Actual Play – Dark Moon Festival (3/10/2016)

dungeon_world_finalGM: Edmund Metheny
Players: Sophie Lagacé, Adrienne Mueller, Karen Twelves, and Sean Nittner
System: Dungeon World
Setting: Land of 10,000 Gods

Despite tradition stating that only members of the Thugee can attend the Dark Moon Festival (all others must die if they attend), Ram decided to bring all of his companions to the event!

We were heading the the death worship festival to find out who ordered the assassination of the Sirdar, and of course to get to know Ram’s fellow holy killers.

Price of Admission

The catch of course, was that we had to die to be admitted. Or at least we had to die symbolically. We opted to bring goats as sacrifices, ones that resembled us in some way. Merit’s was small and plucky, and adorable though, and the Yaksa did not want to sacrifice her, but before that became an issue, we all had to pledge ourselves to Death to find out if she would accept our offering in the first place. Rahi was deemed worthy and could proceed with the sacrifice. Khanta needed to give a bit more, and her right arm fell limp. Merit felt a great darkness grow around them, appearing to consume them all, and then suddenly it disappeared, as did her sensation of being alive (akin to Cotard delusion).

Family disputes

As we attempted to reconcile our brush with death, we witnessed another family brought to be sacrificed. The parents, who were among the group of bandits we brought to Big Drum City for justice, had apparently committed another theft since arriving, and were now being pushed and given as an offering. Though most of us ranged from approving (Ram) to ambivalent (Merit), Rahi objected to the child being killed for his parents crimes, even if he was their lookout. The Thugee offered that the child could instead travel with Rahi, and that his education would be her burden. Ram however protested that the lady Death needed her due!


Unable to reconcile their differences with words, Rahi and Ram turned to their weapons. Or, at least some weapons. Rahi would not use Vijaya, her holy sword to fight Ram, but she would pummel him with her fists! And quite a pummelling she offered. Each time Ram tried to seize the advantage, he was robbed of it by Rahi’s quick movements and brutal blows. Meanwhile Merit was considering just killing the kid herself (remember, dead inside) but decided she didn’t care that much either way.


Just as Rahi was about to deliver a finishing blow that would have knocked Ram into unconsciousness, there was a cry, and for a moment the sky filled with arrows. Some new enemy was attacking us. Goblin-like creatures armed with sword and bow were upon us!

Merit took and arrow to the arm and just lied down. She fiddled with the arrow idly as she bled (dead inside).

Kanta used her one good arm to throw Vijaya to Rahi and then called upon the winds to bellow the flames from fires and torches, using black magic to incinerate two of the creatures.

Rahi caught her stunning blade and hacked one of them to bits in two swift strikes.

Ram ran to protect Merit, who had lost all sense of self preservation. He knocked the creatures away from her and tried to revive her.

A disturbance in the force

In the melee the dark presence re-appeared, seeming to stop all action, as did Kanta’s shadowy double. When arrow flew, or a sword came swinging down, or perhaps when black magic was employed the presence disappeared again, but this time there was a finality to it. Merit at once felt alive again, and was very upset that there was an arrow in her, Kanta’s arm was restored, and nobody would die.

The fight ended with the goblins cut apart, but except for the first one that died from Rahi’s blade, and the family that were intended to be sacrificed who died from the initial volley of arrows, nobody was dead. Just chopped up, bleeding, like the should be dead. But not dead.

Because Death. Because Death was dead!

What rocked

The showdown between Rahi and Ram over their principles was great. Kanta believes in a lot of things absolutely, but she wouldn’t fight someone over it. Merit is plucky and quick with a joke (except when she’s not, see below), but not exactly principled. It took two warriors of conviction to throw down and start swinging. We had a little bit of confusion about whether they should just be trading Hack & Slash for Hack & Slash moves or if Defy Danger should enter into it. And if someone rolled a 7-9 on Hack & Slash (or a 10+ and chose the option to inflict extra damage but expose themselves to danger), does that mean it triggers and action from the other character in addition to the action they would have already taken next? What about interfering? There is some interesting discussion of handling PVP in Dungeon World on an old Story Games post, but I think managed it pretty well.

I really love playing characters that become disabled during play. I’m never quite ready to make a character with a disability from the get go (though reading Feminist Sonar has got me rethinking that a lot recently), but I love playing character that are disabled in game. In this case Kanta’s arm was lame. In Midsummer Mischief, my character had be sprayed with itching powder and couldn’t stop itching. In Brian Isikoff’s Iron GM game, my character’s arm was taken over by an necrotic force (evil hand!). I just like watching a character suddenly deal with a new obstacle they aren’t prepared for, and that they can’t just stab to get rid of. There is a dark side to this, which is playing up disabilities for comedic effect. I’m a lot more mindful of this now that I have been in the past but I think even in this game Kanta’s arm was the source of some humor. I don’t think laughing at our character’s struggling is a bad thing, but mocking people with disabilities is harmful, so I’m working on removing that from my lexicon of “things that should be done for a laugh.”

Death died! WHAT? Death is dead? What does that even mean? Find out next time in the Land of 9,999 Gods!

What could have improved

Merit’s defining characteristic is being plucky, so having her lose that due to a failed roll was really diminishing to the character. Further, as Karen played her collapsing in on herself, all of the other characters were too embroiled in other plights (Ram and Rahi fighting, Kanta concerned with her shadowy double) to notice. In another context seeing the character crushed under this weight could have been cool, but in this session it was a bummer.



3 thoughts on “Actual Play – Dark Moon Festival (3/10/2016)”

  1. Thanks for the write-up, Sean! The one-on-one with Rahi was definitely among my favourite moments too. (Ram had actually agreed to take the child on as his apprentice and Rahi and he were fighting about Ram’s decision to let the child help kill his parents. Ram’s argument: Death is the only tie he will have – best if he severs his familial ones.) I also really loved Kanta’s beard magic and getting to help Merit out of her situation in the end! Excited that the Kanta-doppelganger, assassination attempt and Death aspects are all merging together.

    Other Thoughts:
    – I’ve got some feedback about the way the Holy Killer works that I’ll pass on to Edmund down the line. In short: I think it’s a supercool character class, but might need some tweaking re Power and XP accumulation.
    – Feel like the PvP worked out okay. Thanks for the link to the (huge!) storygame post. Looking forward to delving into that.

  2. I think I could have gotten people’s attention more that Merit Is Going Through Some Shit Right Now if she’d just walked over and killed the parents, the kid, and maybe some other random person for good measure. Then like sat down and eaten a sandwich.

    But I didn’t want to break up the PvP that was happening with Ram and Kanta!

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