In Dungeon World, there is the move:


When you spend your leisure time in study, meditation, or hard practice, you gain preparation. If you prepare for a week or more, take 1 preparation. If you prepare for a month or longer, take 3 instead. When your preparation pays off spend 1 preparation for +1 to any roll. You can only spend one preparation per roll.

This move indicates that game-time is passing by rather rapidly in a short amount of play-time. In my games, time is very commonly slowed to the point of a CRPG such as Baldur's Gate, which I believe is due to my influence on it as a GM having played a lot of such games. This is occasionally not as fun as it could be for the players as it would be if we could skip to more interesting events, and our pace precludes the use of the move Bolster as well.

Now, I could speed up the action very simply as the GM by saying something like: "The party makes their way to X where they find Y going on and spend T weeks engaging in epic Z." However, saying something like that would violate the following rule:

Play to find out what happens.

Dungeon World adventures never presume player actions. A Dungeon World adventure portrays a setting in motion—someplace significant with creatures big and small pursuing their own goals. As the players come into conflict with that setting and its denizens, action is inevitable. You’ll honestly portray the repercussions of that action.

This is how you play to find out what happens. You’re sharing in the fun of finding out how the characters react to and change the world you’re portraying. You’re all participants in a great adventure that’s unfolding. So really, don’t plan too hard. The rules of the game will fight you. It’s fun to see how things unfold, trust us.

I think the players would have more fun if they would zoom out in time occasionally, but I'm not sure how to make that happen without violating a core principle of the game!


3 Answers 3


You can advance time whenever you get to make a GM move. The trick is to not have that last bit in your example of “and spend T weeks engaging in epic Z”. The part about “The party makes their way to X where they find Y going on” is fine, because that fits into GM moves (one for time passing, one for presenting a situation to react to)1. The part where the GM decides how they react is what is outside what the GM's rules allow.

But stick within the bounds of GM moves and this works fine.

My favourite for this is Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask because it has a very natural, conversational outcome:

GM: “Shall we skip ahead to the City of the Ancients? It'll take five days to get there through pretty safe territory.”
Players: [yea/nay/discussion/etc.]

The time it takes and what other things it will cost them (food, money for passage, accepting the help of the Navigator's Guild, whatever) is stated up-front, and you ask. Then play continues based on their answers.

The other GM move that applies is best when it's not so much up to them: Use up their resources. Time is absolutely a resource that you can arbitrarily use up, when it follows (and works to maximise fun, of course — er, I mean, fulfilling your Fill the characters’ lives with adventure Agenda).

  • Are they travelling overland in a wagon train and it's uneventfully boring as an empty bag of rocks?
  • Did they just get buried alive in a cave when the mouth collapsed, and you aren't interested in playing out “no, there are no exits… no, your sword can't excavate the rubble or dig through solid rock…” and it's otherwise reasonable that they're actually, really stuck until some times passes and an external event occurs?
  • Did they board a ship to their destination in safe waters with a trustworthy captain and crew?

Go ahead then, use up their time resource. This skips past all the boring parts that aren't any fun for them anyway, but naturally uses up their time resource as a consequence of whatever action they took that triggered your GM move.

  1. Between each GM move the players get to do stuff, of course. It's just that it's very likely that soon after your GM move that gets them to their destination and describes what non-GM-move stuff they initially see there, some player or other will look to you (for more information), after which you get to make a second GM move to use to introduce more interesting things. The nice thing about being forced to space out GM moves to follow the rules, is that it reminds me to slow down and allow space for that kind of brief but important pacing interaction to happen.

The cardinal rule of any fiction is "Skip over the Boring Stuff." When you watch a movie, you don't see characters moving from one place to another--unless they're doing something interesting while they move. It's the same with gaming.

If PCs want the benefit of Bolster, they're going to do a lot of boring stuff. When they recover HP naturally, they're resting, which is also boring. Research, investigation, travel, administration, all these things take up big chunks of character time, but as you point out, they shouldn't take up big chunks of player time.

Bottom line: don't bother playing to "find out what happens" if nothing interesting is going to happen. Agree with your players that an interval will go by and say, "This they now do."

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The question was more geared toward helping players realize they may be able to have more adventure if they pass through time more quickly, not sticking to boring events because I thought the rules dictated details. But still, this is helpful insight. +1 \$\endgroup\$ Aug 15, 2017 at 18:15

First of all, it looks like the Dungeon World modus operandi is one which facilitates the Game (Challenge) corner of the threefold graduum — somewhat to the detriment of the others. As such, if nothing is happening which so challenges your players, there is nothing for them to do, yes?

The key word / tricky phrase there is:

never presume

You tell them that there is a road between where they stand and some location which they've already planned as their destination. They say that they want to walk. You tell them that they are walking.
You can describe the scene in whatever detail they need or request; you listen to them if they say they want to halt and examine something or probe around for monsters — even if there are none there. If they really think something is nearby when it isn't, then you should be considering things like:

  • Do they really want something to fight here? Maybe there could be an ogre or two between those hills.
    This is probably best: vis–à–vis where it says

    don't plan too hard.

  • Is anything in my description inadvertently indicating something that would give them reason to detour? I should do a better job expressing just how safe or empty this countryside is.

You can describe things in such a way that you suggest how use of Bolster would be optimal in such situations as uneventful travel. Then, if or when they do say that they wish to use the Bolster action and to trudge along, step–by–step or mile–by–mile, you as the GM have an opportunity to advance time thusly.
They told you to do so.

Of course, they may change their minds on day 3 and wish to perform a few other moves (actions). You can measure the increments with your descriptions — i.e.

“Another day passes: much the same as the prior one.”

Because it looks like the Dungeon World rules prohibit asking players for a threshold of impatience — i.e. presuming responses to events with less significance than a certain severity, — this is where your skill at assessing the characters' interests — not the players' — comes in to feature.


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