14 thoughts on “Lets talk about Front and Dangers and Grim Portents and all things creating adventures/campaigns.”

  1. Something I didn’t notice until recently: the book instructs you to have adventure fronts, each with multiple dangers, but only refers to the campaign front. Singular.

    Meaning: there’s just one campaign front. It’s where all your lingering, not-in-your-face-right-now threats hang out. Some are big and dire with nasty grim portents and terrible dooms. Others are small and petty and local and might never matter again.

    Likewise, an “adventure front” isn’t really anything more than “the dangers that are immediately active and affecting the world that the PCs can directly interact with.”

    Having come to Dungeon World via Apocalypse World, I was always tempted to make campaign fronts and adventure fronts, each front thematically tied together somehow. So, like a campaign front for “the Things Below” with 2-3 dangers, and another for “The Feydark Wars” and another for “Winoc’s Cult.” But… no, not really.

    It’s just campaign front (backburner, simmering, off camera) and current adventure front (on screen, active, immediately problematic).

    Which basically means: you’ve got dangers. Those dangers have countdowns (grim portents) and something bad (to varrying degrees) and they’re moving toward. There’s no need to “theme” them or “group” them. They’re just there, following their own natural progressions and operating in their own localities.

    And I found that… liberating.

  2. Honestly, Im struggling a bit with understanding it myself. Ive reread the chapter three times now and it isnt really clicking. We are three sessions in and while I have several ideas and things that tie into each otherI’m not quite sure how it is supposed to come together in terms of how the book says to do it. I learn best by seeing. I might need to do some Googling and see what examples are out there.

    Also, if anyone wanted to make themselves available for a Skype conversation that would probably help me greatly.

  3. Things can also be bumped onto or off the campaign front according to fiction. If some Wizard you had as an adventure front managed to escape the battle, he might go on to continue his research and return as some powerful demigod.

    Or vice versa the party might find a way to completely destroy a hell portal, and there isn’t a way for the demon prince to invade later like you planned.

    Basically fronts are “What shit is going on around here? How do they relate- if they do?”


    Witch wants to kill a nature spirit of regrowth

    -Why? Because she’s old and thinks it is the secret to eternal youth

    Local natives attacking natives

    -Why? Because it’s a different tribe that’s moving in and they don’t have the same respect for the settlers as the current people.

    The locals cultist are trying to open a demon portal

    -Why? Because a demon is offering to fix their shitty lives if they help him(it) get to the other side.

    How do these all connect?

    The local natives are keepers of the local nature spirit, which manifest itself as a dragon with large antlers and bark scales, which has made next near by has it tries to heal the land from an unnatural bight that scared much of the countryside.

    Because they spend most of their time protecting the spirit and tending to the nature around them they have lots of food and other great bounties. But they are also seen as weak by other tribes, one of whom from the south has decided to take it for themselves.

    A witch wishes to use the nature spirit to try finding a way to acquire eternal youth. And seeks to capture it so she can use it in her experiments. In her old age she is to frail to actually do such hard work herself, so she raises the dead and creates puppets to do her bidding for her.

    Naturally with life being super shitty, the towns folk want a way out, and some of them are willing to go to the point of conversing with demons. The demon they are working for wants them to kill this nature spirit, because it’s the only thing in the immediate area that could and would kill the demon were it to pass through to the material realm right this moment.

    So the adventuring front all centers around this tribe and the nature spirit they protect. And the threats affect the innocent towns folk and the party who are passing through. And all these dangers could be elevated to a campaign front danger should they be allowed.

  4. I found freeing the idea that you didn’t have to perfectly know what will exactly happen in each front and writing down a general idea, and then changing it if necessary.

    It allows you to be open minded about where things go in the fiction I feel. When I started I thought Fronts were kind of your planned adventure so they had to be thought through.

    Now I know that they are like everything else a loose idea to inspire you in challaging your players in game.

  5. I guess I have been thinking a tad linear thus far. I’ll explain. The adventure is called “The Deep Enough Mines”. So far our heroes have met a dwarf named Eltar Rockbreaker who owns a gems and assay shop in a place called Chaucerton. He is in possession of a map and a piece of very valuable ore from this lost mine. He has sent three groups before ours with only one member of one group returning, mad and at deaths door, rambling about nonesense before expiring in Eltars shop. So obviously the mines are a dangerous dungeon. I’m pointing the group that direction indirectly.

    Now, there is another group that has learned of the map and has been sending bad people to get it. This group consists of what Im calling Dark Elves and they are in the Dark Wood, a perilous journey away, to the North East. They dont want the rich ore within the mine, they want the “Key of Keys”. My group doesnt know this key exists yet. The Dark Elves want this key because it unlocks a a vault they have discovered and believe it holds magic artifacts of great power. This vault is not within the mines and is the intended finale for this campaign.

