New Dungeon World GM Wanting Tips

Hi folks,

I’m GMing my first Dungeon World game next week, and I’m very excited about it! I stumbled upon the system while searching for a solution to a recurring problem I noticed while DMing Dungeons and Dragons for my daughter and her friends. Basically, the energy in the room completely evaporated every time we entered a battle, and I just felt like the creativity of the kids was being squashed. As a 3.5e player, many years ago, I was always more interested in the story than the battles, anyhow. Also, telling stories off the top of my head is something of a dad-trick I’ve been using whenever my kid has had a nightmare for the last ~11 years. All-in-all, I think I might have found a really good match, and I can’t wait to get into it!

So far, I’ve read the book and listened to about 85% of the Dungeon World Basics episodes of Discern Realities (which is a great resource and just damn entertaining – thank you Jason and David!!!). I’ve also done probably more prep than I need, since this was originally going to be a DnD campaign. I’ll take any tips I can get, but there are a fewthings I am hoping to hear more about:

  1. Recommendations for a stat block for a mischevious/trickster kind of NPC mage. This is the Wizard Fennway, an entertainer and (though he keeps this under wraps) leading member of a motley, steamsub pirate gang. I kind of think of him as a Loki-esque kind of character. I know I could homebrew him completely myself, but I am suuuper new (and I’ve only been a GM/DM less than 10 times, anyway), so the security blanket of having a stat block that has been tested would be a comfort.

  2. For the pirates in-general, I found a stat block that looks good, but I was thinking of adding “Takes hostages” as a move. Feedback, please.

  3. A couple of the kids are desperate to be bird characters. They were originally going to play Aarokokra (spelling is probably wrong). Any advice on having a balanced flying move would be appreciated.

  4. Advice for running the game over Zoom. We don’t mess around with Covid, so we’ve been using Fantasy Grounds with 5e, which is…a bit of an overload of a program. Even when I was going to run this new story through 5e, I was going to do it over Zoom, and I basically just planned to hold up to the camera anything I need to show the players. Again, advice would be great!

Thank you for any help or insights anyone is willing to share!




First of all I have to admit being a bit of a novice GMing dungeon world and having played only a couple of sessions. So take the following advice with a grain of salt.

One of the main differences of playing DW in contrast to DnD is, that you don’t need a stat block for enemies, at least not in the sense you need one for DnD. Of course there are mechanics around for being hit. But that is not the essence of an antagonist.

Taking your example (lokiesque) character you need HP and armor. But to bring him to life, you need to ask yourself what kind of character he is and what characteristics are unique to him. When and how do his special qualities come to play? What triggers them and what are outcomes of the use of his powers?

Being asked for information he:

  • tells the truth - but omits big (important) parts of it
    “Yes the hostage is kept at the local inn” - but is already dead or there are 100 watchmen around.

  • tells the truth - but at a high cost
    “Yes, I will tell you where the princess is. But you have to kill the merchant to earn my trust”

These are outcomes which are - to a certain degree - covered by the standard parley move. If you want you could codify the behavior by creating your own move.

Interrogation: When being asked, even forcefully, roll + CHA. On a 10+ he answers truthfully but maybe incomplete. On a 7-9 he wants certain things to be done. On a 6- he refuses to say anything meaningful.

One could debate whether or not the 10+ result is not a 100% success like you would expect. OTOH it is a trickster, so getting correct information at all is indeed a success.

But this example should show that the focus is not on the stat block but on what the statblock stands for in the story. And that you don’t need a prefabricated stat
block in order to get your Loki working. And perhaps you should indeed homebrew your Loki because only you know how he comes to life best. And since you are asking for a safety net: use and bend the standard moves. These are abstract enough and battle tested. As I said: The parley move coukd work here. It says something about a leverage without detail. Maybe “murder” included.

The same goes for the pirates: taking hostages could be a result of a hard move. No extra moves needed.

As for the flying move I would go with something like the shapeshifter move from the druid:
Rolling dice to generate hold. Doing “special maneuvers” come at the cost of spending hold.
“Yes. You could fly across the plains” comes at 0 cost.
“In order to land on top of the watchtower being unseen you will have to use your special capabilities” will cost 1 hold. And having reached 0 holds the question what happens is up to you.

In summary: If you stick with the given moves and flesh them out with concrete scenario demands you have most of the times what you need. Even if you need custom moves you could take standard moves and tweak them to your likings.

Basically to play online you need very few resources:

Of course there are apps like roll20, fantasy grounds, astral or what have you. But in the end if you prefer a more theatre of the mind playstyle even zoom alone and some pice of paper and a bunch of dice will do tge trick.

Last but not least in case you didn’t know take a look at the DW guide:


The Gauntlet has pulled all it’s advice & guidance about online play into one place:


As @Thomas_Junk says I wouldn’t bother with a stat block, just a brief description that gives you clues when you come to play them. I have found the concept of Fate Aspects useful as short-hand for this …
‘The Mischevious Wizard Fenway’
‘Basically a coward’
‘Bark worse than Bite’
‘Runaway and fight another day’

In terms of HP then give him a handful or so but given his ‘aspects’ he’s not going to hang on to the bitter end, is he?

