Soliciting tips for a solo Dungeon World game

darkbard

Explorer
Folks, recently my wife and I moved and we're looking to fill the resultant gaming gap (not much interested in remote gaming) with a solo game for a system we've not yet played but have great interest in: Dungeon World. We're familiar and enthusiastic about the precepts of collaborative and player-facing systems in the vein of PbtA and BitD and have sought to incorporate many of those elements (play to find out, fail forward, draw maps but leave blanks, drive your character like a stolen car, etc.) into our 4E D&D game over the past half-decade. Nevertheless, that game is built upon multiple PCs in cooperative roles, and this experience would be built around a single player and GM. What advice would you give?
 
I have some experience with solo games but, while I've read DW, I haven't played it.

That said, in a solo game I find that I need to bring my A game as a GM. In a traditional group, if you need a minute to think, you can often toss a decision point in front of the players and buy yourself a moment while they discuss. In a solo game, the only person the player can discuss things with is you, so that doesn't work.

That leads into my next suggestion which is to be very clear with your descriptions and don't hesitate to clarify (especially if the player seems like they might have gotten the wrong idea). In a group, other players will often course correct if someone misheard something or makes a false assumption. In solo play, that relies entirely on the GM.

Finally, I've found that the solo game tends to work best with one or more NPCs in the party. We tend to have the player run these NPCs and share RP duties between GM and player (usually the GM RPs the NPC, but if the GM is busy running other NPCs and the player feels their NPC should speak up, they are free to do so).

This is for multiple reasons. Firstly, it gives the player ways to bounce ideas off the GM while remaining in character.

Secondly, solo PCs are incredibly fragile. The party dynamic allows other PCs to save a PC who goes down. A truly solo PC is often at the mercy of the vagaries of the dice (although this is less of an issue in DW than D&D, since the GM is often able to interpret failures in less game ending ways).

Lastly, it enables intra party chatter, which is simply enjoyable. Being the solo tough guy can be fun, but it gets old after a while. It's more fun to be able to share victory with stalwart companions that you've grown attached to. (That's been my experience at any rate.)
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
Folks, recently my wife and I moved and we're looking to fill the resultant gaming gap (not much interested in remote gaming) with a solo game for a system we've not yet played but have great interest in: Dungeon World. We're familiar and enthusiastic about the precepts of collaborative and player-facing systems in the vein of PbtA and BitD and have sought to incorporate many of those elements (play to find out, fail forward, draw maps but leave blanks, drive your character like a stolen car, etc.) into our 4E D&D game over the past half-decade. Nevertheless, that game is built upon multiple PCs in cooperative roles, and this experience would be built around a single player and GM. What advice would you give?
Looks like you just missed this kickstarter.

 

Numidius

Explorer
Make use of Henchmen, it is going to keep the Player busy, and she is gonna need'em, anyway. Every type of Henchmen has a different "cost", in order to follow willingly The Pc, and Money is just one of them.
 

darkbard

Explorer
Make use of Henchmen, it is going to keep the Player busy, and she is gonna need'em, anyway. Every type of Henchmen has a different "cost", in order to follow willingly The Pc, and Money is just one of them.
Cool. Yeah, Henchmen may be one route. Do you have any specific advice for how best to implement their usage?
 
I kind of see two paths here.

One is to lean into the solo aspect. Sine there will be only one PC, make the situation one where she truly is alone and can only rely on herself. Maybe she’s a delegate or visitor to a foreign land and has to navigate a political landscape unknown to her. Maybe she’s given a quest out into the wild and must go alone for some reason.

The other is to have the PC build a party she can trust. Have her adventures revolve around winning someone’s trust or rescuing someone or what have you, and each time she wins an ally of some sort. My familiarity with DW is not as much as I’d like it to be, and I don’t recall rules for henchmen or cohorts, but I’d suggest coming up with something to allow for allied party members. The thrust of play could be to assemble a team in order to face the ultimate challenge.

Those are the two routes that jump out at me. The particulars of either would depend on what the two of you craft for the fiction.
 

Numidius

Explorer
Cool. Yeah, Henchmen may be one route. Do you have any specific advice for how best to implement their usage?
Well, just following the rules, there's a chapter, for them can allow a variety of supporting characters and motivations.
Having The Pc multiclass can open opportunity for their usage, since an adept/initiate would help in casting, while others in fighting, or doing thief stuff etc.
 

darkbard

Explorer
One is to lean into the solo aspect. Sine there will be only one PC, make the situation one where she truly is alone and can only rely on herself. Maybe she’s a delegate or visitor to a foreign land and has to navigate a political landscape unknown to her. Maybe she’s given a quest out into the wild and must go alone for some reason.
Indeed! She already has a few PC ideas that she's been floating for quite some time that involve being the survivor of a great calamity alone in the wilderness: an elven woodsperson type whose clan has been wiped out by a rapacious enemy and a dwarf/deep gnome type entrusted with an artifact to safeguard.
 

JeffB

Legend
Dungeon World is balanced at the table in the moment of the fiction.

I have run solo games for my Son, using only 1 low level PC. I did nothing special other than keeping #s of enemies smaller (4 or 5 goblins or such when he ran up against multiples at low level). He ended up with a "companion" in the story, but he was a 10 year old boy he rescued and had to get to safety- The kid ended up saving his bacon at times, and the kid also made for more dramatic fictional moments as well (tough choices)

I've also run it with a couple NPC characters who I just statted out on the fly- Rogues who had Thievery +2, other physical stuff +0, mental stuff +1. Clerics who had cast a spell +2 (bless, cure, sacred weapon) that kind of thing.

