[RPG] How do GM Moves in Dungeon World work in practice


So I was reading about the GM Moves in Dungeon world and I started to have a string of questions running through my mind… It went something like this (all within about 20 minutes)

Am I going to get headaches trying to keep track of using a move without blurting it out loud? Oh, maybe I can ignore them entirely, since they cover every situation? Which led to; What will I be doing with this list, will I memorize it, create a cheet sheet? Do I need these rules as inspiration for when I don't know what to do next? Then I starting thinking that maybe players would like to know which rule is being used and it should be revealed so they feel like I'm using the moves fairly…

So my question is, how does this work out in practice? What is normally actually going through an experienced DW GM's mind while they use their moves?

Best Answer

In practice, you stick to the moves and use the list, until you internalize it and no longer need to refer to the list, but even them you continue to use it. Just like when playing a Eurogame with a board, you do what the game says, exactly, if you want it to function as advertised.

The GM's moves are multi-purpose. They:

  • teach GMs new to RPGs how to GM
  • teach GMs new to Dungeon World what their job is in this game
  • help experienced GMs out of a rut, if they're in one
  • when you're stuck for what do do next, provide a pick list to jump-start ideas
  • remind you that this is how much/little you get to do on your turn to speak
  • prevent the GM from getting in a rut in the first place by keeping all their move options visible

The list is super-important, because Dungeon World is not your average dungeon crawling RPG, and not using the list of moves usually results in running it as if it's some other game, and then wondering why it's not as great as everyone keeps saying.

In practice, what goes through my mind is either

  • "Okay, my move. I already know which and have a good idea for this one, so let's do it. Let me pause a minute to work out my narration so it's well integrated with events instead of just slapped down disconnected…"
  • "Okay, my move. I have no clue! What looks inspiring here, or which have I not used recently…?"
  • "Okay, so what happens is… Wait. I haven't consulted my moves lately, I'm probably letting habit run my responses, better check the list quick to be sure this is my best move right now," followed by "Yep!" or "Oh hey, that would be much more interesting/fitting/novel."