23 thoughts on “So how do you play Dungeon World in an established setting with heavy heavy Metaplot?”

  1. You really can’t play the game in the spirit that it was written

    but

    You can list all of your favourite bits of the metaplot and ask more closed questions than usual. More options with universal “truths” built in and less open questions.

  2. I ‘ve been wondering the same thing myself and I have come to conclusion that you only ask the questions that need to be answered. To cleave more closely to the spirit of DW, leave a lot of room for player input. 

    For example, the question, “Why do the Red Wizards traffic in magical items?”, could be answered in a variety of ways – but the fact that they DO traffic in magical items has been established.

  3. Ask questions of smaller scale. Don’t ask questions to establish things about the world, ask them to establish things about the character, their background, and how they fit into the world.

  4. Don’t just ask questions, ask leading questions. The questions at the start of Within the Devil’s Reach are designed to put the players together as a team and establish that they are a team. I’ve had things break down from there but usually after the group left Devil’s Reach.

  5. I think Gordon Spencer and Jeff Johnston have hit it. A metaplot (LOTR, for instance) only covers a small part of the story. Remember that DW has a principle just for this: draw maps, leave blanks. Think of the metaplot as the portion of the map which is drawn. The “blanks” are the bits which are left.

  6. Stuart McDermid I have to challenge you a little (in good spirit, of course).  That’s the second time I’ve heard someone more or less say “you’re doing it wrong”.  I don’t think it is wrong.  Can you play in a wide open expanse?  Yes, you can.  You can choose to make everything up as you go.  But, the fiction of DW already HAS established certain facts before you start play.  Take the Druid, who comes from a certain environment.  The Sapphire Islands must exist in your world simply due to the established fact that it exists on the Druid’s sheet, right?  So what if what we’re really saying is “Hey, I want to have a different set of established facts”

    I would hazard a guess that most people who game would prefer to have something to hang their hat on. The key, in my mind, is that the game does not have a plot all worked out… but there’s a lot of distance to cover between having a world framework which differs from DW’s and having a 30 volume story fully scripted and written out.  Using a fantasy world which is “pre-built” still (if it’s worth its salt) still has lots of blanks in it.  

  7. My idea is actually to brainstorm a bit of things that would be needed to make Die Welt des Schwarzen Auges, 

    The Dark Eye World. 

    Using DW as a basis to make a hack for the most well known, best-selling german RPG of the same name. 

    (that is horrible in my mind)

  8. Possible solution: The Meta Front

    The meta front exists above and beyond the campaign front. It represents the events of the larger world’s continuity that are beyond the influence of the players; although, they have agreed that it is established in the fiction. As such, it is the only front that is open knowledge to all, though no one speaks its name. The GM may advance the meta front as normal but it’s purpose is mostly to provide context for the events of the campaign within the greater scope of the world. Because it is visible to the players, it allows them to also play to and affirm the events unfolding in the world.

    For example:

    Meta front: The European Theater of WWII

    Campaign front: Liberation of France

    Dungeon front: The Beaches at Normandy

  9. Brennan OBrien, I’m going to disagree. The existence of details on a character sheet doesn’t mean they exist in the game — the inclusion of details in the game means they exist in the game. My Druid didnt pick Sapphire Islands. So, as far as anyone knows, they don’t exist yet because we haven’t mentioned them at all. It’s like quantum role-playing, or something.

    That said, running a pre-established setting is close to doing it “[email protected] but ONLY if the group is no longer playing to find out. It’s not that settings are breaking the rules, it’s just that they might make it more likely? At least in my thoughts.

  10. Only the stuff you take would matter. When the Druid doesn’t take the islands they don’t exist. If they take it, they exist. 

    I don’t think Brennan OBrien was talking about anything else. 

  11. Maybe DW isn’t the best rules system for what you’re after? I’ve been having a blast playing The Temple of Elemental Evil with DCC. The story in AW Engine games needs to be a feral beast. The mechanics will fight you if you try and control it.

  12. Its funny, cause I’ve been trying to to the opposite with DCC. How do I play this game in a way that gives the players more narrative agency?  We might both be SOL 🙂

  13. Brennan OBrien

    If your world conflicts with the players characters, then the world takes the back seat. IMO that’s a pretty good rule of thumb for any game. If you detail absolutely everything then the players have no authorship. This is not necessarily a bad thing (OMG I’d hate it) but it sure isn”t DW in spirit any more IMO. 

