35 thoughts on “All right, running my first DW game on Monday. Any sage words of advice? (Or dire words of warning?)”

  1. Shake up their expectations. Ask the elf player what makes elves magical. Ask the dwarf player why dwarves haven’t conquered the world yet. Ask the wizard what they had to do to get their arcane power. Ask the paladin what horrible secret they hide. Etc.

  2. Plan lightly and push hard. Make the players go to the dice early and often, then use the fodder from their inevitable failures to drive the game forward. 

    Also, do not hesitate to make a 6- a success so spectacular that it makes everything SO MUCH WORSE.

  3. Listen, really listen to what your players are saying, and use it. Not just when you ask questions… half the bestiary in my last game came from off-hand table-chatter from the players.

    If you’re planning for a longer game, don’t just ask unexpected questions, ask personal questions (to the PC, not the player). Like “what does it feel like to prepare a spell? To walk around with that kind of power ready to go? Or to cast it?” Or “Who was the first person you killed, fighter? What do you remember most vividly about it?” (I wouldn’t bother with these for a one-shot, but they’re great for longer term play.)

    Let the world burn.

    Don’t be afraid to stop and discuss feel and tone. If most of your players want gonzo and you want gritty horror, bow to their whims. But if everyone’s said they want gritty realism, tell the paladin that blocking an ogre’s club with his shield is like blocking a MAC truck and will go badly.

    Everyone chokes a bit on 7-9 results for Defy Danger. I find it helpful to think of a 7-9 Defy Danger as “PC succeeds but the GM makes a move.” And the best move here is usually “tell them the consequences and them ask.” (Giving them a chance to back out takes the sting out of it.)

  4. I disagree with printing out the move sheet for everyone. I prefer, in the beginning at least, to have the players describe their actions and then decide if it’s a move. I don’t want them making moves, I want them to narrate their actions.

  5. +David Benson said exactly what I was thinking.

    I’m 3 sessions in, and my players frequently will say stuff like “i defy danger” instead of I leap the chasm.

    Don’t be afraid to break your shit. So don’t spend too much time prepping it.

  6. Thanks for the advice all around. I probably could have mentioned up front “…and only one of the players has ever played a tabletop RPG before” (I’ve been a player and a GM for other games before, but took a loooong break). So I’m not sure if that will work better with having them ignoring the move list, or explicitly pointing out “these are some options, but these are just to spur your imagination, they’re not the ONLY options.”

  7. Eh, I wouldn’t run the game without the moves sheet. Certainly not your first time GMing. At the very least, you need it for Defend and Discern Realities.

    If you find someone looking at the moves sheet for their choices rather than considering the fiction, just be like “forget about those, what do you do?” And if someone says “uh, I Defy Danger?” be like “ok, cool, how do you do that? What’s it look like?”

    Players who haven’t done much gaming will take to that very naturally. Experienced board- or card- or RP-gamers might take reminding,but I find that they get into it pretty quickly.

  8. Interrogate their bonds to learn what makes the party tick, and take notes about them – be willing to interrogate those bonds with your hard moves. If the Druid chooses to have taught someone a rite of the land, grill them about what the rite is what it does what it means what it costs; take that info and reincorporate. Threaten it with hard moves. Drill down hard into their bonds, because that’s the social grist of the party and makes the game more than just dungeon crawling.

  9. Grab some butcher block, or craft paper, or large paper pad (18 x 24 inches is good).  They’re great for collective mapping, leaving plenty of room to draw in national boundaries, local points of interest, townships, swamps and mountain ranges, etc.

    Don’t give out magic items until you get a solid feel for the mechanics.  +1s, +2s are HUGE deals in DW.

    Yes Ands, Yes Buts, make sure you engage everyone fairly regularly.  If you know the characters, have something in your pocket that specific characters would either care about or be particularly suited to resolve.

  10. I find that DW works great with people who are (almost) brand new to RPGs. The thing that works for me is to to verbally present them with moves and options rather than just pointing to the player aid sheet. Players seem to get it faster when you tell them instead of making them read it themselves. It’s less intimidating.

  11. I would say the opposite of what was mentioned earlier. Give them the move sheets and push them to make moves. Suggest they try out every basic move on there during the session to see what it does.

  12. Speaking of move sheets, print out the GM principles, agendas, and GM moves in big bold letters and keep that sheet directly in front of you for the first few game sessions. Also print out the area’s dungeon moves and important monster moves. Glance at them often. Use these lists for inspiration. Pay attention to what hard moves you’re making and don’t get in a rut of choosing the same ones (like ‘deal damage’) over and over.

  13. Oh… you can totally deal damage as part of another GM move.  If you describe something that would deal damage, then deal damage.

    Example: GM move of “use up their resources” manifests as “one of the tumbling rocks smashes into your back, crushing all your potions and antitoxins and the like.”  That’s also going to do damage, probably forceful damage.  So “It also does 1d6 damage and knocks you on your face.”

  14. Or a Troll has a “Smash them around” Move. You can totally describe the ogre hitting them, making them getting flung away through the brute force and taking damage through that.

    What should be avoided is things like “okay, take a d6 of damage” without any further fictional stuff happening. 

    “He takes the hit but smashes you back with his hammer, the blows ringing against your shield and armor, take d6 damage from the pure force of it all”. 

  15. But also to quote the old trueism:

    GMs not naming moves is good storytelling.

    Players not naming moves is bad communication. 

    “I ready my Spear and jump at him, 300 style. Hack&Slash!?” and then the player picks up his dice to roll them is perfectly fine behaviour. You (meaning other players or the GM) can still interject if they think that this doesn’t fulfill the trigger condition though. Proactive move useage by players is not a bad thing. 

    Edit: If they are super eager and have already rolled but it was actually a different move, just let them keep the roll and apply it to the new move. 

  16. Tim is 100% right. Players naming the move is totally fine, as long as they also give you some fiction to build off of and work with and scrutinize. It doesn’t have to be much or flowery, just something to get everyone on the same page. 

    If the person describes swinging their sword viciously while fighting in a tavern house, you know its valid to hit them with a Hard Move that gets their blade wedged into a support pillar! Disarmed! Oh no!

    You have a much hard time justifying that if the character is described as favoring thrusts of their sword instead of big swings – but similarly, thrusts make it easier to imagine and accept the enemy slipping beside the blade to do something else.

  17. Fiction first, but not fiction exclusively, it’s okay to talk mechanics but please, players especially but GMs too, tell the story and build the context first.

  18. By way of a very very late follow up: This went super well. I had a little trouble getting the players to interact amongst themselves (they didn’t totally get the idea of bonds so I didn’t really push it so we could try to get moving forward) but the idea of Moves and stuff clicked pretty quickly for them. 

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