This sounds like an odd name for a lesson learned, but it is in fact very fitting. I’m unsure as to how many people this will apply to, but it sure is something I have learned.
Even though I mostly GM, it is only recently that I’ve started playing Dungeon World. When you ask questions, then never expect the players to give you answers that you want to hear. Deal with it. Not all answers sound great when you get them, but lets face it; not everything you say as a GM is awesome either.
The really strange thing is that no matter what answer you get, it always seem like an awesome answer after the session. Falafael, the Fighter from my recently ended three-shot, had to explain where he had learned to cast spells. He answered in a mildly jesting tone that he had learned it in “elf high school”.
I knew that the game was not meant to be very seriously toned, we had discussed that prior to the game. Yet somehow this answer just seemed dumb when he gave it. After the session though, I realized I was just being elitist about the game, and I actually felt bad just for thinking it. It was a pretty fun answer, and it actually spoke volumes about his past. His character had formal education.
So when you feel that a player gives you a “dumb” answer, then deal with it. The player wouldn’t give it to you if he didn’t like it himself, and it isn’t just your game anyway; it belongs to the group.
It’s a lot more fun to win despite adversity than through the sheer lack of it. That’s a very important lesson learned from playing with Eric and Bastien.
I see this question a lot of times on the net: “How much can I throw at my players in Dungeon World?” Short answer: All you’ve got!
Dungeon World really empowers the players, sometimes to a scale where the GM can feel a bit powerless. If they continue to roll well, they can more or less do whatever they want, as long as it does not contradict the fiction.
As the principles goes, we are supposed to be a fan of the characters. We are doing that by letting them be awesome. They are awesome when they win despite the odds, not because of them. Also, we should think dangerous but we shouldn’t limit it to thought.
Keeping a hand over the character only blocks their limelight. Think about your own campaigns; which moments were the most exiting? The ones where the players leveled armies without breaking a sweat? I’m guessing the answer to this question is a big resounding “no”.
In my last game I actually had a player roll Last Breath. Just telling a player to roll that made me shiver. I really wanted to make the roll meaningful, and if he had rolled a miss instead of a hit, I’d probably had let him be the one that toppled the tower over, sacrificing himself to save his reality. That would have been an epic ending, but I’m still glad both characters survived.
Without danger, adventure is meaningless. Don’t hold back, and give them all you’ve got! If you know that the characters will survive, then they are not really in danger.
I was tempted to word this lesson learned as “you can never ask enough questions”, but that might be stretching it a little. Some of my biggest “regrets” as a GM is that I don’t ask enough questions, as asking questions is to ask for player input.
There’s a principle called “ask questions and use the answers”, and I should really get better at following it.
During the second session in “The Rise of Ri’leth” adventure, Eric wanted his Fighter to multiclass for wizard spell casting. I figured that I would find a way for him to loot a spell book or something, as it is required for spell casting. This was a big mistake, one that I felt required retconning in the third session.
I failed to let him find a spell book, which I’m almost embarrassed about. I wasn’t a fan of his character when I didn’t give one to him. He bought the advanced move fair and square.
This could easily have been resolved in the beginning of the second session with one simple question: “How did you find that brand new spell book under your arm?” If I had done this, then I’d been a lot more proud of that session. Don’t get me wrong, the session was great, but it would really have made that session even better.
Another reason why asking questions might be important is that you sometime have an awesome idea for a hard move, but you are unsure whether or not your player will think it as awesome as you do. In the third session of the three-shot, Falafael the Fighter wanted to trip a cultist leader to prevent his escape. He rolled a miss of course, which he always does, and I got an idea; why not let the cultist leader fall onto his own blade, atop the alter, making him the last sacrifice in the ritual?
In my head, it just sounded so funny and so obvious, but I was afraid to do it since it might seem a little “railroady”. So I just said to Eric that I was tempted to do it, looking for confirmation that he thought it would be cool. He just told me to do it.
No matter what he answered, I would have learned something about what Eric wanted in the game, which really just made it a win-win question.
Asking questions is one of those things that just make this question so damn great. In more traditional games, I wouldn’t feel it was appropriate to do it. And even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to improvise so heavily as I do in DW. I’m not that confident in my ability to improvise entire encounters in D&D, or even World of Darkness, but in Dungeon World it’s a breeze for me.
So, lesson learned: Ask more questions! About everything!
If you have tried Dungeon World, You will know that the gaming paradigm is slightly different from more traditional games. After GMing it six times, there’s a lot of stuff that I’ve learned and I want to share that.
In the future, these “lessons learned” will be posted under the category of the same name. It will make it easier for both you and myself to browse for them in the future.