Dungeon World, any tips?

edited May 2013 in Story Games
A guy on UK Roleplayers posted this message a few days ago, thought folks here might be able to help out:
"Anybody got any dos and don'ts for running Dungeon World? I've run Apocalypse World a ton and played Monsterhearts, so I'm looking for DW-specific advice, please."

Sorry, I realise this is a bit of a cheek, but the person in question isn't generally speaking a storygamer so would be unlikely to post here. I just thought I'd try and help him out :). Actually, I'm thinking of running DW myself so it would help me out too :) :).

Comments

  • Don't have a plot worked out ahead of time. Do draw maps as you go. Don't worry about "balance". Do reread the agendas and principles before and during play. Don't make fronts before the first session. Do write fronts about things players interact with during the first session. Don't allow people to make characters by themselves. Do ask questions until the correct move becomes obvious.don't assume a move has to happen - sometimes things just happen without resistance.
  • The DW Guide linked above is gold. But there's really not a whole lot of new advice to give. Just make sure to run things fast and loose, and not to let D&D preconceptions override. Be ready to explain how initiative works. Always prod for answers when players bring fiction into the world (including taking up new moves!). Make the world organically evolve.

    In AW, the world is driven by scarcity. Here, I'd say it's driven by evil plots and dark threats. The heroes are the ones saving the world, as Fronts encroach and advance. Grim Portents and all, y'know.
  • Thanks for all your advice folks. A couple of observations:
    Just make sure to run things fast and loose, and not to let D&D preconceptions override.
    I should have added that my friend also said 'I have the chance to run a d&d-style game here and I am going to drop my dice on running Dungeon World (I did think about D&D Next, but DW pipped it).' So clarifying how DW, while employing D&D tropes, departs from it is quite important.
    In AW, the world is driven by scarcity. Here, I'd say it's driven by evil plots and dark threats
    I think this is the sort of thing my friend's after. I'm sure he'll run the game very competently- he's an experienced GM after all- but I imagine it's like with all games you haven't run before: you just want a bit of reassurance from those who've been there before you.

    And it's making me want to run it myself, so win win :).
  • I think the most important part is to embrace the intended relationship between D&D and DW.

    Arguably, one thing that D&D is is a set of methods for creating play.
    - There's the 4E method of creating interesting set piece fights with interesting terrain and all that.
    - There's the sandbox method of creating a world around the characters that they can freely explore. (Western Marches style games)
    - There's the story module method of guiding players through a set of encounters that follow a pregenerated plotline. (The linked module sets that started, I think, in the early 90s, but don't quote me on that)
    - There's the character progression of following the characters through a development path toward greatness (Adventurer, Conqueror, King style)
    - There's the dungeon-as-gauntlet method of challenging the players directly and treating the characters as pawns.
    - And there are probably others I haven't mentioned. (And please don't knit-pick the hell out of the list. I'm not trying to do perfect-to-the-word with gamer history analysis here.)

    A thing that people have done for a long time is to play using one of those methods, but using a different ruleset. I ran a sandbox style game using early D&D modules converted to a Savage Worlds hack, for example. That's "Playing D&D, but using different rules".

    Playing DW isn't that.

    DW is a different method of play. It's it's own thing.

    When you are playing DW, D&D provides CONTEXT to play, not METHOD.

    I would say that the biggest thing to focus on when looking at DW is to look at all the places where decisions are made at the table, not before you get to the table. Look for the subtle ways the game encourages co-authoring between the GM and the players. Some of the fundamental things that drive the method of play in DW that are:

    Play to find out what happens - Plan a little, but don't overplan. And in particular, don't plan outcomes. Don't even plan events beyond starting events. Just plan some people and places that might be fun to use, and then use them when you need something cool.

    Draw maps, leave blanks - Again, prep a little, but don't try to fill it all in. Fill in some of it on the fly, based on what the players are doing, saying, being.

    Ask questions and use the answers - Not just "don't overprep" but also "don't overproduce". Let the players produce answers too, and then use them.

    Embrace these things. Overemphasize them.

    To me, embracing this method of collaborative storytelling is the biggest difference between "Playing Dungeon World" and "Playing D&D using different rules."

    I've played with GMs doing each. I had a better time playing with the GM that really embraced the collaborative aspects of the game.
  • Wow, yeah. What Rob said.
  • Rob,

    I'm a little curious about one aspect. When I run DW I prep a dungeon more or less in full. I draw the map and make notes about what's in each room. That doesn't mean I don't leverage things on the fly, I do. But the dungeon is fairly fully prep-ed.

    The primary reason for this is because in my Dungeoneering games I like traversal order and decisions to matter. That is Encountering Room A before Room B is different than encountering them in the other order. Also I use traversal order as a pacing mechanic. I know that they have to go through room N before room M and so if I want to conceptually link those two rooms I can do so without worry about them missing something. I also enjoy atmospheric choices like, "You hear skittering noises to the north, the sound of rushing water to the south and there's a big locked iron door in front of you."

    If all you have is some basic threats do these kind of traversal issues not come in to play? Or do they come into play some other way?

    Jesse
  • I can't speak for Rob, but in my own experience, players get traversal issues when I do the dungeon "on the fly" (drawing the map of the dungeon that's in my head). They can't tell whether they happened because of pre-planned elements (maybe a neat traversal thing I dreamed up and tucked away in my mental storehouse) or due to unplanned synergy of elements generated at the table. It's all pretty opaque to the players, IME.
  • So, the short answer is at the bottom, in bold. If the rest comes off as argumentative or defensive or like I'm telling you you're doing it wrong, chalk it up to uselessness and skip to the end and just look at the bold part.

