What are the best ways to un-teach traditional RPG infrastructures so that they ‘get’ DW?

What are the best ways to un-teach traditional RPG infrastructures so that they ‘get’ DW?

What are the best ways to un-teach traditional RPG infrastructures so that they ‘get’ DW?

Also, what is the best way to get players to think more like ‘Do what you want and don’t care about what your sheet says’ vs when I asked the player what they want to do, they look scared at me for a second, down to their sheet, flip it over, and than they ask ‘well, what can I do?’

I have a difficult time changing their mind space from bottom up to top down designs.

20 thoughts on “What are the best ways to un-teach traditional RPG infrastructures so that they ‘get’ DW?”

  1. subbing… and will throw in an add-on question: How do folks feel about the character sheets included in the Playkit? On one hand, it makes character creation a breeze, but on the other hand, I find it encourages this type of thinking, like, “OK, I’ll hack ‘n slash ’em”, which the DW book explicitly says they shouldn’t be doing, and I can kind of tease out/force “sure, but could you give us some more fiction on that?” (I’ve heard Jason use a similar phrase in one of the DR podcast’s AP sections) — but I think too much of that would just irritate the players.

  2. Charles Gatz I think you are asking the same thing I am. There is always that moment where players pause and then INSTEAD of being creative and thus triggering a move, they think of the trigger first and work backwards.

    I have had times when I tell the players to cover their character sheet and NOT think that their sheets are a box to sit in.

    I know that the core book says over and over again, start with the fiction. I know that I want to do that as a GM, but to actually implement it and to get players to ‘get it’ is really hard.

  3. simone biagini hit on some big ones. Not using damage on a miss is huge. Don’t deal damage, just snowball the unfortunate outcomes until you force them into a situation where Hack and Slash or Volley wouldn’t do them any good.

    I’ve also done what Andrew Huffaker recommended and take the Basic Moves away at first.

    And of course always ask questions and use the answers. That’s a big one to get over as a GM, but it makes a huge difference. Your players will be so much more invested in the game when you do.

  4. Agreed. Removing character sheets from players first session or two really helps (did this when doing a 3 person game of me GM and an artificier and mage). They were quite creative with their spells and the gadgets.

  5. First, work on your skills as a GM. Lead by example. You should be describing constantly, setting the scene, visualizing it, clarifying it. Relative location, what the PCs see, hear, feel. The momentum of PCs and NPCs and hazards.

    You don’t get to say “the orcs approach” or the “the orc attacks you.” And you damn sure don’t get to say “the orc attacks, Defy Danger with DEX.” No, you gotta be like “the orcs advance, leering and weapons drawn, spreading out to flank you, what do you do?” Or “The orc on your left lunges suddenly, swinging it’s homemade meat cleaver down at you like HA! What do you do?”

    If you don’t give them good, compelling fiction to interact with, then you can’t expect them to them to think beyond the moves on the sheet.

    When you ask the players what they do, and their eyes drift down to the moves sheet, be like “forget that. Look at me. The orc is swinging it’s huge, pitted meat cleaver at your skull. What do you DO?”

    If they reply with something basic like “um, I dodge?” then be positive but prompt for more detail. “Okay, cool! Are you just jumping clear and trying to get away from him? Dodging to the side so you can counterattack? What’s this look like?”

    Then, whatever they do and whatever move triggers and whatever the result of their roll, fold that description into the results! If they dodge backwards and just try to get away, and Defy Danger with a 10+, then they get away. “Okay, so you hop back from the orc’s attack and put a few more feet between you and them. But they’re still blocking the way in front you and they’re gonna close any second now. You wanna turn and flee back down the hallway you can, no problem. Or you can re-engage. Or whatever. What do you?”

    Now, if you ask “what do you do?” and they reply with the name of the move, that’s cool. There’s nothing wrong with that, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But your job then is to clarify the fiction. “You Hack and Slash? Cool, tell me what that looks like?” “You Discern Realities? Okay, how exactly are you doing that?” “You Volley? Okay, but that orc is right in your face and gonna gut you if you don’t try to get clear first.”

