I’ve been DM’ing now for a few sessions and Ive run into a dilemma.

I’ve been DM’ing now for a few sessions and Ive run into a dilemma.

I’ve been DM’ing now for a few sessions and Ive run into a dilemma. Having been a DM before in other games such as 4th edition DND, I am used to making my players have to roll for damn near everything. As such I am two sessions into Dungeon World and already have one of my players at lvl 3 due to various failed rolls. I feel like my biggest downfall is not knowing ahead of time how various NPC’s will react to my players, and as such I feel the need to have them roll +CHA alot for their various interactions. What can I do to fix this issue, besides obviously have them roll less, and what constitutes a need to roll vs. “being a fan of your players”? Is it ok to have them roll for things, but if they fail NOT give them xp? Am I only supposed to be giving out xp in a dangerous/combat situation? Or am I totally missing something? Ultimately I just want to make sure Im doing things right, and characters leveling that fast (level 3 in maybe 10hrs of game time total, and maybe a third of that had some combat in it) doesnt seem right to me. Thanks in advance.

12 thoughts on “I’ve been DM’ing now for a few sessions and Ive run into a dilemma.”

  1. Okay here:

    Only ever have them roll when they trigger a move. Learn the “if, then” statements for all the basic moves and try to remember what sorts of class moves they have. This is the only time they should ever roll. If something in the game seems like it ought to be difficult or dangerous but they’re not triggering a move, MAKE A GM MOVE!

    Being a fan of the players is, when the fighter is flanked by two orcs, hesitating to say “well you can’t use your shield on both, you’re flanked right?” And instead going “oh! Shit! You’re the fighter! YES you can use the shield to defend from both! You’re the fucking FIGHTER!” When the wizard says “do I know anything about these runes?” and they have the chance to trigger Spout Lore, you go “You’re the friggin wizard!!” and instead offer Treasure At a Cost and say “look I’ll just tell you what you know, okay? Or we can figure out a roll if you risk gazing deeply into the pulsing mystical sigils: cool?”

    You DONT EVER give out XP! Check this out man: nowhere in anything does it say the GM controls the XP! How cool is that? Players are told to mark XP every time they roll a 6! That’s a player-facing instruction! At the end of the game, the PLAYERS answer the three end of session questions for more XP! At the end of the game, the PLAYERS check to see if they scored their alignment XP. XP is completely divorced from you, and the GM gets no say.

    Hope that helps.

  2. It definitely sounds to me like you’re rolling too much.

    1. you should only ever call for a roll if it would be dangerous or otherwise impossible for a player to do it in the fiction.

    “I climb the wall” fine, let them climb the wall.

    “I escape the guards by climbing the wall” well ok now you’d defy danger.

    and when it comes to Charisma rolls, less is very much more.

    2. Rolling CHA, this one is tricky, I feel you about drawing a blank on NPCs, it has been helpful to me to write down two things for every NPC

    what they want – maybe money, maybe knowledge, maybe they want to be left alone, think of it as a (non) monster move for townsfolk.

    Do they like you or hate you? how do they feel about the party, like, hate, neitral, if it’s a first meeting maybe things change afterwards. the innkeeper might have liked you, but now his tavern is on fire, so he hates the group or someone in it.

    Actually, Statting up “speaking” NPCs like monsters can help you.

    Insted of things like huge and terrifying, they have tags like Dishonest, greedy, shifty, etc.

    and they have moves like any monster except their town moves like

    * Try to turn the party members against each other

    * Betray them to their enemies

  3. Getting to level 3 in about 10 hours of play is fast, but within the range I’ve seen at the table.  I wouldn’t worry too much about it.  My own experience is that PCs will be pushing level 10 in about 25 sessions.  It will slow down, in part because the XP costs go up, and in part because the PCs will improve their attributes and will fail less often.

    That said, when you say you have players roll +Cha, what do you mean?

    If you’re literally just calling for stat rolls, I recommend against that, especially while you’re getting a sense for how Dungeon World plays.  If you don’t have a reasonably clear move, you probably shouldn’t be rolling.  That may help cut down on the number of rolls.

    Definitely give XP if you’re a player fails on a roll.  That failure is your opportunity to make a hard move, and players will be understandably cranky if they don’t get the XP.  If you’re calling for rolls and don’t have a hard move when they fail, it might not have been a good place to roll.

