Question – after playing many games of DW and other Fantasy Tabletops, do you actually use Fronts by-the-book?

Question – after playing many games of DW and other Fantasy Tabletops, do you actually use Fronts by-the-book?

Question – after playing many games of DW and other Fantasy Tabletops, do you actually use Fronts by-the-book? I actually find them quite useless, I do write down any Ideas, Dangers and Personas that come up during our games in my notebook, but I never use the Fronts rules as written in the DW book. I just note down any Permanent Dangers the heroes have ignored, and I try to use them in our next game.

A friend of mine though has informed me, that I never really played Dungeon World, if I didn’t print out the Adventure Front sheet and placed it on the table.

How do you play? Do your really note down everything – all dangers, fronts and grim portents for your players? Or do you simply write down everything what happens during your games in your notebook, and you just keep playing?

29 thoughts on “Question – after playing many games of DW and other Fantasy Tabletops, do you actually use Fronts by-the-book?”

  1. I skip them for one shots, but use them in a somewhat limited fashion for my campaign

    (like, generally only one at a time). I find that kind of structure more useful for some other PbtA games, like Urban Shadows and Apocalypse World.

  2. Love Fronts and using them, has really let my world be a lot more dynamic and its easy to make the sense of adventure with them.

    I would say try to use them as written and then figure out whether you actually like it or not.

  3. Yeah, what Aaron Griffin said.

    The whole “campaign front” vs “adventure front” thing in the book is poorly explained and executed IMO. It’s basically background threats vs foreground threats, maybe a little bit of difference of scale. But they make it so damn convoluted by naming them “fronts” and implying that there’s some value to grouping them like that.

    I’ve taken to generally just listing threats (with instincts, types, and grim portents/pending dooms if they have a clear trajectory), organized by proximity. See link below for examples. – GM Playbook (with notes).pdf – Google Drive

  4. I would start play with the first entry of the fronts filled in, and add more as we played. Sometimes I changed what I had already written down as I thought of better entries in the moment.

  5. Jeremy Strandberg I personally can’t deal with the idea of grim portents. Like “plan the next 5 things this threat will do”, ugh. I prefer to list a overriding goal (“kill all gnomes”) and then the current plan (“get the gem of gnome killing”). Between sessions, I look at the plan and see if the PCs interfered with it, or if it could be completed yet, and simply make it happen, then adjust the plan (“install the gem of gnome killing in the storm machine”)

  6. I agree with Jeremy Strandberg and Aaron Griffin. I hardly use Fronts as written and when I do, I normally still don’t xD. And again to say you have not played dungeon world without it is just ignorance haha. Most my youtube videos are dungeon world, and on roll20 for the past 2-3 years I have run Dungeon World campaigns nearly endlessly and without any issues. (A course taking 2-3 month breaks in-between campaigns, but you get what I am saying).

  7. It’s game prep. Everyone does it differently. Fronts are one way to do it. If I read the Fronts chapter in the book as a new GM, looking for guidance, is it helpful? I think so. It provides structure I can use at the table.

    Personally, I don’t use them much in DW. When they’re player facing though, like in the Sprawl? Money.

  8. As a newbie DM, fronts taught me quite a lot about preparing for a game, however, I use their core ideas as an inspiration nowadays, I like the idea of small chunks of categorized “plot points”

    For example, when I prepare a campaign, I note down the main factions that are going to appear in a small list of blocks, each block representing a faction, containing the following information:

    The faction’s name

    Its leader’s name

    Their objective

    Their modus operandi

    I think the same idea can be used for other things like NPCs, locations, and whatnot.

  9. Aaron Griffin I don’t plan the next 5 things the thing does. Instead, i think about its ultimate goal and what would be required to achieve that. I don’t remember where i saw it or who wrote it, but there was once a post that said Fronts should be designed back-to-front. Sauron can’t regain the One Ring until a Bearer is Found, and his army can’t be victorious until the Dwarves in Moria are no more or whatever.

    You can also think about it as figuring out the danger’s plan of attack. Put yourself into the mindset of the bbeg. What are your ultimate goals? What steps will you take to get them? You want to “kill all gnomes”? What is your plan? Here’s my plan to kill all gnomes:

    The gnomes have hidden their city, and you can’t kill what you can’t find, so

    • Find the hidden gnome city

    Even if i found them, their numbers are likely formidable, so

    • Assemble an army

    If the army doesn’t work, or even if it does, it’s important to have a Plan B, so i want the Gem of gnome killing, but that’s a stretch, and i can’t do that until i

    • Enlist a wizard

    Once i have that, i can then

    • Obtain the Gem of gnome killing

    And once i’ve got that, no man, elf, or gnome can stand in my way!!! MWAHAHAHAHA!!!

  10. Right on Mark Weis.

    Put another way, I look at a threat and it’s instinct and ask myself: “is this going somewhere? Where? What’s the logical (bad) outcome?” That becomes the impending doom. The grim portents are then just milestones along the way.

