The book is pretty clear on this subject:

When you closely study a situation or person, roll+Wis.

✴On a 10+, ask the GM 3 questions from the list below. ✴On a 7–9, ask 1.

So, when you trigger the move (thus, study a situation), first you roll dice, then you ask questions from the list. Why do I ask, is because there were talks in the community which imply the players ask questions from the list when the roll still misses.

See Suddenly Ogres for the example — it explains how to narrate misses for Spout Lore and Discern Realities, but implies that players ask "Who's in control" (a question from the list):

Who’s in control on this masquerade ball? It’s your rival, Duke Dupont, just as you feared!

Who’s in control in that masked ball? Suddenly, ogres are everywhere! I suppose that means that ogres are in control now.

How could that be? Should player ask before rolling the dice, or should the GM ask for further clarifications on miss, or what?


4 Answers 4


When you closely study a situation or person, the Discern Realities move asks you to roll. You roll. The move then tells you what happens on a particular die result (ask the GM this many questions, or on a miss the GM makes a move as hard as they want). That's a natural order. However, since Discern Realities says what happens when you closely study a situation or person, it's important to consider the possible outcomes of the move when determining if you, as a player, should closely study a situation or person (which triggers the move). If the answers to the questions don't promise to give you anything meaningful, it could end up a waste of table time.

What seems to be catching you is the fact that the GM has a special GM move, "turn their move back on them", which is used to colour bad rolls with exciting twists on the move the player used. In this case, a GM might tell a player, on a miss, to ask a question anyway, and then answer that question in a way that complicates things for the players, such as the introduction of the example ogres. The explanatory text given on p. 168 of the book is as follows:

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.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "Example Ogres" sound like an interesting thing for many games. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Mar 20, 2020 at 17:06
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ "Why are they example ogres?" Because they're about to make an example of you. \$\endgroup\$
    – Firebreak
    Mar 20, 2020 at 17:25

The document you're linking to actually explains this - Moves are only triggered if you do something that triggers them. You can't Discern Realities if you're not actually trying to discern anything. The wording might be a bit confusing because of course the questions that the move lets you ask come after the roll, the thing that triggers the move is you looking, smelling, or searching for something. The roll just determines what questions you can get helpful answers to, not which you can ask.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This seems to veer away from the point of the question. The asker seems to want to know why there are questions getting asked and answered on a miss. \$\endgroup\$
    – Firebreak
    Mar 20, 2020 at 16:58

"On a miss, ask 1 anyway, but be prepared for the worst."

That's language from the second edition of Apocalypse World on its Read a Sitch/Read a Person moves. It's not some special game-specific condition; it's consistent with the core principles of the game, specifically what in Dungeon World is called making a move that follows. When you narrate as the GM you should be trying to narrate consistently with the game fiction, and you can only do that if you know what the game fiction actually is.

What does the GM need to know to respond to someone Discerning Realities and missing? They need to know the fiction that justified making the roll in the first place, and a necessary fictional step to Discerning Realities is considering one of the questions in the list and taking steps to find out the answer.

The game procedure of Discern Realities is that you first make the roll and then potentially ask some number of questions. However, establishing the fiction of Discern Realities in order to make the roll in the first place, or clarifying the fiction after the fact, can also involve asking a question from Discern Realities, as a framing device for the story rather than a GM prompt for a clear answer and +1 forward.


The general idea is that the player indicates that the character is trying to learn something, and the GM determines that invokes the move. The player rolls, and based on the result they may ask some questions and get honest answers.

It may be clear from the player's indicated action which questions they intend to ask. "I wander around the room, trying to observe who the leaders are" would imply the question is "Who's in control?".

It may be the case at some tables that the players explicitly say which questions they want to ask, and that's what motivates the roll. Nothing wrong with this, as long as they indicate what the character is doing to try to find the information.

Finally, in the case of a miss, the GM can still prompt the player to pick a question, as a help in determining the nature of the GM's move. I'd say this is what the Suddenly Ogres document is talking about.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .