First time GM looking for some guidance/tips: I’m starting a game soon for some other noobs.

First time GM looking for some guidance/tips: I’m starting a game soon for some other noobs.

First time GM looking for some guidance/tips: I’m starting a game soon for some other noobs. I’ve been in games before, but never GM’d PbtA. I’m wondering, about DW in particular, how to talk about weapons/gear. By the book, I have the impression that there is no “+1 sword”. Coming from a reference framework of videogames, I’m pre-empting my players are going to ask me “when do I get cool weapons?”. How do you deal with that? What’s the answer in the fiction? Do you create magic items for them? (non mechanical upgrades); or do you give them weapons with mechanical perks (+1’s or new tags)? Thanks!

20 thoughts on “First time GM looking for some guidance/tips: I’m starting a game soon for some other noobs.”

  1. Magic items are special. You don’t get a +1 sword. You get Ulgorh’s Sword of Ancestors that has the move: when you take a moment to commune with the spirits in the sword, take +1 forward to your next attack.

  2. Weapons don’t really have much in the way of mechanics. For the most part, magic items should be more complex than a +1 Sword, like Aaron says.

    Magical items should be… well, magical. Reducing the effect of a weapon to a simple ‘You can do this’ reduces the supernatural mystique of magical items.

    And if your players want a lot of magical items, if that’s the way they want the story to go? Give it to them. You guys are writing a story together, remember.

  3. Who says your advanced moves are inherent and not from magic items?

    I once played a half-orc fighter with a sword smarter than he was; every time I leveled, I described it as the weapon awakening something, or finally talking to me, etc.

  4. Have you looked at the magic items in the back of the book?

    Generally, it’s easy – magic items don’t give “bonuses” because bonuses are boring and don’t fit with how the game works. Instead, they allow you to do things you couldn’t do before – either by giving you a whole new move or adding new options to an existing one.

  5. Ah, I haven’t made myself clear: I know the book inside-out. I know that magical items should act in the fiction, not the mechanics. What I believe will be the case however, is that they will ask for “a sword that does more damage” or “armour that makes me a tank”, similar to how you progress in videogames. How do you “give them what they want” in that regard?

  6. Tell them honestly that that is not how Dungeon World works jan w. Tell your players that they should play a bit with the game “as is” so they can see how it all works. If they still want fancy pants gear after a few sessions, come up with some intersting stuff for them to find.

  7. Thanks for that Chris Stone-Bush . Are there any good resources for seeing examples others have used? (beyond what’s in the book and the “magic” tab in this group)

  8. Give them a sword with the messy tag. Sure, it does the same damage. But they want “rule of cool” with “and then the chains along the blade move and rip the monster’s limbs apart.”

    Or else they want to math away some hit points. In which case, send them the Pathfinder book or something.

  9. jan w

    Ah, okay, that clarifies a lot.

    There are a few things you can do – you can give them weapons with +1 damage, or armor with 1 more point of armor, or equipment that weighs less.   But yes, explaining that that’s not really how the game works “This isn’t WoW, the objective isn’t bigger numbers” may help.

    Also, give someone a weapon that allows a special result on a 12+ Hack and Slash; Strike another target in range. Or ruin a target’s armor. Or the foe bursts into flame (Can do extra damage). Or you could give them those options as 10+ results, much like the ‘you do an extra 1d6’ but force them to expose themselves to enemy attack to do it…

  10. Dungeon World does a good job of letting you build a character to do what they are wanting. Fighters have lots of moves that increase their damage, they don’t need a magic weapon for it. You want to be a tank, take armor master (or whatever it’s called) or Bloody Aegis from the Paladin. Magic items are meant to be that loot your players find and go, “That’s really awesome!” Not, “Oh good, an upgrade.” Take the example of one of my magic items, Water’s Edge. It does the same damage as a longsword, but when you unsheath it, it extinguishes all open non magical flames in a burst around you. It can also kill fire elementals outright with a successful hit and it is made of cobalt, a magical metal that is stronger than steel, and if it is ever broken will reforge itself if left submerged in water overnight. I’d take that over a boring modifier any day.

