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Dungeon World

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
I don't think what I've been doing has been antithetical to the rulebook's advice. Specific rulings (like not requiring rolls for the casting of rotes) may have given the characters more power than they would have had otherwise, but that wasn't clearly defined in the rules as far as my players or I could find.
The other major issue I've had - the soft vs. hard moves - isn't really clearly defined in the book either (again, from what I could tell). And even from the advice given in this thread and the linked advice PDF, it's more "as the GM you should just do what you think would enhance the game/make it more interesting."
I think most of us here on ENWorld (which is a pretty D&D/d20 leaning community) would say that you shouldn't assume a GM should just change the parameters of the game rules to up the challenge, i.e.: giving the monsters devastating attacks with no basis (or advice) in the rules, grant them the ability to take additional actions until the party is ready to run away from the fight, etc. If that's the case, why even have a game engine? Why even let the players roll dice?
Having run several DW campaigns, convention one shots, and online arcs in the decadish since it came out, plus having watched every game Adam Koebel (the lead designer) has run along all of his Office Hours YouTube videos, and also most of the games he has run online I feel fairly confident saying that if you run it exactly as written in the book, you won't get an optimal play experience from it.

It is a fiction-first game, which means the narrative leads into the mechanics instead of D&D which often goes the other direction, especially when it comes to combat.

D&D:
GM Okay, the orcs face you across crumbling bridge arcing over the chasm; half a dozen runts backed up by a lumbering war chief. Roll initiative... they go at 16:
Fighter I go at 21 so I think I'm first. I'm going to use my move action to got up next to this orc, then use my cleave to hit the other one too. Hit, 16 damage each.
GM Those two are dead. Who's up next?
Rogue I'm at 18 so I'm going to move up to flank the war chief, then attack with advantage and my backstab ability...

DW:
GM Okay, the orcs face you across crumbling bridge arcing over the chasm; half a dozen runts backed up by a lumbering war chief. What do you do?
Fighter I've got a big axe, so if I charge up at this group can I hit a couple at once with my swing?
GM Sure as long as you Defy Danger first to get there.
Fighter I'm sprinting in full-tilt so with +STR?
GM Sure.
Fighter Okay... got an 8.
GM All right, go ahead and roll Hack and Slash.
Fighter What about the 8?
GM It'll come after Hack and Slash.
Fighter Okay. I got another 8. Damage is 11.
GM Okay, both are super dead, but one sticks you with his crude spear first. You take 4+1 for being in a group is 5 damage first... and your axe lodges in the second one's chest solidly.
Fighter Crap.
GM While that was going on, Thief, what were you doing?
Thief I'm going to run around and try to get behind the war chief so I can backstab.
GM Hm... he's a huge, scarred brute and sees your move coming a mile away. You can do that but you'll have to Defy Danger twice - once to avoid getting smacked on the way in, the other to position yourself behind him. Then you can get your backstab in.
Thief What if I want to climb up that pillar, leap off, and drive my knife into his head to kill him in one shot?
GM Cool! Hm... a third Defy Danger to climb the pillar and a fourth to land the blow and you'll kill him instantly.

Etc.

Also, soft and hard moves are key to making the game work. General rules I follow when running games:
♦7-9 is usually a soft move, 6- is a hard.
♦Two soft moves equal a hard move - first is the warning, second manifests the warning and lands the hard move.
♦"Tough" monsters require at least one move to get close to (defaulting to Defy Danger) and usually a soft move against a PC will give the monster their position back so the player has to use a Defy Danger again to get at them.
♦If you want to wear them down in ways other than HP, try an occasional hard move of "the attack/spell/acid whatever blasts into you, what item just broke?" or "You come out of the swamp/lake/moat/mound of oozes missing something, what?"
♦Marking debilities sucks much more than HP loss as a player. My "tough" monsters tend to inflict them regularly as hard moves.

As for Rotes, someone else mentioned it upthread, but you have to roll for them.

