So I have yet to buy or play Dungeon World, but I already LOVE it.

So I have yet to buy or play Dungeon World, but I already LOVE it.

So I have yet to buy or play Dungeon World, but I already LOVE it. I’ve spent most of my waking hours researching, reading blog posts, watching APs, poring through the guide, and reveling in the epic adventures other groups have had playing this game. No joke, guys: this is pretty much exactly the game I was looking for when I first took an interest in tabletop RPGs like four years ago (and I may have gotten little teary-eyed when I realized this).

I really want to play this game with my siblings, for a bunch of reasons:

A) I’ve wanted to introduce them to tabletop for AGES.

B) This game is very newbie friendly (all of them are 100% greenhorns when it comes to tabletop).

C) We have a great dynamic as a group. Very energetic, creative, and we play off each other really well. Most other board games are a blast.

However, even though I’ve been interested in tabletop for a while, I only have three half-campaigns (edit: as a PC) under my belt. (edit: I’ve never DM-ed before.) My first group was perhaps too large, amorphous, and inexperienced to ever really finish a game.

I’m concerned that I’ll be jumping in over my head if I DM for the first time for a bunch of first-time RPGers.

What are your thoughts? Suggestions? Should I jump in feet first and see if I can swim? Should I maybe try and find someone at my FLGS to show me the ropes? Should I perhaps dip my toes in first and ask someone to play one-on-one (me DM, them PC)?

Thanks all. This is a great group.

32 thoughts on “So I have yet to buy or play Dungeon World, but I already LOVE it.”

  1. I think Dungeon World is one of the better introduction RPG out there, cause most of the time you can “wing it” and the description first approach works great with newbies that just want to undertake Epic adventures.

    I would keep the group smallish at start to get the ropes of it. The other thing I would probably do is make sure that it is a small in scope, so that you are not overwhelmed by the amount of GMing.

    And welcome to the GM club! Have fun, you will see it is a blast.

  2. yup, Dungeon World is a great GM-training tool. The GM section of DW is brilliant, and as long as you follow their guidelines, you’ll find yourself running a WAY better game than you thought you ever could.

  3. I felt a lot of the same nervousness, but I really wanted to try out DW and I knew the only way it was going to happen with my group was if I GMed. So I said, why not, let’s try this.

    It plays out surprisingly smoothly, even with very little GM prep, much better than the new-GM D&D campaigns I played in, where we spent a lot of time in the first few sessions looking up combat rules.

    Just come to the first session with a rough idea of a setting and a sense of adventure/danger. Ask lots of questions and let the players help guide you (they’ll do things you never expected.) If things start to stall, show signs of an approaching threat. Ask what do you do? If you get stuck, I find it helps to have a printed list of the GM moves to glance at; pick something and run with it. When they roll a miss, feel free to do something especially evil. Think dangerous.

    Oh and remember to tell them to mark XP on misses. I forgot that and had to tell them halfway through the first session. It really helps to encourage them to try things.

  4. Welcome!

    It sounds like you’ve got a good group to start with.

    All three starters are a good idea. If your FLGS does have someone who knows how to run DW, take advantage of that resource. A few one-on-one sessions (Hangouts, or in person) would be helpful – I’d suggest playing on both sides of the DM screen.

    But really, if you’ve absorbed a lot of APs, and it sounds like you have, I’d suggest just letting the players pick PCs, and go right to world creation. You’ll see what kind of world/game your group wants, from what PCs they choose, how they customize them, and esp. what kind of world they create. Then, after you’ve got a basic map and some ideas percolating about the bigger picture, jump right in! I wouldn’t worry at the beginning about Fronts and Portents, those will come as you play and create.

    One Page Dungeon contest compilations are great resources, as are Mark Tygart ‘s Dungeon Starters.

    In media res is a great way to open a scene – “The caravan you’re escorting is under attack – who, or what, is attacking?”

