Fronts, needed for a one shot dungeon crawl?

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Fronts, needed for a one shot dungeon crawl?
« on: December 24, 2012, 10:37:21 PM »
Over the coming weeks I'll be running some Dungeon World games for people over Skype. Many of them are first timers to DW and AW-based games, but all are role players. I'm mining old Dungeons & Dragons 1st and 2nd edition adventure modules for maps and ideas, and am wondering:

Do I even need to make  Fronts for these games?

I mean, I probably will make one just because Fronts are a GM note organizing tool and I like to (at least attempt to) be organized. But as these are one shot games, I plan to have the players make their characters as a group, then give a little "boxed text" introduction of why they're outside this particular dungeon and what they"re looking for, then shove them through the door. There won't really be any follow up after the sessions finish. What I mean is, the world will change based on the actions of the characters, but as we probably won't be going back to that world again the players will never see those changes. So it's sort of a moot point to record them, except as "lonely fun" for me as GM.

So how do you guys and girls run first sessions? With a Front or without, and why?
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noofy

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Re: Fronts, needed for a one shot dungeon crawl?
« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2012, 12:03:11 AM »
Well it depends on how you like to prep for your game.
I love using the front-like organisation, because it gives my antagonists (monsters usually) a reason for being. This is often at its most simplest an intersection of the monster's instinct and a player character move or want or drive or bond or some other character sheet flag.

Then, when I'm runnin the dungeon, and I'm keen to use the Dungeon Moves, I have an idea about what the monsters want out of the situation, and the setting is just lovely colour to wrap the conflict in.

Whether or not the players ingratiate themselves in the antagonists agenda determines the likely outcomes of the impending dooms. This may just the breifest thought over 'what might happen'.

I also like to make sure that I write down stakes during chargen - things I have a question about as GM and want to find out. I make these public and write them down for all to see (often on the edge of the geographical / relationship map) and aggressively frame scenes that push towards their resolution through play.

Re: Fronts, needed for a one shot dungeon crawl?
« Reply #2 on: December 25, 2012, 05:37:15 AM »
I would do them to help them come alive, as said by noofy, and would try to think around what things could happen in that exact session for the first rim portent, that way it would have a slightly higher chance of coming into the game, you don't even need to create a second grim portent until the first one happens.
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Re: Fronts, needed for a one shot dungeon crawl?
« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2012, 01:11:17 AM »
Maybe part of my problem is that I'm creating "bad" (for lack of a better word) Fronts. Fronts that aren't dynamic or that don't have an agenda. I'll put my example here so people can see my thought process and maybe help me out.

After fishing around for ideas and tossing several out, I "borrowed" the premise from one of the old Dungeoneer card games I have; an ice witch has been gathering magical power to cover the region in perpetual winter (Hmm, that sounds like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). She's made a deal with some kind of infernal prince and the area around her icebound tower is now crawling with frost demons.

This has the potential to be a Campaign Front, but as it's meant for a one shot it's just an Adventure Front for now (maybe I'll flesh it out later). It needs 2 to 3 Dangers, with 1 to 3 Grim Portents and an Impending Doom each, some Stakes and the general cast. This is where I start running into trouble.

The one certain Danger is, of course, the Ice Witch herself. She has an agenda that will cause trouble if the characters don't intervene. She could be a Planar Forces: Demon Prince (opening the gates of Hell is part of the deal), or an Arcane Enemy: Power-mad Wizard (seeking magical power is why she made the deal). The Impending Doom could be Rampant Chaos (perpetual winter breaks the laws of reality) or Impoverishment (surrounding areas of civilization will be enslaved). So I've got those under control.

I run into trouble when trying to come up with the Grim Portents though. Is just one enough? "The Ice-Witch completes her spell" doesn't allow for much of a setup or a chance to stop it. Just 'boom', and it's done the first time I advance it. I feel like it needs more steps, but I have no idea what they should be.

The other Danger(s) are stumping me too. Mostly because I expect the characters to spend all of the session in the Ice-Witch's tower and so I feel like other Dangers don't really matter. The demon-infested area around her tower seems like a great Cursed Places type of Danger; Unholy Ground, Dark Portal, or Shadowland all seem fitting. The magical curse could be a Danger too, maybe Hordes: Plague of the Undead as it grows and spreads. The GM moves for Hordes make sense for an expanding area of magical winter if read very loosely.

But as I said, this is a one shot and I feel like the characters will never interact with any of the Dangers besides the one. However, in the intrest of getting better at running Dungeon World, how would people write Grim Portents and Impending Dooms for non-sentient things. Like locations and magical curses?
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noofy

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Re: Fronts, needed for a one shot dungeon crawl?
« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2012, 01:39:06 AM »
This sounds awesome!

