Hello! I’m new to the DW community and playing DW but so far I am having a blast! This system has been like a light summer rain, refreshing and I could stand in it all day despite becoming wrinkled like a prune.

So far the game I am running has been completely within the realm of “Theater of the Mind”. While I enjoy this style of gaming, this is my first foray into a completely figure-less and mat-less style and I am having a few issues.

I am being pushed to describe, in more detail, every room, area or scene that the PC’s enter into. Sometimes I miss important aspects but I try to at least give the PC’s directions they can go at the end of each description.

However, I have noticed some players having problems determining where they are; I’m sure it is due to my lack of description and players being distracted.

While a map would be helpful I have tried to avoid it but I’m wondering what does everyone prefer as a mix between imagination and using visual aids?

How do you as a GM or Player prefer to play DW?

Do you prefer visual aids to help orient yourself or for other reasons? Do visual aids detract from your experience?

As a GM, do you encourage your players to ask about specific details? How much detail do you give?

As a Player, what do you require as the “bare minimum” description to visualize a room?

20 thoughts on “Hello!”

  1. I wish I had that problem Vasiliy Shapovalov ! Everyone at my table either comes from D&D or video gaming, so visuals were sort of built in.

    Ralph Mazza , what I take away from that is your players demand at least maps? Do you still describe the corridors in as much detail as you do without maps? 

  2. I can’t recall if the instructions made it into the Dungeon World book.  But in Apocalypse World which inspired it, its an explicit instruction of the game.  Not something the players are demanding, something the game tells you to do.

    They don’t need, and shouldn’t be, masterpieces of cartography.  Just the minimum necessary to get a sense of space and distance.

    You still want to describe things in great detail…but now you have some place to put those things.

  3. I believe there is a principle along the lines of “Draw maps, leave blanks,” so go nuts.  Just make sure they know it’s not to scale, it’s not to see what your movement rate or firing range is, it just shows you where stuff is.

  4. I ask tons of questions, it’s great!

    Keith Stetson , totally. I do that but I don’t necessarily show the PC’s the map but rather try to get them to ask about the area, which is difficult. To me, drawing out a map or plopping one down in front of the players breaks the flow of the narrative but it may be necessary. Right now the flow is fast and dangerous, I constantly ask questions and urge the players to act.

    As background,  I have been running games, mostly D&D, for 15 years! Not only that I make maps as part of my living, hah. I am more curious as to the extent that other GM’s and Players like rather than what I’m supposed to do.

  5. With DW, what should be done is pretty important. It’s a game meant to be run a certain way, because of how all the principals jive.

    I draw tons of maps. Not because I super love to draw maps, but because I’m supposed to and I never have a confused player when there are maps on the table. Also, they’re fun to leaf through later and remember that time with the thing in the place.

  6. I usually have a map drawn out, and maybe one or two markers on it, though it’s always been secondary to the fiction–instead of describing a room’s physical space in detail, I can draw a rough outline and say things like “You walk through the door here and see three goblins staring at you from over there…” Makes it much easier to remind everyone what exits there are and what their opens for traversing the physical space were.

    I’ve also run games with no player-facing map whatsoever, though I had a notebook with a rough sketch of circles labeled things like “Orb” and “Petrified”. I go by the rule that if it wasn’t said then it does exist, and vice versa, which I occasionally exploit to allow for things like “There are several doors leading to smaller rooms along this hallway”, which allows for the actual number of rooms to be discovered in the course of the fiction. Though this may be a step too far for people who need a more concrete world to fictionally interact with. (“That’s the last room” becomes a hard move, in this case…)

  7. Elliott Doza By principles, I mean the GM principles listed in the book (Coincidentally, the first of which is ‘draw maps’ funnily enough).

    The principles frame what kind of game DW is. It says, for example, to give monsters life — to make them real, and not just obstacles. You don’t have to, but that’s part of what makes this game fly. It also says begin and end with the fiction — again, that is what makes DW pop!

    In that same list, it says make maps and leave blanks. It is one of the things the GM should keep in mind when making his or her decisions for the game. It suggests that it gives everyone a common reference point for what is happening.

    What I meant, when I pointed out that the principles are important to how Dungeon World runs, was that what players/GMs enjoy is cool but drawing maps is actually part of the game as intended 🙂

    And, in my experience, super helpful

  8. Ah, yes I read those. I took it to mean more smaller scale maps than more detailed maps, like dungeons. I may use more detailed maps next time, I would just hate to interrupt the flow of the narrative by tossing out a map or having to draw one as I DM. I need to find a strategy that works to minimize that issue.

    Maybe I’ll make some rough maps myself and ask for a cartographer on the PC side.

  9. I think this discussion has taken a wrong turn. Hah. I’m not looking for what I can do specifically but what others prefer and how they like to run or play.

  10. Adam Koebel Thank you! This game is a blast; I can have mouth diarrhea for hours since I don’t have to roll dice and look up stats constantly.

  11. I just had an idea! To keep the creative juices flowing all over the table when I draw maps I’m going to ask a PC or two a question and have them answer it as I draw. Maybe about the area I’m drawing, maybe about their character, maybe about an organization they’re in. That way I’m not drawing while talking, which I’m not great at.

    Anything to keep adding to the milieu of the setting.

  12. I play most RPGs online and Dungeon World is no exception. I find visual aids are absolutely necessary in this format so as to avoid confusion. Here is a screencap of what I use when I run Jason Morningstar ‘s “Slave-Pit of Drazhu” on Roll20.net.


    As you can see, I’ve used the map from the adventure plus some art I found online for inspiration. You can move little tokens around on the map to get an idea of where everyone is, if you need to. (Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. It’s not meant to be “tactical.”) Clarity in the scene means less questions (which are soft blocks anyway, boo!) and more declaration, which means more action!

    Apologies for the long URL. I’m not sure how to put a link in comments or even if you can.

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