First time running Dungeon World: observations and questions

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First time running Dungeon World: observations and questions
« on: January 07, 2011, 11:39:22 AM »
Hi everyone! I just ran my first session of Dungeon World last night and wanted to share my thoughts and questions. Please bear with me while I barf forth enthusiasm!

Some background
I've been GMing for a while, mainly having run campaigns of Corporation and D&D 4th Ed (with one-offs of 3.5 and Swords & Wizardry) and the Apocalypse/Dungeon World game mechanics were a huge pleasure to run. I ran DW for my wife Candace and our friends Francisco and Becca.

Game overview:
I didn't follow Apocalypse World's techniques for fronts and threats very much but I did create a basic setting, adventure hooks, and spare names and just set the players loose with an initial hook. It worked pretty well; things were a bit slow at first but the players seemed to pick it up quickly, especially once combat and action began.

The characters are Takari the female human paladin, Keshra the female dwarf, and Fizzlepocket the scoundrely halfling rogue. My players cited the "bonds" section of the character sheets as being helpful in quickly fleshing out their group and characters and as a lot of fun in general. I agreed!

For the setting, the players are in a dwarven camp called Korosh that's high in the mountains. The dwarves there discovered a mine rich in iron and gold and Korosh is a crude camp but the mining operation and trade is causing it to grow quickly. Some humans came to the camp to trade and try to find work (or to find easy pickings, in Fizzlepocket's case). The dwarven leader, Rhogi, is concerned only with the well-being and advancement of Korosh and its dwarves. Rhogi is only reluctantly accepting the help of the PCs since his dwarves are all busy running the mine at maximum efficiency and so needs their help. He asked the PCs to bring his carpenter, another dwarf named Tybgin, to the ruined watchtower at the mountain's peak to evaluate its condition so that the dwarves can repair it and keep a watch of the surrounding area.

Note: I have all my prep notes in a Google doc. Let me know if anyone would like the link to all this stuff if you're interesting in seeing or using it.

The players accepted the quest. The tower was inhabited by goblin squatters, who nearly killed Tybgin. This created a lot of drama as the players were smashing goblins off of him and trying to heal and protect him. The tower was ultimately secured and the PCs returned to Korosh for carousing and rewards.

Thoughts on the game system
Rather than get too involved with retelling the story, I would like to discuss the system. I was greatly surprised by how simple everything was on my end! I didn't have to consult treasure tables, apply roll modifiers, calculate distance or falling damage, or check complex monster stat blocks and, interestingly, nothing felt like it was missing whatsoever compared to something more crunchy like D&D. We were all able to focus on exciting moves and action and all four of us thought it was great. The players even told me how awesome they thought the game was partway though. It made me very happy to hear!

I would have never considering running combat without initiative but the fight my players engaged in flowed so smoothly and organically without initiative that it felt freeing and delightful. Every move in combat became alive with description, drama, and consequences. For example:
-A goblin dropped down, knife first, onto Tybgin's back, causing the players to rush to his aid
-A goblin threw a small ceramic pot of sneezing powder in Keshra's face, forcing her to Defy Danger and take damage (custom monster move I thought up)
-Takari used one of her expendable adventuring supplies inventory items as lamp oil, improvising an attack where she spat the oil over a torch to burn some goblins
-Fizzlepocket failed a roll and his rapier struck the stone wall of the tower instead of the goblin, casuing the rapier to snap and break

These are only a sampling. The Dungeon World setup freed us all and allowed combat to become so alive compared to a series of back and forth rolls with tired descriptions tacked on.

In addition to the combat, I enjoyed the rolls for undertaking perilous journeys, carousing, and the like. I love the way the principles and moves encourage you to do dramatic and exciting things to make the players' lives interesting.

Long story short: I freakin' love Dungeon World and it's really hitting the spot! Thank you so much for your work, Sage.

GMing in this style was awesome. I need to keep beating those principles and moves into my head.

