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I have a move I am working on for throwing improvised projectiles.

Lob

When you hurl an object at a foe from a distance, roll +DEX. On a 10+, the object soars to its mark. The enemy takes a Hit. On a 7--9, you don't make a hit, but... Choose one from the list below.

  • You make your target, but the enemy is unharmed. Their attention shifts on you.
  • You miss your target, but hit something else useful to you. The GM will tell you what.

I am concerned here that letting the player choose an option might cross the line. Here the player decides what happens to their projectile even after it is out of their character's hands. It's not something they would know or have control over.

My secondary concern is if it is crossing the line, what does that mean for this move? In the original post from 2010, John Harper doesn't give a very explicit explanation to what is wrong with crossing the line but does say:

"Crossing the line" isn't the end of the world in a custom move, but it's something to be on the lookout for. Keeping moves on the player-role side of the line will help make them sharper and stronger in play.

So I'm wondering what sort of problems might be presented by crossing the line with this move.

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The problem with this move is more that it makes unworkable assumptions about how it's used than that it inherently "crosses the line".

"Crossing the line", remember, is when you ask a player to take on the GM's responsibility of authoring the world. In general this becomes more of a problem as the move becomes more universally applicable, and it sounds like you're definitely writing a move that you intend to be universally applicable.

Viewed solely from the perspective of the PC in the moment, it sounds like on a 7-9 you're offering them a choice between:

  • being on-target but dealing a glancing blow, or
  • being off-target but dealing a solid blow

This is a reasonable set of options for a PC to pick between, at least if this is a move any PC can be expected to do. Remember that address the characters, not the players also means to say things that the characters would know; the soundness of your aim and the target you will hit are things a character would know, in the moment.

The reason this move might not seem solid to you is because of how you're framing the difference between these choices, and the assumptions you make about the circumstances of resolution.

What You Assume

A 7-9 is not a 6-, so its effects should be at least partially positive for the PC, but not as good as a 10+. As written your move is saying the following things:

  • The most effective thing you can do in this moment is always to land a direct Hit on your primary target.
  • It is always desirable to attract the attention of your primary target, but not as effective as landing a direct Hit; attracting attention is a lesser alternative.
  • It is always desirable to land a direct Hit on something near your primary target, but not as effective as landing a direct Hit on your primary target; a direct Hit somewhere else is a lesser alternative.

When you wrote the move in the first place, you were probably thinking of some specific fictional circumstance where somebody's lobbing an improvised projectile and all these things hold. You have doubts about the move, and I'm pretty sure they're doubts that your assumptions won't always hold true.

What To Do Instead

If this move was spawned by a specific fictional circumstance that you expect the PCs to encounter soon, it's not wrong to write a custom move just for PCs interacting with that specific fictional circumstance. When you lob an amphora of blessed water at the necromancer's hulking bonewalker, or whatever. The less-abstracted side effects of a 7-9 will make more sense to the PCs in the moment.

If you want to make this move more generally applicable, then you have to generalize your 7-9 choices to things that will happen more often. I think the idea of "on-target but glancing vs. off-target but solid" has some merit to it, but what does "off-target" mean in a general circumstance? Maybe you could try this:

When you hurl an object at a foe from a distance, note its Hit and Splash effects; they may be predefined or the GM may tell you in the moment. Then roll +DEX.

  • On a 10+, you Hit your intended target. You may choose to Splash a second target in Reach range of your target; if you do, the GM will Splash a third target in the same range.
  • On a 7-9, you Splash your intended target. You may choose to Splash a second target in Reach range of your target; if you do, the GM will Hit a third target in the same range.

You and the GM can choose environmental targets to affect, not just PCs or monsters.

This move sort of follows the "take a risk to do more damage" pattern of Hack and Slash; note that the GM isn't limited to choosing a target that will benefit the PC. There's also some space here for mechanics that play with that choice, like volatile thrown items where you must choose to hit an additional target.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think overall this is an extremely helpful answer. It gets to the core of why this move doesn't feel or work right in. I think the move presented at the end really gets at what I wanted to do with this. And perhaps most importantly I think it does it in a way that is helpful for future moves close to or crossing the line. I do think that the third assumption is not one I held, and one that I tried to word the move specifically to avoid. And to that extent I think it shows how unintended assumptions can be forced by the structure of the move. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 9 at 7:50
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Yes, I think the move crosses the line

The player is given control over the narrative outside of their character's actions.

That being said the choice given to the player is minor and I would not expect it to cause significant problems if it stayed as is, but still it should probably be tweaked.

The issues I can see come up could be players abusing their high control over the move outcome. The risk of using this move is lower when a player chooses one of the 7-9 options, for example by always choosing the second one which in general seems more useful.

I think crossing the line could be easily fixed by letting the GM choose one of the options instead, and it would not take away from the usefulness of the move.

Alternatively you could try to come up with slightly modified options that are framed as player actions. Dungeon World has a move Volley which could be used as inspiration even if the game mechanics are quite different.

On a 7–9, choose one (whichever you choose you deal your damage):

  • You have to move to get the shot placing you in danger as described by the GM
  • You have to take what you can get: -1d6 damage
  • You have to take several shots, reducing your ammo by one

What to change

The main design problem I see with this move is what the 7-9 partial success represents.

The player should not be invested in which of 7-9 choices they want to happen when making a move. They should be invested in what happens when they succeed.

The player should succeed in what they are doing both on 10+ and on 7-9, just with drawbacks on the latter option. The 7-9 choices here completely reframe what success on this move looks like, which is why it is so hard to give control to the GM.

I suggest first defining what success is. It seems like it is the enemy taking a Hit. If that is the case, the enemy should take a hit either way. If success is something else, it should be clear from the move. Then the 7-9 options should only modify the success with complications or drawbacks but not change it entirely.

You could also change the move into the "on 10+, choose 2; on 7-9, choose 1" form, since it might be easier to design around that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I originally had this move as a GM choice move. But it just doesn't work well as a move. Since the player is quite invested in which of the options they want, having the GM choose puts them in a very awkward place. In this case the GM's choice conflicts with the intentionality of the players. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 8 at 14:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with that, but I think in that case there might be a problem with those choices. The player should not be invested in which of 7-9 choices they want to happen when making a move, they should be invested in what happens when they succeed. And they should succeed in what they are doing both on 10+ and on 7-9, just with drawbacks on the latter option. The 7-9 choices here completely reframe what success on this move looks like, which is probably why it is so hard to give control to the GM. \$\endgroup\$
    – Deeps
    Jul 8 at 15:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Deeps I think this answer would be improved notably by integrating that comment in it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Jul 8 at 15:47
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The problem with this move is that it assumes too much about the intent, and then slaloms about the line. A 7+ is a hit, so it should give at least the basics of what the player wanted.

But what does the player want? Maybe it is better not to assume, but make that part of the choices.

Lob

When you hurl an object at a foe from a distance, roll +DEX. On a 7-9, pick one from below. On a 10+, all three.

  • You harm your target
  • You don’t harm anything else
  • You avoid/attract your target's attention (your choice)
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