If you want to get your players to do something, dangle a carrot in front of them.

If you want to get your players to do something, dangle a carrot in front of them.

If you want to get your players to do something, dangle a carrot in front of them. “Do this, and you get XP.” Even if that something is risky or unpleasant. Dungeon World offers rewards for risky behaviors (XP on a miss), resolving your bonds, and the end of the session questions. Straightforward and unambiguous, be an adventurer and XP is your reward… Plus the loot too.

In my games, I like to emphasize the goals and motivations of the characters. Being an adventurer is dangerous, often absurdly so. Who would give up a life of safety with their loving friends and family to sleep in the mud beside the road and have goblins shoot at them? What is so important that it is worth killing or being killed for? Every character should be able to say, “I want X, because Y, and I’ll accomplish this by Z.” For me, that is what I would make as part of the End of Session move. 

– Did we, as a group, make tangible progress towards our group’s goal?

– Did I, personally, make tangible progress towards my own personal goal?

– Did we learn something new and important about the world?

How have you changed the End of Session questions? What things do you consider worthy of baiting with an XP carrot?

8 thoughts on “If you want to get your players to do something, dangle a carrot in front of them.”

  1. Never considered it before.  Huh.  I did turn down a player last weekend for a very convoluted politicians answer to “Did we learn something new and important about the world?”  I like your ideas.  I may have to come up with some alternate questions.  Such that a there is a short list of no more than six to use/plug n play as needed.  As for what questions I would use, I’ll need more time to think on it.

  2. Something about this doesn’t sit right with me to be honest. A DW GM shouldn’t be incentivising the players towards something they want to happen. They should be playing to find out what happens, not pushing towards some goal with an xp carrot. Hmm. I guess it depends on the group perhaps.

  3. End of session moves act as both an incentive and a reminder for players to include specific types of role playing in the game.  

    The End of Session move can used to encourage more subtle aspects of roleplaying that enhance the game, without having to embed complex mechanisms for that into the core gameplay.

    An example is evolving the relationships between characters.  Apocalypse World has a system for this (Hx) built into the core of the game, but carrying that into DW would have changed the nature of DW gameplay. Instead, the End of Session question about resolving bonds draw attention to and encourages evolving characters’ relationships, all without forcing that to be a core part of the gameplay.  The game is richer for it, and the core gameplay remains: explore dangerous places, overcome enemies, bring back loot.

    For another example, Steampunk World includes End of Session questions that encourage:

    – Roleplaying Victorian character: Did you act courteously or honorably towards others?

    – Cooperative play: Did you sacrifice something or take a personal risk for someone else (even if it didn’t work out)?

    – Roleplaying weaknesses as well as strengths: Did you play your Weakness to your disadvantage?

    – Weaving personal stories into the game: Did you role play something about your Personal Story during the session?  Did you help a character’s personal story?

  4. For #Stonetop , the end of session questions are:

     – Did we learn something about the wider world or the past?

     – Did we overcome a threat to Stonetop or the region?  

     – Did we improve our standing or influence with our neighbors?


  5. As for bribing actions with XP, I wouldn’t do that to encourage behavior that I want to see.  But I would (I have) used it to reflect emotional manipulation and subtle mind control (like a powerful specter luring the PCs into its room).  

    The neat thing about it is that you are actually tempting the player. Just saying “you feel compelled to open that door” (and maybe triggering Defy Danger if they resist) is less visceral.

  6. I like the idea of engaging the character development mechanically.  that is what alignment and bonds already support, and i’m not sold on the idea of pegging on more end-of-session questions.

    Beyond that, i share Drew Harpunea ‘s concerns.  I don’t want to incentivize players to do what i plan for them to do; i want my players to surprise me with their actions.  I’m getting more and more comfortable throwing my players at a problem i haven’t yet solved, and then encouraging their efforts to solve it (while moving HARD when the dice fall that way or the fiction wants to see them sweat).

    I also don’t expect (or want) them to come to the table with a fleshed out character anymore, like i used to.  Now i want to learn something new about the characters every session.  I want to not only learn about where they are going and what they want, but where they’ve been and what they regret.  Dangling a carrot in front of them to stick to a consistent character idea could easily infringe on the dynamism of “playing to find out what happens.”

    I’ve had the most fun GMing DW when i throw a handful of seeds out there, and see which they pay attention to.  I don’t really even consider their alignments or abilities in particular.  I see how they interact with the story, what questions they ask, and what they remember from previous sessions.  Using that, i develop a feel for what interests and compels them, and just keep building the world with them as they chase those butterflies.

    I’ve dreamed up and abandoned many crazy cool ideas, but i’ve seen other ideas take root and grow in directions i’d have never taken them myself. 

    GMing this way has been way more rewarding to me, and i suspect my players typically have a lot more fun in my DW games than they did in games i ran in various systems before succumbing to the Apocalypse (engine).

  7. I find the xp bait works pretty well to reflect characters being manipulated or charmed/mind controlled. I made the monk in my last campaign fall under a nymph’s spell, and gave him +1xp if they went through the session without anybody harming the nymph. As expected, he took the bait, ran with it and actively tried to talk down any discord between the other players and the NPC.

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