I love DW for what it is even if I don't play it much anymore. The only game I could start a campaign of right now with zero warning or prep if five people showed up in my living room as I hit "Post." :)
 

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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
My commitment as a GM is to run a the sort of game that I would enjoy as a player. Neither as a GM or as a player am I comfortable with rules by fiat. More importantly, I'm playing a game called "Dungeon World". If I really want to play a game that ignores the challenge aesthetic of play for the sake of story, I'm probably not going to choose a game where everyone plays a barbarian, fighter, rogue, bard, druid, etc. goes into a dungeon. What's the point of being a combat focused game without a meaningful tactical component, and where what happens in a fight is purely the whim of a GM?

In any event, all the advice that is being given to the OP amounts to, "Well, you should have been arbitrarily more nasty and pulled more arbitrary shenanigans on the PCs. It's your fault for not being unfair enough."
Yeah, this is absolutely wrong. A DM that does what you say is playing the game in bad faith, against all of the advice and rules in the game. This isn't how it works.

Look the simple version of DW is that the DM describes the fiction, then the players react. If the player's reaction sounds like a Move, it is a Move and dice are used. At this point, there's some threat or challenge the PC are trying to overcome. The dice say success, success at cost or complication, or failure. The Move will provide guidance on each. The DM's job now is to do what the game calls for -- if the game has called for a cost or complication, the you need to bring that, strongly. The DM only increases the danger when the players roll a Move and fail or incur a cost. That's when the hellhound bites your arm and sets you on fire, when the PC tries a Hack and Slash and fails (or succeeds with a cost with plenty of previous soft moves that now demand payoff). Rinse and repeat until the challenge or threat is passed (or, more likely, until the snowball of threats has diminished).

DW has strong play principles, both for the DM and the players. These constrain the play in a way that makes it not arbitrary in application, but free in fictional impacts. That means that the DM's authority to bring the bad is entirely dependent on the player's failures -- and the game is slanted to incur failures and costs. The players have a duty to engage, to play their PCs like stolen cars if you will, and see where the fiction takes them. Following these principles and the rules results in a fair and very challenging game. It's when you don't follow those that the game breaks. Kinda like how D&D breaks when a DM engages in Monty Haul.
 

I don't know if you are an actual writer of fiction or non-fiction, but for the sake of argument I'm going to assume you are not. At least not any more than the majority of RPG fans and GM's out there. So...
Strangely enough, I majored in creative writing and have written a few novels and many short stories, as well as having a D&D module published on the non-fiction front. So the analogy definitely works for me.
For what you're describing I'm going to have to get a level of buy-in from my players who are mostly concerned with hanging out, casually gaming, and playing a game. Which is fine, but I don't know if the level of artistry and storytelling in a game like you're describing will fit. Certainly I'll get some crossed eyes when I say something like "it's going to be better for our story if I rip off your character's arm."
Our group is definitely entrenched in the D&D/PF milieu (even if it's OSR). We were looking for a game that we could play over voice chat while in different states without the need for grids or complex character sheets. We have been playing nearly weekly in this campaign since August, so it's been going a while. That seems pretty long term for a DW campaign.
My previous DW game was probably close to 5 years ago, and those players reached around 5th level. We had a lot of good memories, but I wouldn't say that either campaign has had real challenge.
 

Nebulous

Legend
Having run several DW campaigns, convention one shots, and online arcs in the decadish since it came out, plus having watched every game Adam Koebel (the lead designer) has run along all of his Office Hours YouTube videos, and also most of the games he has run online I feel fairly confident saying that if you run it exactly as written in the book, you won't get an optimal play experience from it.

It is a fiction-first game, which means the narrative leads into the mechanics instead of D&D which often goes the other direction, especially when it comes to combat.

D&D:
GM Okay, the orcs face you across crumbling bridge arcing over the chasm; half a dozen runts backed up by a lumbering war chief. Roll initiative... they go at 16:
Fighter I go at 21 so I think I'm first. I'm going to use my move action to got up next to this orc, then use my cleave to hit the other one too. Hit, 16 damage each.
GM Those two are dead. Who's up next?
Rogue I'm at 18 so I'm going to move up to flank the war chief, then attack with advantage and my backstab ability...