    Jesse,

    Can you picture a way that you could make it matter whether they visit Room A before or after Room B while still taking player input on the fly about what is in those rooms? If you're giving the players enough information to make an informed choice in traversal order up front, it seems like it should be possible to generate some of that information through asking players questions and using the answers, yes?

    I mean, if it's a blind choice, but the choice "matters", it's not really a "choice", right? So you must be giving them some good info if you're having them make a choice in the first place.

    So I'd say that the intentional difference between D&D and DW is that in D&D, the choice between Room A and Room B (and, maybe, bailing on the whole dungeon) is the only choice the players have. In DW, the players can also have creative choices in helping determine what Room A and Room B are like in the first place. And as a player, I especially enjoyed when that part was emphasized.
    I know that they have to go through room N before room M and so if I want to conceptually link those two rooms I can do so without worry about them missing something.
    I'd argue that if you're making a dungeon so big and complicated that you're worried about the players missing something, you're making it bigger and more complicated than DW probably supports well, given it's intended method for generating situation (ie. with lots of player input).

    I mean yes, the rules say Exploit Your Prep. You are supposed to prep some stuff and make use of it. But it also says Play To Find Out What Happens and says don't plan too hard. It says Draw maps, leave blanks. It doesn't get much more direct than that.

    I'm not saying you can't play that way. And I'm not saying it can't be a fun way to play. Far from it. If I had a GM who understood how to craft a dungeon traversing plan as well as you seem to, I'd have tons of fun playing that. I'm just responding to Catty's request for how to emphasize the differences between how D&D is supposed to work (of which, there is a multiplicity) and how DW is supposed to work (which is, I think, a bit more specific). Feel free to mix your chocolate with your peanut butter all you want if you like the flavor your getting out of it.
    I also enjoy atmospheric choices like, "You hear skittering noises to the north, the sound of rushing water to the south and there's a big locked iron door in front of you."
    You could totally say that without knowing exactly what is making the skittering noises or what sort of water thing is happening or what is behind the door. Just sayin'.
    If all you have is some basic threats do these kind of traversal issues not come in to play? Or do they come into play some other way?

    Jesse
    They come into play as much as they can while you are still following the agendas and principles. I would say that, on average, you sacrifice some of the awesome that comes from excellent planning in favor of some of the awesome that comes from more creative collaboration during the game session.

    Or you drift DW in the direction of D&D methodology. Which is plenty fun too, when it's done well.

    But if you're knowingly not following the principles as they are clearly stated in the book, then you're making that choice.
  • Jesse, are you leaving blanks?
  • "Anybody got any dos and don'ts for running Dungeon World? I've run Apocalypse World a ton and played Monsterhearts, so I'm looking for DW-specific advice, please."
    You know how Apocalypse World is like Firefly and Sons of Anarchy?

    And you know how Monsterhearts is like Twilight and Jennifer's Body, in the same sort of way?

    Dungeon World is like Indiana Jones. The two good ones. So do that stuff, and don't do the other stuff.
  • Wow. There's really not much more I can say here. In my own experience running DW, which is limited, I've found that having a fully mapped out dungeon with notes about what and who was where stifled my creativity. When it came time for me to make GM Moves, I too often found myself saying things like "Well, there's no way the monsters could hear the PCs through all these locked doors." or "There really is nothing that can threaten the PCs right now." Which is totally boring. If you don't give the players' characters things to react to when it's your turn, things fall apart real quick. The same thing happened when the PCs would attempt to Discern Realities. When they asked their questions I would think "Wow. There really is nothing here." Which is lame. Halfway through that session I just said fuck it, and chucked the map out. Things went much better after that, as I had the freedom to make moves and provide information that would be interesting and engaging for the players.
  • "Anybody got any dos and don'ts for running Dungeon World? I've run Apocalypse World a ton and played Monsterhearts, so I'm looking for DW-specific advice, please."
    You know how Apocalypse World is like Firefly and Sons of Anarchy?

    And you know how Monsterhearts is like Twilight and Jennifer's Body, in the same sort of way?

    Dungeon World is like Indiana Jones. The two good ones. So do that stuff, and don't do the other stuff.
    I've just been steamrollered by brilliant insight.

    Indiana Jones.

    OF COURSE.
  • Keep it cinematic is what I say. The rules (in my limited GM'ing experience) don't support, nor do they reward, methodical dungeon-crawling and painstaking world-building.
  • I've run two short DW campaigns that were fun, but not super fun. I've been a little disappointed in the results, but this thread has given me new insight and inspiration.

    Thanks, all!
  • I fully endorse Rob McDiarmid for President of Dungeon World. So many good insights there!
  • "Anybody got any dos and don'ts for running Dungeon World? I've run Apocalypse World a ton and played Monsterhearts, so I'm looking for DW-specific advice, please."
    You know how Apocalypse World is like Firefly and Sons of Anarchy?

    And you know how Monsterhearts is like Twilight and Jennifer's Body, in the same sort of way?

    Dungeon World is like Indiana Jones. The two good ones. So do that stuff, and don't do the other stuff.
    Aaah, very interesting. That's a very good way of looking at it.

  • One page dungeons are gold. If you get stuck look to your principles and make a move, especially a dungeon move (they often get overlooked). If you are really stuck, just ask the player characters.... Use the answers, push there and see if a move evolves from your questioning and their answers (it usually does).

    Some specific helpful hints that work wonders for me:
    When a PC defies danger, define the danger - make explicit what they are risking and ask how they are going about circumnavigating it.
    Make misses count, the PC gets an xp, so hit them with a hard move, what dastardly antagonism would you like to happen?
    Instincts and moves maketh the monster, not their HP / armour and damage. Play to their instinct, make monster moves!
    Invest the players in the town - create it as a group, update the world map regularly, threaten what they hold as sanctuary when you can.
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