Help with players with a more “traditional” mindset

Help with players with a more “traditional” mindset

Help with players with a more “traditional” mindset

by which I mean players who don’t like narrative authority over the gameworld .

My players like a consistent fantasy world where they can discover things. They don’t want to invent things on their own. So, if I ask them things like: [Ranger], what does your homeworld look like? or [Bard], what is the grand tale you heard about this hero? – not good.

I won’t say they want to lay back and get spoonfed but they want the traditional GM/player role where the GM tells them how the world works. They want that sense of wonder and excitement when they explore the world.

So, I have these questions:

a) How to make DW work for them generally? How to do worldbuilding (or is that not possible)?

b) How to run an interesting one-shot using a Dungeon Starter (i.e. by Marshall Miller [1]) or John Aegard’s Tight DW Oneshots [1] without using setting questions?

Basically: how to run a low-prep improvised game without having the player input for the setting?

Edit: I played a Dungeon Starter with the players so we tried.

#worldbuilding #improvising #oneshot #gamemastering



29 thoughts on “Help with players with a more “traditional” mindset”

  1. I´d say focun on the future more than on the past. If they don´t like to answer where they come from, they might still give some input about where they are right now and where they intend to go.

  2. Or don’t play DW with them.

    But Francesco is right. Give it a try. Start with personal question and when they are hooked, try to expand a little. Every good wordbuilding question start from the character, anyway.

    Ask first about families, then town, country, race, world, but start from the character, put them at the center.

    Shared space WILL be coherent. It beign inevitable incoherent because thought by more than one mind is a false myth.

    Remember to NOT create a world beforehand.

    Try, but don’t be set in stone. Maybe they just will not like to play DW.

  3. Oh, another thing.

    It’s weird, but my experience tells me that, sometimes, that kind of players are not really aware of the possibilities. Often I’ve seen people claiming that they will not like “that kind of play” without having ever tried it.

    If you want to play it, play it. Go for a session ad it is described on the manual, and see what comes out of it.

    Don’t try to change the game before having ever played it with them.

  4. While I think Dungeon World really shines when the players have a lot of narrative input, you can run it as a “traditional” game Sophia Brandt. You’ll just be answering the questions by yourself and telling that info to the players.

    So basically, to run a low-prep improvised game with no player input means you will have to pick up the slack the players normally would.

  5. I can only echo the earlier commentators. Draw out the players on their PCs’ backgrounds and connections and weave background details from what they provide. A player of a gnome artificer in my last DW game wasn’t big on providing world building details but had lot to say about the equipment she had, her human artificer mentor and her rivalry with another gnome tinkerer. I used those details to provide clockwork mechanicals and automated prayer machines, which in turn suggested organised and business-like churches. Things snowballed from there.

  6. I used to have a group of overly conservative players who didn’t want to creatively contribute. They wanted their roleplaying as passive entertainment. That’s fine, but I don’t play with those people anymore. Instead I now have 3 or 4 groups that enjoy a variety of games.

    There are a lot of people who like games out there. Sometimes it’s not worth the effort trying to introduce or convert players who are set in their ways with one style of game. Look around for new players who want to play the same games you do.

  7. You can do all the improvising yourself, if you have to, but it gets draining fast. I’ve got a few techniques to draw things out of people:

    – Ask leading questions. Maybe they’re not comfortable doing explicit worldbuilding, but many people are fine answering very pointed questions.

    – As others have suggested, use the details that they do give you and extrapolate from there. You’ll be doing most of the worldbuilding, but you can base it off of their input.

    – The most important question to get an answer to is what the characters’ goals are. Once you know that, you can plan around it.

    – Make sure you’re asking them how they do things. The details are important and super useful for your improv.

    – Do more prepwork. Low-prep games are fun, but Dungeon World still works as a medium-prep game. Dungeon Starters are actually great for this; they give you somewhere to start creatively. Draw some maps beforehand, take lots of notes.

    – Use lots of tools to help with the improvising, since you’ll be doing more of it. Random tables are a huge help. Don’t try to cover every possibility, just have a handful of things to take the burden off. There’s a random loot table in the book!

