I'm currently playing dungeon world with a GM who doesn't really like following Dungeon World's rules. As a result my GM often either decides to break the rules or to change the rules. I am of the opinion that the game would actually be a good deal more fun for all if we would play the game as it was intended.

In order to attempt to bring us closer to playing the game by the rules, I have taken to pointing out when we are breaking the rules and how we might follow them instead. This works in one of two ways

  • After the game I point out rules that have been broken repeatedly or ignored as a whole. For example "Hey, I noticed that we have not been marking XP after failures. I think that we should because ..." or "I noticed that you lied to the players on occasion X. While it might make sense in other systems the Dungeon World system forbids it because ..."

  • During the game I might point out minor transgression. For example one of our players was looking for a cat so the GM asked him to roll a discern realities. Upon success the GM simply told the player where the cat was. I pointed out that that is not how discern realities works and we backtracked a little bit and did things properly.

However I feel like the latter of these breaks the immersion of the game. I genuinely think that if we were more strict about the rules we would all have a better time (and another player has told me they think this as well), but interrupting the game to point out transgressions feels very nitpicky and pedantic, and no one wants to play with a hair-splitter.

On the other hand everyone has seemed pretty welcoming of my objections. Of the times I've objected in the game we've always chosen to make some change towards the way the rules dictate, and I think everything so far has been appreciated by the group.

When should I point out rule breaks? How often should I? How can I decide which things to enforce and which to let go?


5 Answers 5


An important aspect of most Powered by the Apocalypse games, including Dungeon World, is that the game is a conversation between the players and the GM with interjections as rules are triggered.

Playing Dungeon World means having a conversation; somebody says something, then you reply, maybe someone else chimes in. We talk about the fiction—the world of the characters and the things that happen around them. As we play, the rules will chime in, too. They have something to say about the world. There are no turns or rounds in Dungeon World, no rules to say whose turn it is to talk. Instead players take turns in the natural flow of the conversation, which always has some back-and-forth. The GM says something, the players respond. The players ask questions or make statements, the GM tells them what happens next. Dungeon World is never a monologue; it’s always a conversation.

Because of how the conversation and moves interact, it's extraordinarily important that everyone agrees that a move is triggered so that everyone can respond appropriately, as fiction or the moves demand.

Everyone at the table should listen for when moves apply. If it’s ever unclear if a move has been triggered, everyone should work together to clarify what’s happening. Ask questions of everyone involved until everyone sees the situation the same way and then roll the dice, or don’t, as the situation requires.

If you disagree or have a question about whether a situation triggers a move, or how the move was handled, you are empowered to bring it up with the group. You are already doing this and appear to be having some success.

My concern is with your question's premise about having “a GM who doesn't really like following Dungeon World's rules.” This is highly open-ended and depends on how familiar you are with the GM and why your GM is acting this way. Depending on your comfort level—if, for example, the GM is a close friend—this could be a one-on-one discussion between game sessions with them about the rules of Dungeon World and their desire to run it as written, or confusion about how it works, or how they want to improve their GMing. If they're less familiar, you may want to discuss it with the other players first, and broach the topic as a group after a session. For a hostile GM, you could decide to walk away.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for citing the rules. And on that topic, I believe one of the play examples also explicitly features a player questioning the DM (but I am away from my book at the moment). \$\endgroup\$ Feb 6, 2018 at 3:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JoelHarmon The Basic Moves descriptions in Chapter 4 all have examples where the players and GM discuss what’s going on before proceeding. \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    Feb 6, 2018 at 3:34
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ More than just discussion, a direct challenge to a rules decision the DM just declared. I found an example at the bottom of page 59, across from the Volley description. The DM declares something (12 damage), the player challenges that as 'a danger', and the DM reneges and says the ogre is mid-swing instead. I have the feeling there are more explicit examples, but I don't have time to scour the rest of the book just now. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 6, 2018 at 4:05

Ideally, never. There's a better time and place to do it. Outside of game time.

To get what you're after, you want to address the global, not the minute.

True, it's not too fun to play with "that person" who's always pouncing on this and that little diversion from rules. So don't behave like that person: That's what they live for, but, what you're after is something totally different.

So talk about your global, big-picture concern, which is that you aren't having fun and you think stock, unadulterated Dungeon World would be more fun than your GM's mismanaged game.

Yes, you can come prepared with a list of specifics, but, you'll plainly be using them to underscore your global concern, instead of being that rules-lawyer who can't wait to find the next infraction and use it as an opportunity to disrupt the game.

You're totally right that interrupting gameplay to point transgressions out isn't ideal. So, make time and space to talk about it outside of an active game session.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I was about to submit an almost identical answer, but this one is just too good. One thing I'd like to add is that taking frequent breaks is pretty common for healthy RPG pacing, so if you take regular breaks, do it then. And if you don't... maybe consider doing that? \$\endgroup\$
    – Robert
    Feb 5, 2018 at 23:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ How do you square this advice with the game's own advice to players to interrupt the GM when they make a rules mistake? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 6, 2018 at 0:09
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie "How do you square this advice with the game's own advice to players to interrupt the GM when they make a rules mistake?" The way I square it is, this game is too messed-up to nitpick each transgression in real time. OP doesn't want to rules-lawyer, OP wants to fix the pattern. That's a much different conversation than interrupting to point out a single instance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Beanluc
    Feb 7, 2018 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah. That might be useful to edit in to help frame what the answer is aiming to help with. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 7, 2018 at 22:38

Your question is very detailed about what you do and how you feel and very short on what others do and others feel (apart from a single parenthetical aside). It is clear that you want to play DW as written. It is unclear if your GM or the other players want to or they are happy with the way that it is being played.

