DW GM Advice

Tomorrow I'm going to run my first session of Dungeon World. I've been looking forward to this for a long time, which means I've been reading a lot of the material suggested by the DW subreddit, rereading the rules, etc. Given that there's a recent influx of new and returning perspectives from the end of G+, I thought I'd start a fresh thread here asking for general system advice.

Folks who have run Dungeon World (or, more broadly, PbtA games), or players who had strong opinions about the way your game was run: What is the most crucial tip you would give someone who has GMed other games, but is new to the Apocalypse?


  • Don't go right to the moves. Hang out in the fiction a while until you've got a clear idea that the move has occurred. Then go to the moves when you just can't stand it anymore! It makes the outcome feel a lot better.
  • To the extent that my opinion matters (I have no experience running DW, quite some experience MCing AW, and what little I know of DW is enough to believe that AW and DW share a little bit of tech but absolutely no creative goals, they're different beasts)...

    Never, ever think "now a battle starts, let's enter battle mode". There's no separate battle mode. There's no roll for initiative. There are no sub-games. The flow of play is the same, for a tense conversation or a chase or a fight or an extended training montage or a sex scene or what-you-have. In fact, all of those - and more - can happen in parallel. Think like a movie fight scene, not like an RPG fight.
  • Related to both points above:

    When things feel unclear, uncertain, you're not sure what to say or what move to use... always "zoom in" more.

    Ask clarifying questions, establish fictional details, talk about where characters are, how they're standing and what it smells like, how they're holding that gun or what expression they have on their face, what they're feeling or thinking, what they want, what this reminds them of, what they think of each other.

    In the process you'll almost always figure out the right thing to do mechanically (including what MC move to make), and the game will be richer for it.

    Don't let the last-minute panic of "Oh, man, what do we do here? Is it that move or this one? What kind of MC move should I make now?" ever take over; always come back to establishing more fictional detail and play feels easy and fun.
  • Thanks for the tips, everyone. The first session went pretty well. We got a little mired in worldbuilding, but we were able to move along ultimately and "leave blank spaces." I definitely had several moments of uncertainty which, in another system, might have led to panic. Being able to step back and ask questions was quite a relief.

    I'm still struggling against the instinct to call for discern realities as if it were a perception roll, but I'm sure that will abate with time. I think my main area for improvement is keeping things tense when the PCs are rolling exceptionally well, as they were last night.
  • Any favorite moments or highlights that come to mind?

    Favorite player decisions? Favorite questions you asked? F
  • (Oh, yeah: don't pull your punches. The whole game is set up to favour the players. The tension only really holds when you're not afraid to hit them hard when you make a hard move - don't be afraid to go for it. The game will be better for it.)
  • edited October 2018
    My favorite player decision came at the end of the session. I'd sent an NPC I expected to be important to meet the group in the middle of the night. The player on watch, completely in character, decided this person was a distraction, turned her away, and burned the note she left behind. Now I know to build that party of the story as a front, rather than the primary plot.

    I'm hoping the prep between sessions will help me be more harsh with gm moves. My instincts are relatively gentle, so having things in advance this time will be good.
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