Does anyone have sources, suggestions or ideas for engaging less combat oriented characters in a Dungeon World setting?
Although I have no issues in coming up with exciting combat encounters, somehow I struggle far more with coming up with interesting scenario’s that still present some sort of challenge to my players but don’t necessarily involve sticks and swords (or traps. Traps are really only fun up till a point).
I have a few players that lean more towards Roleplaying and less towards Gaming. While they have been going along with my seemingly endless strings of combat I’d love to change things up a bit to give them more chance to shine in non-combat environments.
All input is appreciated!
25 thoughts on “Does anyone have sources, suggestions or ideas for engaging less combat oriented characters in a Dungeon World…”
Have you asked your players what sort of situations they want their characters in?
Having the GM try to hit Bardic Lore has been interesting to me lately.
Generalized, I’d say, give the bookish characters some new monsters, new books, and new songs to examine. Adventurers need wine and song and love interests and family feuds and betrayal and internal conflict and diseases and governmental corruption and feigned vampirism and friendship and compelling locales and foreign tongues and poisonings and warrants for their arrest.
Yochai Gal We are all not extremely experienced yet so part of the issue is that they tend to be all over the place with ideas while at other times heavily relying on me to keep things moving, but for the moment we have settled on an ‘arabian nights’ kind of setting.
While writing this I realize that doesn’t actually answer the ‘sort of situations’ question specifically, which is something I might have to actually go back and inquire about!
The fun part about DW is that rolls are engaging and interesting regardless of where they occur.
“The guard stops you, asking to inspect your wagon” / “Well i’m gonna bluff my way through this – Excuse me sir, do you know who I am? Your captain will hear of this if you delay me one more instant!” / “Badass, sounds like you’re Defying Danger with Cha – the danger being he doesn’t believe you and finds the stolen gold in your wagon” / “shit, rolled an 8!” / “He says: well I sure as shit don’t know who you are, but if you caught me on a good day, so I’m willing to believe you. He pulls out a list from a small stand near the gate: What’d you say your name was again?”
T. Franzke’s “Things to do in the first session” (https://www.reddit.com/r/DungeonWorld/comments/42sbma/things_to_do_in_the_first_session/) comes to mind. By looking at the playbooks for the players and what move they’ve got, it could generate ideas for the sorts of situations that provides opportunities to allow them to use those. Whether or not they do, or how they do, is less important (generate the problems, not the solutions).
Here’s my cheat sheet versions of his document for easier use during play: dropbox.com – Dungeon World First Session Cheat Sheet Card.pdf
Try to add some mystery and intrigue as to why a monster or encounter might be there. A while back I posted that I thought it was interesting that Ghouls have the move Gain the memories of their meal. That led me to speculate about a necromancer that would use them to ravage areas with packs of ghouls in an attempt to eat up all the knowledge in the land and then would maintain a library (a diebrary) of caged ghouls that he and his minions could interrogate for information.
I could see starting an adventure with having a town being attacked by ghouls. There is no way the party to kill them all. Doing some investigation, they could find out that there have been these hit and run attacks going on for a while. Then they could track back one of these assaults to the necromancers lair. Sure they could attack, but why is the necromancer doing this. They could try to silently infiltrate the citadel to find out whats going on. Inside they could watch the process of interrogation… and and on.
Sure there could be some fighting here and there, but not understanding what is going on could be a problem.
Perhaps they need to recover the knowledge from one of the ghouls. So they not only have to break in, but have to find the ghoul, figure out how to retrieve the information, and escape. There could be investigation, social interaction, bluffing, infiltration, and a host of other things going on here and not necessarily a wall to wall brawl.
Slade Stolar Yea my main issue with those ‘bookish’ character is what comes after that, or how to use that to give that character the spotlight a bit.
One player in particular keeps bringing lore focused bards and casters with mostly utility spells etc to the table. I actually really enjoy the concepts she comes up with as her characters are among the best thought-out at the table… But when combat erupts her characters tend to run and hide (or simply not be really effective), and she tunes out. While the combat is definitely fun to the others, I also want to make sure I put some stuff in for her to shine as well.
Jim Jones Those are some solid suggestions and an interesting way to approach things. I’ll probably need to nudge my party a bit towards these options (or at least have them consider them) but that might work.
