Actual Play – Visions of the Seket (11/14/2012)

GM: Noam Rosen
Players: Mark E, Ben Hartzell, and Sean Nittner
System: World of Dungeons

This was a short-ish game. We started a bit late, Shaun wasn’t able to make it and Mark’s Google video chat plug-in was acting up. Ben and I ended doing most of the play, but I felt a bit confused, so I wasn’t really doing my best either.

We did discover some interesting facts.

The Scorpion God is a) a she and b) named Seket.

Jurek is something of an outcast in his tribe because he wants to be a priest but was trained to be a weather watcher and was not allowed into the clergy. When he went on a vision quest and saw the Scorpion God, the elders declared that he had seen the Horse God instead and call it an ill omen.

Vin is the crazy hermit priest that people come to when they need Real(TM) power. Delivering babies and treating fevers is one thing, but bringing a man back from the brink of death, or warding off an evil spirit is another. And for those, you need Vin, though that doesn’t mean anyone likes him.

Knocking on deaths door

We were at the bottom of trap that let us down to the Deep Dark, and Vin was at 0 HP and dying. We decided on a “death’s door” rule which I like quite a bit. Roll+Con

10+: Recover consciousnesses at 1 HP
7-9: Recover consciousnesses at 1 HP with a permanent debility (-1 on one stat, players choice)
6-:  Choose 1: Push up the daises, give up the ghost, the long kiss goodnight, or the Final Sting.

Vin got a 7-9 and we settled on a broken leg (-1 Dex). It seemed fitting given the fall, and gave Jurek a chance to practice a bit of field medicine. Two dulled short sword blades and a rope made for a splint. Yay!

The goblins ran away. Mostly because Jurek killed the leader for betraying us. Gaspar (Mark was still having trouble connecting) went chasing off after them.

Seeking shelter

We looked for some shelter, a place to rest for the night and recover. A partial hit gave us some fun results. We got a night’s sleep… on the back of some coloswithsal monster. We woke up when it woke up, and fled for our lives! As earth gave way under us Jurek was trapped under a giant stone mushroom that collapsed in the wake of a creature with school buses for legs.

Gaspar (Mark was online now) heard the upheaval, and after giving up on his Goblin army (one dead, the other disappearing into the darkness), went to find out what all the commotion was about. He spotted Vin trying to free Jurek, as well as a great plateau filled with strange figurines.

Where are we?

I asked for a “what the are we doing here” move  and we agreed Discern Realities could be ported over whole cloth. After Jurek was freed, and we approached the plateau, Gaspar consulted his accumulated lore and realized we were in the real of the dark ones, creatures that enslaved other all those around them. Native to the Deep Dark, they occasionally ventured the the surface to enslave top-siders as well.

Yay, Drow town! Or maybe Mind Flayer town!

Our quest complete

Atop the plateau we found dozens of religious idols, all of them desecrated. There we some we recognized from the desert tribes, others we didn’t believe even came from the topside. In the wreckage, hacked by a sword, covered in feces, and otherwise thrashed, we found what we were looking for… the sleeping scorpion idol!

Vin was overcome by rage and horror. He threw himself to his knees and cried out in anger. Jurek took the remains of the idol and held it against his bare chest, feces and all. And in that moment, the Scorpion God touched him as well. She gave him a vision of remaking the idol, in the fires of a great forge.

The aftermath

Our quest wasn’t complete, but for Jurek something more important happened. Vin, a member of the clergy witnessed him on a vision quest. His place with the priests is secure! Assuming we can ever get out of this place!

We found 600sp in loot from the idols, which put us all at 2nd level (total XP 1280). An extra hit die!

Thoughts on this game

Missing Shaun and Mark having trouble connecting made for some fits and starts throughout the game. We also had situational awareness issue. We basically knew we were in a dark place, without really knowing a goal or direction.  I eventually proposed the “discern realities” roll to give us a sense of direction.

Looking forward to playing again, finding out where we’ll end up in the Deep Dark, and what creatures we’ll see!

Actual Play – Hunt for the Sleeping Scorpion Idol (10/25/2012)

GM: Noam Rosen
Players: Mark E, Ben Hartzell, Shaun Hayworth, and Sean Nittner
System: World of Dungeons

I’m so impressed these days with how easy it has been to pick up an old game, thought lost to the dregs of time, dust it off and start playing again.

