DW focuses on action rather than story or character development.

DW focuses on action rather than story or character development.

DW focuses on action rather than story or character development. My problem is that now my adventures and the character in them are not memorable. I used to make memorable adventures, planning every minutiae to amaze and cause sensation, surprise and excitement, now I leave blanks, and I have become lazy, it is too easy to wing DW that I don’t prep anymore, at least not like I used to. My adventures are not memorable anymore. I don’t feel the joy of preparing carefully designed plots, no more grand finales anymore. Am I missing a point? Is there a way to balance story development and character story development and action? Please I could use some piece of advice.

37 thoughts on “DW focuses on action rather than story or character development.”

  1. You can’t find amazement, sensation, surprise and excitement in the blanks?

    I find that there is a middle ground between planning every minutiae and not planning anything. DW does ask you to plan; there is work to do with fronts and such. Does that framework help?

  2. It’s too loose a framework. It’s very hard to build tension with that. I need to know what situation the PCs will face ahead to plan dialogs and descriptions. It all come casual and shallow now. ūüôĀ

  3. In DW it’s not your story anymore. It’s everyone’s story. If your players aren’t part of the development of the story and plot and where things go, then you are missing the thing that makes PbtA games. The blanks are the parts your players fill in. It’s not about winging action sequences. It’s about engaging the players in the story telling itself.

  4. DW does one style of game really well, but playing only one style of game is like watching only one genre of movie or listening to only one type of music. If you are getting burnt out on same ol’ switch it up with another game for awhle. (Edit – you’ll probably get new inspiration to bring back)

  5. One more question: Could you give an example that happened of a cool thing that occurred in the planned out way of gaming and an example that happened of a DW scene that wasn’t well developed?

  6. Judd Karlman‚Äč it’s complicated to come up with a great cool situation on the fly to give you an example.

    So what you say is that it offers the same possibilities?

  7. Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I was asking you to recount/remember a situation that you saw happen at the table from each way of gaming within your own experience.

  8. So what you say is that it offers the same possibilities?

    I would say that it offers more but that is just based on what I enjoy out of gaming. Rather than script out hat your NPC’s will say, daydream about them instead. Talk with them, have conversations with them. My suggestion is that you spend the time you spent preparing, idly daydreaming and thinking about what might or might not happen when your NPC’s meet your PC’s.

    Don’t grow attached and the game is about that exploration, allowing everyone at the table, including you, being surprised and delighted because what happened at the table is not at all scripted.

  9. Judd Karlman‚Äč‚Äč But I do love have npcs favorite quotes on paper. I do love have their preferences and dislikes detailed. And I do love have that scene prepared ahead when the greatest evil in the plot says right at the end game “don’t kill me, I’m your father” stuff like that doesn’t come easily and need to be carefully planned or it can ruin your story.ÔĽŅ

  10. I’m suggesting that to try this other way of playing, where the idea of ruining a story is ridiculous because there is no story until the players make interesting decisions and roll dice and interact with the world, you’d have to change your methods and not write scripts but lightly daydream about worlds and trust those daydreams, combined with your players’ actions to inspire great things to occur.

    I’m suggesting that you do not need all that prep.

    What I’m suggesting might very well be taking away a part of gaming that you enjoy. It is entirely possible, as suggested above, that this is not the game for you and that is fine too.

  11. Two suggestions I would make:

    1) What do your players think? I’m not suggesting that your enjoyment is secondary to theirs – everyone at the table is, to one degree or another, a player, there to have fun – but their input on this may be invaluable.

    2) Check out the GM moves – what you’re talking about scripting – the big reveal, things like that, fall well under those. You might find that while you’re following ‘leave blanks’ and ‘ask questions, use answers’ less than others, you’re using ‘reveal an unwelcome truth’ or other hard moves more. That’s fine!

  12. Judd Karlman

    Front “The Death King” Danger: Goblins (Hordes)Impulse: Defend their territory from strangers. GM moves: Declare war without hesitation, Perform a show of dominance.

    Impending doom: Destruction of town, slaying of every living soul, take over town.

    Grim Portents: (1) Messenger announces the old gobling king is dead therefore the old peace treaty is over. (2) Goblins appear everywhere armed and dangerous. (3) A goblin shaman invokes a big monster to fight along the goblin army.

    Stake questions: Will the pcs find any of the powerful good creatures in the woods? What powerful weapon can be hidden in the goblins hoard?

    Cast: Aled (Tinkerer) Jack (Thief) and Galadir (The wizard) -End of sample front from file.