    – Use the list of names in the book. And the NPC knacks. You can improvise a quick, memorable character in under a minute.

    – Prep a short list of interesting monsters beforehand, so its easier to drop them in when you’re in the middle of improvising.

    – Fronts are great for having a story plan. If the player’s main concern is that there’s a story happening, having a structure to use to drive things forward is useful.

    – Draw maps and leave blanks, begin and end with the fiction.

    – Don’t be afraid to cut to the next scene. This is easier if you have some idea of what the next scene is. I learned a lot from Mouse Guard’s mission structure, which lets you pre-plan a mission that is still completely up to the players to solve. It requires a strong goal, though.

    – One reason for asking questions is to gauge what the players are interested in. If they’re resistant to this, you’ll have to find other ways to make sure what you have planned fits their tastes.

    Finally, some people just don’t want to world-build. You can get away with only having some of the players involved in the active-creation part, but some people roleplay for the stat-optimizing or the immersed-in-a-story stuff. That’s perfectly fine, but not as easy in Dungeon World. (I personally prefer Burning Wheel or Mouse Guard for that, but there are lots of options.) You can do it in Dungeon World, but it takes more work on your part.

  8. Sophia Brandt , here’s my experience. I have a couple of groups, and they are like your, quite “traditional”. I don’t suggest, as others did, to change your group. Simply, remove (or “soften”) that part from DW, and you’ll end with a really cool “traditional” RpG system.

    Of course, my players still like to add their “part of the story”, usually on their personal background or for minor details.

    However, I think there are ABSOLUTELY no problems if your group don’t want answer to questions like “how many years the elves live?” or “tell me, what are the laws about theft in your city?”.

    I can understand they want a pre-existent background, places, people, rules etc. and I can understand they like to discover the world, not create it. I also like to play, as player, RpGs with masters that give me the GOOD illusion that there’s a “real” world behind the GM screen.

    If the GM asks me “what is this overwhelming aura you feel?” and I have to answer something like “a demon” or “a powerful witch” or “a dark god”, then some part of the fun is lost (for me, of course), ’cause I have the perception that the master has “nothing”, behind the screen, and lot of things are like cardboard silhouettes in movie set. This means that we are not playing a RpG, I feel we are playing a different thing, something like a “shared story making” (something like “Microscope rpg” or “Universalis rpg, if you know them) – ok, those for me are not the same kind of games, and personally I don’t like’em too much.

    I feel that a good GM have to prepare a good part of the setting, of the adventure etc. Also, he has to be good to improvise (and rule-light systems like DW are a REAL blessing for that), WHILE he has to be really good to hide what is pre-prepared and what is improvised on the fly. Finally I like, no, I DEMAND and EXPECT, that the adventure is not a fixed rairoaded action movie, so I love the “play to find out” DW part, and I want that a master running an adventure for me doesn’t try to limit my actions “because the adventure don’t say you can do that”.

    So, stay with your group, keep playing good adventures, and be ready to answer more questions than the “canon DW” call for.

    EDIT: Sidenote, maybe in the future your players could start to add more material to the setting, to the story… maybe they will enjoy that part too. Don’t push on that pedal now. I think you have time for that.

  9. OR you could use another system without having to live all this “if” ad difficulties.

    There are so many good games out there that I don’t understand why try one that you have to cut part of to made it suits your group’s need ^^

    Either you all would like to try Dungeon World or you are searching for something else.

    If the latter I suggest Fate.

  10. Ezio Melega Nothing’s being cut, though. There’s no requirement that the players contribute to worldbuilding or invent anything. It’s only mentioned in a single sidebar in the main rules, and briefly as a possibility in “Advanced Delving”.

    Sure, people (including myself) make a big deal of it, and I agree RPGs in general are improved by player contributions. But it’s not a major factor in DW’s rules as written.

  11. Of course not ^^

    It’s just a very useful technique to use to “be a fan of the characters”.

    The point is: where does character design ends and worldbuilding begins?

    If a player is playing an elf, maybe they are ok by letting you stating that they are immortal, maybe not.

