Fronts are secret tomes of GM knowledge built outside of active play. They are designed to help you organize your thoughts on what opposes the players. They contain notes, ideas and plans. Consider them an organizational tool, inspiration for drama and mayhem in the next- or future- game session. Start with broad strokes and then narrow those ideas as you build dangers (creepy denizens, rampaging hordes, ancient cults, etc.) into your fronts.
Types of Fronts
There are two different kinds of fronts available to you. On the session-to-session level there are your adventure fronts. These fronts will see use for a few sessions each. They’re tied to one problem and will be dealt with or cast aside as the characters wander the dungeon or uncover the plot at hand. Think of them as episodes of a tv series with the campaign front the season. While the adventure fronts will contain immediate dangers— the campaign front is the unifying element that spans all the sessions of your Dungeon World campaign. It will have slower-burning portents but they’ll be bigger in scope and have a deeper impact on the world. Most importantly they’ll be scarier if they’re allowed to resolve.
When a danger from an adventure front goes without resolution you’ll have to make a decision. If the danger is something you like and feel has a place in the larger world of your game don’t hesitate to move it to the campaign front. You’re able to make smaller dangers that went unresolved into bigger dangers some day later on. You can move dangers from the campaign fronts to an adventure front if they’ve come to bear, too.
When To Create Fronts
You’ll make your campaign front and first adventure fronts after your first session . Your campaign front may not be complete when you first make it— Just like blanks on a map, unknown parts of your campaign front are opportunities for future creativity.
After that first session you’ll also make some adventure fronts. One or two is usually a good number. If you find yourself with more adventure fronts consider leaving some possible fronts as just notes for now.
Create 2-3 dangers
- Ambitious Organizations
- Misguided Good (impulse: to do what is “right” no matter the cost)
- Thieves Guild (impulse: to take by subterfuge)
- Cult (impulse: to infest from within)
- Religious Organization (impulse: to establish and follow doctrine)
- Corrupt Government (impulse: to maintain the status quo)
- Cabal (impulse: to absorb those in power, to grow)
- GM Moves for Ambitious Organizations
- Attack someone by stealthy means (kidnapping, etc.)
- Attack someone directly (with a gang or single assailant)
- Absorb or buy out someone important (an ally, perhaps)
- Influence a powerful institution (change a law, manipulate doctrine)
- Establish a new rule (within the organization)
- Claim territory or resources
- Negotiate a deal
- Observe a potential foe in great detail
- Planar Forces
- God (impulse: to gather worshippers)
- Demon Prince (impulse: to open the gates of Hell)
- Elemental Lord (impulse: to tear down creation to its component parts)
- Force of Chaos (impulse: to destroy all semblance of order)
- Choir of Angels (impulse: to pass judgement)
- Construct of Law (impulse: to eliminate perceived disorder)
- GM Moves for Planar Forces
- Turn an organization (corrupt or infiltrate with influence)
- Give dreams of prophecy
- Lay a Curse on a foe
- Extract a promise in exchange for a boon
- Attack indirectly, through intermediaries
- Rarely, when the stars are right, attack directly
- Foster rivalries with other, similar powers
- Expose someone to a Truth, wanted or otherwise
- Arcane Enemies
- Lord of the Undead (impulse: to seek true immortality)
- Power-mad Wizard (impulse: to seek magical power)
- Sentient Artifact (impulse: to find a worthy wielder)
- Ancient Curse (impulse: to ensnare)
- Chosen One (impulse: to fulfill or resent their destiny)
- Dragon (impulse: to hoard gold and jewels, to protect the clutch)
- GM Moves for Arcane Enemies
- Learn forbidden knowledge
- Cast a spell over time and space
- Attack a foe with magic, directly or otherwise
- Spy on someone with a scrying spell
- Recruit a follower or toady
- Tempt someone with promises
- Demand a sacrifice
- Wandering Barbarians (impulse: to grow strong, to drive their enemies before them)
- Humanoid Vermin (impulse: to breed, to multiply and consume)
- Underground Dwellers (impulse: to defend the complex from outsiders)
- Plague of the Undead (impulse: to spread)
- Assault a bastion of civilization
- Embrace internal chaos
- Change direction suddenly
- Overwhelm a weaker force
- Perform a show of dominance
- Abandon an old home, find a new one
- Grow in size by breeding or conquest
- Appoint a champion
- Declare war and act upon that declaration without hesitation or deliberation
- Cursed Places
- Abandoned Tower (impulse: to draw in the weak-willed)
- Unholy Ground (impulse: to spawn evil)
- Elemental Vortex (impulse: to grow, to tear apart reality)
- Dark Portal (impulse: to disgorge demons)
- Shadowland (impulse: to corrupt or consume the living)
- Place of Power (impulse: to be controlled or tamed)
- GM Moves for Cursed Places
- Vomit forth a lesser monster
- Spread to an adjacent place
- Lure someone in
- Grow in intensity or depth
- Leave a lingering effect on an inhabitant or visitor
- Hide something from sight
- Offer power
- Dampen magic or increase its effects
- Confuse or obfuscate truth or direction
- Corrupt a natural law
Limit yourself to 3 fronts at most and leave room for discovery, player contribution and future inspiration. Alter fronts to fit the game instead of trying to railroad characters into a pre-fab story. Just write something short to remind you what the dangers are about. Leave yourself space to expand on. Include custom moves (for players or GM) if the danger suggests a move not covered by the existing ones.
