Roll+Hx to help me with the Help/Interfere move

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Roll+Hx to help me with the Help/Interfere move
« on: April 28, 2017, 12:39:22 PM »
A quick question about best practices when it comes to the help/interfere move:

On a miss, the player is instructed to be "prepared for the worst" - generally, an MC move.

Sometimes, in play, the help/interfere move has clear fictional context, like when Dusk is trying to manipulate someone, and I decide to try to help by drawing my blade and locking eyes with onlookers. In such a case, it's really easy to see fictional consequences to a miss.

However, in some interactions, the help/interfere move has less clear fictional context. For example, when two PCs are making moves against each other - let's say they're both reading each other, or they're in a fight and both seizing by force. If either or both decide they'd like to help or interfere:

1. How strict are you about requiring fictional context for the move? Do you demand it to be described or justified fictionally, or is it the player's option to call on the move as an attempt to gain a mechanical advantage?

Sometimes, making four rolls and being really strict about "to do it, do it" feels rather like jumping through hoops in a situation like this - what we really want to know is whether the person manages to get a read on the other, or the outcome of the fight, after all, not to be sidetracked into a whole conversation about how your character interferes and what else might be going on with them.

However, if we just roll the dice and make the moves (to get to the main roll we're interested in), then we get this:

2. If anyone misses their help/interfere roll, how does the MC make a move in response? We've got all this other stuff hanging over our heads - the other three rolls going on, getting back to the fictional action we're invested in, and so forth.

It becomes very tempting to just skip it, and to say that the missed help/interfere "did nothing", moving on to the next roll, and playing out the scene. Is that the desired dynamic here, or should we be playing it differently?

3. What's your preferred way to handle the timing of help/interfere: before the roll you're trying to affect, simultaneous with it, or afterwards (where we only roll if it's close enough that successful help/intereference could make a difference)?

I suppose it might be really helpful to have some "default miss clauses" for such moves, since, unlike "playing in turns" (as we do in most of the game), handling MC moves and misses on a bunch of simultaneous rolls is significantly trickier.

I'd love to hear your tips and tricks on handling this kind of situation - I bet there are some fun and clever ways to make this feel smooth and easy at the table.

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Munin

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Re: Roll+Hx to help me with the Help/Interfere move
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2017, 03:17:50 PM »
Like everything else, most of this will depend on the fictional situation. Because of that, I will usually ask the players to explain just how it is they are helping or interfering. In some cases it's obvious - in your case of two PCs simultaneously trying to read each other, it's generally pretty clear that we're talking about peoples' poker faces and convincing lies and deft evasiveness. There are exceptions, and these are where I'll want the PC to step in and explain their actions, as that will inform the consequences of success or failure, either of the interference or of the reading itself. But asking someone to say how they're helping or interfering is totally fair game, and if they can't tell you, don't have them make the roll - to do it, you have to do it.

FWIW, flipping someone's move is a pretty natural consequence of a badly-miffed roll to aid or interfere. So if you're trying to help and fail, your "help" comes out as interference and the target takes -1 or -2 forward instead. Similarly, if you're trying to interfere and fail, you inadvertently create an opening or give something away and the target takes +1 or +2 forward against you on their roll.

Example: Deke (the Battlebabe) and Major (the Hardholder) are undergoing tense negotiations about the parameters of the bounty hunt that Major wants Deke to undertake. Both suspect that the other is holding something back, and both want to read the other. But these two characters know each other, they have a long history of not quite seeing eye-to-eye. Both players decide to interfere with the other, and thus both roll+Hx. Deke is Hx+2 to Major, and Major (who holds things closer to the vest) is Hx+1 on Deke's sheet. Major gets an 8, Deke misses with a 5. So Major is taking +1forward from his partial, and the MC says that Deke's miss will be represented by her having a shitty poker face - he flips her move and gives Major a further +1forward.

Alternately, the MC could have decided that Deke's failure meant that she was interfering with herself, i.e. that she was overthinking the conversation, reading too much into what Major was saying, getting analysis-paralysis, and that she would be taking -1 or -2forward on the next roll. This too would be a flipped move, and I think either way is fine. Much will depend on if it is understood that Deke is also about to make another roll.

