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Another session log for our game of Sorcerer & Sword.

On the Caer Hyvel…

Krenzi and the Invader are crossing the ridge of Caer Hyvel after their visit to Hichtepunt on the Deenskewâl. Having gathered a bundle of Skunkblum, the Invader is manic.

They hear a voice speaking, and spot the hunter Thomas Begenhof speaking to an unseen companion. Krenzi strikes Thomas with a stone, and impresses the hunter with his derangement.

They hear a cry, and find Timmy kneeling beside a body. Krenzi recognizes the corpse as a charcoal burner named Tûk Stokken, but there is a huge row of puncture wounds crossing Tûk’s neck and collar-region, as if he was bitten by a massive animal, and his body is descicated and emaciated.

Thomas notes the freshness of the kill and gathers up Timmy under his cloak to hurry away. He urges Krenzi to follow.

In Klausted…

While Chaser and Tulasa exit the Kirk with Jacobus after their clash with Adacius, they notice burns on their hands were they touched the Lord Inquisitor. Chaser tries to tell Jacobus that Adacius has gone mad, or worse.

Adacius, meanwhile, barricades himself inside the Kirk and begins kindling fires using old hymnals and broken benches. When they see smoke issuing from the Kirk, Tulasa and Jacobus rush toward the door to break it down while Chaser goes to one of the Skaalruters to get a handaxe. Once they gain entry, they see Adacius pouring spirits all over himself, warning them to stay back, so he can burn his sins away.

Tulasa gathers some hymnals and throws them outside while Jacobus tries to stop Adacius from hurting himself. Adacius hurls Jacobus aside and throws himself into burning brazier, engulfing himself in flame.

Tulasa draws his sword to end the spectacle, but Chaser throws his overcoat over Adacius to smother the blaze. Tulasa uses his sword to open the Infinite Stacks instead, dragging Adacius in while flames crawl up the walls of the Kirk and the wooden beams begin to strain.

Chaser struggles to persuade Jacobus that what they are doing is good, but the Lieutennant splutters in unreasoning shock after seeing Tulasa open a door in mid-air. Chaser drags Jacobus into the Stacks as well. As they enter, a curator of the Stacks appears to welcome his master, Tulasa.

At the Abandoned Farm…

Wind blows through the cornfield, making the leaves rustle in a way that sounds like a voice. The voice introduces itself as A Senhora de Ouro—the Golden Lady—and invites Ghanna to sing a hymn in her honor. When Ghanna declines, “the Golden Lady” reminds her that Ghanna and her companions came here as strangers and are currently under her protection.

Seeing this from the cottage, Duke approaches after asking his mercenary team to keep alert. “The Golden Lady” recognizes him, and calls forth her steward, Niehege Eywa. Eywa appears at the edge of the corn, looking like a younger version of Duke himself.

Invading the Infinite Stacks

Krenzi arrives in Klausted with Timmy and Thomas after nightfall, to find the Kirk burning. The Felkiezers and Avga Akh’s riders work alongside the Klavs to carry water from the Fuorjen to fight the fire.

The Invader takes Krenzi into the Infinite Stacks, whose door is hidden in the blaze. Krenzi comes out of the shadows to see Chaser speaking with Adacius. The curator takes Tulasa asside before he sees Krenzi.

Adacius apologizes to Chaser. When Adacius spots Krenzi, he confesses that the torture Krenzi endured was not as a prisoner of the Sultan of Deltoss, as he thought, but a secret Inquisition operation to test the limits of human pain and humilation. They pushed Krenzi too far, and he renounced his faith.

While Adacius speaks to Krenzi, Chaser takes Jacobus aside to steer the Lieutennant’s understanding of the situation. Jacobus has regained his composure, and he goes to Adacius to pray with him to fight off this fiendish mood. Adacius asks Jacobus to give him blood to drink or kill him, but Jacobus continues to kneel beside the Lord Inquisitor, praying more fervently.

Growing bored, the Invader begins pulling out books from a large stack beside him, making it unstable, alerting the Stacks to his presence…

Niehege’s Tale

On the edge of the cornfield, Duke Ahwe and Niehege Eywa take stock of each other and share stories about their past. Eywa tells how he lost his beloved Ourora while fighting side-by-side at the battle of Vale Verde—241 years ago. Heartbroken, he ventured into Deenryk to restore her. When he summoned her at last, she came in the form of miraculous corn seeds.

