Author Topic: NEW PLAYERS: I wrote a Beginner's Guide to Dungeon World  (Read 104341 times)

zmook

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Re: How to play boss monsters?
« Reply #60 on: November 27, 2012, 09:30:33 PM »
Cool.  Looks like I should add:

* Leverage "messy" and "forceful" to the hilt
* Use smoke, fog, and battlefield confusion
* Threaten bystanders

All that said, I'd still be curious to see an affirmative statement of why people think that (e.g.) 16 HP is the right number for a dragon.  Is it just for trying to keep fights shorter, or is there something else that's it's balanced against, that I'm not seeing yet?

Cerisa

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Re: NEW PLAYERS: I wrote a Beginner's Guide to Dungeon World
« Reply #61 on: November 28, 2012, 12:13:23 AM »
I'd say that things are much more tense when getting a solid blow on something hurts, no matter what. I don't care if you're a dragon or a goblin, getting stabbed in the heart is not something you brush off. The thing about some enemies is that getting those solid hits can be very, very hard. Hack and Slash is when you are "trading blows" with a monster, and that 16hp dragon is the living incarnation of terror and destructionóif you're awesome enough to trade blows with a several-ton mass of fire and foot-long claws, then you should be killing it in a few hits. And if not, then you'd better start looking for arrows-in-the-gap solutions, because you're not going to convince anyone that a low-level fighter is just going to stroll up to a dragon and spar with itóeven the act of getting close to it is defying danger in like four different ways.

Increasing the difficulty of a monster is less about mechanics and numbers, and more about using the fiction to prevent the PCs from just saying "I attack it". I mean, a demon? If you want that to be a scary fight, go on the aggressive with the fiction: force the players to respond to the terror and brutality ("as you charge the demon, necrotic power pulsates heavily from itóeven getting close to it will be a challenge" or for the wizard "as you tap into the magical energies around you, you feel that the very essence of magic in the area is completely evilómanipulating it may be putting your allies and your sanity at risk.") so that they have to earn the right to hack and slash (or if they're particularly clever, gain enough of an advantage to circumvent rolling altogether.)

Going back to Middle Earth, not only did Smaug die in a single arrow, but the Witch-King of Nazgul, one of the most feared servants of evil, was slain in two blows, and Shelob, a manifestation of complete evil and gloom, was sent scampering by a blow to the stomach. In all of these situations, the hard part was not "dealing a lot of damage" but even being allowed to deal damage in the first place.

Sanglorian

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Re: How to play boss monsters?
« Reply #62 on: November 28, 2012, 12:52:00 AM »
I mean, vampires only have 10 HP and 2 armor, which seems to make them more fragile than a typical first-level cleric.

I share some of your concerns about HP, but I just thought I should say: there is no typical first-level cleric. There is the Cleric, the only cleric in the world, who may at that point be only first level.

Cerisa, I thought was was a great post. Although I do think it's a little different in a team game. It's one thing for two people to face off against the Witch-King and kill him in two blows, and another for a party of five to do the same.
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Scrape

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Re: NEW PLAYERS: I wrote a Beginner's Guide to Dungeon World
« Reply #63 on: November 28, 2012, 02:56:55 AM »
Cerisa nails it completely. Monsters are much more than just numbers. Sure, the vampire is 10hp, but that's not what he is. He's not standing there trading blows with a PC, right? Look at the moves listed for the vampire: Charm someone. Feed on their blood. Retreat to plan again. Now think about what that says about him, how he acts and how he fights. He's a schemer, he's got contingency plans. He's got charmed minions, and when they fail him he's got an aura of mesmerizing beauty and dread. Think about how vampires are portrayed, and how you want to portray them in your world. Is he impossibly fast? Can he turn into mist at the first sign of trouble, maybe transform into a swarm of bats to harry his prey? When he feeds, does his victim slump into mindless pleasure or become his thrall?

So like, yeah, he's only got 10 hit points. But he's a goddamn vampire, right! He's as scary as you say he is.

samuraiko

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Re: NEW PLAYERS: I wrote a Beginner's Guide to Dungeon World
« Reply #64 on: November 29, 2012, 05:00:59 AM »
Increasing the difficulty of a monster is less about mechanics and numbers, and more about using the fiction to prevent the PCs from just saying "I attack it". I mean, a demon? If you want that to be a scary fight, go on the aggressive with the fiction: force the players to respond to the terror and brutality ("as you charge the demon, necrotic power pulsates heavily from itóeven getting close to it will be a challenge" or for the wizard "as you tap into the magical energies around you, you feel that the very essence of magic in the area is completely evilómanipulating it may be putting your allies and your sanity at risk.") so that they have to earn the right to hack and slash (or if they're particularly clever, gain enough of an advantage to circumvent rolling altogether.)

