The Guiding Principles

So, Dungeon World has a lot of Principles, as mentioned in my previous post. You’ll see the full list below.

  • Draw maps, leave blanks
  • Address the characters, not the players
  • Embrace the fantastic
  • Make a move that follows
  • Never speak the name of your move
  • Give every monster life
  • Name every person
  • Ask questions and use the answers
  • Be a fan of the characters
  • Think dangerous
  • Begin and end with the fiction
  • Think offscreen, too

For the sake of brevity, I’ll only go over the top four today.

Draw maps, leave blanks

So you have prepared a nice Dungeon and carefully planned what every room should contain? Well, maybe keep the first few rooms, but leave a lot of the rooms “empty”.

Having the layout of the Dungeon is fine, preferable even, but with the exception of where you might find traps and secret doors, having every encounter pre-planned is boring.

Monsters should be where it makes sense for them to be at all times! So leave a few rooms “empty” and improvise when the players walk into them.

This move is mostly a call out to play to find out what happens. If everything is pre-planned, then you really don’t do that. Leaving rooms “empty” forces you to think it terms of what the characters has already seen, done and said. Use this as inspiration to give them interesting, improvised situations that “makes sense” in the context! The Dungeon will feel much more dynamic this way.

Also, just to be a little frank about it; if the party has massacred 20 goblins in one room, some other goblins will surely notice given some time. This should most definitely change the environment in some way, as monsters are now more alert, and maybe even scared and edgy. Scared and edgy monsters are interesting, because it makes them come alive!

Address the characters, not the players

We all know that this is a game, but there’s really no point in reminding people all the time. When you say “Hey Peter, what does Glarion do about that?” then you remind them, and we are pulled out of the fiction and take on a third person view instead of a first person one.

It just works much better to ask “Glarion, what do you do?”, even though we aren’t fooling anyone. I don’t generally like to talk about “immersion”, because it is too nebulous, but this is really what it is all about; we want to invest the players into the game, making the game feel as real as any other kind of media. We can’t do that if we consistently remind everyone that it’s a game. The world simply just feel more fantastic and real, when we forget that it isn’t, even if only for a moment.

Embrace the fantastic

This is a high fantasy game, so you should really fill the world with high fantasy stuff. If every creature in the world is a mundane human, then the world becomes mundane.

This might be one of the things I’m having the most difficulty with, because it requires active thought on my part. Last session, I wanted a team of thugs to harass the players, but five humans with swords and crossbows felt pretty boring, so I made their leader an Ogre called Obgrob. He was large, had a big club, was well armored and he wasn’t terribly bright, but it really set the scene much better than having all the thugs being human. My greatest regret is no to include a dwarf or an elf also, but hey, I tried.

It should go without saying that this helps you observe the Agenda, by portraying a fantastic world.

Make a move that follows

This Principle is of a slightly different sort, but it is an appeal to the GM that his moves should “make sense” and be prompted by the established fiction. It doesn’t necessarily need to follow from what is happening right now, but simply from something that makes sense in the moment.

For example, if you are in an underground lair filled with goblins and the fighter rolls a miss when attacking some of them, you may just let him succeed with some bruises, only to tell him that reinforcements are coming. You could have told him that he was simply run over as well, but the point is that the effects of your moves are not required to be directly related to what the players are doing, but your moves should always be experienced directly.

So, when the players search a room, then you can take advantage on the fact that they spend time doing it, and tell them that they hear the sounds of footsteps from around the corner. It is not related to what they are doing, but the effects are immediately observable.

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About Undreren

I'm a university student from Denmark, currently taking my candidate degree in Mathematical-Economics. I have played pen & paper RPG's since 2004, but my interest for the phenomenon sparked about 3 years prior to that. I'm an amateur programmer and knows Java and Haskell as well as some rudimentary HTML, CSS, PHP and Javascript.

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