Duke asks about Eywa’s miracles, and Eywa confides that they were Ourora’s doing: Her maize and its syrup bring healing. They have traveled, putting down roots in one place after another, departing from each place when Ourora’s miracles begin drawing unwanted attention.

Eywa notices Silionna eavesdropping, and recognizes her. In a revery, she tells Duke that it was Eywa and not Duke that she has been remembering in her dreams. Eywa recounts how he was fleeing after an incident when he came across a village massacred by Inquisitors who were hunting for him. Among the charnel, he found Silionna, barely clinging to life. Ourora used her power to heal the girl, but left her in a coma. Eywa took her and left her under the care of a convent in Adûnibad, paying them handsomely for their discretion.

Duke and Ghanna suggest that Eywa pack up and flee the Klau, but Eywa says Ourora cannot release the seed corn while she is starving for her need. Eywa asks Duke and Ghanna to sing hymns to her with him, offering her worship. Ghanna scoffs, but Silionna bows low before the corn. Duke joins in the singing, planting Maiven in the earth before him and weaving in lyrics to sate her need as well.

As the sun begins to rise, snowflakes drift down from the steel grey sky.

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  • Chaser confronts Adacius about the war hosts gathering in the Klau and learns that his mentor is mad or possessed.
  • Tulasa finds a family hiding from the warriors now converging on the Klau, and they tell him some local lore in exchange for a letter of protection.
  • Duke and Ghanna find a cozy cottage surrounded by ripe corn and take shelter there for the night.

A Report from Elder Kristus

Kristus briefs Chaser as the Hounds lead their horses down the steep descent into the Klau: Adacius led the Felkiezers here several weeks ago to establish a Magisterial presence in the Klau and began searching for any signs of heresy. Soon, he found a family conducting heretical worship in a barn.

Under interrogation, they revealed that they were mere minions of a Necromancer abiding at the spire of Heksepunt on the Deenskewâl. Adacius left a tithe of his force in the Klau while he force-marched the family into the mountains so that they could guide him to the Necromancer. Two nights later, Kristus saw a fire on Heksepunt.

When Adacius did not return, he sent a messenger to summon Chaser. But Adacius came back this morning after long travels, and he brought an army of Hudbeklaaid mercenaries and their dogs with him. Adacius is planning war with the Necromancer, whom he claims is gathering strength in the Deenryk, and he has sent for other warriors to join him in the Klau.

Chaser and Kristus ride into Klausted, where a crowd of angry Klavs confront Felkiezer sentries who surround the village. A Felkiezer tells the Klavs that Adacius will address them shortly. Chaser asks him about Adacius, and he recounts making the ride to Heksepunt with Adacius.

He reports riding up the mountain with the heretic family, and seeing someone climb up the last stretch like a spider while carrying a body. The other Felkiezers were uneasy, but Adacius could not be detered and made the last climb, taking only the boy with him while the other men kept watch over his parents.

The parents broke free and pursued Adacius up to Heksepunt, and the Felkiezers followed. When they reached the summit, they found only Adacius and the boy. Adacius was badly wounded, and the boy was stricken with terror and would not speak. As Adacius recovered, day broke over the Deenryk and they saw signs of the Necromancer mustering forces there.

Just then, the Kirk bell tolls and Adacius appears in the bell tower. Klavs crowd around the hilltop on which the Kirk stands, and Adacius tells them that they will have to endure sacrifice in the fight against the Necromancer in order to defend their way of life. He tells them that their stores for the winter will be taken and redistributed so that Adacius can provision his assault on the Deenryk.

After the speech, Adacius recognizes Chaser in the crowd and comes out to greet his pupil. Adacius takes Chaser into the Kirk to speak privately. Adacius tells Chaser about the threat posed by the Necromancer, and says the Klau’s geography offers them a perfect fort. Adacius insists that they can foil the Necromancer’s plans to attack Magisterium lands if they strike before the enemy’s forces are ready to march.

As Adacius looks Chaser over, he marks the heretical Kasai amulet Chaser wears. Chaser tries to deflect suspicion by telling his mentor that the amulet belonged to his wife Lily, who was killed by necromancers. Adacius expresses sorrow for Chaser’s loss while continuing to scrutinize him.

