So, I started a new campaign with a group who is at its first time with DW (long time D&D players).

So, I started a new campaign with a group who is at its first time with DW (long time D&D players).

So, I started a new campaign with a group who is at its first time with DW (long time D&D players). It’s our 2nd session and they told me that they feel like they never truly succeed at anything, since 7-9 is success + complication (and is the most common result).

I tried convincing them that the complication is meant to drive the action forward, offering a far more interesting narrative than a plain “you fail” that are more common in “classic” RPG systems, but without much success.

They gained a level at the end of the last session and all chose to raise their main stat to +3. I explained that at +3, they have almost 60% chance of having a 10+ success, which should somehow alleviate their feeling. Will see how it goes next session, but using your best stat is usually less than 50% of all rolls you make.

Any tips on how to shift their paradigm?

21 thoughts on “So, I started a new campaign with a group who is at its first time with DW (long time D&D players).”

  1. Yeah, I feel you. For some players, the mixed results are definitely off-putting.

    The main move this comes up with is Defy Danger, right? I think the big things that can help there are:

    • 7-9 is fundamentally a success, and you owe it them to give them that success

    • Giving them a choice makes the bad stuff a lot more palatable. “Okay, you can definitely do it, but you realize that you’ll take a couple arrows (d6+2 damage) if you do, or you can stay put. Do you go for it?” That’s better than “you run across the opening but take a couple arrows, for d6+2 damage!”

    • Try really hard to avoid making it look like negative consequences are their fault or incompetence, but rather a result of a cruel and dangerous world or skilled, dangerous foes. They take an arrow not because they’re too slow, but because the gobbos are just waiting for you to poke your head out. You start to fall because the handhold crumbles under your weight, not because you’re too weak.

    Also: not everyone is gonna like this style of game.

  2. Yeah, well I’ve been mostly using basic moves so far, so most 7-9 results are already prescribed on the move itself.

    I think I’m already using all suggested tips, so I guess I’m out of luck :`(

    I hope they’ll get accustomed to it.

  3. It usually takes a while to get used to the different play cultures, both embedded in players and in rule systems. For my group, some took to it fast and some are still struggling.

    Not the most helpful advice, but taken along with the excellent advice above, “give it time” is sometimes the best we can do. And to realise that dungeon world is not for everyone.

  4. Your players seem like they are playing RPGs to “win”. See what you can do to change what their perception of the “victory condition” is. Right now, it seems set to “that session was awesome because our guys succeeded in everything they did”. There are other ways to finish “that session was awesome because…”

  5. Addramyr Palinor I don’t know if it’ll help, but maybe give them something like this (the leftmost column, Players’ Guide… the other stuff is all Stonetop-specific).

    When I shared this with my group, one of the players responded with this:

    The one piece I’d make sure to emphasize is “don’t worry about making the Best Choice – bad choices can make for better stories”. In the first few months that we played I was trying to play more like a video game, I guess? Where there’s the right choice, that helps you advance the story, and a bunch of wrong choices, that either just delay you or get you killed. And I think I really started having FUN with Stonetop when it sank in that … that’s not a thing here. Any choice you make – any choice YOUR CHARACTER makes – is great for the story and can lead to excellent shenanigans and not necessarily horrible death.

    It’s not exactly the issue you’re describing, but I think it comes from a similar mindset, what Lester Ward described as “playing RPGs to win.”

    Maybe just having this out there will help, as a thing to sign off on. Or as a thing to start an important conversation: “This is the game, and this is what playing the game involves, and if this doesn’t sound fun, then lets talk about playing a different game.” – Player’s Guide (agenda, principles, how to).pdf

  6. It may help to remind them they always have initiative, and that the enemies don’t have a “turn” in the D&D sense.

    Take Hack & Slash for example. They deal damage (10+), or take damage (6-), or both (7-9).

    It’s just collapsing the number of rolls to lower everyone’s cognitive load. (Most Apocalypse Engine games take that a step further and use fixed damage per weapon or playbook.)