Don't sweat it, its all there and all good. :) Start with action, at the entrance to the ice Witch's tower and ask pointed questions like crazy.

My trick is to make the questions you have stakes to be discovered during play. So what sort of entity is the Ice witch? What legends have the player's heard? When they spout lore or discern realities about her or her agenda, turn the move back on them and say 'i don't know, what have you heard?'. Involve NPCs connected to the PCs that have been effected by her machinations. Make her want something the players want, but for different reasons. Tie her into their bonds, their classes, their moves.

How does she gather magical power? (make this a step by step process and each step can become a grim portent)
Who else has cast such a ritual? What is needed? (If the player's have come up with Macguffins during chargen - reincorporate them as needed items / people / events for the ritual. Tie the ritual to the players.)
Is she the leader of a rival cult of the Cleric?
Is she the renegade Magic User that the Wizard's guildmates whisper about in hushed tones?
Is she the bane of the land that is worth grand treasure from the king to be rid of?

My final suggestion is to use Marshall's Frozen South Dungeon starter for impressions and questions and items and monsters and ideas for customs moves - Its right up there with your theme.

Ask all these questions in play.

With your grim portents, just think about what she wants after establishing some of the answers above (or ask the players again)


Re: Fronts, needed for a one shot dungeon crawl?
« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2012, 10:21:12 AM »
Remember too that you don't have to start at the "beginning."  You can start half way through.  For example:

Who lead you to the Ice Spire and how did they know the way?
What magics did the Ice Witch unleash before you knocked her unconscious?
After destroying the crops and dooming the village, why haven't you killed her yet?
Why are the frost devils outside so keen on keeping the Ice Witch in the spire?
Now that the spire is starting to melt, what do you do?

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noofy

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Re: Fronts, needed for a one shot dungeon crawl?
« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2012, 04:15:14 PM »
yes Yes YES Marshall!
Those make me want to play in this game RIGHT NOW. :)

Re: Fronts, needed for a one shot dungeon crawl?
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2012, 07:18:35 PM »
Dude. mease19. That's even better. Screw starting the session with the PCs heading into to kill the Ice Witch. They've already done that. Now they're at the bottom of the tower (it's sunk deep into the ice from a past age) with the Ice Witch dead at their feet and they have to get up and out.

Of course without her controlling magic holding them in check anymore, the ice demons she'd summoned are going ape shit...
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Re: Fronts, needed for a one shot dungeon crawl?
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2012, 09:41:25 PM »
You have pretty much everything you need right there, what i think you are lacking is a more organized schedule for the in-game progress, most of the interesting stuff is right there, I agree starting them right where the action is might be the best choice, maybe right at battling the Ice Witch.

If you want to make a developing thing for it though, I would go with:


Front: The Everlasting Winter
Dangers: Ice Witch, Demon Gate, Demonic Minions

Ice Witch
Impending Doom: The land is covered in winter
Grim Portents: 1. The Ice Witch makes a pact with the Demon Prince, demonic minions cover the area; 2. the Ice Witch retreats to her lair and a blizzard strikes the surrounding area; 3. The Ice Witch casts her winter spell.

Demonic Minions
Impending Doom: the Demon Gate is built
Grim Portents: 1. the demonic minions control the night; 2. the demonic minions enslave the settlements; 3. the Demon gate is built.


Demon Gate
Impending Doom: the Demon Prince walks through the Demon Gate
Grim Portents: 1. Villagers are sacrificed to the Gate; 2. undead plague the area surrounding the gate; 3. the Ritual of Summoning is cast.

You can lower the steps for a one shot game though: the ice witch's grim portents are the actual dangers and those do not have any impending doom or grim portents.

It would be like this:

Front: The Everlasting Winter
Dangers: Ice Witch, Demonic Minions, Demon Prince
Impending Doom: The land is covered in winter
Grim Portents: 1. a Demon gate is built; 2. a Demon Prince walks through the Gate; 4. The Ice Witch casts her winter spell.

This would make it all into a single simple thing that can quickly evolve, if they help secure some villagers they learn of the Gate and have a chance of stopping the Demon Prince from coming, this would make the Ice Witch a lot weaker.
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Re: Fronts, needed for a one shot dungeon crawl?
« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2012, 10:20:10 PM »
Thanks guys. My game is tomorrow and I'm still stressing about it a bit (mostly because it's with people I've never played with before), but your advice has been very helpful.

I decided to go with a single danger, with plans for eventually turning this into a full-fledged Front. Possibly even as a "published" adventure. As suggested, I'm going to start the session mid-way though; either in the middle of confronting the Ice Witch as she's casting the Lay of Eternal Ice, or trekking through the yeti-infested ice tunnels that lead to the lower depth of the spire.

