Author Topic: "The Enemy Makes An Attack Against You"  (Read 10689 times)

nemomeme

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"The Enemy Makes An Attack Against You"
« on: February 19, 2012, 05:12:24 AM »
"On a 79, you deal your damage to the enemy and the enemy makes an attack against you."

I am curious how often GMs are interpreting this Move result as "the enemy you are already fictionally engaged in mortal combat with at Close range does their damage to you."

How often do they instead do something like drive the PC back or do some kind of narrative only monster move like "attach to someone" etc.

Do you interpret monster Moves like "Catch something or someone on fire," "Spray forth acid, eating away at metal and flesh," "Pierce armor with sharp front teeth," or "Throw someone," etc. as also inflicting damage or do you more likely to interpret these as "Show Signs of Doom" and not deal damage yet? More importantly, how do you decide?

I seem to have zero issues making these kinds of Moves and decisions when running AW for people I know who've played a lot of "hippy" games but am much more ambivalent when running it for people whose experience is primarily D&D.  They want to know just how the fuck am I deciding whether or not to do 9 damage to the guy that has 8 hit points left or instead say, "the lizardman's club batters your shield and forces you back.  Your arm goes numb and you see another lizardman closing in with a net!" following an "8" result on Hack & Slash.

Part of me is asking because I think I'm suggesting elsewhere that Adam and Sage really make certain to get their damage numbers calibrated right and part of me is thinking, "maybe that doesn't even matter so much for Dungeon World when the lethality of a given scenario is going to so strongly hinge on GM convention."

John Harper

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Re: "The Enemy Makes An Attack Against You"
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2012, 06:57:47 AM »
This question strikes at the heart of what is currently a bit wonky in Dungeon World. The answer is a game design challenge and I don't think it's been overcome yet.

I'm sort of working on it, over here in my hermit cave. I know Sage and Adam are, too.

Mike Olson

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Re: "The Enemy Makes An Attack Against You"
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2012, 10:43:13 AM »
It's certainly something we've been experiencing during Living Dungeon World (happening now!). Early in an adventure, dealing damage to them is a viable option. Later, when dealing damage is guaranteed to kill them, it's just the GM deciding whether they live or (half the time) die. Last Breath is a cool move and all, but not so much when you roll a miss.

(Related: Last night I killed a PC and he rolled a 5 on his Last Breath. Today, my PC was killed in another game, and I rolled a 5 on my Last Breath. Justice! Live by the Last Breath, die by the Last Breath, I guess.)

It's a perfect storm of higher monster damage, not-higher Armor values, and the illusion of great character survivability created by higher HP totals. Oh! And the increasing disparity between HP totals at low levels and high levels, making it more difficult for a party of widely varying levels (say, 3 or so) to face the same risks together. These have all been (or are about to be) problems for us this weekend.

But! That said, Living Dungeon World's been a big success. We've exposed a lot of new players to the game, and everyone's had a great time with it.

JBMannon

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Re: "The Enemy Makes An Attack Against You"
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2012, 11:30:46 AM »
I had an issue with that last night in my game. I try and keep a pretty even mix of damaging attacks and narrative attacks and I try to give bigger monsters cooler narrative moves so that I feel more inclined to use them. Last night I had a player that got bashed with 14 damage and died, rolling snake eyes on his Last Breath. Which felt a little flat. I gave him the choice to have his new companion take the hit instead if he wanted which I should have had happen anyway as she was highly devoted to him. The NPCs death caused more trouble for the characters as they almost ended up thrown in jail.

I obviously need to make some changes to my monster (14 damage, 4 armor, and 18 HP) but I also need to give it some more interesting moves. Two obvious moves from the fiction were to throw someone around and cause destruction.

noofy

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Re: "The Enemy Makes An Attack Against You"
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2012, 11:49:42 AM »
Quote
Why play Dungeon World? First, to see the characters do amazing things. To see them
explore the unexplored, slay the undying, and go from the deepest bowels of the world to the highest peaks of the heavens. To see them caught up in momentous events and grand tragedies.
Second, to see them play off each other: to stand together as a united front against their foes or to bicker and argue over treasure. To unite and fall apart and reunite again.
Third, because the world still has so many places to explore. There are unlooted tombs and dragon hordes dotting the countryside just waiting for quick-fingered and strong-armed adventurers to discover them. That unexplored world has plans of its own. We play to see what they are and how they'll change the lives of our characters.

I quote this because although this is at the heart of most Heroic Fantasy RPGs, when you combine it with the GM's principles you will find this truism:

Quote
At all times, use your principles and agenda as a filter or inspiration. If something falls flat it's usually because you ignored one of your principles or acted on a different agenda. If you're unsure of what you're about to say just take a moment and look at your agenda and principles to make sure you're abiding by them.