    Respond to their actions positively and enthusiastically, but don’t let them off the hook with poorly visualized action. If you can’t picture it in your head, it’s not clear enough. Talk it through, ask for detail, clarify.

    Don’t play “gotcha.” The book talks about making a hard move when they give you a golden opportunity, but you shouldn’t treat that as a surprise. If someone declares that they do something that you think is a golden opportunity, and you think it’s clear that they’re doing something stupid, then clarify it first. Tell them the consequences and ask. “You’re going to charge the hydra and try to stab it’s torso? Okay, but that’ll mean dodging past its seven snapping maws. You’ll be Defying Danger with DEX just to get close, and on a miss, it’s gonna be bad. Like, fish-in-a-blender bad. You do it?”

    Reward creative solutions. If they tip a statue on the orcs pursuing them, offer them an opportunity to escape or to take one of them out without a fight or whatever. If the wizard grabs a tapestry off the wall and tosses it over the orcs, let them Defy Danger with INT for quick thinking instead of rolling STR for heaving the tapestry. Be a fan!

    And always, always, bring it back to the fiction. After a move resolves, reframe the scene. Describe what’s happening now. Make your move. And ask “what do you do?”

  6. This is somewhat controversial, but I have had really good success doing this odd ball thing.

    I don’t ask ‘What do you do’. I find that phrase can sometimes be bifurcating. I say ‘go’ or I press the exigency by having my Orc do what he would do if no one stopped him. So, hes going to swing and deal massive damage. If I find that I have described something really colorfully and compelling, I will somewhat slow down the swing before it gets there and if the players don’t respond, I just deal the damage to them. And than I do it again, and by that point they realize that DW is not a game where you sit and count squares and take 5 foot steps. The world is going to do what it wants if you don’t stop it. I feel that this approach really puts the players in the scene. This sometimes shocks players and I find their answers have actual emotion in them when they say ‘I’m gonna hit you back’ to which I respond with ‘how so?’

  7. Ask ask ask ask. All the time. Explain options, things they can do, paths then can take. Ask them leading questions. Ask them to clarify.

    “I attack” / “Awesome. You kill the goblin, he was defenseless. Why did you attack him?”

    “Do we roll initiative?” / “Are you looking for something specific? Maybe trying to get ready to see if they’ll jump first? Cool, so it sounds like you’re watching them carefully, maybe like their leg muscles or their hands? Awesome, roll Discern Realities”

    “Ok I attack again” / “Well the last guy pushed you down the rope ladder. You can certainly get up there to thwack him again, but it looks like they’re sawing at the ladder with their daggers. What are you going to do about that?”

    “Can’t I just attack?” / “Sure, you can, he’s got a spear though, and you have a dagger. You willing to take a spear to the guts to hit him? You wanna find some way to get that spear out of your way?”

    “I shoot it with my bow. Rolled a 5” / “Oof, you’ve been using that bow pretty heavily, right? The bowstring snaps. It’s only one little guy, but you have no way to hit it from here. What do you do?”

  8. simone biagini oh yes, not always using damage on a miss is a big one. Put them in bear hugs, pin them down, disarm them. Show them combat tactics THEY can use by using them against them.

  9. Jeremy Strandberg – this is one of the best explanations regarding Dungeon World’s approach to RPGs that I’ve ever read! Bravo.

    PS, I’m putting this somewhere, unless you decide to expand on it.

  10. Coming from a rules heavy gaming background I must say I feel your pain and that of your players. It took my a while to wrap my head around some of the DW rules and it took me even longer to help my players get it as well. Here are some things I did and sometimes still do to help my players:

    When one of your players picks up the moves list, politely ask them to put it down and encourage them to think what would their character’s do in situation x, regardless of the rules.

    When your players have a hard time understanding how DW works vs other games, try to introduce a new player, and by new I mean someone who has never played tabletop rpgs and run a quick adventure. Your players will see the contrast of always thinking about the rules vs a player who doesn’t quite understand “RPG infrastructures” and goes with what you tell them.

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