(I’m sure this has been discussed, but I can’t find it.) Can anyone give me a good example of how filling in all the…

(I’m sure this has been discussed, but I can’t find it.) Can anyone give me a good example of how filling in all the…

(I’m sure this has been discussed, but I can’t find it.) Can anyone give me a good example of how filling in all the “blanks” can go wrong while running Dungeon World.

What I mean is filling in the map with details, planning out the adventure, etc … I personally don’t run it that way, I run totally improv. Just curious to how the other approach could fail. Keep in mind I am fairly new to DW, though I have a good understanding of all the classes, moves and concepts.

21 thoughts on “(I’m sure this has been discussed, but I can’t find it.) Can anyone give me a good example of how filling in all the…”

  1. The first time I ran DW, I made this dungeon starter: http://apocalypse-world.com/forums/index.php?topic=2775.msg16568#msg16568

    The starting questions did a decent job of establishing that the PCs were outsiders, and that was necessary for main tension (the Cult, the monthly offering to the Night God, what happened every new moon) to work. But that also tied my hands a little regarding the questions I could ask the PCs.  Their characters didn’t know this city, so I couldn’t really turn to the thief and ask who the other big gangs/guilds in town, etc.

    It also ground the gears a little when the bard established that he knew a noble from this city, and was otherwise well-travelled.  So how was it that he didn’t know anything about the Cult & the new moon & the Night God?  Felt off.

    If I had to generalize it: if you fill in too many blanks, you limit the ability of the players to contribute to the world via their characters.  When they try to introduce something and you have to say “no, that contradicts with the secret info I’ve prepped in advance,” it’s really jarring.

  2. The bigger the blank and the question, the more likely you’ll get an answer that you have problems working with. In an experiment inspired by Shadow of the Colossus, I asked something like, “what is beyond the boundary that makes your people fear to cross it.” I wasn’t prepared for “it’s the land of nightmares.” In hindsight I have some ideas, but at the time it was the most stumped I’ve been in live play and what I ended up going with was really meh.

  3. Thanks for the responses. My players were asking if the game could be ran straight from a module, without the free form collaboration that is usually assumed in Dungeon World. My response was there was nothing mechanical in the rules that would prevent this from working. Am I wrong to assume that?

  4. Depends on the module.  Assuming the module is just “here’s a place, here’s what’s going on there, here’s some stuff that’s likely to happen if players do X,” it will work just fine.  The game mechanics (player moves, damage, monster stats) all work fine in that environment. Some of the GM principles (namely ask questions and leave blanks) don’t work as well.  But you can still meet the game’s agenda.

    Now, I wouldn’t try this with a Pathfinder Adventure Path or most WotC-published D&D 4e modules.  The railroading on those is pretty intense, and the DW system will fight you on it.  But a lot of old-school modules would work really well more-or-less out of the box (just replacing the monsters with DW versions).

  5. Also some moves (ritual) can throw a giant wrench into your plans. They allow players to do things and cause big change that can screw you when you have to much of a plan.

    Or the fact that it messes with your planning makes you resist these things as a GM and you stop being a fan of the characters by making their things to hard to do.

  6. Same thing with “boss monsters”, if you think of them like that you want things to be big and epic and climactic. However players might have a way to deal with them easily. When you then start to protect your boss you get into trouble.

  7. I wouldn’t try running DW from another game module but feel free to steal settings so you don’t have to detail them out but as the players might not go that way with the game it’s hard to tell what could happen. Use the rest of the module as influences on what the rest of the area might be like or what’s happening. The main problem with running stuff form modules, esp. in very possible railroaded or less flexible systems is that they will either telegraph themselves quite easily making the world seem constricted or someone might know of/own/read/played through or written the adventure which would suck away all the surprise of what could happen.

  8. OK, I think we may be loosing track of what I asked. I know how to convert modules to Dungeon World using the described method in the book and know I can even do so on the fly. I do not do this in my games. I just make it up myself using the responses to the questions I ask and by responding to the players move, However, the question is “Can anyone give me a good example of how filling in all the “blanks” can go wrong while running Dungeon World.”

