How dangerous do my fellow Dungeon World GM’s run their games?

How dangerous do my fellow Dungeon World GM’s run their games?

How dangerous do my fellow Dungeon World GM’s run their games? I can get a bit uncomfortable making things too dangerous, when I GM, so I tend to go easier on my players than I’d actually like.

I know it differs from group to group, but personally I’d want the players to reach the point, where they are uncertain whether they’ll survive or not. In fact, I would like to be uncertain if the players will survive or not.

It’s not about reaching the 50/50 odds, I just want to feel that there’s at least a possibility that someone might die from this. At what level do you guys keep the “pressure”?

23 thoughts on “How dangerous do my fellow Dungeon World GM’s run their games?”

  1. I was also only thinking about going there only when appropriate to the story. Every monster mash-up shouldn’t be life threatening, some fights exist to give the players some action and exhaust their resources bit.

    Boss fights and otherwise climatic fights though; I’d like to give the players the feeling that the safety of this part of the world is in their hands, and they’ll have to work, maybe even die for it, if need be.

  2. I would on the other hand not go with Kasper Brohus suggestion. 

    Every fight has the chance to turn ugly and are not there to fudge with their ressources. Doing that is not true to the fiction i think. It’s true to Drama but that is not part of your Agenda/Principles. 

  3. Tim Franzke -> I know it reads wrong, but I didn’t mean to just throw in a fight just to exhaust resources. Players roll a miss, I make a move. I can use that move to put them in a fight. We are trying to fill their lives with danger, right?

    A fight is supposed to shake things up, and given how DW works, it’s almost impossible to have one without forcing the party to use up some resources.

  4. I like players to feel frequently “on the edge”.

    To do that, I show signs of an approaching threat. I warn my players.

    “Now you know the danger, face the consequences”.

    If they fail, I strike quite hard.

    In fact, the best games are those where everyone ends with 2HP, no more resources and a sudden relief when the boss is defeated.

    Sometimes someone dies, but even death is a source of fun and adventure in DW.

  5. “Carefully manage the deadliness and challenge of the game” is not a GM job in DW. Don’t worry about it. Follow the actual principles and agenda and it’ll take care of itself.

  6. John Harper I suppose this is where I make my most common mistake. During my last game, I should have made some cultists go for help, but I didn’t because I feared the challenge would be insurmountable.

    DW still has a very new GM paradigm for me. Coming from D&D, where it is the job for the GM to make “suitable encounters”, so I suppose this is only a natural mistake.

    If you are reading this Bastien Wauthoz and Eric Nieudan -> prepare to die! 😉

  7. Kasper Brohus no, the job of the GM in D&D was not to make suitable encounters. That’s an apocryphal concept added around 20 years later. The goal was to challenge players with difficult choices, but that was implied by the rules and setting, while DW made it clear by making it explicit in the rules.

  8. It’s true, DW isn’t D&D3+ w/ balanced challenge ratings and all of those design principles, and also the GM must be honest w/ the world they are presenting.  

    But, that doesn’t mean this question can’t be asked, because ultimately:

    “How hard of moves do you choose to make when given the opportunity?” and “How often are your characters dying?” are legitimate questions about how lethal someone’s game is.

    So, to answer that more fully — if the characters aren’t feeling threatened (or more aptly, their lives aren’t being filled with adventure,) I start taking harder moves.

    And realistically, it is still the job of the GM to make suitable encounters even in DW — e.g. no one would have all of their encounters be fights with single defenseless goblins.  (Side note:  I would love to be proved wrong on this!)  “Fill their lives with adventure” indicates a certain amount of challenge, and asking “So, how much challenge is that for you guys?” is well and good.

    And I think asking “How can I get myself to be more honest w/ my players and take harder moves?” is also a good question from this, and one I’d like to hear some answers to — I would feel pretty mean TPK’ing people in DW so I try to avoid it.  Does anyone wipe their parties frequently in DW and also have a good time doing so?

    Oops wall of text ><

  9. Players have lots of tools for dealing with insurmountable challenges and death is not a game-stopper, so don’t sweat it. Don’t pull punches. Let them get in deep because they’ll either find a way out or end up in even more trouble or end up dead, and all of those can drive the game forward.

    We designed death in DW as a balance to character creation. You can make new characters easily, so death doesn’t have to be rare.

  10. Something doesn’t have to be IMMEDIATELY fatal to be scary and life threatening you know…

    I’ve had good results with swarms of enemies. The characters weren’t really threatened by mob of goblins they were fighting, but the longer the fight lasted, the more goblins arrived…

    Eventually the decided they’d better run instead of risk being drowned in goblins.

    Also, you don’t have to be inflicting damage to make the players/characters feel like they’re in danger.

    Honestly, I don’t think anyone took any damage in that fight, but they sure were worried when the ranger got pulled down and they lost sight of him under the mass of goblins!

  11. As a GM for an ongoing game I just follow the fiction and see where the player choices and the die rolls take us. In six sessions of my current game that’s meant two character deaths so far. When the players are rolling hot they are going to roll over almost anything you can throw at them, but when the dice go cold they are in big trouble unless they make some really clever choices both in the fiction and tactically in terms of who makes moves when. It hasn’t felt to me like I have, nor should have, much control over either of those things as a DW GM.

    My prep for the session before last included what I imagined would be an extremely difficult encounter. There was an ancient sea king liche and a mad traitor who’d stolen and commanded his “Crown of Storms”, a stalwart bodyguard of the traitor and a couple of draugr crypt guardians. I’d created two custom Moves – one for the crypt environment and another for the Crown of Storms. The twelve year-old Ranger knocked the Crown off the traitor’s head in the opening volley and the cat-race Fighter zoomed past the liche and grabbed it. The PCs were rolling so hot and responding so perfectly to my soft moves that I never got to make either of the hard custom Moves.

    Similarly, the two PC deaths so far just sort of “happened”. I really dislike it when PCs die but that’s what the fiction and their rolls mandated.

    Last session they fought and defeated a sea troll. Two of the PCs would again have been making Last Breath rolls had they rolled a little higher damage against themselves (1d10+3!), but it worked out.

    I think I was a bit guilty of “managing” my first few one-shots of DW. I didn’t want anyone to have to make a new character mid-session in a con game or in the game where I was introducing a “nu rulez-style-game” to some pretty traditional friends.

  12. Sage LaTorra You are right about having lots of tools for the job. A swarm of a million goblins ain’t gonna touch no one if you run away from them, not rolling a miss on a Defy Danger roll.

    Guess I’ll stop pulling punches. In all my time as a GM, no PC’s has ever died. It has come close, but never entirely. Guess it’s just a reversed railroad 🙁

    I wanna kill some players now…

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