Yeah, it tells you not to, then it tells you to decide in advance what is going to happen at each location. Sorta. Like "this place is a crossroads, so you are going to meet someone there". Which seems like a lot of "plot" to me. Kinda. I'm really confused about the whole thing.
Oh, oh, hang on - I think I see the issue here; you don't have to make this decision about a particular move in the place in advance. If the PCs are in a location that you have decided is a Crossroads (let's say the local cop bar), then if you're struggling to decide what happens next, you take a quick look at the moves that go along with that location, pick one, and start building a scene around it.
Let me give you an example - I'll use the AW "Landscape Threat" as a template (it's different words, but same concept, and I'll put a MotW spin on it):
Let's say you have decided that the night club operated by the local vampire coven (called "Umbra," of course) is a "Mirage." It's impulse is "to entice and betray people." So the vampires lure people to their death here - think like the opening scene of the film Blade, only more subtle and refined. So now that you've decided what this place is and what it's impulse looks like, you can use this in a couple of ways.
First, if the players go there, you can take a look at the list of moves for inspiration - let's say our PC investigators are looking into a disappearance and that the last place the victim was seen was at Umbra. What will the players find when they go there? Maybe I have no idea, because I haven't really planned it in advance. So I look at the list of moves for this place and see shift, move, rearrange
on there. Great! This gives me an idea, and I describe how the PCs are looking around the joint for clues and notice that in a couple of the selfies that the victim posted to Facebook before her disappearance, she's sitting in a particular booth in the VIP room, and that in the photos, there's a door. Only the PCs notice that now, when they are actually here and looking around, the door isn't there. Intriguing! What will they do? Let's play to find out!
Alternately, you can use the location's move as a way to lead into the next chapter of the story. Let's say the PCs don't really have a solid lead and are milling around their office trying to decide what to do next. I look at my possible location moves and see disgorge something
as an option. This gives me an idea, and I decide that the thing that gets disgorged is a survivor with a crazy story. No one believes her and she's not even sure she believes herself (maybe she did a lot of drugs last night). The girl tells them that she was clubbing with a friend last night. They ended up at Umbra, where a totally hot guy got them access to the VIP room. They got high as kites and were dancing up a storm, but at some point she passed out - and that's when something weird happened. She remembers vaguely regaining consciousness, unable to move, and seeing a bunch of men - only maybe they weren't really men? - attacking her friend. Terrified, she managed to stumble out and spent the rest of the night passed out behind a dumpster in some alley downtown. Calls to the missing woman go straight to voice-mail. She's afraid to go to the police, and wants the PCs to help her find her friend.
In both cases, I am using the location's move to present them another piece of the mystery. It's just that the first is made in response to something the PC are already doing, whereas the second is made as a prompt to see what the PCs do when presented with a new situation. Does this make sense?
What you should NOT do is build all the moves/scenes/plots in advance and hope the players go through them in some particular order.
It asks you to define what a place is. So I define a place as a "maze". But I don't spend any time thinking of what sort of things that will happen there that will make it feel like a maze, so when it actually comes up in game, it doesn't wind up feeling like one.
I get that its trying to give a set of tools here, but I really haven't the faintest idea how to use them. I don't know if its that they are badly explained or just that it doesn't work well with me. Or that I'm just dense.
It is obvious this DOES work well for a lot of people I guess.
It's designed such that you don't necessarily have to think about it in advance. When the players get to the "maze" location, you can look at your list of moves and pick one without having to plan it ahead of time. So if they descend into the sewer tunnels (which you have decided is a maze) to hunt for a monster, you can look at your list of moves and find one (in AW, an example might be bar the way
) and use it according to its impulse (to frustrate, to deny passage). "You wander around the tunnels for over an hour, but after just a short time, things all start to look sort of the same. At some point, you realize you're right back where you started, probably arguing about who screwed up and how you got turned around. What do you do?" Essentially, because the location is barring the way, it is allowing you as the Keeper to say that the PCs can't just walk through, that they must undertake some action or use some cleverness to navigate the terrain.
Or you could make this move in response to a PC's roll. For instance, hunting for monsters in the sewers sounds kind of hazardous, right? So maybe you decide that whichever PC is guiding the party is acting under pressure
(maybe with another player giving aid
) to keep from getting lost. If the player misses the roll, you can make the moves as a response to the player's (awful) roll. Or maybe if the player hits a 7-9 you can use the move as part of an "ugly choice" to present an opportunity with a cost
and say, "You guys keep getting turned around and crossing your own path. If you stick together, you get the feeling this might take half of forever. But you could
split up and cover more ground, radically increasing the chances that at least one of you finds a way through quickly. What are you gonna do?"
In your example of faking the gun, a 7-9 result would mean that "they'll do it, but only if you do something for them right now to show them you mean it". Well, I suppose you could show them the gun you don't have...which kind of leads to failure. :p
Yeah, it absolutely
leads to a failure, and that's OK. It should
be harder to bluff someone with a fake gun.
But here's one of the most important things to understand about PbtA games: failure is OK. Failure more often than not drives the story forward. Failure (or partial success) provides the complications that make the characters' lives interesting. It provides the dramatic tension. If the PCs always succeed, the game really loses something.
Basically, the result is just really narrow that stops making a lot of sense outside the basic negotiation range. And its really limiting - there are so many interesting things that could happen in a "manipulate someone" situation that don't fit that narrow result!
I guess I just don't see it that way. My players use this move all the time
for a wide variety of circumstances, and the flexibility that it provides is magical. And one of the best things is that it preserves player agency on both sides of the roll, both the person doing the manipulating and (for PCs) the person being manipulated. This move is pure gold for PvP. So in the case of the fake gun, the person you're trying to bully has called your bluff - now what do you do? Do you back down, slink off, and come up with another plan? Do you escalate to physical violence? Do you change tactics and offer something else? The choice is yours.