In an upcoming conflict (partly being a battle, but there shall be more than fighting, the time horizon will be not more than a few day in-game time) between two religions, I expect one of my PCs will want to help the 'enemy' god's army, because he is a Cleric of that god.

I thought of writing a move for that PC's player that will allow him to carry out a plan to support his deity's army during the conflict. I thought that making the move hidden might be interesting. With "hidden" I mean having the player independently carry out the move when an in-game situation permits it without announcing it or even telling the other players about the move.

To communicate the results to the GM the player would write down the result and I would incorporate it into the happenings later on, based on the plan and on the result.

The move I wrote is (slightly shortened, as I translate it to English):

Infiltrator of Your Deity

This is a hidden move. Use it on your own, when an opportunity arises. Roll for it in secret.

When you have a plan to support your deity's army in the conquest and enough time to pursue the plan (e.g. while the other players are doing something and not paying attention), roll +WIS. On 10+ you create an advantage for your deity, the GM will weave it into the story later on. On 7–9 choose 2:

  1. You need some adventuring gear to make it work
  2. It takes a lot longer than you thought
  3. The sabotage is apparent, but not that you did it
  4. You take a personal disadvantage

In a few words, write down your plan, used resources and the result on a piece of paper and hand it to the GM.

Example: You pass an unattended cannon. Your plan: plug it with some cloth and oil to make a little surprise. You roll+WIS = 8. You choose (1) and (3) and use some more cloth from your adventuring gear (1 use).

On the piece of paper you write:
"Plug cannon with oiled cloth. Roll: 8. Choice: 1 (more Cloth), 3"

As in the trivial example, a trigger for the move might be when the party walks on top of the city wall. There could be a guard they want to talk to guarding some cannons. While the others do the talking and inadvertently distract the guard, the Cleric could use the opportunity to sabotage one of the cannons.

The questions I have regarding this approach to the situation:

Do you think that this concept of Hidden Moves is appropriate for Dungeon World at all? I.e.: In other RPGs the GM often rolls in secret on stuff the players do not even know about. I feel that empowering one player in such a way could be worth a try in DW.

If so, do you think a hidden move is a good way to deal with conflicts between PCs, or would you have those conflicts be carried out openly? I.e.: Do you rather think that for roleplay and rules it would be more appropriate to carry out a conflict between PCs openly, e.g. by taking the exact move above, but making it public and thus introducing an open conflict between the intentions of the players. I can see that being interesting as well, but I fear that the players would metagame a lot and argue about how they would want to deal with things, not how their PCs would do it. Or that the other players would put pressure onto the Cleric not to support his deity.

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    Question: how are these moves being hidden? How do the players notify you of their use of the move, how do you respond with a GM move on a miss, how will these moves trigger based on fiction when nobody is talking? – SevenSidedDie Aug 7 '14 at 14:44
  • I will rephrase the question as based on both answers I did a very poor job at writing it... – iraserd Aug 7 '14 at 14:58
  • I reworked the question, what do you think about it (the question as a whole in itself, not the questions I ask) now? – iraserd Aug 7 '14 at 15:30
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    Something fundamental about DW is that players don't decide when a move trigger. The GM does. So communication will be important here. I think you should read the Battlemaster's playbook from Grim world. They have a currency they can spend to have big plans happen. – user4000 Aug 7 '14 at 16:13
  • Much clearer! Enough that I added an answer, when I was previously not considering one. :) – SevenSidedDie Aug 7 '14 at 17:21

New answer for a renewed question. The old one is here


I'd say that a hidden move is quite against the grain of *World games'idea of moves. It robs the players of their agency in determining their characters' story.

And in your case, the intra-party conflict that may occur if the infiltrator is exposed seems to be more important than whether the infiltrator will be able to commit acts of sabotage and betrayal behind their backs. I'd base the move on that and add another move for the other party members to respond.

Infiltrator

You are an agent of your deity with a secret agenda. When you commit acts of sabotage and betrayal behind your comrades' backs, mark experience, and choose one comrade that doesn't already have it to receive the "Suspicious" move immediately.

Suspicious

You are suspicious of the infiltrator's weird behavior. When the Infiltrator commits acts of sabotage and betrayal behind your back, roll+INT.

