I’ve been doing it “wrong”…
Not as in BadWrongFun, but I think I might have had a skewed view on the collaborative world creation part of Dungeon World. I figured it out, because Marshall Miller posted a link to some of his work on his homepage. Click here to see the stuff. It’s pretty awesome.
Of note, look at the “Dungeon Starters” link, and read a few of them. They’re a good example of how open-ended play can be done in an elegant format. To quote Marshall Millers site:
What is a Dungeon Starter?
Dungeon Starters are a form of GM prep for running the first session of a Dungeon World game. Dungeon Starters don’t dictate plot, they’re not Fronts (you write those after the first session), and they don’t replace the GM playbook. They are for those times when you want to just sit down and start a game right then. Dungeon Starters provide a unified flavor to your prep but, when you get down to it, they are really just an unordered cloud of blanks and hooks with some appropriate moving parts to make sure the players don’t catch you with nothing interesting to say. Dungeon Starters are made up of questions, impressions, custom moves, items and services, spells, and monsters (among other things).
The most important part about Dungeon Starters is that they contain questions, more specifically; loaded questions. Loaded questions are great, because they set a theme for the game without dictating what will happen. An example from “The Goblin Hole”:
This far from civilization, what was the last thing you saw as you entered the cavern?
This question establishes that the players are descending into a cavern or other dungeon-like environment, and that the players are a long way from the nearest town. It also gives the players a chance to make something up from their characters’ point of view that can (and probably will) impact the story. It gets trickier with the next question:
What have you sworn to do here?
So, the GM doesn’t even have an idea about why the characters are there, he’s leaving that open to the players. In this way, the narrative is shared between the players and the GM, leaving wiggle-room for making the story about the characters and not their opposition.
What I did “wrong”
In all sessions of Dungeon World, I have done something different. I asked questions about the characters and then about the setting, until I had a fairly clear picture about what the characters were doing, and where they were. Most often though, I also learned who the bad guy would be, which is bad because that implies that I’m not learning this through delightful discovery.
What the game was about, what the setting was like, and who the characters were deep down, all these things were answered before play actually began. I believe such things would be much more fun to learn through play. Next time I GM a one-shot, I’ll try to ask some evocative and loaded questions, and see if I enjoy that game more.
My problem now is that the exams are pretty tough this semester, mainly because I have to take care of my child all day next week. My wife has a course that spans 9 days, with lectures from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., leaving me little time to work on my own exams in that period. I’ll try to find some time to play anyway.
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