DW:
GM Okay, the orcs face you across crumbling bridge arcing over the chasm; half a dozen runts backed up by a lumbering war chief. What do you do?
Fighter I've got a big axe, so if I charge up at this group can I hit a couple at once with my swing?
GM Sure as long as you Defy Danger first to get there.
Fighter I'm sprinting in full-tilt so with +STR?
GM Sure.
Fighter Okay... got an 8.
GM All right, go ahead and roll Hack and Slash.
Fighter What about the 8?
GM It'll come after Hack and Slash.
Fighter Okay. I got another 8. Damage is 11.
GM Okay, both are super dead, but one sticks you with his crude spear first. You take 4+1 for being in a group is 5 damage first... and your axe lodges in the second one's chest solidly.
Fighter Crap.
GM While that was going on, Thief, what were you doing?
Thief I'm going to run around and try to get behind the war chief so I can backstab.
GM Hm... he's a huge, scarred brute and sees your move coming a mile away. You can do that but you'll have to Defy Danger twice - once to avoid getting smacked on the way in, the other to position yourself behind him. Then you can get your backstab in.
Thief What if I want to climb up that pillar, leap off, and drive my knife into his head to kill him in one shot?
GM Cool! Hm... a third Defy Danger to climb the pillar and a fourth to land the blow and you'll kill him instantly.

Etc.

Also, soft and hard moves are key to making the game work. General rules I follow when running games:
♦7-9 is usually a soft move, 6- is a hard.
♦Two soft moves equal a hard move - first is the warning, second manifests the warning and lands the hard move.
♦"Tough" monsters require at least one move to get close to (defaulting to Defy Danger) and usually a soft move against a PC will give the monster their position back so the player has to use a Defy Danger again to get at them.
♦If you want to wear them down in ways other than HP, try an occasional hard move of "the attack/spell/acid whatever blasts into you, what item just broke?" or "You come out of the swamp/lake/moat/mound of oozes missing something, what?"
♦Marking debilities sucks much more than HP loss as a player. My "tough" monsters tend to inflict them regularly as hard moves.

As for Rotes, someone else mentioned it upthread, but you have to roll for them.

I love DW for what it is even if I don't play it much anymore. The only game I could start a campaign of right now with zero warning or prep if five people showed up in my living room as I hit "Post." :)
This really makes me want to try DW again but it would be all but impossible to get players. Maybe - possibly - I could convince the Roll20 group to give it a shot.
 


Just saw this thread. It’s filled with great advice that I can only reiterate.

Dog head just linked the PBP I ran on here with a few I game with IRL as a tutorial for folks. OP, if you’d like, read that and ask specific questions about moments of play and I can give you the skinny on the play architecture and mental headspace of the particular moment of play.

Or just watch games run online by proficient participants.

Sum total:

- Cast a Spell always is a move which requires resolution.

- There should only be one “Fighter”.

- Your soft moves need to be much more dynamic in both their fictional inputs/setups (you need to stop thinking from such a tightly restricted, physics causal chain perspective) and in what they threaten/portend. Hard choices mean “hard”...not trivial, not reflexively intuitive.

- Your hard moves/follow-throughs clearly need to be more punishing and much more diverse as well.

And finally, this game is not about GM Force or “unprincipled/arbitrary fiat.” Not even close as all of the machinery of a game run true actively pushes back against both of those things.
 

- There should only be one “Fighter”.
I've seen this advice brought up several times. I have a Fighter and a Barbarian. So are you saying I shouldn't have two warrior classes, or two characters who are specifically fighters?
 

I've seen this advice brought up several times. I have a Fighter and a Barbarian. So are you saying I shouldn't have two warrior classes, or two characters who are specifically fighters?
Barbarian and Fighter are fine.

What you should be thinking about, with both of them, is what makes them different from the other. Put stress on those differences so that play outcomes emerge around them such that you can clearly see that "the" Barbarian and Fighter are not the same archetype.

For instance, for the Barbarian:

- Make their "Wild Eyes" (if that is what they chose) a thing that comes up in social conflict (be it with a primal spirit, the head of the town militia, a priest of a heavily orthodox religion, or a great bear of the forest that needs brought to heel) a component to frame a scene around (an opening soft move) or use it in a complicating fashion on a 7-9 move.

- Turn their eschewing of the conventions of the civilized world back on them in a way that presents a hard choice (maybe they're freezing to death and some tech, a bundle of Tendertwigs, would start a fire instantly to stave off the creeping cold in an inhospitable situation) when an Undertake a Perilous Journey move goes wrong.

