Why can’t Dungeon World be scripted like other table-top RPG systems? It can, can’t it?

Why can’t Dungeon World be scripted like other table-top RPG systems? It can, can’t it?

Why can’t Dungeon World be scripted like other table-top RPG systems? It can, can’t it?

I see many posts that shun too much preparation and even the slightest ‘Railroading’. Many games allow this and are even expected, D&D for example. What’s wrong with doing this in Dungeon World too?

I feel like as long as the group you play with likes scripted dungeon crawls and are up for a change in game mechanics (DW’s in this case) it could be done.

An I missing something, or is scripted scenarios near impossible to play when using Dungeon World mechanics.?

27 thoughts on “Why can’t Dungeon World be scripted like other table-top RPG systems? It can, can’t it?”

  1. To be fair I don’t think it works in other systems. The mark of a good gm is someone who doesn’t go “well you know how you made those choices…. This happens anyway”

  2. Plenty of adventure modules and starters exist. I think the biggest thing to remember is that this system really fosters progression of the story based off the rolls as well as the results of filling in blanks along the way.

    If you have pre-planned ideas, I think that’s fine, though once you begin to have too much planned (as I will admit to have done in the past) you tend to try to force it into the game, rather than go with what happens. 

    I would focus on having a general idea, with potential things that could happen anywhere along the way. When soft and hard move opportunities arise, that’s when you select one of your predetermined ideas, like a puzzle piece, and find which piece fits in the puzzle in the right place at the right moment.

    You could, essentially, pre-plan an entire dungeon, but don’t necessarily put every room, enemy, or object where you expect it. Perhaps the first room would look a certain way. Then, based on what the players do, choose what fits best within what is currently happening from a list of your pre-determined rooms and work that in. – or just ignore it completely as new ideas come to you.

  3. Matthew Brown I agree with you there, but to clarify what I was asking.

    Allot of games run in Dungeon World leave parts about to world blank. The players make up the world as they go. I was wondering if it was possible to place players into a Setting with characters and places already well thought out and having those players/characters interact with them

  4. I think you could but as a GM you need to remember to leave it broad … Once you introduce something it’s in play as it were and your pcs are free to wreck your vision. Something beyond saying ok we are playing in oz or wonderland or middle earth can hamstring some creativity and frustrate people who want say LOTR unmolested. If your just using it for flavor sure keep it in mind … In the I’m gonna need a city I’ll use my vornheim book to get atmosphere but plan too much and you might get frustrated when your players move left instead of right.

    Can I ask why you want to write the backstory though? As a GM and not a group? If you want narrative control there are better games for that. The blank space really adds weight to consequences.

    I guess another way to put it is why pregame? Is it that your players aren’t engaging? Or are you bored? Do you rotate gm’s? Almost all of those things can be fixed by figuring out what all of you want … 

  5. We rotate GMs every get-together. And many of the players/GMs like to bring a story to the table for the other players to interact in with their characters. It’s kinda like “Look what I have created! Come and enjoy my vision with me!”. I admit, we have ruined a GMs vision before, but it’s kinda the fun


    My frankenstein house was burned down…… :(

  6. Robert Doe My opinion? No, nothing about DW’s mechanics precludes a very traditional, old-school, mapped out, keyed dungeon. The first published DW scenario, the Bloodstone Idol (by Sage and Adam) was totally like that. Likewise, there’s nothing in the game mechanics that interferes with having a ton of premade NPCs with motives and agendas and secrets that then get revealed in play. 

    There are certainly play-style issues that might get in the way. A lot of groups report using Spout Lore to basically let the players invent facts about the world. That’s fun, but it’s not actually how the move is written; the fact-creating authority is pretty clearly in the GMs hands for that move.

    Just to be clear, I’m saying that there’s nothing wrong with heavily prepped starting point. Once the game starts and the players respond to “what do you do?” then all bets are off. Play to see what happens.

    The game will fight you (hard) if you assume that certain events have to happen, or happen in a certain order, and that nothing the PCs do will affect that. The game gives PCs a lot of agency.  But the game mechanics pretty elegantly handle any amount of prep, from virtually none to really a lot.

    There are two big pitfalls to watch out for:

    1) Player investment:  You did all this work prepping your starting scenario/mapping out your dungeon, but why should the PCs care?

    That’s a big part of why the first session guidelines talk about establishing details, asking questions, using what they give you, and leaving blanks.  Those things directly, viscerally create buy-in from your players.

    Telling them that they’ve been hired by Lord Whatsisname to investigate rumors of goblins infesting the caves near town gives them some weak motivation. Asking them “Who hired you to investigate this dungeon?” and “What have you heard is supposed to be lurking in here?” and “What fabulous treasure have your studies hinted might be in there?” is a much more effective way to get their buy in. Whatever they answer, it’s something they think would motivate their character, right?

    That also extends to world-building. You generally get a lot more buy-in from your players when you ask them about their homelands and they describe it to you than when you say “we’re doing a game inspired by the Warring States era China” and everyone having to fit their characters into that.  

    Problem is, that approach necessitates the second pitfall…

    2) Leaving Blanks: If you’re going to ask questions and build on what they’ve given you, you need your prep to be flexible enough to elegantly adapt to those answers. The more detailed prep you do, the harder that becomes.  

    And if you’ve done a lot of prep, including setting and tone and all that, it can be hard to let it go when the players answer your questions with something that interests them but doesn’t fit you vision.  I think that’s a big part of what Damian Jankowski is referring to.

    Sometimes that’s okay, and I think there’s a lot to be said for GM-as-curator-of-ideas, sometimes rejecting answers that don’t fit with the larger world the group has created. But I think that’s less cool when the GM has done all the prep in advance.