The Hinnemûs Farm

Tulasa and his armed escort follow Chaser’s path down into the Klau. As they follows the Fuorjen, they pass a farmstead that appears recently abandoned. Tulasa investigates, and notes an external cellar door. Knocking, he gains welcome from the family hiding inside.

They tell him that the Magisterium took the Lupitz family away and killed them, and now they have brought Hudbeklaaid barbarians to the Klau. Tulasa offers them his protection, in exchange for a story from the local folklore. The grandmother, Beppe Hinnemûs, tells him the tale of Granaatmem and Appelmem. Once satisfied, Tulasa dictates and letter which the monk Kurik in his escort takes down, granting the First Warden’s protection to the Hinnemûs family.

According to Beppe, Granaatmem and Appelmem were witch sisters. Granaatmem was a bitter old misanthrope who kept a golden grass snake in her garden named Jhaltys. When some Klav children wandered into Granaatmem’s garden to steal her produce, Jhaltys caught them and Granaatmem held them prisoner until Appelmem came.

Appelmem challenged Granaatmem to a game of riddles for the fate of the children and for her grass snake. When Appelmem won, she returned the children to their parents in the Klau. Granaatmem flew into a rage and went up to Heksepunt, from which she sent storms and plagues to smite the children of the Klau. But no matter what magic she wrought, Appelmem’s magic was stronger. Appelmem defused and countered every plague sent by her sister, so that it became a blessing for the Klav children.

Finally Appelmem turned the last curse back on her sister, sapping all of Granaatmem’s power, and they all lived happily ever after.

After taking leave of the Hinnemûs family, Tulasa sees a hundred Skaalruter horsemen riding down into the Klau following the same path as Tulasa, passing the farm to press on to Klausted. Tulasa follows with his escort, and speaks briefly with the riders in the rearguard. They say they were summoned by Altin Qarga.

Golden Patch on the Landscape

Duke and Ghanna ride into the Klau with Duke’s Baachus mercenary crew, and Namuu of the Skaalruters.

As they ride, Siliona tells Duke that she is feeling deja vu, but can’t quite place why. When Ghanna nocks her bow to use Pinaka’s far-seeing sight, Namuu draws his instinctively and they enjoy some sport in aiming for a circling buzzard.

Ghanna uses Pinaka to get a wide view of the Klau, and she catches sight of a golden patch surrounded by grey and brown lands that have already been harvested.

The Ring of Fire

Adacius presses Chaser with questions about the heretical amulet. Chaser says he is ready to be purged of his sins, and jots down a regret on a piece of parchment as Adacius kindles a fire in the Kirk’s central brazier. Chaser drops the note into the fire, but Adacius urges him to burn the amulet as well. Chaser looks into Adacius’s eyes and sees a ring of golden flame illuminating the deep wells of darkness.

Chaser takes the amulet, and orders Lily to possess Adacius while Adacius knocks the amulet into the brazier. Lily struggles with Adacius and recoils, burning; she gives out a cry of pain and shock, which Adacius hears.

Panicked, Adacius draws his knife to stab Chaser, but Chaser catches his arm and they struggle beside the burning brazier.

Sjef Hun Tegn and Her Puppy

Tulasa follows the Skaalruters to Klausted, where he sees Magisterial Inquisitors. Inquiring after Adacius, they direct him to the Kirk hill, where he finds the Felkiezer Jacobus speaking tensely with the Hudbeklaaid war chief Sjef Hun Tegn.

Sjef Hun Tegn warns Jacobus not to let his men speak in the presence of her warriors, because men are not permitted to speak among the Konur Villtar. Her wolfhound growls over Jacobus’s protest. She tells him that she will speak only with Adacius, who can find her making preparations for war in the Southfarthing.

Rattled, Jacobus takes his leave of Hun Tegn when Tulasa approaches. Tulasa asks where he can meet Adacius, and insists on seeing him immediately when Jacobus reveals that the Lord Inquisitor is in a private meeting. Jacobus leads him to the Kirk, were they throw the doors open to see Adacius and Chaser struggling over the brazier.

Tulasa and Jacobus pull the men apart. Adacius wearily withdraws to a seat beside a table placed on the dais, and asks to be left alone. Chaser exists with Jacobus and Tulasa, and begins to convince Jacobus that Adacius is losing his mind.

