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I'm looking to GM a game with a few friends (2 players total besides myself, with maybe an occasional 3rd thrown in.) I have some familiarity with D&D 5E, but the mechanics in that are balanced around more people in the group. I'm also hoping to find something that I can get the players into without them having to read too many rules to get started.

After doing a bit of research, it looks like Dungeon World might be a good fit, since it seems like it would be pretty reactive and scalable. For those who've used this system before, do you think it will work okay with such a small group? Any recommendations on what kinds of adventures to start with to keep things engaging with only a few people involved? Any recommendations I should make to the players during character creation to help keep things balanced? (i.e. are there any need-to-have classes in Dungeon World to make for a good experience?)

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Dungeon World works great for smaller groups (Though it probably wouldn't be as much fun with just one player.) for exactly the reasons you cite. Things tend to happen reactively - monsters don't, strictly speaking, get "turns", but rather, act when a PC rolls badly or doesn't act to stop them. Similarly, the game isn't nearly as 'party synergy dependent' as D&D - while each class has their own strengths, you don't need any of them in particular.

In terms of character creation advice, I'd mostly just let them pick what appeals to them. It's not an awful idea to have some sort of source of healing, but if they don't, things should still work out okay; Many classes have the option to start with some healing potions, which should be enough to see them through one adventure, anyway. There are definitely no "need to have" classes.

For an adventure, I recommend starting with some sort of adventurous situation, and then using the Principle "Ask Questions and Use the Answers" to get the players to help you build the situation into one that bears directly on their characters. For example

"You're standing on the winding path leading up to the foreboding fortress of the Wizard King; Gargoyles gaze darkly down at you from the battlements, and a horn sounds from within the walls. Hrothgar - what has the Wizard King done that you must claim vengeance for? Fiznulf, what secret errand do you have within the walls of the fortress?"

If the answers to the questions don't give you enough to work with, ask a couple more questions. "So you say he has abducted the daughter of the chief of your tribe? Why is that enough for -you- to go seek to rescue her?" or "You're looking for the Orb of Thastar? What does that do? Why do you need it?"

Play the game according to the agenda, principles and moves in the GM section - paying particular attention, in this case to the moves "Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities" and "Show a downside to their class, race, or equipment" - since these are particularly engaging in a small group.

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