I’ve never played an RPG like this, but I’m gathering a few of my friends together to play DW to hopefully start a…

I’ve never played an RPG like this, but I’m gathering a few of my friends together to play DW to hopefully start a…

I’ve never played an RPG like this, but I’m gathering a few of my friends together to play DW to hopefully start a weekly play session. Since it was my idea, I’m going to GM. I have been reading a lot and watching a lot of video playthroughs, but I know to an extent I won’t know what I’m doing until I do it. That said, I was hoping you guys could answer a couple questions for me:

The adventure I want to start with is Ghostwood Haunts, which looks awesome! There is a lot of corruption and politics which will result in a lot of conversation with many different people of the town. As a GM, picturing myself doing this is pretty daunting, it’s like having to write a movie script in my head every session. It also seems like that would be difficult for one person (me) to simulate so many different conversations. How has this type of adventure worked for you? Am I overthinking this or will it come more naturally to me?

Also, if there is a lot of investigating to do that involves talking to people, I’d imagine it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the PC’s to split up. How would splitting up work? Especially if there is information that one group is learning that could help the other, would the PC’s have to act like they don’t know it? Would it just be better for me to mute them or leave the room for scenes?


14 thoughts on “I’ve never played an RPG like this, but I’m gathering a few of my friends together to play DW to hopefully start a…”

  1. Playing NPCs properly is a perennial issue for GMs. There’s lots of tricks out there. DW says “The NPCs are people: they have goals and the tools to struggle towards those goals.”

    So give them goals and the tools to achieve those goals. This is pretty important. Everyone wants something – sometimes it’s just survival, sometimes it’s wealth, or safety, or booze; but other times it’s revenge, or jealousy, or charitability. Figure out what makes an NPC tick and put yourself in their shoes. This baker just wants to survive and run his bakery, awesome “Oh I don’t want any trouble guys, sure sure, here take it for free, just don’t harm my shop, okay?”. The city guard wants to repay his gambling debts “Heh, you wouldn’t be able to pay me enough to let you through… but, if you could take care of someone for me, it’d be worth just as much? You willing to go kill Stavros the Shark in Lowtown?”

    Don’t try to be super creative with your NPCs. Make them obvious. Your wagoneer doesn’t also need to be an ex-pit fighter with elven blood making him immortal – he could just be a dude driving a wagon who wants to get home and see his daughter.

    On your splitting up point – talk to the players. Say “if you split up, some characters will learn things the others don’t yet know. You’ll need to play your characters with what THEY know, the same way you see TV and movie characters do things even if you the viewer know it’s wrong. Believe me, it will be fun!” Don’t shut players out during split scenes. Encourage them to be the audience.

  2. Not knowing what you’re doing can be half the fun. 🙂 It always amazes me what improvisation can accomplish with just a few guiding rules to help keep things from getting too out of hand.

    Personally, I think DW can actually be easier to run if you don’t start with an ‘adventure’ package in your first session. I think it takes a bit of experience with how DW works in order to learn how to work with the prepared material and integrate it properly within the underlying spirit of the system. Working with a bunch of NPCs can also be tricky at first, since (at least I’ve found) it can be challenging to keep things moving and dangerous in such situations.

    I recommend starting off in an immediately dangerous situation, using the first session guidelines laid out in the core book. Ask lots of questions of the characters/players and use the answers to help build a situation. Create some immediate conflict to engage with and let the characters run with it, seeing how they react and the kinds of things they do. When the first session is done, you should have a better sense of the characters and their preliminary motivations. At that point you have a good place to transition into a more prepared adventure if you want (mining the fronts and adapting them to your situation) or you might even decide you want to explore in a different direction.

    Fair disclaimer, I’m not familiar with Ghostwood Haunts in particular. It’s possible it already has a good recommendation for starting right in the thick of the action for the first session. If so, go ahead and follow its recommendations, as they probably tie better into the overall themes of the adventure.

    Portray a fantastic world, fill the character’s lives with adventure and play to find out what happens. 🙂 You’ll do great, trust me.

  3. That’s great advice thanks! One more pretty unrelated question I thought of. How does larger scale movement work, like across a map? If the PC’s are moving through hostile territory then I know it’s a “perilous journey” but how far do they go in one journey and how much time elapses? Do I come up with that on the fly? Like if they roll into trouble over a really long distance journey, should I have them encounter danger multiple times just until it feels like long enough for them?