    So my idea was they (my group) would fight this menace within the woods, learn about the key, then head for these lost mines. Im still working on the story and am thinking that the vault will hold some sort of boss type monster entrusted to protect what is held within. I havent even come up with what is actually inside. Thats as far as Ive gotten.

    So how do I use the tools within the book to propel this forward and provide direction while lettimg the players be free to make choices? They love it thus far but I’ve been winging it and feel it needs to get tied together using the provided mechanics.

    Thoughts? Opinions?

  6. Ok so Fronts are there to show you what the antogonist would do without the players being there.

    So you kind of have to have an idea of why the elves want this power and what they will do with it, it can be just a general ine and totally come up in a wuestion through play.

    So instead maybe have the elves be like I want to get in the vault, what will they do about this thst doesn’t necessarily involve the players. My idea is, get the map, train up an expedition, go into the dungeon, and find the vault.

    In play this could mean a few things, some elces try to attack the players for the map, or maybe they join forces and the olayers don’t know their true intention or maybe if they don’t get the map they try the expedition anyway and the players find them in the middle of the dungeon somewhere.

    Next up the protector, again why does it want to protect, what will it do to protect it. Again these questions can be asked through play.

    Basically as I said the fronts are two fold to make you think like the monsters and bad things. Two to have an idea of what you will throw at your players, having an idea that the elves will want the map will mean that they will be hunting for it in some way.

  7. That’s pretty good, Bryan Alexander – but don’t forget to “play to find out what happens”! It sounds to me that you have two fronts already (the dungeon and the elves), so plot what the Dark Elves will do if the players ignore them. Expeditions to locate the Key without the map? This will make them an ongoing threat, still with their ultimate danger. Start tunneling around the vault door? This could release lesser demons and create new fronts and dangers.

    Don’t forget the dungeon though – what mastermind lies within making the dungeon more dangerous? What motivations does he have? What will he do if he’s left alone and doesn’t have to focus on defending his lair against adventurers? Is he aware of the Key himself?

    Good luck – sounds like a pretty strong plot so far. Fronts definitely help me think less linearly, too!

  8. So the thing about Fronts is that they don’t provide mechanics and I think that’s where some people get tripped up. They look at the Fronts and the Dangers and go ‘but what does it do?’ and the answer is nothing.

    Remember how early in the book, you’re told role-playing is a conversation? Take that literally, and consider that Fronts are note-taking. You’ve done your reading — some Tolkien, some Salvatore, some Martin, your own game — and now you’re scribbling on notecards, organizing your ideas, bullet pointing what you think, scrawling out your own educated guesses and conclusions, and then you’re getting in front of your audience and you’re going to invest your ideas in the discussion. And if your audience is grooving or has something else they want to talk about, you go off notecard, and you address what they want to talk about — but you’ve got the cards ready so that if the crowd is happy to follow along, you’re not unprepared.

    That’s what Fronts are. You use them by talking about them, nothing more. The players show up, you all sit down… none of them say anything, they’re waiting for you to start. Where do you start? Look at that Front. Okay, you’re thinking something with a menace in the woods and a key and some mines would be rad. How do you get from A to B? Okay, better talk about that thing in the woods. And then you go, “After many days walking, you pass through the deep, dark woods…” or whatever. You take your notes, and you make them into conversation. They’ll say stuff back to you, and you’ll ad lib. You’ll respond, you’ll have fun, they’ll respond… and then you’ll freeze up… oh man what should you do now? Bam, look at your Fronts. Tell the players something else relevant to your notes, or ask them to fill in the blank for you, and keep going. This is how Fronts work. Fronts are just “I think this thing would be cool, and I think it might do X Y Z, and maybe here’s a custom move I should use.” That’s all they are.

    They don’t have mechanics, because you already know all the mechanics: players trigger a move and roll, you make moves when they miss or look to you for an answer. Those moves you’re making — the hard ones, the soft ones, the ones because they fail, and the ones because they did something you have to respond to — are often going to come from your Fronts, and they’re not going to come about because of any special device that catapults them form your notes onto the stage, but because you will be expected to speak and you will have done your homework to keep things moving quickly and cleanly.

    Have you ever worked in theatre? Between scenes, when the lights are out, we move the setpieces and the props and change the costumes. Nothing on the stage does any of that, we have to do it by hand but we have a plan for how it all has to be moved around. Your Front is your plan for how you would move pieces around if left to your own devices. When left to your own devices, go ahead and follow your plan. When the players do something wild, when you have a sudden inspiration that is killer, go with that instead… the Front is just notes, just ideas, just suggestions for when you freeze up or are put on the spot.

    That is what all the Dangers and Grim Portents and all of that are about: they’re about having something to say, and never being at a loss when the players are engaging with your content. If they decide they want to do their own things… well, that’s fine because your prep is just some ideas and you’re willing to ignore it/cannibalize it/repurpose it/approach it differently, and because your prep comes from your perspective. It doesn’t presume anything the players will choose to do, right? That’s how the Moves and Grim Portents and all of that works. Its what the people you control will do.

