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Norden World: What the Wise Women Have Taught You

With Rob Donoghue lately talking about Dungeon World (like his well-founded criticisms of Volley and thoughts on Discern Realities), my attention is turned back to my “Norden World” hack, particularly how I reframe Spout Lore:

When you recall the knowledge that the Wise Women have taught you, roll +Int.

  • On a 10+, the GM will tell you something interesting and useful about the subject relevant to your situation.
  • One a 7–9, the GM will only tell you something interesting—it’s on you to make it useful.

You recall the Wise Women’s wisdom any time you want to search your memory for knowledge or facts about something. You take a moment to ponder the things you know about the Dark Woods or the beings of Myth and then reveal that knowledge.

The facts you remember might be filtered in parable or coated with warning of taboo, but the Wise Women foresaw that you would need to know this one day. on a 10+, the GM shows you how those facts can be immediately useful, on a 7–9 they’re just facts.

The GM may also ask you or other characters related questions, such as “What warnings did the Wise Women give about this?” Answer truthfully, lest you shame yourselves and the Wise Women.

On a miss, the GM’s move might involve the time you take thinking, or being distracted by emotions dredged up. The GM may ask you questions about how your past haunts you. It’s also a great chance to reveal an unwelcome truth or curios that don’t seem relevant in the moment.

Why This Reframe

The Norden World framework starts with “You fled your home to avoid being trapped in eternal ice and snow. Now go forth and free your loved ones.” Because of that, I wanted a move that constantly reminded you of the community that you lost, and having all of your wisdom come from your past is my tweak to Spout Lore to make that happen. The words you’ll say every time conjure a sense of “and I owe others for the knowledge” rather than “look at all this lore I know!”

When I ran the one game, this had the impact I was hoping, but even then it was more successful than I anticipated once I started using the misses as emotional leverage. It was that very emotional leverage element that made Norden World click in my mind. Putting Mythender into a purer sword & sorcery vibe means that I want it to taste of regret and loss. The Wise Women of your town have prepared you for the day that you can save them and all of your people. Maybe it’s the throughline in an adventure to save your people. Or maybe you abandon your people to their fate, but you cannot escape that because you cannot escape the thoughts of Wise Women. Either way, I think it’s hot stuff.

This came from John Harper’s Wildlings, and asking “What did the Wise Women tell you about X?” was my GM technique for pushing the game forward and introducing dread while not being the one whose words stung the fiction. It was super effective, so it’s a trick I keep in my pocket.

Split Reframings

What this also brings to mind: imagine a game where this was my Spout Lore move, and your Spout Lore move in the same game was the original. We’re functionally doing the same thing, but what it means for us to and the language we and the GM use around each is so strikingly different that, well, that’s interesting to me. It’s making me think about how split reframings are a powerful tool that we rarely use, mostly because they can easily be done in ways that add too much work to the game.

– Ryan Image: Die Helden und Götter des Nordens, oder Das Buch der sagen. G. Gropius.

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2 Responses to Norden World: What the Wise Women Have Taught You

  1. blackcoat says:

    The split reframings is actually I think my biggest problem with Sixth World (which I REALLY want to actually play at some point). Because each class reframes one of the moves to work with their class specific attribute (also a little weird) it means that, while each class feels like they do their thing differently. As an example, the Ex-cop has an advanced move which is that they can try and push using +Shield instead of +Rep. There are two sides to this coin. The first is why bother having Rep if you’re an Ex-cop (there are other moves aside from that which use +Shield, which make it an even better investment). This is bad as it leads to somewhat boring chargen. The other side (good side) is that it leads to different fictional outcomes between the Ex-cop and the Face (who uses their own attribute, Style) trying to talk their way past a bouncer, say.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      I don’t have any experience with Sixth World, but it sounds like you’re not talking about purely narrative reframing, but mechanical redesign. I’m intentionally not treading that ground here.

      – Ryan