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My group is currently planning to switch system from DnD 5e to some other system. One of the system I've been eyeing is Dungeon World, from the reviews of my community in Discord.

Right now I'm trying to get into what Dungeon World is by skimming through the questions here to get a feel of it, but I'm intrigued by one of the principles quoted in this answer:

Address the characters, not the players; Make your move, but misdirect; Never speak the name of your move; Begin and end with the fiction; and Be a fan of the characters are the most important principles. Without these the conversation of play and the use of moves is likely to break down.

I can understand the other principles, but I don't understand "Be a fan of the characters". Does this mean that you should strive to portray your character as the most heroical person in your party? Does this mean that as a DM you need to avoid killing your players?

What does this principle mean? What are the examples of it, and why this is an important, one of the core, principle?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you read the rules to Dungeon World? They're freely available and add a bit of explanation to each principle. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Dec 21 '19 at 8:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erik the pdf provided to me does not contain full rules, more like the quick start guide. I'm still in early stages of comparing systems, so I apologize if my search is not thorough enough. \$\endgroup\$ – Vylix Dec 21 '19 at 9:03
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The rules (including the unofficial SRD) clarify what "Be a fan of the characters" means.

In the "Gamemastering" chapter:

Be a fan of the characters

Think of the players’ characters as protagonists in a story you might see on TV. Cheer for their victories and lament their defeats. You’re not here to push them in any particular direction, merely to participate in fiction that features them and their action.

In the "First session" chapter:

Give each character a chance to shine

As a fan of the heroes (remember your agenda?) you want to see them do what they do best. Give them a chance at this, not by tailoring every room to their skills, but by portraying a fantastic world (agenda again) where there are many solutions to every challenge.

The very idea is that the Dungeon World game is PC-centric. The story you play should be a story about players characters. It should not be a plot the gamemaster already had in mind, where PCs were just random participants.

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It means putting the heroes first, before the story and the world

As a GM, you create the world and everything in it. Furthermore, as a GM, you have power to determine what is possible in that world. "Be a fan of the characters" means letting the players do awesome things to that world, instead of being limited by what you think should be possible. In D&D, I've heard this principle called the "Rule of cool."

Example

Suppose Surtur the Fighter wants to wrestle a kraken and choke it with its own tentacles. As a DM, I might not have envisioned krakens being chokeable (do they even have a neck? I'd never thought about that!), but be a fan of the characters pushes me toward letting the Fighter try anyway (by rolling Hack 'n' Slash), rather than being constrained by my preconceptions of the world. The decision for whether or not krakens are chokeable is mine to make, and I should make it in a way that allows awesome things to happen.

Contrasting to D&D

I, as a player in a D&D game, recently had my wizard get engulfed by a Gelatenous Cube. Under the rules of D&D, this probably should have prohibited casting any spell with a verbal component. My GM, though, as a fan of the characters still allowed me to cast a Burning Hands spell and immolate the Cube from the inside, "because it's awesome so we'll go with it." He even skipped the Cube's saving throw for it.

In D&D, that was a DM waiving a rule to let cool things happen. Many DMs do this, and many consider it to be good DMing. The only difference here is that in Dungeon World, it's right there in the rules that the DM should let cool things happen.

Specific Questions

Does this mean that you should strive to portray your character as the most heroical person in your party?

No. These principles are for GMs, not for players. This principle does not need to be applied by a PC.

Does this mean that as a DM you need to avoid killing your players?

Not necessarily. If you weren't supposed to kill people, there wouldn't be a Last Breath move. It means that if you do kill a PC, you should do all you can make sure their death is awesome and memorable, as befits a hero of the story.

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It means you should be a pool shark, but in a good way.

You're familiar with the term, right? Somebody who's so good at pool they can do what they want at the table and play exactly poorly enough to make someone think they had a good time and won legitimately.

And then they put money down and run the table, but that's beyond the scope of the analogy, not least because you don't play RPGs for money, you just play them for fun.

So the principle is a reminder: use your arbitrary amount of GM power to make sure everyone has fun.

And, yes, the principles are only for the GM. If a player goes in trying to, say, misdirect and never say the name of their move, they're going to be hoping the other players pick up on what they actually want to do in the game, and they'll be disappointed pretty often.

For further details, look back.

A lot of early hacks of Apocalypse World didn't go into as much detail about their principles and moves as Apocalypse World did, because a lot of it had been internalized as obvious. The Dungeon World explainer of the principle is pretty short, so lemme paste you the explainer from the first edition of Apocalypse World, currently available for free at apocalypse-world.com. ("Make as hard and direct a move as you like" refers to the language directing the MC, the game's GM equivalent, to make a move.)

"Make the characters' lives not boring" does not mean "always worse." Sometimes worse, sure, of course. Always? Definitely not.

The worst way there is to make a character's life more interesting is to take away the things that made the character cool to begin with. The gunlugger's guns, but also the gunlugger's collection of ancient photographs -- what makes the character match our expectations and also what makes the character rise above them. Don't take those away.

The other worst way is to deny the character success when the character's fought for it and won it. Always give the characters what they work for! No, the way to make a character's success interesting is to make it consequential. When a character accomplishes something, have all of your NPCs respond. [...] Let the characters' successes make waves outward, let them topple the already unstable situation. There are no status quos in Apocalypse World! Even life doesn’t only hurt.

"Make as hard and direct a move as you like" means just that. As hard and direct as you like. It doesn't mean "make the worst move you can think of." Apocalypse World [the setting] is already out to get the players' characters. So are the game's rules. If you, the MC, are out to get them too, they're plain [doomed]. [...]

Find what you find interesting about their characters, and play there.

So while there's nothing you can't do as a GM, there are limits to what you should do. You have unlimited license to come up with opposition, so don't hold back giving the PCs a victory. The PCs have much less ability to make up new important things about themselves, so don't break the ones they have.

This is different from not killing them - if the players do something knowing they're risking their life for it, and the dice aren't kind, they can go out, but they'll go out like heroes. It's when you decide to drop a fate worse than death on them that you should stop and think - is this me being a fan?

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