[RPG] How would failing to avoid an avalanche play out in Dungeon World


I haven't played Dungeon World (or any other PbtA game) yet, but from listening to Friends at the Table and reading the DW book I'm a huge fan of the system and am trying my best to organize a game soon.

I just had a really frustrating situation in my D&D game, and I'm trying to figure out in my head how it would have played out differently in Dungeon World. Basically, this is what happened:

The party was walking along a snowy path when suddenly there was an avalanche. Myself and another PC failed our Dexterity checks and got buried in the snow. The DM put us into initiative.

  • On my turn I failed a Constitution saving throw to avoid damage and failed a Strength check to try and dig myself out.
  • My allies failed investigation checks to try and find me
  • On my turn I failed both my rolls again
  • My allies failed checks to try and find me again
  • On my turn I failed both my rolls again
  • Finally one of my allies dug me out, one failed CON save from being knocked out.

All this took about 20 minutes to play out, and the only thing I got to do was roll, fail, wait 5 minutes, roll, fail again, wait 5 minute, roll, fail again, etc. It's the dreaded "you fail and nothing happens" that is my least favorite part of D&D and seems to be one problem that's solved by the fact that failure, in Dungeon World, should fundamentally change the fictional situation.

This is how I would imagine this circumstance would start in Dungeon World:

GM: "You hear a rumbling above and notice snow starting to fall from
the edge of the cliff. What do you do?"

Me: "I try to press myself up against the edge of the cliff face so
the falling snow goes over my head."

GM: "Make a 'Defy Danger +DEX' roll"

I roll a failure.

At this point, I'm not really sure. None of the GM moves really seem to map to "Bury the player in the avalanche" which makes sense to me intuitively since it's not really a situation that the player can narratively recover from in an interesting way (hence my frustration when it happened). However, getting buried by snow because I failed to react in time to the avalanche does seem like something that would naturally follow from the fiction.

Dungeon World players and GMs: how do you think a situation like this would have played out?

Best Answer

Depending on your style of gameplay there are many possibilities that could happen immediately after failing that DD+DEX. With style of play I mean are you doing a rather slow paced, fundamental type of game, something radical, over-the-top or just some middle of the road not too unrealistic but at points more awesome than realistic?

Also it always helps just looking at the GM Move list. Actually, I'm doing that right now just looking at each and thinking what would make sense. Also remember, you can always make a break for a few minutes to think about fun stuff. Somone at the table always needs to pee/fill their drink/have a smoke anyway.

Just a few examples and the associated GM Moves:

  • use a location move: the mountain you're on is the mystical mountain that is know for making whole groups disappear. Use that location move: "Swallow them whole and suck them into your crystal belly".

  • turn their move back on them: you have avoided the avalanche, but you are now stuck to the cliffside. You are inside a pouch of air that maybe lasts a few hours. What do you do? (Disclaimer: I would probably only make them stuck like that if I know that they have a means to escape like a teleportation spell, maybe even by spending resources like a spell scroll)

  • offer an opportunity, with or without cost: you are being carried away by the avalanche! If you ditch your whole backpack right now, you might be able to pull yourself into that hollow treestump that is being carried around right next to you!

  • show a downside to their class, race or equipment, tell them the requirements and ask: your heavy plate armour is quickly pulling you down. You feel the weight of your shield being pulled at by the snow. The shield... The shield? The shield! If you ditch your heavy, gold-laden backpack now, you might be able to find your inner grace, get up on that shield and ride that avalanche to glory!

  • use up their resources: you are caught by the avalanche, quickly losing consciousness. Take 5 damage. (Dramatic Pause) Take 5 damage. (Dramatic Pause) Take 5 damage. (Dramatic Pause) You open your eyes. A shiver running down your spine. Candlelight. A steaming cup of tea to your side. The local inkeeper found you almost frozen, lying right in front of his mountain inn's door two weeks ago, when the avalanche swept you down. He and his beautiful granddaughter have been nursing you. You owe them your life, and surely a lot of expenses for medicine.

Also, always remember GM moves can also happen off-screen:

  • reveal an unwelcome truth: you avoid the avalance under the shelter of the cliff. However, digging out cost you valuable time. That orc party you were stalking is now long gone and their tracks erased. What do you do?