Should the GM set a difficulty (a penalty) for player moves, in the form of Move(2d10) + Attribute - Penalty?

I'm asking because, despite for Endure Injury move, this is not clear in the book, but it seems reasonable to set a penalty when the situation is clearly disadvantageous for the player characters.

For example, when a PC Engage in Combat against a group of two or more people, without any backup, should the GM ask for a roll with a -1 (or even greater) penalty?

e.g. Attack when in a minor number

roll Engage in Combat + Violence - 1

The contrary also applies, to add a bonus when the players have the situation to their advantage.

e.g. Attack when the opponent is dizzy

roll Engage in Combat + Violence + 1

This would make a huge difference for Keep it Together move, where an extreme situation (e.g. seeing a being from another reality) would be much harder to succeed than from a more common one (e.g. looking at a corpse).


1 Answer 1


Historically, it hasn't worked well.

People new to the game occasionally ask me for this one. It's general, it modifies nearly every other move:

Things are tough. Whenever a player's character makes a move, the MC judges it normal, difficult, or seriously difficult. If it's difficult, the player takes -1 to the roll. If it's seriously difficult, the player takes -2 to the roll.

Several groups in playtest wanted this move or one like it. All of them abandoned it after only one session. It didn't add anything fun to the game, but did add a little hassle to every single move.

-- "Changing the Action", p.270, Apocalypse World 2e

If you want to park yourself in front of a roll and tweak the number based on your own judgement and an arbitrary number line, you're committing yourself to parking in front of and judging every roll, on top of what you're doing already. It's a lot of consideration and all it really gets you is some different math.

In moves like engage in combat or avoid harm where as the GM you have latitude to impose consequences of your choice on anything less than a clean success, you can go harder with those when the opposition is harder - just make sure you're as honest as you can be about what the PCs are getting into, so they make decisions about cashing in their bonuses knowing how hard failure's going to bite.

If this were most PbtA games, I would say that in cases where you want to highlight a particular physical or psychological threat you can just create a custom player-facing move for that particular circumstance, but...

K:DL has its own methods.

It omits the section on moves grammar and most talk of building your own custom moves, so I can't say "build your own" when the game doesn't offer any support for it.

However, there is probably something like what you're looking for in its existing sort-of-custom move framework, opponent Abilities and Unique Moves.

When you have the option to make a move with a skilled combatant (a high Combat attribute), you can have them tactically surround or overwhelm a PC instead of dealing harm, which will penalize that PC until they can escape.

When you have the option to make a move with a strong supernatural entity (a high Magic attribute), you can have them attack the Stability track directly, which effectively penalizes future attempts to hold it together.


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