Building the dungeon on the fly
“Dungeon Moves are a special subset that are used to make or alter a dungeon on the fly.” (168)
Do you successfully use the dungeon moves listed to create dungeons on the fly as the players explore?
I haven’t done that. In my last campaign we successfully used dungeon modules, like Keep on the Borderlands, Death Frost Doom, and others. And my current campaign has focused on world travel—I keep some Dyson-drawn dungeon maps handy just in case, but we have only used map-based locations a few times.
But part of the appeal of dungeon exploration for me, as a GM and as a player, is having a convincing and internally-consistent alien (or at least hostile) environment. As a player, I like knowing that pulling a lever in room A has a designated effect in room C, even if I have to figure out what it was. As the GM, I feel clumsy presenting a convincing and internally-consistent environment for exploration without some prior investment in thinking through its terrain, hazards, resources, and puzzles.
I don’t need a detailed location key, and I’m a lot more comfortable working with Fronts than before. But having a map on the detail-gradient of a one-page dungeon is just about perfect: The broad strokes of how everything fits together are established, but there is also enough ambiguity and blankness for the player-facing questions and a few grim portents to add dynamism and suspense. But even the one-page dungeon is a bit much to ask my brain for on the fly.
I remember once playing in a game where it was obvious the GM was making up the dungeon on the fly, and it felt like nothing we did mattered. We explored his maze, but we were going to find the same encounters whether we turned left or right. That was very unsatisfying, and I prefer to avoid it.
If you use DW’s dungeon moves to successfully create convincing dungeoncrawls, I’d love to hear what I’m missing, and how. I know there is a Perilous supplement that addresses “dungeoneering on the fly” directly, but I’d like to focus first on Dungeon World core.
What is your experience?