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GMs don't announce to players what move they are about to take.  Instead, they begin to spin narrative that makes it very clear what predicament the character or characters are in and then, (addressing player not character) asks "what do you do?"   In general, GM moves do the following things:  

Use a monster, location or danger move

Every monster in an adventure has moves associated with it. So do locations. {Suggestion: when you are creating locations in a dungeon or settlement? As you are weaving narrative to describe it, consider what the things you are describing might do in response to a player move. Take a couple of quick notes when you pause to ask what a character is going to do.-LAs}. A monster or location move is just a description of what that location or monster does, maybe “hurl someone away” or “bridge the planes.”

For example: If a player move (like Hack & Slash ack & Slash) result includes a monster getting to make an attack, make an aggressive move with that monster and have the appropriate dice rolled..

Another exmple: If a character rolls a 6- in a Discern Realities move, they might spot the picture on the wall below the red carpet- but not the pit trap hidden beneath the carpet that will activate if someone walks over and tries to stand on it to look more closely at the picture.  

The overarching dangers of the adventure- covered in your Fronts - also have moves associated with them. Use these moves to bring that danger into play if its appropriate to the current fiction.  This may mean more monsters or triggering an objection or other element of the location; it might be something else. 

Reveal an unwelcome truth

An unwelcome truth is a fact the players wish wasn’t true: that the room’s been trapped, maybe, or that the helpful goblin is actually a spy. Reveal to the players just how much trouble they’re in. Do so narratively and then say "What do you do?"

Show signs of an approaching threat

This is one of your most versatile moves. “Threat” means anything bad that’s on the way. With this move, you just show them through descriptive narrative that something’s going to happen unless they do something about it- and what ask them what they do.

Deal damage

When you deal damage, choose one source of damage that’s fictionally threatening a character and apply it. In combat with a lizard man? It stabs you. Triggered a trap? Rocks fall on you.

The amount of damage is decided by the source. In some cases, this move might involve trading damage both ways, with the character also dealing damage. Most damage is based on a die roll. When a player takes damage, tell them what to roll. Describe how the damage hits and what it feels like and then? Say "What do you do?" Let the other characters act (or react) too.

Use up their resources

Surviving in a dungeon, or anywhere dangerous, often comes down to supplies and equipment. With this move, something happens to use up some resource: weapons, armor, healing, ongoing spells. You don’t always have to use it up permanently. A sword might just be flung to the other side of the room, not shattered. But it complicates the scene for at least one character. What do they do?

Turn their move back on them

Think about the benefits a move might grant a character and turn them around in a negative way. Alternately, grant the same advantage to someone who has it out for the characters. If Ivy has learned of Duke Horst’s men approaching from the east, maybe a scout has spotted her, too.

Separate the characters from each other

There are few things worse than being in the middle of a raging battle with blood-thirsty owlbears on all sides—one of those things is being in the middle of that battle with no one at your back.

Separating the characters can mean anything from being pushed apart in the heat of battle to being teleported to the far end of the dungeon. Whatever way it occurs, it’s bound to cause problems. What do they do?

Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities

The thief disables traps, sneaks, and picks locks. The cleric deals with the divine and the dead. Every class has things that they shine at—present an opportunity that plays to what one class shines at.

It doesn’t have to be a class that’s in play right now though. Sometimes a locked door stands between you and treasure and there’s no thief in sight. This is an invitation for invention, bargaining, and creativity. If all you’ve got is a bloody axe doesn’t every problem look like a skull? So what do you do?

Show a downside to their class, race, or equipment

Just as every class shines, they all have their weaknesses too. Do orcs have a special thirst for elven blood? Is the cleric’s magic disturbing dangerous forces? The torch that lights the way also draws attention from eyes in the dark.

Offer an opportunity, with or without cost

Show the characters something they want: riches, power, glory. Is it available for the taking or is there a price to be paid as well.

Remember to lead with the fiction. You don’t say, “This area isn’t dangerous so you can make camp here, if you’re willing to take the time.” You make it a solid fictional thing and say, “Helferth’s blessings still hang around the shattered altar. It’s a nice safe spot, but the chanting from the ritual chamber is getting louder. What do you do?”

Put someone in a spot

A spot is someplace where a character needs to make tough choices and sacrifice. Put them, or something they care about, in the path of destruction, with a. The harder the choice, the tougher the spot.

Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask

This move is particularly good when they want something that’s not covered by a move, or they’ve failed a move. They can do it, sure, but they’ll have to pay the price. Or, they can do it, but there will be consequences.

Choosing Your Move

To choose a move, start by looking at the obvious consequences of the action that triggered it. If you already have an idea, think on it for a second to make sure it fits your agenda and principles and then do it. Let your moves snowball. Build on the success or failure of the characters moves and on your own previous moves.

A Soft vs Hard Move

A soft move is one without immediate, irrevocable consequences. That usually means it’s something not all that bad, like revealing that there’s more treasure if they can just find a way past the golem (offer an opportunity with cost). It can also mean that it’s something bad, but they have time to avoid it, like having the goblin archers loose their arrows (show signs of an approaching threat) with a chance for them to dodge out of danger.

A soft move ignored becomes a golden opportunity for a hard move. If the players do nothing about the hail of arrows flying towards them it’s a golden opportunity to use the deal damage move.

Hard moves, on the other hand, have immediate consequences. Dealing damage is almost always a hard move, since it means a loss of HP that won’t be recovered without some action from the players.

When you have a chance to make a hard move you can opt for a soft one instead if it better fits the situation. Sometimes things just work out for the best.

Dungeon Moves

When players are exploring a new hostile area that you don't have any prepared material for? Try Dungeon Moves

Adventure Moves

If you’re running a short game, maybe at a convention or game day, you may find that you want to front-load the experience a little more. Adventure moves deal directly with the adventure underway. They can move the action along, change the rewards, or transition from one adventure to another. The most important part of this move is not the roll or the effect, but the information and tone. It sets the stage for a quick adventure and gives the player reading it a starting point to work with. Handing out a set of these, one to each player, along with a playbook, is a great way to run a game at a convention.

Customizing End of Game

You can also adapt the End of Session move to reflect the adventure you’re running. When doing this it’s key that you show the players the new End of Session move. The goal isn’t to keep them in the dark about what earns XP, but to make the XP awards tie directly to this adventure.

When you end the session, instead of using the normal end of session questions, use something like these, tailored to your game:

  • Did we learn something about "the Cult of the Scaled God"?
  • Did we "rescue a captured villager or help defend the village of Secor"?
  • Did we defeat "a major agent of the Cult of the Scaled God"?