Ok, I’m a veteran GM but Dungeon World still is something new to me.

Ok, I’m a veteran GM but Dungeon World still is something new to me.

Ok, I’m a veteran GM but Dungeon World still is something new to me. I mean, I’ve read the book three or four times, read the Guide, and even played as a player once. Yet, when I think of adventure design I feel I may be at odd with “play to see what happens.”

My main problem is with the portents and its dangers (sorry if I confuse a term or two, but my DW book is in Portuguese). While they are great in theory (from a standpoint of someone who still needs to play as a DW GM), they seem to lead me to a trap.

Let me explain. If I make a list of 5 escalating problems to the players and they are able to defeat the threat in the 2nd step, what I believe it can happen:

a) Problem solved for the players. World is a little safer this time. But as a GM I’ve wasted 3 other problems that won’t see the light of day; or

b) Okay, they solved THAT part of the problem, but as there are 3 more problems after that, they somehow shoehorn themselves in the game: it’s a railroad, so it defeats the the purpose of “playing to see what happens.”

I can live with a). Have done this for years (love hexcrawls and sandboxes, even when there’s some epic plot buried there to be found–or not). But when I’m on a sandbox, for example, I rarely plot the steps of something bad happening: I usually give it a trigger and, when it comes into play, I develop the next step (if there’s need of one) on the fly. It’s an improvisational style.

So, TL;DR:

-How do you advise me to deal with this a) and b) situation?

-Can you provide some links to a campaign setting tailored for DW that could act as a good example of DW setting design?

16 thoughts on “Ok, I’m a veteran GM but Dungeon World still is something new to me.”

  1. Use a. Then write a new threat. You’ve wasted 3 problems, but they really shouldn’t take very long to create.

    Planning and “adventure design” are the enemy of good dungeon world games, I’ve found.

  2. The difference between DW and more trad RPGs is that it’s the players and the dice results that say which ones are the epic plots, not the GM’s planning.

  3. What is the end point of the danger? Is the evil cult trying to raise a dead god? Is the orc army trying to destroy a kingdom? Is the mad wizard trying to raise an undead army?

    Whatever that end goal is, if the characters somehow completely stop it during step 2, then congratulations. Your characters are awesome. Time to come up with another adventure.

    But that’s only if the characters completely stop the threat. Many times they will just derail it, set it back, or make it harder for the villain to achieve. But the villain is still trying to achieve their goal, right? The threat is still there, it just takes a different approach to meet that end goal.

  4. Chris Stone-Bush, I see what you mean. Thanks.

    (And thanks to everyone else who replied earlier)

    Now, what about published campaign settings? Care to suggest one as a study in DW design?

  5. I think the main utility of Fronts (with their associated Dangers and Grim Portents) is how it makes the GM think about their prep. If you look at many plot-based scenarios for older games, they often pre-suppose the players’ actions… sometimes even the specific outcomes of the actions. You’ll see plots which can be summarised as “the players hear about this, go here, do this, defeat this monster and from its loot they learn about…”

    If you build your prep according to the process for Fronts though, the approach is inverted – you focus on what the NPC antagonists will do. “The vampire will move into this crypt, dominate the Baron, search for the whatsit in the surrounding countryside, start to build up a gaggle of Renfields…”

    Rather than having a railroad script that you need your players to follow, you have to-do lists for your antagonists that you fully expect the players to derail. That gives the players a huge amount of freedom about how they interact with the world, and which grim portents they focus on.

  6. I’m with what Aaron Griffin​​ said. 100%. You “wasted” 3 sentences. If you were planning / GMing a “traditional” roleplay system, you would have wasted hours of prep time, with place maps, calibrated encounters, pages of detailed monsters etc. All that prep is time wasting, and usually very bad, ’cause it bring railroading, and you are probably unconsciously pulling your players to that. On the contrary, with DW you give problems, you find bonds with the players (they have to be deeply involved), they found solutions. If they play smart, and/or lucky, they could close a danger with great anticipation. So, very good! Cheers with them, make their victory meanful, so they can understand their action really shape the world around them. Then, create new dangers! Maybe you can let the months pass (they could roll to Train themselves, I can’t recall the movename). And then, again toward the adventures. It’s a dangerous world, after all…

  7. Thanks everyone. After reading Joe Banner’s I’m on a boat, a few things were easier to see.

    The problem is I was making everything more complex than it should be: when I thought about the grim portents, I was not thinking “sentences”. I was going into one or two paragraphs deep of detail!

    Now that I re-wrote that part, everything seems to be clear and ready for use (after all, those lenghty details would be something I could simply improvise).

    Once gain, thanks, people. This was my first post in this community and I really felt welcome here.

Comments are closed.