If you were running a one-shot for a group that had never played DW before–or never played any RPG at all–what…

If you were running a one-shot for a group that had never played DW before–or never played any RPG at all–what…

If you were running a one-shot for a group that had never played DW before–or never played any RPG at all–what things would you do differently? I’m especially interested in things that would reduce the front-loaded burden of having to learn rules, and for things that are one-shot specific. I’ve read the “Tight DW one-shots” manual and know those tricks.

16 thoughts on “If you were running a one-shot for a group that had never played DW before–or never played any RPG at all–what…”

  1. I would be a bit more in training mode maybe. Create specific moments that tie into specific mechanical aspects. I would also lean hard on the definition of move and how the conversation works. Listen hard for move triggers and suggest specific moves to people so that all of the basic moves get used.

    Otherwise same as usual. 

  2. I would just let people narrate and it be on you to say what you roll, maybe say which move is which maybe not. But just take away the barrier between rules and fiction and just let your players focus on fiction.

  3. james day I think it is a mistake to “hide” the rules and the moves from the player. This is a game and you need to know how it works in some sense. Otherwise people might never use certain options that are available to them because it doesn’t come up naturally for some reason. 

    The first session procedure in Apocalpyse World says you should prompt players to use moves and get comfortable with them. That is good advice.

  4. I feel thats a good idea for a srcond or third game but not for a first timer role playing one shot. I think the important bit there is how roleplaying is done and a little bit on how the dice work to that end

  5. But the dice are a super important part of how this roleplaying game works. The moves are your direct ways to interact with the narration. Understanding how they work is vital to getting how this game works. 

  6. The rules are the techniques we use to narrate cool stories and roll dice in a meaningful way. They are a fundamental tools for cohordinate the players, to put them together and be sure that everyone has their spotlight and is playing the same game.

    True, you don’t need to frontload them all away, you can start simple, with explaining what’s a move, and how you will play to “find out” and to “be a fan”, not to kill them, and ignore the rest. In a demo I rarely explain GM rules, unless someone in the group is explixitly interested in picking up the role. I often concentrate on worldbuilding, and show how monster are easily created.

    I tend to go to the GM side at the end of the demo, just to show how the engine works. I’m talking about commercial demos, made for the Italian editor of the game, so a look under the hood is often important to really understand what you are getting into. Just a look, you don’t need to read aloud the manual

    But knowing how the framework works is terribly important to make conscious and significative stories.

    If someone at the table feels that they are instead hindering the fun, then you have picked up the wrong game.

    If you are interested in just roll some colorful dice I suggest you Dice Masters, Quorriors and King of Tokyo (all great games).

    If you just want to narrate and the rules framework seems too heavy then I suggest Polaris, Montsegur 1244 and Fiasco (again three great games).

    But don’t try to be the sole repository of the Dungeon World rules while the players “just narrate”, that would complicate horribly your life and exacerbate the risk that someone will not be on the same page.

    Let them choose the classess (maybe from a limited stack, I usually preselect Number of Players+1 booklets to present), create the setting together, explain how the basic and the Class moves work, give them an idea of your role as a GM.

    Make it simple and quick, but “don’t explain the rules” is probably the worst possible advice in a demo.

  7. I really really really like the Original ‘Red Book’ Module The Bloodstone Idol. I usually go with that or one of Marshall’s Dungeon Starters or Drazhu, so that I have already done my homework as GM and immersed myself in the inspirational material. I have printed off high reams of Heroic Fantasy Artwork Wallpapers and lay them out on the table. Pathfinder / D&D, that sort of thing. 

    Before handing out playbooks, I ask what sort of character inspires you? and when the players discuss the art on the table and their favourite movies / fiction / music we can narrow down one of the core playbooks.

    Sometimes I’ll limit choices on each playbook – usually choosing stats before hand, then make characters as a group and explain rules as they come up (briefly). I usually take one bond or provocative question toward the end of chargen that piques my interest and throw them ‘in media res’ right there: 

    There is this conflict at stake between you and (said faction or antagonist or situation) What do you do? Snowball from there. Make moves. laugh. Say ‘Yes and…’ (a lot). Reincorporate the player’s inputs always. Threaten what they come to invest in the story. Make their choices squirmy.

  8. I go trough the following procedure.

    1) Explain the dice rolling mechanic.

    2) Discuss the basic moves: H&S, volley, DR, SL, Parley, defend, help &hinder.

    3) Class choice from a small list and character creation.

    4) Character introduction and bonds.

    5) Story hook.

    6) Establishing questions.

    7) You’re off! You should be actively playing in under an hour.

  9. You don’t even need story hooks ^^

    You can weave them directly in the charachter and setting creation.

    But yes, you can easily have your entire prep in less than an hour, including carachter and setting creation, rules explanation and first adventure ideas.

  10. I think DW and co are fine starter games, particularly in the simple focused way things start off and then grow from there. Quite likely you could have more trouble introducing experienced gamers with assumptions and expectations of how this should work.

  11. I would probably use pre gen characters and start by explaining how to roll+mod and interpret the bell curve.  Then use a really obvious adventure hook like “the evil wizard kidnapped the princess, you’re at the door to his tower, what do you do?”  It might feel trite but it’s easier to “paint by numbers” for people with zero experience.   

  12. Not a bad idea, but let me drop my two EuroCents (again).

    I don’t like pregen characters, not when it’s so easy to create them and when bonds are so important.

    Maybe use “pregen” when it comes to moves and spells, but let them choose Alingment, Bonds, and maybe even Race.

    When they are creating the bonds they are clerarly giving YOU hooks.

    Ask question about them: why the Bard have already sung of the Warrior, in which way? Why the Cleric trusts the Mage? and so on: they will trace a past, a little sketch of the previous adventures, of why the group is the group.

    THAT is your story hook.

    There is nothing wrong with “You are at the door of the wizard”, but if you build on their answers you are sure to hit their interest: they are the authors!

    For this purpouse I often use a little trick.

    I ask to everyone: “So, tell me… what was your last mission together, more or less?”

    They will answer something like: “We were on a mission for the Forest Godesss to investigate hte plans of the High Priest of Destruction!”, with people putting in it little details. I stop them before they actually give me a resolution and… “Ok, you STILL are in there. In front of you the door of the Temple of Destruction, with its blood-stained hinges. Ranger, you own the Gem of the Forest, given to you to heal the land of the Temple. A grave alarm bell is ringing, something is aghast. What do you do?”

    You can be certain they are interested in that particular mission, you know they have a strong buy-in because… THEY TOLD YOU WHAT THEY LIKE TO DO! And you have built on their answer.

    DW has a powerful system that gives you the power to mix your own preparation to easy and supported improvisation and player contribution: embrace it.

  13. My favourite story hook is:

    You are hanging on to a rope against a stone wall. 20 feet above you there is a window. 50 feet below the surf breaks against the rocks.

    What wall is it?

    What is on inside of the window above you?

    Are you going up or down the rope?

    Why are you there?

    Why is there a massive dragon flying right at you?

    The dragon breathes a jet of fire right at you. What do you do?

  14. Elio’s take is awesome, but it does require a bit of improvisational chops from the GM. Its not as hard as it looks though! Practice makes…

    Dungeon starters give you a means to connect these ‘hooks’ on the character sheets with a bunch of setting specific questions which combine nicely into a coherent whole.

    Starting in ACTION (often in media res) allows for a more open-ended rather than linear progression because ‘what came before?’ is just as unknown (and exciting) as ‘what is about to happen now?’

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