    Or simply: What if I don’t follow the those two Principles and present a old TSR module straight up, detailed keyed map and all and set the whole campaign in Greyhawk? I’m not railroading, those old modules don’t tend to. But I have a defined plot, place of adventure and detailed world. Does this break Dungeon World? 

  9. Tim Franzke, not sure how Ritual can cause problems since the GM has say on what must be met to perform the ritual. As long as the GM is smart enough to tie requirements into the current plot, I see no issues.

  10. The whole point of leaving blanks is so you can fill them in with ideas you get from your players. If you leave stuff blank that you just have to invent later on anyway, with no help from anyone, you’re wasting your attentions doing that instead of paying attention to the players or interacting with them.

  11. I posted on this before: I pulled the classic Ravenloft into my campaign and found that the moment the pc’s entered the map there was a definite slump in excitement at the table. This could be because I was now working from the book and referencing it as I went along, but I suspect it may be because of the difference in game dynamics.

    Classic DnD is exploration driven. This means theres a map and events are triggered by the pc’s entering an area. Open that door and you get the ogre. That one leads to the kobold lair etc.

    Pathfinder (and I suppose DnD 3.5 which I have not played) is story driven. The pc’s run through a pre-written story and complete specific objectives or not. It can be even more restrictive than exploration.

    DW is front driven. This means something will happen if the pc’s don’t intervene. What the pc’s do or where they go is completely up to them, which is impossible without improv.

    I played PF yesterday morning and DW last night, and was thinking one should video PF sessions and compare player emotion with videos of DW sessions. I believe the difference is significant, and is what caused my players to be less involved when on the Ravenloft map.

    So the answer to the question is, in my opinion, that prepping everything decreases fun. My experience with Ravenloft in DW and the completely different table dynamics in DW and PF would be the examples you asked for.

  12. Johnstone Metzger, I Agree.

    But not prepping also allows the PCs to do anything and go anywhere, even if the GM makes everything up on the fly himself. Since it is impossible to prep for every possible PC driven event it is better not to prep at all. (Best is some prep, but less is definitely much better than more)

  13. Wynand Louw Absolutely, and actually that reminds me I should have put a “part 2” to that comment since Zachary asked what was wrong with filling the blanks, not leaving them open.

    If you fill everything in, there is no room for improv, and no room for the GM to incorporate the players’ ideas. Like if they have to pour through all the races and cultures the GM has invented in order to find one that fits their idea, it’s a buzzkill. But if a player wants to be like a volcano elf who lives in a stone forest and you’re like “cool, tell me about it” and then you just drop it on the map next to the dungeon and say “what do you think about the evil monsters that come out of the dungeon near your volcano?” then that player is already invested in the setting, no need to hook them and reel them in.

    If you got no room for volcano elves, or anything else that the players might want to make up about who their characters are or where they come from, then the game’s just going to run on one person’s creative imagination, instead of everybody’s. Which is probably what happened with the Ravenloft map, everybody looks at the map as the fount of imagination and stop trying to think up more stuff beyond that.

    Or put another way, DW is supposed to be about the characters and their adventures (as opposed to the adventure, that the DM Paizo wrote), but once an old-school D&D map is on the table, the game becomes, like old-school D&D, about the map.

  14. OK, now we are getting somewhere. To elaborate on why the question was asked, my group (who are primarily old school players, OD&D, AD&D) loved the game system and loved the collaborative elements of the system. But all wondered how and why this is. There was nothing in the player mechanics that made it implicit that the players must give their input on what is happening in the fiction beyond their actions. Well, besides thew two Principles in the GM section. Nowhere that I could see in the moves being used did it say that the player must make up world or story elements. We just took the GM Principles and ran with it. It was awesome and we loved it.

    BUT, if I never said that this was a thing in DW, they would have never known and played it like D&D, ran their characters as usual, asked questions about the world and I would have answered them if it was something the character would know. I assume we would have had a lot of fun too.

    I let the “Ask questions, leave blanks.” cat out of the bag though.

