Johnstone Metzger,  you’ve written that you “tend to run dungeoncrawls in DW the same as I would in B/X D&D.”…

Johnstone Metzger,  you’ve written that you “tend to run dungeoncrawls in DW the same as I would in B/X D&D.”…

Johnstone Metzger,  you’ve written that you “tend to run dungeoncrawls in DW the same as I would in B/X D&D.” Elsewhere, you said that you didn’t include monsters in Truncheon World because you’re usually playing a module that includes all the monsters you need. I’m curious if you’ve run into any challenges running DW with B/X-style dungeon crawl, particularly because Dungeon World seems to emphasize “leaving blanks” for improvisation, where old school dungeon modules key an entire location.

I’m planning to run a module-inspired dungeon crawl in Dungeon World this weekend. I’ve gone over the module with the the adventure conversion rules in mind several times. There is no plot or factions to convert into conventional Fronts, just a bunch of dangerous and evocative places to explore. That doesn’t bother me though.

The thing that trips me up is the advice from the DW text: “When the players go into that room marked ‘4f’ don’t look it up, just make a guess at what might be there based on your notes and what else has been happening.” But imaginative environmental details are the main thing I like about modules. While it’s easy for me to improvise drama and character-driven conflict, meaningful dungeon dressing is the whole point of a keyed location, to me.

I’m mindful that I grabbed a module for my very first Dungeon World run, and it was totally eclipsed by the fiction that emerged from character creation. It was a pleasant surprise, but the room-by-room exploration seemed a bit stiff by comparison. Do you have any tips or words of caution for running room-by-room exploration of a keyed location in Dungeon World?

Thanks in advance! I welcome ideas from anyone, not just JM, I’ve just been wondering about that particular comment.

8 thoughts on “Johnstone Metzger,  you’ve written that you “tend to run dungeoncrawls in DW the same as I would in B/X D&D.”…”

  1. I don’t see why you couldn’t have pre-populated rooms in a dungeon. “Play to find out what happens” and “leave blanks” don’t mean you shouldn’t do any prep at all, it means that you shouldn’t over-detail things or have a preconceived notion of what the players should do when the hit the room.

    Like, you can say that a room has six orcs in it. But don’t try to guess ahead what the situation will be when the PCs encounter them. Just put the orcs there, have an idea what their “default” deal is (guards? slacking off on patrol? fellow adventurers?) then leave it. Let things flow from there when the PCs encounter them.

  2. I ran a converted adventure like this over the weekend. Just kept the important details in my head. The people playing had no idea if what I conveyed what actually in the key or just something I made up.

  3. I love it when they ask, in a dungeon crawl, what here is useful to me. It finally made traps work for me. And most recently they ended up going through a false floor in a pit into a whole new section based on speculation and making those things useful that were randomly declared to be useful earlier. So much fun.

  4. Ask your players questions! Why are they in the dungeon in the first place? What is the dungeon, and why is it there? Just wandering in to a cave that expands into a dungeon is good enough for D&D, but Dungeon World demands a living world that’s created through improvisation. Ask your players tons and tons of questions and together you’ll create a solid, cohesive world from improvisation.

    Once you’ve got that, it’s easy to create a cohesive theme/ danger to the dungeon! Use the answers your players give to make a cohesive place; it could be the winter palace of the ice queen, who’s lying dormant until a cold spell. The construct the Front and Dire Portent from it; the rooms grow warmer as the players disturb them, awakening larger and larger creatures from their frozen tombs until finally the Ice Queen wakes herself!

    If the answer is a plain “raid dungeon for treasure”, then what placed it there? Why doesn’t it just use a bank? Are your players effectively bank robbers, pulling a violent heist? Where did the gold come from, or is it a treasure far more valuable/ terrifying? There will be repercussions, no matter what!

    The key GM principle to use here is “act off screen”. The Front and Dire Portents system are just perfect for this. Use what the players give to create a compelling and live world, fraught with dangers and unknown, intriguing things.

    If you’re looking for a simple danger, have they ever wronged someone important/ attracted the attention of dark forces is a pretty easy place to make a nice Front from, one that’ll probably slot into a dungeon fairly easily at that.

  5. To some extent it depends on the group you play with .When I play with my Kids I find that having some prepared dungeons with populated rooms makes things a lot easier. As they still find it difficult to be good Dungeon World Players. Which leaves the load of making everything up on me.

    I’d also note some of the 3rd party Dungeon World adventures like “Lair of the Unknown” include fully keyed dungeon maps.

  6. I wouldn’t get too caught up in the feeling that you’re violating some standard by using a thoroughly keyed dungeon. I’ve used DW to run a number of modules pretty much as written, and they’ve all been lots of fun. DW is eminently flexible, and for me has been most enjoyable when I absorb and apply the spirit of the rules without worrying about what philosophical principles I may or may not be violating.

    If it works, and it’s fun, do it!

  7. I like the feeling that the dungeon is a real thing that the players are discovering, and not something the GM is just inventing on the spot. So I don’t like leaving blanks on the map, per se. Player input is best when it’s things the PCs are familiar with, and of course the dungeon should conform to the structures of the overall setting. But of you have a prepared map, part of the point (for me) is to play the map honestly.

    That said, I don’t usually go for room descriptions like “10×10, 3 orcs.” I say it’s a room where 3 orcs sleep and play dice. Whether those 3 orcs are actually there when the PCs get there depends on what has happened already in the adventure. But it’s absolutely fine to look up room descriptions during play. Just like everything else, though: fit them into the fiction that’s already happened.

    I think people interpret “ask question” and “leave blanks” (and “play to find out”) in a bunch of different ways, which are often similar but not always. I’ve got a lot I could say about that, but that’s maybe more appropriate as a forum thread than on hard-to-search Gplus.

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