So in your query to assuage the crunchy hearts of diehard D&Ders, just follow your principles, make a move that opens up their idea on what you are trying to achieve as their DM.

Quote
The GM should also set expectations: the players are to play their characters as people. Skilled adventurers delving into dangerous places, but real people. The GM's role is to play the rest of the world as a dynamic, changing place.

Ask questions and use the answers You don't have to know everything. If you don't know, or you don't have an idea, just ask the players and use what they say.

So if you need to make an attack as a GM move from Hack & Slash, and you see that the characters have enough HP to weather the blow (or not maybe?), but the monster has a cool narrative attack - and the players have been rather flabbergasted as you chop and change between dealing damage or narratively 'hitting' them with attacks - just ask....

No seriously.
OK, so I howl with fury and I brain the filthy orkaster with my trusty mace as it jabbers away to its foul gods, RAWWWWR! Hack and slash yeah?
'Yup, it scowls menacingly with wicked sharp teeth and waves a bone wand defensively in your general direction.'
'Oh bother and damnation, an 8. I manage a weak flurry of peppering shots I guess for a measly 2 damage. I suppose the ork wizard casts a spell on me?' *sigh*

The cleric's player looks expectantly at you (you feel that the player is a little unsure of the 'system' and has already seen the orkcaster previously cast whispers of evil and fill the thief's head with profane suggestions.)

You look at the Cleric's HP pool and see that a blast from the acid orb (deal 13 damage) will cause them to drop below 0 HP, so you go with telling them the consequences and asking. Turning to the thief - who has the bond of insulting the cleric's deity! - you say:
The gutteral mindspeak of the ork shaman fills your brain, wondering, wondering. Tell me mortal, before I squeeze the life out of your pitiful brain, should I melt your priest with acid or paralyze him before his useless god as long as I deem it so?

You are gently showing (and letting them author) their own Heroic Adventure! You are fan of the characters remember? Don't want to force them to make the Death's Door move as you deal damage? Then tell them the consequences and ask. Works for me.

Glitch

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Re: "The Enemy Makes An Attack Against You"
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2012, 12:12:04 PM »
The D&D players I ran DW for felt that there was too much arbitrary fiat in the hands of the GM.  If the GM is a fan of the players, and their fate is clearly in his hands, why would he ever deal damage that he knows would kill them?  The fixed monster damage opens a big can of worms for the poor GM that I believe would largely be solved by deferring the decision to the dice ... let the GM roll the monster damage (and I don't mean vary it by a few d4s).  But, alas, I know, GM's don't roll dice in *W games!  This might be a legitimate argument against that convention.

mease19

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Re: "The Enemy Makes An Attack Against You"
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2012, 12:49:42 PM »
If the GM is a fan of the players, and their fate is clearly in his hands, why would he ever deal damage that he knows would kill them? 
When players put it all on the line.  When the game is wrapping up and there is an opportunity for an epic death.  When custom moves make death even more interesting (that said, I miss random monster damage too).

noofy

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Re: "The Enemy Makes An Attack Against You"
« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2012, 01:00:38 PM »
He would kill them Glitch because he has warned them. Warned them and told them the consequences and asked. 'You know that if you engage in the furious dance of death with this evil Lizard King there is every chance he will spit you through and eat you, despite your legendary skill with an axe. Do you still wish to leap into the pit and attempt to slay him?'

It allow the characters to shine, for the fighter to revel in his martial prowess and the Paladin to protect those weaker than him, for the wizard to cast bolts of death from his fingers and the bard to sing songs of joy and happiness (wait, what?!).

Bards not withstanding, the GM's job is not that of the wargame opponent, making strategic combat choices using clearly defined numeric, random, ranges to provide a suitable tactical, measurable opponent to the adventuring combat party. The GM's Job is to make their world of adventure real!
Quote
If they have worked to achieve something, you should give it to them fully. You're not here to fight back against the players; you're not opposed to them at all. You are playing the game with them.

Glitch

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Re: "The Enemy Makes An Attack Against You"
« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2012, 01:19:20 PM »
Good advice noofy.  I did use this approach when the paladin in one game insisted on striking a leucrota that was wrestling on the ground with the wizard. I warned him that if he went ahead with the attack there was a good chance he might hit the wizard instead. Sure enough, he ignored the warning and his sword wound up skewering the wizard and he failed his Last Breath. Keeping this approach in mind does a lot to mitigate the problem.

