Ok, despite the very sage (pun intended) advice in DW to have Fronts and Dangers the purvey of the GM I’ve been desperate to embrace the pick-up-and-play principles and agenda with strong player shared authorship in mind. I want the players to make moves that tell me what Dangers they want to interact with. Why? Because I want to embrace their version of the fantastic too, I’m their biggest fan, and the flags they are given to choose from; namely their classes, moves and bonds are sometimes not as specific as a direct key or belief. Plus it means I become more of a games facilitator than games master. So in that vein I’d like to offer a few of the things I’ve been mucking about with as we play Dungeon World.
My job is to provide antagonism to the player characters through adversity right? The dangers within fronts personify this antagonism, make it direct, part of the ‘right here, right now’ action (move) driven fiction that we generate at the table. A Front is simply a grouping of dangers into a cohesive story element for the players to interact with, the impending doom gives that Front element immediacy, the grim portents establish consequences. How can the players help me with my lonely GM fun? Tell me what they want.
Sage says of chargen;
‘During this entire process, especially character creation, ask questions. Look for interesting facts established by the characters’ Bonds, moves, classes, and descriptions and ask about those things. Be curious! When someone mentions the demons that slaughtered their village find out more about them.’
Lets take that one step further. What if there is no mention of a danger by the players? Grab a first session blank page and ask each this: Which doom embraces your darkest fear? Why? Choose: (these are straight from the Front chapter)
*Tyranny (of the strong over the weak or the few over the many)
*Pestilence (the spread of sickness and disease, the end of wellness)
*Destruction (apocalypse, ruin and woe)
*Usurpation (the chain of order comes apart, someone rightful is displaced) *Impoverishment (enslavement, the abandonment of goodness and right)
*Rampant Chaos (laws of reality, of society or any order is dissolved)
Now then, what danger’s impulses push toward this impending doom? The players may have already elucidated some monsters or NPCs that slot nicely into place, but sometimes not. So push a little and find out what they are interested in. Have the player’s choose a danger category they find filled with adventure and write it on the sheet.
There is a move in there somewhere, but I haven’t grokked it yet...
This is all you need to create a front based on the players interests, though If you feel they are trying to narrate extra detail (specific dangers or impulses) without prompting they are probably making a move! Either spout lore or discern realities can give them the mechanical reinforcement of this colour into the situation at hand, whilst making your job via re-incorporation that much easier!
So a front is a few dangers, the most effective being two dangers whose impulses are at odds with each other. This gives you instant narrative tension. The Bloodstone Idol is a good example of this. The Turf War Front has the two Horde dangers with opposing impulses, the Bloodstone Front has an Arcane Enemy and a Cursed Place which are at odds. So do the same. Go with your immediate gut reaction. Make it obvious even, jot it down. Tie them to the player’s bond questions. If you have things you wonder about, jot them down too as they are likely to manifest as stakes.
Say the Good Cleric player whose god sanctifies The Downtrodden and Forgotten through sacrificial ritual has identified a fear of the world descending into chaos and has the desire to adventure against a Planar Force of Chaos (impulse: to destroy all semblance of order)?
You already had a few ideas spinning around your head during chargen about an apposing evil Religious Ambitious Organization who is all about bloody conquest in the pursuit of their (impulse: to establish and follow doctrine). So you go with that. Easy.
Looking at the Planar Forces GM moves, you predict that the Chaos Lord will breed unrest, and turn the Evil cult to their own chaotic ends. The impending doom of the front (laws of reality, of society or any order is dissolved). But you have a few ponderings.
*Will the cleric make a stand against the Chaos Lord by allying with the rival cult?
*Who in the War Cult will turn to chaos first?
*Will the evil PC fighter, (who insulted the cleric’s religion in bonds) a lay member of the cult, be tempted by the Chaos Lord’s offerings of power?
*Does the chaos lord serve another?
*What traps will the Cult have in its Temple to challenge the thief?
You have a few ideas for the cast of each danger. Obviously the Chaos Lord, and his minions, perhaps the head honcho of the Evil Cult and his warlike priests. You have a few ideas for locations, maybe an ancient temple, a wasteland, an abandoned city of the ancients, crumbling and arcane. The wizard mentions a cursed tower in the wastelands that holds the key to untold power. Hmmmm best keep that juicy morsel available!
That’s just one player! Once you have the fighter’s choices (and the thief and the paladin and the wizard) your game will write itself. Just have a few of Tony’s micro dungeons at hand, or draw your own on the fly. Remember that a dungeon is primarily made up of Interesting locations – these are areas of the map where cool things are happening - and Uninteresting locations – which are areas of the map which are often added to make the map complete and logical. Tie the interesting locations identified through spout lore or discern realities to a danger and its impulse and voila! Dungeon done. Pepper with spice and some atmospheric jottings (like in the dungeon starters) and you are good to go.