[pbta] On "never speaking your move's name"

I struggle with this principle. Under typical circumstances it makes total sense (I want to begin and end with the fiction.) I can agree fully with "usually don't speak your move's name." But sometimes it's really helpful to provide a hint of the mechanical structure.

Especially when teaching the game, It feels important to create some transparency about what I'm doing as a GM, and always occluding the moves I make clouds that transparency. I want to be accountable to the rules of the game, and it's hard for that accountability to exist if the other players aren't sure why I'm saying what I'm saying, or by what rule I've been empowered to say it.

As a player, I like sometimes seeing behind the curtain. Too much consciousness of the structure is toxic, but just a glimpse here and there makes it feel more real somehow.

So: anybody else out there occasionally speaking their moves' names? Why do you do it? Why should or shouldn't I be doing it? Why do I like hearing the moves' names spoken sometimes?

Comments

  • Go ahead and do it if it will aid in understanding, illustrate your intention or make the game more fun. I think you should predicate play on love and trust, which somewhat obviates your concerns about accountability, but if it makes sense to explain what you are doing occasionally there's no harm in that.
  • Yeah, it's fine to mention the game mechanics you're using when you're using them. It's not that big a deal.
  • Yeah, it's fine to mention the game mechanics you're using when you're using them. It's not that big a deal.
    I think this is something that a lot of players initially don't realize about PbtA games (I'm thinking of the recent Dungeon World discussion in particular). While all of the rules are in the book for a reason, they aren't nearly as rigid as you might be used to.

    For example: If you came up for a really awesome name for your barbarian that isn't listed on the character sheet, go ahead and use it. You won't break anything.

    The Principles are closer to the core of the game, but they can still be drifted or hacked.

    Not speaking the name of your move helps you as the MC focus on the fiction (which, remember, is where the effect of the MC moves actually happens). Speaking the name is like hanging a lampshade on a trope, calling attention to it. And you do risk letting the concrete details of the fiction slip away from you.

    But sometimes hanging a lampshade the effect you want. It's drift but it won't break the game because (as can be seen from all the hacks) the core of the game is pretty robust.
  • The only time I really see value in speaking the name of a GM move is when teaching the game - and mostly, actually, when teaching someone to GM the game. Which... isn't something I see very often. I agree with Jason that mostly, there should be trust here and people shouldn't need to play some sort of weird "Was that on the GM move list?!" game. Especially since the GM move list encompasses such a vast amount of stuff.
  • Agree with what's been said. I don't have any anxiety about "doing it right" here, mostly curious about the desire to occasionally see/reveal the mechanical structure and whether others experience something similar.

    Re: trust and love: I totally agree and most of my play happens in a trusting, loving context. But my experience with gaming and relationships more broadly tells me that accountability is an enabler of trust. No one is worthy of trust 100% of the time. When I fall short of my principles as a GM, I find it valuable to be able to point to what I did and how I fell short. When my players know that I'm accountable to those rules, trust is easy.
  • I can see a merit in it, as something to build trust in the game and system. Sometimes it just seems redundant, though.

    "So I'm separating the party now"

    "So I'm giving an opportunity with cost"

    And the one thing I'd look out for is whether you're causing your players to think of the situation in terms of GM moves. "Okay, so how do I deal with their 'separate the party' move?" when it should be "Okay, so how do I deal with this river of magma?"
  • Absolutely. I think speaking the name something like once per hundred moves generates the level of system-consciousness I'm looking for.
  • Great discussion! I kind of like the idea of saying, for instance, "On a 6-, you fail and/or something goes wrong in some way. Sometimes it might be an obvious, immediate issue, like falling into a pit, but other times it will be more subtle." That gets players used to the idea that, when you as GM are mechanically empowered to sort of "get them in trouble" as it were, that trouble may take a variety of forms.

    I should also mention, when I first played AW, I had the book and had read the GM's section, so I could tell when the GM was doing which moves (more or less), but I did appreciate the "veil of fiction."
  • Great discussion! I kind of like the idea of saying, for instance, "On a 6-, you fail and/or something goes wrong in some way. Sometimes it might be an obvious, immediate issue, like falling into a pit, but other times it will be more subtle." That gets players used to the idea that, when you as GM are mechanically empowered to sort of "get them in trouble" as it were, that trouble may take a variety of forms.

    I should also mention, when I first played AW, I had the book and had read the GM's section, so I could tell when the GM was doing which moves (more or less), but I did appreciate the "veil of fiction."
    This is definitely what I do upfront. I outline the three basic outcomes so they understand that 6- means bad things.
  • Yeah, I tend to explain the rolls as "On a 10+ you do it really well, no problems; on a 7-9 you get part of what you want, but maybe not all of it, or there's a complication; and on a 6 or less, I get to kick your character in the nuts as hard as I want."