In yee olde days o’ gaming we never did this. If we stopped playing a campaign for more than a few weeks it was usually dead. If we started up something new, it was for sure dead. But that was when I played with the model of having a fixed game group. I gamed with the same people all the time, so once we were on to game B, game A was forgotten about.

These days I’m a gaming whore. I’ll game with any group of people for any duration. One shot Fiasco game at with my girlfriend and friends: Done. Year long Burning Wheel campaign: Done. Of and on again games with people all over the internet: Done, done and done!

I think that makes all the difference. Not having a fixed group, but instead gaming with any combination of people under any context leaves open tons of possibilities. Including grabbing an old game I thought I’d never see again and playing it some more. How cool is that!

Filling in the blanks

Noam actually remembered some of the feedback form the last game (back in July) and brought it up. There were some things we were going to do.

  • Define how Pollux and Jurek knew each other (closing the relationship loop)
  • Figure out why Vin and Jurek were going into this dungeon (Pollux and Gaspar had recruited them, but they had reasons of their own, no?)
  • Define the moves (or their consequences) in advance so we were all clear on what a 10+, 7-9, and 6- would accomplish.

The first two we did before play started.

  • Jurrek had saved Pollux from being trampled by a stampede of desert horses. It wasn’t to save him, but to prevent a curse. “Once a horse has tasted the blood of man, the god of horses becomes savage and bloodthirsty until the horse lord dies.”
  • Vin and Jurek were entering the tomb to see out the Sleeping Scorpion Idol, which Jurek believed would allow him to hear the whispers of time and become the oracle for the Scorpion Tribe. Vin had been feeding him these promises to get him to come along.

The play is the thing

We didn’t explore a whole lot of the dungeon, but we did so some very cool things! Noam in particular was very thoughtful about making sure that every roll we made did something. We never had a “you hit. now roll damage”. Every roll had a goal associated with it and the standard resolution mechanics applied. I was very, very happy with this.

Random Color: Wind Scorpions. Myth and legend speak of gigantic ones that warriors could ride. The horse god thundered his might hooves at this. Today, however, the are living hurricanes, instead of a could of dust, it is a swarm of scorpions. BAD ASS!!!

Traps, traps and more traps

Okay, just three traps. But still, THREE TRAPS!

The first was a blade at chest height. Pollux found the trip wire, but it was so worn and fine that even brushing up against it triggered the trap. A blade nearly missed all of us and ended at the hallway with a loud thud as it slammed into the door frame. Most of us were fine, but Vin fell on the clay pot that held his scorpions (his holy symbol). The pot broke and all but one (who stayed behind to sting Vin) escaped, scuttling off into the corners of the dungeon.

The second trap was a poisoned door, which when Vin ingested the poison willingly, and then tried to have a vision of his god (and failed that roll too) entered a communion with some abyssal demon and then landed in a coma, for what might have been ten years (see below).

The third was triggered by the goblin chieftain (his obligatory act of betrayal) that dropped us all down a huge chute into the darkness below. There was a lot of getting banged around on the way down and Vin was once again knocked out. Man, Vin is the only one among us who ever gets any rest!

Fucking Spirits

So Gaspar has two spirits. Lot, the spirit of Ice and Time, and Mallos, the spirit of Wind and Confusion. This is what they did:

Lot – When asked to encase Vin in a cocoon that would accelerate his aging till he was ready to wake did so but kept him in there for 10 years! He went from priest of the scorpions god to ZZZ Top. Jurek noted that his beard would be a good place for scorpions to nest.

Mallos – When we were trapped in a room with a batch of goblins on the other side of the door, Gaspar blew his spirit of wind and confusion under the door, and instructed it to show the goblins the back of their minds. We opened the door and outside found a bunch of goblins losing their minds, running around like crazy, and Mallos wasn’t done, he was just getting started. When Gaspar commanded him to cease, he said he wanted at least one of them to consume. The wizard acquiesced; more invested in keeping his spirit happy than the life of a goblin, and let it devour the mind and sanity of a creature. It was nasty.