    So, like you know that — for your ideas, from your notes — that you want the PCs to get on the trail of these keys. So, you need to remember to talk about these keys or reveal some instance of these keys. So maybe when you stat up your Dark Elves, you give them a move “announce the vengeance they’ll rain down on their enemies once they have the Key.” Then, during play, if things get heated, and you’re distracted, you have a note right there: Oh, hey! I almost forgot to announce that, yeah, that’s what I’ll weave in right now. And maybe the player’s don’t bite and they go off and do something else. That’s fine! You haven’t forced them into a course of action.

    Similarly, Grim Potents, which are bad events that will come to pass without PC involvement, and you use those to update your status quo and illustrate what is coming to pass, to let your players know that “bad stuff is going down.” You narrate a Grim Portent coming to pass, but its something your bad guys are doing, and it doesn’t rely on forcing or assuming the PCs to do X Y Z. The fact that all of your prep is focused on your guys is how you can use your Fronts/notes to run the game and still let the players do whatever they’re going to do.

  9. Alfred Rudzki: nicely said.

    One thing I’d add to that: your fronts and your grim portents and your impending dooms are a way to give yourself permission to Think Dangerous.

    I know that I’ve got a bad habit of establishing a world as is and then being resistant to making big changes to it. That sometimes manifests as being soft on the players and what they care about.

    But if I put together a danger or two, and some grim portents, and a doom… well, I’ve just planned all that out, and now I’m a lot more comfortable making that stuff actually happen and burning the world down around them.

  10. Bryan Alexander as far as actually writing dangers/dooms/portents goes…

    1) Look at the fiction already established, and identify the dynamic actors, the people or things that will move forward and adapt and pursue an agenda: the rival adventurers pillaging the dungeon; the abusive lord looking to increase his power; the goblins trying to defend their home. Each is a Danger.

    2) Look for fragile, untenable, unstable circumstances. Like a crumbling dungeon holding a slumbering terror, a village simmering with resentment at its abusive lord, a disease or curse poised to sweep through the land. Each is a Danger, though maybe not yet active. Consider putting a “face” to each of these dangers, like the rabble-rousing matron who’s had enough or the spirit of the restless priest-king buried in the tomb.

    3) For each Danger, ask yourself: what’s its trajectory? If it gets going and runs unchecked, what’s the irrevocable bad thing that will happen? That’s you impending doom. (If the list of dooms in the book help, great! If they feel confining, forget them!)

    4) For each Danger, plot out 2-4 “steps” along the way to that impending doom, your grim portents.

    Don’t go into a lot of detail, but these should be observable, concrete things. Things that the PCs can see, or get word of, of otherwise be affected by, and (this is crucial) react to and possibly prevent.

    “Lord Douchebag doubles the taxes,” then “Lord Douchebag’s goons start ransacking homes for ‘hidden wealth'” and then “Lord Douchebag’s goons burn down a few houses and kill a few holdouts” and then “Lord Douchebag’s reign of terror: killing anyone who question him or try to flee.” All leading up to the doom of: “the villagers are brutally enslaved, famished, hopeless and forlorn.”

    Tip: if you aren’t sure about 3 or 4, pick the danger type that best matches and look at the GM moves for those. That’ll give you ideas for how that type of danger can act, the types of things they can do! Use those to write your Grim Portents and Impending Dooms.

    5) Optional: Add names and personalities to the dangers. Who is Lord Douchebag’s right hand? Which of the goons is having second thoughts? Which of the townsfolk is colluding with the Lord? Which ones will stand up to him and take the brunt of his fury?

    6) Optional: Ask yourself some questions, things you aren’t sure about but would like to find out in play? Will Balfur conscience get the better of him? Will any of the Stouthearts survive? Don’t answer them yet, leave them out there as open questions! These are your Stakes Questions. They aren’t critical to making the whole thing work, but I find that they add a lot of depth.

    Tip: avoid making your stakes questions the equivalent of “will the impending doom come to pass?” You already answered that. The impending doom will come to pass if no one does anything about it. Stakes questions should (IMO) be smaller, more personal. How will this affect this individual? That sort of thing.

  11. Jeremy Strandberg Thank you for laying it out in that manner. That’s how I needed to see it to really understand.

    I guess that’s where I got tangled up initially was I was trying to let the players do their thing and not lead them too hard- I drew maps and left blanks, they asked what the Kings name was and I responded “What IS the Kings name?” So in an effort to let them be as free as possible I was struggling with how the Fronts and Dangers actually functioned, or more accurately, how to write them out and make them real within the world.

    I think I have it now. I’ll sit down tonight and work on it and let everyone know what I came up with.

Comments are closed.