I’ve finally volunteered to run a DW game for one of the local groups I’m a member of.  I’m curious about how much…

I’ve finally volunteered to run a DW game for one of the local groups I’m a member of.  I’m curious about how much…

I’ve finally volunteered to run a DW game for one of the local groups I’m a member of.  I’m curious about how much prep everyone does for the game.  I’ve written some paragraph long settings and I have move onto working on some fronts.  I guess what I’m really interested in is the religions – does anyone work up their gods or do you always count on the players to come up with them? 

I agree with a gaming book that I just skimmed that says that people in our culture have a difficult time conceptualizing a polytheistic society when we have been exposed to a monotheistic religion for so long.

22 thoughts on “I’ve finally volunteered to run a DW game for one of the local groups I’m a member of.  I’m curious about how much…”

  1. The most prep I’d do is thinking about the game while I was falling asleep or when I was walking to the game after work.

    Edit: Just because there were a lot of gods in my game, I ripped them all off from a Steven Erickson book. I’m a seriously lazy GM.

  2. I literally do no prep before most of my games, and instead ask the players what they’re interested in playing. You don’t have to do things so loosely, but I love to take advantage of the fact that it’s possible in Dungeon World. Ask question, ask questions, ask questions.

  3. I feel I drift away from the rules a bit, because I prepare less than what I should actually do by the book:

    First session, no prep at all. Second session, a scrapped adventure front and some ideas for a campaign front. Third session, full adventure fronts and some concrete dangers for the campaign front. From the fourth session, full adventure and campaign fronts.

    I love to build pantheons, but I never prepared one in advance for DW.

    (Also, about poly vs. mono: that’s a hard discussion I always end up doing with my super-catholic but very open-minded girlfriend, and I think arguing about that on the internet is just asking for some free insults…)

  4. Prepping fronts should be enough to go on for sessions 2+.  I like making lots of questions for the players.  Here’s some examples of my prep questions from last night:

    +  “There is a dungeon.  What is its origin?”

    +  “What does the Goblin King hunger for?”

    +  “What are two alternate uses for a Resurrection Potion?”

    +  “What cataclysm broke the Great Tower of Tharizdun?”

  5. I’ve done zero prep (which I prefer) but I don’t have a ton of old-school D&D dungeon experience, so I’ve grabbed some of the Goodman Games modules and converted them over (which, if you haven’t tried yet, is effortless.)

    Then it’s just a matter of reading the module (which does take some time, probably at most a couple hours of reading for playing for five hours) and deciding what’s cool and what to ignore.  I’ve run Idylls and Revenge of the Rat King this way, and my girlfriend ran the Transmuter’s Touch that way.  Pretty fun way of doing it, worth a shot if you haven’t tried it and have some modules.

    Sometimes to start play if I’m running, I give people bankuei’s one-page tool if they’ve played D&D before (otherwise I skip that part,) and then a list of ten story prompts for the group to collectively choose from.

  6. Let the character prep with the players be the time the initial world is created. Then riff on what the players created. The will feel so much more investment in the world they built.

    And have fun.

  7. And Stras Acimovic is really good at this DW thing. He was running it last Origins for a couple full tables. I didn’t get to play in those. I’ll make up for that this year.

  8. So Stras, your prep is really just asking questions during and after character creation? 

    I’ve had two different sorts of experience at conventions with character creation:

    1. Not a whole lot is said beyond figuring out mechanics.  This is something that will be less of an issue with the nice new character sheets and summaries.

    2.  I played in a ‘living’ DW event, so we had facts about the world that we needed to absorb from earlier play sessions.

    I’m trying to figure out what I have to work with if all I show up with is copies of the sheets and some index cards for character names.

    I think I was headed more in the direction that James has suggested, but I really do want to embrace the concept of shared narrative control and don’t want to straightjacket the players.  I guess I’m getting hung up on what might happen if I get pretty tentative reactions – do I push it by asking questions???

  9. My prep starts when we sit down to play. I asked each player to volunteer some element they want in the game. Then I start them in a charged situation and ask a few leading questions to get the ball rolling.

  10. Ill be the big bore that poops on everyone’s joy party. What everyone is describing, the zero prep style, is certainly what DW describes in the book. But Mark, I’d say if you’re feeling a little chilly about that go with your gut. We’ve tried the zero prep with other games before. Tried it with Shadow of Yesterday, session sucked. Tried it with Burning Wheel twice, which sucked before it got better a third time. Some people are just better at what DW proposes than others in my experience.

    I say it can’t hurt to have some stuff up your sleeve. Use your questions to frame up around your prepped ideas. If the players at the table are really into and it’s working, unleash yourselves and go nuts. If the players are lukewarm on slinging out strong constructive answers and/or your struggling to formulate hot leading questions…fall back on your prep ideas again and try to get a foothold there and let the questions cascade from that foundation.

  11. Oh, yeah, prep is fine. But remember: play to find out what happens. Don’t script a story; come up with a situation and some interesting ideas for things to happen. But don’t feel beholden to your prep; be ready to throw it out the window. Unlike many other games, Dungeon World will actively fight you if you try to stick to a predetermined story.

