When you clobber someone from behind... [custom move]

  • 5 Replies
  • 5117 Views
When you clobber someone from behind... [custom move]
« on: February 20, 2013, 07:35:08 PM »
So this came up two or three times in my last Monsterhearts session. The PCs wanted to clock someone in the back of the head and knock them out without having to bring them down to 4 Harm and probably kill them. (I know that just "safely knocking someone out" in real life doesn't happen, but... )

Once it was a PC wanting to KO an NPC, but before we could really figure out how to resolve it, the Fae just went and killed the NPC with broken promises. (The fact that I can write the phrase "kill with broken promises" is one of the reasons I love this game).

Another time it was between a PC and another PC, and after some dithering, the one PC just spent a string to bribe the other PC into letting her knock her out for an XP. This worked okay but didn't really feel satisfactory.

So, I thought on things for a bit. Two or three times in one session indicated a possible pattern of behavior, and yells "custom move time" to me.

When you clobber someone from behind, and they aren't expecting it, roll +cold.

10+ They chose one:
*They gain the "Concussed" condition.
*They are unconscious and mark XP. The MC will tell them when they awake.

7-9 You choose one:
*They take 1 Harm.
*They take -1 Forward.

On a miss, you have left your self wide open and vulnerable.


I haven't had a chance to use the new move yet. I'll hopefully present it to my players this weekend.

Re: When you clobber someone from behind... [custom move]
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2013, 12:32:23 PM »
Why a new move? To me it sounds like you either use a string on them to give them the condition "knocked out cold", or you first use a move that gives you a string in case you don't have one.

Re: When you clobber someone from behind... [custom move]
« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2013, 04:34:09 PM »
The "knocked out cold" condition didn't occur to me. To be honest, that sounds awfully powerful for a simple condition. It seems like that's just a step away from the condition "dead."

My main goal with the custom move was to reward the victim for putting themselves in extreme danger. Getting knocked unconscious by another character (at least in my game) seems dangerous. It's a good set-up for stone-cold murder.

I wanted to give the victim the option--their choice--on whether or not their character falls unconscious. And if they still decide to put their character in that kind of danger, I figured an XP reward was warranted.

This could certainly be accomplished with strings, but it just didn't "feel right" when we did it at the table.

Re: When you clobber someone from behind... [custom move]
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2013, 06:55:39 PM »
The "knocked out cold" condition didn't occur to me. To be honest, that sounds awfully powerful for a simple condition. It seems like that's just a step away from the condition "dead."

Dead isn't a condition. Dead requires to gain 4 harm (at least if you are a PC). "Knocked out cold" doesn't seem to be more powerful narratively than any other condition.

My main goal with the custom move was to reward the victim for putting themselves in extreme danger. Getting knocked unconscious by another character (at least in my game) seems dangerous. It's a good set-up for stone-cold murder.

I wanted to give the victim the option--their choice--on whether or not their character falls unconscious. And if they still decide to put their character in that kind of danger, I figured an XP reward was warranted.

In Monsterhearts a 10+ result means the acting player was completely successful and thus gain complete agency. Making the 10+ result about the victim's choice doesn't seem right to me. A 7-9 can be about the victim's choice, but a 10+ should have the player deciding.

Also, consider this: your move is in play all the time. On the one hand, it is a very specific and powerful thing, on the other hand, all the mechanics you need are already in the game. You are not adding anything new. On top of that, now cold becomes a more valuable stat, because it allows you to take three different actions: hold steady, clobbering from behind and shut someone down. That's pretty powerful. Why do I still want volatile as a stat?

The victim's choice won't even matter, if it is an NPC. The MC would go for concussed every time. Then bring it down hard on the attacking character. A PC might go for the XP, but since only PCs make moves, this choice is only useful against another PC. BTW, if I want to be abusive, the PCs could clobber themselves to the season's end in no time. ;)

Next problematic thing is the 7-9 choice. Your move will only result in the desired outcome on a 10+. Everything else will lead to a fight.

In my mind, clobbering someone from behind might require a teenager to hold steady before going through with action. Then they can a string or use another action to gain the string and then expend it.

If you really need a move for this, then try something like this: To clobber someone from behind, spend a string on them. They go unconscious. If they are a PC, they mark XP and the MC will tell them when and where they wake up.

Re: When you clobber someone from behind... [custom move]
« Reply #4 on: February 26, 2013, 06:25:28 PM »
Despite the fact that writing up custom moves is wicked fun, thanks to feedback here and on Story Games, I've come around the other side on this.

When I was writing the monster section for Hobomancer, I got into a debate with one of my co-writers regarding trolls turning to stone in the sunlight. He thought it should be a round-by-round process to avoid an instant kill. I argued (and won) that if the heroes can manage to trick the troll into the sun, then they deserve the instant victory. The drama comes from setting up the monster for failure.

It's the same situation here. The drama and challenge comes from setting up a opponent so that they are in a vulnerable position where they can bonk them in the hid or shiv them in the ribs. If the PC can orchestrate another character (an NPC at least) into such a vulnerable position, using a variety of available moves and strings, then they deserve the "instant kill."

For PCs, I can just use strings, like I originally did. "I'll give you an XP if you let me clobber you unconscious." My initial problem was trying to figure out how to use "emotional leverage" to explain this, but now I realize it's a matter of knowing what it would take to get this other guy to let his guard down.

Re: When you clobber someone from behind... [custom move]
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2013, 06:30:05 AM »

To be honest this doesn't seem like something that would necessarily be covered by a move. I mean, genre-wise, I struggle to think of a situation where a main character does *that thing where they knock someone out from behind* and the person... is not knocked out? I mean, in the TV shows and books and such on which this is based, hitting somebody on the back of the head with a heavy object = unconscious person. It's a trope, which is presumably why it came up so often in your game.

So your options are to either cover it with another move, or have it follow from the fiction without requiring a move at all. Actually, a combination of these two seems sensible, as the circumstances of the fiction will help determine whether or not this particular instance of knocking-somebody-out-from-behind should trigger a move.

This is similar to cases in Apocalypse World where players/MCs struggle with the idea that you can shoot somebody in the back of the head without rolling dice. Sometimes you can just knock somebody out, because the fiction makes it appropriate; sometimes you might need to Hold Steady to sneak up on them with that vase; sometimes spending a String to get the drop on them is going to make more sense. It all depends what's happening in the story.