Using DW style prep in D&D

Chapter art for Level 11 Troglodyte Warrens

I recently ran Level 11, “Troglodyte Warrens”, from Dungeon of the Mad Mage for Variant Roles. You can watch the first of the two sessions below (I will add in the second when it’s posted). Spoilers follow, obviously, at least for that level of DotMM.

In this little two-shot series, I decided to try something new and use the conversion guidelines for running D&D adventures in Dungeon World. That is, we played using D&D 5e, but I tried to run it as close to DW-style as I could in terms of structure. I wanted to create at least the impression that we could improvise and focus on the adventure rather than too much on rules and fiddling with the map, and I wanted ability checks and saving throws to focus more on consequences than on difficulty. (Because of the structure for this particular campaign, we didn’t do a lot of on-the-fly worldbuilding here.)

So the first thing I did was to convert the map to a node graph and ignore the “10-foot square” style.

Node graph for locations in Undermountain level 11

Then I created an adventure front for the whole level. This means identifying the cast in the level, the stakes for the adventure (roughly, the questions that the DM wants the group to answer through play), and what the different factions or major personas will do. I’ve included some of it below, without some of the repetitive bits.

Cast

  • House Auvryndar
  • House Freth
  • Troglodytes
  • Other Monsters

Stakes

  • Which faction will the adventurers support?
  • Will either drow house gain control of the level?
  • Do the troglodytes survive or go into slavery?

Threat: House Auvryndar (Ambitious Organization)

Impulse: to conquer

Moves:

  • Attack someone by stealthy means (kidnapping, etc.)
  • Attack someone directly (with a gang or single assailant)
  • Absorb or buy out someone important (an ally, perhaps)
  • Claim territory or resources
  • Negotiate a deal
  • Observe a potential foe in great detail

Grim Portents:

  1. Hold the line until reinforcements arrive
  2. Raid free troglodytes
  3. Push House Auvryndar back up to their stronghold
  4. Send slaves to stronghold

Threat: Troglodyte Resistance (Humanoid Vermin)

Impulse: to survive

Moves:

  • Assault a bastion of civilization
  • Embrace internal chaos
  • Change direction suddenly
  • Overwhelm a weaker force
  • Perform a show of dominance
  • Abandon an old home, find a new one
  • Grow in size by breeding or conquest
  • Appoint a champion
  • Declare war and act upon that declaration without hesitation or deliberation

Grim Portents:

  1. Turn on drow captors to rescue their young
  2. Defeat predatory troll
  3. Push back House Freth
  4. Rebuild homes

As I hadn’t done this before, I feel like I could have done a better job with some of it. I referred back to the keyed notes for the locations too much, for example, rather than just use dungeon and monster moves. Next time, I will document moves for those things and use them. More importantly, I will focus on asking questions and using the answers, one of the core GM principles in Dungeon World.

That said, I did feel in the moment like I spent more energy on listening to the players and responding to what they were doing than on trying to stick to a prescribed flow. The whole group had a great time, which matters most, and I will take this approach again in a couple of weeks when I run Level 13 on the channel.

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