- Make a situation where being a bull in a china shop (the Forceful and Messy tags inherent to them) complicate a combat in an interesting and complicating way for them. You can alter Hack & Slash and the like to make it a "World Move" based on environment such that some environmental complication arises when they're fighting there (just make it player-facing).

Perhaps they're fightning on the 2nd floor of a burning, timber-framed structure. A 10+ means they deal their damage and avoid calamaty/counter. But a 7-9 presents the choice (player chooses 1 and the GM chooses the complication inherent within 1 of the remaining):

  • Your mighty blow doesn't cause the floor joists to fail and cave in.
  • Your enemy isn't propelled through a wall onto the gathering crowd.
  • Your heedless fury doesn't send you sprawling into the inferno.



ETC ETC

Same goes the Fighter. Crystalize their differences through differentiated fictional framing, choices, and consequences.
 
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What is wrong with having two Fighters necessarily? Or two of any class?
The idea in Dungeon World of class is more kindred to genre archetype than it is to career.

Put another way, consider the following:

You're playing a game that is, in part or in whole, about genre archetypes emerging directly as a product of play. The easiest one would be superheros.

Imagine a game where one player is playing Thor or Captain America while another player is playing The Hulk. That can certainly work as, while they're all physical martial combatants, their thematic portfolio has significant divergence which should reveal itself in play through situation framing, decision-points, and outcomes.

Now imagine that first player is playing The Thing.

Doable...but we're starting to have some archetype overlap creep that isn't great.

Now imagine a game where one player is Red Hulk and the other is Green Hulk. No bueno.
 


Yeah. My Barbarian and Fighter usually feel quite different. The Barbarian charges into melee with bloodlust and seldom backs down from a challenge. The Fighter defends and is armored to the teeth. They also roleplay quite differently.
I think my main issue has been with soft/hard moves and how challenging to make it.
 

doghead

thotd
I think my main issue has been with soft/hard moves and how challenging to make it.
Yeah. Despite understanding, I think, the concept, and being keen on the idea, this is where I struggled as well.

... check in with them and see if they are bored. Maybe succeeding at everything is super fun for them! As long as it's fun for you too...
This would be my way ahead.

If they are looking for a more challenging/dangerous game, maybe see if they can give you examples of where they thought things might get seriously bad, but didn't. Then ask them what they were worried about happening. It may give you an insight into how to increase the challenge/danger down the track.

thotd
 

Nebulous

Legend
Is this a fairly good game to run online in Roll20? I'm getting kind of burned out from D&D and want to try something different.
 

@Nebulous

I don’t know about Rolld20, but DW is trivially run online via Skype (I’ve done it aplenty with friends afar).

@Retreater

How about this?

How about you briefly outline a singular moment of your game’s play (the situation framing > move resolution > outcome > subsequent framing) for each of:

  • Undertake a Perilous Joirney
  • Parley
  • Combat

It should be easy enough to work-shop what is going awry and how to improve your experience.

Also, broadly regarding combat:

1) Don’t be afraid to inflate numbers from stock monsters a bit as they progress (there is a site that has some truly awesome and interesting monsters out there). Truly brutal enemies should reflect that.

2) Navigating the danger of ranged enemies and those with significant reach advantage is a big thing in DW combat. Make it a thing.

3) Make control a thing. Make liberal use of the Forceful tag.

4) Leverage the environment. Obstacles should be used regularly to hamper PCs and also as things they can leverage themselves. Volcanic vents should ignore armor, sucking quicksand should require finesse and mental acuity to manage (the harder you struggle, the quicker you sink), etc.

5) Plenty of things (spells and even mundane things) should attack the emotions and the mind (perhaps pulling on hard memories where they’ll have to Defy Danger Charisma).

6) Ignore Armor + multiple enemies + debilities + take -1 forward.


Use all of these in concert to make combat compelling and filled with varying decision-points.
 

Nebulous

Legend
How does Dungeon World handle long term campaigns, vs. something shorter. I'm looking at Servants of the Cinder Queen, a little scenario I found. I like it. Although myself and my group would really need to relearn everything we know about Dungeons & Dragons and not try to incorporate that playstyle.
 

