The tool is this simple acronym: WRITE
- Warn them
- Rob them
- Injure them
- Twist the outcome
Introduce new things to worry about or make distant worries more present. Reveal unwelcome truths. Let them know what’s about to happen, or what’s happening in the nearby or far away.
This move is one of the most important because it’s the one you use to create narrative flow and make sure players don’t feel cheated. When they later get completely obliterated by dracula’s moon laser, it’s ok because you warned them.
“In the distance you hear the rumbling sound of many feet and warcries. A warband headed this way, to be sure.”
“A bullet ricochets off the wall inches from your head, wherever it came from, the second one probably won’t miss.”
“A smirk fills the councilman’s eyes. He’s not afraid of you anymore.”
Take away or destroy the things their characters care about. Equipment gets broken, dropped, used up, or left behind. Hurt, kill, or kidnap their companions.
This move is valuable for making risks and consequences that feel real and grounded without always falling back on the threat of potential injury and death. It’s what powers resource management based games and it reminds the players that even superheroes need to eat.
“The kobold deftly disarms you and your sword clatters into the chasm below.”
“The torch gutters out and someone’s belly grumbles in the cold dark, though it could have been anyone’s.”
“The others squeeze through the gap without trouble but there’s no way your plate mail is making it through.”
Bruise them, bleed them, break their bones. Take their lives or whatever made their lives worth living.
This is the simplest move, the classic. Use it to make a point. This is a thing that can kill you. When hitpoints drop players sit up and take notice.
“The ogre reaches through your hail of arrows, grabs your arm, and rips it off.”
“The sweltering sun beats down on you as you travel without respite. Your skin burns and your blood boils in your head.”
“You’re only barely still standing with the poison seeping through your veins and so you don’t notice the kobold trip wire at the top of the stairs. The tumble is all it takes to rob you of that last inch of life.”
Twist The Outcome
Give them what they want but with a cost or twist. Show their actions affecting much more or much less than they had intended. Turn their move back on them. Have success look different to what was assumed.
This move is super useful for adjusting the pacing of things as well as making players think about possible fictional outcomes of their actions.
“The fireball explodes on the mummy and fills the entire chamber with flames. The sacred scrolls nearby start to smoulder as embers pock their pages.”
“You break down the door before hearing the groaning of the stones above as they tumble down with the wall collapsing into a giant pile of rubble.”
“The necromancer recognises your holy symbol and is struck silent. As his minions flee he drops to his knees, begging for his life.”
Make the situation worse. Separate the party. Put someone in a tricky spot. Bring in backup. Turn the floor into lava.
This move is incredibly versatile, especially in tandem with Twist The Outcome, and drives a lot of narrative. Use it to ramp things up, move things forward, and never look back.
“As you stop to catch your breath over the corpse of the man you used to trust, the entire house shakes and then lurches as it’s lifted into the sky by nazi helicopters.”
“One of the bandits reaches out and grabs your companion, pulling them close with a knife at their neck. They start to retreat with their hostage.”
“Bullets slice through the air around your jeep as the mercenaries fire from their bikes. One gets lucky and gas starts spraying from the engine bay and it’s only a second before the hood is blazing.”