    That’s part of the balancing and group tuning act needed to play any PbA game, it’s how it works.

    You can create “the world” by yourself as a GM and the risk you will face is to go too further and create something that will overstep on “character authority”, you will, in other world, risking to de-protagonize them, or to not “be a fan”, to not make everything about them.

    On the other hand I’ve seen a lot of people starting with the “I like to be surspised” line and then beign totally hooked into the shared space.

    Anyway, every group has a different line in that. By bringing everyone together and create a world together you can be sure to not step on it.

    If you don’t… well, it’s a risk. It can end up ok or not, no guarantee.

    With other games you, simply, don’t face that danger.

    You know your group, how they are and how you communicate, I know nothing of that, so I cannot really tell you anything different from explaying why someone makes such a big deal of shared worldbuilding, then leave you to your decision, beign you the only voice that really matters here ^^

    Anyway, have you read my little explanation about the techniques used to create a world to play into in the first session?

    It’s mostly based on a back and forth of personal questions. See if it could help you.

    I believe Tim Franzke has the link somewhere.

  12. Ezio Melega, sorry man. Am I not so indie to deserve to play DW? Should I choose another system? No, man. Other systems have lot of other problems/issues (and Fate Core “vanilla” is SUPER bland and the fate points mechanic is buggy at least, but this is OT). I love *W mechanic, WHILE I’m not fully in “gather at the table and share the build of a world”. Am I wrong? Hell, no 😀

    Also, all the “make the questions about the world/setting/thingsthatareappearingjustnow” has nothing to do with” be a fan of the characters”.

    Finally, all those “be creative” things work better with particular kind of players. I think however that other kind of players can enjoy the system with no “be creative” attached.

    Here an example: I have a shy, AND stubborn, player. He loves to make “high charisma characters”, he likes to persuade, intimidate, and be a fucking cool lead character, BUT he hates to “roleplay”, he hates to get bonus (and malus) if he find good or bad phrases to say “in game”. He tells that his character is good with words and charming, while he – as player – is not. I don’t want to force him in a playing style that he hates, HOWEVER I don’t want to change RpG system, and I don’t want to change friends… So put away all this mud, and enjoy your DW.

  13. Another interesting point: not every time all the players at the time table are super sweet, super friend, 100% on the same wavelength. So “world building” can cause lot of problems in a campaign. Some player / master doesn’t like those kind of problems, doubly true if they are not ruled in the system. Here a quick example:

    Master: so, Elrand, tell me more of the elves…

    Mike, playing Elrand: Mmmmm… They come from underground, and they live 50 years. Also, they are quite ugly.

    Tom: thus is a bunch of crappiness. Hey friends, do you like all those things about the elves?

    Marta: no!

    Jimmy: no!

    William, playing the bard: Maybe… I heard a story about the ancient elves made a god crazy, so when the god returned, he casted an her on the elves, turning them ugly as they are.

    Mike: no, I don’t like it was a god the source of their ugliness.

    Etc etc.

    Now, this is the kind of things I don’t want at my table.

    Side note: other systems (ie. Universalis) have specific rules to help the world/setting building in a shared group vision, while DW lacks about that. This can bring problems.

  14. Andrea, tone down a notch, would you?

    You are not under any judgement, I don’t know why you fill so and I don’t know why you excalated this. What’s this “indie enough” stuff?

    Also, what you are underying are social problems. If you are not frendly with each other, if you cannot find a common imaginative ground, if you cannot say stuff like “yes and” or “no, but” and, well, play together without just snatching the spotlight away from each other instead of collaborating to have a little each…why are you playing together in the first place?

  15. In my experience (and mechanically speaking) DW works fine without expecting or forcing payers creative input. Yes someone has to do all the work (the GM). Sometimes players feels uncomfortable to start from a blank world filing it with somewhat sparse details, but are eager to walk in later, once enough of the world is defined by the DM. Often they’ll start adding details to things they really matter/feel important.

    About changing players: please don’t suggest this kind of behavior, never. Games shouldn’t come before friendship.