Questions
I have a couple of Dungeon World-specific questions that popped up:

How exactly to handle the 7-9 range of a roll? The rules say that the move mostly succeeds "but with complications". Do you pretty much select the opposite of one of the listed results as your move, such as causing the damage or not putting the players where they want to be? Do you generally select a GM move? I was able to handle the flow of gameplay and the application of GM moves pretty well but I feel like I could have a bit more of an improved flow to the game.

When aiding, does the player just roll+bonds or do they do the same roll as the main player + bonds? For example, Keshra prepared a feast for the dwarves in order to Carouse. Takari decided she knew some raunchy songs, which she danced on tables to perform while exposing cleavage (very paladin-like, I know!). Would Takari just roll + bonds or would she make a Carouse roll of roll + stat + bonds?

Do you ever call for rolls? Doing so doesn't sound like it meshes with the Apocalypse World style, but when the players announced their intention to travel to the outpost keep in the dark through the howling wind through hazardous terrain, I did everything I could short of telling them "roll for perilous journey". This only came up a couple of times but do you have any tips for handling these situations?

Also, how do you guys prep for DW? Do you follow the same method as AW? I used an idea of setting up an area with a few "dungeon" type spots (short descriptions, really), adventuring hooks, and prominent NPCs. Can you please describe the method you use to ensure that you have a thrilling world that engages the players and gets them moving to get things done and gets them to dangerous places and dramatic situations?

Guidelines for narrative? Obviously a failed roll is a delicious opportunity for trouble, but do you often make bad things happen on those 7-9 rolls or use moves like "announce future trouble" after rolls of 10+? Fizzlepocket's dice seem to only have 5s and 6s on them. I want my game to be loaded with conflict and interesting choices at every opportunity. I felt like I was defaulting to my usual GMing technique and could do a better job of using Moves, which I apparently should always be doing.

Thanks for reading!

Re: First time running Dungeon World: observations and questions
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2011, 03:59:42 PM »
Sounds like you had a good game! I can answer a few of these, but some of the other folks may be better for answering others.

On a 7-9 reversing one of the success items is a good technique. Another is to introduce a complication which invites them to continue to defy danger or otherwise make moves. For example, you defy danger to snatch the idol from the altar, rolling a 7-9. So now you have the idol, but you're pinned down behind it by arrow fire. That creates an interesting choice, like do I defy danger to try and brave the arrows? Or do I do something else?

However, don't try to make every single 7-9 result the best narrative twist ever. Causing some damage or letting the monster make him move, for example, are often excellent choices. Just look for the most obvious result that follows naturally from what's going on in the situation.

Yes, I think you just roll +bonds when helping.

For prep, I usually just design a dungeon like normal. I tend to treat the current adventure as a traditional adventure while everything else going on in the world beyond I treat as being like a set of AW fronts and threats. I'm not sure that's the best way, though.

*

sage

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Re: First time running Dungeon World: observations and questions
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2011, 06:25:21 PM »
Thomas, that sounds great! So many things just sounds prefect: the tower, the sneezing powder, wow!

The 7-9 result usually depends on the move, it'll say what happens. The way moves are structured, that often means the player has a choice between succeeding with complications, or not succeeding but no complications. In general, Tony's advice is spot on: make a little trouble for them, or force them to make more decisions. (Tony's advice is usually spot on, he started Dungeon World back when it was Apocalypse D&D.)

Calling for rolls is cool, but I usually phrase it like this "So, it sounds like you're Undertaking a Perilous journey, right?" If they say "no" then I try to clarify, to make sure we're on the same page. Did they not know the wind was near bowling them over? Did they take some precautions to make the journey not perilous?

Since the reason for rolling is in the fiction of what's happening in the game, there's kind of a GM-Player agreement there: the GM says the world's conditions justify the move, the player says their action fits as well. Either side can kind of call for a move by saying they think one applies, but it's all in the agreement.

The roll to help is just +bonds. Your ability to help someone (in DW at least) isn't about your skills, it's about how well you know the person.

Prep is something my co-author Adam and I are working on. We're aiming for a structure a bit like AW, with a prep-free first session and then Front-like development after that, but we have some of our own twists on that. Stay tuned.