  14. Alfred Rudzki So, I’ll take that one…  because it’s really easy.  How about Dragons? How about Gnolls?  Orcs?  How about Vancian based magic?  Look, like it or not this game exists with a certain degree of established fiction.  In fact, I would dust off my Anthropology minor and suggest that any attempt at any fantasy of any sort comes with a set of pre-established tropes.  That’s an established fiction.  You might not like that, but it remains true nevertheless.  Are we playing to find out if the demons are evil?  Or is that somewhat established by trope (and the instincts of demons)? Playing with a pre-established world is agreeing that some things are going to be introduced to the fiction before the game begins.  That’s not denying playing to find out what the story of the characters are.  

    Stuart McDermid Yep, I agree with you.  The key is where you place the precedence.  Even with literally thousands of pages of material, Forgotten Realms hasn’t told all of the stories it could tell.  It hasn’t answered every question it could answer.  If a group of players can comfortably fit in the blank spaces, then an opportunity exists for the play style presented by DW.  Could it be more fun if everyone built the world together during play?  Maybe.  And maybe not.   

    Now, what I’m getting awfully tired of hearing is folks saying that someone is “doing it wrong”.  You don’t know.  You haven’t played at the table.  Is the Dark Sun conversion notes from earlier this week suddenly bad?  Is someone resurrecting their homebrew world in DW a bad thing? Not if the agenda is maintained, it isn’t.  Moreover, I worry that a good game like DW could run the risk of being poisoned by well-meaning but immature players who claim that it is the one true way and anything shy of their interpretation of the one true way is bad, evil and to be attacked and disdained.  It’s pretentious. That syndrome has slaughtered other games in the past, and DW isn’t immune.  So, before you jump on the bandwagon of “you’re playing it wrong”, ask some questions… are the players having fun?  Would they play it again?  Are they interested in finding out more?  Do they feel like the story is about them and their actions?  That’s the mark of a successful game — and in the end, to me, that’s the target outcome.

  15. Brennan OBrien I’m not trying to offend, but it sounds like I have so I’ll start with an I’m sorry, I suppose? I didn’t mean to be confrontational if I was. And then a: none of those things you named actually apply to me? I mean, um, my game may not have gnolls. We don’t know yet. And our orcs are good guys. They farm goats. And we have dragons, but I don’t think they’re evil — I’m not sure yet. And we don’t have a wizard, so no we have no vancian magic.

    And that was my point.

    The players make the world. Dropping a setting on them doesn’t let them make the world, and making it feels like 50% of dungeon world to me. Again, to me so what do I know about anyone else’s game. All I’ve got is what’s happening at my table.

    If the players all go “sure Forgotten realms sounds AWESOME” then a big hell yes to them. Awesome, I love it and I’m totally all for them going with it. But if they declare something in game that disagrees with the setting as established in the GMs head and not at the table, I’m just saying in my opinion the GM needs to roll over and say “oh okay. So there’s no dark elves, okay” or whatever they just got called out on.

  16. Brennan OBrien Who said anyone was doing anything wrong? Even those who perhaps believe in a “one true way” are only saying less good vs better in my experience.

    You cannot deny the DW is written with the spirit of improvisation in mind.

    I think the reason people are quite adamant about the rules of DW comes from two areas.

    Firstly,  so many people seem to be trying to grab DW and tack it onto their usual DnD playstyle. Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with doing this but this is not what the game   is designed to do.

    I think some well meaning folks are saying “Please play the game as written, if you don’t like it, you can do what you like but please give it a shot as we think the RX’ed way of playing is awesome”!.

    I think some people are hearing

    “Trad games suck. Play properly or go back to DnD”. I don’t think anyone is saying this).

    Secondly, Apocalypse World, the granddaddy of “World Games” doesn’t have GM guidelines, rather it has GM rules and is pretty clearly written to be played a particular way with particular player and GM roles etc. (This one is #2 because not everyone has played AW)

    Sorry for the partial Hijack Tim Franzke 

  17. Philip Burge Yes, that’s exactly what I’m trying to say.  Thank you for your eloquence.  If the thrill of the game for some comes from building up the world, that’s terrific. More power.  On the other hand, that’s not the primary thrill for everyone.   

  18. There are several posts in this thread with what strikes me as a great theme: instead of saying “no” to something you wouldn’t use in your own game, treat it like a player just rolled a 7-9 and say “yes, but”. Maybe a good principle to take forward?

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