The Golden Field

Namuu parts ways with Duke and Ghanna when they reach a farmstead surrounded by ripe, golden corn. Namuu wants to catch up with his uncle immediately, but Ghanna and the Baachus crew want to make camp here for the night.

Armentad and Sidney check out the burned ruin of the barn, and find a massive lump of gold in a charred brazier buried in ash and blackened beams. They inform Duke and celebrate their unexpected windfall. Something watches them from the corn, marking Ghanna’s pocked scar, Duke’s earrings, Pinaka’s heat waves, and the flaming shimmer on Maiven’s blade.

As the sun sets, they determine a watch order and shelter in a tiny cottage untouched by fire. Ghanna takes the last watch. Before Duke turns in, she sees that the corn has surrounded the cottage, cutting off their path to the Fuorjen.

She sends an arrow from Pinaka into the rows of corn to see what is watching them. Ghanna sees nothing, but Pinaka recognizes a demonic presence in the field, and greets Ourora in the Old Rumadhic tongue. A wind blows through the corn, and a rustling voice greets Pinaka in Old Rumadhic, and then greets Ghanna.

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This is a record of our first session of Sorcerer & Sword.

Introducing Characters

Ghanna and Chaser are two characters we played in another campaign that took place nine or ten years in the future. In that game we learned offhand that they met once before, when they both got entangled hunting necromancers in the wild forest region. That hint of an interesting adventure provided the kernel for the whole situation.

Ghanna comes from a conflicted family. Her grandfather was a priest of the Magisterium who turned his own wife over to the Inquisition as a necromancer. Ghanna learned sorcery from her father who was part of a desert cabal. But when she saw him sacrifice a sickly child, she reported him to an Inquisitor visiting a nearby city. Her mother threw her out, and she went to her grandfather, Fr. Bain. Desperate for a sense of belonging and to prove her loyalty to the true faith, she agreed to be his child soldier and spy by infiltrating a ring of necromancers in the Klau.

Malcolm Chaser is an Inquisitor and witch hunter whose wife was murdered by witches. He recently got a letter from an operation in the Klau, informing him that his own mentor Adacius went missing while rooting out the heresy there. He was asked to round up some cutthroats—the Hounds—and come there to search for the missing Inquisitor.

Krenzi Lupitz is a veteran of the endlessly transforming conflict between the Magisterium and Adûn. During his military service, he was captured by the enemy and ruthlessly tortured. When he gained his freedom, he fled to the borderlands to live as a hermit, and never again be caught in the wars of men. He recently learned that his last surviving kin were murdered, provoking him to leave his hovel and find the perpetrators.

Tulasa is a member of an ancient order tasked with guarding the Magisterium’s knowledge. Before she was slain by the Eater of Knowledge, Tulasa’s mother surrendered her demon to him—a vast library of all notable history, past and future, hidden in an apparent “pocket universe” accessible only by a key in the form of a sword. Tulasa got a report that a priestess who served with his mother was taken as a captive into the Klau, and of course he knows it’s a trap laid for him by the Eater of Knowledge.

Duke Ahwe is a 500+ year old half-human and therefore undying. The event that severed his soul in two was so traumatic he can’t remember it, but he is aware that his other half is out there somewhere. He has been involved in organized crime, founding a mercenary crew, and hunting artifacts for his antique business. Recently rumors came to him that someone looking like him has been working miracles in the borderlands, before disappearing into the Klau.

Binding the Demons

After doing some show-and-tell with the diagrams (see them here), we went around to resolve how each player bound their demon, so that we could make their Binding rolls and Humanity checks.

I wanted to make all sorcery in this setting Humanity-relevant, and I told them to bind a demon, the ritual must involve renouncing and destroying (at least symbolically) some part of your identity, something unique and precious that makes you who you are. Examples include your home, your community, an honorific, a precious belonging, or even a bodily feature. This got everyone describing really vivid binding rituals that were awesome to behold—and much richer than I expected from a first session of Sorcerer with players new to the game. Some of the scene setting included what would be Contacts and Summons in actual play, but we didn’t make separate rolls for those and I didn’t press the distinction.

It made me wonder, though, if you typically have such vivid scene setting and action for the binding of their starting demons. Since Binding is the one ritual where the sorcerer’s active score depends on the circumstances, it seems to be required.