Still ... I do like rolling monster damage for other reasons. It removes some of the feeling of unfairness the players feel when they roll 1 or 2 for damage and the monsters always take "max" damage :)

Note this has nothing to do with trying to create numerical ranges to support a " balanced encounter".  My motivation stems more from applying some symmetry to damage and remove any chance of frustration that stems from the current asymmetry.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2012, 01:26:11 PM by Glitch »

iserith

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Re: "The Enemy Makes An Attack Against You"
« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2012, 04:14:43 PM »
I had an issue with that last night in my game. I try and keep a pretty even mix of damaging attacks and narrative attacks and I try to give bigger monsters cooler narrative moves so that I feel more inclined to use them. Last night I had a player that got bashed with 14 damage and died, rolling snake eyes on his Last Breath. Which felt a little flat. I gave him the choice to have his new companion take the hit instead if he wanted which I should have had happen anyway as she was highly devoted to him. The NPCs death caused more trouble for the characters as they almost ended up thrown in jail.

I obviously need to make some changes to my monster (14 damage, 4 armor, and 18 HP) but I also need to give it some more interesting moves. Two obvious moves from the fiction were to throw someone around and cause destruction.

The moment had something of a retcon-ish feel to it, but it works when you consider everything through the lens of the The Hangover-esque session we ended up with! "Oh yeah, that's right... now that I remember it clearly, Mel didn't die!"

I think that sometimes it would help to have a visual aid - some pogs thrown up on the screen just so that everyone's on the same page with regard to relative positions, number of enemies, and whatnot. It might serve as a useful reminder for the DM of where interesting moves could be applied. (But this is getting off-topic.)

Glitch

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Re: "The Enemy Makes An Attack Against You"
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2012, 05:21:24 PM »
That's a nice call.  It's cool that the game can support a variety of styles.  Some groups like a more free-wheeling adventure where there's very little threat of anyone biting the bullet.  But other groups thrive on the stakes established by the very real danger that a character might die.

If you give players the choice to avoid death through fiat, it's a tricky slope, because then all of them will be asking for the same treatment when it comes time for them to face Death's Door.

nemomeme

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Re: "The Enemy Makes An Attack Against You"
« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2012, 05:57:05 PM »
Thanks to everyone who has weighed in so far.

I'm about two hours from rolling dice with a bunch of friends who mostly play 3.X & 4E.  It will be their first exposure to DW.

Over the last few weeks I kept thinking about "raise the death flag/mark XP" type solutions but kept coming back to, "Naw, screw that - they raised the death flag when they decided to go on this adventure." 

I just need a way to arbitrate this consistently, something I simply didn't need and was not needed in AW.  Unless the PCs turn on each other or the fiction puts them in a spot like falling out of a hot air balloon, it is *really* hard to kill PCs in Apocalypse World because they can almost always "level-drain" a stat instead.  And that works really well for AW because the game isn't really about challenging the PCs with death in pursuit of their goals.  In AW there're almost always fates *worse* than death that you can throw into the mix that just aren't often there in a dungeon. 

Dungeon World, at least for the way I want to run/play it and the expectations most people I am likely to play it with, is a very different beast.

I really don't want to roll damage dice.  Not today anyway.

I am going to do what I tended to do with AW which is the first miss in a conflict/fight (or 7-9 on a H&S) is always setting up for Harm/Damage fictionally.  Even when I've already forecast that. (future doom/badness).  But then every miss (or 7-9 on a H&S) after that is Damage + fiction.  And I'm going to tell them that's how I'm handling it today.  With AW I was totally comfortable mixing it up.  Not with DW with this group, I think.

I think I'll have to dial back the damage on my creatures slightly and take a couple of them out of some areas as a result.

I wonder whether a small part of a long term solution is making Death care about CON for the Death roll.  Players would get to make a decision and flag for the GM how much they care that their PC lives, and it would be at an opportunity cost with other stats.

Dan Maruschak

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Re: "The Enemy Makes An Attack Against You"
« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2012, 06:50:25 PM »
I've only GMed one session, but when I created my monster moves I didn't make any of them seem like they ought to directly cause damage since it seemed to me like they should be in a different category. On the 7-9 result I interpret the rules as "either do the monster's damage or do one of your pre-decided monster moves" and I try to do the one which makes the most sense from the flow of the fiction. With the high damage numbers in 1.1 seems to make the 7-9 H&S result have higher stakes than the miss result since the GM has more non-damaging choices on a miss, which I don't like. I think the high damage in 1.1 makes doing damage stand out as very different from any of the other choices a GM can make, which I'm not crazy about from the design perspective.

Personally, I try not to know what the PC's current HP values are, because that influences my decision-making in a way I don't like. I don't think a DW GM should ever be making a decision that translates easily into "does the PC live or die?". It seems like whether a PC lives through the dungeon should be one of those "play to find out" things, not something that's anyone's individual decision. With the high damage in 1.1 I think it's really hard to maintain that mindset because you know how scary a single hit can be. I think ideally a DW GM should be a neutral arbiter, not a thrill-ride-operator, but I'm not sure how possible that is in 1.1.

