I have just finished reading Dungeon World and I want to run a one shot for my group to see if they like it.

I have just finished reading Dungeon World and I want to run a one shot for my group to see if they like it.

I have just finished reading Dungeon World and I want to run a one shot for my group to see if they like it.  Any advice?

I have never played Dungeon World or any Apocalypse World based games.

22 thoughts on “I have just finished reading Dungeon World and I want to run a one shot for my group to see if they like it.”

  1. First off, relax and enjoy it! The first session will be chaotic and surprisingly quiet as people realise just how much freedom the game gives, and they’ll need a bit of prompting. Both to say what their characters are doing, and also to say things in the fiction rather than choose moves. Remember players should narrate things, then you decide on what move gets used.

    Never say the name of your move. “the goblin swings a sharp dagger at your guts! What do you do?” is so much better than “there’s a goblin attacking you. Defy Danger or take 1d6 damage”

    The Dungeon World guide is fantastic, get your players to have a quick scan over that. It explains things really well, and the core thing is that it gets the mindset of playing Dungeon World down, which is surprisingly different from other games. You’re looking to have a great adventure and let the rules lightly support that from underneath, rather than play a highly complicated boardgame where you occasionally get to do something cool because you chose that skill levelling up three weeks ago.


    Other than that, totally enjoy it! You’ll find it incredibly freeing as you basically get to narrate what you’re doing, then roll to find out what happens. I love that there’s no restrictions at all; you don’t need a rank in “Stab Evil Dude in the Throat while Falling From the Ceiling II” in order to pull it off, just say you’re going to jump off a pillar, dagger first, and then see what happens!

    (splat into the ground and get cleaned up into a bucket by the Cleric, who then resurrects you as a slime mould by selling his soul)

  2. Also, keep the first game simple. Think of an opening scenario with lots of danger for the players – things on fire, creatures attacking – and have a couple of ideas for the remainder if the plot lulls. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know, what do YOU think is in the bottom of the pit?”

  3. Oh man, Jeremy Riley I had a D&D lifer playing in my group two weeks ago, when he quickly scanned a room for “anything out of the ordinary”, I told him that he recognised something familiar in the room. “What is it?” He asked… “You tell me!” I offered. Blew his mind!

    Matt Harrop, you might have some resistance from players used to other game systems where the GM is the final authority on everything… Or maybe they’re not good at thinking creatively in an improvised setting. I have two small pieces of advice:

    1) when a player seems unsure of how to answer a question, give them a moment to think about it, go to another player, and then come back to them.

    2) if they are still at a loss, let them know they can take input from other players… Or alternately, you could narrow the question down to 2-3 options and have them choose. The latter isn’t as much fun but might help a shy player ease into the DW mindset.

  4. All really good advice. To follow up on what Stefan Grambart said, if you run into a player who is having trouble with the questions, don’t be afraid to let the player “bank” the answer. Instead of halting the game while they struggle for an answer, making them more and more uncomfortable, let them give their answer later. Some players do well when the spotlight is thrust upon them. Others will shrink back if you shine it full in their face. Let them ease into it.

    Some players get stuck thinking that the Moves on their sheets are the only things they can do. That is so not the case. If you find players checking their sheets when you ask “What do you do?” have them turn their sheets over. Really drive home that the players should put fiction first.

  5. Totally what Jeremy Riley says. Think of some questions that will create a starting scene full of danger and struggle. I did this recently. I said “Its morning twilight and you’re guarding a barge down river.” Then I asked my players:

    – What has the barge hit hard?

    – Someone you don’t want to die is lying bleeding, who and why?

    – Who is shooting arrows at you?

    – Why is the barge on fire?

    – What do you do?

    Build on their answers, ask more questions, etc. Heaps of fun.

  6. In media res is awesome and can be used in other situations as well. When we had a newcomer join (wizard), I opened up with:

    “You get hit in the face with a big meaty fist, the other end of which is attached to a brutish thug. He’s got you tied to a chair and has been interrogating you for hours. Whom does he work for, and what do they want to know?”

  7. I’m running an urban adventure (yet another failed one-shot) and I try to start every session in media res with questions. 

    Another thing you need to do if you want to do a real one-shot, is to set a goal as early as possible. You can decide in advance of course (you’ve ventured in these caves in search of the Rod of Sven Pärts) but you can also ask questions. It’s very important that you make sure every scene/confrontation brings the heroes closer though.

    Kasper Brohus posted a model for one-shots on his blog. You may want to give it a read: http://partialsuccess.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/the-cmc-model/

  8. Thanks for all of the advice! I think I might try running Dungeon World this coming weekend.

    My thought is to have the party starting right outside of a goblin layer and then ask each player a defining question. Any suggestions on the questions?

  9. Don’t start them outside the lair. Start them inside the lair surrounded by goblins. Put them in the thick of the action right from the start.

    Then you can ask questions like:

    What fabulous treasure is rumored to be at the heart of these goblin warrens, and who has contracted you to retrieve it?

    What new power or ability does this goblin tribe have that has elevated them from a minor nuisance to a full blown threat?

  10. Cheers! Just spitballing while feeding my kids their dinner. Another angle on your fabulous treasure question: What fabulous treasure have you spotted buried in the warrens and what’s stopping you getting it right now?

    I found nothing more useful than giving PCs precious, precious stuff because then I can ask “Does something you’re carrying break or do you take damage?” Works every time.

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