  • On a 10+, you have seen enough, but just need some more evidence. Replace this move with "Deeply Suspicious"
  • On a 7-9, you noticed something unusual. Take +1 forward to your next "Suspicious" roll, but getting there wasn't easy. Choose one:
    • You had to get into trouble to get your information and come back with 1d8 damage.
    • Information is pricey. You had to spend 2d6x20 coin to find some clues.
    • Lies are everywhere. You wrongly implicate another comrade (The infiltrator will tell you who). You cannot aid or interfere with them until the next time you roll "suspicious"

Deeply suspicious

Replaces Suspicious

Same as "Suspicious" but add these to the list of possible outcomes.

  • On a 12+ , you have enough evidence to expose and implicate the Infiltrator. Now everyone in the party knows better. You decide the fate of the traitor.
  • On a 10-11, you collect a solid piece of evidence, slowly building a strong case. Give another comrade the "Suspicious" move if they don't already have it, or replace their "Suspicious" with "Deeply suspicious"

This is based on the assumption that the infiltrator is a well known and trusted member of the party in the beginning. The first act of the infiltrator is essentially free. His or her comrades suspect nothing in the beginning and they trust the infiltrator. But then it gets harder and riskier every time.

And yes, all this can and will eventually leave the fate of the infiltrator in the hands of another player. The question is, when?

  • 2
    Alright, we had our session on sunday and I decided to hand out the custom move openly. I also gave each of the other players a custom move for the battle with a similar feeling, where the Thief had the option to work for/against both sides, the Barbarian sought bloody fights and the Ranger was clearly on the "good" side of the fight. In the end it worked pretty well that way and well. As for how it stands, both answers are really good and helpful, and the votes are even, too. So both answers should be regarded as accepted. I'm looking forward to using the infiltrator moves at some point. – iraserd Aug 18 '14 at 20:04

Dungeon World performs excellently with conflict in the open, either visible only to the players/audience, or also visible to the characters. (In Dungeon World, metagaming is often OK or even encouraged, since acting on metagame information must still go through the fiction and moves, which adds to the dynamism of the game; and often metagaming will spark difficult choices that make it less obviously the best choice, anyway.) Hidden moves aren't necessary, and the unintended consequences just might not be worthwhile if they're bringing little or no added value.

However, the game won't break, and it might add enough value to be worthwhile. It does put some of the GM's responsibilities on the players' shoulders without all the GM rules to guide them in executing those responsibilities, but as your example is written and with a group that trusts each other, it won't break anything.

It's not the hidden-ness from other players that could cause trouble—that's no different than running a solo scene in another room as far as the game is concerned. The difference is that it removes the GM and the group from the decision-making process around when moves trigger, which can have unintended consequences on the talk-move-talk feedback loop at the core of the game.

But you're right—it's a worthwhile experiment. You have a few things that are make this more likely to work out well:

  • Your sample move emphasises a clear fictional trigger, which should make most triggers uncontroversial enough that it's more-or-less safe for the player to judge the trigger alone.
  • Having the roll made in secret means a player can cheat, but it sounds like you trust the players enough that that's not an issue.
  • The result of the move is passed back to you, allowing you to take a GM move on a miss, as the game requires.

With these features of your experiment, it has a good change of turning out well, or at least providing valuable feedback. Go for it, and learn from the experience!

  • Thank you for your answer. Both options, trying the hidden move and also bringing out the conflict openly seem interesting. Maybe I will let the player start with using the hidden move, and after some time the other players will catch on to whats going on anyway, so the move will be revealed. Maybe I can even tweak the move edgerunner wrote to incorporate that change from hidden to revealed. – iraserd Aug 7 '14 at 17:42
  • Alright, we had our session on sunday and I decided to hand out the custom move openly. I also gave each of the other players a custom move for the battle with a similar feeling, where the Thief had the option to work for/against both sides, the Barbarian sought bloody fights and the Ranger was clearly on the "good" side of the fight. In the end it worked pretty well that way and well. As for how it stands, both answers are really good and helpful, and the votes are even, too. So both answers should be regarded as accepted. I'm looking forward to using the infiltrator moves at some point. – iraserd Aug 18 '14 at 20:04

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