Now for the read a person roll itself. Major is Sharp+1 and is taking +2forward, and easily nets a 10. Deke rolls (she's also Sharp+1, but has no modifiers) and with a 4 misses this one as well. Not Deke's day. In the ensuing conversation, Major gets to ask three questions that Deke's player has to answer honestly. And if this snowballs into another move(say into a manipulate roll), Major will take +1forward against Deke if he acts on this information. Deke gets to ask 1 question (which Major's player has to answer honestly) which may also give her +1forward, but now she must prepare for the worst. Given that Deke's roll was a miss, the MC is typically encouraged to make a move here to reflect the situation. Since at this point it's just a conversation between the two, my gut instinct as MC is to keep the consequences tightly tied to the interaction - it is clear that Deke has a pretty poor read on Major, and maybe that makes her rethink her entire understanding of him as a person; I'm going to take away her stuff and drop her Hx with Major by two points (so now she erases the current value and writes Hx -1 next to his name).

Thus, all of the misses have consequences that fit the fiction. The MC interjected his own moves into the mix, but they were direct and largely mechanical in nature because this was about the PCs interacting with each other rather than the environment; heavy narration wasn't warranted, and indeed might have been a distraction from the players mutual spotlight.

Does this make sense?

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lumpley

  • 1293
Re: Roll+Hx to help me with the Help/Interfere move
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2017, 04:49:29 PM »
With Munin.

Also remember that if they've already rolled, and (in this case) missed, but they didn't tell you what they were doing to help beforehand and now you wish they had, you can just ask them. "Wait, I don't know what happened. How did you try to help?"

-Vincent

Re: Roll+Hx to help me with the Help/Interfere move
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2017, 07:16:27 PM »
Thanks, Vincent and Munin.

Asking for clarification after the roll is a good technique.

Making the MC moves operate mechanically rather than fictionally is also a good one.

Giving or taking away Hx is an interesting option I'd never considered.

However, you didn't really answer my second and third questions, I feel. Which is your preferred way to make this work?

Also:

* For the sake of those reading, "read a person" doesn't typically grant +1forward.

* It would be nice to have some default or baseline for doing things like interfering with your own move, unintentionally helping another, or adding to/subtracting Hx. To do it arbitrarily, case-by-case, is fine but leaves the newbie MC floundering.

For instance, if "reversing" a help/interfere move means you give your opponent a +1, instead, you should (from a mathematical perspective) pretty much always make that move, unless your Hx is negative. That means we're going to see a lot of these moves happening. If "flipping the move" results in a +/-2, though, it's a much heavier bargain, and we might only see positive/high Hx relationships making use of it against each other. 

Vincent, in your AW games - or your vision of ideal AW play - do most PCs interfere with rolls made against them pretty much all the time, or that there is a cost or requirement to making that roll?

Suggesting fun tricks to try is also good, but doesn't help us generalize those solutions. For instance, it's not entirely clear how we might apply those options to Seize by Force.

What's my own thinking on this?

My instinct here is to make these moves operate more like a standard move, both in terms of fiction and in terms of the "conversation". (In other words, you can help/interfere, but that's the move you're making, you need to say how you're doing it, and it likely means it's someone else's turn to talk when you're done. We don't just throw it in as a second roll on top of something else you're doing.)

This means you won't always want to help or interfere - sometimes other things will demand your attention. Are there any glaring downsides to running the game this way?
« Last Edit: April 28, 2017, 07:25:39 PM by Paul T. »

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lumpley

  • 1293
Re: Roll+Hx to help me with the Help/Interfere move
« Reply #4 on: April 28, 2017, 07:51:43 PM »
You know me! I think that generalizing solutions is an actively bad idea. The game's design's better served by an ever-increasing diversity of approaches than by any narrowing in on "best practices." Your "it would be nice to have" is my "it would be a terrible problem if we had, and thank goodness we don't have."

Follow your instinct! See how it goes. If there's a downside, maybe you'll find it. Probably there's not a downside, probably it's a perfectly fine way to play, same as any other.

-Vincent


Re: Roll+Hx to help me with the Help/Interfere move
« Reply #5 on: April 28, 2017, 09:13:06 PM »
Vincent,

I see! Thanks, I always appreciate your replies very much.