  12. Mark Shocklee 

    So Stras, your prep is really just asking questions during and after character creation?

    Yes. Let me unpack this a little. When we sit down none of us knows what the game will be, but everyone as they pick playbooks and start making choices is coming up with a bit of a narrative in their head. My first task is to turn this into something coherent.

    I always bring a few sheets of blank paper. The first thing I do is start drawing some things down.

    GM: So Blackleaf, you’re a thief eh?

    BL: Yeah, I am.

    GM: Grew up on the mean streets?

    BL: No, actually, I steal because I like it. I come from a wealthy family.

    GM: Classic tale. So tell me, what’s the name of the city you live in?

    BL: Blackwood.

    GM: Good name I draw a little city on the paper, and label it Blackwood

    You can ask a few flavor questions: Hey ranger, what’s the big forest near Blackwood called? Is it the Black Wood?

    But ultimately throw in a few leading questions: And what’s the meanest thing you’ve ever had to fight in the forest? Hey Blackleaf, which thieves guild did you piss off by not giving them their cut? And how long have you been running from them?

    As a GM I don’t know what’s going to happen. So what I do is I keep drawing out answers and fleshing out our world as I go. I draw on the map, and keep asking questions till something catches. Frequently we’ll talk a bit about bonds, and how folks got to know each other, and fish for something folks are doing currently. What is the Cleric’s rank? What do they have to do to advance? Oh cleanse a site of corruption? How about these barrows of ancient heroes. Did you hear that rumor about some undead there? Oh you did. Sweet. Hey Thief, what’s the biggest treasure … umm … whose barrow is this (point to map) … good answer .. so what’s the greatest treasure the Witch Queen Cimbul has that you hope to get your mitts on? Oho. And Fighter, what legendary weapon do you know she wielded?

    Eventually you’ll find something that’s captured their imaginations. It’s mostly them, a little bit you, and a lot of bit of fun.

    Then just start in the middle of the action. My preferred first sentence is: “So fighter. Your ancestral weapon just crunches into something. What is it and what color is its blood?” Usually that first scene will set the tone for stuff continuing.

    Remember that the players don’t really need to be told too much. If they do something worth a move, call for the move. Once they see how a move works they’ll figure it out right quick. You don’t need to absorb much to get going (I usually get a question from the fighter or the barbarian as to what ‘forceful’ and ‘messy’ mean but that’s most of what I have to cover other than ‘you roll 2d6’).

    Tentative answers go away if you’re a fan of the characters and run with great energy. I find that the first couple of times I give bon mots to people during creation folks really loosen up. 

    “Man that sounds like a bad-ass weapon Fighter. Totally sweet. Reminds me of Conan meeting Elric. Very nice.”

    I’m way past double digits in games run and it always works for me 🙂

  13. Stras, thank you very much, this was the sort of example I was looking for as I couldn’t figure out how I could start out with no prep at all.  I’m going to copy this off and save it.

    Brian, thanks for reiterating the warning from the book – its always good to hear it repeated 🙂  My big prep was going to be to write up a paragraph, pre-prepare some questions, and maybe come up with a map (or if the paragraph warranted it, the name of the person that is mentioned).  I wasn’t going to take it any further than that.

    The only reason I mention a gods list in the beginning was that I just don’t want to end up with a player (like me) that has a brain freeze and we end up with Bob the Builder of the universe as the chief god.  I guess I just have trust issues.

  14. Mark remember that this is a conversation.

    Ask some broad questions first.

    “So paladin what sort of god do you serve? That sounds cool. So you would say he’s less a war god and more a deity of the people. Lets come up with a cool name for this god. Bob? Hmm can we spice that up a bit?”

  15. Stras has it right — you’re still a player in the game, and it’s really ok to just ask another player what a god’s name is if they’re stuck in the naming phase.  You can always follow that up with “So the paladin follows Athena, huh.  What do you think of Athena?” as a jumpstart on bonds.

    The StoryNames app helps me avoid naming paralysis with all but the most obstinate cases, it’s quite helpful.

  16. Chris McNeilly There’s nothing wrong in having another play style. I’m just wondering why your improvised games sucked. You’re not very specific. How did you start out and handle it?

    For me, it’s enough to just ask questions like crazy and build on the answers. Ask questions until a story emerges. I find players always have more interesting ideas than me anyway 🙂

    But prepare to your hearts content. Just don’t plan! When you plan, you don’t play to find out what happens. The move structure of DW will ruin it for you anyway.

  17. Kasper Brohus, these were all years ago and I discussed them heavily in their forums then so all is well. I don’t want to clutter Mark’s post with rehashes of it. It all stemmed from very traditional players and GM just not being comfortable with off the cuff creation.

  18. Chris McNeilly Just thought it might be relevant to go over the pitfalls. I find it a lot easier to improvise in DW than in other games. Just follow the fiction, the moves will handle the rest.

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