Recent Comments

Free associating GM prep work via player input

I’m running a DungeonWorld one-shot/miniseries for some friends in a week or two, and I’m doing my damnedest to follow the suggestions from the book to keep planning at a minimum for session number one. I don’t want to be completely empty-handed and rudderless for our first adventure, though, so what to do?

A week’s delay for our first session gave me a chance to try something out: a free-association exercise for the GM, created via player questionnaire. The email I sent to my four players had simple instructions to pick one word from each group of three, and send the reply just to me. The list was as follows:

1. desert | forest | island

2. cavern | ruin | tomb

3. castle | village | wilds

4. trade | war | magic

5. cultists | sorcerers | mercenaries

6. stars | stones | sigils

I didn’t give any clues as to what each group meant, though there are some obvious categories at play: setting for #1, baddies for #5, etc. I had ideas in mind of what elements I was addressing with each set of three words, but depending on the results I get back, I’m letting myself stay open to whatever inspirations strike me from the final combination. I’ve received a few already, and each is different, and conjures up a different suggested world and setting with just a simple six words.

(Hopefully, with three choices and four voters, we’ll avoid any ties—who gets the tie-breaker vote should there be any 2/2 splits, I haven’t decided yet.)

I think this method could work nicely for any DungeonWorld game and a lot of traditional D&D games besides. Here’s the six categories I had in mind when creating my list, each of which is relevant to play:

1. Environment/climate

2. Adventure sites

3. Steading/home base

4. Notable local specialty

5. Crafty adversaries

6. Sources of wonder & omens

I think this is a good way to put the GM principles of DungeonWorld to use in a slightly different context. You’ve got the questionnaire for players (ask questions and use the answers) and a free-association for the GM (addressing the draw maps, leave blanks and play to find out what happens precepts). Sending the replies just to me lets me have player input and maintain a sense of mystery, too! Fingers crossed that this makes for a fun set of sessions.

Postscript: I should also add that this is a socially-polite way to be a little selfish, too. This is good! Choosing what words to put on offer is a kind of limit-setting without forcing things, and can guide the direction of your players’ ideas without having to shoot anything down. Tailoring the list of options to your own tastes (in a broad-minded way), before offering choices to your players, can set you up for better GM buy-in from the start.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

« Icon inspirations for Cabin Wars!, my GameChef 2013 entry | Main | The genre problem undermining BioShock: Infinite »

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>