  • Ghanna’s renunciation was of her father, over the bonfire where his corpse smoldered, as she took up his bow and called on the spirit of the sickly child he killed to inhabit it. As a result, her bow Pinaka has the personality of a toddler, and she has to swaddle it at night.
  • Chaser described slaying the witches who killed his wife Lily, as her body lay cold and his fellow witch-hunters lay dying from their wounds around him. Desperate to keep his wife, he threw his holy symbol in the fire and took up the heretical amulet the witches were using in whatever ritual they killed his wife for. To conceal his heresy, he killed the wounded survivors of his own team. The twisted memories of his wife possess him now, with the need to reënact memories of their courtship and married life.
  • Krenzi described a scene in the dungeon where he was tortured. Covered in his own blood, he marked the walls with it while calling upon his demon—known only as the Invader—to give him power to survive and overcome. After the game the player and I realized we both forgot to describe what he renounced of his identity! His demon, the Invader, is an invisible creature of shadow and secrets who needs Krenzi to smoke an acrid and foul-spelling plant.
  • Tulasa’s renunciation involved going to his father’s grave with a pick-axe to wipe out his father’s name and reduce the markers to pebble-sized rubble. Now Tulasa is the master of his mother’s demon, the Infinite Stacks, who needs Tulasa to provide them with a steady supply of obscure lore—especially demon lore.
  • Duke Ahwe’s love was a soldier of the Inquisition named Maiven. When her mentor Adacius learned that she was learning sorcery (from Duke), he had her killed. Duke took her sword and destroyed the memento of a former lover from his long life, in order to appease his slain lover’s spirit in the sword. Now Maiven needs Duke to sing love songs to her.

After that, we had just enough time to frame one scene for each character, based on the content of their diagrams.


Ghanna meets Fr. Bain at a caravanserai on the borderlands between Adûn and Skaalfalia. Ghanna’s mother Afsun tracks her there and confronts her father for radicalizing Ghanna. Afsun throws a poppet at Ghanna and tells her about her mother’s death. Ghanna sides with Bain, and Afsun departs.


Malcolm Chaser is crossing the borderlands between Skaalsalia and the Elquatarus Mountains with his Hounds, when he meets a Skaalruter border patrol led by Namuu. Namuu urges Chaser to leave Skalsalia without taking any Skaalruters with him. When Chaser asks if Namuu knows of any other Magisterium officials in the region, Namuu tells him there is one that the Skaalruters call “Altin Qarga”: “Gold Crow”.

Chaser travels through the Fraustgap, where he finds Elder Kristus waiting for him. Kristus leads him to the trailhead that descends into the Klau and tells him that Adacius has returned—but he is mustering mercenaries for war.


Krenzi Lupitz climbs up to Hichtepunt on the Deenskewâl—the ridge separating the Klau from Deenryk. Among the standing stones, he finds the cremains of Jon, Matilda, and Timmy Lupitz, mingled with the ashes of a stranger. Krenzi gathers some of the ashes and finds a weird golden scutum. The Invader urges him to collect some Skunkblum before they descend.


Tulasa and his armed escort is intercepted by Namuu’s patrol while crossing the Skaalsalia borderlands and he orders his men to show their armaments. Namuu greets them aggressively, but he lets Tulasa pass after Tulasa informs him that they ride to conquer a mutual foe who will devour the bones of Namuu’s ancestors. Namuu allows Tulasa’s party to pass.

Tulasa’s escort picks up Chaser’s trail while traveling through the Fraustgap, which leads them to the trailhead.


Duke Ahwe meets with the Baachus mercenary crew at a caravanserai on the borderlands between Adûn and Skaalfalia. They ask him why he gathered them out here—what is the job and what is the score? Duke notices Fr. Bain pay the innkeeper in gold for his tea and follows him outside.

Duke and Siliona witness the exchange between Bain, Ghanna, and Afsun by the well before going back to the innkeeper to ask about their Magisterium patron. The innkeeper directs Duke to Bain. After greeting Bain and exchanging introductions, Bain hires Duke and his crew to escort Ghanna to the Klau to infiltrate and overthrow whatever necromancers Adacius has tracked there. Duke agrees.

