I have this rich setting with plenty of details and it's not a published one that players read and know by heart. I'd like to give them a lot of information contextual to locations and events happening around. I don't know if I'm still in my D&D mindset but I see it like that. Not all characters know the same things.

In Dungeon World moves are triggered by players and I understand that instead of calling for a discern realities, you simply describe what's going on and players have to describe what they are doing and you'll then ask for the roll.

So how can I do that...with Spout Lore? I want the players to make ME Spout Lore through them in some way.

The easy way could be to tell them stuff like: This sword was forged by the elves of Lurandar by the elf king himself! But I'd like one of the players to naturally trigger the Spout Lore move.

How can I encourage players to trigger the Spout Lore move more naturally?


3 Answers 3


Using Spout Lore to reveal a detailed, pre-created world is contrary to the rules.

There is a caveat I should make here. I'm going to talk about rules the GM has to follow. You're welcome to not consider them binding rules, but DW as designed does. If you don't follow the GM rules, you're "voiding the warranty" on the game and it will not operate as advertised. You're on your own then. (Incidentally, this is a close paraphrase of the designers [on p. 159 and in various conversations] – it's not just me saying so.)

For reference, these are the GM's responsibilities:

  • Describe the situation
  • Follow the rules
  • Make moves
  • Exploit your prep

… plus following the Agenda and Principles.

So part of your job is to "exploit" your prep, as in mining it and twisting it for the benefit of the current game session. You also have to follow the rules, which includes your agenda. And your agenda is (p. 161):

Your agenda makes up the things you aim to do at all times while GMing a game of Dungeon World:

  • Portray a fantastic world
  • Fill the characters’ lives with adventure
  • Play to find out what happens

Note that doesn't say create a fantastic world – "portray" is a very deliberate word choice, as we can see by continuing the same quote (emphasis mine)…

Everything you say and do at the table (and away from the table, too) exists to accomplish these three goals and no others. Things that aren’t on this list aren’t your goals. You’re not trying to beat the players or test their ability to solve complex traps. You’re not here to give the players a chance to explore your finely crafted setting. You’re not trying to kill the players (though monsters might be). You’re most certainly not here to tell everyone a planned-out story.

So that's the trouble you're having: Spout Lore does let you, the GM, reveal a detail, but Dungeon World itself doesn't permit you to have revealing a big pile of pre-crafted details to be part of your agenda. Spout Lore isn't a opportunity to infodump on your players. In fact, it encourages the opposite with the agenda "Play to find out what happens." That includes about your world.

So why does Spout Lore not work well with pre-crafted worlds? Because in many subtle ways, the answers that players get won't be as interesting to them. The setting detail revealed existed before the PC did, so it's only maybe relevant or interesting to them and their adventures. (Note that Spout Lore requires the GM to say something interesting about the subject.) You are quite understandably going to be way more excited by pre-created setting details you reveal than the players are. If the Spouted information isn't as interesting as it could be, their motivation to use the move decreases. If it decreases below a certain threshold, they'll start seeing it as a "dead" move – one not worth taking when the risk is getting a miss. Other moves become much better value propositions for the same amount of risk.

Something created on the spot or quickly adapted to current circumstances and the flow of the game will be much more relevant and interesting to the players and their characters. By holding your world lightly in your mind and being willing to kill your darlings, you are serving the GM's agenda better. You're serving your players better, too. You can more easily come up with details that are pertinent, and more easily adapt the loose details you do have in your prep to your players' current game input, and as a result come up with something that's way better because it's leveraging the collaborative-narrative design of Dungeon World.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Your link to killing your darlings appears to be dead. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 15, 2014 at 7:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, @JeffFry: your edit was extremely borderline with "too-minor." Yes, it was a typo, and yes, it made the sentence a little confusing to read, but ultimately it probably wasn't worth pulling the question back up to the front page over. Here it worked out, since (I assume) d7's going to be editing to fix the link (and it's good that I noticed the link was dead), but please do exercise a bit of judgment before editing. At the very least, when you edit you should check the entire answer and fix everything: you should have noticed and (if possible) fixed the link if you wanted to edit. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 15, 2014 at 7:39
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @kryan, interesting. It hadn't occurred to me that a typo could be too minor to correct. Do we have written guidelines I should be aware of when editing? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jeff Fry
    Jun 16, 2014 at 13:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JeffFry Well, the page you see when you earn the Edit privilege has "Try to make the post substantively better when you edit, not just change a single character. Tiny, trivial edits are discouraged," and when users without that privilege make a "suggested edit," there is a decline reason "Too Minor" which says "This edit is too minor; suggested edits should be substantive improvements addressing multiple issues in the post." But I don't know of any definitive documentation on the subject; that's probably worth a Meta question. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 16, 2014 at 16:38
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @JeffFry But like I said, your edit was borderline, not outright bad, and in this case it was good because of the other issues that got resolved. The big rule of thumb is that, ideally, if you are going to edit your taking some responsibility for the entire post's content after the edit, not just the little piece you edit. Review the entire post to make sure you get as much done per edit as possible. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 16, 2014 at 16:40

I have this rich setting with plenty of details ... I'd like to give them a lot of information contextual to locations and events happening around. I don't know if I'm still in my D&D mindset but I see it like that.

Dungeon World will probably work better for you if you work with the players to establish the setting by asking a lot of questions at character creation and the first few sessions. You can have your setting as a fallback, but when the Cleric makes up a new god to worship, the Paladin's holy order is out to exterminate the Fishmen, and the Fighter is out for revenge against the Great Coven that murdered her sister, the party could be outside your history almost immediately.

Get the players to spout lore by giving them hints to find and asking them questions. At least for the first few sessions, explicitly suggest to them that they use spout lore to find out more information. The players should rapidly figure out how useful it is—even on a failure they earn XP for advancement. If they still don't want to spout lore, don't push them.

For your example:

"There's some writing on that Elvish blade you found."

"What's it say?"

"You could spout lore to see if you know more about it or can make out the script."

On a 10+, tell them about Lurandar. On a 7-9, you've got options, but you could tell them the name Lurandar and maybe hint at an NPC who might know more about their history or the blade. On a miss, you've got even more options, but ideas that come to mind are 1. (Reveal an unwelcome truth) Hint that there were nefarious fellows a city ago that were asking about such relics, or 2. (Offer an opportunity, with or without cost) Suggest that it might be valuable to the right people.


I don't know your group, but you can remind them that they mark experience when they roll a 6-.

This is something that few games do this well: *World games 'encourages' (some might say 'bribe', but not me!) players to take certain actions by rewarding with XP like nobody else! And they do it without remorse. It might be considered metagaming in some systems, but *World games have redrawn those lines.

I just mean, that they might be more likely to spout lore if they know they will be marking experience when they fail.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed, I was left wanting to know how you'd apply your answer to the OP's question. \$\endgroup\$
    – neontapir
    May 15, 2014 at 5:59

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