11 thoughts on “How easy is it to create encounters on the fly?”

  1. Chris Stone-Bush​ Thanks! I just spent a few minutes poking through Perilous Wilds, and I think the whole “on the fly” thing is doable. Time to give it a whirl!

  2. A huge bonus to improvising in DW is that there is no concern about balancing the encounter against the PCs.

    In many other systems, there is a sort of calculus in developing an encounter that is mathematically balanced to be challenging enough without being inappropriately overwhelming. Some games abstract that calculus by giving GMs tools, such as a Challenge Rating, to quickly calculate such things.

    In DW, there is no balance. The PCs are heroes at level 1, as they are at level 10. They don’t gain significantly more HP or other bonuses as they level, they simply unlock more Moves to spin the fiction around their Playbooks’ themes.

    The trick in improvising a DW encounter is, instead of math, a balance of “what makes this story interesting?” and “being a fan of the characters.”

    You want each and every scene to mean something. So when you frame a new scene, start thinking about why it’s an interesting thing to explore, and encourage the PCs to start poking around. If you already have ideas for the scene, such as what Monsters should appear, use your GM Moves to introduce those elements.

    Otherwise, use your GM Moves to draw the PCs’ actions toward something interesting. Look to the Players and their questions/comments to find out what they are hoping to find, and give it to them, with a spin!

    Just remember to keep your GM Moves handy. Anything you do should come from that list. As you get more practiced, it becomes easier and easier to improvise, and to blend GM Moves.

    Finally, ask your Players during and after sessions. What was fun? What do they want more of? What could be better? Use that feedback, think about it between sessions, and be mindful of it when you play next. That will help your improvisation dramatically.

  3. It’s incredibly easy. You can go thru the monster creation checklist in the core book in about 1 minute (and I highly recommend you do because the pre mades in the core book don’t seem to follow it with any rhyme or reason).

    Or frankly, just wing it without worrying about “stats.” Bad guys die when they need to, not before. You don’t have to make up custom moves for every encounter. 90% of the time anything you improv (as long as it’s in-genre) will be greeted enthusiastically by your heroes, and they have moves to deal with challenges. All of my favorite scenes in DW I have run that way.

  4. One point I would like to add to Fish’s response is. If you plan for something to happen, but players might call “BS” on. For example a larger creature showing up half way through the fight. Make sure you give the players some kind of heads up in the fiction.

    “You see the goblin in the back of the group spinning his staff in a circle chanting in some kind of garbled dialect.”

    This is also a policy you should have for traps (which are also encounters). Most traps should have some kind of “wink wink, nudge nudge” aspect when you are in the fiction. Such as adding a detail about dust being on the bookshelf or the floor having a large crack right next to the door. By giving the players a heads up it’s a way for them to guess if there is a trap there (though you should have extra detail on things that might also not be traps just to keep them guessing), while also letting you justify extremely deadly traps and such because there was a clear sign of some kind to warn them.

    Smaller traps such as a staircase turning into a ramp and sending you back into the room don’t really need that much of a heads up, though I still suggest you do it just for consistency sake.

  5. Patrick Schenk This is something I do in OSR games routinely, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Improv might make it sketchy though, so thanks for the heads up!

  6. Yeah, improving basically means you can’t do too many GM gotchas. “There was a trap there all along” is a flat out lie (Always say: what honesty demands). So you need to make soft moves foreshadowing the things and give them chances to avoid or mitigate the consequences.

  7. To build on Aaron Griffin ‘s point, you shouldn’t WANT to “gotcha” the players in DW.

    In many games, there can be a strong element of GM-as-Adversary And for many games, this is expected and works for that game.

    In DW, though, the GM is compelled to be a fan of the characters. part of that is portraying an exciting, dangerous world that challenges them. But it should never involve creating situations where the the GM “loses” if the PCs “win”, or vice-versa.

    the goal of playing to find out what happens, while being a fan of the PCs, is to construct exciting scenes and seeing what the PCs will try to get through them, and for the GM to encourage and support creative and fun play appropriate to the groups’ preferences.

  8. You can do it, but even a meager amount of prep goes a long way–even just daydreaming about it on your way to the game. The hardest thing I’ve found to improv is special loot like magical items. Find a good random generator for it or have some stuff on hand.

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