Whenever a player makes a skill check, and doesn't quite cut it - choose one of the options below to help you discern what consequences their failure has. Remember you're failing forward, so you should always give them some form of limited success to go along with it. If you need more guidance check out the Failing Forward section of the 13th Age core rulebook (p42.) Here's a list of handy options:
It sure is getting dangerous! - Their actions cause their enemies to react, this could very well be a slow burner.
You'll be surprised to know.. - The players learn something that they didn't want to know / a terrible truth is revealed to them.
Something wicked this way comes.. - The players become acutely aware of how danger much they are soon to be in.
That Hurt! - Whatever they did, really hurt.
Im almost out! - Their actions waste some of their resources, mundane or magical - perhaps even recoveries.
That didn't work out as I planned.. - Whatever they accomplished backfired somehow, perhaps not right away either.
Where is everybody? - They are separated from their companions or something they need.
Don't worry I can do this! - The player is presented with an opportunity, one that can't possibly go wrong....
I think I may be out of my league.. - Complications arise that they aren't the best suited for.
Why me? - The player is singled out in some way.
Sometimes a characters' actions can impact specifically on the environment they are in, or it makes more sense to have their surroundings react to their 'failure'. Some of these overlap with the above, but they can quite happily be used as Regular Consequences and vice versa. I've partitioned them off for simplicity and to follow suit with DW.
Look out! - The environment changes somehow - rolling boulders, triggered traps you get the idea.
Did you hear that? - Some sign or clue that something bad may be lurking nearby.
What are they doing here? - Another faction or group gets involved.
We've been here before.. - The players actions force them to backtrack somehow.
Oooh! Shiny! - Present some form of reward, preferable highly desirable with a heavy cost!
I think I can make it! - Challenge one of the players with something they're good at.
The Snowball Effect
Sometimes these consequences can call for a player to make more rolls, and in turn more consequences, this is what we want - to propel the story forward, just go with it! Just try and keep the spotlight moving around the table and involve other people. After all the players are all in it together (whether they like it or not!)
Hard or Soft?If you familiar with DW you may be thinking, where are the hard and soft moves? For those not familiar i'll quickly explain. Each of Dungeons World's moves are executed in two ways - Hard and Soft, Soft being the setup and Hard the follow through. Look at the examples below, we'll use my consequence 'It's sure getting dangerous!'
'The ogre brings his giant club down in a wide arc, aiming to smash your skull in..'
Thats a soft move or the setup - the danger is presented and the players are have an opportunity to react, lets look at the same thing but presented as a hard move.
'The ogre brings his giant club down smashing into you with full force, take 7 damage!'
The hard move tells the same story, but give the follow-through and crucially its more punishing - the player doesn't get to react and also takes some damage.
So bear this in mind when creating consequences, some should be Soft and some should be Hard - both further the narrative but some will offer the players more opportunities to react, others will show them the direct consequences of their actions. It works nicely by following a soft consequence with a hard one, going straight to the hard can leave players feeling powerless - and likewise never giving them the hard option can leave them feeling unthreatened.
Wrapping UpA lot of what i've covered here is pretty much standard practice for most GM's, I know it was for me - just that seeing it presented in such a way really blew my mind. Its all stuff that I do every time i'm behind the screen - but having a nice list to get the sparks in my brain going really has helped reduced the moments when i draw a blank, and turned the mundane into the exciting, every time!
So thats it, hopefully a fair to bit to think about and mull over, i'll probably be back on this topic soon - until then.. Happy Gaming!