11 thoughts on “Why do only players roll dice in dungeon world?”

  1. There are certain times it makes sense…. I think though it makes combat more ridiculous since there is no chance that an attack can ever fail against the players as a result of the attacker’s own incompetence rather than the player’s competence or lack there of.

    It really is weird that, for instance, a bow attack is precisely as effective from an ogre who’d never lifted a bow before in its life and a legendary wood elven archer.

  2. It structures the flow of the game in a very specific way. 

    For example, in D&D (pick your version), the GM decides what the bad guys are doing and rolls dice to determine how effective they are at it.  Maybe the GM has the player(s) make an opposed check.  Based on the outcomes, the GM narrates what happens.

    In DW, the GM doesn’t have dice to determine what happens. The GM has to interrogate the fiction, the prep, the action and describe from there.  Then ask the PCs “what do you do?”

    Part of “filling the PCs lives with adventure” and even “being fans of the PCs” involves things not going their way. If they always succeeded at what they tried, it’d be boring. The rolls that the players make ensure that things will go in unpredictable directions.

    The fact that the players are always the ones rolling also serves to protagonize the PCs.  It’s their actions that engage the game system and therefore their actions that matter most. 

    As andrew ferris points out, this can result in the players sometimes feeling like bumbling fools while the opposition is always competent.  To prevent that, the GM has to self-modulate his moves and descriptions to properly reflect the competence & danger of the foes.  For bow attack from an incompetent ogre vs and a master elf archer, I’d make a much softer initial move from the ogre.  Even if he took the PCs by surprise, I’d have his first shot miss (possibly wildly so, possibly causing some sort of collatoral damage).  With the elf, I’d have him put an arrow in an NPC’s eye, or describe the arrow flying at a PC’s heart and give them mere moments to react.

  3. In practice, it actually works fairly well for combat. You just have to enforce (particularly the GM enforcing on himself) that the results of a combat roll, good or bad, should follow the fiction. Remember, everything is relative to the characters.

    If a monster is being described as charging in to attack, and the character’s formidable combat skill isn’t enough to strike down the creature before it attacks, then yeah, the character will take damage.

  4. As the GM, I love it! I can get up, move around, gesture, draw on the map, and converse with my players more freely. I really feel liberated. All I have to think about is what’s happening in the fiction, what moves the players trigger, and how I use the GM moves to keep the fiction rolling.

    When a player rolls their own damage, there’s no hiding from the result. This ratchets up the tension, since as the GM, I can’t play softball and ‘fudge’ the result. When players get to roll on the loot table, they love it. It’s like spinning the wheel to see what you’ve won!

  5. in fate core, the GM may choose to never roll dice, and instead use the opposition skills as a static difficulty. It works perfectly fine: I’m playing a monthly sword & sorcery campaign with Fate and I always sneak in some DW insight while GMing, including “never rolling the dice”, but also things like “what do you do?”.

    edit: just to add even more to what the others said, an ogre in DW isn’t as precise as a legendary elven archer. You as the GM must follow the fiction. The GM can’t say “the clumsy ogre lifts a bow with his awkward big hands and fires an arrow at you with totally unexpected precision! What do you do?”. He may say something like “the stupid ogre spends some time analyzing the bow with a dull expression. Then, he suddenly realizes what it’s for and turns around looking for ammunition. What do you do?”

  6. Short answer: it’s because that’s how it works in Apocalypse World 🙂

    Slightly longer answer: it’s because the GM-side rules are freeform while the player-side moves are partially freeform and partially dice-based.

    Even longer answer: The GM’s moves follow directly from what’s happening in the fiction, so there’s no need to roll for it; you just say what happens. The GM-side stuff isn’t meant to simulate reality or any kind of odds of success; it’s focused on making dramatic and dangerous things happen that demand interesting responses from the PCs. The player-side stuff is different. It could all be freeform if that was the design intent, but it’s not. Instead, it shows that even the most well-equipped and prepared heroes (and you certainly aren’t that, in most circumstances) are never really safe in a fraught dungeon environment. The fiction of the game isn’t about things being clear and certain but about things being chaotic and unpredictable where the PCs’ fate isn’t entirely in their own hands. Hence, it makes sense for players to roll dice sometimes. Additionally, one of the major design goals of the game was to emulate many aspects of D&D, including the traditional six stats and things like rolling damage (which notably doesn’t happen in Apocalypse World, where there are fixed harm levels, mostly). Keeping the dice-based player-side moves from AW made sense, in that respect, though other hacks have done other things, like the diceless token-based resource system in Undying or the card-based resolution in Murderous Ghosts.

  7. it is the players story not the GM’s or the NPC. the player roll represents their attack, there dodge, their compotence.  when the player fails a roll, when their compotence is found lacking,  the dungeon world punnishes them.

    and ya an NPC oger in theory has the same chance to strike with a bow as an elven archer. but an oger would nver touch a bow in the fiction.

  8. I’ll also add that it places more “time” in the players hands. Although few GM’s realize it you tend to spend a lot of time looking at notes and stats, deciding which abilities an enemy might use, picking up dice and rolling, comparing results and looking at tables, etc. Every time a GM’s attention moves away from the players and he “disappears” behind the screen the rythm is disrupted and the game slows down.

    I run DW with no more than a 3×5 card with a couple of cues written down (usually questions I’d like to see answered during the session). Throughout the game I get up, move around, and ensure that the “conversation” is just that, a conversation; I’m always making eye contact, using my hands, and placing 100% of the focus on the players. Once you start doing this pretty soon everyone is doing it, heads are lifted away from character sheets, cell phones, and other destractions and suddenly everyone is focused on the action and caught up in the moment. 

    A lot of the elements of DW serve to help keep you (the GM) in the moment. This is why you shouldn’t script things out because it forces you to turn your attention away from the players in order to refer to the script. Like I eluded to before, if I can’t have everything I need to know for a session on a 3×5 card than I’ve done way too much prep! 

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