    Of course, "as hard as I want" isn't always the same as "as hard as I can". ;)

    I also occasionally pull the veil back and explain a little about the MC-side stuff (usually more explaining that I get to pick a thing, but I don't usually do more than hint at what that thing might be during play), but I tend to also enjoy discussing my GMing techniques in other games too.
  • edited September 2015
    mostly curious about the desire to occasionally see/reveal the mechanical structure and whether others experience something similar.
    Not me! Not if I have my way, anyway. In fiction-focused play, I much prefer to pretend that fictional forces are the causal agents for everything that happens within the fiction. In that context, being reminded at any point that a real human at this game table is making this fiction go (whether via rules or principles or otherwise) is unwelcome.

    Of course, if the players in such a game do not view causes they can't see (as is often the case in AW) as fiction-based, and instead view them as "GM making stuff up", then there's nothing to lose by revealing the gameplay hows and whys of the GM's actions. But that certainly isn't my preferred play group.
  • There's also the risk of dedicating pointless attention (and possibly discussion) to the unimportant matter of what in the list are the GM's moves.
    If an unsuccessful fight in DW leaves two halves of the PC party deep underground on opposite sides of a deep crevice, am I separating the party or offering them a dangerous opportunity to cross over? What move it is if, after some loitering on the players' part, I decide that monsters appear to be climbing up the walls of the crevice to add some pressure? It doesn't matter, I'm just offering the PCs a fair and appropriate amount of adventurous trouble.
  • Building on the last two points, the GM moves are basically a fairly comprehensive list of ways that you can introduce consequences into the fiction to make things worse for the players. It mostly doesn't spell out exactly how the player failing a move causes the effect and leaves it up to the MC, though some player moves have strong suggestions for that.
  • Yes, it's rare that in a game that's moving well, that the GM will have to simply introduce something new ex nihilo.
  • In most games it's not that rigid, PBTA games are just normal RPGs.
  • edited September 2015
    I was thinking about this one the other day. In most PBTA games it makes sense in that it's supposed to push you away from "I attack" and "I Discern Realities" style play and put the fiction first, but in hacks with more evocative move names, this is difficult.

    For example, Spirit of 77. The moves are perfectly named and evocative of actual lines of dialog that would fit the genre, to the point where players would have to go into verbal gymnastics to never actually say the name of the moves. Deliver a Beatdown (melee), Smoke His Ass (ranged), Keep Your Cool (avoid danger) and the like. It's odd because even if the players name their moves they're still staying within genre because the move names are so perfectly in genre.
  • edited September 2015
    Well, that rule is really more for the GMs than for the players.
  • ...although I would argue it's often a good rule for players, too.

    Otherwise it's easy to get into the habit of naming a move and rolling without actually saying what your character is doing.
  • This all sounds like cowboys and Indians :)
    Like worrying about someone piping up about the fiction vs the rules.
    Back to trust and having fun and taking a loss maybe.

  • Whatever helps the understanding of the game and the sense of fun.
    My group are still getting used to the language of things like hard moves, so announcing that I'm banking a hard move for later has a great ripple of fear in the group. Anything might have been it. If I make a move it's not something I'll tell them is specifically a move but as they're getting more conversant in the system they're learning.
  • Heh, just started reading Apocalypse World itself. Vincent is very clear about not using a GM move's name. Only his particular principle is "make your move, and misdirect". Attribute a fictional cause to your move. Because ultimately it's about creating a story, not about generating meta-responses to mechanical outcomes. And sure, you are generating meta-responses (GM moves), but that's not the point of what you're doing.

    So when you make a move, you always come back to the fiction, and speaking the name of the move interferes with that.
  • So when you make a move, you always come back to the fiction, and speaking the name of the move interferes with that.
    I suspect that the answer to most PbtA rules questions is "follow the fiction".

    I know it is kind of cliche, but this reminded me that looking at how Apocalypse World phrased something (vs Dungeon World, etc.) is often illustrative. Vincent clearly put a lot of effort into nailing down exactly what he meant.




  • I know it is kind of cliche, but this reminded me that looking at how Apocalypse World phrased something (vs Dungeon World, etc.) is often illustrative. Vincent clearly put a lot of effort into nailing down exactly what he meant.
    I've been noticing this! To the point where I'm going "man, so many of these Dungeon World questions can be answered by a straightforward readthrough of Apocalypse World".
  • It's so funny; in many ways I think DW is better-written. OTOH I hadn't really delved into DW until after running MH, so...
  • I always pry the curtain back for the first couple GM moves of the game whenever I'm teaching the system. I point out that the 6- lets me make a GM move, show them my list, and show them what move I just made. But then never do that again.

    I'm usually dealing with players jumping in from trad systems--so when I explain what's happening on the MC's side of the curtain, I'm pointing out important differences from they games they're used to. And then when I stop, and close the curtain, and never speak the move's name again, I'm illustrating the "to do it, do it" concept.
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