Complication Panic

image from ArtBreeder

filed under mechanics on 29 Nov 2018
tagged dungeon world, world of dungeons, wodu, louche, complications, and problems

I am in love with the ++/+-/– resolution mechanic, aka, pbta. I am currently running World of Dungeons, which uses a very light, very simplified pbta mechanic, and no explicit GM moves – if it’s your turn in the conversation, it’s just… your turn. Make your move.

This can get hard on the GM, who has to be constantly coming up with complications and outright disasters.

I’ve been using Streets of Marienberg’s complications (countered, delayed, distracted, disturbed, escalates, impaired, impeded, imposed, compromise, provoked, exaggerate circumstances) and problems (captured, concealed, controlled, corrupted, defamed, destroyed, inflicted, overwhelmed, prevented, reinforced, separated, surprised), reduced down to a single word, for a while now.

It works well enough, but sometimes I struggle to interpret that word in context. Then I roll up a random GM Move and almost always regret it. My interpretive skills fail. I’m left staring at that 7-9 blankly, right where I was before I rolled, but now I’m also filled with guilt over cavalierly discarding a legitimately rolled random result.

Look, my life is fairly boring. I have to have something to stress about.

So that’s where CHILLS comes in. A succinct and easy to remember list of things to do on those partials and misses.

I like the idea of all of the options given, but for my current table, “lesser outcome” and “shitty choice” are going to be hard sells, and “interference” is iffy. When a player rolls a success, we’ve got a firm social contract that they’re getting what they intended.

This is totally subjective. My players won’t freak if I break their lockpicks on a lockpicking attempt (as long as the lock’s open now), or cry foul if they intended to chop the villain’s head off but just did damage. They just want a 7+ to feel like a success, in the good old D&D sense.

So, basically, at my table, right now, if you roll a 7+, you’re getting what you intended, at least mostly, and I think I’ve got a list of consequences that will work for me.

  • Locality. Something specifically related to the current environment happens. The building’s now on fire. The ground collapses. It’s flooding. Moonquake!
  • Offer. Offer a bargain, an extra, or a perk for a cost. Offer a better position, with risk. Offer a temptation.
  • Unexpected danger. Make something up or roll it up at random. Tie it in if you want now or worry about how it fits in later.
  • Callback. Use something they’ve given you. A backstory element. An off-handed comment. Gear. A character sheet aspect.
  • Harm. Deal damage.
  • End something. End an ongoing effect, bonus, or fictional advantage. Take a resource away, with “resource” used in the Trollbabe sense – something you possess, whether it’s a piece of gear, an ability, or an ally.

… and the best (or possibly worst) mnemonic ever.