Can somebody please explain stakes questions to me without being abstract like the rulebook?

Can somebody please explain stakes questions to me without being abstract like the rulebook?

Can somebody please explain stakes questions to me without being abstract like the rulebook? (i´m german and i dont understand “stakes”) 🙂

(thats my only issue with DW that it is to cryptic with words and doesn´t have proper examples 🙂

19 thoughts on “Can somebody please explain stakes questions to me without being abstract like the rulebook?”

  1. A stake is what you are risking, or hoping to earn. In gambling, the money you bet is “at stake,” and in a house fire lives are “at stake.”

    A stakes question in DW is a question that you are not answering yourself as the GM. It is a question you want to learn the answer to by playing the game.

  2. Ok, as an example from a game I ran. We had an artificer, and one of the dangers was an intelligent artifact that was really dangerous when put together. So one of the stakes was, ” Will the artificer put the artifact together?” I really wanted to find out, so I played towards that (giving him opportunities to do spans such)

  3. Two ways:

    Either stakes questions tell you when the campaign is over (because everything the group was interested in has been answered),


    They make you carefully evaluate what you do to an NPC, location, or status quo if its involved in a stakes question. You’re supposed to avoid decisions made on a whim about these.

  4. “Will Bob the cleric commit attrocities in the name of his goddess” is a stake question. As a gm, you don’t know the answer. You can and should arrange circumstances in the story to try to discover the answer.

  5. A stake is something the player (or moviegoer or novel reader) is emotionally invested in, and that is in jeopardy.

    The principle for creating suspense is “Raise the stakes.”


    A witch is loose in the area. The stake is: Someone may die. There is suspense but it is low key. It gets the adventure going. 

    Then we hear the news; The witch is targeting children. We have an emotional attachment to children: The stakes are raised, and suspense increases. 

    Then a child disappears. The stakes have risen from a theoretical threat to a practical disaster in the making. 

    Next piece of information as the story progresses: It is the daughter of the fighter in the party, ratcheting up the stakes and suspense even further. 

    Finally, just before the final boss fight, we hear that the witch is going to use the fighter’s daughter for a ritual, that will place all the children in the village under her corrupting power. 

    So now EVERYBODY’s child is in jeopardy, and the suspense is at maximum level.

    So to answer the question: Stakes are one of the drivers of suspense. It is something of value to the players that is at risk. As the session or campaign progresses the stakes are raised, by making it more personal and of more value. The stakes must be the absolute highest just before the climax – in RPG terms the climactic encounter or the boss fight.

  6. So like, in Adventures on Dungeon Planet, I have a front called Robot Invasion. One of the stakes questions is “Will the princess stay and lead the fight or flee into exile?” Leora Dallan, the princess, is the Emperor’s daughter, and the Emperor is incapacitated by illness. This is all the characterization I’ve provided with the front.

    In play, I’m going to deliberately NOT answer this question for myself until the crucial moment. I won’t write grim portents about what happens either way, and I won’t decide the consequences of either choice ahead of time. What I WILL try to do is make sure the players are aware that this is a choice the princess (an NPC) is going to have to make at some point, mainly so they can have a say in what happens.

    When the time comes for her to choose, I will decide what she does based on a number of factors, like:

    – How I have role-played her up to this point.

    – What the actual situation in the game is like (as in, how strong are the robots, what worlds have fallen, how successful the PCs have been, etc).

    – The intervention of the PCs (perhaps they have parleyed with her?).

    And only at that point will I consider all the circumstances and make a decision. Not before. Then I will decide what the consequences and results will be based on the fiction at the time, me prep, the PCs, etc.

    Why do this? Partly to keep the suspense up for me as a GM, partly to give more weight to what the PCs end up doing (so it’s not like they are going through a choose-your-own-adventure thing). But mostly it is so that all the fiction we have created before this point can be the real deciding factor. NOT the pre-written front (that maybe someone else wrote, if it’s not me running this front), NOT my own prep before the game or between the first and second sessions, and NOT my own sense of “what the story needs.” The deciding factor is the game we have been playing for however many sessions, all the things I improvised, the character decisions I made spontaneously, the things that players said about the world their PCs live in, and perhaps most importantly, the things their PCs did during those games. Especially the things that I as the GM and front-writer, never suspected they would do.

  7. Wynand Louw you wrote a great explanation of stakes in general fiction, but here loco tomo is asking for the specific DW mechanic of stakes — that is, questions the GM asks to himself before the session as a part of front creation and which he tries to answer during the game.

  8. Alessandro. The question the gm asks in the witch example is “will she get all the children?” So it is the same thing, the way I see it. And while many fiction writing principles do not apply to games, this one of “raising the stakes” definitely does!

  9. It’s very much about answering the question: “What is at stake, here?” what is on the table, being gambled by the success, failure or behaviour of the PCS?  What matters?

    You can assess the stakes questions of any piece of fiction fairly easily, I think, if you’re looking for a thought experiment.

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