    Johnstone Metzger your products (I own DW1, DW3 and RK1) give pretty much all the story and world elements in a very detailed fashion. Your dungeon keys are very detailed too, as much as a standard 70’s – Early 80’s D&D module. How is that different? I had to cross out quite a bit of your material and replace with player content when using RK1 for it to be effective following the rules of DW. My players were in “player created content” overdrive. (It was awesome). Now don’t get me wrong, your products are really good stuff. DW3? I love it. I just don’t see how these don’t go against by the book rules of Dungeon World. I would almost recommend that you put actual blanks in the module to allow the GM to fill in with specifics like names, locations and the such. If I get around to writing some Dungeon World material I plan on doing just that. Maybe make it form fill-able too… 

    Now I specifically choose Dungeon World so I would have less prep time, I have a kid and a busy life. DW lets me offload a lot of the work to the players and puts the actual “work” time at the game table. Such wow. Much amaze. My main DW group delivered me the entire plot and coming events just by answering my questions, plus the regular table banter that I wrote down.

    That said I can only tell my players that we could have played out this campaign just like playing D&D. It would have been more work for me, and less fun for them. I may have broke them for other more restrictive types of games though.

  15. Yeah, I think it isn’t a technique that gets pushed that much because many people coming to DW from Apocalypse World (like Sage and Adam) kind of take it for granted. But the main difference I see is that the players only make up stuff their PCs know. They get to say whatever they want about the lives and histories of the PCs, where they come from, what kind of world they live in. It’s the GM’s job to both portray that stuff, but also to invent everything that is new and unfamiliar to the PCs.

    Like, for example, this:

    GM: The door opens, and you are the first mortals to see the inner sanctum in a thousand years.

    Players: Well, there’s golden braiers in here, so I grab one, along with the red robes of the priests, so I have a weapon to fight the mummies that rise.

    This is not cool. The inner sanctum is totally new, so the GM makes it up.

    This, on the other hand, is perfectly good:

    GM: The door opens, and you are the first mortals to see the inner sanctum in a thousand years.

    Player: Does it look like it was built before or after King Geddorah’s reign?

    GM: I dunno, what’s the difference?

    Player: All the temples had golden braziers burning hash oil and perfumed velevt curtains and snake idols, but then Geddorah banned that stuff.

    GM: Oh, well, then, it’s a pre-wuzzizname temple. Snakes and braziers, for sure. What book did you read that in?

    Player: The Reign of King Geddorah by Malgrim Clodhammer. You know, the one that gave me +1 to spout lore about the kingdom’s legal system twenty minutes ago.

    So I write adventures from the perspective that everything will be unfamiliar to the PCs. Personally, I like to have a bunch of stuff prepared, so I can use it or not. And so I mostly present everything as stuff that is new to the PCs. If the PCs wander into Knifesbridge and decide they don’t know this place, I have all the material I need for several sessions of play, and they can wander around as they like without feeling like I’m trying to railroad them. But if they tell me about places in the adventure, I can just throw out the adventure details and go with what they say, and it’s no big deal. It’s not prominent, but this is what I describe in the “Changing the Details” section on page 11 of DW1. I can even draw new dungeon rooms on the map if the PCs tell me they heard about something super-cool being in the dungeon that isn’t already there. No big deal! On the other hand, if I leave an actual blank hallway, the GM might get there and then not have any ideas ready, and then feel bad about turning a hallway into a blank wall that offers no opportunities.

    I play with this concept a lot more in Island of Fire Mountain. The setting is an island that is totally unfamiliar to the PCs, so the players don’t get to say things about the island. They can make up rumours they heard about, but they are supposed to discover the island in play. At the same time, the GM is supposed to ask the players about the rest of the world, and then there’s a small handful of techniques where all that stuff actually becomes important in play. But this is a way of setting up questions early on that provide answers for questions asked later on in the adventure, and I’m only just starting to experiment with it, so whether it works great or not, I can’t tell yet. It’s more subtle than just leaving a town unnamed or something, because in that case, I feel like having a name (or other detail) that you can throw out is better than an adventure module that tells you to make up a bunch of stuff on your own (like the original B1 module does), because then what’s the point of buying an adventure module?

  16. With DW yes there isn’t a line in the book on how much of the world building % is player vs GM but after listening to enough games of many systems, the added player input on building the world immersion is easier for them especially when going to visit some elements they helped create then the GM can present it in a form that’s fun and matches the rest of the world so everything fits together.

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