    I kind of answered my question as I typed it but I’d love to hear some experience from past GMs!

  4. Doug Henderson those sound like questions for your players. “Has anyone been to Tellian Roost in recent memory? How long did it take? 3 days by horse? Well with this loaded wagon, it’ll probably take 4 days, but the road is relatively safe, so you’ll just consume 4 rations each”

  5. Doug Henderson What I’ve generally done so far is pick one danger that might be interesting and integrate that into the journey. It might be someone they know, some threat they’ve heard about, some aspect of the environment, etc. If in doubt, look at the list of GM Moves, pick one arbitrarily, then try to think how that might play out.

    Offer an opportunity, with or without a cost: “As you journey through the woods, you come across a pond that seems to glow faintly, though it might just be a trick of the light. You see what appears to be some sort of locked chest at the bottom of the pond.”

    Put someone in a spot: “Thief, you suddenly notice that the Fighter is about to walk right into a trip wire across the path. What do you do?” [this is especially fun if the Thief has some sort of conflict with the Fighter and might just let him spring the trap :)]

    As for distances, if it wasn’t already established in the fiction, I usually scale it to put pressure on their resources. Or I ask the characters how far the journey is, if they would probably know.

  6. Doug Henderson DW spreads the creative load around the table. You’re not really “in charge” of the game, so ask the players candidly if you’re struggling with anything. I honestly says “huh, what do you guys think?” regularly.

  7. One thing you may run into if your players have a lot of D20 experience is “I roll to Bluff” etc. They are used to their character stats being short hand for creative role playing.

    Dungeon World doesn’t have that. It’s perfectly in bounds for the MC to say, “There’s no way he believes that.”

    Discern Realities covers Sense Motive and Perception, but it’s something they do actively. Which means it’s up to the MC to say if they’re surprised, based on what they’re doing and what the scenario demands.

    And there’s no “Stealth” to roll. DW doesn’t have a binary “Hidden” condition; instead it’s “How are you doing that?” and “Ok the guard is wary enough that you’ll need to Defy Danger to get past him.”

    My advice is tell them not to roll dice unless/until you tell them to. Then you don’t call for a roll until everyone can picture firmly in their minds what is happening “on screen” (or as some will say, “in the fiction”). Then you pin it to a Move and say what to roll.

    7-9 results are the trickiest part. Don’t be afraid to pause the action at a suitably dramatic moment (“The orc’s axe is swinging down on your head and… cut to black.”) Go to commercial, let everyone grab a drink or go pee while you sort out the right consequence.

  8. Marcelo Paschoalin splitting up is important for drama based games. If you want a combat centric game where the GM is out to kill the players, yes don’t split.

  9. Aaron Griffin, I think splitting up is something situational. It adds drama, but the party is a party because they should work together. Of course, there are moments when the situation asks for splitting up (I picture the archer of the group putting himself in danger by slipping on a crevasse to shot the last arrow against the foe, needing now to find his way back to the group; or when they are at a ball and the sneaky type decides to roam the rooms), but generally they are meant to work together.

  10. I had a lot of fun with a party split last night. I switched back and forth fairly frequently, usually on cliffhanger miss rolls. This both gave me more time to percolate on cool ways to proceed on the misses and also made sure that folks felt immediately reengaged as soon as their ‘branch’ of the story resumed. You’d think that you’d lose track of important details in the fiction when you switch midstream, but I think switching on a tense note actually heightens the suspense and makes the recent events more vivid when you do resume.

    It further gives you a good chance to re-set the scene, the repetition of the tense situation giving it even more dramatic ummph to inspire action. Think how TV shows go to commercial on a cliffhanger, then resume just slightly before they left, recapping the key tense moment.

    It’s also a good way to check-in on whether you’re adding enough danger; if you don’t hit a tense situation by around the time you should switch, you’re probably not thinking dangerous enough.

  11. If the players wish for the party to split, and you encourage them never to do it because of some classic OD&D trope from the era of adversarial GMs, you’re not being a fan of the characters. Working towards a unified goal doesn’t mean being right next to another character at all times. If the characters want to split up to achieve the thing, then be their fan – follow them and see what happens.

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