This is going to be a very Vincent Baker-like RPG-theory post, based on some thoughts about my last session of DW…

This is going to be a very Vincent Baker-like RPG-theory post, based on some thoughts about my last session of DW…

This is going to be a very Vincent Baker-like RPG-theory post, based on some thoughts about my last session of DW with Eric Nieudan and Patrick Smith.

I’ve gotten a lot of experience with improv GM’ing Dungeon World under my belt now, and I’ve found that an “encounter” (to use D&D terminology) takes roughly an hour to complete, including the time it takes to get to the next encounter. This assume we are playing via Hangouts.

OK, lets call it Dramatic Situation, shortened to DS. I don’t like the word encounter, it sounds weird in this context. It makes me think about fights, which is not everything that there’s to it.

So, if you want to make a one-shot, running for about 4 hours, you usually spend a little less than an hour to start the game out, making characters, asking all the necessary questions and setting the scene.

This leaves the GM with 3 hours of actual game play, which means that we can roughly fit 3 Dramatic Situations into it.

So, if you are like me, not really preparing stuff, then this is actually incredibly useful, because it gives me some knowledge about what we have time for.

So, an easy model for improv gaming I’ve come up with is the following, after yesterdays game:

The first DS can give clues to another DS, which in turn gives the player a means to complete their “quest” by leading them to a final, conclusive DS. This model could be called “Clue, Means, Conclusion”, or CMC-model.

A base assumption for the CMC-model, as I see it, is that the players should have a clear goal the minute the game actually start. The model then have the advantage that it doesn’t require preparation. You just go with the motions of the players, react to their actions.

When a DS emerges, think about how it can lead the players to another DS, one that makes sense for the players to seek out.

In my game yesterday, after the first DS, the Bard got poisoned by stepping into a dart trap. Their captured enemy told them how to find the medicine man (the medicine croc, they were small-sized crocodile men) of their tribe, after some “persuasion”. This was the first DS, leading to a DS with the Medicroc, also going by the name Chiqual.

In this DS, I thought about how I could lead them to a conclusive situation, so I used the fact that Chiqual had leverage over the poisoned bard, making them promise to dispose of the tribe leader, a monstrously huge crocodilian named Xecotl, who was carrying the artifact the players went down into the ruined temple to get.

This turned out to be the conclusive scenario, because they had to either persuade Xecotl to give up the artifact, or take it by force. They tried the former, but because they started provoking him, it ended up being a fist fight to the death between Xecotl and the Paladin, while the Bard sang songs of glory to support him.

It was wonderful, the paladin barely won, and they got hold of the Eye of Ogden, the artifact they were seeking.

I used this CMC-model without thinking about it, but afterwards I talked with Eric Nieudan, and he mentioned that it was the first proper one-shot, actual one-session game he ever played. That just made me think about why it “worked”, and this is my pseudo-conclusion.

It seemed to work pretty well. What do you guys think? Comments? Thoughts?

16 thoughts on “This is going to be a very Vincent Baker-like RPG-theory post, based on some thoughts about my last session of DW…”

  1. Seems a good way of thinking, yeah. I played a 2-hour hangout game last night with friends and wish I’d had this idea in mind. It was a continuation of a previous session, so technically we already had the first DC in the bag, but without a fully realised goal for the players. So the 2nd DC (the first hour of last night’s game) was a bit of an unfocused mess, and the 3rd DC, while an entertaining enough ‘boss fight’, wasn’t really relevant to the previous encounters or any overarching plot.

  2. This kind of thought pattern is actually pretty new to me, because “doing the obvious thing” doesn’t immediately sound compatible.

    It is, though, because the minute you know where you should be going, new kinds of “obvious things” seems to pop up.

  3. You’re basically creating a three-act structure for RPGs here : setup, confrontation and resolution. It’s a great way of organising a one-shot (or even a game session), I’ll have to try it next time.

  4. I think this idea can be greatly expanded upon. For example with a better understanding of choice. Pointing to two or more different ways of handling in the Clue part, and even adding extra Clues and Means steps for longer play.

  5. That’s helpful, Kasper.  Thanks.  I can’t seem to be able to Hangout through the Great Firewall, and getting players together here is difficult since they just bought new gaming computers.  Hopefully, I can use this method to generate enough interest when I do get them to sit down with me again.

  6. I know the games powered by Gumshoe use this kind of node-based structure. But aside from preparation, it kills the freedom of DW. I think you’re better off improvising your dramatic situations as you go, making sure you’re within the allocated time frame.

  7. Node Based Design. I’m especially fond of the Node Cake 🙂

    I had never thought much about clues and what not, but past the first session, this type of preparation comes in very handy.

    I picked up the idea of providing three clues that the players can act upon.  Choosing to act on any one of the clues will have the opportunity cost of not acting on the other clues (first). This gets very interesting in my head.

    What happens when the characters have a map to a hidden treasure, a letter outlining an intended assassination, and an informant who says he can help the Paladin find his mentor?

    Each time the players act on one piece of knowledge you get to take into account the information they are not acting on and take a logical next step.

    I’ve already started prepping for my next game and I’m jazzed!

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