Dungeon World: My first game

I have been aware of Dungeon World (DW) for around a year now.  I first found out about it through my discussions with +Desiree Kaleopaa as it was the game that she cut her teeth on.  Due to this I bought a PDF copy a long time ago and started to read it on the old iPad.

Cover of the game from RPGNow…

It has been a long time reading.  The reason is it does what a lot of games do and put all the classes and rules for the classes up front.  In all honesty this bores the hell out of me.  Nothing will put me to sleep quicker than reading a class and class rules in a paper or electronic format.  It is dry, dull and normally superfluous in my role as the GM.  I should have an executive summary of the classes and leave the finite detail to the players.  Once I had finished with the character classes I just did not get it.  There was still half the book to read and I just did not get it so I put it to the side and moved on to greener pastures.

I am not sure what made me do it but just before Christmas I opened up the DW book again and started to read from the point of being the Games Master (GM).  It was about this time that I also realised what DW was all about.  I worked out what the beauty of this system is and why its approach is so popular with a lot of people in the RPG community.  The game is modelled off of Apocalypse World and although it employs a different dice and I am assuming mechanically a little different it sticks very well to the spirit of the game.

That spirit is of whole group story telling.  Not only the GM but the players as well.  DW’s advice is to prepare as little as possible, especially for the first game.  The GM’s role is to ask questions and ask a lot of them and allow the players narrative of the game fiction drive the plot forward.  The game sure gives the GM a lot of tools to make this work as well and it works well.

I ran my first game with this in my “in-person” group as a side-track from our normal Pathfinder game.  One of the players could not make the game for a few weeks so I decided to see if I could use this time to introduce a new game.  I wanted to introduce Fate Core but I thought that it may be a bit too much so went DW instead.  It read very much like it would be an action packed game, so last Tuesday I had all the classes printed out and we got stuck in to it.

I am not going to go into too much detail of the actual game apart from to say that it played very much like I had expected.  High action.  Inventive stories and it engaged the players directly, especially with my role of being the lead questioner.  Also, as suggested in the book, I left gaps in the dungeon and as the group encountered them allowed them to tell me what was there.  At the start of the game I dropped them into action and with some of the suggested questioning and my own add ons the group came up with what would be a highly interesting and complex world!

After the first game I am now ready to build up my “fronts” for next weeks game.  Not to mention the start of a campaign map.  I am looking forward to building these portions of the game and seeing how they work.  The ideas that surround them are again aimed at giving the GM as little time as they can to prep for a game but still make it interesting.  One of the comments I received from another GM of DW recently was that they really enjoy the idea of “fronts” and now use them in other games they play.  I am keen to see if they work well for me.  I believe they may just become a favourite of mine.

If you are wondering about what I am dribbling about, a “front” is simply a plot device that lays out some threats and some portents.  You can have several fronts working together in a campaign to build up a complex environment that spells out what happens over a time period.  It also reduces the need to micro-manage certain elements and allows for you to design with a much broader brush that can be used to great effect at the time of game.  I strongly suggest you look at this game for the ideas like this about campaign management.

OK, that is all the good material I have been bursting to talk about for the past couple of days.  It does have its flaws though.  The first to me is it is aimed at having a light game of fun (or even humorous) action.  To me when I play this game it is like a roller coaster action fantasy movie full of special effects that you know when one battle stops something else is going to leap in and provide just as much action.  There is little need or room to develop sly plots or suspense filled moments as it is all action.  Action, action, action.  It is the GM’s role to keep this up.  Always make sure there is something to challenge the players and always keep asking questions to propel the game forward.

Pretty much all the preparation I needed for the game!

So, why is that a negative I hear some of you asking.  Well it is not in a way but I found it a bit tiring as the GM to have to keep looking for places to ask something and then prod and poke to get the idea fully fleshed out.  I also noticed that by the end of the night (only a two and a half hour game) most of the players were tired more than normal!  It is not a style that they are used to either.  That said though, we all smiled and laughed the whole way through the game so I know it is something that they truly enjoyed.

Because of this action fantasy movie style though I truly feel that the game is not aimed at long term campaigns.  Characters basically have to retire once they get past tenth level anyway so this is not the game you are going to reach for if you want to run a campaign over a good length of time.  On the flip side, this is a great game to teach a new player how to role play with.  It is very quick to learn the rules and build a character and it offers excitement from the get go.  Also, the fact that the GM basically can go through the game with out rolling a single dice (which is how I played it) all that happens to their character comes from the players own rolls and own experiences.

DW has a lot to offer.  It is fun, fast and very well made.  It is a great source of laughs and actions.  it even allows first level character to mix it up with full on Dragons and Giants with a good possibility of beating them.  It does not offer a GM the ability to run a long term well thought out campaign that the players will be lead through (use Pathfinder or something else for that) but it does offer to slash the preparation time required to run a game.  Again, as proof of the brilliance of this game it is the first game that I have purchased in physical (i.e. book) format for 2014.  I expect we will play it a few more times and explore the richness of shared storytelling in the world of action adventure fantasy movie flicks!  Keep rolling!

If this post convinced you to get the PDF version, use this link to go to RPG Now and buy it 🙂

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