I am totally new to RPGs and haven't participated in a single game yet. However, I'm interested in the topic and today, I found a link to Dungeon World on this site and started reading.

There's something in the introduction that I need some clarification about:

As you play, the players say what their characters say, think, and do. The GM describes everything else in the world.

Does this mean that a player who plays a character with a hidden agenda will say things like <weird voice>Oh, you're going to sleep? Hee-hee, good, easier to poison you when you're asleep!</weird voice> in addition to saying <other weird voice>Oh, ok, good night then.</other weird voice>?

Is that something that happens in most RPGs or is it more specific to this one? Other questions on this site mention interesting stories involving a player whose real character is only known to that player and a GM, but I don't know whether these are rare things that some people come up with or whether it's a common thing.


6 Answers 6


Sigh, I think others are making this more complicated than it is and aren't answering the right question.

Perhaps it will make more sense if you restate that brief blurb as:

The players determine what their characters say, think, and do. The GM describes everything else in the world.

You "say" what your character does, the GM "says" (aka determines) what everything else does. That's all that part of the rules is trying to convey to you. It's not making a statement about whether you speak your thoughts out loud or not.

Now for the truly tangential "do you say your thoughts," it depends on your style of game. If it's an in-character type of game you don't, you express yourself as your character would. If it's more storygaming, like in Dungeon World, you can say what you are really thinking, narrate lengthy flashbacks, and otherwise express your character's life of the mind, but this is situational, not stream of consciousness spouting. If you are more of a tactics player in say D&D you may or may not bother with such in-character frippery amidst the "you should flank him to get the extra +2 next round" table talk.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you're bang on the confusion is that "say" can be read as both "say aloud", and "determine" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 4:11

As you play, the players say what their characters say, think, and do when it's relevant or interesting to the story. A good exercise would be to imagine you are reading a book. On a book you usually knows when a character feels fear or anger, but their evil betrayal is kept until the finale.

Normally, characters' thoughts are shared like in these examples:

  • Oh, man, Severus is so mad for not being invited at the ball...
  • I look at her as she walks away. I'm so in love/I'll totally do her.
  • My character thinks he is about to die, so he runs without looking back.
  • I want to be the first to open the chest, so I jump to it.

They are shared mainly because you want the actions or the mental state of your character to be understood or underline.

If a player has a hidden agenda and wants to surprise their mates, it's not necessary to state what he is thinking in the fashion you put. It is not necessary to share each thought "My character thinks that if the door is made of stone, it should be very heavy" or "My character thinks it's time to draw the sword. He draws the sword".

I recommend you to take a look at the example of play that comes with each roleplaying game.


It depends on how much players and GM intend to collaborate on the storytelling

In "competitive" games, players might not want to voice their tactics or strategies because doing so might cause other players to foil those plans. By saying that you plan to poison someone while they're asleep, the other player might quickly add "oh and he hires guards and locks the room" or whatever.

However, many RPGs are more "collaborative" and all the players, including the GM, work together to weave the story. In such cases, by voicing their character's thoughts, the GM gets some forewarning about what kind of plot the players intend to weave. Knowing that they intend to poison the sleeper, the GM might trash his or her plans for that character and re-write the story around this newly thought-up murder plotline.

It also allows players to collaborate their different characters' motives together. If one character is secretly planning to kill someone that another character is secretly planning to interrogate, the murder will unintentionally ruin someone else's plans. In this case, one player might mention that their character is thinking about murdering someone and the players might have a quick out-of-character huddle and decide on a collective course of action rather than end up with their characters in conflict with one another.


What's missing in the previous replies is anything specific to Dungeon World. You don't constantly share your thoughts in the manner you suggest, but a Dungeon World GM may well ask you what your thoughts are.

For instance, the GM may well ask the players for contributions if he doesn't know himself and thinks the results may be interesting, by turning a Spout Lore back to the players – you Spout about "What's a Ogre's favourite food", and the GM replies, "I don't know – what do you think?"

More specifically, the Bard's Move Charming and Open always requires that the player reveal his thoughts and feelings:

When you speak frankly with someone […] they may ask you a question from the list (which you must answer truthfully).

  • […]
  • How can I get you to __?
  • What are you really feeling right now?
  • What do you most desire?

You've got to reply with what's your character really thinks, not just what he says.


To add to the excellent answer from @Flamma, in our group we frequently describe what our characters are thinking when it helps to create better understanding of those characters. That helps to make an adventuring group more intimate, which is useful even if the characters don't all cooperate with each other. The more players know about each other's characters, the richer the interactions between the characters.

It also helps the gamemaster come up with interesting challenges and rewards. As a GM, the more insight I have into why a character acts the way she does, the easier it is for me, particularly when I am reacting to something the character is doing unexpectedly. As a player, when I sense that the course of action I'm taking my character down may not be what the GM expected, I try to illuminate the motivation behind the action.

  • \$\begingroup\$ My answer was going to be something about the whole "My character Roshi is likely thinking along the lines of X" but sometimes that's just a probing comment to see if the GM agrees that it's an in character reaction \$\endgroup\$
    – CatLord
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 6:22

The extent to which players share their characters thoughts usually depends on how much the group expects the party to work together.

In systems that aren't really designed for major conflict inside the party, many players will share their characters thoughts simply because it aids in roleplaying, by helping everyone understand the motivations of the characters.

In groups where intra-party conflict is anticipated, however, it's very unusual to share your character's thoughts, especially when they involve planning to do something harmful to another player character.

If you're new to RPGs, keep in mind that most (though certainly not all) of them are designed around the idea that the party works together as a team to overcome challenges, rather than fighting amongst themselves.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Intra-party conflict can be done with secrets or in the open, and in the open is not that rare. The difference is whether the players are collaborating on making the conflict interesting or if the conflict is meant to be more of a game in itself. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 23:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ The other difference in how intra-party conflict may play out is the maturity of the players to be able to separate player knowledge from character knowledge. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 21:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I disagree. The players control individual characters, but they're also each other's audience. Dramatic conflict between the PCs works a lot better when we can actually see and understand the dramatic action as it unfolds. Also, as a practical matter, doing weird complicated things without stating your intent tends to lead to confusion at the table (in my experience, most RPG systems' resolution mechanics kinda break down if the GM doesn't really understand what you're trying to accomplish); the alternative is constant "sidebars" with the GM, which disrupt the game's flow greatly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex P
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 14:01

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