2015-12-26 Benefits of Dungeon World

Doug Anderson asks on his blog: “What existing flaw or limitation in traditional RPGs does Dungeon World address that makes it worthwhile to play?”

  1. Traditional RPGs have a well defined turn structure in combat, which can be boring where as Dungeon World has no defined turn structure and that results in a more cinematic flow of action
  2. Traditional RPGs don’t teach referees when it is dramatically appropriate to escalate the action; some games provide procedures like random encounters and they all encourage you to draw maps and populate locations, others encourage you to railroad; where as Dungeon World has player facing dice mechanics that are tied in to referee facing procedures, providing clear indication for referees on when to do what kind of escalation
  3. Traditional RPGs encourage you to spend a lot of time to prep maps and locations and timelines where as Dungeon World prep provides a framework for improvisation of events and locations without needing well defined time-lines and maps

The cinematic flow happens because the referee starts by threatening a character, the character reacts and ends up making a move. If the move was a success (they rolled 10+ on 2d6), the player keeps talking, or another player starts talking, until one of them ends up making another move. If the move was a partial success (they rolled 7–9 on 2d6), the referee is to make a soft move, that is, upping the ante, threatening the players with more enemies, a deterioration of their situation, whatever. Something gets worse but there are no immediate consequences. If the move was a failure (they rolled 6- on 2d6), then the referee is to make a hard move, that is, dealing damage, separating party members from the rest. Something bad happens and there are immediate consequences.

When players are succeeding but stop talking, looking at the referee, same thing. The referee makes a move (announcing trouble up ahead, dealing damage, depending on the situation). When players walk into a situation where the fiction dictates consequences – walking into an ambush they know about – then that’s the same thing. The referee makes a move (again, announcing trouble up ahead, dealing damage, depending on the situation).

So basically, there’s a natural back and forth, a conversation, between players and referee. It’s like a movie. We are following the action with out mental eye. There is no turn structure that dictates who’s next. If the camera stays focused on a character, because we keep talking about the character, then that’s that. The onus is on us, on everybody at the table, to provide spotlight for every character by involving them in the action. No turn structure ensures that your turn will come up, eventually.

As for prep and fronts, I’ve written about using fronts a few days ago.

Thus, if a newbie friend comes up to you after a session with a traditional role-playing game and says “I ran it by the book but the session fell flat; I prepared so much but it just wasn’t enough,” what do you do? You can invite them to your game and show them how you do it. Oral transmission of how to pay is important in traditional games because the books aren’t very clear on that. Or you could say something about not needing to prep so much and winging it, of improvising more. That is, the oral transmission starts right away. Or you could tell them how Dungeon World solves these problems.



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