    (A whiteboard and markers to doodle maps and stuff I’ve found to be invaluable, too.)

  5. Rebecca Her Honestly, you don’t even need a parachute. DW is more a state of free-fall where the ground is constantly approaching and it becomes more and more detailed as it flies ever closer.

  6. Dan Bryant It reminds me a LOT of playing pretend with kids.

    Kid: “I’m a shark and I’m going to eat you!”

    You: “Well, I’m an octopus and I wrap my arms around you so you can’t move!”

    Kid: “Nuh uh, I burn you because I’m also radioactive.”

    You: “It doesn’t affect me because I’m also made of lead.”

    Kid: “I’m going to call my shark friends to help!”

    You: “They can’t help you because they’re trapped in a whirlpool!”

    Kid: “Then I use my laser katanas to cut off your arms and go save my friends!”

    You: “…Okay!” (pretend your arms have been cut off)

  7. Play with your friends (and siblings yay!)… Don’t sweat the mistakes.

    Do the prep, ask the questions, listen to the answers, follow the fiction. Have a blast.

    Find the read and understand dungeon world roll +INT booklet that’s out there if your nervous.

  8. Hey Rebecca Her… looks like you live in Madison? That’s where I’m based, too.

    I’d be happy to run a session for you and your family (or whoever), serve as a sounding board, play in a session you ran and give feedback… whatever you think would be helpful.

    The world needs more DW GMs! I’m happy to help however I can.

    But I’d also echo the general sentiments above: jump in. It’s a blast of a game to run and play, and pretty easy on newbs. Especially if they don’t have baggage from GMing other games.

  9. Tell them upfront that you’re new and you’re going to be learning on the job. Dollars to donuts they’ll be cool with it. Then ask enough questions about their characters and the situation that you feel comfortable building on the answers. Then throw them into the situation you’ve built together and watch what happens. When they look at you for guidance, make a GM move. When you can’t think of anything, ask them what they think. When you’re exhausted, call it.

    Boom, you now know everything you need to know to run a successful first session of DW.

  10. I had the same fears when running it my first time with a real group. I think a good idea is to not over plan. Have a general idea if what you want to do for the campaign and go from there.

    So my campaign was for them to stop a big bad…and for them to start by recovering a book for somebody. That was it…I had planned nothing more. But the most important thing that I did was to spend the first hour of that session asking questions. I rotated around the table asking them. The two questions that I remember was asking an elf on why he was exiled from home…turns out he had a thing for the kings daughter and this led to many side episodes of the kings guard finding them and causing trouble. The other us when i asked the wizard who sent you to get the book…turns out it was his mentor who asked for it…and he wouldn’t tell them what the book was…and boom…just like that instant big bad.

    Always ask questions…think of a few before each session…this leads the campaign to where the players want to go and makes buy in.

    Also draw a simple map. Draw a basic outline of the map and ask where the forest was located where they grew up…draw it in. What mountains did the dwarf live in…draw it in. Every session the map grows.

    And use the npc generator for npc’s. It is a simple and beautiful tool that I use for all systems I run now.

    Long story short. Ask questions!

    Sorry for the wall of text.


  11. A good rule for session 1 is don’t even plan anything. Drop the sheets on the table ask people a few questions and then take a 30 min break using their answers to start the first story. If they seem interested in things ask about them.

  12. Brian Barbour I know, but I love having physical copies of things, and I want to support the game designers and my FLGS.

    Edit to add: I already have the guide on my tablet.

  13. One mistake I’ve made for first sessions is leaving it too wide open. If you just ask the players something like “where are you right now?” you might get something that works but you might not.

    I’ve found that a good middle ground is to start with a place in mind: either a picture of a fantastic place, or a (blank) map from someone like Dyson Logos or MonkeyBlood Design (Glynn Seal). An evocative name is nice, too! Tell the players that they’re starting there. (Alternately: let them choose between 2-3 pictures/maps/names.)

