Author Topic: Dogpiling the GM and the "Powered by the Apocalypse..."  (Read 4924 times)

Maleficum

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Dogpiling the GM and the "Powered by the Apocalypse..."
« on: February 20, 2015, 03:18:01 PM »
So, this is actually becoming a problem in the Dungeon World¸™ campaign I'm a GM/MC/DL for.

Yeah, I should make moves when the players look to me or they fail, but what I'm experiencing is that the players are thrilled (and a little apprehensive about the dangers it brings) so they will just start making moves like 3 at a time, often making the monster dead/defeated before it has done anything og significance.

Now, I love that the players are enthused, and in the one fight I remembered to be assertive and always demand descriptions of their climbing (instead of their spell-casting) on player admitted to beeing so excited he had difficulties remembering the fight properly. However, last time they kind of complained that the skeleton was kind of though.

Yeah, it probably was, for a skeleton - but not for a mummy! (They had set it up themselves, in the conversation.) However, the three players, even the one not in the scene dogpiled on it/(the fictuion)/(me) and trashed it before it did ANYTHING COOL (except relinquish an artefact sword). I mean, even if the magician was on another level due to the guardian wanting him, he intuitively reached out with a ring filled with a necromanticer's blood and made it crumple in a corner. Now, I know enough of my movie history to make the mummy follow them, stalking in the night, cursing their compatriots, but I'm wandering...


... how do people cope with players (beeing thrilled/enthused) dogpiling the Dungeon Lord™, making they be able to paint a story-background sheet and presenting cool and dangerous monsters? I mean, even if I'm a fan, they should experience adversary except by the dice?


(I've put it in the Dungeon World sub-forum, because I find that at least in ApW and MH the player characters aren't always in exact alignement for the (story) goals.)

Munin

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Re: Dogpiling the GM and the "Powered by the Apocalypse..."
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2015, 05:14:22 PM »
I think the two key things to keep in mind are that a) the conflict is a conversation, and b) moves take time.

What I mean by this is if all of the players are wading straight in and doing two or three moves each "before the monster can do anything," it may be because your conversation has become one-sided. In other words, you (the GM) aren't getting an opportunity to talk.

Which brings me to the second part, which is that moves take time. It's all well and good for a player to say, "I cast X spell at the monster!" or "with my trusty sword in-hand, I attack him!" but these things take time to accomplish. Further, maybe they shouldn't all happen at once, allowing the monster to react to the situation just as the players do.

One thing that might help is to think of the fight in terms of "ticks," a finite but inspecific amount of time. How much time is in a tick? About the amount of time it takes you to do whatever it is you're trying to do. it is thoroughly fiction-dependent. But as a baseline, everybody gets to do something (one thing, could be a move, maybe not) on each tick. Most importantly, this includes the monster. Once you have this basic mechanism in place, you can start to vary things, like the order in which you ask players what they're doing on each tick (perhaps based on the fiction associated with what each one is doing). You can then make a monster more dangerous by increasing the frequency with which it acts (i.e. how many players get to do something between times the monster acts). So if the monster is really fast or dangerous, maybe have it do something between each of the player's actions.

Also, tough monsters should be hard to approach. Dog-piling shouldn't be a thing because the monster should have associated custom moves that give all sorts of opportunities for you to fuck with the PCs before they even get the chance to act upon it directly.

Munin

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Re: Dogpiling the GM and the "Powered by the Apocalypse..."
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2015, 08:18:34 PM »
To expand on this a little bit, I think much of the magic here happens in the narration. In other words, when you are narrating the results of a player's move (successful or not), you can flow more or less seamlessly into the monster's action/reaction. So instead of "You Hack & Slash the mummy for 5 damage. What do yo do next?" put more detail into it and end with some action on the monster's part that forces the players to react. So maybe, "You swing laterally, your sword tearing deeply into the dusty, tattered wrappings on the beast's torso. It staggers back from the weighty blow, but recovers quickly. Worse, it emits a dry, raspy chortle, and you see shiny black scarabs pouring from the wound you've just opened. The scuttling swarm of insects is lightning quick and heading straight for you. What do you do?"

The first method doesn't allow the monster to act at all, while the second makes its action part of the result of the player's move.