The other rule of thumb I’d suggest us that ‘the foe is overcome or withdraws when everyone has had enough combat rolls to get bored’


@Thomas_Junk – Thank you for the thoughtful and in-depth explanations. It’s funny, after writing the questions, above, I had about a half hour drive ahead of me. I listened to the rest of episode 7 of the DW basics series, and something finally clicked. It was like a light switch going off in my head to think about the “casts an arcane spell” move for deep elf that was described. I think the freedom of DW, as well as some holdover habits from DnD, were intimidating me. Thank you for the encouragement to homebrew this NPC!

I really like your move for how Fennway responds to inquiries – that is going to really help to connect the dialogue to the looming dangers I have planned. I think I am going to give him a move that gives his magic tricks real oomf, like he has made a pact with a demon so that, when he pulls a rabbit out of a hat or, say, escapes from handcuffs, that it isn’t a parlor trick, it really happens.

Thanks also for the idea about how to handle flying, that was a big worry for me!

@Alun_R – Thanks so much for the link, and I like your “getting bored” rule of thumb! With these kids, one round of DnD was enough to meet it!


I like a few aspects for the world too : “the ordinary townspeople is like a frog trying to get out of the frog bucket.” or “straw clothes and rusty spears” or “a cuckoo clock in every heart”. Sketchy is more suggestive is what I take Hemingway meant.

Also, maybe the trickster can take the guise of any NPC : you don’t even know who it is. Just pick the juiciest to twist and pour fresh drama.

Let the players bring most of the material : they do the pay in, you cook it and deliver the pay off.

Also, you can try this dice roller


Here’s my crack at the Wizard, Fennway, after all the great suggestions, above:

The Wizard Fennway:

The self-titled Royal Mage, the Wizard Fennway, is, in reality, a charlatan who trolls the social circles of the elite. He is desperate for praise and recognition, and he typically derives his financial support from the generous coffers of the aristocratic patrons whom he courts (until they get sick of him and dump him). He is a skilled and habitual liar. Recently, having discovered an ancient, arcane tome, he managed to summon and make a pact with minor demon to make his spells, which were previously mere acts of prestidigitation, have real world effects.

  • Habitual liar: When being asked, even forcefully, roll + CHA. On a 10+ he answers truthfully but may withhold information or otherwise bend the truth to his purposes. On a 7-9, leverage is required to get the truth. On a 6- he refuses to say anything meaningful or gives convincing, yet misleading information.
  • Demonic prestidigitation: When the Wizard Fennway does a parlor trick, the effect is real. Because the demon he’s made a pact with is a minor one, the strength of the magic is limited (e.g., he can escape from bonds and perfectly mimic someone else’s appearance or voice, but he would not be able to saw someone in half and then put them back together unscathed).

Everyone else has already given most of the great advice, so I’ll just add one thing: in Dungeon World, don’t sweat about “balance” as much. DW is definitely a shift in thinking, because it is intended from the core to support characters and their stories, whereas the D&D neighborhood is focused almost solely on tactical combat.

Whatever the players are up against, or whatever abilities they have, just thinking about it in cinematic terms instead of wargame stats-n-squares is a huge help, and very freeing, especially for kids. (I always like to use the opening scene from Guardians of the Galaxy 2 as an example of that. :slight_smile: Stupid overpowered on both sides, but still a dynamic, fun fight. OH! And that’s the other thing I love to do—just start off the first session in the middle of a fight, skip all the boring setup stuff, and work out everything backwards from there.)

And always remember that in DW, one of the GM rules is “be a fan of the characters”. It’s a heroic fantasy game, not a haha-you-rolled-a-crit-fail-now-trip-and-die-hero type of game, so let them be overpowered sometimes, and just have a great time kicking ass. Since you’ve got all the character/relationship stuff built in to pull on, there are much better places to hit them than in the HP. :smiley:

Good luck! Sounds like you’re already set to have a great time!


Habitual liar: When being asked, even forcefully, roll + CHA. On a 10+ he answers truthfully but may withhold information or otherwise bend the truth to his purposes. On a 7-9, leverage is required to get the truth. On a 6- he refuses to say anything meaningful or gives convincing, yet misleading information.

This is a very good first shot.

I would rephrase the 7-9 portion to

On a 7-9 he demands dark favours in return for any kind of information

This has 2 advantages:

  • You keep a mystery about what these “dark favours” are - which emphasizes the dark nature of this creature better than the neutral requirement of needing a leverage in general.

  • This move leaves it open whether or not the information given is (fully) true or not. So maybe he uses the PCs only as pawns in his game. Feeding them only with as much information as the PCs need to play his game.


About the only thing I’d add is that it’s important to make monster/NPC moves specific but versitile as opposed to ‘generic’.

‘Takes hostages’ is a weak move for a pirate. There may not be hostages there! The PCs may not care about whomever IS there! It may be lame to suddenly have your previously-independent tomboy NPC turned into a damsel!

‘Endanger something precious to a foe unless they back down’ is a STRONG move because it’s simultaneously specific to that GMC’s personality but also open-ended. It could mean they take your sweetie hostage, it could mean they hold a torch over the hold of your precious boat, it could mean they’ve got a flag that if they wave it, their henchmen will storm the palace. It tells everyone this is a weasel who will use whatever leverage they can come up with like it’s an improvised weapon.

Hope that makes sense. Sounds like you’re well-prepared, let us know how it goes!