New GM Looking For Tips

New GM Looking For Tips

New GM Looking For Tips

Hey all – I’m GMing my first DW game. I’ve done a fair bit of GMing in other systems and I’ve playing ApocWorld games a fair bit, but in running a DW game, I’m finding myself struggling a bit.

I’m running a game with 3 players once a week at work, and we’ve had a couple of sessions, including character creation and then the initial delve into a dirty goblin cave while they search for the a lost icon to one of the characters’ gods.

I’m familiar with the “open world” feel of other ApocWorld games, but in a linear adventure like a dungeon delve like this, I’m finding myself struggling a little bit in the “what happens next” department. Initially, I had the group climb down a dirty hole into the earth and have a run in with some wild cave dogs.

For those of you who have GM’d cave delves, which are relatively linear, how do you prep “what happens next”? Do you prep the entire cave, or do you randomly decide on things as you go along? I’m using  a Dungeon Starter (“The Goblin Hole”), so would I simply grab an idea from that list and go with it?

Any suggestions or tips would be appreciated.


15 thoughts on “New GM Looking For Tips”

  1. I’m not familiar with that particular Dungeon Starter, but based on what you said, I’m guessing there’s some goblins. So, what rooms would goblins have? A (poorly made) feast hall, where the religious icon is stored along with all the other tokens of conquest? Were the goblin dogs watchdogs? If so, as a hard move, you can throw even more goblins at them, perhaps with the houndmaster, tears in his eyes and clutching the collar of a dog on his hand, leading the charge?

    So, basically, just brainstorm some cool ideas and when they look to you to see what happens, think about which of the ideas you came up with would be the coolest to introduce.

  2. Thanks, Gio. I appreciate your feedback! We’ve got another game tomorrow afternoon, so I’ll give it some thought and have some ideas for them. I’m not about to map the cavern, but I’ll jot down some plans and see what happens.

    Andy Standfield Forgive my ignorance, but “/sub”?

  3. I tend to prep a lot (basically have a list of the room, the creatures, the development).

    I do it mostly for my piece of mind and to reassure me.

    Once the game starts, all my note usually go out of the window… but I feel confident I can improvise because I have prepared well.

    Why not draw a map of the cave for yourself to visualize it and then put your different NPCs on it with some basic ideas as to what they are doing there and what do they want from the PCs? I find it very useful once I start moving NPCs arround (like when they are fleeing from the PCs or trying to ambush them).

    You could also give yourself 5 minutes to think about your dungeon. Ask yourself some basic questions :

    Who build it and why?

    What happened there?

    Why did the initial occupant leave?

    Who took its place and why?

    What kind of modification did they do to the place?

    Why are the PC here?

  4. Yeah, if you’re stuck for what comes next, just pick an impression from the list – that’s what they’re there for. Map as you go. Alternately, if a couple impressions strike your fancy draw a cavern chamber for each on separate sheets of paper so you can pull them out as needed but you still have all the between area as a blank.

  5. I find that I get stuck if I prep too much or too little. Too much and I feel locked in to what I’ve prepped, making GM Moves difficult sometimes. Too little and I don’t know what to do next. Striking that balance can be hard though.

    I would do what Marshall Miller suggested. Brainstorm what rooms or areas would be found in this goblin hole and note each one on a seperate sheet of paper. Or an index card. Maybe write notes about what the areas contain, or who usually lives there. Don’t worry about how they connect. When you’re running the game and need to describe a new area, grab one that seems appropriate. Boom.

    Also, there’s nothing wrong with stealing a map wholecloth from a module. I do that almost exclusively. But I use the map as a guide, meaning nothing is set in stone. I add secret doors, fill in or expand sections as needed and as time allows.

  6. I agree with Christopher Stone-Bush as far as stealing a map or drawing a simple one.

    Drawing maps and leaving blanks is an important part of the game.

    Lets say you have a large circular map (just to keep it from being liner :). The well drops in right at the center with hallways leading in five different directions. Plan out one or two of these rooms. A mess hall maybe, and then something fun, like a devout goblin cleric temple of the same god the PC worships, the goblin stole it because he needed something to unite the other goblins in devotion to his god.

    Other then that you can leave the rooms blank. Fill them in as cool ideas come up (listen to your players, they will give you hints of what they expect to see, and what they think would be cool)

    Happy Hunting.

  7. I steal liberally from the past so to speak. In dealing with fresh faces that weren’t there for all the old war stories I can go backwards in time and remember a cool thing that happened that one time… And implement it in the current adventure to see what happens this time. A twice told story can be fresh and new if the catalysts motivating the story don’t know its roots and original outcome.

    I ran the old Tomb of the Lizard King module earlier in the week and the players were up in arms about Aulicus, the black dragon and totally hedging me about how the previous party defeated him. I couldn’t tell them as it would completely skew their ideas as I felt sure they’d try to repeat the strategy. For the record however, Aulicus was crippled by having a fighter topple a crumbling pillar at the old temple on his back and make him easier pickings but that was none of the current players’ business.

    I prep but basically make a general idea of what might happen and let the fiction guide things. Design basic encounters, props that might be usable, environmental hazards that may come into play. If the material doesn’t get used it can be recycled into a latter encounter as the players will be none the wiser.

  8. I forgot to add that just because a dungeon is linear doesn’t mean its inhabitants are static. Have them move around.

    I occasionally key encounters to specific areas, if it makes sense (spiders in their nest, the big bad Lich King in his sarcophagus, the Fire Priestess in the Sacred Flame room, etc.) but more often I just write up the baddies and note places where they might be. The Stinkwater Goblin Tribe owns these sections of the cave complex. The Necromancer moves between his chambers, library, and summoning pit as appropriate.

    Keeping things open like that prevent you from geting stuck. When I started GMing Dungeon World, sometimes I felt as if I was cheating by just “maing things happen” when I made a GM Move. Especially if I had something else happening in my notes. Keeping things loose is how I shake that feeling of cheating.

  9. Read the monster entry for goblins and really think about their instinct and moves. They tend to swarm. I’ve thrown literally dozen*s* of goblins at starting characters. Be super accepting of the PCs’ plans to massacre piles of them at once and build on their successes and failures.

    It’s not about your adventure, it’s about their’s.

  10. Things went well! Thank you for all of the suggestions and tips! I spent some time thinking about the caverns where things were happening, some changes that had happened to it recently, who they were done by and why. Some random elements were tossed in when I felt the need to mix things up, and I’ve ended up with a simple cave delve offering tidbits of things that are happening around the region that the group could follow up on afterwards. Most of it they suggested through general chit-chat, and they didn’t even realize it.

    I have an idea of two rooms in the caves that are newer, carved out by goblins at the request of a newcomer who is posing as a figure from goblin legend. Those rooms are not on the map, but will be triggered to show up when I feel it makes sense – I don’t feel that stumbling into the BBEG’s lair too early is any good, I’d rather be able to build the mystery and tension before they end up there. Cheating? Maybe. I see it as helping them have a grand adventure.

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