I really started getting into Jurek as a tribal warrior who couldn’t commune with the gods but felt their presence in everything. He said that he wasn’t a priest, so the gods couldn’t talk to him directly, so instead he had to read their omens. Which he saw EVERYWHERE:

Goblins – The cursed green skin creatures? They have an affliction. Mummy rot, which makes them leprous and deformed. Jurek didn’t hate goblins, he had pity on them. He killed them when necessary, but otherwise did not want to harm (or really even soil himself) with these cursed creatures.

Leaders – A leader must either command his tribe, or be killed so that another can take command. When we captured the goblin chieftain and had him corroborating with us under knife-point, Jurek was disgusted. Vin twisted this a bit in the way of the scorpion, that you do not want help form someone who is secretly planning to stab you in the back the moment you look away. Vin convinced the others to let Bonebreaker (the goblin leader) “free”, which also meant not looting his chamber (which just made it that much more exciting for Pollux to do just that).

Visions – A powerful vision is a blessing. But that doesn’t mean a man can stay sane in the face of the gods. When Vin communed with the abyss, and it was clear that he was not well, Jurek broke his vision by feeding him the rare and valuable poppy seed. He still however considered the wisdom of Vin’s visions as holy. When Vin said that Gaspar would betray us (what he heard in his vision), Jurek took it to heart, and when Gaspar could talk to the cursed (he spoke a smattering of goblin) that just made Jurek that much more convinced that Gaspar was in league with evil forces.

Custom moves we created:

Aid – When you help someone with a task that can obviously benefit from two people working on it (i.e. knocking down a door wide enough for two people to slam into) you can give someone +1 on their roll, bit you also suffer any consequences they do on the roll.

Surreptitiousness Looting – When you try to look a treasure laden room quickly and without notice roll +Dex.
10+ You gain valuable treasure and are un-noticed.
7-9 – You gain valuable treasure but someone (DMCs choice) notices
6- You gain treasure of negligible value and you’re caught in the act.

Read a person – Just like Read a person from AW, except there are no define questions.

Intimidate – When you threaten someone’s life (and clearly have the ability to take it) to get them to do something roll + Cha.
10+ They follow your orders so long as you are still a viable threat to them.
7-9 The follow your orders but plan one act of betrayal.
6- The refuse and suffer the consequences you deliver.

Join forces under duress – when you’ve just broken the morale of a group and try to convince another their leader that your goals are in line and that you should work together, roll + Cha.
10+ The leader agrees and aids you of their own volition.
7-9 The leader agrees but is all bitter and full of grudges.
6- The leader turns his forces against you.

Annex monsters into your party– When you defeat a goblin cheiftan and his warriors through a mixture of magic, physical force and coercion, such that they add their forces to your own, gain 100 xp.

Deep Dark

We ended the game falling down the last of the traps. Down, down, down, into the darkness. Bioluminscent mushrooms. Dank, heavy, moldy smells. A penetrating darkness that even magical light had a hard time dispelling. And no way back up!

Yay Underdark <shhh, we’ll get sued>

Thoughts on the game

It was a lot of work for Noam to constantly be thinking up what the 10+, 7-9, and 6- results were. 10+ was easy, but the others not always so much. We talked about this after the game, about how the 6- rolls could have been a lot meaner and we would have taken it, also 6- rolls can lead to things developing off screen as well (witnessed as the tomb shaking, a howl from below, a dark omen, a run away spirit, etc) so that he could advance his own “fronts” as we make mistakes. So a miss doesn’t always have to mean “the goblin stabs you”.

Skills are awesome. Specifically survival! I got to use it to identify how many creatures slept in hay stacks, and to know which herb to feed Vin to get him out of his fevered visions.

I forgot that 12+ (critical success) existed in this game. I rolled it twice in the game and although I didn’t know, I can see now that Noam interpreted it and did cool things (like blowing a door right off it’s hinges) with it!

Instinct, the ability to re-roll Dex rolls in dangerous situations is crazy powerful. I think being able to re-roll any kind of any roll as long as the conditions are limited is probably still fair, but very powerful. Making the condition be “dangerous” gives a really wide latitude. In this case it was to keep his footing in a trap, which seems very appropriate, but still very powerful.

