Freebooters on the Frontier 2e Discussion

Yes, that’s the move from Urban Shadows, @jasonlutes. I’ll note that in Urban Shadows, Persuade an NPC is a move so central to the core style of play that it’s been given mechanics for interacting with the primary meta-currency of the game (Debt). So I don’t know that it’s the best example to compare against.

Apocalypse World 2e might be a better comparison:

When you try to seduce, manipulate, bluff, fast-talk, or lie to someone, tell them what you want them to do, give them a reason, and roll+hot. For NPCs: on a 10+, they’ll go along with you, unless or until some fact or action betrays the reason you gave them. On a 7–9, they’ll go along with you, but they need some concrete assurance, corroboration, or evidence first. On a miss, be prepared for the worst.

As I think about it more, I think the issue for me in running the Negotiate move is a collision between old-school, roll-based GM adjudication and the meta-structure of the PbtA move.

When you ask someone to do something that goes against their better judgement, roll…
On a 10+, they’ll do it; on a 7-9, they’ll do it, but only if you concede something meaningful in return; on a 6-, mark the ability used, and they’ll have none of it— time to try another approach.

In my Freebooters game, PCs are always trying to influence the NPCs, and I need a randomizer to help me determine the NPC response, because it could go in any number of directions. But the stakes aren’t such that the NPC would make the PC ‘concede something meaningful’, and certainly not so high that the NPC would ‘have none of it’.

So, I’m faced with a) not having any roll and deciding the NPC response based on my whimsy, b) rolling Negotiate and not having the results really make sense, or c) stepping outside the PbtA and making a 2d6 B/X reaction roll to give me perspective.

The real problem is that the PC isn’t necessarily triggering the Negotiate move, but the situation does demand some randomization. I’ll note that I play exclusively in PbP, so it’s much harder to have a quick table conversation about it.

Where I think Seduce or Manipulate from AW is successful is that it says ‘give them a reason’. With that there, my player can communicate that reason either ICly or OOCly, and it will often make it reasonably clear to me what the NPC response would be for any given result. Negotiate is a different move, and I really appreciate how it tags different attributes for different styles of Negotiating. But I’ve been running into situations where things aren’t necessarily ‘against the better judgment’ of the NPC, but the PC is asking them for something, nevertheless.


I haven’t done that for a few reasons, @jexjthomas:

  • The Thief and Fighter have check boxes on a core Basic Move that conflicts with taking an Advanced Move. This often confuses my players a little. The M-U and Cleric don’t have either the checkmarks or that same quality of meta-currency scarcity.

  • IMO, M-Us do see improvement in their Spellcasting move, when they gain new spells. Were it a campaign where their only recourse to gaining a new spell was in using the Formulate Spell or Sorcerer advanced moves, and I had a player who didn’t want to take those moves in favor of a different concept, I could see an argument for what you’re espousing. But the Inscribe move implies that most games have other recourse for new spells.

  • Similarly, while it’s not official, I perceive the Invoke move for the Cleric as increasing over time, as well. It seems to me that the degree of hubris involved in an Invocation will drift over time, in the PC’s favor. While there’s a clear design mandate to not do this (it’s the Favor that should be increasing, not the hubris lessening), I perceive it as an inevitability as the Cleric PC grows in power, forms relationships with their deity or its agents, or repeatedly Invokes that something that would have cost 4 hubris in the first two weeks of the campaign could very easily cost only 3 hubris ten weeks into the campaign.

  • Finally, both the M-U and the Cleric are getting many of their abilities from an external source. Which, in my games, will ultimately mean a personalized relationship with magic or their god that enhances play for those characters. While Thieves and Fighters have relationships and connections with NPCs like everyone else, they don’t have that externalized source of power. Their power comes from within. Consequently, it seems like that should grow, just as the relationship of the M-U and the Cleric to their power source grows.

I hope that makes sense.


Could your player’s unhappiness have to do with her expectations not matching the hardscrabble survival aspect of Freebooters?

It’s certainly possible, but we had a pretty lengthy conversation about expectations and how tough the world is going to be, including talking about my experience in a Freebooters PBP as a 1 HP thief. I think it probably had more to do with the fact that even with those discussions, sometimes things you didn’t think you’d have a problem with something until you realize you do. FWIW her problem with healing came about before I realized I could be doling out ability damage to not be killing characters every encounter, so maybe that would have offset it some.

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Hey @chrisshorb! Good to see you around. I’m still bummed that our PBP petered out.

The wording is actually taken verbatim from DR. Essentially I’m offering the list as examples of the kinds of questions they could be asking, to reinforce that the move is about putting the pieces together rather than just being able to see what you can notice. Of course I get it if other tables prefer having it be more similar to traditional Perception check from D&D. I think it would make sense to include the “Read a Person” questions but I’m wary of adding too much more into the move.