Note also that this is a basic (by which I mean not "hard") GM move (in this case, reveal an unwelcome truth). You aren't saying, "scarabs pour out and start eating your liver, take X damage." But then again, were the player to fail on his hack & slash move, that might be appropriate; it is the "hard move" equivalent of trade damage as established in that you're narrating both the situation (ZOMG, scarabs!) and its outcome (they begin feasting on your liver!) at once. But just by putting the scarabs in play at all, you are effectively allowing the mummy to "act" based on the player's move in a way that is seamless and fits in with the fiction as it unfolds. It also fundamentally changes the fictional situation, which will help minimize the risk of dog-piling - because I can virtually guarantee you that the answer to "What do you do?" isn't going to be answered with, "I ignore the scarabs and hack at the mummy again!" If anything, it may be more along the lines of, "I piss myself and run!"

And on the topic of moves taking time, consider "set-up" moves. So for instance, if two players are both trying to hack & slash the same foe but there isn't sufficient room for them to spread out and not be in each others' way (or perhaps if the Ranger is shooting at the monster with a ranged attack while someone is in melee with it), make them set-up their attack. "OK, Takhsin, you want to attack the mummy. But Ragnar is in there like a whirling dervish with his axes, hacking away at the towering thing. In the narrow confines of the darkened tomb corridor, you'll need to time your attack pretty carefully to avoid hitting him - go ahead and defy danger with INT." Then use the result of that defy danger to direct what happens next. If the player aces the roll, then sure, let him get in an attack right away. If he partials it, offer a worse outcome (all you can manage to get in is a hasty jab, but it's pretty awkward and weak, -1D4 damage), a hard bargain (you get in a solid hit, but take one of Ragnar's axes on the backswing for 1D6 damage), or an ugly choice (you can either forego your attack, bide your time, and take +1 forward, or you can wade in now and get in a solid hit, but interrupt Ragnar's timing in the process and deprive him of his next attack). And if he fails? the world is your oyster.

As always, the ongoing fiction should dictate what the PCs' options are, and you should frequently be giving them a situation that requires them to react or face serious consequences.

Does this help?
« Last Edit: February 20, 2015, 08:47:55 PM by Munin »

Maleficum

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Re: Dogpiling the GM and the "Powered by the Apocalypse..."
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2015, 10:18:59 PM »
This helps, thank you. I think the "this takes time" is very useful advice, but two og the three players are using the "magic missiles" spell, and they both have a very quick description of how the spell is cast. I find that it's easier when I have planned the monster(s) used, but it's still an effort to be assertive in the narrative and a fan of the characters. I think one of the players aren't interested in combat either.

I will report how our next session fares. Then they will probably meet hordes!

noclue

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Re: Dogpiling the GM and the "Powered by the Apocalypse..."
« Reply #4 on: February 21, 2015, 06:24:57 PM »
Yeah, I should make moves when the players look to me or they fail, but what I'm experiencing is that the players are thrilled (and a little apprehensive about the dangers it brings) so they will just start making moves like 3 at a time, often making the monster dead/defeated before it has done anything og significance.


... how do people cope with players (beeing thrilled/enthused) dogpiling the Dungeon Lord™, making they be able to paint a story-background sheet and presenting cool and dangerous monsters? I mean, even if I'm a fan, they should experience adversary except by the dice?

Some techniques:

1. Open up with your move to focus things: "Thaddeus, as your walking past one of the alcoves, a wrapped body reaches out and grabs you. You feel the dessicated fingers grasp you with surprising strength. What do you do?"

2. Ignore the dogpile:
"I cast magic missile"
"I fire my bow"
GM: "Awesome! But first, I want to know what Thaddeus does with the mummy's bony hands circling his throat."

3. Mess with their timing: "So, Ovid, you were readying that magic missile spell right? But, as you look at this shambling mass of bandages and death, your blood runs cold and you feel clammy as your heart starts to race. In your panic, it's like you can just see the words of the spell, but they keep slipping away. Go ahead and roll DD with Con to see if you can get a hold of yourself."

4. Give them something else to worry about: "Brandon, you're farther back, so you're able to master the fear. Don't get me wrong, you're still terrified, but nothing like what's happening to your friend Ovid here. Unfortunately, as you pull back your bow you feel a thump as something heavy and scurrying lands on your back. What do you do? Go ahead and shoot the zombie, if you like."

5. Take advantage of lack of turn order: "So, let's see, Thaddeus, you're still in the mummy's clutches. So, go ahead and take D6 damage as it's fingers start to constrict. You're wearing some kind of gorget around your throat, right? Yeah, it's crushing that. Oh, right, Ovid. You just hit it with that magic missile, didn't you? As it's crushing your friend here, it turns it's full countenance on you. It's eye's glowing a throbbing red...what do you do? And Brandon, well you're still playing with your pet spider, so it's not worrying about you."
« Last Edit: February 21, 2015, 06:45:11 PM by noclue »
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Munin

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Re: Dogpiling the GM and the "Powered by the Apocalypse..."
« Reply #5 on: February 23, 2015, 06:10:28 PM »
I will report how our next session fares. Then they will probably meet hordes!
I look forward to it!