  16. Have I said to never seen them again? Have I said to never talk to them again? Have I said to never see a movie, never dirnk a beer, never go on a walk together?

    Oh, for heaven’s sake, you don’t force your friends to do something they don’t enjoy because “you are friends”. You don’t ask your friend bored by movies to go to the post-strutturalist festival, you don’t ask you lactose intolerant friends to go to the cheescake exibition, you don’t ask to your friend who don’t like to be creative or to provide inputs to play a game that requires to be creative and provide inputs.

    “I want to go to play soccer! Come with me!”

    “You know I don’t like soccer. What about a beer?”

    “No, you will play soccer, but you will be allowed to sit in the middle of the gaming field with a glass of beer”

    What a great example of friendship! Very mature.

    How is minding for everyone needs and tastes putting game before friendship? It’s the polar opposite! You choose the game to go forward toward your friends idea of fun, not the other way around!

  17. Sorry, english readers. I switch to italian to better explain my point of view to Ezio, ’cause it seems we often misunderstand our posts, or so it seems, and get stingy replies…

    Ezio Melega qualche volta penso che non riusciamo a capirci. Qualche volta immagino possa essere legato ad internet, che rende ogni frase come un macigno scagliato a chi legge. Ma posso assicurarti che anche le tue frasi e i tuoi commenti possono essere visti come macigni. Quindi mi permetto di farti riflettere su quello che hai scritto in precedenza, e su come può essere interpretato.

    Partiamo dal tuo “Or don’t play DW with them.” Questo era scritto prima che intervenissi io, quindi in quella parte non c’entravo ancora. Comunque ecco come la vedo. Non capita spesso di avere 4 o 5 serate libere da dedicare al GdR. Spesso è una fortuna averne 1, di serata, e di conseguenza, avere 1 gruppo di gioco, che guarda caso di solito è composto dai tuoi amici, magari di lunga data, a cui piace il gioco di ruolo. Ecco che non è facile dire “non giocare DW con loro”. E’ una sentenza facile da emettere, e non era messa giù come un amichevole consiglio. La verità è che spesso bisogna venire a compromessi, e i compromessi non sono facili da costruire. Quindi, a volte potresti dover giocare DW come un gioco di ruolo “vecchia scuola” rimuovendo parte del “fai domande provocative”, tanto caro ad AW. Questo di dà la forza di dire “allora non giocare a DW”? O “allora non giocare DW con loro”? O “allora quello che state giocando non è DW” Non credo. In ogni caso hai dato il tuo punto di vista.

    Ho voluto dare anch’io all’autrice del post originale il mio punto di vista, che guarda caso mi vede vicino a lei come esperienze e come gruppo.

    Quindi tu hai voluto rispondere a me. Ottimo, ovviamente libero di farlo. Ma se ti ho replicato “con energia”, l’ho fatto perchè ho visto la stessa energia nel tuo post. In poche, asciutte, righe tu:

    — mi hai invitato ad usare un sistema diverso da DW, piuttosto che convivere con un sacco di “se”. Quando in realtà io, e la ragazza che ha aperto questo tread, non lo stiamo giocando riempiendoci di “se” e/o di house rules, dato che l’unica parte che non viene applicata è quella di “fare domande e usare le risposte”, e solo per domande “esterne” ai PG. Ed essa è una minima, minima parte di tutto DW, e non incide minimamente nelle meccaniche di gioco e in tutta la parte di creazione di fronti, pericoli, insediamenti, dungeon ecc., che è esclusiva parte del master. DW NON ha come scopo principale la creazione di un mondo condiviso e di una storia di gruppo (come ad esempio fa Univesalis), ma tu sembri fissato su quella parte come se non ci fosse altro, in DW.

    — mi hai illuminato ricordandomi che ci sono centinaia di altri “bei” sistemi (ed invece personalmente penso che di sistemi belli ce ne siano davvero pochi), e che non capisci come mai siamo costretti a ritagliare un piccolo pezzo per RENDERLO PIACEVOLE AL NOSTRO GRUPPO. E invece è esattamente questa una parte del processo di maturazione e del venirsi incontro. Per fare un esempio parallelo, se a me piace un mondo Savage Worlds come sistema “classico” MA al gruppo non piace come la nuova edizione gestisce gli inseguimenti, io NON cambio sistema, non mi metto a giocare a Gurps… Semplicemente ritaglio quella parte o la adatto. Ma tu sembri volermi per forza consigliare di giocare a Gurps.

