Saturday, 21 January 2012

Dungeon World XP Hack

First, read Ryan and Hamish's posts about the XP hack for Dungeon World, listed in my previous post. Okay ...

... and now on to my take on it.

Ryan drops Aid/Hinder from the initial six. I agree that there's a problem with it, as the Aid or Interfere move is weak by itself and that's the only real way to roll for this type. So do we keep it, or drop it? Before we cast it to the winds, let's see what can be done...

  • Move Healing into Aid from Defend. This helps Elven Wizards, Bards, Clerics, Paladins, but Rangers, Thieves and Fighters not at all. Maybe that's okay, as Fighters don't get much from Discover, Wizards not much from Defend, and so forth.
  • We can fix the Aid or Interfere move to not be worthless! Given that you're giving up an attack or other useful move, to have a chance at giving +1 and only a small chance of not attracting unwanted attention for that +1, it's hard to see when the move as written is ever a good choice. How about:
    Aid or Interfere (Bond)
    When you help or hinder someone you have a Bond with, roll+Bond with them. On a 10+ they take +(1 plus your modifier for the action you're helping with) or -2, your choice. On a 7-9 you also expose yourself to danger, retribution, or cost.
  • Allow indirect assistance to count, so long as it doesn't already count towards marking XP. So a Defy Danger roll to get in someone's face before they make it to the tasty tasty wizard could count as Aiding the wizard (so long as it doesn't count towards Stunt or Defend). But this gets really messy, in an otherwise quite clean set of actions.

You still don't like it? Truth be told, I don't either. Okay let's look at the highlight types in more detail, and I'll highlight (ha!) what I would call them, plus get to why I think Aid/Hinder is janktastic. As in Ryan's first post, it's about saying "I want to see you do X", and originally, "so I highlight Y." So we get rid of the middle man, Y, and just tell it like it is:

  • Attack. I want to see you Destroying things (notably monsters).
  • Defend. I want to see you Protecting things (notably your fellow adventurers).
  • Discover. I want to see you Learning things (notably about the adventure).
  • Converse. I want to see you Interacting with things (notably the NPCs).
  • Stunt. I want to see you ... I don't know, jumping over things? Defying Dangerous things? The time that I saw Stunt used it was a style of play, rather than a particular action. I would rework Stunt to: I want to see you Risking things (notably yourself).
  • Aid. I want to see you Helping [with] things? Lame. And it's lame because it's not about doing awesome things that you can later tell people about. "My character totally destroyed this evil water demon!" YEAH! "My character totally gave a little bit of advice about how to do things to other people!" Uhhh... not so much.
And there we have it. In a roleplaying game I would never want to tell a player: I want to see you stand on the side lines and offer advice, and as a player I would never want to be told that.

Ryan's solution is on the right track, I feel, but not quite there yet:

When you Aid or Hinder another PC, and the move you’re affecting is covered by one of your highlights, mark experience.
If it was covered by one of your highlights, why don't you just do it yourself? Hopefully you're pretty good at it. And on top of this, in a reasonably balanced set of characters and highlights, it's quite possible that no one else is really doing your highlights and instead leaving it to you, especially with Protecting and Interacting.

So along with the above revision for Aid or Interfere, should you choose to do it, instead:

When you Aid or Hinder another PC, and the move you’re affecting is covered by one of their highlights, mark experience.
Then you're actually helping people to do what they should be doing, not what you should be doing.

[Edits below, covering points that Ryan brought up on Twitter, paraphrased]

  • If the highlight is one of theirs, it's impossible to use on NPCs as they don't have highlights!
    True enough, but along with the principle that every monster has a name, perhaps just arbitrarily say that the player can mark XP or not as if the monster had a highlight. Or just say that it only works with PCs.
  • If you can interfere, then you can interfere with another PC using parley on you to stop them... and get XP if they have Converse/Interacting highlighted. That's fucked up.
    Yes, perhaps just Aid and not Interfere. Very much an edge case.


  1. I found all these highlight rules too clunky and just have the characters mark xp for their alignment moves, raising bonds to 4, or when they accomplish something noteworthy in the story ( gm call ).

  2. Okay, first principles: you think +1 on aid is weak? I disagree. If you're helping someone with a +2, that +1 means the get a 10+ result on a 7+, flawless victory over 50% of the time. That's pretty awesome. Adding their stat as well? There's no chance of failure. Failure should be fun in DW.

    Also, if the fiction allows, you can roll aid after the main roll has been made. Bumping up a 6 or a 9 is pretty good too.

    I don't agree with the attitude that helping isn't standing on the sidelines either. Sure, it could be offering sage advice (i.e. most of what Gandalf does in LotR), but it can be tactical maneuvering to allow the thief to backstab or the fighter to use his magic weapon more effectively against the monster noone else can hit. That can be just as fun!

    If it was covered by one of your highlights, why don't you just do it yourself? Hopefully you're pretty good at it.

    Chances are you have a highlighted stat at +1 or +0, maybe even -1. Remember that highlighting says "I want to see you attempt X", not succeed at. At some point, someone is going to say, "Hey, I want to see your (STR -1) cleric lose his shit and go at someone with a pair of pliers and a blowtorch, that would be badass".

    1. Aid is also fictionally powerful in that it could be used remotely in space and time from the action (shouting instructions from across a ravine, advice in a flashback, preping NPCs for certain contingent actions in advance, creating distractions and causing hesitation with missle fire, etc)