The fixed monster damage opens a big can of worms for the poor GM that I believe would largely be solved by deferring the decision to the dice ... let the GM roll the monster damage (and I don't mean vary it by a few d4s).  But, alas, I know, GM's don't roll dice in *W games!  This might be a legitimate argument against that convention.
One potential course would be to make PC armor into dice rather than a flat value (either as a polyhedral like player damage or as a roll+Armor move).

noofy

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Re: "The Enemy Makes An Attack Against You"
« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2012, 11:25:46 PM »
I've been thinking about this all night, to the point at which my dreams were of DW (how sad is that?), but the result has been a few ideas :)

First, I really really get the disconnect between player variable damage and monster fixed damage. My first impulse (which I wrote a post about ages ago) was to make PC damage fixed too, like in AW. Sage and Adam said that that was dragging the game away from the roots of 'to-hit & damage' of D&D and I agree.

So, then I thought, perhaps the players could roll the monster's damage when the fiction warranted it? They then held the onus for the damage caused to their character. Do you give them the option of attack fictional move or hard damage each time? Too much rolling? I don't know.

I don't think that the DM is a 'neutral Arbiter' Dan. The rules explain what your role is, its totally on the side of the characters. Dungeon World calls you to act in a particular way as GM for the rules to work at their best. Sure, you are refereeing and adjudicating, but always with your agenda and principles in mind. Dealing damage to the players is a HARD move, one of the hardest you can make and you need to think if that is warranted fictionally (in or out of combat)?

@Nemo: I like your style! And I agree wholeheartedly with your evaluation of AW PCs. I like to relate them to Paragon Tier 4e characters, death being the least of their high-powered concerns. Taking away their stuff on the other hand....

That's a great way to frame the rules for a first session of DW with some folks used to 4e. Awesome! I know that consistency is important, so perhaps the process is consistent? Perhaps with the Death Move you could treat each situation on a case-by-case basis? If the player seems really upset that their character might die, use everything in the RAW to help them. Give them choices. The rules are there to help everyone tell a good story and they are very malleable fictionally. If you like, you can always make up your own rules as a custom move!

'Who has the highest bond with you? How can they help you face death? Tell me what you do.' Or give them an opportunity very much with a cost (which is effectively the death move as is). 'That blow should have killed you, any other mortal would have died, but not you. There is no afterlife, no gods, no death offering bargains, you are just left for dead.'

When you take your last breath but refuse to die, you are in a coma and let for dead. You have 1 HP. Take all the damage you have suffered below zero and divide it among your Stats, subtracting as you see fit. No Stat may go below 3. Adjust your bonuses accordingly. You are scarred, physically and mentally. This is a life changing event for you, when you awake tell us all about it.

@Glitch: I dig what you are doing man, it is a tricky slope! If all the players clamour for the same 'treatment' everytime they face death's door, then my favourite GM move is to disclaim decision making and sometimes let the players decide. 'I don't know? Do think they should die? Or live?'


lucias

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Re: "The Enemy Makes An Attack Against You"
« Reply #14 on: February 20, 2012, 07:02:00 AM »
We played our first session with tonight (with 1.1) and had a blast. I have to say, as the GM, the topic of this very thread was the greatest stumbling block. Reviewing the sessions it seems that, as this thread points out, the interpretations of when and how monsters attack is very liberal right now.

I'm not sure that's a bad thing, at least for experienced GMs. I never dealt straight damage to the PCs this game, as that seemed a bit unfair to me, but would often rely on narrating an attack and then letting the PCs react. They usually Defied Danger and the outcome from that almost always ended up being a mix of narrative flavor and real damage.  It worked well for the group.

I do think a discussion of this should be somewhere in the rules though, instead of being left to inference.

When talking about this and potential lethalness, I think everyone has to remember the flip side of the coin. Don't be afraid to make monsters and traps as deadly as you want. We have another dial with which to tune things: Last Breath.

By defining Last Breath in different ways you can have a lot more down-but-not-dead situations.  Say I want to have a more pulply/cinematic campaign where the heroes get beat up but rarely die. I could simply redefine Last Breath as:

10+ PC lives and finds the will to live - regain 5 HP (maybe even take a +1 to the next roll)
7-9: Cling to life - stabilize at zero HP.
2-6: Die

You can make a million variations of that, even eliminating death if you like.  One of the great things about this ruleset is that it's really hard to do something completely broken.  There's a lot of levers and dials you can adjust to your group's preference. Unlike Sage and Adam we don't have to worry about finding a baseline that will appeal to both their vision and the game and everyone who plays it. We can take what they create and tailor it to what our group desires.