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So, I’m faced with a) not having any roll and deciding the NPC response based on my whimsy, b) rolling Negotiate and not having the results really make sense, or c) stepping outside the PbtA and making a 2d6 B/X reaction roll to give me perspective.

Freebooters already does something similar to C.) at points, yeah? Both Set Out and Pass the Night eschew the traditional PbtA move result structure to some extent. Would it make sense to write a custom move that is in a similar vein to those?

I think in terms of A.) my thinking is that rather than being pure GM whimsy, the NPC’s response would be based on their alignment, motivation, and, if applicable, traits.

If you really want a roll, maybe you could base the results on the Follower move Do Their Thing. Something like:

When you try to seduce, manipulate, bluff, fast-talk, or lie to someone tell them what you want them to do and give them a reason. If what you want is within the scope of their alignment, motivation, or traits, roll +CHA: on a 10+, they do it, as well as one could reasonably hope; on a 7-9, they do it, but there’s an unforeseen cost, consequence, or limitation (ask the Judge what); on a 6-, mark Charisma, and the Judge makes a move.

If what you’re asking falls outside their alignment, motivation, or traits, they refuse.

(Alternately you could have them roll at a disadvantage/-1 for that final clause.)

I don’t know if this gets you any closer to what you’re looking for, but it’s a thought.

Thanks, @jexjthomas. I’m fine rolling a 2d6 for a reaction roll. I’m mostly providing feedback that there’s something about the Negotiate move that’s working oddly in my PbP game. That game ended early, but I’ll be starting up a new one soon, and will keep an eye on things and report back if I can identify the issue better.

‘GM whimsy’ to me includes recognition of alignment, motivation, and other data I have on the NPC, but thanks for the reminder about those elements. I’m referring more to creating opportunities for the unexpected to occur by having a roll.


I wouldn’t be too hasty to make too many mechanics involved with interacting with NPCs. Remember the roots, the inspiration is OSR. There’s no persuade skill, sense motive, seduce, ect. It’s for the Judge to, well, Judge if the players are making a logical argument. In the case of PVP, I could see the case to bring in other moves, but I tend to handle such things outside of mechanics.

Now I do agree there needs to be a bit of dice rolling involved in matters where the Judge can’t make a fair call one way or the other. When the negotiate move doesn’t trigger, and for whatever reason you don’t want to roll a CHA saving throw, roll the Die of Fate.

If the players make unreasonable demands, bring forth illogical arguments, or out their bad intentions, then that triggers an Golden Opportunity for the Judge to make a move. If the players want to ask if the NPC is lying, tell them or make them roll perceive. In my opinion the toolkit is large enough for social interactions.


Yesterday I ran my first ever FotF 2e game (first time doing PbtA as well). I probably will have a few more questions trickle out as I process our game, but one thing was a bit painful. Now, I don’t know if it was just the circumstances, or if I was doing it wrong, but we had some issues with the PERCEIVE move.

The majority of the adventure was set in a dungeon environment. After the first trap roasted them, the party was VERY thorough in trying to search for more traps, secret doors, hidden compartments, etc. I called for a LOT of Perceive moves to do this. This led to a LOT of failures, as we didn’t have anyone with a strong WIS score. As such, it was a lot of marking WIS and hard moves.

It was fun, but it felt like too much failing, in too short of time. One player had filled up his WIS marks in just a few hours of game-play. It was a bit exhausting to come up with fun, fictionally relevant moves based on just looking for something and failing. But, my biggest concern will be that everyone will be maxed up to a 18 Wisdom in short time, due to the the volume of roles.

This makes me think I might be doing something wrong? Is my mind stuck in the skill-check world of previous games? Am I calling for the move too often? How do you all deal with lots of perceiving?


You kind of said it yourself - if there isn’t anything fictionally interesting, skip the roll.

“Ok, you guys are being super careful, and you don’t find any traps or secret doors in that hallway or the next. But now you’ve come to a door that is different from the rest. It’s covered in strange sigils and seems to have a rime of frost on it. And yup, when you touch it, it’s ice cold. What do you do?”

Something like that. Skip the boring parts.


Thanks for your response. Would it be fair to say that if the players are trying to notice/find something, they will just find it, if it’s there? And the moves come into play with what they do about it? For Example, Perceive would trigger if they are trying to get additional information?

Another example, If a player looks around for traps, and there is one, they automatically find it (unless there is a fictional reason to miss it). Then a perceive move would be used if they try to figure out what the trap would do?

So, in my games it depends on the narrative. Would it be more interesting to let the players find the trap or deal with the results of stepping into a trap?

If you prepared a cool trap that is more fun to disable/figure out than to step into? Then yeah, I would just tell them. However, if the trap is simple (trap door, arrow from the wall), then it would be more interesting to see how characters deal with it when it goes off.