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Note: On 22 Sep 2020, I led a “GM Moves Boot Camp” for #DungeonWorldDay, hosted by the Dungeon World Discord community. This was an informal follow-up post I wrote about using GM moves between sessions to develop tension, drama, and danger to fill the players’ lives with adventure.

Hey everyone!

I’m sorry for leaving you all hanging for so long! The GM Moves Boot Camp inspired a whole batch of ideas for blog posts I planned to share here, but they never materialized.

On the other hand, we’re planning to play session 55 of my current campaign on Monday. The ideas are bearing fruit, I just haven’t written them down for you.

What I wanted to write about was various ways I use GM moves in my prep to created loaded situations. Here’s one method that I use between almost every session, in some variation. It has roots in a practice I picked up from the Complete Book of Villains (from 1994? My beard runneth over), but process continues to evolve with new learning and the needs of my game.

What it is is a way of brainstorming and developing tension and drama for your next session, including fodder for adventure fronts and your campaign front.

The Relationship Matrix

First, take a sheet of office paper or notebook paper and turn it so that it is landscape-oriented. Write the names of the player characters you expect to see active next session down the left axis. Write the names of major NPCs, including Dangers and other pivotal cast members of your Fronts, across the top.

Now look at the big blank space in the middle. That is where you will consider intersections between these characters, based on their desires, needs, fears, and agendas.

What you want to do is place a GM move at most of the intersections.

Don’t think too hard about this. Just pick an intersection and look at the characters involved. Go over the list of GM moves from the rulebook, and pick the first one that suggests an obvious application. Make a note that describes how you would use that move in play—whether to further an NPC’s agenda with a certain character, to develop a Danger, expose an opportunity, or something else.

After you go over the whole page once and jot down all the GM moves that suggest themselves, it’s okay if you see a lot of blanks. The important thing to notice is if you have a lot of blanks on the same row, meaning a certain PC is not involved in the drama; or if you have a lot of blanks in the same column, meaning that NPC isn’t really connected to the PCs.

There are a few ways to deal with this.

For the NPCs who don’t have a lot of obvious moves, you can simply leave them in the background unless and until the players make them the focus, or their agenda becomes riper for action.

For the PCs who don’t have a lot of ties to the action, you may need to look back at their explicit and implicit background, including all their previous game sessions, and feature the important NPCs, places, and things they care about in addition to or instead of the NPCs you listed. If they don’t care about anything, that’s a bigger problem, but you can usually get them to care if you show them how their actions have changed the world, and show them consequential callbacks to NPCs, places, and things that they have interacted with before.

You might still have a lot of blanks.

What I do now, is take random story prompts and put them in each remaining intersection, and I think about how I might use them for relevant GM moves in the game. I get a lot of use out of my Story Forge Cards for this purpose, but I have used all kinds of inkblot tools in the same way, including random tables from OSR luminaries.

The important thing is, you don’t have to use ANY of this. It’s all just an exercise to get your creative juices flowing.

However, I find that it ALWAYS produces one or more focal conflicts that grab the players and keep them driven.

“Draw maps, leave blanks”. This is not a dungeon map with strictly-defined connections, but a tool for you to find connections and identify the blanks you want to find out through play.

I hope this helps! Happy New Year, everyone!

A Perilous Wilds Postscript (2021)

The campaign I was running at the time of this Boot Camp used the travel moves from Freebooters on the Frontier and The Perilous Wilds by Jason Lutes. That meant a lot of perilous journeys to reach the next bastion of something close to civilization, and any given day of travel might change the whole campaign’s direction.

This is because the travel moves in Perilous Wilds often let the players choose to have a danger or discovery revealed, which might happen in areas where your existing Fronts are not (yet) active.

Sometimes those random events would become the focus of a whole session—or more! Sometimes the players would ignore a discovery and move on ASAP. This works out fine—you just have to have some content ready.

Perilous Wilds includes random tables for generating dangers and discoveries, but I found these inconsistently helpful. Sometimes they were perfect! But other times they generated content that didn’t spark anything for me. [Edit: I wrote about this before, including a GM-move-based alternative. This postscript builds on those ideas.]

What helped me most when I knew the players would be traveling was to go down the list of GM moves between each session and brainstorm how I could point them at each player’s character, as the basis for a some dangers and discoveries that have bite. This is basically a variation of the “matrix” I spoke about above, but instead of NPCs and factions, you consider the environment, creatures, travelers, and inhabitants of the land that the players will be crossing.