For a single session game, I usually open up things at the entrance to a dungeon, either using one of Tony's Microdungeons or making it up on the fly. That's probably how I'd start a longer game too. Our current thinking on what happens past that is you look for threats in the dungeon that were not entirely resolved, and make those into Fronts.

As far as making your moves, the idea from AW (which may not be fully in the DW text, thanks for playing a work in progress) is that you also make your Moves when everyone looks at you and you don't know what to do, or when they hand you an opportunity. So that should give you a few more chances to announce future badness and all that good stuff.

Thanks for playing, and please feel free to ask any questions you've got.

Re: First time running Dungeon World: observations and questions
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2011, 06:57:44 PM »
Sounds like a fun game session, Thomas.

One quick note about 7-9 results: just remember that a 7-9 is a success. Sometimes, GMs get excited about the complications part (which is fun!) and forget that the roll is still a success, not a failure.

Re: First time running Dungeon World: observations and questions
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2011, 10:57:20 AM »
Thank you for your feedback, guys! I'll keep your points in mind as I prepare for and run the next session. The way that AW/DW narrative is structured made for an exciting game as well as helping me consider more exciting possibilities while GMing. I can't wait :)

Re: First time running Dungeon World: observations and questions
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2011, 10:56:05 AM »

Guidelines for narrative? Obviously a failed roll is a delicious opportunity for trouble, but do you often make bad things happen on those 7-9 rolls or use moves like "announce future trouble" after rolls of 10+? Fizzlepocket's dice seem to only have 5s and 6s on them. I want my game to be loaded with conflict and interesting choices at every opportunity. I felt like I was defaulting to my usual GMing technique and could do a better job of using Moves, which I apparently should always be doing.


I haven't gotten to run DW yet, so take this with a grain of salt! Also, I'm not sure how familiar you are with 'vanilla' AW, so please excuse me if I'm telling you things you know already.

In regular AW, the notion is that your MC/DM moves are what you do when it's "your turn". This sounds like it'd either be very formal or very hard to figure out, but in practice it's not. It sounds like you have loads of experience DMing, so you know when it's your turn to say something (like when everyone looks at you expectantly after they open a door). On the other hand, as you point out, when players fail rolls, you're given a bit of "bonus" permission to jump in with something complicating (like the broken sword or putting the carpenter in extra danger or whatever, which it sounds like you nailed).

As for 7-9 and 10+ results, John Harper pointed out that these are *successes* so you don't want to undermine what the player accomplished with the roll, but you do want to keep things rolling and interesting. So as for your specific question "do you announce future badness on 10+s?" I would look at it more like you resolve whatever it is that the 10+ accomplished. If more stuff flows from that you keep going ("Oh, you pulled a stunt to swing across the chasm and rolled a 10+? Sweet, now you can grab the princess like you said you were going to, pull another stunt!") but once that stuff is resolved *then* you can announce future badness, separate them, et cetera. Maybe that's what you were saying, but I just wanted to stress that my understanding is that you don't make MC/DM moves in response to successful rolls so much as when your next "turn" comes up after them.

Re: First time running Dungeon World: observations and questions
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2011, 03:32:42 PM »
Gotcha. Thanks, Jeff. I was a little fuzzy on the 7-9 range fundamentally being a success since many of those moves (in DW) also have consequences like taking damage even on a successful roll.

The process of GMing Dungeon World (and AW, of course) is different than the usual way I'm accustomed to. It's more structured but provides many benefits. I'm enjoying reading everyone's responses and keeping the principles and moves in my mind. Always trying to be a better GM and give my players (and me) a great time :)

*

sage

  • 549
Re: First time running Dungeon World: observations and questions
« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2011, 04:03:49 PM »
Yeah, the DW 7-9 moves do have consequences or choices, but we try to write them all as still being successes fundamentally (or at least allowing success, with damage or something as a consequence). Taking damage as part of a 7-9 on Hack and Slash doesn't mean you didn't beat up the other guy, it means your guard was a little down, or you didn't even bother to block and just smacked 'em.