33 thoughts on “Oh crap.”

  1. In Dungeon World, having nothing planned is a feature, not a bug.

    Focus on having good questions to ask, and be prepared to run with the cool stuff that comes up.

    Learn the triggers for the basic moves.

    Be prepared to say roll +stat and improvise the results when something happens that isn’t covered by a move.

    Pay close attention to the Discern Realities and Spout Lore moves. They’re at the heart of what makes playing DW different from D&D.

    Read the Dungeon World Guide http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=4996.0 I’d give them money if they were selling it.

    There is no initiative or turn order. You ask players what they do, when you want to know or if it would be cool if they did something. You are GM, DJ, and director all in one.

    Go Niners.

  2. Thanks, Michael Llaneza, I pored over that guide earlier today, but that was before I knew I had to run the game on Friday.  I’ll be looking it over again tomorrow and trying to create some Fronts, or just a beginning situation and basic storyline and let the players run with it.  Thanks for the great advice and…Go ‘Hawks!

  3. Run with it, we both will on Sunday.

    I’m going to recommend watching Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s the perfect textbook for pacing and snowballing 7-9 results. Most especially in the truck scene, which is about 10 “ok, you got out of that fix, how do you get out of this one.” If the players don’t duplicate the look on Indy’s face when the hood ornament starts to bend at least once a session, you’re doing it wrong. Like your offense in recent weeks.

    In the guide, pay special attention to the soft move/hard move discussion and how the soft move sets up the hard one that may follow.

  4. A good way to start a game is to put the heroes in a difficult situation, and ask them how they ended up there.

    Why are the goblins chasing you in this poisoned jungle?

    What are you all doing dangling from this airship in the middle of a storm?

    It gives you some action to get them hooked, and enough story to keep going until the next batch of questions.

  5. Following on that, I like having the players pile into a 20×30 room, with an unspecified danger behind them, and an indeterminate objective in front of them. Throw some enemies at them and then start asking why they can’t go back, what might catch up with them, and why they’re here.

    That’s best for a combat focused group. If you want to focus on the Druid or ranger, do something outdoors, or ask why they’re in a dungeon. If the wizard gets her character finished first, direct her attention to the Ritual move and ask her what she’s trying to cast and why. Ritual is a campaign seed disguised as a player ability.

  6. Question to Player #1:  You are all in a deathtrap as the adventure opens, tell me what the trap is.

    Question to Player #2:  Who put you in this deathtrap, and where are you in a general sense (city, jungle, mountains, island, etc)?

    Question to Player #3:  Why did they put you in the trap?  (Are you after something they are guarding, were they hired to kill you, etc)

    Question to Player #4:  There’s something your captors don’t know or overlooked when they put you in the trap, what is it and how will it help you?

    Just make up the escape and the rest of the session based on the answers you get!

  7. I think that the opening questions shouldn’t just establish the scene, they need to establish the goal of the entire first session. Unless you want two hours of escape from the deathtrap, of course. 

    Instead, start with the big picture, and work your way in. Why are you here, where are you going, what’s in the way, what’s the danger right now?

  8. Peter Johansen   I included “why are you here” and who, where, etc.  I think sometimes starting small is easier and working out from there, rather than hitting a player with the big questions right out of the gate.  Start with something small and definable, like the trap, and build out from there so that the bigger questions have something to latch on to.  If the trap is “tied to logs on a raging river and approaching a waterfall!”, that then gives some context to build upon.  “Ok, then let’s say a tribe of xenophobic elves did this!”  Now comes the why, “Hmm, xenophobic elves, ok, how about we’re on an expedition to get a rare plant in their woods needed to cure a plague back in the city?”  Perfect! 

    Now you have plenty for the first session: escape the trap, make you way through the woods looking for that plant trying to avoid the elves this time, and you can throw additional dangers at them like wild animals, a hungry carnivorous plant, the elves again, etc.

  9. I am in chargen for my first game. I have one player who insists on running three PCs. Instead of the normal light questioning I am conducting an in character interview for each PC. The level of detail is pretty deep ending up with a character concept akin to (a high point) GURPS or Burning Wheel PC.