I'd still be happy to hear from other readers, if they wish to share their own preferred approaches.

Anyone else want to throw out your take on this?

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Munin

  • 417
Re: Roll+Hx to help me with the Help/Interfere move
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2017, 02:16:56 AM »
Paul, my example answers your second question directly - the MC is making his or her moves right then and there in the middle of all the rolls. Those moves can absolutely affect the outcomes of the subsequent rolls. In that example, I kept the effects mechanical to avoid hijacking the PC-on-PC narrative that the players were developing.

Because actions have consequences, all of the rolls are consequential. If the players hit or miss, things are going to change.

In terms of deciding whether to roll for moves to help or interfere before or after the roll they're intending to modify, it doesn't much matter to me. We do it both ways (often in the same session) and it seems to work fine. Like if someone ends up with a 6, they might say something like, "Anybody gonna help me? Anyone?" Or if something important is going on, players may be falling all over themselves to offer their help before the "important" roll is ever made. It just depends on the narrative tempo of the game at that point.

Further, I find that when the MC says, "Hang on; before you roll, is anyone going to help/interfere?" it builds dramatic tension, in essence by signaling that what's about to happen has heavy consequences. Alternately, I find having players solicit help after they've blown a roll builds development between two characters. Both goals are awesome in my book, so it's six of one, a half-dozen of the other as far as I'm concerned.

Finally, remember that Hx is a stat, and as such you can highlight it. I find that it is often comedy gold to do so.

Re: Roll+Hx to help me with the Help/Interfere move
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2017, 08:48:18 PM »
Munin,

That's excellent feedback. I'll have to fool around with it in play to figure out where it sits best with me, I suppose.

My preferred approach to AW play is pretty heavily and dramatically fiction-first - so much that applying purely mechanical "MC moves" never occurred to me. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Should I take your response as agreeing that making fictional MC moves under those circumstances is difficult or unwelcome, at least some of the time?

Vincent,

I've been thinking more about this bit you wrote here:

You know me! I think that generalizing solutions is an actively bad idea. The game's design's better served by an ever-increasing diversity of approaches than by any narrowing in on "best practices." Your "it would be nice to have" is my "it would be a terrible problem if we had, and thank goodness we don't have."

I can see a lot of benefit to this kind of approach, and why you would see it as the right direction to take.

However, I'm really curious, then, why you've taken a relatively hardcore stance on defined "miss" clauses for everything but the Basic Moves?

Many AW hacks (e.g. Monsterhearts) never include miss clauses at all, leaving it up to "an ever-increasing diversity of approaches", as you put it, putting it firmly into the MC's hands, every time.

I can totally see how that can be difficult or challenging - but so is leaving the miss clause for help/interfere undefined.

How do you square away trying to "keep your options open" with your diligence in defining dozens and dozens of miss clauses for all those moves?

Is there some interesting theoretical thinking behind that, or is it just taste and intuition? What governs this seeming contradiction, in your mind?

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lumpley

  • 1293
Re: Roll+Hx to help me with the Help/Interfere move
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2017, 10:05:23 PM »
It's neither, it's the opposite. There's no contradiction. To me, it's like you're asking me, because fresh water is sweet and soup is salty, how do I square them away? What governs this seeming contradiction, in my mind?

The answer is: you know how you drink both? That's what. Sweet and salty aren't the heart of the matter, they're two tips of one iceberg.

In this case, the answer is: You know how some of the character moves, the misses are really soft, and some of them, the misses are much harder? This has to be true of each basic move. This is implicit in the idea of basic moves, and it's implicit in the idea of character moves that they have to span the range collectively instead. Defining misses and leaving them undefined isn't the heart of the matter. Far, far, far from it. They're two tiny tips, out of a couple dozen, of a very, very large iceberg.

-Vincent

Re: Roll+Hx to help me with the Help/Interfere move
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2017, 11:27:12 AM »
Interesting! That helps, thanks, Vincent.