    In case it’s not obvious, I’ve thought about this a lot. I think you can have player buy-in with a prescripted setting or scenario (and thus, need to leave fewer blanks), but you need to generate that buy-in some other way than just asking questions.  My #Stonetop  project is an example. Instead of starting with a blank slate and starting with the PCs about to kick in the door to a dungeon and asking questions, the game starts with a map, a region, and a village that everyone considers home. The playbooks and gear lists are all altered to drive that connection, and the Seasons Change rules are all about generating threats and opportunities to the village that the PCs can react to.  The setting still has a lot of blanks and the playbooks ask a lot of questions to have players fill in the details, but the core assumption (poor isolated village, bronze/iron age technology built on the ruins of the past, PCs are local heroes) are all cooked into the character creation.

    Yeah, I should stop typing and go work on that.

  7. you can do prescripted. the DW book talks about how to do so in the adapting modules section. You have to be flexible, but that isn’t different from running modules well in a traditional game.

  8. Depends on how much scripting you try to do. My experience is that scripted dungeons are actually kinda boring in DW, but you can pretty easily “script” events and NPC actions using the threats and fronts system.

    Your scripted dungeon is gonna need to be pretty special for that to work, IMHO.

  9. I think the major thing is that the characters are not limited in some of the ways that dnd characters are.

    For example i had a game where a bunch of lava was in the way. Well the druid just turned into the wind to get the players over it.

    Dnd puzzles don’t really work because of that. Also because of rolls and the questions you should pro ably ask any scenario or world will change.

  10. All amazing comments. Thank-you all for responding to my question. What I take is that preparation is great, but be willing to adapt and have your vision completely changed.

    It’s also important to get the players interested in the quest at hand, this is best done when they have a part in its creation.

    And above all, play it how you want to play it.

    Amazing advice and description of how Dungeon World traditionally works, and its strengths Jeremy Strandberg​

  11. One of the bits of GM advice in the book is “Exploit your prep.” It doesn’t all have to be player invented. Nothing wrong with having some set pieces (not plots, that is,  but NPCs, places, villain agendas, etc.) prepared.

  12. One of the cool things about DW is how “unplanned” things can get in planned scenarios.

    Recent session, I had several “things” planned. One thing I didn’t have planned is to have the mage continually casting spells that backfired and choosing the “put him in a spot” action. So, I added a level higher in the tower where something that doesn’t like magical failure seems to be trying to get out.

    First, this bought me some time, and saved me the issue of what to do with all his failures/partial successes. Now that I’ve thought of what that room contained — well, let’s just say he’ll probably wish he’d chosen the “forget a spell” option a few times early on. (Actually, it’s likely to be a blast for all of us — I won’t say more because he, and the rest of my group, lurks here).

    Another thing I didn’t expect was to have a druid who searched an area and made so much noise that a group of goblins, who were a plot device higher in the tower, heard him, and came to investigate and got the jump on the heroes. (And they had to figure out the plot device on their own).

    So, plan however you want, but “leave blanks”. Failures in DW are far more interesting than the mechanical failures in other games (in my opinion).

  13. I can only tell you my experiance; which is that I left Pathfinder to move to systems like DW specifically in order to stop doing all that planning and prep-work.

    With a job, house, and family it is just too time consuming to spend hours and hours preparing for a game.  Even in the most scripted of games the PCs can just choose to do something you don’t anticipate and effectively negate much, if not all, of your preparation work.

  14. Scripted is a bit of a dirty word, in my book. It means (to me) prepared plot as opposed to prepared bits of setting. I think DW supports some prep. (I know it does, the book says so. “Exploit your prep.”) But prep means having a card file of cool ideas to throw in when it is “your turn” as a GM to do so. NPC’s, cool vistas, neat places to have a fight, villain agendas, etc. And, perhaps most importantly, coming up with some bad ass questions to ask. 

  15. Dungeon World can be run in a number of styles, ranging from pure improv with no prep, to use of dungeon starters/fronts, to fully fleshed out dungeons with improv elements (such as the recently released Fortress of the Ur-Mage by svdpress.com).

    Each style can be immensely fun!

  16. In RPGs the GM’s version of what’s happening often differs from what’s in the players heads.  Which version is best?  The one the GM wants? Or the one the players thing they’re involved in?

    Apocalyspe World style games (e.g. DW) are built on the idea (among others) that the players’ version is even more important that the GM’s one, and include features that help the GM and players create satisfying stories/games without having to follow a pre-scripted story.

    You can use DW to run through pre-scripted adventures.  

    However, doing that means you miss a lot of the great support DW provides for creating engaging adventures/stories/worlds built upon whatever appears/occurs in play.

    It does take a change in thinking if you’ve come from GMing pre-scripted RPG adventures. But the better player experience is well worth it and, once you get used to the change in approach, it is even more rewarding as a GM to have wonderful adventures, stories and worlds evolving naturally as you play.

  17. DW really supports a variety of gameplay styles. I agree that the improv-style is incredible fun, and DW does a great job at it.

    But DW also supports a very enjoyable “dungeon challenge” adventure as well. Tomb of Horrors, Crucible of the Gods, Fortress of the Ur-Mage. The “fiction first” and easy dice mechanic shines bright here.

    If you prefer one or the other, no worries. Play the style you enjoy. I’ll play both!

  18. Prepare as much or as little as you are comfortable with. DW does kind of “want” you to wing it as much as possible, but there’s no reason you can’t draw a dungeon map with a few pre-planned encounters in there if that’s what you want. I know I do.

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