Wednesday, September 3, 2014

DragonCon 2014 in Review: Day 1 and Thoughts on Dungeon World

Friday - 8:30 AM
I hopped the train downtown, strolled around a bit in the cool morning air and headed to the Hilton around 8:30 to pick up my tickets for the games I signed up for. Made my way up to the room where non-campaign rpg players and GMs muster. Ran into some friends from the Atlanta Gamer's Guild (including two players in my Trelleborg campaign). Got a pin to indicate I'm a judge.

Friday - 9 AM - 12:30 PM 
I ran the Purple Worm Graveyard from Planet Thirteen using b/x. 

This is the same module I ran back in December last year for the Atlanta Gamer's Guild, so I had a good idea of what to expect. Still, I re-did the map to make sure they'd  have to go through at least five rooms/encounters prior to the Big Bad, but they could go do so by multiple paths. I think my new map is probably more useful for convention games, where people are paying for an experience to fill at least 2-3 hours. Oddly, like the first time i ran this, the party encountered the maggot nagas first - whom they mowed down and just like the first party, they spent time planning, so some fungus covered zombies arrived thanks to a wandering monster roll.

Six players had signed up originally, but at the start of the game I only had 3, which I was fine with me, and all three were gamers from way back, although none were currently playing much if at all.  Mid-way through the session I picked up a fourth, to the party's benefit, as they just about had a TPK after encountering a wandering ghoul.

Of the two paths, unbeknownst to them they chose the one with lot's of combat - quite more than i expected when the wandering monster rolls were factored in. One character acquired the worm madness, and another was devoured whole by a giant purple worm, and they may or may not have burned down an entire kingdom.  Lot's of laughs and a good solid start for my 1st time running  a con game. 

I wasn't 100% happy (i never am when it comes to my GMing) but I felt pretty confident I had given them their money's worth and that no one regretted spending $3.

Friday - 1 PM - 4:30 PM
Every description I have read of Dungeon World has piqued my curiosity. I had tried to play it last year in a Games on Demand slot, but was outvoted and played Fate: Accelerated (which was quite fun). This time I signed up for a DW slot. I've read the GM bits online in the SRD, but I've never read all of the rules.

I loved the way character generation is guided by the playbook and yet helps create unique characters thanks to the choices a player makes, and especially due to the relationships they assign to the other characters. The relationships have narrative value, but also interact with the mechanics in places.

You only need 2d6 for the most part, although occasionally one of the funky dice makes an appearance - maybe i play wargames too much, but lately I've really grown to appreciate the d6. 

There's a high level of shared world creation which I enjoyed. I also liked that the players did all the die rolling, and the way the varying degrees of success (which reminded me of Fate: Accelerated) impacted the developing narrative. It took me a bit to grasp that there's no turn sequence or combat round, but that was only mildly confusing. 

I played a Dwarf Cleric, named Bjorn, who was pretty hapless, but undeterred, and spent most of the game trying to protect the bard (who I was also trying to convert to my god). Combat is not the central focus of the game, and so it was fast and suitably abstract to give my old school mind comfort. In combat or not, I rolled terribly most of the time to my own, and everyone else's, amusement, scoring 6 or less quite often (which is failure), and snake eyes came up more than once.  

Failure is interesting in DW  and rarely devastating. While some DMs undoubtedly try to make failure interesting, I've seen far too many just say "you don't make it" or some variation of that. 

More than once, I've heard DW described as old school D&D without the bits many people find annoying (encumbrance, worrying about torches and such), and I would at least agree the feeling of the game is similar. 

At the same time, the "if the player says it, it happens" and the shared world creation that occurs in play as a result of the player saying something is not typical of any iteration of D&D to my knowledge, although individual DMs (myself included) may try to implement such things. As such, I think it's a great game for DMs to participate in as players, as we typically can't help but want to do some world building, and for players who want to take part in that kind of creative expression, without committing to running a game. Then again, it's also super low prep - or potentially is - as long as you're comfortable with improvising, so maybe it would encourage more players to run games.

Who isn't this game for? Well, as I experienced it, it's a giant improvised sandbox: reactive players might have a more difficult time getting into the game and passive players most definitely will, as will DMs who insist on planning everything. DMs who want absolute control over the world and its history and the way magic functions,etc. should probably stay away.

Me? I enjoyed the hell out of this game and can't wait to play it again.

Friday 4:30  PM - 5:00 PM 
I went straight to the Chessex stand in the vendor hall and bought some dice and then hit Titan Games and Comics for a copy of Dungeon World, before heading home for the day.


  1. How would you evaluate the potential for Dungeon World to be played solo?

  2. Chris, I've wondered the same. As I've really been diving into the srd/gazetteer I think it is doable especially if you use the support of a GM emulator.
    My only thought would be that with the joint world creation you would be missing out on the richness that other players are going to bring into the world.

  3. What I like about DW, failed rolls are your primary way to get xp. I love this because I'm beginning to see that I need to fail more in my work and gaming life so that I will have a more rich life.

  4. That's a great question Chris and Itinerant. It SEEMS do-able, but i haven't read the rule book enough to say for sure. I think, as Itinerant mentioned, you'd miss out on that joint world creation (spouting lore shaped a lot of the game and in directions i wouldn't necessarily have gone). More importantly, I think the "carry forward" things for the GM might be tricky (and the "hard moves"), although I have no doubt soloists could come up with something.