I really like that this game doesn’t highlight stats, or give XP for killing monsters. I really, really like that. Highlights seem like they should be cool, and often they are, but I also see them create cheap ass rolls that players make just to get the XP. We made all kinds of rolls, and every time we did it was to advance a goal we cared about, not to get XP. This was really rewarding for me, as I can slip into that power gamer mode sometimes, and I’m really glad that it never happened in this game.

As special thanks to John Harper for his feedback on the last game that helped improve this one.

Loots. Where the hell do we put it all? (what we’ve accumulated so far):

2 suits of small scale mail (incomplete) – 100s
Assorted small weapons (poor quality) – 70s
coins – 2s
assorted greenskin trinkers – 1s
a key
5 Wineskins – 10s
2 small hammers, spear, longsword – 120s
small weapons – 60s
5 adventuring gear trinkets – 10s

Pollux only:

2 gems – 40s
1 swallowed gem 30s
Ornamental Dagger – 60s
Small mirror – 40s

Jurek started, stats-wise a very mediocre character. Three +1s and three 0s. Not the worse you could roll, but certainly not the best. I thought he was going to be a throw away character that I wouldn’t care if he died. Now I’m loving the guy. I think it may be all the TNG that I’m watching, but he’s totally become Worf in my mind. He’s not dumb. He’s not violent without reason. He just has really different values and spirituality than people outside his tribe (or even inside his tribe).

Say what we would about the “fucking thief” he’s getting us all XP by being a greedy bastard. That he keeps the material wealth is well, immaterial.

Actual Play – Pit slave for a day (10/6/2012)

GM: Jason Morningstar
Players: Chris Bennett, Jackson Tegu, J Li, David Hamaker, and Sean Nittner (briefly)
System: Dungeon World

This was going to be it. This was going to be my second (er third) try at Dungeon World and I was going to like it! Jason was running, awesome people were playing. I was going to be so down, and I was going to figure out how to love this game!

We started and Jason told us that we were all prisoners of a lich. Most of the characters were previous adventurers. Deprived of their belongings and freedom, but otherwise still mighty. Two of us lucky few were pit slaves who had spent our lives digging for the lich’s riches. I was one of the lucky two! Jason was the other. Together we were Pox and Lox!

My was pretty simple, I had a dented flute and a bag of human excrement. My moves were bed for forgiveness and squirm. My stats modifiers were all -1. I had 4 hit points. Huzzah!

The game started and we set off to action. My first (and what would be only) action was to squirm (my move) under a rock… and on a roll of 7, it was a rock that I was promptly stuck under… for the rest of the game.

No, it’s not that Jason is that cruel of a GM (Yes, I have read John Wick’s Play Dirty stories of keeping a character in a jail cell for multiple sessions, Jason wasn’t trying to do that). It’s that 10 minutes into play I needed to put out a fire at the con, and then another one, and then Big Bad GM started and I needed to be there for that. By the time I was free the game was over. I was delighted to hear that my good friend Lox did not meat a horrible end.

Thoughts on this game.

Adventurers! Had to look and see what was in the killing pit!

I’d actually be really interested in seeing how pathetic characters would fare in Dungeon World (or in AW) for that matter. I was sad I didn’t get to flounder more with Pox.

Best Morningstar stare of death EVAR:

Actual Play – In service of the Scorpion God (7/12/2012)

GM: Noam Rosen
Players: Mark E, Ben Hartzell, Shaun Hayworth, and Sean Nittner
System: World of Dungeons

We tried out John Harmper’s 1979 Dungeon World hack World of Dungeons last night. I was fond of the retro hack, simply because of the granularity it gave to equipment compared to the relative simplicity used for characters themselves.  There was no glaive-guisarme polearm fetishism, but in a 6 page game (2 of those being character sheets), how much can you really expect?

On that note, if you do feel the need to scratch your weapon porn itch, check out Wikipedia: Premodern weapons. Oh yeah, Katars for the win man!

Character Creation

After the typical Google Hangouts technical difficulties were overcome we all rolled up characters. Yes, rolled up. That was another 1979 flavor that I enjoyed about this game. We just went down the list rolling stats.  I rolled up Jurek, Barbarian of the Scorpion tribe, with a +1 Str, Dex and Wis and a 0 in everything else. He is, I must say, utterly unremarkable.

