Randomizing Questions

I read Tremulous last night. It’s very good – it’s basically Cthulhu using a version of the Apocalypse World engine – but it also did a really good job of illustrating to me the significance of some of the decisions that Dungeon World made. That’s not a criticism of Tremulous, mind you, just a general observation.

Anyway, one of the very cool bits of Tremulous is its scenario creation material. It does a great job of zooming in and out on the structure of an adventure,creating and tying together threads and so on. This cross pollenated with some thoughts I was having about my love of random tables[1] and some considerations on my mind regarding bonds. See, I love the mad libs structure of bonds in DW, and I like generating stuff that way, but normally I design these things in a GM-facing fashion, which is a poor match for Dungeon World.

So that got me thinking about using Mad Libs style generation to create questions, and I realized I had most of the tools right on hand. See, it starts with a table:

# WHO WHAT WHERE
1 Slim Jimmy The Plague Doctors The Raft
2 Professor Delvish The Godless Cavaliers The Infinite Academy
3 Chancellor Antika The Academy Scholars The Burial Pit

And so on. I currently have more “wheres” than anything else, but it will fill in over time. It’s ok if the columns are mismatched because the real goal is to just be able to roll up an element at a moment’s notice (and I’ll just use whatever die size works at the moment). The Where elements are points on the map, the Who are named NPCs, and the What are everything else. Obviously, there’s a lot of interplay between the elements on this table and fronts, but I won’t delve into that right this second for purposes of simplicity.

With that table, I just need to come up with a few templates, like:

[WHO] in the [WHERE][WANT] [CHARACTER]

This needs a separate want table, but that pretty easy:

  1. wants to question
  2. wants to recover an item from
  3. wants to collect a debt from
  4. wants to pay a debt to
  5. wants to deliver a message to
  6. wants to get revenge on

Expand as you see fit – if I was feeling ambitious, I’d steal a bunch from the DW appendix, but this highlights the idea.

(Note, I could expand it to end with “about [WHAT]”, but that feels a it too constrained. I might do that if I drop the WHERE[2]. 2 elements and one want seems enough.)

That’s how I would structure it as a GM, but for dungeon world, I’d tweak it a little, so that it becomes:

“Why does [WHO] in the [WHERE][WANT] you?”

And now that I’ve got the idea, I can start rolling out other templates:

“Why does [WHO][WANT] [WHO]?”
“Why is [WHO] poking around [WHERE]?”
“What is [WHO]’s interest in [WHAT]?”
“Why has [WHAT] been active in [WHERE]?”
“How did you piss off [WHAT]?”[3]

I’m going to fiddle around with this some, but I think this (and the “why are you broke” roll) may start being the icebreaker for a session.


  1. Including the MOST AWESOME table, created by one of my players, which we will be using for every Dungeon World session – the “WHY ARE YOU BROKE NOW?” table  ↩

  2. I may also need to fiddle with the numbering so the WHO and WHERE are from the same city, but that’s trivial.  ↩

  3. As a bonus, if I feel the WHO or WHAT lists are short, then you can turn any of those questions into a fill in the blank to create a new one.  ↩

4 thoughts on “Randomizing Questions

  1. Mark

    I am so glad that you’re doing all of this DW exploration in the weeks preceding my own home game. You’re looking at things in a way that I wouldn’t think to and my game is going to be better for it.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Chris Sniezak

    Thanks Rob. I’ve been doing this since I started playing dungeon world last year but it was just in my head, something I would just do because it made sense and not a technique to show people how to utilize the methodology. Now I can just show people this blog post and give them the methodology so they can build their own frameworks and understand. I’m glad there are people out there who are putting technique and methodology to the ideas.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Episode #113 – Blindsided » Misdirected Mark

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