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I tend to have a lot of trouble with the partial on spout lore. The text reads:

On a 7–9 the GM will only tell you something interesting—it’s on you to make it useful.

However I have trouble telling the players something that is interesting but for which there is not a painfully obvious way it is useful. This makes it so that a success and a partial on spout lore are virtually one in the same, which is not ideal.

Here's an example situation that came up recently:

The party arrived in the city of Oostar. One of the party cooks, a anthropomorphic mushroom, wanted to know about the local cuisine so they used Spout Lore.

If they were to have succeed I would have said:

Oostar is a city known for a vibrant food culture. Ingredients that would otherwise be rare are abundant and cheap.

If they were to have failed I would have said:

Unlike other areas, Oostar is not as progressive on the rights of nature creatures. Sentient mushrooms are considered a delicacy here.

However I have no idea what to say in the case of a partial.

How can I come up with information that is interesting but requires the players to think a bit before they can put it to use?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for asking--I feel like spout lore is the move I most "fear" from my players, so it's great to have some more Q&A around it =) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jul 22 '18 at 22:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor See this FAQ for why your comment was removed. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 23 '18 at 18:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is knowing that the city has rare ingredients relevant to the party's situation? If it's just flavor, I might decide that that's interesting, but not useful or valuable. And then my 10+ would be tying food to why they were there, giving them information both about their goals and about the food. If they needed to secure a magic item from a college of magic, I might say "Yeah, actually, you know that a major source of revenue for the college is delicious enchanted confections, popular at noble feasts and the like, so they're constantly receiving caravans of cooking supplies, might be a way in." \$\endgroup\$ – Keon Aug 14 '18 at 18:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Keon Two of the party members are playing a custom class "The Cook", so rare ingredients are useful and valuable to the party. \$\endgroup\$ – Wheat Wizard Aug 14 '18 at 18:19
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Know why it's not useful.

There are a couple of ways to approach the problem of presenting the PCs with information that is interesting, and not useful, and that is up to them to make useful.

They all start with coming up with something interesting, and it doesn't sound like that's a problem for you.

If the interesting thing is useful, come up with an obstacle to its usefulness that the PCs will have to navigate.

If the interesting thing is not useful, come up with a way the PCs can make it useful right now, or a scenario where it might be useful to the PCs, and keep that in your back pocket for when you need to prompt a PC to do something.

Barriers to Usefulness

So let's start with some useful information:

Ingredients that would otherwise be rare are abundant and cheap.

How can you make this not immediately useful?

You could introduce something else people would have to find out:

As long as you can identify yourself to the stallholders as a chef and not just a traveler looking for a cheap meal. Now, how could you do that?

You could introduce a cost to pay:

As long as you're in good standing with the Guildes des Cuisines, which famously charge a 500-coin lifetime membership fee.

Or an obstacle to overcome:

As long as the market chief, Gastrome de l'Etoiles, personally approves of your cooking.

On a 6- you might consider severely ramping up one of these costs if you think it would go hard enough:

As long as you're in good standing with the Guildes des Cuisines, which are famously headquartered right where this giant smoking ruin is now. ...oh dear.

Pathways to Usefulness

Or suppose you come up with something interesting that doesn't look immediately useful. It's still got to present some hook - it's your play in the back-and-forth narration, so you should be setting the players up somehow.

Well, unless you're running a white-knuckle first session, the PCs don't have exactly one problem. And you knew the problem they were Spouting Lore about in the first place, right? Otherwise you'd have no idea what to say to be useful.

So look at all the other problems out there - all the fronts, and all the things PCs have cared about. If you can make it fit as a stepping stone on one of those, all well and good.

If not? Well, if you feel like it won't dilute things too much to open up another front or another ongoing project, go for it.

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First of all, players don't "use" moves. A move is something that player character's actions might trigger, but the trigger itself is at the GM's discretion. If you don't see any decent possible consequences, don't call for the Spout Lore move. Just give players the information they asked for, preferably making a GM move in the process. See also How to ask nicely in Dungeon World

Give a tip and make a soft move

Let's say you've asked them to roll +INT. 7–9 result is a partial success. You can give a tip, like "something about this might be useful", without any specific details. That's how it is done in the SRD example:

GM: Heh, yep. You’re in a murky pit, and there’s a shadowy humanoid shape, mottled and eyeless, moving towards you, mumbling.