This is pretty important.

There may be an objectively correct1 way to play Beethoven's 9th symphony, however, the way it is played is as interpreted primarily be the conductor and secondarily by the musicians. If the first violin is not happy with the interpretation then they can voice their concerns to the conductor after they finish playing and the conductor can consider and respond and possibly change. Alternatively, if the conductor asks for feedback during rehearsal about a particular passage, its fine to state what you think . I trust I don't have to explicitly link the analogy.

Its difficult to tell you how to proceed since the information given is so incomplete. For example:

  • Is the GM not following the rules because they don't know them or as a deliberate choice?
  • Is the GM mixing game systems and if so is it inadvertent or intended?
  • How is your feedback received by the GM? By the other players?
  • Does your feedback have an effect?
  • Do you get a response? Is is "OK, we'll do it that way" or "No, we'll keep doing it this way?"

Essentially, if your feedback is improving the game in ways you want and not pissing other people off: keep doing it. If it isn't/is respectively: stop doing it.

1. ... but I doubt it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Other players and the GM actually have been pretty receptive of my nitpicks of the 4 times I've pointed out something in game everyone seemed pretty happy to make the change. I'll update my question to make this clearer. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 6, 2018 at 0:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am pleased to see the ref to Ludwig van, not so pleased to see the down votes on an answer that helped me get a better feel for what's behind this. :( The point that people all working on the same project/thing need to feedback/communicate came across loud and clear. The last time we built a disabled access ramp to a home across town, the team needing to communicate effectively to get it all to flow "just right" rose up big time. This situation appears to be another case of "we > me" \$\endgroup\$ Feb 6, 2018 at 2:58

You shouldn't spend significant time discussing the rules during the game.

The rules are there for a reason, and that reason is so that every player has the same expectations of how the game is played. There is no requirement to stick exactly to the rules as they presented in the core book, but nearly everyone has an expectation of rules being consistently applied to everyone, every time. In the end this consistency is probably what you are looking for more than precise adherence to the core books.

If there is a discrepancy between what you expected and what is happening, you have an option to ask, "Well I thought we would do X because Y". Keep in mind, you are stating that the GM is doing something different than what is expected not something that is wrong. The goal is to keep it a discussion between you and the GM not a conflict.

You can make a quick case for why you expected it to be a certain way, no more than a minute or two. After which, roll with what ever the GM decides for the rest of the session. No one plays an RPG to argue over the rules, and even less people play to watch someone else argue over the rules. So be kind to your GM and fellow players during a session. Session time is a premium to be spent having fun.

At the end of the session if you still disagree with the GM, find a time to discuss it with them. Once again, make sure its clear you are just trying to understand how the game is going to be played, not there to prove the GM wrong. If you are working together to keep the game fun you will more likely be able to come to a good agreement, if you are trying to attack the GM, then the GM will become defensive and a resolution will be harder to come by.

A frank chat with the GM at some point may reveal that the GM is trying to figure out the rules, not trying to break them (I find that likely given your statement that most of your suggestions are being accepted). If that is the case than it is particularly important that you be polite and work with them to figure out the rules, not constantly telling them they are wrong. You don't want to discourage them from learning the system to the point where they aren't enjoying DM'ing.


What are moves? We just don't know.

Aside from, like, one move, Last Breath, which always goes off with the clear condition of some hapless PC running out of hit points, every move in Dungeon World comes out of the conversation. It might well be very clear to everyone that something has been triggered and what'll happen next, but the only thing you ever know for certain is that you think a move is or isn't happening.

But Dungeon World requires you to be tracking the conversation, involved in it, and accepting of it, no matter which side of the GM screen you're on. If you think the past 15 minutes have been a made-up waste of time, you're not likely to kick off the next 15 in any kind of constructive mood when the GM asks you "what are you doing?"

You still need to keep in mind is that all you've got is your own viewpoint, and you don't know whether what you have to say is going to turn out right or wrong. I mean, from a certain point of view, if somebody's looking for a cat and hits Discern Realities on a 7-9, then what's useful or valuable to them is where the cat is at, and if the GM didn't intend the whole "chase the cat" process to officially attain rigamarole status, they can just find the cat. If they hit a 10+ they're entitled to two more questions, of course.

If all of this sounds a bit confusing and contradictory, well, welcome to interacting with other people through the medium of language, hope you enjoy your stay.

In Short

  • Don't assume deception or ignorance on the part of your fellow players, GM or not. You are just a different point of view.
  • Speak up if you think it'll benefit people overall. Generally it'll be something to the players' benefit, since the GM has a bottomless bag of fiction from which to conjure possibilities. Or it benefits the table by breaking a deadlock and showing a move as the path forward.
  • Speak up only if you think you can explain yourself clearly and quickly.

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