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I am currently running a game of Dungeon World as a first-time GM.

In my party of 5 players, there is a barbarian who always rushes in to fight head-on, and also behaves very aggressively towards anything and anybody. He does a great job at roleplaying in character and IMO adds a lot to the fun we are having, as most of our players are first-timers, too. But on the other hand, we have a peaceful paladin and an also peace-loving druid; both would like to settle things differently. They are already so annoyed that they started plotting against him to lock him away and make him pause the game for a while, as they are also annoyed by him out of character (OOC).

I would really like to see them have some in-character (IC) dialog to settle things, because until now the only IC dialog happened on the few decisions they had to make. Especially the first time players are still getting used to roleplaying, and the barbarian (who is more experienced) helps a lot, so I wouldn't like him to be locked away or even killed.

Are there any good practices for encouraging IC discussion and dialog?


Note: We are now 3 evenings into the game, so its still pretty early and most of them are still getting used to playing. I wouldn't want it to end because of stuff like that, because they haven't even seen anything yet and it was a lot of fun so far.

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(This is advice for games that are played in person or in a largely synchronous setting like a chat. If you're playing by forum a lot of it won't work well just from your end, and you'll need to establish an alternate gameflow by sharing your players' concerns with each other up front.)

The hot-headed fight-happy freebooter who has to be restrained by the better angels among their companions is a reasonable character to want to play, and you can make it work, but not accidentally. It's possible for characters in Dungeon World to meaningfully clash with each other without running into the issues that might arise in a game with a more rigid action structure.

I'll say this up front: it's only going to work if both sides are okay with letting the dice settle this, and that means being okay with every possible outcome, as long as they get their chance. If Leafwillow and Sir Justice's players are cool with trying and failing to hold Grognak back sometimes, and Grognak's player is cool with trying and failing to get out from under Leafwillow (who is currently a hippopotamus with a wooden leg) sometimes, then everything's cool.

So here's how to make that happen. Well, first:

0) Nothing Happens Unless You Let It

Dungeon World is a conversation. When you're having a conversation about where to get dinner and somebody shouts "Jack in the Box!" you don't all just immediately go to Jack in the Box because it's the first thing somebody said, do you? You let everyone talk about where they want to go and make a decision together after hearing what everybody has to say.

In much the same way, when you're describing a tavern scene and mention a cloaked figure, and Grognak's player screams "GROGNAK SMASH!" and pitches some dice, that doesn't actually mean that Leafwillow and Sir Justice have to stand there poleaxed while Grognak smashes through three poker games and a marriage proposal to get at the cloaked figure. You're the GM. You control the universe. Nothing is going to happen until you say it does, and that means that you can take Grognak's input without saying what comes of it, and then turn to Leafwillow and Sir Justice and let them have their say.

Okay, they've all had a chance to tell you what they're doing in this open-ended scene. Now what?

1) How To Stop A Fight

Dungeon World has no concept of initiative order or equal goes. People take actions and get the opportunity to take actions as it is dramatically appropriate.

So, when Sir Justice stands in defense of the tavern patrons and rolls Defend, and when Leafwillow frantically grabs at Grognak to hold him back and rolls Interfere, this doesn't "use up their actions". It's not "Grognak's turn" again. You get to decide how the tavern reacts and who gets the spotlight as a result of it. "I'm going to let go" could turn out to be excellent leverage for Leafwillow to Parley with the cloaked figure, for example.

This second bit is the more usual flow of running Dungeon World, by the way. Everyone entangled in a dramatic situation, and you pick one person at a time to talk to and make some progress on their corner of it. For those times when you're just describing the world and not necessarily looking at anyone for an answer, you're not obligated to humor the first person to speak up - you weren't talking to anybody, so you can wait to hear from everybody.

2) A Little More Conversation

But you also mentioned wanting their characters to talk to each other more, which is also cool. So here are some ideas for letting that come out.

  • You can put a decent amount of "dead time" in Dungeon World, after you stop running down the collapsing building of the first session. There are Perilous Journeys to Undertake that last days at a time, Making Camp means there's a watch to set as people settle in for the night, and sometimes you need to wait until it's dark out, or bright out, or the dragon gets bored with inspecting every hidey-hole in the mountainside and flies away. In those times you can prompt for some reflection and conversation. Not, like, full-on community theater conversation, if that ain't everyone's jam. What do you talk about? Well:
  • Everyone's written bonds with each other, right? Grognak's put Leafwillow and/or Sir Justice in some of his bonds, Leafwillow and Sir Justice have put Grognak in some of theirs, and everyone's been okay with where they wound up? Everyone has to be okay, by the way. That's a rule. You can't write down a bond that one side isn't good with being a part of. They might not agree with what the bond says, but that's just what the character holding the bond thinks. Ask both people involved in the bond how they think it might resolve. Maybe a conversation's a good way to make that happen.
  • Heck, nothing says Leafwillow has to actually try and grapple with Grognak to roll Interfere. A stern talking-to can be just as distracting.

If people are okay with playing off each other dramatically, okay with not succeeding at their violence/nonviolence as long as they've had their go, then having some of your adventuring group butt heads now and again can make for some really satisfying drama. Just be ready and willing for either side to come out on top.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for the answer, i will try to keep that in mind. Like i said, i'm new to GMing, i guess i still have to get used to how much control i have. \$\endgroup\$ – WhiteMaple Oct 12 '18 at 17:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm. Right, I needed to consider that. I've added a little bit of something to clarify that you don't always need to wait to hear from everybody all the time. \$\endgroup\$ – Glazius Oct 13 '18 at 0:59
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Ideally, the Barbarian player is roleplaying the Barbarian, not actually being one, IRL. The player should be OK with staying in-character while letting his Barbarian be thwarted when the story calls for it.

The player needs to have impressed upon him that the story comes first - and the story is a team effort. As the GM, it might help to discuss this with the player out-of-game. It would make great (better!) screenplay to have the Barbarian try to bust the place up while his friends hold him back.

OTOH, if what the player really wants to do is bust heads, then maybe this isn't the game for him (you could at least point that out to him to help him see reason and not be so selfish).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yep, this is the key. You can play a character who is sometimes at odds with the party without making the game less fun for the other players. It's about working together as players to tell a story that everyone enjoys, even if the characters might not always be happy with how things go. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Nov 24 '18 at 6:32

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