    — Insisti, e concludi, dicendo che o tutti dovremmo giocare DW alla lettera, e quindi i giocatori dovrebbero rispondere con piacere alle domande del master, o in realtà abbiamo sbagliato gioco. Quindi è meglio se ci dedichiamo ad altro, e ci suggerisci Fate… Integralista o morte 😀 Già ho detto la mia sul giocare DW lasciando perdere la parte delle domande sul mondo. Ma ecco un commento in due righe su Fate: Fate è una merda se hai giocatori che non sono a proprio agio col mettere il proprio PG in pasto al Master, è molto, molto peggio, di *W. Non c’è rendere chiara la minaccia. Non c’è esporre le conseguenze e lasciar scegliere. Se il giocatore non ha fate point per cancellare le cut-throat compels, il suo PG è costretto a subire interventi pesanti nella fiction da parte del Master, anche se al giocatore la cosa potrebbe non stare bene per nulla. Fate crea parecchi dissapori, PROPRIO in gruppi più tradizionali. Quindi grazie del consiglio, era proprio una bella butade.

    Tutto questo per farti capire che anche i tuoi commenti possono risultare pesanti, tagliati con l’accetta, e dulcis in fundo insistenti, dato che replichi nuovamente a me dopo aver dato il tuo punto di vista, anche se io scrivevo all’autrice del post proprio per darle il mio “appoggio”.

    Concludo dicendo che parecchi gruppi (sia della mia zona, sia in giro per il mondo, vedi David Guyll e il suo Ravenloft) stanno usando DW come base per ambientare le loro avventure, le loro campagne, in setting precisi, perchè erano soprattutto in cerca di un sistema meccanico diverso per gestire le interazioni fra PG e Master. Io stesso ho giocato una campagna fantastica di Eberron, come giocatore. Tutti loro non stanno giocando DW? Assolutamente no, stanno giocando DW alla grande, c’è solo il piccolo particolare di non creare elementi dal nulla, in game, che non riguardino direttamente la vita del proprio PG e del proprio background.


  18. Ths is not a confrontation between us.

    It’s totally unpolite to cut off the thread opener from her thread.

    If you have problems with me and you don’t want to use English you do it in another thread, you don’t hijack another thread, using another language.

    I’m seriously appalled by the total lack of respect showed by posting a wall of text in a non-common language, and I don’t desire to continue this discussion with you in any form or language.

    You clearly demonstrated that you don’t want to help the thread opener, but are only willing to engage a confrontation with me, and that’s simply unpolite and a serious lack of form.

    I’m very sorry to Sophia Brandt to have been parto of this hijacking of her thread.

    She needed informations and advices and ended reading a slapfight in a language she probably cannot read.


    I expressed my opinions, motivated them and informed the thread opener of what I think is a good solution to her problem, ultimately putting her opinion over mine as it should be.

    That is, don’t bother me anymore.

  19. Hey folks, I just want to thank everyone for chiming in so far. There is some very valid information and help here and I can totally understand that some people might have different point of views on this topic.

  20. This game is great for folks who like to make stories together. But people who prefer another style of play (say, exploring per-established situations and proving the merit of their character-creation/mechanical-development choices) may not enjoy it. That should be fine – not every game is for every person! Don’t try to force it! Maybe another system would fit those players better?

  21. I’ve found that for some players I have to stop asking open-ended questions like “What’s your homeland like?” Instead I have to ask either multiple-choice questions, “Is your homeland the misty isles or the dark forest?” or even true/false questions, “Is it true that you are from the misty isles?”

    Everyone is different. My group doesn’t care for filling in big, broad statements about the world. Instead they prefer to contribute smaller, more personal details about the world. For example, they would rather me give them an overview of their home village but they want to tell me about their family and their experiences there.

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