As a new GM, I've had trouble thinking of ways in which Spout Lore failures (6-) can be impactful and, equally important, varied. Thus far I've come up with a few categories for things I've either done or have thought of doing:

  1. Nothing -- They simply get no relevant information on failure. (Seems boring and violates "Think Dangerously" perhaps.)

  2. Distraction/Delay -- Either they don't notice a goblin creeping up on them because of their daydreaming or that gelatinous cube has slowly rounded the corner while they sat in a stupor. (A decent option, I think as it is basically putting them in a spot, but I can't just use this same category for all of my moves in response to this.)

  3. Mystical Snares -- If a magical tome was used to aid this process and the failure still resulted, the book itself might have some ill effect to befall the character. (Reasonable, but very situational.)

  4. False Belief -- The character not only fails to get an answer but remembers something erroneous that they now believe to be true that might be harmful. This I kind of like as it is a chance for players to roleplay something interesting, however it seems to presume some kind of player action, which is probably in violation of a Dungeon World rule. This would be broadly applicable and could mix things up, but I don't know if there is a drawback that would come with bending the agency of the players.

What are appropriate consequences for failure here? And, is #4 a valid option?

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Your Option #4 is not a valid option. Page 66 of the Dungeon World rulebook says:

Just in case it isn’t clear: the answers are always true, even if the GM had to make them up on the spot. Always say what honesty demands.

Instead of giving them false information, you can give them something interesting, but not useful. "You know that Orcs like to dance in the moonlight. What do you do?"

What can you use instead? Any of your Moves. Just a few off the top of my head:

  • "Use Up Their Resources": Looks like the torch burned out while the character was thinking.
  • "Reveal an Unwelcome Truth": The player connects two previous unrelated ideas, but not in a good way. "I don't know what the monster's weakness is, but it's carrying part of the Princess's dress in it's mouth."
  • "Show Signs Of an Approaching Threat": While the player is thinking, they are interrupted by the sound of hoofbeats....
  • "Offer an Opportunity, With Or Without Cost": The players know how to defeat the monster, but they have to leave behind something important to them. (This also counts as "Put Someone in a Spot.")

The rulebook also mentions under Spout Lore that:

On a miss the GM’s move will often involve the time you take thinking.

So it's reasonable to use options like ambushes or delays.

  • 2
    This is very useful. I keep forgetting that my moves can be formed of things I hadn't previously considered, additional threats that come from simply missing a roll and not because I knew there were goblins hiding nearby AND missing a roll. However, I don't think #4 violates that rule the way you suspect. I was suggesting telling the players that the information is erroneous but the character will believe it to be true. – BlackVegetable Jan 31 '17 at 19:07
  • ...but I suppose that violates the rule where I only address the characters, not the players. Huh, different rule is broken. – BlackVegetable Jan 31 '17 at 19:10
  • I was on the fence about that myself. "Reaveal an Unwelcome Truth" could intrepreted to the players as "That the information you thought was correct is actually wrong." I would err on the side of not giving false information, though, as that seems more within the spirit of Dungeon World to me. – Discord Jan 31 '17 at 21:21
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    @BlackVegetable, I think there's some flexibility in the principle "address the characters, not the players." Dramatic irony can be fun to play with, so if there's an opportunity for an interesting misunderstanding, there's nothing wrong with telling a story with a wink. There's necessarily meta-information communicated by the fact that a miss was rolled, so might as well embrace it and play off the tension. Savvy players will know that you actually don't know what's going to happen anyway; that's why you're playing to find out. – Dan Bryant Feb 1 '17 at 1:10
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    @BlackVegetable, It's difficult to recall specifics, but I had one situation where the player rolled a miss while trying to decipher a magical interface. I said something like "you're pretty confident you know how to work this thing. In fact, you see a sequence of runes that should do exactly what you want. If you're willing to enter those runes, you can mark another XP." Yes, a shameless bribe, but it's a great way to direct the action toward a fun outcome without depriving the character of their agency. – Dan Bryant Feb 1 '17 at 1:19

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