In my last session where I am GM, an accident happened. My player attacked unwillfuly an NPC who wants to punish them for that. As they are actually my best player, I really don't want ruin their fun. Now I need to think how I can punish his character without punishing my player. I would rather not drop NPC vengeance, as rest of my group could get even more relentless seeing there are no consequences of their actions.

Background of this situation:


Game is on Dungeon World system in high fantasy world. It is entirely custom made, and has not much beyond where the players currently are. Magic there is quite common and potent.

History before situation

One of my players (let's call him Bob) had a quarrel with a stablemen about quality of horses. This quarrel escalated quite a bit and finished with a guard needing to intervene. Another player (lets call her Alice) had a brilliant idea: while Bob and stablemen was gone speaking with guards, she came and casted curse on horses to look like in decay (this would hamper horse quality and help Bob in dispute). Now Bob with guards, stablemen and crowd of onlookers come to stable to check those horses.

Meanwhile, the third player (lets call him Grzegoż, he's that guy who messed up), is closing to this stable from entirely different direction knowing nothing about quarrel and curse. Grzegoż, as his character is helpful and quite compassionate offered guard boss that he will decurse those horses with small fee. Also, at the same time, guards called town sorceress, very powerful magician NPC to help with curse.

The accident

Grzegoż is a bard, but lately he was learning arcane arts and rituals. After some simple perception tests he started ritual of decursing. First time went poorly, on a second try, Alice approached him and offered help (she could help Grzegoż as she casted that curse). She can speak with different ghosts and spirits, so I've allowed speaking with those of curse. Ghosts offered deal, that she help them find another host. Alice agreed and needed to point single humanoid around (there was like hundred of different bystanders around), and in some kind a flash of genius she pointed at the sorceress. Ghosts had no choice and compelled. Also Grzegoż had no idea of this deal. Grzegoż tried second time, with "help" of Alice, and succeed partially. Expelled ghosts tried to enter the sorceress, but failed miserably as she deflected them with ease. Unfortunately for Grzegoż, she seen from where those ghosts came and assumed it was an attack, promptly freezing everyone around bind magickly Grzegoż and took him to her tower.

The sorceress

She lives in the town my group is now currently. She is only important mage in that town. She is super powerful, cracking entire city in half would be big problem. She is a little bitchy but generally calm and not very caring (until she's atacked of course). Her main area of expertise is ground magic, general arcane stuff and everything that could arise from being half medusa. She also helped my group quite considerable 2 sessions before and offered some more help in exchange of some adventuring favors.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jul 20, 2021 at 22:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there a reason that the sorceress didn't just ask Grzegoż whether he had anything to do with the ghosts, and for him to just honestly say "No" ? Why was Grzegoż the one be taken away specifically instead of Bob or Alice? I'm unclear on why he's the one being punished. \$\endgroup\$
    – Frezak
    Jul 20, 2021 at 23:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Frezak the sorceress only known about ritual and that something shot from it on her, nothing about ghosts really. This action of getting Grzegoż was out of her anger, not super well thought (also mine anger little bit). \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2021 at 1:36
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Hey y'all. Please don't submit idea generation answers. This is a solid question that can be answered by those who have done or seen similar things done and can talk about that experience. If you can't do that, please don't answer so we can keep questions like these open. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Jul 21, 2021 at 2:30

3 Answers 3


There's an easy way and a hard way out of this.

They're both the same way, mostly. The easy way is to understand enough about Dungeon World to get out of the jam you're in right now. The hard way is to understand enough about Dungeon World to see how you might have avoided the jam in the first place.

So let's start with the easy way.

"You can't use weakness as a weapon!" "It's the only one I've got."

You're familiar with the basic move Parley, right? "When you have leverage on a GM character and manipulate them, roll +CHA"? Your bard has leverage in this scenario.

If that sounds ridiculous to you, then you're thinking about leverage as its standard meaning, some sort of advantage or strength. But in the trigger of the move Parley, leverage is a game term, as explained in the moves discussion. "You know you're using parley when you're trying to get someone to do something for you by holding a promise or threat over them. [...] On a 7+ they ask you for something related to whatever leverage you have." Leverage is a reason for an NPC to ask something of a PC.

The earth mage has worked with your party before and was planning to do so again. It seems to me like what she'd value a lot is an explanation. "I promise I didn't mean for that to happen!" is leverage. And what does an experienced mage ask of someone who didn't do something on purpose? Well, one interesting thing to ask them is to learn.

You can impose a bit of a "magician's force" on the bard here, doing the same thing but having it mean something different depending on how well the parley goes.

As you've been talking, she's been splitting her attention between you and some sort of slimy concoction. Seemingly satisfied with your explanation and her progress, she pours the whole thing over her hand, then grabs your upper arm. The feeling of moisture quickly fades, and when she releases there's an intricate mark on your skin. Feels a bit stiff, maybe? She explains: "That's a spirit funnel. Any spirit you free with magic is going to inhabit you--"

10+. "--unless you give it some other path. But it's not complete yet. Promise me you'll learn enough about the spirit arts to finish it - or, heck, dispel the whole thing - before you go meddling with spirits again."

