I don’t understand drawing maps and leaving blanks in Dungeon World.

I don’t understand drawing maps and leaving blanks in Dungeon World.

I don’t understand drawing maps and leaving blanks in Dungeon World.

I mean, sure, I can do that, but why?  

What do I do with those blank spaces?  Any help?

EDIT: And while I’m at it, what about Stakes questions?  If I don’t decide them, how do they get decided?  Maybe I’ve just seen bad examples.  “Who will the lord choose as his lieutenant?”  How will I find out?  Just roll for it or something?

23 thoughts on “I don’t understand drawing maps and leaving blanks in Dungeon World.”

  1. Just a way to fill in the world in a rough way but leave enough room for everyone to fill in all the small details. Also gives the GM more time as he/she isn’t spending a ton of time on details which might be skipped altogether.

  2. Those blanks are unexplored or unknown regions. I’ve gleefully drawn in cryptic bits to hint at what I think might be there, like and old school “This Way Lies Certain Death” or “Here Be Sea Monsters.”

    But when it comes to actually exploring those areas, take the things and ideas they’ve learned so far, the bits of plots that have been revealed, the secret forces working behind the scenes…and then use that to refine and redefine your ideas on the map. Actual sea monsters? Or a cult of zombie sorcerers trying to scare off the living? Certain death? Or is a local lord only havinv that drawn on maps so he can exploit something hidden there?

  3. Literally leaving blanks in the map lets you add things to the map when you make moves and allows you to adapt locations based on the fiction that is being established. Need to introduce a threat, great just add in a secret door that wasn’t there before. Those bandits the ranger knows, yeah, their camp is right here. A road to Grankenberg – of course there is but you know it’s dangerous!

    Figuratively, it means don’t try to decide everything about your world up front – leave room to add to it and modify it during play. The longer you wait to nail down details, the more flexibility you’ll have. Give players some exciting details to latch onto but fill in the rest during play. It also enables you to ask the players about things that haven’t yet been established, giving them a stake in the world and a reason to care about it.

  4. While I’ve got your attention, what about Stakes questions?  If I don’t decide them, how do they get decided?  Maybe I’ve just seen bad examples.  “Who will the lord choose as his lieutenant?”  How will I find out?  Just roll for it or something?

  5. The goal of Stakes is to ask questions your players will want to answser. It’s there to get their creative input. Not to generate inconsistancies in your fictional world, but to knit their ideas into it, and welcome them to the game setting, too.

  6. Stakes questions, in my mind, should be pivotal to the game. Asking “who is chosen as a lieutenant” isn’t such a good question. Instead, give the question teeth: “Will Marxus, the man who slaughtered a whole town to find your PCs, be chosen as the lieutenant?”

    These things are decided by the action and inaction of the players. Do they find out about this promotion? Do they try and stop it? Or do they let it happen? Are they too busy exploring dungeons to stop it? Those will decide what happens.

  7. Jason Smith best way to fix that is go with the non-lethal options. If getting near a village, ask some player what they’ve heard of the place or from there. Let them add some touches to the world & they should learn to have fun with filling in the world.

  8. Both of these things help you, as a GM, in prep because they conjure room for the Unknown. If everything is already known to you then the Players have limited choice, maybe none! But the more tactical you are about what is Unknown in your creative world, the more you invite the players with you to participate in the creation of it, and, by extension, give them more investment in the setting.

  9. Jason Smith  As an example, I recently ran a game where I had the intro planned. I knew what scenario I was going to put my players in. I have a main bad guy in mind, but there were a lot of things I didn’t prepare. Like why they are out in the middle of the ocean in the first place? What treasure were they seeking?

    These were blanks that I let my players decide, because maybe they want to find something like an amulet that raises the dead or a stone that create a portal rift inside of them once they consume it (that’s what they actually picked). So now they have something super cool that they know they will have a chance to bring into play. I think it connects them closer to the plot by being a part of it and drives them to find it.

  10. As above, but also leave yourself some room to improvise. I find that as I build a map, it’s really helpful to fill the rooms with questions instead of facts. What I mean is… as I add a room to a map, I could just write out everything that’s in there, the facts: what monsters are there, what they’re doing, etc. That’s cool and all, but it doesn’t leave room for flexibility without scrapping a bunch of work. Instead of “facts,” write some questions: Why do the snakemen defend this treasure to the death? What is lying in wait at the bottom of the pit trap? Why is that weird rock glowing?