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Munin

  • 417
Re: Roll+Hx to help me with the Help/Interfere move
« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2017, 05:34:47 PM »
My preferred approach to AW play is pretty heavily and dramatically fiction-first - so much that applying purely mechanical "MC moves" never occurred to me. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Should I take your response as agreeing that making fictional MC moves under those circumstances is difficult or unwelcome, at least some of the time?
Eh, sort of. You don't want to interject random extra shit into the middle of the narrative, so that's where the "mechanical" option works well. But just because it's a mechanical effect doesn't mean it doesn't have fictional underpinnings. Even if it's something like:

Deke: "Dammit. I just failed my roll+Hx to interfere with Major."
MC: "Wow, you have a really shitty poker face. Major can read you like an open smut novel. Major, take a further +1forward.
Major: "Righteous."

...has a fictional basis. And it means that the move still has consequences, but the application of those consequences is constrained in order to keep up the narrative flow. This is especially true of something like help or interfere, because that move in and of itself is all about gaining mechanical (dis)advantage - there's no incentive to do it if it has no effect on the outcome of the next roll.

Obviously the method of help or interference is important. I gave an example in the Dungeon World forum once where one character is looking for secret doors and the other character is helping. The guy who is searching succeeds, but the guy who's helping fails. What does that mean? The first thought I had was that the guy searching found the trigger for the secret door, but in doing so the heavy, rotating section of stone wall spins, trapping the "helping" character on the other side (separate them), or the "helping" character's hand happens to be probing a crack along what turns out to be the hinge edge of the heavy stone secret door, getting crushed in the process (inflict harm). These are more "fiction forward" because both the base move (searching for the secret door) and the method of helping (probing other features of the room) both interact more with the fictional environment than your initial example of two PCs trying to both read and interfere with each other.


Re: Roll+Hx to help me with the Help/Interfere move
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2017, 01:02:36 AM »
You wanted some more input from other people? Here goes!

1. How strict are you about requiring fictional context for the move? Do you demand it to be described or justified fictionally, or is it the player's option to call on the move as an attempt to gain a mechanical advantage?
Before a player picks up dice I've usually asked them "what do you do?" or "how do you do that?" and clarified enough that I know exactly what they're doing before we see the dice rolls, making sure to correct them or ask them about any misunderstanding they might have within the fiction. A lot of my players are not rules-focused, so I often find myself asking players who are in a position to help if they want to. Any time a move is directed AT a player, I ask them if they want to interfere. I always put what gets rolled into the players hands and only call for a roll if it's something that the fiction, not another player, has created.

2. If anyone misses their help/interfere roll, how does the MC make a move in response? We've got all this other stuff hanging over our heads - the other three rolls going on, getting back to the fictional action we're invested in, and so forth.
If I can't think of something appropriate I might flip the move (e.g. help turns into interfere, or vice versa). Otherwise, I advance a threat countdown, usually something in the background (the water supply is running out in Lola's purifier) or not immediately noticeable (Snow's infection is getting worse). As a personal rule of thumb I follow the fiction, or I flip the move, or I advance a countdown. In that order.

It becomes very tempting to just skip it, and to say that the missed help/interfere "did nothing", moving on to the next roll, and playing out the scene. Is that the desired dynamic here, or should we be playing it differently?
Not for me! Never! Rolls ALWAYS have consequences at my table. I want the players to both crave and fear rolling dice.

3. What's your preferred way to handle the timing of help/interfere: before the roll you're trying to affect, simultaneous with it, or afterwards (where we only roll if it's close enough that successful help/intereference could make a difference)?
Case by case. If I remember to ask somebody before a roll was made then they can't help/interfere after the fact, if they insist then usually I let them but I spell how much more it's going to suck if they miss the roll (tell the consequences and ask).
Looking for a playbook? Check out my page!
http://nerdwerds.blogspot.com/2012/12/all-of-playbooks.html

Re: Roll+Hx to help me with the Help/Interfere move
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2017, 12:23:43 PM »
Great answers, thank you!

For anyone reading along with any curiosity, I'm gradually settling on the following rule of thumb in terms of timing:

Before the roll, anyone can say what they do and roll to help or interfere.

To help or interfere after the roll has already happened, ask the MC how you might be able to change the outcome. The MC will offer you an opportunity, if there is one to be found; it's up to you whether you wish to take it or not.