    I am loaded with information now and am in the middle of writing up each character bio. Attached is a document akin to a Dungeon Starter, full of hooks, locations, important relationships, prominent NPCs, and any info or nuggets I can use to create situations I feel that player would really respond to. This process has really helped me identify what kinds of things she is likely to see and go COOOOL to.

    I know this isn’t the standard approach but when your player spends two sessions, not including the interviews, working out the finer details of their outfits, appearances, and picking the perfect names to reflect who their characters are at their core, well it just makes sense. Obviously my player really gets into character =P

  10. I’ll be looking it over again tomorrow and trying to create some Fronts, or just a beginning situation and basic storyline and let the players run with it.

    Don’t make any Fronts for the first session. Use your first session to learn about how your fantasy world works, using your initial charged situation as an example. Ask questions about the characters, ask them about the danger they’re in, and ad lib your first bad situation until they’re completely out of the dungeon/situation. That might be one session, it might be two; by then you’ll have enough information that any Fronts you make will specifically connect to your PCs.

  11. My biggest philosophy for DW is to always find a way to say yes to my players’ ideas. If you support them (“of course there is a floating city you can come from”, “yes these creatures have an overly protective mother”, “sure you can push over the bookshelf onto the ghoul”) then you can have a great game with minimal prep- 20 minutes of brainstorming plus what the players throw at you could be plenty.

    Good luck!

  12. I like to come up with some cool imagery to slot in. Through this you don’t just come up with vanilla fantasy I tend to like magic cards for these inspirations.

  13. Wow, you guys are great!.  One question…I do have an idea for an overarching campaign in which gnomes were once the technological marvel of the world, creating all manner of exotic items including floating ships from a rare metal that only they had access to.  They lived and worked in a hollow mountain called Bastion, but were destroyed hundreds of years ago by a great Dragon called Ix the Skyreaver.  Now, hundreds of years later, Bastion lies empty and haunted.  The gnomes are gone and all the other kingdoms struggle to get by without the gnome’s technology.  With those broad strokes in mind, I can let the players fill in all the other gaps.  Does this sound feasable or should I go in, as suggested, with a completely open and blank canvas?  Thanks again, guys.

  14. Too much. Draw maps leave blanks.

    Make it like this:

    Hey guys, I want to run a game where the adventurers explore the ruins of an ancient mechanically advanced civilisation and have to deal with their weird remains, maybe it was gnomes. What do you think?

    And then start to ask questions about the world and what the characters know about the ruins etc. come with a premise, not with a roadmap. What your table gives you is better and creates buy in.

  15. My first session is in a few weeks, and like you I’ve struggled to NOT write up pages of prep. It helps to focus on asking questions, but remember that leading questions are fair game as well. Having played Dread has helped me there – you tend to get good results with a blend of things like “Why did you save the old woman instead of the child?”, “Why did your father die disappointed in you?” and the incredibly mundane, since sometimes you ask “What did you have for breakfast?” and the player will answer “Orphans.”

    My pitch is just “Today starts the final challenge for your graduation from the guild/dojo. You’re the most promising students in decades, but do you have what it takes to earn your masters’ blessings?” So I figure 3 somewhat arbitrary challenges, starting in media res of the first one. I have a loose mental outline of the third one and a few ideas on how to fail forward with it, but that’s it. However, I’ve noted things I may want to probe with questions – what their organization is about, how they ended up in the group,  debts, favors, enemies, etc. It’s all just subject to what ends up serving the session.

    That’s what I would worry about with your talk of Bastion and gnomes – there’s no room for the players as is. Some exposition should be okay, but if you can’t present it in the context of a question that’s relevant now then you’re probably overthinking it.

  16. I’d say you have 2 choices:

    1) Present that background you just gave us as and let the players brainstorm from there.  I don’t see anything wrong with that, and giving a bit of history like that can be very helpful to some players.

