Inspiring creativity…

Inspiring creativity…

Inspiring creativity…

I played DW as the GM last night with two PCs. None of us had ever played a ttrpg before so it was a completely new experience for us all. As it was my first ever go, I bent the ‘play to find out what happens’ agenda a tad…

I worked on the setting, I had my fronts, I knew the main boss and I kind of had a fall back basic plot in case I had to push the players on a touch.

The game was an immense success. The players actually said how they felt rather creeped out during and after the game (hell, we were dealing with the undead and necromancy) and both really enjoyed the story telling nature.

My concern is the next time we play though. I want to go a lot more freestyle based on character motives and things we learnt last night. So where do I go from here? My worry is that we may go from a well structured game to one that is basically hack and slash on repeat. Is there any advice on creating interesting settings and themes on the fly? I have read the book cover to cover over and over, but any advice on keeping the game fresh and unique rather than just walking through woods, hack and slash, would be massively appreciated.

18 thoughts on “Inspiring creativity…”

  1. Push the relationships between characters. Where are their deep, dark secrets? What do they owe each other? Who has dirt on whom? Resolve and set up new commitments and debts.

  2. The most interesting games are the ones with choices, and that’s why not planning too much is important. You want to offer situations with choices that are meaningful and that ripple outwards in multiple directions.

    It’s not just hacking and slashing in the woods if the players discover the “goblin raiders” are trying to gather new territory because hill dwarves have forced them out of their dens. Then its: okay well the paycheck is for some murder, but these goblins are between a rock and a hard place. Interesting is, when they decide to kill the goblins anyway, you come back with more questions like well the dwarves see you’re really good at killing gobos and they want to hire you to go break the back of some goblin resistance in “their” dungeon.

    And, like, you don’t offer these questions out loud in an academic sense. You make these questions what your fronts and moves are begging to find out. You prep all your notes to underline and highlight a Q you’re dying to know the answer to, and push and prod and jab until the characters have to answer it.

    Your tool for interesting, non-bland games that aren’t endless stabbing is to make stabbing complicated. Who has a problem with your stabbing, what problems does your stabbing make, who has asked you not to stab, how do you stab a magical drought, etc. Yes this necromancer killed a hundred people and harvested their souls — you want revenge for your family whom he killed — but if he finishes his ritual he will bring back to true life the war-ravaged kingdom of Kolos. So, what matters more? Your family, or the millions? Let the characters tell you, with every sword swing, with every move.

    And sometimes, yeah, let them just stab something. Variety is the spice of life. It rocks.

  3. I think part of my problem is not spelling out the ‘battle between the goblins and the dwarves’ for instance, but working out how to help the players understand the npc motives. Ie if they spout lore, I can discuss the history between the tribes, but if they don’t, it is just goblins and dwarves to attack.

  4. Well, let your NPCs be people!

    Some NPCs charge into battle screaming “Kill these dwarf allies!!” and maybe a player goes “wait huh?”

    Some NPCs grovel for their lives and go “please, don’t, we’re not in the wrong here… Our homes-!” and maybe a player goes “yawn, I stab him.”

    Some NPCs carry journals that shed insight even while PCs are rifling through looking for treasure maps, not insight.

    As the GM, you can make soft moves — the moves that set things up, that suggest things, that don’t follow through — any time basically, so you are welcome to reveal those truths. You can describe books that reveal info, you can describe prisoners who have something to say — there are ways to bring out your notes in the world even if the players want to stab.

    But it is also important to know that your job isn’t to make a story! The story is what we all talk about after the game… It’s the sum total of what they all remember at the table. If the PCs/characters are stabbing all the goblins with no interest in their political plight? Shelve it, they don’t care, follow it through to its conclusion — and most importantly find the ripples, who else is affected by this background they weren’t interested in. There’s always a chance one of those other groups also has something to say about the background that you think is cool.

    And I guess finally, the way you make players care about background material is to make that material tie into what you already know they care about. Tie your notes into their Bonds, into their Move choices, into their Looks and Outlooks — these are menus from which they’re ordering a particular type of game. Flavor your game with these things you know they want, and they’ll show an invested interest. Want them to look twice at those goblins? Have the warrior veteran who gave the Fighter their weapon appear on the goblins’ side in a fight. Etc.

  5. Bryan, this is just idle curiosity on my part, but if none of you had TT experience, how did you find out about DW? I’ve introduced a few people to gaming through DW, but I’ve never met a new player who had even heard of it, or anything other than D&D and V:TM.

  6. Dylan Knight I felt D&D was too heavy going for what I was after and so searched online for alternatives. I came across a few blogs that mentioned DW and sui researched it a bit more, watched some videos of actual play on YouTube and was hooked.

  7. Leading, loaded questions are also super useful in fleshing out the world and the backstory and leading to complex choices.  “Sigurd, you don’t seem to have any problems murdering goblins. Why is that?  When did you kill your first goblin?  Why?”  “Ovid, what was it you read about the origins of the goblin-dwarven wars that makes you wonder what this is really all about?” 

    That sorta thing.  You don’t have to make up all the details of the world, and asking the players about the gray areas will get you some crazy interesting material to work with.

  8. Bryan, you are a marvel that needs to be celebrated! I’m so glad you have started your tabletop journey!

    Players have a way of sorting themselves out – just react to what they give you. Maybe all they want is hack and slashing in the woods, maybe not.

    Asking provocative question is your biggest friend. Scratch below the surface, discover motivations for actions, hidden secrets, or long lost tidbits of lore. Push there HARD. Make moves as hard as you’d like. Figure out what the players want and then ask yourself ‘really? What about NOW?’ – and put a difficult choice in their path.

     The devil is literally in the details and that’s where your GM moves come in to uncover more juicy details to hook the players with.

    Oh, have you read Grim World? It has lots of ideas on how to make your game darker and combat something to be wary of – the players might think twice about butchering every thing they see.

  9. Your group’s story sounds great so far! And don’t forget that a completely un-structured game with very little or no prep can be some of the best story-telling and role-playing that you can do. 

    I’d suggest Graham Walmsley’s Play Unsafe as a great little read on improv gaming.

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