Shaun rolled up Pollux, the thief who got wind of the buried temple, and the loot that may be found within. He had better stats, a +2 Str, Dex, +1 Wis, and 0 in the other stats. It’s worth noting that we didn’t pick where our stats went, we just rolled down the line. So that we both got good (or goodish) physical stats was pretty remarkable.

Ben made Vin, priest of the Scorpion God. He had +1 in every stat but strength (a 0). Pretty well rounded, but more interesting because his faith in the scorpion god (which is what inspired me to be a scorpion tribe barbarian).

Mark rolled up a Wizard, with a +1 Str, Dex and Int, a +3 Wis (our only +3) and 0 in everything else. Gaspar, the wizard had been robbed by Pollux in the past, but the thief was callus enough he didn’t remember (or at least didn’t seem to). Gaspar’s spirits were Lot (spirit of Ice & Time) and another we haven’t see yet (spirit of wind and confusion). The spirit summoning rules were one thing I specifically didn’t recognize for 1st edition. I was expecting a magic missile, or sleep spell, not spirit binding rules. It actually reminded me a lot of Stormbringer (published by Chaosium in 1981) which was close enough for me.

An adventuring we will go

Noam started us off with some backstory questions to figure out how we got here. We fleshed out the desert culture a bit, safe times to travel, and who was of the sand, and who was a foreigner. We figured out that Jurek and Vin didn’t actually get along very well, but their reverence for the scorpion god was enough to see them past their differences.  Vin and Gaspar had adventured together before, putting a “great spirit” to rest. Finally (as noted above) Pollux had swindled Gaspar some time back, but didn’t remember it (or pretended not to).

I think for this backstory we should have done a few additional questions. We should have asked one about Pollux and Jurek, to close the loop and to give each of them two relationships. We also should have created some urgency for the characters. Personally, fur Jurek I’m down with anything as mundane as the scorpion tribe is at war but the tribe is divided and an heirloom from the temple needs to be claimed to prove rightful leadership of the tribe all the way to the world serpent is consuming the desert, and the sands are slowly sinking into a giant hellmouth that must be closed less our entire nation be consumed and demons-lords from other planes come to ours to enslave mankind.  Anywho, I want some fire burning on our asses.

Doing stuff

As we started I almost immediately remembered why I think Dungeon World (and World of Dungeons) is such an intensive game to run. Unlike AW which generally resolves all contests in one roll, WoDu (as World of Darkness already has claim to WoD) calls for lots of rolls, which means lots of figuring out results, creating a lot of minutia.

It’s one thing when someone states their intent, rolls dice and either gets their result (on a hit) or some bad turn or complication (on a miss) or a mix of the two (on a weak hit). That is generally pretty easy to parse,  and the time it takes at the table (or in this case on the Hangout) to adjudicate the results of the roll is negligible compared to the narrative weight of the story leading up to the roll and following from it. That is to say, the dice do a lot in the game, but don’t require constant interpretation. But when every attack becomes a roll, and everyone is acting and wants to do their thing, then lots of dice are flying the the GM (or MC or whatever) has t come up with a lot of results.

One thought I had, though a bit too late, was that rather than figure out how a miss, or partial hit indicates a failure on the part of the characters, I think it’s worth borrowing from AW and DW and seeing it as an opportunity for the bad guys. One of my favorite things about DW was the monsters various moves. Goblins I think for instance have (call more goblins, do damage, and spring a trap).  I think that helps a) keep the PCs appearing heroic and b) gives opportunities for their threats to be really aggressive and powerful.

House rules

As WoDu has only one mechanic, we realized that as we went, we’ll need to build some house rules onto it. What came up in game was rules for helping, as well as rules for bonds/Hx. We’ll probably just steal from DW or AW, but who knows, we might think of some cool things on our own.

In particular, I’d be interested in teamwork rules. I know I made a couple moves to intimidate the goblins, not really to scare them into running a way, but in order to give Pollux the opportunity to get in a backstab. If they were looking at me, the weren’t looking at him!

Some funny, totally 1979 moments

After being “cured” by the scorpion venom, Jurek wanted to prove his strength by squeezing the scorpion’s venom out into his mouth.  (surely if it cured him it would be a powerful intoxicant as well). This failed, badly, the acid burning Jurek’s tongue and causing his lip to swell horribly. I spent the rest of the night (when I remembered at least) having Jurek speak just like I had just gotten out of the  dentist’s chair.