It sounds like the problem boils down to “How do I make my bard player feel badass?” If so, there are some ways that you can use fictional positioning to give the bard something to contribute. Maybe there’s a certain weakness that the bard has to determine. Maybe for Metal Hurlant, you need to yell something that’s demoralizing to that specific monster.
Also, how do your combat-y players react when you’re getting into the details of lore with the Bard? Do they tune out also?
As for utility spells, there could be lots of opportunities that require figuring out the puzzle using such spells.
If you’re a fan of the bard, you want them to face interesting challenges, right?
Tomer Gurantz I absolutely love your Cheat Sheet! Can I feature it on my Syllabus (linked below)? Do you happen to have a Google Drive version?
You should watch Jason Cordova’s actual plays on youtube. Link below to session 1 of several 4 session contained stories. They play for hours with minimal combat but still very interesting encounters and scenarios. He’s a master. I’ve learned a lot from these.
Here is a link: youtube.com – Dungeon World Sunday – Song of the Milk-White Putrescence (Session 1 of 4)
use logic puzzles and mutually exclusive choices to pressure them. challenge the players, not the characters
Yochai Gal Oh! I don’t have a Google Drive version (yet) but that can be easily fixed. I’ll write back a bit later.
Make obstacles you don’t know how they are going to complete. For example between here and where you need to be is a chasm with lava at the bottom, what do you do?
This is usually where the non fight characters really shine because there the ones with the options other then I hit it with an axe.
Make sure you’re players know that they are welcomed to pursue noon-combat solutions top conflict.
The moves follow the fiction; if the players want to solve a problem with combat, they will find a way. Cannot poem the jar of pickles? I draw my sword!
Alternatively, if you find them in a tense conflict where combat is likely and they pursue non-combat resolution, follow them and call for moves as appropriate.
I’ve had a group deflect an invading warband with trickery and dolman, eventually talking them into abandoning their disgraced leader and disbanding, with no combat in the entire session.
I’ve had sessions where some players fight and others move about the field, talking hostile parties into disengaging.
I’ve had sessions where I’ve taken great pains to indicate beneficial opportunities for the PCs to engage in dialogue instead of fighting, but they went right to weapons.
Basically, talk to the players outside of the narrative to let them know they are steering the ship, and then follow them wherever they take you.
Andrew Alwood I’ll check that out, thanks!
And everyone else thanks for all the helpful suggestions! Love this community 🙂
Okay, to help answer the question of what to do with the utility mage during combat. Encourage the use of Spout Lore during combat to give bonuses to her team-mates. “You have read acounts of these bloody orcs that are attacking your friends, make a Spout Lore roll!” Sometimes gentle prodding is helpful in educating the players that all kinds of things can be done.
Encourage the use of Aid (I am playing a utility mage myself, and Unseen Servant and Prestidigitation are great utility cantrips to startle, distract the bad guys and give the good guys a little lift. A +1 is a mighty thing in DW. It can mean the difference between failure and 7-9 or the difference at success with a cost to outright success. )
In my last session, I used a Charm Person on my own team-mate to break the Siren call of the Harpies. I over charmed the charm. The fiction was I used my magic, hence Charm Person, but the mechanic was I used Aid to give Amira the Barbarian a +1 to her Wisdom roll to break out of the Harpies Luring Song.
Storn Cook Those are some great ideas to use (especially the spout lore one, so obvious but somehow it never occured to me).
I can see similar rolls be used for one of the characters thats kinda the ‘smart guy figuring stuff out in the back’ where a good roll may result in him finding a nice way to take out a group of enemies (or deal damage, avoid them, etc) that might otherwise simply not be present.
Exactly! We see it movies, comics and books all the time, the bookworm is scrambling around during a battle, but is analyzing stuff on a level that the more active and athletic don’t have time or aptitude to do.
A possibility would be to create encounters with planar or magical creatures which request knowledge and analysis to find the weak spot. Then, the fighter characters can execute it, so everyone shine. Another possibility is to offer the possibility to interact with the environment. A discern realities test by the druid informs the party one pillar seems weak. The clever character then spout lore and see that if te thief could climb over there and topple the statue in such direction against the pillar, it could create a chain reaction and burry the enemy under the stones, as long as the fighter can lead them there and dive at the last moment…but improvising this could be hard, so I guess it would be handy to have a stock of ideas.
Yochai Gal Here’s a G Drive share link: drive.google.com – drive.google.com/file/d/0B74GInw5m2ICQTJxSEZZc29CeEU/view?usp=sharing
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