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2012, 04:35:09 PM »
Yeah, it's worth remembering that the party has access to healing so a broken arm or something isn't always that terrible, and just leads to more party interaction like mentioned above.

And a big part of battles is definitely more than HP damage, but like I said it doesn't have to be permanent injury all the time. It can totally mean getting knocked around, pinned, separated, surrounded, and so on. Those are all good 7-9 choices or even Misses.

When it comes to describing a specific injury as more than HP damage, always consider the circumstances. A regular melee with a guard might not lead to "real" injury; but when a character attempts to block the blow of a giant ogre, that might warrant a sprained or broken arm from the enormous brute's blow. If some goblin archers are firing wildly at a PC, it might just mean HP loss. But if a trained marksman is aiming for their weak spot, that could be something more. Use the game fiction that's been set up and work with it. I think that in practice, you'll know when it's necessary and makes sense.

Re: Battle, hard moves, and golden opportunities
« Reply #4 on: September 08, 2012, 06:17:30 PM »
I feel obliged to link to John Harper's excellent advice on the subject of hard moves.

I review that every time I have an AWE game coming up. (AWE=Apocalypse World Engine, because I like punchy acronyms.)

EDIT: Thinking about it, I don't know how well this fits your problem. Enjoy it anyway?
« Last Edit: September 08, 2012, 06:22:19 PM by strongbif »

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noclue

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Re: Battle, hard moves, and golden opportunities
« Reply #5 on: September 08, 2012, 06:52:26 PM »
Okay, so you hit the guy with an arrow...which GM move are you making? You're not dealing damage, At least not exclusively, in this example. So, pick a move and let the fiction come from there.

Examples, say after a fighter's Hack and Slash roll:
GM: the arrow hits you in the arm and you drop your sword (show them the downside of their gear) You're going to need it if you're going to be able to do anything about the approaching goblin skirmishers. Unfortunately if you stop to pick it up, that archer's going to have an easy shot (put them in a spot). You could of course, duck down this dark corridor, but you can't really see what's in there (tell them the consequences and ask).

Or...

GM: the goblins launch a volley of arrows at the big dude in the front with the pointy sword. Your arm takes a solid hit. You're going to need medical attention and fast, especially since you're not much good as a fighter without your sword arm (show them the downside of their class). The goblins are swarming toward you, what do you do (put them in a spot)?
« Last Edit: September 08, 2012, 07:13:27 PM by noclue »
James R.

    "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance-that principle is contempt prior to investigation."
     --HERBERT SPENCER

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cds

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Re: Battle, hard moves, and golden opportunities
« Reply #6 on: September 08, 2012, 08:05:49 PM »
Thanks for the responses, everyone!  They're really helping!

GM: the arrow hits you in the arm and you drop your sword (show them the downside of their gear) You're going to need it if you're going to be able to do anything about the approaching goblin skirmishers. Unfortunately if you stop to pick it up, that archer's going to have an easy shot (put them in a spot). You could of course, duck down this dark corridor, but you can't really see what's in there (tell them the consequences and ask).

So, if I've got this right, the show them the downside of their gear is the hard move, they dropped their sword, it's a done deal.  And the put them in a spot is a soft move: they have the option to pick it up and take the consequences.  If they decide to pick it up, my first instinct was that they might be defying danger, but looking at it, I'm seeing that they're ignoring the threat of the archer, so this probably calls for a hard move like dealing damage.  Would you think that this second interpretation is the "right" one or that it might go either way depending on how you wanted to play it?

And I suppose that if they took the second option (down the corridor) and survived, they might later come back to retrieve the sword.  Assuming it's that the situation is still similar (archer's out there to make their life difficult) then this would be a time for defying danger because I already made my hard move, and giving them option to defy danger to pick up the sword is my soft move to setup for damage if they fail.

I feel like it's starting to click now.

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Or...

GM: the goblins launch a volley of arrows at the big dude in the front with the pointy sword. Your arm takes a solid hit. You're going to need medical attention and fast, especially since you're not much good as a fighter without your sword arm (show them the downside of their class). The goblins are swarming toward you, what do you do (put them in a spot)?

So, here it sounds like I have a choice.  That hard move might mean that they can't fight effectively but it also might mean that they're fighting with a negative, right?  And that the choice might be informed by how much damage the wound was or by how important the battle was.  (Was this just a bunch of goblins or was this the climactic battle with the goblins?)  Sound right?

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cds

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Re: Battle, hard moves, and golden opportunities
« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2012, 08:14:40 PM »
I feel obliged to link to John Harper's excellent advice on the subject of hard moves.

Yeah.  It's a great article and has helped me start to internalize what hard moves really are.  I just added a "reread often" section to my DW notes because, like you said, I think that rereading that from time to time might be helpful until it's really sunk in.

