Last night I ran my first Dungeon World game. I wanted to capture some notes and ask some questions. I have two more Dungeon World games planned in the future. I want to shave down some of the sharp edges my group and I ran into last night.
Overall we had a lot of laughs and told quite the story. Most of them felt that, while fun for a single shot game, it didn’t have enough meat for the PCs for them to want to play in a longer term campaign. Part of this might have been my over-focus on the scope of the moves, but my group also loves more tactically focused games. We’ve primarily played 4e, then playtested Next for the past nine months, and now we’re moving on to Pathfinder for a short bit so these guys like crunch.
The game was based on the classic module used as an example in the book, Against the Cult of the Reptile God. It has a nice town and a couple of good dungeons. In one three hour game they group got ambushed, went to a bar, got into a fight there against kidnapping cultists, went into an underground caverns below, and fought a charmed priest of the naga.
So some questions:
I had read that Dungeon World focuses exclusively within the characters’ moves. If there isn’t a move for it, that character can’t really do it. There aren’t generic “attribute checks” for things like a priest breaking down a door or a rogue sneaking. If the players go with the narrative, the DM brings it to the potential moves. This got weird with things like “Discern Realities”. One of the players wanted to see if, when his charm wears off on the priest previously charmed, if it will return to the main charm or not. He rolled for a “discern realities” but none of the six questions really fit what he wanted to know. Our group is used to more open-ended skill systems like newer versions of Dungeons and Dragons. We can just roll stealth or perception or something like that. It isn’t quite as easy in Dungeon World, it seems.
So was I doing it wrong? CAN players roll attribute checks to do “ad hoc” moves based on the situation? Does the DM always have to bring it back to a move or can custom moves be built on the spot to cover the reasonable intent of the player and ability of the character?
The other issue with discern reality is the question “what is about to happen”. Since I’m nto forcing the plot to go any direction, how the hell would I know? I don’t want to give them too specific an answer or I’ll end railroading them. I’m interested in what DMs typically come back with when a player asks this question.
My group also had a tendency to focus on finishing bonds so they could rack up experience points and move forward. It wasn’t as awful as it sounds but it was a little forced. How do DMs typically handle it so that players aren’t trying to artificially complete boons just to get experience. What are the triggers that typically complete boons?
Lastly, have other groups found that Dungeon World works well for shorter campaigns? Is this a common response? I certainly want to try it again, although the number of people I had (six players, one DM) was a bit too many, I think. What is the right way to bring them back if they feel the game was, overall, too simple for them to want to really dig into?
I’m hoping Adam Koebel or Sage LaTorra might offer some advice. Thank you for all the feedback!