Translating Empire Strikes Back into Dungeon World Moves

Dungeon World is a fantastic “hack” of Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World. As with Apocalypse World, Dungeon World includes a list of Game Master moves. I’ve written up note cards that include a list of these moves.

These moves are ones that seasoned Game Masters have typically already had in their back pocket.  Dungeon World instructs Game Masters to make a move when the players are to the Game Master for direction, or when the players fail on one of their moves.

George Lucas’ Empire Strikes Back is a fantastic treasure trove of scenes  for Game Master moves.  It also does an amazing job of cascading soft moves into hard moves; Think about the lead up to Solo being encased in carbonite.

Per Vincent’s Concentric Game Design article, as a Game Master, you needn’t worry about the specific moves you make.  The listing of moves is descriptive, not prescriptive.  They are there to help you, not restrict you.

Onward to  the Dungeon World moves and how they might be represented in Empire Strikes Back.

Use a monster, danger, or location move


Wampa in the Ice Cave

I don’t know if I’d qualify this as a monster, danger or location move, but ultimately the move separates Skywalker from the rest of the party. Luke is clearly in danger now…the Game Master is setting things up for a harder move.

Other Location Moves

  • The cryogenic chamber where Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader fight.  (I’d wager that Luke’s player rolled an 10+ in there, otherwise with all of the softer moves leading up to this scene, Luke would’ve been captured)

Reveal an unwelcome truth


Luke denying his heritage

Darth Vader - If you only knew the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.
Luke - He told me enough! He told me you killed him!
Darth Vader - No. I am your father.
Luke - No. No. That’s not true. That’s impossible!
Darth Vader - Search your feelings, you know it to be true!

I remember watching this movie in the theater and being absolutely stunned by the revelation.  For weeks and months my friends and I would talk about this singular revelation!  Is there a more unwelcome truth?

Other Unwelcome Truths

  • Lando Calrissian - “He doesn’t want you at all. He’s after somebody called Skywalker.”
  • Darth Vader - “ I do not want the Emperor’s prize damaged. We will test it on Captain Solo.”

Show signs of doom


Foreshadowing of Luke and Vader’s Confrontation

The cave on Dagobah foreshadows the inevitable confrontation between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.  The dream sequence highlights the potential danger that Luke could become Vader.

This is the perfect move to lead into a future harder move.

Other Signs of Doom

  • C3-PO: ”It’s quite possible this asteroid isn’t entirely stable.”
  • Luke: “I saw a city in the clouds.  They were in pain.”

Deal damage


Luke Skywalker losing his hand

Normally, I would say that taking away someone’s hand in an RPG is a bit much. With a bit of attention and a reprieve Luke can fix his hand.

Other Damage

  • Luke attacked by the wampa
  • Han Solo tortured in Bespin

Use up their resources


Would it help if I got out and pushed?

Throughout the entire Empire Strikes Back, the Millenium Falcon is unable to enter hyperspace.  The powerful escape mechanism is unavailable, and the crew of Millenium Falcon must dig deep for their solutions.

Other Uses of Resources

  • Han Solo’s tonton dies in the cold.
  • Luke’s co-pilot, Dak, dies while they are approaching the AT-AT.

Offer an opportunity with or without cost


Han and Leia looking through starship database

The Millenium Falcon is hiding on a Star Destroyer, reviewing their options.  Ultimately, Han Solo and Princess Leia must decide whether or not to trust a scoundrel that Han knew.

This move is also excellent for setting up a future hard move.

Other Opportunities with or without Cost

  • Darth Vader - “If you only knew the power of the dark side.”

Put someone in a spot


Luke Skywalker upside down in the wampa’s ice cave

The Empire Strikes Back is chock full of moments where the various characters are put in a spot.  In fact, it would seem that the characters never get a reprieve.”

Other Moments of People Being Placed in a Spot

  • Han Solo - “No time to discuss this as a committee.”
  • Lando Calrissian - ”I had no choice, they arrived right before you did.”

Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask


You will go to the Dagobah system.

Luke Skywalker receives ample guidance and direction from Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda.

  • Obi Wan Kenobi - “You will go to the Dagobah system. There you will learn from Yoda, the Jedi Master who instructed me.”
  • Yoda - “Decide you must, how to serve them best. If you leave now, help them you could; but you would destroy all for which they have fought, and suffered. “
  • Obi Wan Kenobi - “But you cannot control it. This is a dangerous time for you, when you will be tempted by the Dark Side of the Force.”