Re: Battle, hard moves, and golden opportunities
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2012, 08:35:51 PM »
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So, for example, if they are confronted by an angry Ankheg, and decide to Spout Lore and roll a 6-, the Ankheg could spray forth acid and destroy the Fighter's signature weapon.

Failing Spout Lore:
"The eastern Fluvian Ankheg is distinguished from its southern cousin by the poor range and mildness of its acidic spittl... THAT $$&%&! MELTED MY FAMILY'S $%%$#$ HEIRLOOM KHOPESH!"

I like the post of John Harper's that was linked above, and I agree that actual character death is a useful, important thing in a game like DW (or at least how I want to have DW be). I'd really like to see/hear a few examples of how an encounter with something like a basilisk would go, highlighting soft and hard moves for the beast's signature glare, in such a context.


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cds

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Re: Battle, hard moves, and golden opportunities
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2012, 09:51:27 PM »
Failing Spout Lore:
"The eastern Fluvian Ankheg is distinguished from its southern cousin by the poor range and mildness of its acidic spittl... THAT $$&%&! MELTED MY FAMILY'S $%%$#$ HEIRLOOM KHOPESH!"

:-)

The book says,
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Just in case it isn't clear: the answers are always true, even if the
GM had to make them up on the spot. Always say what honesty
demands.
I'm not sure if that's intended to apply to misses, but it doesn't say it's not, so I'm thinking that, as written in the book, giving the bad info might not be kosher.  Thoughts?

Also, in the situation I gave, bad info can work out okay.  The players know it's bad, but they go ahead as if they didn't know.  But if this was a little more removed, say in the village when the farmer is telling you about the Ankheg which took up residence under his field, it's a lot harder for some players (and I'm often one of them... :-) to really act enthusiastically on player-known bad info.  That's why in cases like that we usually have the roll be made by the GM in secret so that you don't know if you're getting good or bad info.  It makes it easier to be as cautious or non-cautious as the situation and characters demand without letting metagame info keep tempting you to change.

But DW's emphasis on what honesty demands and it's general structure don't seem to support such a system.  So, when you're Spouting Lore from the safety of a tavern planning your next foray into the forest, it seems less clear what hard moves make sense.

This might be a general thing I haven't grasped about DW, actually.  When characters are making preparation moves but aren't currently in danger, the hard moves are harder to figure out for me.  Whether it's spouting lore before going into the situation or the druid shapeshifting somewhere safe before entering a potentially dangerous situation, or any of the many situations where it seems like if you failed you could probably just retry until you get it right.  Another one is discern realities when there's no immediate danger to taking more time.  Can you try it again if you get 7-9 to get another question?  If you just fail, can you try again?  In d20, this would be why there's the Take 20 rule.  Or there's Burning Wheel's Let It Ride rule for a different approach.  But neither of those really helps me figure out what the appropriate hard moves might be.

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I'd really like to see/hear a few examples of how an encounter with something like a basilisk would go, highlighting soft and hard moves for the beast's signature glare, in such a context.

Ooh, that would be interesting.  The basilisk's monster move, "Turn flesh to stone with a gaze" is so broad and powerful.  I was thinking that you'd have to put the basilisk somewhere where the PC's don't run into it unintentionally, but I guess, at least for the basilisk, you can show signs of an impending threat: "You see stone statues of people.  They look like they're running away from the cave over there with terror on their faces.  They look amazingly realistic.  What do you do?"  What an actual battle would look like that wasn't just a suicide mission though, I'm not sure yet.

I get the feeling that someone, the GM or the players, might need to narrate in some more details so that there was a weakness or limitation or defense or something.  Without that, it sounds like you're always one miss away from statuary...

I guess the 16 HP Dragon thread talked about such narration, but it wasn't clear to me how'd you actually run it in the game.

Re: Battle, hard moves, and golden opportunities
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2012, 11:14:53 PM »
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I'm not sure if that's intended to apply to misses, but it doesn't say it's not, so I'm thinking that, as written in the book, giving the bad info might not be kosher.  Thoughts?

While I was just going for humor with that, I think it still might be valid.  The real information is actually conveyed by the fiction that demonstrated what came out of the Spout-ers mouth to be exactly wrong, and the incorrect information was just flavor for the hard move. We can get away with humorous mis-information since we were going to do a hard move as a result of the failure.  I'm still pretty new to the system, though.

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When characters are making preparation moves but aren't currently in danger, the hard moves are harder to figure out for me.
 

Me, too.

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In d20, this would be why there's the Take 20 rule.  Or there's Burning Wheel's Let It Ride rule for a different approach.  But neither of those really helps me figure out what the appropriate hard moves might be.

I suppose that in such cases, while the GM may take hard moves, it may not be appropriate for the fiction, and a soft move would be the better choice.

Interesting times...