    I like having those because it sort disclaims decision making during play, and gives me permission to aggressively make things worse by advancing those threats.

    But if the threat isn’t going somewhere, if it has no real trajectory, then screw it. I’ll note it’s name, instinct, and type and be done with it. The threat/danger moves are still useful in play.

  11. So here’s my problem with that. I make that threat and the PCs don’t engage. I spend some time advancing it and imagining all this stuff about the wizard they hired and the ancient gnomish city the delved and all this other lonely fun. Finally when the wizard returns to the city with the gem, the PCs somehow pick up a rumor and THEN they engage.

    All those things ticked on the clock will never be on screen, and are almost wasted effort.

  12. Aaron Griffin but it’s not like it’s that much work, right? You’re (hopefully) talking about 3-5 bullet points, with no more detail than what you need to spark your memory or creativity.

    But if you don’t find them helpful or worth the effort, obviously don’t use them. The whole point of prep is to make you ready for the stuff you can’t (or don’t want) to improve at the table. If you can naturally see the trajectories of your threats and dangers and weave them into the narrative, then, yeah, it’s probably not worth it for you.

  13. Jeremy Strandberg​ it’s brain space and prep I don’t really like in my games, I guess. I’d rather have my threats as a vector (point them at something and let them go) rather than a series of points.

  14. Aaron Griffin Then that is your fault as the GM, for two reasons.

    1) You’re not portraying a problem the PC’s have any interest in, or maybe you’re not focusing your campaign around what your players want.

    2) If it is something the players built, or something they have shown interest in, you’re not protraying them as a priority, or showing the effects of the danger. The reason you have Grim Portents is to give yourself things to swing around: Don’t just say “oh, yeah, so, he found the gnome city”. Instead, tell the party while they’re sitting around their campfire “a breathless nome screams out of the bushes, calling for help: his city is in danger!” pull them into the danger, don’t just say it exists.

  15. Aaron Griffin​ I have tried to have threats that deliberately intersect with the players but I find they fall flat!

    Basically it always feels inert at play I’m hoping the players interact with it the way I wanted and if they don’t you have problems.

  16. james day in that case it might be your delivery. if it’s something they’re interested in, they should have no problems being interested in it unless they can’t tell what it is exactly that you’re throwing at them

    Aaron Griffin if your group is happy, then go for it. i was explaining why you might have been having problems with the base fronts system

  17. Mark Weis​ Lets just put it this way. With fronts the bad guys are pushing something and the players have to push back.

    There is not much push when the bad guys are just going against the players. Also once they are defeated the problem goes away with fronts it not necessarily does.

  18. Just to follow up on something +Aaron Griffin noted: “All those things ticked on the clock will never be on screen, and are almost wasted effort.”

    This is why I say I like multiple fronts better for some games more than for DW. In a game like Urban Shadows, the PCs are in a tightly constrained area and super keyed in to local politics, and an ongoing theme is how everything is going to shit around them but there’s only so much they can do. When I tick off a countdown for something off screen, I then signal that to them somehow later, like a news report that the serial killer they’ve been ignoring has taken another victim, or a rumor from a contact that the werewolves they’ve been ignoring just erupted into open gang wars endangering civilians. It keeps the pressure on and forces hard decisions about how to invest their attention.

    That’s not what I want in a classic neo-traditional fantasy game, though. I want to give them a quest and let them feel like heroes when they complete it. Sometimes I’ll use a countdown so they know the pressure is on, but I wouldn’t do several at once unless it were intentionally a “grim and gritty” setting. That stuff is stressful, you know?

  19. I don’t use fronts. Most everything I do is off the cuff, but I did see an interesting bit in Truncheon World about using fronts on the second session rather than the first. The closest I come is “frontlike objects”. If there’s a threat, I write it down, but no details until we discover them in play.

  20. Josh C Fronts are designed to be used organically after the first session as an aid to creating the adventure’s arc. They are seldom understood or used properly as they are simply a way to help add tension and nuance to the adventure! Salt and pepper to taste…

  21. Aaron Griffin i run it with the mindset that it hasn’t happened if it is not in the fiction. Stuff can not happened offscreen without me describing some clue or side effect that the players pick up on.

  22. Jeremy Strandberg Yep, this is exactly how I note down my adventures. One question regarding the Miscellany table in this document – “1 item from the Dirt/Poor/Rich gear list” – where can I find these lists?

  23. In the beginning I tried very hard to use them, but for some reason it felt forced and I’ve since abandoned them in favor of just some loose notes about various threats.

  24. I use them, more or less, but do so retroactively. I use them to log what has happened as opposed to what will (or may) happen. That way I can use Fronts to reference events, do call-backs, or tie current events to past ones.

    I suppose that isn’t really the intention of Fronts, but it works for me!

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