  13. Oney Clavijo Have you tried playing Dungeon World, just with more prep and asking the players fewer wide-open questions?

    There’s not actually very much in the actual rules of DW that clash with deep prep.¬†

  14. Judd Karlman Same adventure written old way DnD…1e, 2e, 3e…3.5e…4e… PF…

    “The old road has brought you to the old town of Mistgale, it is surrounded by a dense wood called the Brush for its thickness and thorny bushes….the town is the only place to stop in miles, you are short in water and food but you are not forced to stop there, what would you do?” Prep encounter with Galadir the wizard (Tall slender elf with a long red scarf and a living squirrel nesting in its robe, called Sam) who will brief the pcs in the area of Mistgale and offers a magic sword he holds if they take a little mission into the woods for him. GM: If they refuse go to Goblin attack. If they accep go to “The wizard’s challenge” Etc… its going to be a long thing this way so I hope you get the idea how I like my adventures to be carefully planned.

  15. Noah Doyle Well I play with teenagers and they always say “that’s great let’s do what you say. Yey Dungeon World is great!” so no asking for opinions work much with them, they look forward to know what I think and agree.

    I love my players but they need to be a little more critical sometimes.

    Thanks for your ideas. I will check.

    Don’t get me wrong I love DW it just starts happening lately I feel like it is too simple and/or fast to tell a memorable story. Maybe it’s me.

    I’ll try your advice. Thanks guys!

  16. I would give two pieces of general advice:

    1. Instead of coming up with a story or even reactive NPCs, try to focus on very active NPCs. Flesh them out as much as you want, but focus on giving them near-term goals that will cross the PCs path. Don’t have the goblins defend their territory, have them look to expand it, or maybe even reclaim what they once had and lost “unjustly.” The key is to avoid “Do you follow this adventure hook?” and go with “This NPC is taking this very clear & obvious action – what do you do?”

    2. Start in media res – skip all the “you’re in a tavern” stuff and go straight to “you’re in the middle of the goblin den, after having slaughtered waves after waves of the horde, and their champion stands before you…”

    Just because you’re improv-ing doesn’t mean you can’t prep, just seeds instead of scenes and be prepared to adapt to player actions & suggestions.

  17. Oney Clavijo  As a starting DW GM I found pretty much the same thing. Especially as my players have gotten lazy and are not actively pursuing the story (or anything else). I came to the conclusion that the solution is a series of happenings (portents, uncomfortable truths, hard moves and the like) to throw at the players when they look lost. I think this accords with the DW GM playbook. Rather than let the planned timetable dictate the progress of the bad guys let the events dictate the progress. If the party wants some rest time and the schedule allows it the let them have it otherwise just jump ahead to the next event series and bombard them with some stuff.

  18. Suggestion:

    Location: Near Mistgale …

    Portent: Family moving away from Mistgale. Tells of the death of the Goblin King … “there is sure to be trouble so we are leaving while we can”.

    Unconfortable truth: The party is running low on food and water.

    Event: An old elf in a red scarf is fending off two goblins with a staff. If the party assists he will invite them back to his place. He has a well and a good larder.

    Event/Portent: A troop of goblins attacks Galadir’s house while the party is there. They should be easy for the party to defeat. Galadir will observe that they need more power to be able to take on bigger war troops. He knows how to obtain a magic sword but needs the party to do the leg work for him.

  19. If you like to be descriptive, write down rich ‘impressions’ lists. No railroading and yet more atmosphere. If you’ve ever read n adventure starter, you know what an impressions list is.

  20. It seems like Oney Clavijo is having trouble improvising in the scenes.  That was initially a difficulty for me as well, moving into DW.  I found myself anxious with the pressure to perform well as a GM for the players, and to make the scenes meaningful and epic.  The requirement to improvise was tough for me at first, because i struggled against the fear of getting it wrong.  

    Once i learned to throw caution to the wind and just asserting the first thing that occurs to me (after having committed the prep into my mindset, as appropriate), i have come to really enjoy DW. ¬†Part of that is realizing that it’s okay if some of my answers aren’t epic; because i can, and should, enlist the players to build upon them and make them epic.

    My prep generally consists of: 

    1. a big ol’ list of names of various cultures/races/locations/buildings – whatever i expect might be encountered. ¬†This way, if it comes up i can simply grab a name (or give the list to the players to choose) and move on. ¬†No more grinding the action to a halt and searching for “the name.”