    These are questions you can either answer yourself based on the session up to that point, or you can straight up ask your players and use that.

    I also find that suggestive, leading questions on a map can be a great creative guide as you play. I had a session set in a goblin warren and on a whim I wrote “what’s the single most pathetic thing in this room?” next to the goblin barracks, and that one question led me to all kinds of great stuff about the goblins, their place in the world, and how the characters interacted with them.

  11. Originally, Stakes questions were born as a way to leave something UNdecided. If the GM puts out a stakes question, he gives up answering for himself, and the table plays to find out what happens. Obviously a stakes question has to be interesting to the table.

  12. Leading questions are a great way to ease players into contributing. Open-ended things like, “Who is the King of A Thousand Thorns?” is more intimidating than something more focused “Why did the Kind of A Thousand Thorns spare this village, despite the fact that he hates it?” Even better if the players already have some context with the village and the king.

    Also, ask questions that lead off what they already know. It’s less intimidating for them to tell you something about their character than it is about something in the world they haven’t encountered before.

    Often, if players are used to a more GM-fiat style, they’ll be afraid of breaking everything if they say the wrong thing. This is very unlikely to happen, but if you can ease them in by showing them how to do it with stuff they feel strong ownership over it can help.

    And the answers to questions don’t have to be verbalized. Maybe the way it is decided is by the consequences of the characters’ actions in the game, rather than the players explicitly saying something. Implicit answers can be just as important as explicit ones.

    Lastly, the game still works if the players sit back and let the GM do all of the explicit answers. Leave blanks anyway; even if you end up being the one to fill them in, some of the answers should be in reaction to what has been happening in the game. You’ll often get an even better idea in the heat of the moment versus trying to anticipate every possibility.

  13. Well then, this is going to require some thinking.  I have to admit that I don’t quite “get it”.  I don’t have a problem with “playing to find out what happens” of course, but leaving things like NPC motivations or the contents of whole rooms to last-minute declarations seems awfully stressful.  But that’s just me, I suppose.  I’m even worse as a player. 🙂

    Thanks again, everybody!

  14. For NPC motivations, I’d encourage you to make liberal use of the Instant NPC tools in the back of the book.

    When I do my prep, I sometimes write up a list of impressions, short evocative bits that I can drop in as needed.

    Also, if you’re like me and could use some help with making sure your players get enough treasure, remember that there’s a table you can use for a monster’s treasure horde, if you like.

  15. On railroading: my personal opinion is that there’s a difference between having a plan in place for future events and being locked in to a rigid sequence. The plan can have a different shape, depending on the kind of game. Mouse Guard, for example, has a mission structure that works great and can produce some amazingly spontaneous results within the framework of a mission, where the GM generally has an idea of the possible branches. But one reason that it works so well is that all the PCs declare their goals up front and are assumed to be a part of a team in a larger organization that has its own defined goals.

    Dungeon World, on the other hand, tends to assume open-ended motivations for all of the characters, which is why it has Fronts instead. Fronts are what you should be looking at to help organize your larger plot structure, because they’re flexible and reactive to whatever the PCs choose to do in the sandbox.

  16. I’d not put NPC motivations and room contents at the same level.

    room content that you didn’t make yourself is NOT interesting by definition. don’t put SOMETHING in a room just to fill a blank. Leave a blank.

    Motivations are a nother story, more important and less complex to find. But you CAN leave them blank.

    The trick is maybe find a broad concept yourself and ask for a particular.

    Not “What’s in the room?”

    But “The room is filled with music ancient and soft. Where does it come from?”

  17. Diego Minuti nailed it. A blank doesn’t have to be a gaping wide open blank. It can be a detail waiting to be filled in.

    If you draw a room on a map and then just leave it totally blank to fill in later, that’s boring! Remember your Agenda (“Portray a fantastic world”) and your Principles (“Embrace the fantastic,” and “Give every monster life”). The best Dungeon World experience is when the GM can balance all of these at once – portraying a fantastic world with blanks can be tricky at first, but with practice it’ll become second nature and you’ll wonder how you ever did it before.

  18. In short, it’s not only the size of your blank, but how provocatively and imaginatively you use your blank to keep your players’ interest aroused.

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