Going back to Middle Earth, not only did Smaug die in a single arrow, but the Witch-King of Nazgul, one of the most feared servants of evil, was slain in two blows, and Shelob, a manifestation of complete evil and gloom, was sent scampering by a blow to the stomach. In all of these situations, the hard part was not "dealing a lot of damage" but even being allowed to deal damage in the first place.
[Emphasis mine]

This is where there hasn't been as much conversation, and where I wish there were more. Granted, every situation is unique and such, but ultimately creating the fictional position in which heroes must earn the right to be effective is where I've seen people having trouble, and the general answer has been to use the fiction. It's perfect advice (and I agree with it), except that I think a lot of people coming from other systems, in which the right to be effective and dangerous to monsters comes from levels, have an, initially, harder time wrapping their heads around how to recreate that feeling and situation. But saying "use the fiction" or "fictional positioning" doesn't really help, when the real question is "how do we do that?".  There's not been much discussion of what techniques are useful or how to go about creating those situations.

We can tell players that their attacks are unable to reach the flying dragon or pass through the incorporeal wight, but when it's something powerful enough to need something extra, and yet  smaller or reachable, that's where saying that attacks simply bounce off or their weapons burst into flame and melt starts to get a little tired, especially when that seems to be the only answer to that sort of situation. It feels like a poor answer to the question of why this entity is so terrifying and powerful. There's got to be more to tell players than that their attacks are turned away by their magical armor or that their weapons melt when they strike the demon. That response gets old fast.

And it may be that something like that only takes a few iterations before people to realize they're in over their heads or that there has to be a different answer to their confrontation and that they'll shift courses and tactics at that point.
My whole point is that more conversation around this topic in particular, notably more clear and direct conversation, would be useful and helpful, especially for getting GMs out of the space where monsters are numbers and into one where they possess space within fiction and command certain interactions based on their fictional power and presence.
"Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)" -- Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

Cerisa

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Re: NEW PLAYERS: I wrote a Beginner's Guide to Dungeon World
« Reply #65 on: November 29, 2012, 06:38:20 AM »
This is where there hasn't been as much conversation, and where I wish there were more. Granted, every situation is unique and such, but ultimately creating the fictional position in which heroes must earn the right to be effective is where I've seen people having trouble, and the general answer has been to use the fiction. It's perfect advice (and I agree with it), except that I think a lot of people coming from other systems, in which the right to be effective and dangerous to monsters comes from levels, have an, initially, harder time wrapping their heads around how to recreate that feeling and situation. But saying "use the fiction" or "fictional positioning" doesn't really help, when the real question is "how do we do that?".  There's not been much discussion of what techniques are useful or how to go about creating those situations.

We can tell players that their attacks are unable to reach the flying dragon or pass through the incorporeal wight, but when it's something powerful enough to need something extra, and yet  smaller or reachable, that's where saying that attacks simply bounce off or their weapons burst into flame and melt starts to get a little tired, especially when that seems to be the only answer to that sort of situation. It feels like a poor answer to the question of why this entity is so terrifying and powerful. There's got to be more to tell players than that their attacks are turned away by their magical armor or that their weapons melt when they strike the demon. That response gets old fast.

And it may be that something like that only takes a few iterations before people to realize they're in over their heads or that there has to be a different answer to their confrontation and that they'll shift courses and tactics at that point.
My whole point is that more conversation around this topic in particular, notably more clear and direct conversation, would be useful and helpful, especially for getting GMs out of the space where monsters are numbers and into one where they possess space within fiction and command certain interactions based on their fictional power and presence.

I think the trick is not to be reactionary (As you attack it, your sword burst into flames) but to use your moves, and use them as hard as you need to to keep the players on the reaction side of things. This is combat 101 in real battle: The victor is usually whoever is dictating the direction the fight is heading. So, instead having the demon sit there and melting swords that strike, use your moves to throw the PCs of balance. Defy Danger is your friend, here. If this monster is truly dangerous, show why it is, and if you can't figure out how to show that it's dangerous, maybe it isn't?