7-9. "--unless you give it some other path. You'll need to learn enough about the spirit arts to prepare an appropriate vessel before you go meddling with spirits again."

6-. "--no matter what. You'll need to learn enough about the spirit arts to dispel this or build a stronger one before you go meddling with spirits again."

The principle here is that you look at the fiction you have set up already and see if there's a move that will progress things, before resorting to doing your own narration. That's the fundamental principle of moves, after all: "to do it, do it; if you do it, you do it." To make a player move the fiction has to fit; when the fiction fits, the player move will give you a solid path to what happens next.

That said, quite a few things about this writeup were concerning, so while the actual hard way is going to involve a lot of practice and reflection and getting into jams on your part, let me share some

Notes from the Hard Way

One of my players (let's call him Bob) had a quarrel with a stablemen about quality of horses. That's not actually a thing that's supposed to happen if you're following the rules. If you want to spend coin and obtain goods and services, that's the Supply move, from that earlier list of basic moves:

When you go to buy something with gold on hand, if it's something readily available in the settlement you're in, you can buy it at market price. If it's something special, beyond what's usually available here, or non-mundane, roll+Cha [...]

You pay market price or abide by the results of the roll, as appropriate. You can't narrate yourself into a discount, in much the same way as you can't narrate yourself out of getting counterattacked when you roll an 8 on a Hack and Slash. And you get what you pay for, because the GM is telling you the truth when they tell you the requirements and then ask.

Meanwhile, the third player (lets call him Grzegoż, he's that guy who messed up), is closing to this stable from entirely different direction knowing nothing about quarrel and curse. Dungeon World isn't a game that functions well when the PCs keep secrets from each other. (Except the Thief's alignment.) Everybody's at the same table hearing each other plot and plan. Though if your bard knew they had a choice other than getting duped by their own party members and went along with it anyway, more power to them.

First time went poorly, on a second try Dungeon World isn't a game that functions well when the PCs just get a second try. "Don't make them roll for the same thing twice" may have been formalized by the successor engine, Blades in the Dark, but it's excellent advice for a Dungeon World GM as well. If a 6- comes up that's your chance as the GM to progress the narrative the way you want it, and by definition if things progress then the same old way forward isn't going to work anymore.

and in some kind a flash of genius she pointed at the sorceress. Ghosts had no choice But she had a choice. Tell them the requirements or consequences and then ask. If the earth mage has helped the party in the past and is likely to help them again in the future, that's something Alice knows. Is Alice the sort of person who vomits ghosts all over somebody who might be an asset? Maybe she is, but if there's a chance she isn't, you should give her a chance not to be.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for some insights, I think using parley to decide how big of a price bard will need to pay would work. Would it make sense to not giving negatives on 6- but some thing "less positive" instead? On the "hard way" part though. I don't think it could be applied in our game, as we all are quite lenient with rules and how the game rolls. For now it worked pretty well and folks seams to be enjoying games, so no need to change that I suppose. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2021 at 13:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Guywithjewels'names On a 6- you the GM do what you want, but you have to make a move that follows. If you've set up a scenario where the PCs have something to lose, and they get the worst possible result but they don't lose anything, that doesn't really follow, does it? On the other hand, if the PCs are in a scenario that's all upside, like they did a dangerous job and took some danger to the face but now they're just negotiating payment, then a 6- is fine to just be "less upside" - they still get paid but it's in bulky trade goods or letters of credit from a distant guild. \$\endgroup\$
    – Glazius
    Jul 21, 2021 at 21:55

The Sorceress can investigate.

It is possible and probable that the bard is not capable of commanding ghosts like you described. The bard might not have the proper spells, and only Alice is mentioned as being able to talk to spirits. Assuming that the bard doesn't also have those abilities a cursory investigation will reveal that the bard is not the most likely suspect.

Group punishment

While the Sorceress can't know for sure who did the attack, she knows it is likely someone in the party. To offset this she might ask for an adventuring favor like she has asked for before. Now it is a group punishment, and you are actually punishing the person that did the crime.

The Bard can investigate

Once the bard has cleared his name he might be able to point the finger at the person who actually did the crime. then no punishment is needed for the bard and the sorceress might reward the bard.


Seems like the perfect opportunity to launch a new adventure because the other players have to go to her tower and negotiate his release. Maybe pay a big fee or go on a mission for her. Whatever you choose. They smooth things over with her but it will cost them.

Maybe the offender has to give up something magical in exchange for their release.

Work it out so the player isn't sitting at the table doing nothing except while the others are negotiating his release. The character can post "bond" to go on the quest of her choice with the others.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Paying a fee or giving her anything magical (if he had anything in a first place) would be punishing player, as he would lose some of his hard-earned stuff. Team also has one quest from her already. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2021 at 1:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ If anything done to the character as punishment is viewed as done to the player then I don't see how you could do one but not the other. My solution allows the player to keep playing the character but the character pays a price. Also a bond gets returned when the task is completed. This ensures the character will complete the task and not just run away because they are invested in the task and it's completion so they can get their bond back. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 21, 2021 at 2:36

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