Coming from games like D&D and World of Darkness, I often find that I need to unlearn stuff. One of my recent discoveries, which I’m sure I’m not the first to make, is the following:
There’s no BBEG
The Big Bad Evil Guy / Gal, a classical trope from D&D, and various other RPG’s and genres, is something we are sort of brought up with. That guy / gal whom this adventure is all about stopping, the one with all the spikes, minions and often also “owns” the dungeon.
A BBEG can prove quite detrimental to a Dungeon World experience, because playing a monster like one often induces several complications, namely because DW characters are a lot more competent than your average D&D character.
We saw an example of this problem a while back, someone wanting to prevent the players from summoning the BBEG of his dungeon, a ghost, with a level 1 wizard spell. He wanted to prevent it because he envisioned a big boss fight with this ghost.
This is a problem, because now the game has shifted from being about adventurers doing adventurous things to a GM trying to prevent players from using their characters’ abilities to trivialize their prep.
Because of this “insight”, I’m going to stop running games with a “main villain”, because if they are disposed of prematurely in some way, the game will grind to a halt without any “plot-bearing element”.
Instead, I’m going to do things this way in the future: I will prep a dungeon as I’ve always done it, even with a “person in charge” (PIC) in the dungeon. The difference is, that person isn’t a BBEG. It’s just a more powerful monster with more resources, and woe to the players if they engage it on its own terms.
The keyword is “dynamic dungeon environment”. If the PIC dies or is defeated, the dungeon should still be a dangerous environment, unless it has been cleared of monsters.
Killed the kobold king? Good for you! He still have thousands of surviving minions that’ll still kill you on sight. The dragon is dead? Great! Now the landsharks aren’t afraid of digging into its lair anymore!