    It helps a lot if you vary the soft hit retribution on soft hit hack & slash results. I.e., they deal damage but their axe gets stuck in a bone – let it go and be disarmed, or use your next action yanking it out. (If there are other foes threatening, that puts them in a spot.) If you’re not always hitting their HP everytime they roll a soft hit, it makes them feel more confident that they’re “winning.”

    Either way, they should be completely aware of the stakes before committing to the action. This goes a long way toward mitigating the “DM fiat” feel of soft hit results, and is expressly a DM move (Say the consequences and ask).

    Another thing that helps a lot with Defy Danger soft hit results is specifically not damaging their HP. Classic example: dragon’s breath weapon. They dive for cover, Defy Danger+Dex, they get an 8, they make it behind the rock fast enough to avoid damage but their pack catches fire, lose 1 use of adventuring gear before you stamp it out. This still feels like a win for the player (dodged the attack) but with a cost (DM move: use up their resources).

  7. The Alford Soultaker series on the Comic Strip AP podcast has some excellent examples of 7-9 results that drive the action forwards but never make the titular character feel less than a completely competent hero.

    Something I’ve been thinking about is the idea that 7-9 results (or even 6-) escalate the action rather than compromise the hero’s success. You could lean into that harder for a while, to make them feel more successful – they’re always succeeding, they’re always competent, but if they roll low then things escalate wildly around them. Fires, explosions, collateral damage, stampeding crowds, unexpected waves of enemies, collapsing dungeons – that kind of thing.

    For example, in the penultimate episode of Soultaker he volleys some arrows at enemy soldiers and rolls low. The result is that he hits perfectly and takes out his targets – but another group sneaks around behind and swamps him. In the big picture of the narrative he ended up in an escalated position, but in the moment he was still a very competent archer (despite rolling a miss).

    Sounds like you’re doing all this already, but food for thought!

  8. No, Narrative Control is not specific to any particular RPG system. They tend to give examples from a variety of systems.

    Looking at the show notes for that episode, they do discuss AW as one of the ways to help get your players invested in complications.

  9. I’ve been re-reading this thread to try to find new ideas on how to make my group “get” that pbta games are not “play to win”.

    How legit is it to not do the result of a move as described? (apart from the fact that I know I can do whatever the heck I want at my own table, but I meant it in a way “how the average DW player would react to this”).

    For example, H&S 7-9 says you deal damage and expose yourself to the enemy’s attack.

    Could I instead forgo the “expose yourself to enemy attack” and do another move instead? Like “use up their resources” or else?

    Not sure it will help me in this quest of converting my group to DW, but I’m genuinely intrigued by how much other people think it’s fair to forgo the move (or part of it) as written to pick another GM move instead.

    I’m thinking, since they come from trad games (D&D to name it), maybe they won’t see a “put someone on the spot” move as much as a “partial failure”.

  10. Addramyr Palinor exposing them to an attack basically just means do a DM move in the fictional context of an enemy combatant.

    Use up their resources totally works. The orc’s axe clefts their shield in twain, or the goblin’s firebomb ignites the lamp oil in their pack.

    Put them in a spot could be the orc rolls with their blow, taking damage but spinning behind them and clinching their sword arm in a half-nelson. Or the chaotic energy unleashed by you slicing the wizard’s head off mid-incantation smashes through the roof causing a cave-in.

    Deal damage is often fictionally the least interesting thing, and that’s why I suggest mixing it up. D&D traditionalists tend to fixate on “I lost HP so that was a fail.” So make other DM moves instead or in conjunction to be a fan of their characters and let them feel powerful.

  11. Addramyr Palinor, as Marshall Brengle says, you can make any GM/monster/dungeon move that involves the enemy making an attack, and you’re not even drifting a little. For more examples of what he’s talking about, see my first comment here:

    I think it’s totally in the spirit of the game, too, to read “enemy” and “attack” pretty broadly and introduce various other complications. Like maybe the enemy’s “attack” is your blade getting stuck in their ribs. Or maybe the “enemy” is the environment (a collapsing tunnel) and the “attack” is a debris falling on the PC’s head.

    I do that kind of drift sparingly, because I usually find that “make a move framed as them attacking you” gives me all sorts of options and it’s what’s written on the tin. But sometimes that off-label stuff is what’s called for, and makes sense to everyone, and it’s awesome.

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