I have a few questions concerning fronts, gameplay and time.

I have a few questions concerning fronts, gameplay and time.

I have a few questions concerning fronts, gameplay and time.

Firstly, I know what fronts are, I know how to create them and I know how to use them. But my question is; How do they relate to the ongoing game? Does the first session create the campaign front? And, how am I supposed to work with fronts when you need to give the players as much choice as possible?

Secondly, I’ve had trouble making a game go faster. I’m a newb gamemaster and the couple of sessions I’ve played seem to be incredibly slow moving. One session I played involved a single fight with a whole bunch of soldiers in the thrall of a protective mother witch (long story). That single fight lasted 4 hours. How do I speed this up? How do I speed a session up?

If you are reading this and am seeing that I’m missing something important as a gamemaster, please tell me.

17 thoughts on “I have a few questions concerning fronts, gameplay and time.”

  1. ok, first of all: during the first session you ask questions to the players. Like, a lot. Like no tomorrow. And build on the answer: build the world, build the fronts too! The fronts should stem somehow from the players (not necessarily all of them, but some of them at least). They have to be about something the PCs care about, and how do you know what the PCs care about? You ask them!

    As for the combat, I don’t know… 4 hours seems a little too much, and since you’re talking about it like it was a mistake, it was probably too much for you and your group. How many monsters (and how many kinds of monsters) were there? Maybe it was slow because all the players at the table still have to feel comfortable with the system. I don’t know, to answer the second question I should know more about the fight we’re talking about.

  2. Every time you make a GM move you can work from the GM moves in the book, or you can look at your Fronts to see if there’s anything in there you’re inspired to use. You still make a regular GM move, but now you’ve got whole lists of unwelcome truths, approaching threats, and spots to put players in. Got an evil cult trying to find an artifact ? 20 screaming cultists out of nowhere always livens things up. As a bonus, the players find out about the macguffin.

  3. oh, and another very important thing about the fronts: you don’t make them at home before the first session! You come at the table the first time with almost nothing in mind, and make them between the first and the second session – but maybe even after that. I’m quite sure the rules are pretty clear about that, but… well, I felt like repeating them 🙂

  4. On reflection, four hours on a fight scene is probably at least three hours too many. Unless tons of crazy things were happening, lots of slo-mo action descriptions, and – again – general craziness. Four hours should get you at halfway through a Raiders of the Lost Ark (which is a textbook on GMing DW by the way) sized adventure plot.

  5. yeah, well… maybe too many monsters (like, twenty or so!), maybe too many failures, or maybe people were still adjusting to the system. A common mistake the first few times is to try and break everything down in turns and rounds: it slows everything down and makes it booooring. As I said, I need to know more about it before speaking my mind.

  6. One of the things I really like about AW is that its violence moves can cover everything from split second decision making to “you guys go in the back when we hit the front”. That gives the GM a lot of power to telescope time as need to keep things interesting.

  7. Nikitas Thlimmenos and others, the fight happened because my players had captured the son of the witch. The session after that one they woke up to the sound of drums. They ran down the forest road to see what was happening, and saw a whole bunch of soldiers, protecting the witch. From there on ensued a slow fight where people got swords stolen, were surrounded, a cleric decided to pray in the middle of battle. I tried to focus on the players individually each time. To give them the feeling that they were important. They attacked individually. This player did this, then the other player did that, then this one did that. Chaos, enjoyable, but slow. Maybe that was my mistake? Also, I used a multitude of GM moves, it was amazing. A bard nearly got killed by falling out of a very thorny tree. 

  8. well there’s nothing wrogn on principle, but why did it last so long? Was it really an army of enemies? I mean, how many soldiers are “a bunch”? If you make the group fight 5 or 25 soldiers, the combat is bound to have a different duration.

  9. Well. It was about 10 to 18 soldiers. I didn’t concentrate on the details because I didn’t think it was important. All that was important to me at the time was the fact that they were an obstacle, to get to the witch, who was flinging spells this way and that. When they killed quite a few of them, (that was an exact amount. I think it was 6 or 7) I decided that the rest, however many there were, would flee.

  10. The way you (GM) frame and direct the action can have a huge impact on how long a fight takes.  So can the way the players describe their moves.

    As Tim Franzke points out, DW’s mechanics don’t really work for zooming out and handling a big fight in one or two moves.  Apocalypse World does this well, but the basic moves and (more importantly) the damage rules focus on individuals and not on groups.

    You can get around this by allowing/encouraging the PCs to describe attacks on multiple foes.  “I charge at the three of them closest to me, slashing back and forth.”  Have the player roll H&S once; on a hit, apply their damage to all three foes.  (This has to work narratively, of course.  If you described doing that with, oh, a spear, I’d ask you how exactly you did that. But an axe? A broadsword? No prob.)

    From the GM’s side of things, don’t fret too much about making the 7-9 results super unique. Go with the obvious.  “Yeah, you can dodge past those guys and get to the witch, but they’ll take swings at you as you go past.  It’ll be d6+1 damage, roll twice and take the highest.  Still want to do it?”  Going for the obvious will speed things up.

    Finally: don’t assume that the PCs will win. Unless the PCs were being tactical geniuses, they should have been giving you golden opportunities left and right.  I’d have been dishing out all sorts of damage from the foes they were ignoring, flanking/surrounding/overbearing anyone who lost momentum, and generally showing them how bad of an idea it is to make a direct assault on a force that outnumbers you 2 to 4 times and is supported by a mage.  You can cut down on the length of the fight by showing the players just how dangerous the fight will be if they stick through it.  Then let them run, regroup, and come at the problem some other way.

  11. Arp Laszlo The pacing and flow of events in Raiders is that of a good GM making classic GM moves. Not to mention that the truck chase is a truly classic sequence of 7-9 results.

  12. You can have a little more structure to the game & let the players do more improv on what the characters have been up to or some of the small details on the land. Also from other game interviews on things like the superhero game Wild Talents (fun One Roll Engine system), if you have a bunch of NPCs fighting each other, simplify or just storyline out the rolls depending on how well the players are doing. If the players are missing the rolls then just say the player side is outnumbered & has to pull back or winning that the other side is getting outnumbered or bad morale.

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