Fenfaril: Mumbling shape, huh? What is that thing? Is it going to attack me? I’m sure I’ve read about them somewhere before, maybe at school?

GM: Could be. Spout lore!

Fenfaril: Bestow your knowledge upon me, brain. I rolled an 8.

GM: Well, of course you know of these things—the name escapes you but you definitely remember a drawing of a creature like this. It was in a hallway, standing guard over something. You know there’s a trick to get it to let you pass but you can’t quite remember.

However, the revealed fact doesn't have to be potentially useful. It's on the player how to make it useful, not the GM. If you want to tell "something that is interesting but for which there is not a painfully obvious way it is useful" — find an interesting fact, which is completely irrelevant in the current situation. A player still might invent a creative way to make this information useful, sooner or later:

— A few goblins were hiding in the woods. They open fire — several arrows are flying towards you.

— Goblins... I'm sure I've read about them. What is their greatest fear?

— Spout lore. Roll +INT!

— It's 9.

— Well, you've read a book titled "Beast Masters and Slave Drivers" by a prominent goblinologist. You remember that a goblin tribe is organized in a four-tiered caste system made up of lashers, hunters, gatherers, and pariahs. The status of every family in the tribe is based on its importance to the tribe's survival.

Lastly, a partial success is the "yes, but" kind of result — you can give information and also make a soft GM move. "Reveal an unwelcome truth" suits the narrative quite often. The goblins' example:

— Spout lore. Roll +INT!

— It's 9.

— Well, you remember that goblins seek to trap and enslave any creatures they encounter, but they flee from opposition that seems too daunting. They attacked you, that means their numbers are overwhelming, and they will probably try to capture you alive.

On 6- you don't have to give any information at all. Just make sure something bad happens.

The rulebook says:

Spout Lore

On a miss the GM’s move will often involve the time you take thinking.

As a GM, you are free to make any GM move, even a hard one, not only "reveal an unwelcome truth". In the goblins' arrows example a miss could mean the arrows finally reached the PC, while he/she were still trying to remember something interesting or useful about goblins.

Your "failed" option didn't look like a miss

If they were to have failed I would have said:

Unlike other areas, Oostar is not as progressive on the rights of nature creatures. Sentient mushrooms are considered a delicacy here.

Well, that looks like a success to me, at least a partial one. "Sentient mushrooms are considered a delicacy here" is definitely a useful piece of information, considering the fact one of the party members is an anthropomorphic mushroom.

Yes, you are foreshadowing troubles with this answer, but it complies with the "Fill the characters’ lives with adventure" GM agenda quite well, specifically with the "Think dangerous" principle. "You successfully bought all the ingredients and made a delicious meal, nobody was hurt in the process, everyone's happy" scenario isn't very Dungeon World-ish :)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My suspicion is that the information about anthropomorphic mushrooms being a delicacy here is false. Alternatively, maybe it's being defined that was as a hard move in response to the failure? \$\endgroup\$ – Airk Sep 10 '18 at 14:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Airk I believe it is against the rules of Dungeon World for a GM to lie to the players. Your second guess was accurate. \$\endgroup\$ – Wheat Wizard Sep 10 '18 at 14:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Airk "Reveal an unwelcome truth" is a soft move \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Sep 10 '18 at 15:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Depends on the truth. :P \$\endgroup\$ – Airk Sep 10 '18 at 16:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ "...the trigger itself is at the GM's discretion." !?? That's not what the rules say. "When a player describes their character doing something that triggers a move, that move happens and its rules apply." -- Making Moves \$\endgroup\$ – mcwyrm Jul 16 at 17:27
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On a partial success, I try to say something that is designed to get the response "why?"

For example:

You only remember one thing - the citizens of Oostar never eat lamb. Beef, goat, and smeerp are all OK, but not lamb.

The typical response to that is, "Don't eat lamb? Why?"

The fact is not useful right now (but I could imagine a scenario where the characters use the taboo to manipulate someone) but does serve to make the world more interesting, given that its later explanation will provide world-building.

Also, I normally don't have an answer to the question right now. Hopefully the players will come up with a cool answer for why Oostar city folk don't eat lamb.

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