Dungeon World for two players

edited December 2011 in Story Games
My 19-year-old nephew-in-law is spending the holidays with us, and he's into all kinds of fantasy/RPG-ish video games, and as a result of that has developed a vague but more-or-less accurate idea that "real D&D" is somehow the root of a lot of the stuff he digs. So once he saw a shelf full of D&D and other RPGs on my shelf, he hinted that he'd like to play.

Since she's committed to making sure he has a good time at our house, my non-gamer wife is open to the idea. Hurrah!

I think we're gonna play Dungeon World, because it's the dungeon-y game I'm currently into, and it won't make any difference to them, since they have no gamer-nerd nostalgia for, say, the 1983 Red Box edition.

Any words of advice for playing DW with two players and one GM? (I've actually only played Apocalypse World before, not it's elf-based offspring.)


  • Do you have any particular concerns, Brian? I ran the Red Book for 3 at PAX and it was just fine. My only advice for running AW/DW for the first time is DON'T PULL YOUR PUNCHES. It's your job to be a fan of the characters, not to ensure that nothing bad happens to them or that they don't end up dead. High stakes and high drama is the juice that makes everything go. Don't actively try to kill them, but play the dungeon as the crazy, dangerous place it us.
  • I love playing with two players Brian! The PC-NPC-PC triangles are so easy to work with since you only have to be a fan of the two of them! Work real hard with their bonds, push them, poke them, re-incorporate an exisiting NPC into them. Are you going to play any of the adventure starters? If so, question them like crazy during chargen about their NEED (as a goal/flag) to go on said adventure, using snippets from the dungeon prep as hooks, then plonk them at the entrance of the dungeon. Threaten one of their values / wants (or just their lives) and start the moves snowball.

    If you have lots of other D&D stuff, use it! I like to have a stack of tiles, poster maps and minis/ cardboard standups handy when playing DW, having found that when a PC discerns reality about a location in the dungeon, I often throw the questions back at them and ask them to choose a suitable tile and plonk their minis down to 'represent' It makes no mechanical difference, but it can give narrative prompts and move cues (especially if the tiles are detailed) and does re-inforce the principle to make maps like crazy!

    Say YES (a lot). Unless it really interferes with your prep or previously established fiction, allow the players to narrate stuff in, co-authoring like mad, and then especially re-incorporate that story material.I always have a player's handbook, monster manual and adventurers toolkit on hand for this exact purpose. The blurb is great for introductions, the 'powers' give me descriptive hints for a custom monster moves. I also find the illustrations (pathfinder D&D products in particular) are very useful for 'illustrating' what the fantasy tropes are and helps players draw out their narrative potential.

    I would suggest too that you use the Ryan's BBC Xp variant. It works great for flagging and encouraging the players to chase narrative goals rather than moves based on their highlighted stats to level up.
  • I've run DW for two players a couple of times now, and it works wonderfully. Everyone has time to do everything they want to, and it's easier to build on what just happened and incorporate player contributions to the fiction. Both times the players picked very compatible bonds, so you end up with sort of Fafhrd & The Gray Mouser style duos rather than loosely-affiliated dungeoneering parties, which I really enjoy.
  • Awesome, thanks all! Good to know that two players doesn't void the warranty. That was my chief concern, I guess.

    To answer the questions, a) I have no particular questions, just wanted to see if there was any useful advice for me, and b) I'm using one of those awesome little mini-dungeon/inspiration playsets by (I think) Marshall Miller.

    Nathan, thanks for the alternate XP link. I will check it out.
  • Depending on what classes the players choose, you may have to adjust the difficulty of the monsters that you throw at them. I was used to balanced groups that included a fighter-type, so when my recent two-player campaign started with a cleric and an thief, I made the first session a bit tough and they both could have died unsatisfyingly against level 2 monster (no problem for a starting group with a fighter). Other than that, it works great with two players!
  • Actually, I would advocate *against* adjusting the difficulties. DW doesn't have the expectation that you'll go toe-to-toe with every monster you encounter. So, if a monster is too powerful to fight directly, the players will just have to do something else to best or get around it, and the rules are highly supportive of this by giving you many, many other ways of doing things. Making everything beatable by fighting just gives the players an incentive to fight everything, and that can be super boring.
  • What Johnathan said.

    Tailor your world according to the principles of the game, not the expectation of reasonable, defeat-able challenges. That said, the use of soft moves instead of "HARD MOVE, YOU DIE!" can help a player understand the danger and threat before them. So if you, in your GMly wisdom, know that the Ogre is going to kick the ever-loving crap out of your players, use soft moves to warn them. Be descriptive, make scary monsters scary without spilling any blood and let the players decide if they want to risk their butts in toe-to-toe battle.
  • The game was kind of a bust. We sat down to make characters, and started up, but my wife is deeply suspicious of any game that takes longer than an hour, so we didn't really get very far. C'est la vie.
  • Yeah, it depends on the kind of game you're trying to run, but it's something to be aware of in any case.
  • Ah, that's a shame. Any game longer than an hour is going to cut out a whole lot of RPGs, unfortunately.
  • What about 1 hour at a time? Play again and start looking for a juicy cliff-hanger around 50 minutes. It'd be like a Dungeon World comic strip - a little snippet at a time.
  • Yeah, she's just not into role-playing games. She'll acquiesce once in a blue moon, but so it goes.
Sign In or Register to comment.