Adventure Front: The Lay of Eternal Ice
Danger: Hordes of the Frozen Devourer
Type: Hordes - Humanoid Vermin (the hordes are actually demons, but the impulse fits what they'll do)
Impulse: To breed, to multiply and consume
Grim Portents:
  • The binding magics are disrupted
  • The portal begins to vomits forth an endless torrent of icy horrors
  • The tunnels beneath the spire become impassable demon haunts
  • The spire is entirely overrun
  • The Devourer's Hordes spill forth, claiming the area around the spire
Impending Doom: Rampant Chaos

This may be a dangerous assumption, but I figure that the characters will attempt to stop the Ice Witch's spell; either through capturing or killing her, or by somehow countering the spell. Rather than solve things, that just makes them worse as the demons she had a tenuous control over go rampant when the spell ends. Hence the first and second Grim Portents. To give the characters a "dungeon" to explore, the third Grim Portent cuts off the shortcut they used to get to the Ice Witch. The tunnels lead right to the bottom of the spire; closing them off (or making them really dangerous) means they'll have to ascend the spire to escape. The fourth Grim Portent gives the demons full control of the dungeon, giving me an excuse to throw demons at the characters as they try to escape and hopefully giving them a sense of urgency. The last one has the demons boiling out into the surrounding area, causing all sorts of nastiness.

On the one hand, this setup feels somewhat railroady to me. I'm expecting to drive the characters forth along a preset path. We all know players do what you expect them to do exactly 0% of the time though. :) But on the other hand, the Grim Portents are the logical sequence of events that would happen if the PCs weren't present; demons come out of the portal, take over the spire, and then start to spread.

Well, we'll see how things go tomorrow. Maybe I'm over-thinking it.
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Re: Fronts, needed for a one shot dungeon crawl?
« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2013, 07:46:11 PM »
It seems as if two dangers are mixed here - the witch and her spell to freeze the area and the demon protal. If you are going to base the adventure on the unleashed demons and the portal, start with the witch already bein dead, they are standing over her corpse as the laughter of her demonic pact-holder rings around them. That makes the front simply the demon prince and his hordes.

Re: Fronts, needed for a one shot dungeon crawl?
« Reply #11 on: January 03, 2013, 09:39:35 PM »
If you are going to base the adventure on the unleashed demons and the portal, start with the witch already bein dead, they are standing over her corpse as the laughter of her demonic pact-holder rings around them. That makes the front simply the demon prince and his hordes.
That was definitely something I considered, Timon. The game would have been very different if I'd started them over the corpse of the Ice Witch and went from there.

Instead, I started them about two days journey from the spire (to have them make an Undertake A Perilous Journey move) and asked a bunch of questions to establish how the Ice Witch escaped her prison, how long before the village was completely deserted, why the villagers were unable to protect themselves, etc. I figured that they'd get to the tower fairly quickly and dispatch the Witch. Little did I know that they'd:
  • meet a friendly Ice Elf patrol who'd escort them to a secret tunnel to the spire's lower levels;
  • be ambushed by a pack of Winter Wolves;
  • make it to the secret tunnel just before the wolves, due to the sacrifice of their elven companions;
  • fight a demonic yeti, and make camp in it's lair to recover;
  • encounter one of the 13 cursed knights who had broken their vows and released the Ice Witch;
  • discover the knights wanted to be released from their curse;
  • and have the knight lead them right to the spot where the Ice Witch was completing her ritual.

In other words, nothing went as I expected it to but that only made it all the more awesome! The session ended with the Dwarven Cleric bull-rushing the Ice Witch into the demonic portal she was conjuring. The player got a weak hit on his Defy Danger move, so of course the choice I gave him was a) knock the witch partially through, merely delaying her for a bit, or b) get her all the way through by hanging onto her and going through himself. The player chose option b, and the screen faded to black with the Elven Bard composing a ballad for his heroic companion while settling in to wait for his (hopeful) return. Awesome sauce.

Luckily I have plans to expand the adventure into a "campaign starter" with a few more dangers, and so had a vague idea of what steps the Ice Witch would take as she was ramping up to the final summoning. Those turned into quick and dirty Grim Portents during the adventure, which gave me a few moves to make (mostly Show Signs of an Approaching Threat) on player misses.

I also ran another game (with a different setup) that didn't have a Front or a Danger. I won't say that game was a failure, as there were a lot of other factors to consider (more players, reactive instead of proactive monsters, pure dungeon crawl, etc.) but comparing the two, things go a lot smoother when you have a Front and a Danger to work with. Lesson learned. Make Fronts. Even for one-shot games. Also, Dangers that can't further their own agenda are boring. Don't bother with them.
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