    2. after the first session, fronts and dangers as appropriate to what the players brought to the table. ¬†Each NPC that is identified will get an instinct and knack. ¬†Sometimes i add physical/personality attributes from Funnel World. ¬†Between these and impending doom, grim portents, and monster moves, i can write good stakes, and collectively these help me consider the NPCs well enough to develop a feel for how they’ll generally respond whenever they get screen time (or take an action behind the scenes due to a GM move).

    3. speaking of instinct/knack – when the PCs spend time in more than a cursory conversation with someone new, i’ll ask the two that are doing most of the interacting to each roll percentile. ¬†The first is instinct, the second is knack. ¬†This becomes my GM mini-game: sometimes the result seems wholly inappropriate, and the challenge is on me to make it fun, make it make sense in the grand scheme. ¬†And it provides me with some framework for continuing to discover that NPCs through play.

    A final trick that helps this: nothing i’ve thought about is “true” in the game, until it has been revealed at the table. ¬†This means that things i have thought about are not things i “know” about the fiction. ¬†I am free to keep a handful of intriguing ideas, and let them bear fruit, or not, depending on what is happening in the story and where the players’ interests are. ¬†But once i, as GM, have made a claim at the table, it is absolutely true. ¬†I cannot lie to the players (though NPCs can and do!). ¬†And once we establish some fact, it is my job to keep the rest of the story consistent with that fact.

  21. I think the Heart of DW is the Rule “Play to find out what happens” This Game is made to be a cooperative Experience. Sure you are the Director but your Players should always have some control over what happens to form the Story and make it their own.

    I had lots of Groups with Teenage Players and usually they are eager to show of their cool ideas and try out new Stuff. The important part here is not to overwhelm them with choice but also not to railroad them. Where exactly the sweet Spot is depends on your Players really. Some enjoy Story more and others like to advance their own ideas more.

    If they have Trouble coming up with ideas try to set them up for success.

    There are two basic ways to do it:

    1. Give them interesting Choices

    Not just ask them “Where do you come from” but instead use leading Questions. “What is the defining Feature of the Lava Swamps where you were born?” Give them interesting Setups and let them improvise on that instead of just overwhelm them with Choice. The Same goes for Decisions in Game “You have seen the Elf-Lady in the Corner before. Why do you remember her?” and if that doesnt trigger “Maybe you tried to seduce her once?” and so on. Give Choices and Suggestions instead of just presenting their Choices for them.

    2. Let them Brainstorm together.

    When one Player has no Idea ask the other Players what they think. Let them help one another and help them coming up with cool stuff. You really have to link with them more and more to see how they think and what Ideas and Choices they would like to have.

  22. I think I’d like to push back a bit against the firmly pro-improv responses in the thread. DW can support a full improv game with massively shared narrative control fairly well, but I don’t think it requires it. One of the GM principles is “exploit your prep”, after all.

    You can still come up with memorable NPCs and villains with big plans and incredible locations in a much more traditional, GM-centric way. That’s perfectly in line with “Portray a fantastic world”.

    It’s also compatible with the principles that imply shared narrative control: neither “ask questions and use the answers” nor “draw maps but leave blanks” actually means “let the players make everything up” or “come up with everything on the fly”.

    You can know all about the lich Xyraxes and his terrible servitor deathknight Corlax the Fallen before you get to the table. You can know what his tower looks like and what dread beasts guard it.

    The questions you ask can then be more like “How did you learn about the location of the tower?” and “What was your connection to Corlax before he fell to darkness?”, and the blanks on the map can be the nature of the road leading to the tower.

    If you’re not happy with an improvised, shared-narrative campaign, then certainly one answer is to get better at improvised, shared-narrative play.

    But another answer is to turn that dial back to a game style you’re more comfortable with, which can still be fully in line with DW’s principles.

  23. Russell Williams well said. I do the same. I like to think of a strong framework and let players fill in gaps. Some of the gaps are important but I can also prep important things myself beforehand.

  24. Sir, have you tried running prewritten adventures/adventure paths of other systems such as D&D with DW?

    My players are not too keen on coming up with interesting stuff on the spot, sometimes i see them get stressed when I ask them stuff like “how do you know that?” but they do enjoy DW as a system.

    I am currently running curse of strahd for them and its going great. I had to read the adventure pretty well so i could improvise when they took an action not contemplated by the adventure. I gave them free reign to act as they pleased and somehow it has worked out.

    It all depends what playstyle your players like and just adapt DW to their needs as players.

Comments are closed.