    What about NPC reactions?  You’ll just have to quickly figure out what sorts of people the NPCs are and figure out how they’d react to the PCs.  In the interests of being a fan of the PCs, mix up their reactions a bit; have some fans, some disinterested folks, some antagonistic; they all highlight different things.  All that said, if you’re looking for a bit of randomization to help spur the mind, I won’t tell anyone you rolled some dice if you don’t.

    If you’re actually using Defy Danger using charm and social grace (+Cha) can be a useful tool, so long as their is an imminent threat or a calamity.  There is a lot of freedom in there and I suspect it’s intentional.  If it feels like you’re drowning in +Cha rolls, maybe some of these situations aren’t really imminent threats/calamities and should be resolved without a roll.

  4. In some situations, some characters may automatically success, have an opportunity to roll because of a move, or automatically fail because it’s not within their field of expertise to be able to do that thing.

    If the fighter is trying to read the ancient magical runes, ask them: “Have you studied any dead languages in between being a badass killing machine?” If they say no, then just straight up tell them “it’s all ancient angelic eldarin to you buddy, sorry.” If they answer yes, ask them when and what it cost them in the past. Perhaps their exposition gives them a chance to roll, but the consequences for failure are different than if the Wizard were to try and read the runes.

    Whether it triggers a roll or not, every action (or inaction!) carries it’s own consequences. Ask yourself what those consequences might be, and how they affect the player characters.

  5. The quick NPCs Appendix in the book has definitely helped in knowing what PCs do usually gives a roll on a d100 to say what they want, and how they are going to get it.

    Also don’t worry about levelling fast I thought this as well in just 5 sessions my players were like level 5 or 6 and I was like we are going to be done in a few sessions. But now they have been playing quite a lot of sessions and levelling very very slowly…i think only one of them has reached level 7.

  6. Yes, definitely use the NPC appendix if you’re having trouble.

    Other tricks include: rolling 1d6 with 6 being friendly/helpful/open and 1 being rude/troublesome/closed-off and let all the numbers in-between imply degrees between those two extremes. This is much less useful because its random and has no respect for the fiction.

    Your best bet with NPCs is, when the PCs meet them, stop and take a breath. Then:

    •Write down who this NPC is. Nothing big, just the quick glance at them. They’re in a pub? Make them The Guy At The Bar (Everybooodyyy knows hiiis naaaameee)

    •Think, for a second, about how What They Are Connects to the Problem. (What’s up? Angelic invasion? Pub guy doesn’t care probably. Supply convoys being bushwhacked? Of course he cares WHERES THE MEAD?!) Its okay if they don’t care about whatever else is happening. That’s fine. Because

    •Go ahead and make an interesting inversion of what we know about them. They’re a Pub Guy who Everyone Knows who is Upset About Convoy Attacks. You could easily invert any of those and say the other patrons hate him, or he’s a teetotaler and not a good drinker, or that he is lying because he’s orchestrating the convoy attacks.

    Then, just play them knowing what kind of NPC they are from this simple note-taking exercise. What the players expect, something obvious, something unexpected. You may notice this is the same advice for making up moves for a druid’s Shapeshifting. It works.

    Lastly, always always feel free to fall back on: “so why do/don’t you like this guy immediately? What rubs you the wrong way/right way?” Ask the players questions and reincorporate their answers.

  7. I’ve never seen anyone trigger that many moves that fast. I guess it could happen in a solo game, or in an action-packed game with 2 or 3 players at most.


    Does this mean the player failed 15-20 rolls in 10 hours? And his level 3 character still has all of his limbs, and faculties, not indebted to everyone, not on fire, and not turned into a toad? That’s a LOT of hard GM moves to survive without dealing with the consequences. It sounds like you are being way too easy on him.

  8. Am I being to lean with my moves? My PCs are lvls 5-6 after 8 Sessions (4-6 hours each) . My PCs have never experienced a seriours harm (like losing a limb ) . How do you determine if you use the right amount of Hard Moves and the right ones?

    Today my session went on for over 8 hours and my players were severely bored and also exhausted, as was I, do you limit your session duration due to the brain power needed for GMing DW?

  9. If people are bored, make harder moves. Wrap the session when you feel out of ideas. A good 3-hour session is better than a lukewarm 6-hour session.

    When a player fails a roll, never say ‘nothing happens’. Choose a move that hurts, that instills a sense of urgency. The bad thing that could happen eventually, instead happens now.

  10. My $0.02:

    Don’t use Defy Danger as your catch all roll. It is not meant to do that. I was guilty of this when I first started GMing and my PCs leveled really fast.

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