Both the Cypher System (Numenera and The Strange) and games Powered by the Apocalypse (Dungeon World, Monster of the Week, Apocalypse World etc.) have a similar element that provides for a gamemaster “action” against a character. In the Cypher System these are called GM Intrusions while most of the PbtA games use the concept of a Hard Move. In both cases they are a mechanical element designed to make the characters’ lives more “interesting” and usually carry an XP award or something similar.
I absolutely love these concepts, so much so I’ve even incorporated them into my current D&D campaign (it’s how the characters earn Inspiration). The only occasional difficulty with Hard Moves and GM intrusions is coming up with new and unique ones on the fly. But fear not, we at RPG Alchemy are here to help! This is the first in a recurring series of articles featuring GM actions that could easily be used as either a Hard Move or a GM Intrusion depending on your game. To make things even easier we’re organizing them by theme, although the presented theme (or even genre) could easily be re-skinned for whatever you have in mind.
Melee Combat [Strong Opponent]
- Your attack is deflected with so much force that you lose your grip and your weapon flies across the room.
- Your shield is grabbed and wrenched out of your hands. Your opponent smashes your head with it!
- Your opponent slams you sending you flying off your feet and smashing into an ally.
- Your opponent picks you up and throws you into a nearby hazard.
- Your weapon gets caught in your opponent’s armor and is torn from your grasp.
- Your opponent grabs a nearby piece of furniture and throws it at you.
- A massive blow hits your shield so hard that your forearm bone breaks rendering the arm useless.
- You’re hit with enough force to leave you dazed and disoriented for a few moments.
- A huge object is toppled over pinning you beneath it.
- Your kicked so hard in the chest that the wind is knocked out of your lungs.
Melee Combat [Agile Opponent]
- Your opponent easily sidesteps your attack sending you stumbling to the ground.
- A few quick slashes cuts the straps of your pack spilling your equipment out onto the floor.
- Your opponent deflects an attack from one of your allies hitting you instead.
- Your opponent dodges your attack and maneuvers behind you grabbing your cloak and wrapping it around your head.
- Your opponent’s agile maneuvers leaves you in a precarious location.
- A quick succession of strikes, dodges, and parries results in your weapon being in your opponent’s hands.
- Your belt is cut sending your trousers to the floor.
- Your opponent’s footwork causes you to stumble into a nearby hazard.
- Your momentum is used against you, you overextend and strike one of your allies.
- During the fight your opponent manages to remove an important item from you.
Melee Combat [Beast]
- The beast grabs you in its jaws, shakes you and flings you aside like a rag doll.
- You’re trampled to the ground and pinned by one of the beast’s giant feet.
- The beast slams you with its head sending you into one of your allies.
- The beast flips you into the air with its head landing you atop its back.
- A powerful sweep of the beast’s tail knocks you from your feet sending you to the ground.
- The beast rips your shield from your arm and destroys it with its powerful jaws.
- Your weapon gets lodged in the beast’s hide and is torn from your grasp.
- The beast grabs you in its jaws and charges off with you.
- Your ally’s ranged attack ricochets off its hide striking you.
- The beast is slain but its massive corpse topples onto you pinning you to the ground.
- Your shot misses its target and strikes something valuable and breakable.
- You misstep and stumble spilling all of your ammo onto the ground.
- A stealthy enemy sneaks up on you while focused on aiming at your target.
- Using your weapon aggravates a previous injury doing additional damage.
- Your maneuvering to get a good shot puts you in a very precarious position.
- Your volley of shots draws the attention of enemy marksmen.
- Your attention on your target allows an enemy marksman to attack you.
- Your shot knocks over a lamp or lantern and sets a fire near you enemies.
- Your weapon malfunctions in some way forcing you to take a few moments to repair it.
- Your shot is deflected and strikes one of your allies.
Unarmed Combat / Grappling
- Your punch strikes the enemy in a heavily armored area breaking your knuckles.
- Your opponent grabs your ankle when you kick and holds on tight.
- Your opponent deftly slips out of your hold and puts you in a headlock.
- You underestimate your opponent’s agility and are tripped and rendered prone.
- Your strike is true but you injure yourself in the attack.
- Your maneuver throws both you and your opponent off-balance.
- Your grappled opponent manages to bite one of your fingers off.
- Your opponent’s head-butt attack shatters your nose and stuns you for a moment.
- You fail to time your flying kick correctly and end up leaping into a nearby hazard.
- You crush your opponent’s nose but the spray of blood blinds you for a moment.
Hopefully you can use a few of these in your next game to keep your players engaged and on their toes. Next time I’ll have another 50 Hard Moves and GM Intrusions for you to use that are focused on the many wonderful things that can go wrong outside of combat, your players are going to love you! Until then…
- Hard Moves & GM Intrusions 1: Combat Calamities
- Hard Moves & GM Intrusions 2: Social Blunders
- Hard Moves & GM Intrusions 3: Magical Mishaps
- Hard Moves & GM Intrusions 4: Botched Skills
- Hard Moves & GM Intrusions 5: Unforgiving Environments
- Hard Moves & GM Intrusions 6: WTF!? (coming soon)