Also, I would be very careful with something always being the case. Because if you make it a rule, and later want to do it the other way, you might have some grumbling players :stuck_out_tongue:


Since Perceive gives them hold, it would be appropriate for the beginning of the dungeon or a room, but only once per scene. Also, despite them all doing it, you could have one person roll and make it sort of a group action — someone else can Help.
You also don’t have to make a hard move just because of the 6-. If there’s no trap, there doesn’t need to be and, if they’re rolling a lot, it’s a little tiring to constantly push against them (especially in new ways). Let their characters be paranoid! “You’re not sure what’s a trap and what isn’t; this entire place is creeping you out and all you can tell is that you can’t trust anything.”

But, tbh, I’m not sure finding a trap is a great use of Perceive (from a player standpoint)! You can ask anything and you just want to know if there’s a trap? They could Make a Saving Throw and roll +WIS if they’re spotting a trap. On a 7-9, maybe the hard bargain is they lose [some precious or necessary equipment], but no one’s hurt. An ugly choice might be: you catch the trap just a second too late, who gets hurt?

Finally, in Freebooters, if no one’s a Thief, they’re really probably NOT good at finding traps!


@Haaldaar, those are good alternative approaches, along with those offered by @chrisshorb and @Von_Bednar. The rules are obviously pretty open in this respect, and the hope is that each table will, to some degree, find their own methods of applying them. The full rules will include some specific suggestions for how to use moves like Perceive, which – as you’ve experienced – can get over-applied if you’re used to a certain kind of dungeon exploration.

My own approach would be to tell them anything they could see just by looking. If they’re being super cautious and scrutinizing things, I would describe anything a person could reasonably detect. Whenever their modus operandi goes super-cautious, just skip to the next interesting bit (and don’t forget to mark duration on torches if they’re going slow). Then when they do find a curious detail (tripwire, sunken floor tile,etc.) whose function is unclear, your idea is a fine one: ask them to Perceive to find out more about it (EDIT: or as @darren suggests, only have them roll Perceive once per scene/area).

Some other things to consider (these will eventually be in the rules):

When more than one person does a thing, only the person with the best ability score rolls. Their roll stands in for the whole group. Try to avoid allowing multiple PCs to roll for the same thing.

When more than one person does a thing, everyone who’s not making the roll is Helping. I have not explicitly set a cap on Helping, but there will be an overall maximum modifier cap of +/-4 to any roll. So a Thief with +2 WIS making a roll for a group searching a room with the help of at least 2 other people would get +4 to their roll.


Thanks @jasonlutes and everyone else who chimed in. I think I am better prepared for round two. One other issue that popped up, is that one of my players did not like how humans got +1XP ever session. He thought it would make them advance faster then the rest. With as many variable XPS, I am not sure how it would really work long term, but that was his feeling. I do know it wasn’t in earlier playtest docs. Just curious the thought pattern on adding it and if you think it will make the final cut?


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No he’s right, that’s a fair concern. I have been thinking about that and may change it to marking an ability (or two) instead.


Another thing to note, it is you the judge who calls for rolls. Don’t let players jump ahead and make move rolls that don’t follow the fiction.

They perceive and nothing interesting is there, just tell them.
They make a good argument and the stakes aren’t high, just say yes.


Something to add:
This is a problem with any game with ‘perception checks’. I can’t stand when players espout, “I look at the wall!” rolling the d20. There’s nothing interesting about the wal- “I rolled a 16!”

But at least that’s excitement. There’s a problem on the other spectrum as well. You don’t want to be the gotcha judge where the players are gun shy.

My solution is, when there’s something interesting, ask for the roll. “There’s a false floor in this room, who was in front? Let’s roll to see if they see it before they plunge into the spike pit.”

Option 2: use big traps. Make traps obvious, but still dangerous. “OK you noticed that the whole floor drops into a spike pit, what are you going to do about it?”
Landmines are still dangerous if you know you’re walking through a mine field.


Thanks @Tacoforce. Players were not calling for the rolls, I was doing it. I will just have to find a grove and re-train myself. I am all-for skipping the roles that have no consequences, or worse, creating consequences when its not needed.

How are people finding the alignment in this game? It’s always been controversial and can be hard to engage with at times. Do you keep it or use another system like flags?

@Tacoforce, since this is fresh in my mind, I can say how my experience went, though it is limited, so take that into account.

The alignment system was approachable and easy for us, as we have played OSRs before the “R”. So, it was all second nature. We really liked the Alignment Goal and how it is codified into XP.

I am not familiar with the flags system you mentioned, but I think it’s important to keep the law vs chaos, good vs evil, for that true old school feel. Even if there are things that are “better”.