    Then, ask questions of the characters (not the players, the characters) that establish at least the following:

    – What are they looking for, hoping to find?

    – Why is it important they find it?

    – What dangers do they believe are here?

    – Why is important that they find it soon?

    This will give them a goal to work toward, threats for you to put in their way, and a clock for them to work against.

    (I’d probably do this after they introduce themselves but before they establish bonds. I think the context established from these questions really helps with the bond-writing.)

    Then: start them at the dungeon door, or just inside as everything goes south. Make a move and ask what they do. Play Dungeon World!

  14. Oh definitely start them doing something. Ask one of the group why you followed those cult members to the crypt? Turn to someone else and ask whose crypt is it? What treasure is rumored to be buried with x? Work in a few traps or challenges… Bam instant adventure. Pile on the fiction and be a fan of the characters! The free adventure stuff on their website gives you some great examples with the I’m on a boat adventure.

  15. Oh I stole this from beyond the wall. Break out a big poster. Write down a village name on the top. Draw the inn. Have everyone add a person and a place to the village. Keep all of it near the center. Have everyone make a bond about growing up together. As the game progresses add in map details. Don’t sweat not being able to draw.

  16. I started my gming career with DW, best thing i ever did and now im a proid gm of many games, and better at social things as well!

    Have a good action movie atyle start i would say, there fighting on a rope bridge, theyve been captured by pirates. And then ask questions you would logically think of, why this bridge, who are these pirates, what do they want. Etc.

  17. OP: go for it! feet first! If you can find a mentor, cool, but don’t block on that.

    Your crew sounds like they’ll be a blast to play with, esp. the bit about them playing off each other well, because that’s like 95% of the game right there.

    The doc that Matthew Klein mentions is just a really structured formalization of a lot of the advice you’re already getting here — ask questions, use the answers, etc, so if that advice resonates with you, check it out!

  18. Even if you don’t need it, do prep. Have a strong idea for the adventure and descriptions. To prepare for gming in general: develop a sense library for descriptions, make 50 plug and play npcs, get a name chart, and relax.

  19. Matrix Forby “Do these 60 pieces of homework, make sure you have strong ideas, but… Relax!”

    Jeez. No. A first time GM, especially of a game like Dungeon World, should do none of this. A more experienced GM of one of these games should do some work on being able to put together interesting descriptions, but the rest of your advice isn’t really appropriate.

    Going into a first game, you want:

    A strong starting situation that demands action. “You are almost up the wall of Baron von Nasty’s keep, and the wind is picking up, when one of the sentries finally looks down. ‘What in the name of….?! Sound the alarm!’ What do you do?”

    A list of some names, so you don’t name your NPCs things like “Baron von Nasty”

  20. Mike Pureka​ I did not say do 60 pieces of homework. And yes now that I think about it 50 npcs is too much. The important part is to get some experience in getting an npc put together fast and being able to give the players details on the fly so that they can imagine it. “You smell the coppery stench of death”,”you see a gray boulder with cracks and shot with moss”, “you hear a screeeech, tha raises the hairs on the back of the neck”.. that is what I mean by a sense library. Those details are what makes it more engaging. Many gms forget them, leaving the players in the dark and adding to the confsion. The npc library helps to put it together fast. With DW your sugestions are great, “Put forth a situation that demands action”, list of names. I would also include a list of traits, habits, or a chart of distingishing details. Something to use as a handle to get a grip on an npc. Til you get good at details on the fly and npcs on the fly a little prep on it is good. “Exploit your prep” makes the asumption that you are doing prep. Also, I would recomend not doing a 1 on 1 for your first gming. It is very stressful compaired to when you have a group that can bounce stuff off each other and give you more ideas. The relax part of my advice is because no matter how bad you think you are doing it isn’t that bad. The most tense you are the less you are having fun and the more work it is to give the players a good fun session. Give yourself permision to be an awesome gm and believe it. Then let the fun come. You will do great.

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