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The Player's Observation

One of the choices for Take A Powerful Blow is (Basic Moves sheets/book p71):

  • you lash out verbally: provoke a teammate to foolhardy action or take advantage of your Influence to inflict a condition

The book text then explains that if you choose this "lashing out verbally" option, then only the doing of one of those two "actions" satisfies its requirements. The example play (bottom p72) cuts off just as the Doomed player chooses Provoke.

But both Provoke… and Take Advantage of your Influence are, if you will, "big m" Moves in their own right! They have their own rules and procedures. There are even modifiers added here, stipulations for each, presumably to keep the sometimes-varying results instead firmly negative: your Provoke… must be "to foolhardy action", and your Take Advantage… must be "to inflict a condition".

I'll include it as a fake quote (don't go looking for it). A player noted that the bullet point could read…

  • you lash out verbally at a teammate: criticize them until they mark a condition, or instigate conflict until they do something foolish that they would not have done otherwise

…but it doesn't. It instead uses specific language from rules we know. So I think it's pretty clear this OOC choice does trigger a full-fledged Provoke Someone or Take Advantage Move.

Should we follow through with the full rules of the encompassed Moves when a player chooses to lash out verbally?

Here are just some of the implications if you choose Lash Out Verbally and its parts are full Moves:

  • Provoke Someone
    • tell the GM what you're trying to get them to do; here it must qualify as "foolhardy action"
    • requires you to roll, which could be a miss; so they wouldn't do it, plus the GM may move
    • even if you roll a hit, against a PC it allows for "if they don't do it." Have you really "provoked them to foolhardy action" if they don't do it?
    • if they choose to do it, or if we assume the foolhardy action is instead compulsory:
      • "if they do it" adds Team to the pool
      • the target PC could… what… reject your weak provocation until it's sufficient?
      • if they can't reject it, you have carte blanche for the foolhardy action, stripping the target player's agency and autonomy
  • Take Advantage of your Influence
    • it's a Peripheral Move so there's no second roll, but you must choose the "inflict a condition on them" option
    • you must "surrender the Influence you hold over them"
    • this invokes your Influence, so it makes your move a candidate for the target PC's Reject Someone's Influence
      • if that Reject… roll was a miss, they'd mark your inflicted Condition, and for the Reject… miss the GM would shift their labels, and they would mark a second Condition

House Rules

Encountering it, and then exploring the concept, we found much of the above to be quite problematic in practice and theory. I feel these are not "house rules" from whole cloth, but perhaps our "house handling" to interpret the ambiguity:

  • No additional rolls or choices, just pick Provoke… and the foolhardy action, or Take Advantage and the Condition, trying with each to comply with the spirit of that Move.
  • On a hit, Take a Powerful Blow is a negative move. Bad things are supposed to happen.
  • If you inflict a Condition, you do give up your Influence.
  • Your target is indeed compelled to a foolhardy action you choose, but it must be utterly in line with both established fiction and target PC personality.
  • Despite being mandatory, "they do it" and earn a Team for the pool.
  • "Be a fan" of your teammate. Don't be a jerk with the foolhardy action. Don't metagame your choice of which Condition to inflict.
  • Conversely, it's a forced negative move against a team member, so you may be inclined to lob a dud of a foolhardy action at them; don't or the GM will intervene.

Does that seem appropriate? Have we misinterpreted something pretty clear to be muddy? Are we missing any example-play transcripts that spell out any of these details? Other thoughts or takes on the matter?

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This is called a Moves Snowball. That name comes from the idea of rolling a ball of snow on the ground so that it gets bigger and bigger, like you do when making a snowman. It's a common feature in many Powered by the Apocalypse games. Here's a couple paragraphs about the topic from the granddaddy of this family of RPG rules sets, Apocalypse World:

MOVES SNOWBALL

Any given conflict between characters, one move alone probably won’t resolve it. Very often it’ll take several moves and countermoves, a whole back-and-forth between them. Hitting rolls on a 7–9, especially, usually leaves a whole lot unresolved, primed for followthrough or a counterstrike.

The moves cascade very naturally. Holds overlap, outcomes nest and double up and flow seamlessly into new moves. Just remember the rule—if you do it, you do it; to do it, you have to do it—and see their logic through.

So yes, it's certainly intended that if a player chooses for their character to lash out verbally after taking a powerful blow, that they should make any moves that their action entails. As the bold and italic part of that quote says, if you do it (lashing out verbally), you do it (make the appropriate move). The followup move, and other character's reactions to them, might trigger further moves in a growing snowball.

Remember to always tie a move's results back to the fiction, rather than going straight into the next moves. When the player chooses to lash out verbally, they should actually play out that lashing (e.g. "Dammit Jason, get in here!"). Then resolve whatever the appropriate move is that triggers from that fictional situation (i.e. Jason gets provoked or influenced).

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Yes, you do exactly what the move says.

Lashing out verbally means you're thrown off your game, and you release the tension by snapping at someone you care about, usually another teammate. You have to immediately provoke them to take a foolhardy action, or you have to take advantage of your Influence over them to inflict a condition - any condition. Those are the only actions that satisfy "lashing out verbally".

-- Masks, p.75, "Options for Take a Powerful Blow", emphasis mine.

"[Lady Faust says] 'You did know, didn't you? That your status as the portal to another realm caused your mother to go mad?'"

"Oh man," says Grace[, playing Dusk]. "I did not know that. Oh, man."

"Yep," I say. "I think that means you take a powerful blow. The revelation hits you hard." Grace rolls to take a powerful blow. Fortunately, she doesn't have any conditions marked, so she rolls +0 and gets an 8.

"I choose to lash out at a teammate. Vertex maybe makes a movement, to come closer to me, and I turn and snap at him - 'Get away from me! Get back! Get out of here!' I'm provoking him to leave me alone with Lady Faust."

-- Masks, p.76, "Examples for Take a Powerful Blow", emphasis mine.

Yes, you have to satisfy the GM's judgement as to what constitutes a foolhardy action. No, it doesn't have to be consistent with anything else but the general tone of the game thus far. You're a teenager who just found out they killed their own mother, are you going to be making reasonable, carefully worded requests? Even if Vertex has no intention of leaving Dusk alone, even if he tries to think that Dusk doesn't really mean this, the pain behind those words is still going to eat at him.

So, a couple other things to consider. First is that "Take a Powerful Blow" is a dramatic wrapper over the fiction - if some lightning bruiser is working your abdomen like a speed bag that's still just one Powerful Blow. A Powerful Blow should shift the fight over toward a different focus the same way you advance the fiction with every other move.

Second is that you're undervaluing Team a little. In the best possible circumstance, you have four Team to last you an entire fight scene, and no way to get more without extreme good luck or particular playbook options. You can spend up to the team size (if the person acting is willing to be selfish) as a bonus to a roll! A point of Team is no joke.

Third is that you're overvaluing the odds of an "empty Provoke", one where you can choose just to offer Team, a little. There are exactly three numbers you can roll on the dice that will make it happen and in the best possible circumstance it's not even a coinflip they'll come up. You get a 10+ and the whole fork engages, you get a 6- and the GM gets another bite at the apple. If you do land exactly in the middle, you can be relieved you dodged a bullet!

And when Vertex refuses, well, the scene keeps moving. Lady Faust really must insist - for the poor dear's health, you see - and a fence of runes erupts from the earth at your feet, Vertex! What are you doing?

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