Friday, December 12, 2014

Undertake a Perilous Journey - More Dungeon World

Draw Maps, Leave Blanks
I ran Dungeon World last Sunday. It was a last moment game for the most part and almost was Numenera, but I decided to run Dungeon World instead since not all the Numenera players could make it.  I decided to go with a plot stolen straight out of Conan having the players escort a high priest across a treacherous desert to an ancient temple to perform a ritual that would hold a demi-god-like evil sorcerer at bay.  Doing so let me try three things out, DW at higher levels, Hirelings and the "Undertake a Perilous Journey" move.

DW at Higher Levels
  • One of the things that has surprised the players I've run (and played) Dungeon World with is that unlike more traditional D&D editions and imitations you don't get additional Hit Points when you level up. You can gain more HP if you put more points into Constitution (you get one ability point to place each level) but that's it for HP advancement. This has led to some speculation that leveling up wouldn't make characters "tougher" but I am pleased to say that such speculation is just wrong. I had the three players make 6th level characters and while the Cleric was a little hampered by unlucky rolls, the Rogue and Barbarian definitely were "tough". To give an idea of how powerful the characters were able to be, the climax of hte session was the three, with three hirelings and a comatose high priest NPC, taking on an army of skeletons being led by a Lich riding a Purple Worm and they emerged triumphant, though it was a close call a few times.  All of which leaves me very happy with how leveling in Dungeon World resulted in characters that felt advanced despite the fact they had only a few more hit points than a first level character.
  • With only three players I figured it would be a good time to give the DW Hirelings rules a try. Full disclosure, other than followers in my Reign game two years ago I've never really let my players have Hirelings or followers. Playing in the AD&D/OSRIC game where it seems like hirelings outnumber PCs 2 to 1 made me want to give the DW Hirelings rules a try, especially since hirelings don't particularily take their own turns but rather provide a skill to benefit the players.  So far I'm mixed on hirelings, they didn't drag down the speed of combat by adding extra turns and decisions for the players to make but I'm also not sure I gave the players chances to utilize them well and I know I didn't take full advantage of their cost.  Of the three, only one of the hirelings died during the game, so I'll have a chance to play around a little more with them and see just what they can do.  In the game last Sunday, the party was well served by having a guide (more on that below) and the hireling with the man-at-arms skill gave the rogue a nice little damage bonus, but I neglected to give the burglar a chance to shine with their "experimental trap disarming" (partly because we started later than I expected so I hand-waved the final exploration of the temple where I had planned a set of traps and an encounter between the players and a guarding angel which could have been a combat or social encounter depending on how the players chose to proceed.)
Undertake a Perilous Journey
  • I'll be honest, this was the biggest thing I wanted to test and one of the rules from Dungeon World that I've been dying to try. When I ran DW back in May I had maybe one or two Undertake a Perilous Journey moves come up but since it was my first time I was focused on keeping the game running rather than the move itself. Part of why I chose the plot I did was it gave me an excuse to force the PCs to travel across an entire desert worrying about resources (rations) and I quite enjoyed how it worked out.  Though the party had a Guide hireling to serve as Trailblazer, they still had to make their own rolls for Quartermaster and Scout.  And because they were far from supplies the players felt the pinch of low resources and having to see if they could make better time and use fewer rations did add to the flavor and the tension of the game.  I also found that the Make Camp and Take Watch moves worked very well.  Even if I don't directly adapt the three moves to other games, running Dungeon World has most assuredly made me think of making camp, taking a watch and undertaking a perilous journey as "moves" that PCs make in a game instead of just as plot points or abstract rolls. Getting to ambush the party with Maggot-Squids after a failed Watch roll and having them find an injured parrot trapped on a rock outcrop by a giant two-headed serpent as the result of a Scout roll were very much high-lights for me running and things that I might not have done in other games had I not had Dungeon World to inspire me.

This, my third attempt, at running Dungeon World was probably my favorite, mostly because I've run enough and played enough Dungeon World/Apocalypse World to get a really good sense of keeping the narrative flow going in and out of combat. And since the evil sorcerer turned out to be a lich and the PCs only destroyed his corporeal body and not his phalactery, I've already got a hook for the next chance I get to run the game and a seriously evil idea for what I want to run the heroes through next...


  1. I'm super 'Jelly' I'm not involved in this, as it sounds truly magical. Well done sir.

  2. So, is there a thing that you think Dungeon World doesn't do well?

    1. It doesn't do social interaction very well. The only (non-class) move written for social interactions is "Parley" ( whereas Apocalypse World has Seduce, Manipulate and Go Aggro (which is really threaten with violence). And I do enjoy running a more political intrigue style of game and I know that Dungeon World wouldn't do that as well as other systems.

      Dungeon World also requires much more player engagement, so it's not good for players who just wait for their turn in D&D and hit things, as it really rewards the players who are interested and constantly trying to drive the action forward.

      The other thing I know Dungeon World doesn't do very well is non-standard characters (at least not without a lot of work) the character classes are very focused and archetypal and even the race moves that go with a class are very class specific so it would be difficult to make a crazy dwarven ranger with two axes who hates trees.


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