Some Dungeon World Questions, answered

Last weekend I got an email from Pierre in Quebec. As a new player and GM, he had some excellent questions about gameplay. We had a good chat by email and, as I think I’ve seen similar questions pop up at the Dungeon World Tavern before, he very kindly agreed to my request to post the conversation online. So here we go!

Hello Joe! We had our first session this morning with the Planarch Vault! We had a lot of fun! I was playing with my wife and kids (7 and 9) who have no experience with RPGs, and I was GMing for the first time! So there was a big learning curve, but we still had fun!

If you don’t mind, I have a few questions concerning the DW rules.

Hi Pierre,
That’s truly awesome, I can’t tell you how excited I am you enjoyed playing this with your family!
Regarding your questions – first, these are just my thoughts. DW is a very flexible game, and other players may have different advice (or you may find, with more experience, a different way works better for you.) This is really a good thing! Broadly speaking, it sounds like you had the right idea though. Anyway, to your questions!

AID MOVE:

Can an aid move always be performed? Can someone aid another player each time that player tries to do something? It kind of slows down the game.

Provided the PCs are in a position to do so, they can aid whenever they like. So, if the cleric has been tackled to the ground by half a dozen shapeshifters and the fighter is about to be ambushed on the other side of the room, the cleric can’t do a thing! What I normally do is prompt anyone (who could do so) if they want to try aiding if one of the other players has just rolled a 6 or a 9 and could really use that +1 bonus.

Also, while you should always stick to the fiction, you want your players rolling as often as possible. The more they roll, the more you get to do! (On a 7-9 result, the aiding player puts themselves in danger. Have fun with that!

SPOUT LORE:

When the players first met Oliver, they were already conscious of the shapeshifters and of the possibility that Oliver maybe wasn’t really Oliver.

So when they were trying to find a way to confirm his identity, one of the players said that when they accepted the mission to investigate the Planarch Vault, they probably got some information on the Wardens. In my mind, that initiated the Spout Lore move. So I had them roll and the player rolled a 4. Having failed the roll, I came back by saying that this was their first mission, and evidently they came ill-prepared… they had no information on the wardens.

Did I play that out ok?

Yes, that sounds very similar to how I would use Spout Lore. It’s all about the PC taking a second to think “hmm, I remember something about that!” If you as GM aren’t convinced it’s a fact the character would know, don’t forget you always get to ask the player “how do you know this?”

In the case of a failure on Spout Lore, a good GM trick is to turn the move around. For example, maybe the failure means a shapeshifter has been spying on the character from the vents all along, and has noticed his armour is weaker on his back…

Incidentally, my playtest group didn’t stop to consider if Regulus was the shapeshifter… then the templar let him borrow his gun!

DISCERN REALITIES

Do you consider that just having a first look around a room initiates the discern realities move?

No. As the good book says: “To discern realities you must closely observe your target. That usually means interacting with it or watching someone else do the same. You can’t just stick your head in the doorway and discern realities about a room. You’re not merely scanning for clues—you have to look under and around things, tap the walls, and check for weird dust patterns on the bookshelves. That sort of thing.”

To me, that plays out something like this…

“GM: OK guys, you step off the lift onto the prison level. You see a mass of writing shapeshifters in the middle, looks like they’re beating someone up. Is he.. laughing? That’s weird. It looks like all but one of the cells is open. The wardens’ office is in a shambles, papers and stuff everywhere. What do you do?

PLAYER: I discern realities?

GM: OK, how are you doing that?

P: Um… looking around?

GM: Well obviously, but you’re trying to see the bigger picture here. How are you investigating the area, trying to discover handy clues, that sort of thing?

P: Oh! OK, well obviously I’m being super-sneaky and just hanging around the outskirts of this fight, trying to work out who the guy in the middle is.

GM: Sounds good! Roll+WIS. [Since he’s discerning realities about the fight, the GM won’t say anything about the altar in the warden’s office unless the player changes how they’re investigating.]

SPAM HEALING

At the end of one of the fights, the cleric was trying to heal one of the other players. But she was really rolling badly. So she cast the spell 3 times. Is that permitted? And when she was choosing to put herself in danger, I had no idea what to do considering that they were not in any real danger at the time. Do you have any examples of what you would have done?

As a rule, I try to limit ‘spamming’ of a move. Letting others aid is a good way of turning a near-miss into a success (see above). If someone’s cast the same spell 3 times in a row and failed, then in addition to whatever consequences of failure the move dictates, they have also spent a lot of time ignoring any other dangers around them. That’s possibly a good opportunity for you to make a ‘hard move’ – something nasty the player didn’t see coming, because their attention was elsewhere.

Obviously this is more true for some moves than others – a single hack-and-slash roll is unlikely in combat, for example.