I’m GMing a game with Isaac (playing Omar), Ben (playing Brianne), Amy (playing Nora), and Dan (playing Rath). The group has come upon a tribe of goblins preparing the ritual sacrifice of a rare and valuable albino crocodile (highly regarded as pets among the wealthy of the city).
Three of the goblin warriors—drugged on narcotic vapors—charge the fighter Brianne, shrieking. Two others take cover, prepare their bows and gesture urgently toward Rath, as they make signs to ward off the evil eye. Another group of three slips into the shadows around the outer edge of the chamber, preparing a sneak attack. The high priest and her acolyte carry on with the ritual, rubbing the croc’s upturned belly to keep it compliant, and bringing out the sacred knife to slit its throat.
Once I describe the situation I make sure the game’s a conversation by giving them a chance to do something: “So, what do you do?”
Isaac jumps into the action first. “There’s enough shadows at the edges of the chamber to hide in?” “Yeah,” I say, “the goblins aren’t much for lighting apparently. The edges of the chamber just kind of disappear into crumbling walls, rubble, and gloom.” “Great! I’m going over here, the side where the sneaky ones went. Omar glances over his shoulders, pulls up his hood over his head, and ducks into the shadows. I’m going to pop out of the shadows right here, where the torches illuminate the sacrificial altar.”
I look over the map and say “Well, there’s certainly a danger of being discovered that I think you’re defying. Sounds like Dex to me, since you’re moving carefully and silently,” so he picks up the dice and rolls. The dice show 1 and 2, plus his Dex of 2 is only 5. “Damn!” he says.
I already have an idea of what to do, but I check it against my list of moves to be sure. Sure enough, my idea to have him get his foot lodged in the rubble in the darkness is a move, “put someone in a spot.” “As you make your way through the shadows, you put your foot down on some rubble and it shifts under you, pinning your foot. What’s worse, you hear a deep raspy breath as the shifting rubble awakes something in the shadows. Are you giving away your position to cry for help or trying to get out yourself?”
“Um, I’m not sure.”
“That’s fine, we’ll come back to you. What are the rest of you doing?”
Dan steps up. “Those goblins that ducked into the shadows? Can I see them?” “Not at first glance. Are you trying to pick them out?” “No, I’m just wondering if they’ll be targets for my sleep spell. I push the winds of magic into a lulling summer breeze that fills the room.”
Dan rolls his cast a spell move to cast Sleep. He rolls 6 total on the dice, and he has +2 Int, for a total of 8. He has a choice to make. “You can feel the spell slipping away from you, the winds of magic are already all caught up in the goblin’s ritual sacrifice. There are some options on the move, which one are you taking to keep the spell?”
Dan ponders his options. “I may need to put more of these guys to sleep. Brianne, can you cover me if I get in trouble or should I take the -1 forward?”
“Sure, I can cover you,” Ben says.
“Okay, I’ll take the danger option.”
“Great,” I say. “The narcotic vapors those goblins are on? It attunes their senses: They can feel the winds of magic just a bit, and now they’re all running at you instead of Brianne. How many creatures are you putting to sleep?”
Dan rolls the die. “Looks like only 1, damn.”
“Right in the middle of some long goblin invocation the priest just drops to the floor. Her acolyte immediately starts shaking her to wake her up. Neither of them is paying much attention to the albino crocodile, which is no longer content since no one is rubbing its belly. The goblins on the fumes, though, they’re coming right at Rath.”
Ben jumps in. “I step between Rath and the crazed goblins and make myself a big target, drawing the goblin’s attention with a yell.”
“Sounds like defend,” I say.
“Okay, I rolled a 7, so I hold 1.”
“Great. The three goblins on fumes practically bowl Rath over as they slam into him, swinging their daggers wildly.”
“No they don’t!” Ben says. “I spend my hold to get into the way and direct the attack to me.”
“So Brianne steps in at the last moment, pushes Rath out of the way, and the goblins lay into her instead. Looks like 5 damage. Nora, Brianne’s got these three psychotic goblins all over her, Rath’s just put the priestess to sleep, the crocodile’s stirring, and Omar’s nowhere to be found. What are you doing?”
“First I line up a shot on one of the archer goblins, and while I’m doing that I give a little head nod and Canto heads off into the shadows, he’s trained to hunt, he’s looking for Omar to make sure he’s all right.”
I look over the ranger’s command move, to make sure I know what the effects of Canto’s search are, before responding. “Well, on his own Canto will probably find Omar in a while. If you go into the darkness with him you’ll take his bonus to your discern realities roll to find Omar. But first it sounds like you’re making a called shot?”
“Oh, the goblin archers are surprised by me? I thought I was just volleying,” Amy replies.
It’s time for me to make a call. “No, they’re entirely focused on Rath, they’re about to fire on him. I think you’ve got the element of surprise because they’re just too focused.”
“Great! Then I’ll go ahead and take a shot at the arms of the one closest to me, I want him to drop his bow. Looks like that’s +Dex… 10! He drops his bow and takes 4 damage.”
I consult the goblin’s stats first, then reply “Yup, that’ll kill him. And since you hit him dead in the arm, he doesn’t get a shot off. The other one, however, releases his shot at Rath, for 2 damage. Rath, Brianne pushes you out of the way and you think you’re safe for a split second before an arrow flies into your leg, what are you doing about it? Actually, hold that thought, let’s see what Omar’s doing.”
Isaac’s had some time to think things through now. “This deep raspy breath, can I make out where it’s coming from? Is it like a human-sized rasp or a monster-sized rasp?”
“Sounds to me like you’re trying to listen to your senses and get some information.” I’m hoping that this will remind Isaac there’s a move for this, instead of just telling him to make the move.
“Oh yeah! So I’m discerning realities, staying as quiet as I can and just trying to pick up any detail on what this thing is. With my Wisdom that’s a 7, whew. What should I be on the lookout for?”
I take a second to look over my notes and the map, just to make sure I give him all the information. “Well, not the goblins, actually. They pass by, closer to the light then you, intent on backstabbing your friends and not noticing you. The thing that you do see is the tip of this huge crocodile snout peak over a mound of rubble, with that rasping sound coming from it. It looks like the albino crocodile has family, and it’s big, horse-sized. If you make noise by moving rocks and getting unstuck it’ll almost certainly hear you. What are you doing about that?”
Isaac ponders. “So, I can try to get out of here, defying danger most likely from the sounds of it. Or… I tear off a piece of my cloak and soak it in an entire dose of my goldenroot poison. It’s an applied poison, but if I can get this huge crocodile to swallow it before it swallows me it’ll treat me as a trusted ally, and then I can use it against the goblins.”
“Okay!” That sounds like a risky plan to me, but it’s just crazy enough to work. Time to cut back to someone else. “Omar’s soaking poison into a scrap of cloak, Brianne’s got three drugged-up goblins scraping at her, Nora’s got an eye out for Omar, there are goblin sneaks in the shadows, one goblin archer by the altar, the crocodile is waking up, and Rath just took an arrow to the knee. Whew. Rath, what are you doing about that arrow?”