Thanks for sharing your definition of sandbox. I find that interesting, but I'll get to that in a bit.
Why are you starting in the middle of a scene, or the middle of a dungeon? The game says to start with a "tense situation" not in the middle of something. In fact the first example is "outside the entrance to a dungeon." Of course we'll make it more clear since it may not be, but you don't have to start in the middle of something (you could, though) you just start with action. It doesn't matter if that action is impending or underway, you start with something for the players to react to.
This is how the game starts because the inverse is "start without something for the players to react to" which is the classic "you meet in a tavern" cold open. In my experience it kind of sucks.
Why are you as the GM telling them why they're there? Again, this could be more explicit (I'll make some changes now) but you're supposed to be asking questions, right? So you tell them the situation and ask what you need to. The point is not to ask them questions where one answer results in not having an adventure, like the tavern open: "A mysterious old woman comes up with a mission for you, do you take it?" If the players say no I guess we're done for the night.
This is all important because the first session isn't like the others. After the first session you make fronts (I've made this clear in Beta 2 since some people were making fronts before the first session). That's when the world really starts whirling away on its own. Before that you're just kind of thinking of some cool stuff to happen (and to see what happens) after that you're showing an entire world in motion.
By your definition of sandbox, sure, Dungeon World is sandbox. The Front system is designed for that kind of living world idea. This isn't in conflict with the first session because in the first session there is no sandbox yet: the first session fills the sandbox with sand. Then you go play in it.
I'll give the first session another hard revision today because your impressions are the exact opposite: preping a dungeon and hooking in player contributions is EXACTLY what you do in the first session (with various values of prep). For me personally prep usually means a Tony Dowler map and some ideas for monsters/big bads.
Overall this discussion has pointed out some omissions in the first session section. In particular:
- Don't make fronts (already fixed)
- The first scene needs to be something to react to, action happening or about to happen
- Prep some, tie in player answers, run with it
- Start by telling the players what your prep is, more or less: "There's a goblin camp that's been raiding the village, you're going to deal with it" or "The wizard Grundloch is up to no good, you're going to be tracking him down."
On contradictory plays: I don't know that I've seen two play reports that are contradictory. They run on a scale, certainly, but they as long as they're consistent with the rules I don't see too much variation. Hell, Adam and I have different styles that both work with the rules. What seems contradictory to you?
Like I said in my last post, we're presenting a default tone that mixes two elements so naturally some people take more of one or the other. Some games are more drama-oriented, some more gonzo, but I don't think I've yet heard two that both played by the rules and yet still seemed like different games. I'm curious about that for sure.
There is no social tightrope to damage. Use it as often as you please. The reason we emphasize non-damage GM moves is that people tend to forget about them in the heat of battle. Especially if you're used to 4E you can easilly default to damage. Don't! Default to looking at the situation and seeing what could happen, then pick out an element and realize it. If damage is the clearest response, do it. If there's another option, do it. Just don't think of damage as the default GM move, it's not. And don't use damage as a soft move, it's not (instead present the damage as incoming and Show Signs of Doom).
I'll have to listen to the podcast eventually, or maybe Josh can stop by and talk to us about it, but here are some things from the rules that answer your questions:
A move can start with naming the move or with the fictional action, but the fictional action is REQUIRED. Direct quote (as of Beta 2, but I'm 90% sure this is unchanged since Red Book): Dan can't just say "I'm Hacking and Slashing!" [...] The GM's response should be "okay, how do you do that?" or "what does that look like?"
Players have narrative authority in what their character says, thinks, and does; the GM has narrative authority over the world ("The players get to say what their characters say, think, and do. The GM describes everything else in the world.") However, some moves give authority to one person or another about certain things. Additionally, the GM can ask questions of the players, especially when they don't know an answer ("You don't have to know everything. If you don't know, or you don't have an idea, just ask the players and use what they say.") I have no idea how this lines up with Josh's ideas or what he said. Compared to, say, 4th Ed D&D this is a lot of player narrative control.
The Bloodstone Idol was deliberately a Big Deal dungeon. That said, it's in the tradition of other dungeons that have had competing factions, multiple bad things going on, etc. Caves of Chaos to Temple of Elemental Evil, its something that I like in D&D dungeons and it makes for a nice showcase of a number of things. The Bloodstone Idol is a complex with many people in it, but that's not the only way to go.
The opening scene to Raiders isn't a great example of a dungeon (or a Dungeon/Adventure Front). It's entirely linear and there isn't much to it. That said, even there you could see multiple Dangers in the front: the doublecrossing assistant and the tomb itself.
A better Indiana Jones example might be the entirely of the Temple of Doom. That is a big place, with many things going on, and many types of danger, firmly situated in a landscape. That's a pretty decent Adventure Front right there. (Though yeah, the movie ain't that great.)
For the first session the dungeon is largely left to you, though I will buff up our guidelines. Taking a first shot at writing some: think of an interesting location, one that you can immediately describe in a number of ways. Think of something dark and dangerous that could be happening there either intentionally or as the confluence of larger events. Think of what bad things could come from this if left unchecked. Finally, think of one additional danger orthogonal to the main threat, something that complicates stopping it.
I'll let Josh speak to his own work, but from what I read it's smaller scoped than Bloodstone Idol, nothing quite so huge. Maybe that's more what you're looking for? I don't quite see how the size and complexity of the dungeon is a defining feature of the game.
A final note on playstyles: Dungeon World has been pretty popular and we've encouraged a lot of posting about it, so you're sure to hear of other people's games. Sometimes they won't be to your preferences: some people find The Walking Eye too gonzo, for example.
It's down to you to think that through and play the game according to the rules and your style. We're not arbiters of what you can do with the game, we're here to provide a solid consistent foundation. If you take it a little more serious, go for it, just make sure you're abiding by the agenda and principles. If you want to go back to your teenage wacky games, go for it, but keep the agenda and principles in mind.
There are a multitude of tones you can take while still presenting a fantastic world, filling the characters lives with adventure, and playing to find out what happens. Go for it.
Of course there could be some people who don't play by the rules. That's fine too, you can ignore them or use them as inspiration for your own play. If you want to be sure you're playing the game "right" just play by the rules as written.
Adam and I say what we want about the game through the game text. Other people's contributions, either though play reports or projects like Beyond The Devil's Reach or Planarch's Guide, are entirely up to them.