It's hard to give concrete "here are things you can do" advice because it really just involves considering the monster at hand, and trying to imagine what sort of danger that this monster presents that needs to be defied. For a demon, it probably has the "terrifying" tag. That sounds like a Defy Danger to try to just stroll up to someone terrifying and start hitting it. Maybe the demon is surrounded by hellfire. Maybe it sucks all the light out of the area and forces the adventurers to fight blind while it uses its supernatural senses. Maybe it's stealthy and can turn invisible. Maybe it sends out huge pulsing waves of necrotic energy. Maybe it uses one of its moves to pick up a PC and throw him or her at another one. Maybe it uses illusion magic to make it look like a PC and one of the PCs look like it.

Your options are literally limitless, but if you can't think of any, then to me that implies that the monster isn't actually the epic threat you want it to be. Perhaps the Lich King isn't all that scary when surrounded by five powerful heroes: it turns out his real power comes from having an army of minions and a phylactery that keeps regenerating him whenever he's destroyed. Maybe the demon is more of the "make Faustian offers" sort and when threatened it simply slips back to where it came. Notice how many monster moves are not combat techniques. They're things like "call on family ties" (dragon whelp), "bargain for a soul's return" (devourer), "reveal a preperation or plan already completed" (lich; I love this one. Instant Xantos Gambit.), or "act with disdain" (dragon). If you can't figure out a reason why this monster poses a danger, perhaps you need to broaden the scope to beyond combat.

Does that help at all?

Scrape

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Re: NEW PLAYERS: I wrote a Beginner's Guide to Dungeon World
« Reply #66 on: November 29, 2012, 07:39:55 PM »
I'll write more when I'm not on a mobile device, but there are a lot of all-purpose "tricks" you can use to make an enemy as difficult as you imagine it, without negating players' efforts. Most of them involve playing around with your moves. Consider the following:
Quote
The demon lunges toward you, claws slashing. What do you do?
versus:
Quote
The demon lunges, faster than you thought possible. You hit the ground as it lands on top off you, you're pinned. It rears back its claws to slash your face. What do you do?

See? That second example is a demon that is fast, too fast to react to normally, but you haven't straight-up hurt the player yet. She still has a chance to react, but it's almost too late. Play around with your moves and where you pause the action and you can increase the tension and difficulty quite a bit. That's what I mean when I say "picture it like a movie in your head, and describe that exactly." How fast is the demon? How terrifying? How strong? As much as you say it is.

zmook

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Re: NEW PLAYERS: I wrote a Beginner's Guide to Dungeon World
« Reply #67 on: November 29, 2012, 08:04:56 PM »
It's hard to give concrete "here are things you can do" advice because it really just involves considering the monster at hand, and trying to imagine what sort of danger that this monster presents that needs to be defied.

That may be true, but it certainly sounds like a real skill that the DM will have to acquire, especially to pull it off in the heat of battle, as it were, with the player right in front of you saying "I got a 7, what happens?"  Examples of how other people dealt with it, even if they're for particular circumstances that won't come up exactly again, are helpful -- that dragon fight was great for that. 

Are there any more APs out there with particularly scary fights in them?

On the plus side, if all the PCs are starting at L1, it'll be a while before a new DM really needs to come up with something really intimidating, so she's got some time to learn at the table.  Just don't put out something that's *supposed* to be scary, like a dragon, and expect the stats to just take care of it for you, or you'll spoil the mystique of that creature type.

saintandsinner

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Re: NEW PLAYERS: I wrote a Beginner's Guide to Dungeon World
« Reply #68 on: December 01, 2012, 01:40:11 PM »
For an example 'scary fight' this was useful to me.  http://www.latorra.org/2012/05/15/a-16-hp-dragon/

zmook

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Re: NEW PLAYERS: I wrote a Beginner's Guide to Dungeon World
« Reply #69 on: December 01, 2012, 02:43:56 PM »
Ha, yes, that was "that dragon fight" I just referred to.