  11. One big thing that DW did for me, after enough time, was dissociate mechanical “HP damage” from fictional damage.

    Sometimes it’s okay to have an attach do NO damage, but change the fiction – “You hear the snap of a bow string, and then a numbness spreading through your shoulder. As you glance down at the arrow sticking through you, pinning you to the door at your back, you KNOW it’s going to hurt when you rip it out and it starts bleeding…. Don’t worry about marking any HP loss for now… but tell me – you’re stapled to the door, and the archer probably brought more arrows and/or friends… What do you do?”

    By the same token, a PC attack against a monster gets the benefit of its tags, when fitting. if a PC only rolls 1 damage, but has forceful and messy, the enemy will take 1 damage, but be knocked about and lose bits that it values. describe it, make it fantastic. Make sure the player knows “1 damage” isn’t bad; damage comes in non-mechanical forms too. “Sure, the Ogre is still swinging that club around, but with only two fingers and a bloody grip, you might be able to disarm it easily…. What do you do?”

    So, combat in general should get really descriptive, above and beyond the mechanics of HP-loss. Your magic items should work the same way.

    You want a magic sword that does “more damage” – badass. What kind of damage does it do? Don’t tell me HP damage, describe how it works. Does it have a regenerating obsidian edge, and each time you hack into a foe, bits of jagged, broken glass are left in the wound, bleeding and refusing to heal without serious medical intervention?

    Shadow Glass Long Sword (+1 damage, reach, hand, messy)

    Does your shield bear an animated face that supports your desire to protect others, letting you always take the “redirect attacks against yourself” without spending hold, as long as you have hold from a Defend move? What is its personality, and what does it want? What insults does the shield hurl at your foes?

    Escutcheon of the Leering Imp (+1 armor) – When you stand in defense of another person you may redirect all attacks against that person toward yourself at no cost, for as long as you continue to maintain hold in their defense.

  12. Also, use plenty of custom Tags. I do this a Lot. Ehi this is not the usual sword, this is a Masterwork. Same damage… However, NPCs will notice them in play, make compliments to the player, also, when the Ogre will do a massive forceful attack with the maul, I’ll tell the player “Ehi, you have a Masterwork sword, so probably it withstand the impact of the maul! Go for it!”.

    Ehi this is not the usual sword, this is an Elven Silver Blade. Same damage… However, you can punish werecreatures and it has no encumbrance on your character.

    Etc. etc. You can have a ton of cool Tags, you simply should recall them while playing, so the players will know that the tags MEAN really, in fiction.

  13. Get them hooked on the narrative. I know that doesn’t always work especially with younger players. But think of Glamdring. Half the goblins who saw it wet themselves and ran. Think of Boromir’s horn, the Uruk Hai pulled back in fear when it was sounded. Then think of the tags, messy, forceful, etc. Give them big impressive kills with those bad boys. Instead of well you nicked his liver and he bleeds out, it’s You’ve eviscerated his innards and as you withdraw the blade from his body the wound opens like the gaping maw of a hell-spawned demon vomiting blood and viscera.

  14. THANKS to all of you for the extensive examples! So so valuable for me right now! I see how I can give them “something cool” in a way that affects narrative rather than stats. I know the rulebook spells it out like that too, but it just helps seeing examples put together like this. Just makes it click.

  15. Also, tell the Tank and Glass Canon “wanna-be’s” that they already are those things. They don’t need items to make them those things. If they want to be that, then say so in the fiction.

  16. Jeremy Strandberg you are doing an awesome job with your DW stuff. [+1]

    Those things are FAR over the boring +1 Axe, +2 Sowrd of Ice we are quite accustomed to…

    However, even without going so epic and detailed, I keep thinking that good Tags, and a passionate GM ready to show their differences in fiction, creating specific scenes or challenges in relation with the gear actually used, there you find the “magic” of PbtA systems.

  17. Andrea Parducci oh, sure! You definitely don’t need to go as far as I’ve gone with the Blood-Quenched Sword to make interesting items.

    Simple tags or traits like “sanctified” or “ghostkiller” or “demon bane” or “cuts through stone like it was clay” are more than enough to make a magic item shine.

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