When Gaspar’s spirit Lot froze a goblin in time, the wizard tried to wrest the serrated short sword from the goblin’s grip, but ended up tipping the frozen goblin onto himself and getting impaled by the sword… the same one he had summoned a spirit to protect him from!

Vin named his attacks after scorpion moves. His holy water was scorpion milk. He hated beetles because the scarab god was the enemy of the scorpion god. He had scorpions coming out of his ass! (okay, the last is figurative… though if he prayed for divine intervention…).

Nobody trusted Pollux. Like right off the bat, he had led us here, to the opportunity for adventure and fortune and we totally all assumed he was going to steal, cheat, and backstab his way out of any kind of fair deal. And it totally was just because he took the “thief” class. Fucking classists!

Murder hobos

The first goblin we encountered, we didn’t even identify it property (just heard and armored figured walking on the other side of a door) before Jurek charged forward and impaled it with his spear. Noam was clearly trying to bring some humanity to it (“you just killed a man”) and I was happy to play along. Jurek tried to identify the creature, decided it was a leprous and deformed man, and promptly went to the corner to puke up his breakfast. He had to give himself a pep talk just to go on.

But go on he did, and along with everyone else, murdered another half dozen goblins and looted their stuff. I’d like a character with some basic humanity some day, but I don’t think my first WoDu character is the place to find it.

Survival -> Desert-wise -> Yay!

I was able to leverage the survival skill several times to make some cool declarations and/or gain knowledge.  Once by rubbing the sand between my hands and smelling it for moisture to know how long it had been since it was disturbed, and later by declaring that the scarab beetled wanted dead flesh rather than living and diverting the swarm by throwing camel jerky on the ground. I like it when rules let our characters look smart, or at least capable.


While Jurek was beserking, he saw that one goblin had bitten a chunk of the scorpion priest’s forearm off. That was not acceptable. He dove on the goblin, bashed his brains in and tried to get that big of man-flesh back out. This was also when I was trying to end my berserk rage and failed the con roll to stop fighting. Suffice the say the body was mutilated (throat slit, stomach disemboweled, etc) to find the bits bitten off, but after a while it all just looked like blood and bits. When he was done, Jurek weakly offered a handful of flesh, sinew and a few broken teeth out to Vin “I think that’s most of it” (said with a swollen lip). Not surprisingly, Vin wasn’t about to wade through that carnage to find a bit of “him” to suture back up.

Thoughts on this game

I think I spelled most of them out above. I’m not a fan of using the AW mechanics for task resolution, but eh, it’s what we’ve got.

I do like the way skills work, ensuring that some people will never outright fail at certain things, though they may have some pretty hefty complications. I like shit getting torn up (bottled of ink breaking, pieces of arm being bitten off, burning a whole in your tongue, etc) and I think those all work nicely for gnarly complications.

We all had pretty good 1979 gaming sensibilities: PCs -> there to be bickered with. Monsters -> there to be killed.  Dungeons -> there to be explored. Look -> Not there at all, cause we shoved all of it in our grubby pockets already! Where’s my damn bag of holding already?

Roll-playing? Our characters weren’t rich. They haven’t looked enough yet for that.

Actual Play – Bloodstone Idol (1/7/2011)

MC: Sean Nittner
Players: Alex Miller, Charles Stone, Meghan Miller and Brendan McGuigan
System: Dungeon World

I was really excited about running Dungeon World for Alex and Charles. Specifically because I had a good experience playing it with Shaun Hayworth and I hoped that maybe it would be THE system we ended up using to pick back up a D&D campaign we stared 20 years ago. Sadly, the game was very frustrating to me, which really surprised me based on my past experience and the many good things I have heard about it.

This game I had a much longer session than last time (6 hours instead of the previous 1.5), saw many more rolls, played with more characters and generally felt I had more exposure to the system. I had high hopes and part of my frustration (which is mostly what I’m going to write about here) came from the disappointment that no, this won’t be the game we can use long term.

I’m not going to talk about the adventure much. It’s the sample one in the back of the book (Bloodstone Idol) and as adventures go, I think the DW guys did some fun stuff with it. They pose questions I found interesting to ask in the game, and created a situation with some nuance that I enjoyed.

