I’ve been working lately on the GM side of Stonetop, trying to codify the things that I do (or wish I did) when I run the game. Here’s a stab at a worksheet for planning the first adventure.
In standard Dungeon World, you generally zip through character creation, swap some bonds, and start with a series of loaded questions that drops the PCs into an adventure. The first session is mostly figuring out what the hell that adventure is. Then, between sessions, the GM works up a front or two and fleshes the adventure out (or not… they might just wing it; I know I have).
But in Stonetop… you don’t want to do that. You start the first sessions making characters and the town they live in. You might get into some actual play, but often you’ll spend that whole first session introducing yourselves, completing introductions, and sketching out NPCs and threats and opportunities and relationships. Then the players roll Seasons Change for their first spring, make a choice or two, and that launches us into play.
The first adventure, then, usually happens on the 2nd session. I intend to include a bunch of adventure starters for quick play, but more often than not, I expect GMs to prep a custom first adventure. But the first adventure is a dicey thing. You want to start in the village and see it in play a bit, but then you want to draw them out into adventure before the whole thing devolves into a game of Apocalypse World or Smallville or whatever. But you still want to ask questions, leave blanks, etc. And you don’t want it to be a railroad.
I’ve got a whole chapter in the works, but I thought a worksheet might help. So I made this.
Problem is… it’s too small. I spent a couple hours today filling in the sheet, and even with my 8-pt handwriting (and a cramped hand), I found it too cramped.
Plus, a lot of the process involves ordering things… not easy to do in this format.
With that said, I’m happy with the steps and prompts. I’ve used this process a couple times now, and both times I’ve ended up with an adventure I’d be excited to run. So, I’m thinking that some sort of template in Word (or whatever word processor) would be more useful to most GMs.
Anyhow… you can at least get an idea of why my process looks like here, if you’re interested.
As always: feedback welcome and appreciated.
17 thoughts on “I’ve been working lately on the GM side of Stonetop, trying to codify the things that I do (or wish I did) when I…”
Here’s what I mean by “cramped”. Also, the gray text/lines print for shit.
Fascinating! Where can I learn more about/check out Stonetop?
Mostly in this collection. If you have a group interested in playtesting, let me know and I’ll hook you up with the play kit.
Perhaps! I’ve never heard of it before. I just found Heartbreaker World, and it is – in many ways – like the way I would design my own PbtA Heartbreaker. There’s some beautiful stuff in there!
I’ll look around some more when I get a chance. Wonderful stuff!
I’d love to give you feedback on the adventure form you’ve got here, but I don’t feel I understand where to start without the Season Moves or whatever it is you’re referencing!
Paul Taliesin you can the text of the Seasons Change move here:
dropbox.com – Stonetop Steading Playbook.pdf
Though probably more directly relevant is the process for developing the core threat/opportunity outlined in here. It mostly cuts off after that, as I originally planned on a separate chapter for “The Hook,” but the more I play with it the more I think it’ll just get bolted on to this chapter.
dropbox.com – GM03 First Adventure.pdf
And if you’re interested in what Introductions look like, I talk about it a bit here:
plus.google.com – Here’s an experiment with Introductions instead of Bonds. (Also, the most cu…
Pavel Berlin that’s mighty kind! Thanks!
Part of the challenge for me is that having an entire session is world building is fun, but it’s like seeing the opening scene in a theater where everyone is frozen on stage, waiting to move: you want to see the motion and feel the roleplay. This always makes me try to squeeze some hook or initial conflict into the first session, which inevitably makes me run over my allotted time. So how would you recommend we do that? Is that the first adventure you refer to beginning, sort of a trailer with a cliffhanger, or something else?
Oh, and that worksheet looks great. Regarding being cramped: Perhaps the trick is to make an online, fillable, electronic version? Then it would expand to meet the needs of the writer…
Christo Meid the adventure starters should help with that: they give you a bunch of setup questions, an initial scene (and more questions), some homefront moves, the hook, and some possible reactions. So you can get that initial fix you want and even end on the cliffhanger of the hook.
Problem is, the adventure starters will never account for the specific relationships or NPCs or details that got established during introductions. Like, I can build in an assumption that there have been recent raids by or skirmishes with crinwin, but I can’t write a starter that accounts for the fact that Heavy is in love with the Fox’s sister and the Fox approves but the Heavy doesn’t have their father’s respect. Or the fact that the Heavy suffers from fits and get visions of the Things Below. Or that the Would-be Hero left his younger cousin unattended during the last crinwin raid and went off to “prove himself” and now his nephew is missing.
Now, you could explore a lot of that stuff on the fly, but to really make it sing I think you want to tie it into the first adventure.
And for me, at least, that takes some time and attention thinking about it. I don’t think I’d do a very good job with that on the fly.
This is stuff is absolutely fantastic, Jeremy Strandberg. I’d love to try a playtest of this, if you have other materials to share.
The whole thing reminds me a great deal of Storming the Wizard’s Tower; there’s some great community-building fantasy adventure stuff going on here which really resonates with me, and I love how much support you’re building in for the GM.
Paul Taliesin sharp eyes! StWT was the inspiration for the original Stonetop game, back when we played it using D&D 4e (of all things!).
I’ve been asking folks for a commitment to run the game at least 3 times (and give feedback) before handing over the playtest docs. If you’ve got a group that’s down with that, let me know. If you’re looking for one online, I can ask around in the current/past groups. Let me know!
That’s fair, Jeremy. I can’t guarantee a full three sessions right now, so perhaps you can just let me know if there’s some piece of something in particular you’d like playtested, and I can bring that to my group, separately from the other stuff.
Do you have a more general description of the game somewhere? The stuff you’re sharing here doesn’t seem at all DW-like, and yet I see DW stats on the sample playbook you shared. For instance, if I took that playbook (the Seeker) and the materials you shared here, and ran a game with DW’s basic moves, how close would I be to the full Stonetop experience?
I’ve been curious about playing StWT for a long time, so seeing your project accomplishing a lot of the same goals in a more refined way gets me excited – perhaps I can just try this instead of StWT after all, and get a lot of what I was hoping to play out/try that way.
Paul Taliesin the basic moves are pretty much the same as DW (Hack & Slash, Defend, Defy Danger, etc.), mostly with just a little bit of polishing. Aid, Interfere, and Parley have all been rewritten, but they’re still there. Similarly, the principles and basic GM moves from DW aren’t changed much. Once you get into the exploration and action, it plays very much like standard DW.
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