If their travel involves a specific location, I have used the questions from the Discern Realities move to brainstorm what they might find there. These can help whether you only have a vague idea about the location—“You’ve heard rumors about an abandoned chalet on the ridge”. But they can also help if you have already developed ideas about it, to bring them into clearer focus or reveal ideas that surprise you.

The Discern Realities questions are designed to reveal tense and dramatic details about a tense and dramatic situation. Sometimes they suggests some obvious content, but I also use ink blot tools to create dry tinder. Just pick a random prompt for each question and see where it goes.

Better yet is to pair one or more GM moves with each DR question, fleshing them out into something you could actually say at the table (since you never speak the name of your move).

The most important thing about this practice isn’t the actual content you produce. It strengthens your mental muscles and limbers you up for developing adventureful content.

Then you NEVER have to worry about throwing out the ideas that they don’t investigate—you always know your brain will give you more ideas building on the stuff that they do.

But just like the relationship matrix, this method never fails to give me something useful and interesting for my next session. And the unused details form a sort of stockpile of ideas that may inform the background of GM moves you make much later, or supply whole situations for you when you need them.

Good luck, and have fun!


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Use GM moves between sessions to generate grabby content for the table!


GM moves
A way to set up complex situations and ratchet up tension in role-playing, including complexity in tactical, strategic, as well as moral and dramatic terms.


My last game session was my best one in a few months! I am blessed with players I can count on for non-stop cleverness and creativity to keep things exciting. The campaign has been building toward something like this for a while, but why did it all come together for an effortless, dramatic impact?

One thing I think made a difference was the way I prepped for the game.

In my last Dungeon World campaign (2016–2018), I finally mastered the concept of Fronts and how to make them sing.

But my current campaign runs on Freebooters on the Frontier, a Dungeon World variant by Jason Lutes, which focuses on the hard-scrabble adventure that happens on the way to the dungeon more than epic exploits of the characters. Our game is Freebooters souped up with a lot of setting-specific stuff.

Two things about our game require a different kind of prep than my previous Dungeon World game.

  1. The FotF travel moves create a much more open-world sandbox for exploration and discovery; and
  2. The intense political intrigue that I would usually express in Fronts is offloaded to a separate domain game. Factions are run by actual players using Kevin Crawford’s domain rules from An Echo, Resounding.

I’m sure Jason Lutes was mindful that the content that is useful to prepare for Freebooters is somewhat different than what is useful to prep for Dungeon World. The Freebooters GM is encouraged to generate dangers and discoveries just-in-time using tables in the Perilous Wilds rulebook.

I’ve tried that, but those tables don’t really suit our setting. I love using randomly-sourced content as an inkblot for my prep, but I’ve found I’m not good at adapting the suggestions from PW to our world.

I stumbled across another method, one that worked amazingly, and it was shockingly close to my fingertips.

The idea is super simple: Using standard Dungeon World GM moves between sessions to generate a small “slush pile” of dangers, discoveries, and drama.

What you need


A method of creating “inkblots” that works for you and the established fiction. (This is where the PW tables didn’t quite work: We’ve played 49 sessions in this setting, and a lot of established details rule out classes of content generated by the PW tables.)

I listed some inkblot methods previously in Dungeon BINGO. What I used this time was B.J. West’s Story Forge deck.


Choose 1 GM move (and 1 input from your inkblot method, if you are using one—like drawing 1 card from the Story Forge deck).

Take that move and come up with a situation based on the move. What are some resources, problems, opportunities, or dangers near the freebooters’ current location that might manifest?

Use the GM move, combined with your optional inkblot, to generate an answer.

Important: Jot down whatever ideas come to mind. At this stage, it’s not important if the ideas are any good, just that you get your pen moving.

Then repeat: Pick another GM move, and generate another possible situation based on it.

And iterate: Take the ideas that came up, and notice patterns and connections. You’ll find that meaningful relationships suggest themselves, based on established details, questions you want to explore, and the NPCs, values, and goals that the players care about.

That’s it.

All that’s left is adding some minimal organization to what comes out of it. What I did was list all the NPCs generated or fleshed out in this exercise, and jot down their agendas (and stats, for 1 or 2 of them).

But you could just as easily organize the notes by location—then you have yourself a hex-crawl!


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