samuraiko

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Re: NEW PLAYERS: I wrote a Beginner's Guide to Dungeon World
« Reply #70 on: December 04, 2012, 12:55:11 AM »
Examples of how other people dealt with it, even if they're for particular circumstances that won't come up exactly again, are helpful -- that dragon fight was great for that.
This is what I was trying to get at. Even though they may not relate exactly to my situation, examples can be helpful in inspiring ideas about what I can/should have done. I'd like to arm myself with an arsenal of ideas of how to exhibit to my PCs that they may be outmatched (at least head-to-head), and will need to either retreat or get smart about how they go about things.
But I think "exhibiting" is what it all comes down to. It's the classic situation of "show, not tell". But there's not been a lot of discussion around how to do this, even by means of examples or anecdotes. That sort of tells me that people have trouble articulating what it is that's happening in the process of fictional positioning, which means that real understanding of how it works may be spotty and uncertain. Maybe.
The "dragon fight" posted by Sage is extremely helpful, and illuminates a certain sort of fictional positioning, namely getting into a position in which one can be effective. It's a great example, but only really addresses a certain sort of fictional positioning and there are all sorts of others that will come up.
"Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)" -- Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

zmook

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Re: NEW PLAYERS: I wrote a Beginner's Guide to Dungeon World
« Reply #71 on: December 04, 2012, 05:11:08 AM »
I have been working on a list of tags that I think of as ways to make monsters more badass.

Monster Tags and Moves

reach:  characters without reach or ranged attacks must defy danger to get close enough to attack at all
flying:  cannot be engaged in melee unless it chooses to attack first, or is forced somehow to the ground.
stealthy:  attacks from ambush and/or disappears from sight (even when being watched)
evasive:  moves in a way the characters cannot normally follow
fast:  when it takes its action, the monster can move anywhere (or almost anywhere) on the battlefield as a free action;  cannot be cornered;  does not give up attacks of opportunity;  if knocked down, gets back up instantly
devious:  e.g. threatens bystanders, reveals traps, exposes hidden allies, fast talks or dissuades, deceives with illusions

area attack:  attacks multiple characters at once; e.g. dragon breath or cleave attacks
counterattack:  makes a return attack after every incoming melee attack;  the monster may therefore get many more moves than any player character.
multiple attack:  makes attack moves more often than individual player characters, either because the monster has multiple modes (e.g. claw/claw/bite, or multiple eyestalks of a beholder), or because itís superhumanly quick.

messy:  rips equipment (and sometimes characters) apart; reduces armor; breaks weapons
forceful: knocks back and/or knocks down;  possibly picks up and throws characters
skilled:  rolls twice for damage, take the better
n piercing: reduces targetís armor by n (temporarily) before applying damage
ignore armor: damage dealt is not affected by targetís armor at all
terrifying:  causes fear in all who can see (or hear) it;  defy danger (WIS) to remain in the area
controlling:  influences, controls, or possess player characters; e.g. charm
disabling:  takes characters out of battle non-lethally, such as by entangling, pinning, stunning, or causing sleep
confusing: creates smoke screen or confusion in battle, preventing characters from knowing where it is or being able to attack it consistently
damaging presence:  causes passive area damage; e.g. from extreme heat or toxic emanations
debilitating:  causes one or more debilities as part of attacks; e.g. vampiric bite does d8+5 dmg plus inflicts weak debility

damage resistance:  takes half damage from specified attack types
immunity:  unaffected by specified attack types; e.g. iron, fire, fear.  typically description should cite a vulnerability, such as silver or salt.  active immunity (e.g. counterspell) may require the monster to be aware of an incoming attack and free to respond to it.
incorporeal:  cannot be affected by non-magical causes
regeneration: regain hit points in combat; e.g. some number per action, or some proportion of damage dealt, or some proportion of damage received.  In the extreme case, the monster must be killed in one blow, or will instantly regenerate.


Scrape

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Re: NEW PLAYERS: I wrote a Beginner's Guide to Dungeon World
« Reply #72 on: December 05, 2012, 05:36:48 AM »
Great list! I like some of them quite a bit. Some of my most common advice on monsters is "they're as tough as you say they are," but if a GM wants to add +Quick or +Multiple Attacks to reinforce that idea for them on paper, more power to 'em.

Just remember of course to lead with your game ction and descriptions. A monster is only Quick if you describe it as moving like a blur or whatever. Tags should be as obvious to the players as to the GM, so make sure you don't "gotcha" them with sudden unexpected powers. Very cool, well done!

Nifelhein

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Re: NEW PLAYERS: I wrote a Beginner's Guide to Dungeon World
« Reply #73 on: December 05, 2012, 03:54:02 PM »
First time around, probably far from the last. Having purchased Dungeon World recently I fell in love with it, the kind of game it focuses on is the exact kind of game I want to play and have been trying to play with other systems for a long time.