    2)  Start off with an adventure created entirely by questions for the 1st session and then have the city say “Since you were so helpful with that, there’s these Gnomish ruins we’d like you to explore…” for the 2nd and later sessions.

  17. If you want that to be your very first adventure then you’re fine. As in, they explore that mountain and then the rest of the campaign is all fall out of that dungeon, then you’re fine as long as you populate everything else in the world by quizzing your players during play.

    Its okay to start play in a haunted gnomish mountain treasure trove, and have a dragon, as long as the players supply all of the details connecting the adventure to the outside world. So go ahead and use your set up as the very first dungeon, ask questions, and then throw it out when the dungeon is over. Your game won’t be about the dungeon, it’ll be about the relationships, histories, politics, monsters, and everything else that connects the PCs to the dungeon and the outside world.

  18. Okay, I got it.  The game will begin with the players being thrown down a deep hole into an underground series of caverns that serve as a prison.  Questions:  Who threw you into the prison?  What did you do to deserve it?  What secret do you know/have that your jailers don’t know?  What do you know about the prison?  What do you know about those people who have already been cast into the prison?

    That should be a good start.  I printed out a simple cavern complex to use and I’ll make up a few NPC’s in the prison.  During the course of the adventure, there will be an earthquake that opens up additional tunnels and may lead to some gnomish ruins/artifacts.

  19. David Benson I love it but I would hold on the second paragraph. You might get REALLY good inspiration from your players’ answers. Don’t forget the principle “Play to find out”. If you already know they will escape jail because of an earthquake and it leads to a gnomish dungeon, then you don’t play to find out, you play to see them react.

  20. Thanks, Patrick Joannisse.  I’ve been role-playing for 30+ years and this whole concept of “play to find out” is so new and refreshing.  It’s going to take some getting use to!  I have been a meticulous planner my entire gaming career, so this is a huge departure from my normal style of play.  I’m very excited about it.

  21. One of the things my buddy said to me that gave me a good brain twist was:

    “In traditional RPGs, the DM entertains the party.  In Apocalypse World / Dungeon World, the secret goal of the GM is to get the party to entertain HIM (or her).”

    You’re going along with their expectations, their suggestions, and their antics.  They may think you had all this planned, but secretly they’re the ones who are driving the story, and you’re the one laughing at their antics.

  22. David Benson It’s a difficult habit to break. It’s really difficult to restrain yourself from going all the way and writing tons of stuff when you should actually keep it to a minimum. Whole backstory for NPCs, locations, planning dungeons and cool traps. You can do it in Dungeon World, as long as you have unanswered element that are left empty on purpose. Empty rooms waiting for improv or even players speculation (they love it when they “knew it” right?), NPC with hidden abilities. Like Steven Lumpkin said, it’s far more entertaining if you don’t know the end of the show your players are building for you right?

  23. I’ve really had to modify my old design habits.

    My current campaign started with a half-page handout (in other games that would have been more like 15-20 pages for me). Basically it was just a list of a couple of nearby realms (Blackstone Baronies, Karnathia), some regional geographic features (the Whiteknife River, Frostcap Peaks, the Bleakwood), a few nearby steadings (Cornerstone, Cinderhill, Black’s Keep), and a couple of local organizations (Church of the Sacred Song, the Assembly). I limited myself to no more than a single bullet-point note for each.

    Then I added a handful of notes that were designed to provide verisimilitude and centered on some “big picture” elements. Names/style of local currency, number of moons in the night sky, local government, regional climate and current season. Basically just the type of things the average local might be immediately aware of but still leaving tons of room for “playing to find out” and asking questions.   

  24. I know I’m late to the party, but I thought I’d chime in. I usually have some “feel” for the kind of thing I want to run, but I don’t want to impinge on player creativity, especially since many of my older group aren’t used to coming up with the level of detailed input DW thrives on. So, if you have some graphics of the kind of thing you had in mind, I’d bring a selection of those and leave them on the table for the players to get a feel for. It’s a little bit “stacking the deck,” but from an image-seed some players can grow fantastic decision-trees.

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