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Scrape

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Re: Battle, hard moves, and golden opportunities
« Reply #11 on: September 08, 2012, 11:29:29 PM »
Can you try it again if you get 7-9 to get another question?  If you just fail, can you try again?  In d20, this would be why there's the Take 20 rule.  Or there's Burning Wheel's Let It Ride rule for a different approach.  But neither of those really helps me figure out what the appropriate hard moves might be.

As far as I'm concerned, there are no rerolls in Dungeon World. The whole idea here is that there is a consequence for failed rolls, that's what it means to "make a hard move." If a player is just rolling over and over again from a safe point, there's no consequence so the dice shouldn't come out. That's really cheesing the system and I don't like it in any game.

All the talk about "hard moves" and "soft moves" and whatnot can sometimes make it more confusing than it is: when a player fails a roll, you are telling them the consequences of that failure. That's all it means to "make a move." People get caught up choosing something from the list, but really you just gotta come up with a consequence for failure, and the list is good for helping with that.

The Moves are, more or less, just a list of options you have that can be applied in any game. They're very good basic advice for DMing. You figure out what applies to the moment at hand, and use it.

Failing a Spout Lore doesn't make a monster attack, per se. You want your Move to flow from the fiction, so make it something related. Think of the consequences that might arise from the failed roll and then make those consequences happen. It's honestly no different than most other games, they've just codified it and laid it out in the rules.

Edit: for example, Discern Realities. This isn't really a "Perception Check," they don't need to roll it every time they want to ask about their surroundings. Just let them ask away and give out the details. The list of questions are for hidden info, and it says "a situation or a person." Not a room, a situation. That means you have described something with the potential for danger: a trapped room, now that's a situation. Then, if they fail a roll, while they're poking around the trap could go off. Or the hiding enemy jumps out. Read the description for Discern Realities, and you'll see that it shouldn't really come out unless there are consequences. If there's really no Move you feel like you could make, consider a few all-purpose ones:

*Reveal an unwelcome truth ("we're not alone!")
*Show signs of an approaching threat ("while you're looking around...")
*Use up their resources ("researching cost you money..."

The same thing applies with Spout Lore. You don't have to call for a Spout Lore every time they need world information. It's really when there's a chance they might not know it. And on a failure, you can Reveal an Unwelcome Truth. That's a good Move for Spouting Lore; it's not like they can roll and roll again until they succeed and "know" some facts. It's like, "You failed the roll? Well it turns out that Ogres subsist mainly on halfling flesh, that's a bummer for you, huh?"
« Last Edit: September 08, 2012, 11:43:07 PM by Scrape »

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Jeremy

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Re: Battle, hard moves, and golden opportunities
« Reply #12 on: September 09, 2012, 12:21:09 AM »
An awesome "hard" move for a Spout Lore miss during a non-stressful situation is tell them the requirements and then ask

"Y'know, your knowledge of orcish religion is pretty sketchy.  But you know who knows a lot about them?  That jerkwad, Callan the Unkempt. You could ask him. Or do you think he's still mad about that incident with the ankheg?"

"You've only encountered passing references to a demon prince named Orcus. But you've heard the Library of Ioun has a copy of the Demonicon of Iggwilv under lock and key. If you could get a chance to puruse it, it would almost certainly have the answers you seek. What do you do?"

What still bugs me is the potential for multiple PCs spamming the roll.  If the worst that happens on a miss is that you give them bad news or a lead on how to get the answer, there's nothing preventing all the PCs at the table from rolling (and that greatly increases the odds of an 10+ hitting the table).

The best defense, I think, is to lean on the fictional trigger. "When you consult your accumulated knowledged about something..." means that you can't trigger it on a topic about which you know squat.  Or it becomes an interesting revelation about the player.  "Can I spout lore about Orcus, too?"  "How exactly have you accumulated knowledge about secret demon princes, Mr. Fighter?"


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noofy

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Re: Battle, hard moves, and golden opportunities
« Reply #13 on: September 09, 2012, 02:09:26 AM »
I think in that situation it becomes AID then Jeremy? Rather than the group re-rolling? Lean on their bonds with the 'active' character? Well, at least that's what I'd do.

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cds

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Re: Battle, hard moves, and golden opportunities
« Reply #14 on: September 09, 2012, 09:26:35 AM »
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I'm not sure if that's intended to apply to misses, but it doesn't say it's not, so I'm thinking that, as written in the book, giving the bad info might not be kosher.  Thoughts?

While I was just going for humor with that, I think it still might be valid.  The real information is actually conveyed by the fiction that demonstrated what came out of the Spout-ers mouth to be exactly wrong, and the incorrect information was just flavor for the hard move. We can get away with humorous mis-information since we were going to do a hard move as a result of the failure.  I'm still pretty new to the system, though.

Since no one is deceived you're okay with it.  So, it sounds like you agree with my interpretation that misleading on a miss isn't kosher.