Choose an impending doom for each danger
- Tyranny (of the strong over the weak or the few over the many)
- Pestilence (the spread of sickness and disease, the end of wellness)
- Destruction (apocalypse, ruin and woe)
- Usurpation (the chain of order comes apart, someone rightful is displaced)
- Impoverishment (enslavement, the abandonment of goodness and right)
- Rampant Chaos (laws of reality, of society, or any order is dissolved)
When all of the grim portents of a danger come to pass, the impending doom sets in. The danger is then resolved but the setting has changed in some meaningful way. This will almost certainly change the front at large as well. Making sure that these effects reverberate throughout the world is a big part of making them feel real.
Add grim portents (1-3 for an adventure front, 3-5 for the campaign front)
The grim portents are your way to codify the plans and machinations of your dangers and how they lead to an impending doom. A grim portent can be a single interesting event or a chain of steps. When you’re not sure what to do next, push your danger towards resolving a grim portent.
More often than not grim portents have a logical order. The orcs tear down the city only after the peace talks fail, for example. A simple front will progress from bad to worse to much worse in a clear path forward. Sometimes, grim portents are unconnected pathways to the impending doom. The early manifestations of danger might not all be related. It’s up to you to decide how complex your front will be. Whenever a danger comes to pass, check the other dangers in the front. In a complex front, you may need to cross off or alter the grim portents. That’s fine, you’re allowed. Keep scale in mind, too. Grim portents don’t all have to be world-shaking. They can simply represent a change in direction for a danger, some new way for it to cause trouble in the world.
When a grim portent comes to pass, check it off—the prophecy has come true! A grim portent that has come to pass might have ramifications for your other fronts, too. Have a quick look when your players aren’t demanding your attention and feel free to make changes. One small grim portent may resound across the whole campaign in subtle ways.
You can advance a grim portent descriptively or prescriptively. Descriptively means that you’ve seen the change happen during play, so you mark it off. Maybe the players sided with the goblin tribes against their lizardman enemies—now the goblins control the tunnels. Lo and behold, this was the next step in a grim portent. Prescriptive is when, due to a failed player move or a golden opportunity, you advance the grim portent as your hard move. That step comes to pass, show its effects and keep on asking, “What do you do, now?”
Write 1–3 stakes questions
Your stakes questions are 1-3 questions about people, places, or groups that you’re interested in. People include PCs and NPCs, your choice. Remember that your agenda includes “Play to find out what happens?” Stakes are a way of reminding yourself what you want to find out.
Stakes are concrete and clear. Don’t write stakes about vague feelings or incremental changes. Stakes are about important changes that affect the PCs and the world. A good stakes question is one that, when it’s resolved, means that things will never be the same again.
The most important thing about stakes is that you find them interesting. Your stakes should be things that you genuinely want to know, but that you’re also willing to leave to be resolved through play. Once you’ve written it as a stake, it’s out of your hands, you don’t get to just make it up anymore. Now you have to play to find out.
Playing to find out is one of the biggest rewards of playing Dungeon World. You’ve written down something tied to events happening in the world that you want to find out about—now you get to do just that.
Once you have your stakes your front is ready to play.
Description In A Nutshell
Write up something short to remind yourself what this danger is about. Don't worry about where its going to what could happen beyond the grim portents and impending doom. Write down the names of any relevant NPCs, however, with names and a detail or two. Leave yourself plenty of space to add to the description as the game's fiction creates more while you play.