Make moves softer or harder as need be.

One thing I have learned is that in play , DW plays itself if you let it, whereas online we all tend to totally overthink/over-analyze it. It's an improvised action movie- it's not D&D. Just roll with it (npi) and let the fiction take you wherever. There is no wrong way to play. The objective is exciting story- that's it.
 

darkbard

Explorer
Thanks! Your overall comments about the system playing itself are in line with my thinking. But this

I have run solo games for my Son, using only 1 low level PC. [...] He ended up with a "companion" in the story.

[...]

I've also run it with a couple NPC characters who I just statted out on the fly
along with the previous comments makes me wonder if some take on Henchmen might be practically essential for a game with one PC.
 

JeffB

Legend
Thanks! Your overall comments about the system playing itself are in line with my thinking. But this



along with the previous comments makes me wonder if some take on Henchmen might be practically essential for a game with one PC.
The Kid was not terribly involved other than creating situations- not for a #s balancing effect.

The NPCs were there for color/the story, and not because they were necessary for numbers balance either.

IOW- I don't find it matters other than in the fiction. None are needed for mechanical balance- The GM provides the balance in DW , not the rules.
 

JeffB

Legend
Gotcha. That makes sense!
Thinking further, I do believe that in the solo game, unless your player is up for making a majority of the player facing decisions about the world, adventure, etc that it's probably a good idea to have a bit "tighter" background about the world, and overall fronts/scenario details and keep it small/more contained. It can be a bit overwhelming for a new player to DW to take on so much of the decision making process (Unless your wife, is like mine ;) )

I highly suggest looking at this resource page DW Syllabus- and utilizing the following from it-

One Shot World I think is a better intro to the game than the standard DW Rules for both player and GM (and gives you all the tools you need to create an adventure and run the game). It will work for more than one session, so don't let the name scare you.

Dungeon World Guide is a must read
 

Aldarc

Hero
Take a look at Ironsworn. The PDF is free on DriveThruRPG. It's a game built on the PbtA/DW engine, but designed for solo, co-op, or GM-run games. Adam Koebel, one of the co-designers of Dungeon World, even has a solo "Let's Play" of Ironsworn on YouTube. In other videos on the matter, he clearly admires how Ironsworn understands, hacks, and expands PbtA/DW, seeing it as the "Next Gen" of PbtA games.
 

JeffB

Legend
@Aldarc I haven't seen that one yet- will have to take a look.

I am on the fence about a DW "2E", as I think the Community has clearly made some improvements in the various hacks and that may just be personal bias as the hacks fit my needs better. That said, I think the DW Community is far more open to just doing whatever, and not desirous of an official DW 2E or at least in the not really care category (?)
 
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darkbard

Explorer
Thinking further, I do believe that in the solo game, unless your player is up for making a majority of the player facing decisions about the world, adventure, etc that it's probably a good idea to have a bit "tighter" background about the world, and overall fronts/scenario details and keep it small/more contained. It can be a bit overwhelming for a new player to DW to take on so much of the decision making process (Unless your wife, is like mine ;) )

I highly suggest looking at this resource page DW Syllabus- and utilizing the following from it-

One Shot World I think is a better intro to the game than the standard DW Rules for both player and GM (and gives you all the tools you need to create an adventure and run the game). It will work for more than one session, so don't let the name scare you.

Dungeon World Guide is a must read
I'm familiar with the DW syllabus but haven't checked out that particular component yet. Thanks!
 

darkbard

Explorer
Take a look at Ironsworn. The PDF is free on DriveThruRPG. It's a game built on the PbtA/DW engine, but designed for solo, co-op, or GM-run games. Adam Koebel, one of the co-designers of Dungeon World, even has a solo "Let's Play" of Ironsworn on YouTube. In other videos on the matter, he clearly admires how Ironsworn understands, hacks, and expands PbtA/DW, seeing it as the "Next Gen" of PbtA games.
Added to my "to do" list. :) Thanks!
 

Numidius

Explorer
Some thoughts...

Have a dense first session, with lots of details, questions & answers on backstory & background, in order to build Gm Fronts and start play with the shared content.
If Pc chooses a Playbook with Multiclass Moves, start at second level having already taken the MC Move and discuss that also as part of char gen in the first session.

Have the Pc write Bonds with NPCs, be they Henchmen or part of the setting (or the Artifact itself mentioned, up-thread) . As usual when the Bond is resolved, write a new one with the same Npc or a different one, as story goes. These Bonds might serve as short term goals for the Pc.
 

darkbard

Explorer
Some thoughts...

Have a dense first session, with lots of details, questions & answers on backstory & background, in order to build Gm Fronts and start play with the shared content.
If Pc chooses a Playbook with Multiclass Moves, start at second level having already taken the MC Move and discuss that also as part of char gen in the first session.

Have the Pc write Bonds with NPCs, be they Henchmen or part of the setting (or the Artifact itself mentioned, up-thread) . As usual when the Bond is resolved, write a new one with the same Npc or a different one, as story goes. These Bonds might serve as short term goals for the Pc.
These are some great practical suggestions, Numidius. Thanks!
 

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