In summary here are the highs and lows of the game. To its detriment:

  • Dungeon World lacks desperation and scarcity. This created difficulty creating motivations in play and during character creation.
  • Dungeon World stacks a tactical system on top of a narrative resolution, slowing down and confusing the narration.
  • Dungeon World moves are tropes taken from D&D and sometimes feel shoe-horned into Apocalypse World moves.

To its credit:

  • Dungeon World is very well written, and conveyed how the game should be played clearly and encouragingly.
  • Dungeon world give the MC an agenda and principles that are excellent tools for any GM(MC) in any game.

My long explanation below

Actual Play – Dungeon World Potluck (11/5/2011)

GM: Shaun Hayworth
Players: Sean Nittner, Dan Roberts and Kristin Smith
System: Dungeon World

This was a very chill night. It started with three very smooth White Russians, then food, then some tasty, tasty beer. So by the time we were gaming, I was mostly socializing. But still, it’s gaming, and I don’t fuck around with my gaming.

Shuan started explaining the basics of Dungeon World ala the rules of Apoc World and I tuned out a bit, listening a little to see if there was any significant change but my guess was that I had heard enough about it to start playing.

I nabbed the fighter, picked a dwarf (with the hopes of getting people intoxicated and using my +Con (instead of +Cha) to parlay) and a BIG UNBLEMISHED HAMMER. I made a point that my unblemished hammer was a shame to all dwarves. It was a new hammer because I had lost my ancestral weapon when I was captured by goblins years ago.

Shaun did a nice job of reincorporation, the same goblins that were the caves we were entering were the ones that had taken my dwarf captive years ago, so he had a real axe to grind with them. Fun motivations.
We didn’t actually get too far into the game. We started late, had interruptions and had to end on the early side, but I got a taste of Dungeon World and that was enough for me to know I want more!

Thoughts on the game

I was told before that DW lacked the desperation of AW, and because of that didn’t evoke the drama that AW did. That statement alone really turned me off to DW, I love the desperation that AW creates, it keeps games tight. Everyone knows that their actions have consequences and that they are playing where nothing can be taking for granted. Can you kill a guy? Absolutely. Will there be repercussions? Only if you’re doing it right. My concern with any hack-n-slash game was that actions have few real consequences, that you’re playing on an open field where the sound of your actions will just disappear into the vast cosmos rather than bounce off the walls of scarcity and desperation. I’m not being very clear or articulate, but suffice to say, I wasn’t thinking I would like DW.

I was wrong. Sure, Dungeon World doesn’t have the desperation of Apocalypse World, but what it does have is an ingenious adventure generation system. I mean, it’s take right form AW, so it’s no surprise, but still, it works remarkably well. You roll anything shy of a 10+ and your actions will have consequences. Consequences that will generate further conflicts, conflicts which will require you taking actions (or moves, you know, whatever), which will generate consequences… The PCs never need to leave the tavern, the adventure will come to them. Then stack that up with a series of known challenges (get the treasure, kill the dude, etc) and you’ve got all the pacing and pressure you need.

I really dug that weapons didn’t matter in DW. You just have a base damage you do. The reason I love this? I’m always describing my characters forsaking their weapons to grab a fools head and smash it into a rock, or a gut strike with the butt of a weapon followed by a knee to the head as they keel over. I really, really, never want to be tied down to a specific weapon and I LOVE that DW frees you of that (even when you’re the fighter with a signature weapon)

The moves have trouble built right in. Bend Bars/Lift Gates is the total Conan move it always should have been in D&D. I’m going to roll to break something with my physical might, but bad things will probably come of that (lots of noise, permanent damage, taking a long time, etc).

Risk averse play came up a couple times, I think mostly form the misconception that it does a damn bit of good in the game. It didn’t save us from danger, it did bring on more craziness. I think with more play that would have been conditioned right out of the players. The AW mechanics are awesome like that.

I have been searching long and hard… for years and years to find a game system to continue an D&D game that I played in back in high school. The story isn’t over and I’ve been telling my GM for the last almost two decades that he was going to finish it with me one way or another. I thought about every version of D&D, Burning Wheel, PTA, Smallville, and others. I think I’ve finally found my match with Dungeon World. And boy does that make me happy.

I wanna know what’s in that cave. Gimme more Shauh Sub 1.