Discerning Dungeons

Ran Dungeon World last night, dealing with a little bit of the aftermath of the last session, a fight among poison gas, and bringing one of the groups that had been in the background much more strongly to the forefront. Despite a decent fight in the middle, it was a fairly low key session. Some of that was a consequence of really fantastic dice luck all around the table. I think I handed out maybe 2 points of failure XP over the course of the night, which is unprecedentedly low for this group.

Some of that was luck, but as I review it, part of it is a consequence of a technique I tried.

I have a very rocky relationship with Discern Realities as a move. When it works, it works well, and it can be a wonderful way to kickstart a slow scene, but it’s not always a good match for the actual situation in play. This issue comes up most often when issues of misinformation, deception and knowledge are in play, and I’ve tried a few different solutions to it.

Last night I opted to trust the move more, and pretty much forgo rolls in almost all information-gathering situations or situations where the characters information might be incomplete, opting instead to just answer. There were still one or two Discern Reality rolls, but they were appropriate to the situation.

Doing this went quite smoothly, which should be an argument in its favor, but I found it was not, at least for me. It reduced the overall number of rolls which, in turn, reduced the number of times things went wrong, which is rather critical to maintaining the pace of DW from my perspective.

Now, knowing that, I could probably compensate by upping the throttle on other rolls to offset it, but I’m leery of that solution. See, it’s worth noting that the other factor in play was that there were 6 players last night, which is a little on the high side. With a smaller group, it’s not hard to narrow down the focus of play and drive things forward with the dice, but a larger group is subject to action imbalances which I try to avoid. This is a big reason why I like informational rolls for a large group – when things go wrong, it’s often a lot easier to spread the repercussions around, especially because the players will often do the work for you.

This would also be less of an issue if I was not also looking to the dice for inspiration, but part of the appeal of Dungeon World is to enter with 25% of a plan and a confidence that the dice will fill in the gaps. That depends on a certain amount of frequency of rolling (especially out of combat) so I suspect I will keep my flawed understanding of information gathering. Not because it’s the right approach, but because it aligns with my needs at the table.

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