So, in Dungeon World, I've been trying to trigger Spout Lore and Discern Realities more as those moves seem to fit my character (a Druid) well. However, my efforts at triggering both of those moves fall rather flat:

  • With Spout Lore, I tend to wind up trying to provoke it by well, having my character spout lore, but what happens is that my character winds up saying their piece in order to trigger the move, leaving nothing for the move to act on.
  • With Discern Realities, I find myself trying to trigger it by asking questions of the GM about the world, but I get the sense that I'm asking the wrong questions: what I ask winds up concerning low-level details, if you will, of the in-character environment, while leaving the move's built-in, higher-level questioning to after the move. However, this leaves the triggering questions, the IC narrative points, unanswered, and also doesn't convey clearly that my character's trying to Discern Realities vs. just the reality in front of them at the moment.

Should I be looking to different approaches when trying to trigger these moves?


4 Answers 4


Neither of those are the moves' triggers, so not triggering makes sense. It sounds like the problem generally has been that you're trying to do the title and result of the move instead of its trigger. Focus on the trigger instead, and the moves will more reliably trigger.

Discern Realities isn't triggered by asking the GM questions, it's triggered “[w]hen you closely study a situation or person”. So instead, have your character investigate, peer, and otherwise attempt to discern what reality is by closely studying something or someone. Save the questions for after the move has triggered and the group is resolving it.

Similarly, Spout Lore isn't triggered by declaring facts and spouting lore. That happens after! Spout Lore is triggered “[w]hen you consult your accumulated knowledge about something”. Consult first, patiently let move trigger, then spout. So have your character wrack their brains, declare “I studied this for my thesis!”, ponder deeply with chin on fist while sitting upon a rock, dig in their scroll notes, and otherwise consult your existing knowledge through explicit player narration. Then let the move trigger, and then the spouting happens.


One option I'd suggest is to ask the GM during play after your narration doesn't trigger the desired move. "I'm trying to trigger Discern Realities here; what kind of action would help do that?" This way you get a feel for what your particular GM thinks is necessary to trigger the move and might even help remind him to look for it, in case he just missed it. As all the players (including the GM) get familiar with each-other and the preferred style of play, these kinds of 'rules' questions should become less necessary. Still, even if you've been playing together a while, the GM has a lot to keep track of and sometimes it's nice to have an explicit reminder of trigger conditions to ease the burden on the GM while parsing your narrative, as they're progressing the fiction mentally while also watching for moves and likely thinking about possible consequences.

This 'breaks immersion' in a sense, but Dungeon World runs just fine with fluid shifting between in-character and 'meta' discussion. It's okay to acknowledge that we're playing a game together and to talk about the game in parallel with playing it. This makes things better for everybody, as latent frustrations can get voiced and addressed rather than stewing and having indirect effects in play.


The answer by SevenSidedDie is absolutely correct. Let me just add that you should try to only look at the moves "out of the corner of your eye" and concentrate on just being a Druid. Ask yourself, "How would a Druid try to understand this situation? How would a Druid fit this into his/her world-view? What would make sense to a person who deeply understands the natural world, plants, animals, and their environments?"


Say "I want to Spout Lore" or "I want to Discern Realities".

Maybe not exactly that, but do actually say the names of the moves you're trying to make. Dungeon World can get on just fine if you have no idea what move you want to make, and just say what your character is doing, and let your GM figure out how to turn that into a move if it's necessary. But when you do know what move you want to make by the results it's going to have - when you want the GM to tell you something interesting if not useful, when you want an answer to at least one of the Discern Realities questions, when you want to wade into combat and hit and get hit, say the name of the move. Don't just leave it for the GM to guess.

But I'm not supposed to speak the name of my move!

What? No. That's wrong. Who told you that? They're wrong. That's only for when you're the GM, and you're not the GM. ...at least, I hope you're not the GM waiting for your players to give you the okay to make player moves, because nobody's playing that game right.

GM moves and player moves are not even remotely the same things. They serve the same function in the overall conversation of play - that is, a player generally finishes "talking" by making a player move and letting the GM respond, and a GM will finish "talking" with a GM move and prompt for a player response. But their actual construction is worlds apart, to the point that many later Apocalypse Engine games call the GM's moves something else, like "cuts" or "reactions".

GM moves are prompts to move the plot forward - separate them, put someone in a spot, use up their resources. GMs don't say the names of those moves when they use them because nothing on the players' side cares about the specific move the GM just used. Players care about how the plot is going forward, and mentioning a specific GM move is only going to confuse the issue of what's actually happening in the plot.

Player moves, on the other hand, are subject to the "you do it = you do it" equality, such that you can't make a player move without the character taking the actions that trigger it, and you can't narrate yourself into the results of a player move without actually making it. The GM can say whatever the GM wants, though for the sake of proper sportsmanship there are things the GM shouldn't say, but everybody at the table has to be cool with the stakes at hand when a player makes a player move.

And it's pretty difficult to get agreement on something if one side doesn't get to say what they actually want. Players, name your moves.

Surely that's not all I have to say.

No, it's not. And don't call me Shirley. If you come across a battle site in a forest clearing, weapons strewn everywhere, trees gouged, grass trampled, but no bodies, and you want to Spout Lore or Discern Realities about it, you might say something like:

This is my native soil so I'd know who fights over it, right? I have a look at one of the swords, see if I can remember anything about who it belongs to. That's spouting lore, right?


I'm going to Discern Realities, check the ground all around for traces of passage, see if I can work out where all the bodies have gone off to. That's "what happened here recently?", right?

I mean, I'm assuming you have an idea of what lore you want to spout or what question you want to ask when you're deciding you want to make those moves, and some idea of the fiction that will get you there. If you don't have an idea about the fiction, open with the move results you want to get and ask for ideas. The GM's there to be a fan of the players, and that doesn't mean "be a fan of how adorable the players are when they bumble around cluelessly".

Now, that doesn't mean you're going to get to pitch the dice and make the move. It could be that the GM can't come up with anything useful to tell you about the weapons:

Nah, these are pretty standard dwarven make, and you know how picky dwarves are about their buyers. You could learn something about the combatants from examining the battle's aftermath, but that'd be more Discern Realities.

(We're assuming that this is not new information and it's already been established that dwarves love making weapons but don't care much about how anybody uses the weapons, as long as it's a good way away from the dwarves.)

Or it could be that there's something else going on here:

Well, one thing that happened here recently is that somebody stayed behind to shut up any busybodies who came nosing around. Do roll +wis, to see if you spotted them up in the trees before they got the drop on you.

Which is why you shouldn't assert that you do make the move as much as ask if you can make the move. But by all means, name the move.

  • \$\begingroup\$ While it's okay to discuss moves and mechanics during play, I think it's a good idea to encourage not always explicitly calling out the desired move. Explicit call-outs cultivate a sense of constraint where players think "okay, what move do I want to make now?" Sometimes that's helpful as inspiration for what to do, but there's quite a lot of gameplay and storytelling that can happen without triggering player moves at all. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan Bryant
    Commented Jan 11, 2019 at 14:42

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