I’ve run many 6 month campaigns and plenty of 1-2 shots. It handles both well.

Be wary of tightly prescribed scenarios however (though I don’t know your scenario above).

The PBtA family of games is about “playing to find out what happens.” The machinery and ethos of the games allows for/perpetuates exactly that.

DW specifically is about making a map (with lots of blanks) together and discovering these characters and their place in the 1st session. Then the GM will come up with broad antagonism and obstacles (Fronts) to interpose against the PCs (these will evolve and more will emerge through play). Through the course of all of these parts interacting, we’ll find out who all of these people/things/places are, through play.
 

Nebulous

Legend
Servants of the Cinder Queen has 23 pages of content. From the introduction it states:

Introduction
---------------------------------------------------------------
This adventure is intended for use with the Dungeon World rules, and as such is structured differently than a traditional RPG adventure. Servants of the Cinder Queen is a self-contained, but includes an Adventure Front and Grim Portents (pp 2-3) which you may see fit to use as a component in any campaign that extends beyond the adventure.

While the adventure is divided into multiple “Areas” as might be expected of a traditional RPG module, for the most part these areas are not fully fleshed out with detailed maps and descriptions. Instead, the contents of each Area are suggested by the following elements:

- Connections note what other Areas
may be reached from the Area in
question. It’s up to the GM and
players to fill in the details of how
they get from place to place, and
what they discover along the way.
 

@Manbearcat the three examples:
Undertake a Perilous Journey
The party was needing to travel 5 days through the cavernous tunnels that linked the last bastion of the subterranean dwarven empire, Darrowhold, to the ancient and abandoned ancestral crypt. The cleric took the roll of the trailblazer and succeeded with a 10+. The barbarian took the roll of the scout and got a 7-9. The fighter was the quartermaster and failed with a 1-6.
The cleric got them to the crypt in 5 days. When the barbarian got them to the crypt, he lead them right into a mining operation with a dozen derro - because it wasn't a hard failure I said that it wasn't an ambush, just a straight up fight. The quartermaster who failed ended up getting his pack caught on a stalagmite, ripping open the bag, and having half their food spill into a pool of water, ruining it. Luckily, the group over-prepared so they would still have enough food as long as they didn't linger in their exploration of the crypt or get lost on the way back.
Parley
Most of the time the group wants to parley, it's actually a Charisma Defy Danger as they are just trying to sweet talk a guard with nothing to offer. A recent case was the group sought out the dwarven thane to request a runesmith to accompany them back to their home city to repair a situation. They offered a pact between the home city and the dwarves, but got a 7-9 result. The thane said that he would agree to their offer, only after the party recovered an heirloom treasure from the ancestral crypts (see above).
Combat
This is one of the most recent and egregious examples. (It's been a couple weeks, so I'll try to remember everything.) The party was exploring the crypt and found in the central chamber was a pile of bones and there was an invisible lich standing nearby. The group had heard of a skeletal dragon in the area, so the cleric cast True Seeing and instantly saw the lich. The bones animated and became a dragonbone.
Barbarian charges and demolishes the dragonbone in two rounds, rolling so well the dragonbone doesn't get a chance to do a move on him. (Like getting a 12 and a 13). But even if it did, the fighter had a defend action to soften the blows on the barbarian.
The lich calls forth a horde of ravenous ghouls. Cleric turns undead with a 10+. All the ghouls run away, lich is dazed. Something happens (I forget what) to make the lich visible - maybe the dust from the dragonbone is thrown over it or something. Fighter and Barbarian can see the lich now. They hack him to pieces before he gets an attack.
No one ever rolls poorly enough for me to get a DM move. Or if they do, they have powers to "turn danger against itself."
 

@Nebulous

That looks good (in terms of DW architecture).

If you get a game up and running, I would suggest making a post on here about it after your initial session (which should be map > character creation > and a few scenes of play), with a photo of the map you and your players worked up, a copy of the character sheets, and your general ideas.

The folks that have commented on this thread (and some others who have not) have good exposure to PBtA games and should be able to provide some helpful thoughts on making the subsequent session thematically coherent and dangerous/interesting.
 

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