That all said, this particular Guide is immensely helpful, it is like having a directed talk with a more experienced person and it has helped me immensely in grasping better how to change from my "how to do it in the system" mentality into the "Fiction First" mentality of DW.

While reading through the guide I noted down some things:

Quote
Angered diety, NPC, or monster
page 7 - Nothing like an angered low-calories opponent!

Quote
it's the your turn to react again. So the you respond by
page 12 - leftovers

Quote
First of all, when a PC takes damage from multiple enemies at once, you take the largest damage die from all of them, and roll dice equal to the number of enemies. So if there are two goblins (d6 dmg) and a gnoll (d8 dmg) all stabbing an unlucky PC, you roll 3d8 and take the highest result. ?is doesn't mean only one enemy hit them, it's just a way of ensuring high but not-overwhelming damage.
Page 20 - The current rules are roll the highest dice and add the number of additional creatures attacking. The example has the same iteration of the rules.

Quote
(roll one damage die for each attacker and use the highest result).
Pages 25/26 - same as above



Now that it is out of the way, more to the discussion at hand. I always hated when after describing an action the Gm would ask me to roll a thousand tests to do something cool, also always hated when your perfectly cool and simple action was called impossible because that is not how the rules work, in one of the last games I played the entire final battle in the campaign happened after I noticed a smile on the corner of the mouth of an "ally" when we met with our seemingly nemesis.

It was a vampire the masquerade game, I instantly used celerity to attack said vampire with a stake that already was in my hand. Oddly enough we all had to roll initiative, since my action triggered combat mode. I was last to act in the *entire* round. It was extremely disappointing.

I was a player then but I have GMed a lot, and it has always been D&D, from AD&D 2nd edition to D&D 4th edition, and the things that turned me away from it were the same of that example.

The real problem is: when a system puts you into the rules first mindset and you have been using that for a while, it is hard to break up the old habits. Players have less tendency to try different and cool stuff, the GM has problems grasping how things can be done when there are are no rules guiding him. I will elaborate with a simple and small thing that popped up in my mind when I was reading the Dungeon World book from cover to cover.

In the Cockatrice description one of its abilities is "Start a slow transformation to stone", the Medusa has a similar ability though "Turn a body part to stone with a look". After reading through them both I realized:

There is no "Stone to Flesh" spell anywhere in the book.

That was a bit shocking for someone GMing and playing D&D for 20 years like myself, isn't it? Yeah, quite a bit. Then I closed the book and let that rest a bit, it was a little while before I finally found the answer: Fiction Dictates.

The Medusa is a mythological creature, in quite a few retelling of the tale her victims were turned back into flesh after she was killed. That would be one way to go about it right there, simple, quick and solved alongside the conflict.

You could also say that a stone to flesh spell does exist but, given how rare it is used, it is not part of a spellcaster's usual repertoire but it is not hard to find or cast, a trip to a city with a little research and it is covered.

And at last you could say it is hard to undo such an unnatural power, it is a ritual requiring hard to find and rare ingredients, making the gathering and casting of it an adventure by itself.

What would the right answer be? That is where I go back to the most common advice here: whatever the fiction states.

The group is in the middle of something more important and the enemy's ability to turn into stone was an afterthought, then killing the beast should suffice

You want them to fear the enemy but not halt the game's current direction or force the player to play a new character right now? Then make it a simple spell but one that they do not have yet, a simple trip back and you are done.

You want the game to get a new front that gives them something they want (to turn the character back into flesh) with a cost (to let whatever was happening behind and having to deal with the consequences) then it can be an entire ritual, maybe one that hasn't even been done yet. This choice seems the most interesting for a well placed opponent and even uses one of the GM moves (present an opportunity at a cost).

In the end I was very happy to have been able to break the rules mentality, I finally understood what fiction first meant and am ready to try and enforce that mindset in a live game. :)
I started a blog to share my pain: gmstruggles.wordpress.com

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Scrape

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Re: NEW PLAYERS: I wrote a Beginner's Guide to Dungeon World
« Reply #74 on: December 06, 2012, 04:18:02 PM »
Well said, Nifelhein. That's exactly the kind of thought process the game encourages. The Medusa turns you to stone not because she has a certain spell, but because that's what a Medusa does. That sort of idea abounds- a lot of times, a player or monster doesn't need a feat or ability, it's just doing what makes sense.

Thanks for pointing out the rules discrepancies, too. I was writing under the current version and some stiff has changed. And your low-calorie God joke made me laugh out loud!