Maleficum

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Re: Dogpiling the GM and the "Powered by the Apocalypse..."
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2015, 03:11:40 PM »
Thank you for an excellent post, Noclue, I'll be sure to include your advice further.

At least Munins excellent and comprehensive advice let me have two sessions in which the fighting worked better.

So yes, I played two sessions before I replied, but the fighting in the first were very short, and we've had difficulties in finding gaming time.


They dealt with among other things a "werewolf blessing/curse" that the Paladin sort of say "took over the mantle" from the Wizard by ways of a ritual that included an acolyte from a temple to Lunetica, the first sign of "The Ęrea of the Necromancer", and they ruined one of Eigirs hidden libraries.


















------

The fight - was the GM dogpiled?

Zorica - God of Bloody Conquest - only main God! (all others are killed, but she didn't catch all skulls, which she keeps ever-burning in the conquested library of Eigir)

Eigir - god of knowledge and secrets

Zolara - The Daughter of Zorica (simply the Sun)

--------------------------------------------------

The Adventurers (A Paladin of Zorica, a Cleric of Zorica and a Wizard, actually newly converted to Zorica) walk together with a NPC Question knight of Eiger in the mountains, when they come over some waves of green creatures (totalling aprox.300) attacking some 20-30 grey, steel-clad heavy, but short, bearded warriors circling a wagon.

The Paladin asks "what here is evil" and the greenskins and something in a large cauldron on the wagon screams/glows evil!

The Paladin, who has become more "good" than "lawful" scream "For Zolara!" and charges (from 200 meters), The Cleric really isn't happy, but an internal monologue by The Paladin surmises that Zolara is still essensially part of Zorica and the best god for Paladins, and his newly aquired Blade of Zolara lights up!   ...  and this spurs me making a move were Zolara talks directly to him in her radiance! And he can write a bond to Zolara... which has the penalty to use the sword at only -1.   *GM grins*

So, the two knights charges while the Wizard starts to shoot fireballs, but then has to move forward since I enforce the limitations of spells (in this case range). The Cleric Discerns realities and will during the battle move a little forward, taking out positions closer to the Paladin. She get's to know that the [goblins] have trickeries up their (proverbial) sleeves and that they behave really crazy (for a reason)!  Note that two are islanders and the third is from Coldstern, a city of towers with wizard-astrologers who really don't take any part of life, so they have never seen goblins* or the [undermountains-Dwellers]*, though they have seen the workmanship of the latter.

* goblin and dwarf analogies, but both are special - and the goblins are yet to be revealed



The Paladin fights with the goblins, and his +4 armour makes him nearly invincible, since I'm using the old rules for multiple monsters, but they try and wrestle him to the ground and he also defies danger when trying to help the [dwellers]

The Wizard pumps fireballs until he loses the memory of it, and when goblins suddenly break away from him he smiles and utterly fails his magic missile-spell. The Goblins smile wickedly and in the setting the tactic of attacking the wizard is settled. The goblins move threateninly forward, knowing they have the The Wizard, but he disappears (invisibility) and then they move as calls of celebration sounds.

It went much better, by mainly focusing on breaking the pace by reiterating statements, asking everyone what they do and then moving slowly, adding both colour and moves in between. I'm not sure I can do this all the time, but I will work on doing it. It really helps ground me to the action when someone Discern realities!

Munin

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Re: Dogpiling the GM and the "Powered by the Apocalypse..."
« Reply #7 on: March 24, 2015, 02:38:44 PM »
It went much better, by mainly focusing on breaking the pace by reiterating statements, asking everyone what they do and then moving slowly, adding both colour and moves in between. I'm not sure I can do this all the time, but I will work on doing it. It really helps ground me to the action when someone Discern realities!
Great! it sounds like you're getting the hang of it!

If it helps, I find that it's always good to remind myself to ground the moves or the rolls in the narration, and further to mix up the physical sense that I'm using to describe something. That is, for everything that happens, describe what it looks like, sounds like, feels like, or smells like, etc. In the example I gave above it's what you see (ZOMG, scarabs!) and what you hear (the mummy's "dry, raspy chortle," as well as the implied chitinous chittering of the skittering scarabs).