roleplaying games

After-action report: Dungeon World, September 28th

Dungeon World marks my return to GMing after a nearly two month hiatus. And man, it feels good.

We started off with character creation, a relatively quick affair in most PbtA games including Dungeon World, and ended up with an interesting little party. There’s Garath the Wizard, Mouse the Thief, Dominique the Cleric, and Briallen the Ranger. Once the characters were introduced and some Bonds were thrown in the mix, we were ready to go.

One way every PbtA game varies is in how the game is supposed to start. Apocalypse World, as well as Urban Shadows, start the game with each character going through a “day in the life”. In my experience, this quickly strays away from the actual daily routine and into all of the surrounding elements that are important to the characters’ lives. In Apocalypse World, I gave a somewhat unique but still relatively unadventurous day (a funeral), some very basic frameworks, and asked them to fill in the blanks.

Dungeon World is a bit different. The game starts in media res. The GM provides a basic scenario which the players are just about to hit the climax of, and drops them off right in the action. In this session, I had the players hiding in the rafters of a library, watching a group of goblins searching for the same book they were. When trying to use Detect Evil to determine the nature of the goblins, the cleric accidentally popped the book right out of the shelf, and into the hands of the goblins. Using some bluster and an invisibility spell, the wizard was able to convince the goblins they were outgunned, and demanded payment for the book. Not having the extravagant sum he was demanding, the goblins left, swearing they’d return. No sooner than they’d made there way out the entrance of the abandoned library did they happen upon a group of kobolds. The party couldn’t understand what they were arguing about, but when both groups turned back towards the library, it was clear everyone wanted the book. This time, it was the cleric’s turn for some bluster. The kobolds, who apparently were warned about a wizard, suddenly realized there were two magic users about, and beat a hasty retreat. Not wanting to stick around, the party quickly hiked through the night to the nearest village.

And here’s the part that makes this sort of gaming fun in a unique way. Do I know who the goblins are? No! What about the kobolds? Not a clue! What’s the deal with this book? Good question! While I am going to sit down and write this all out between now and next session, the way the first session played out created these opportunities to start sketching out this world. And Dungeon World itself has some great frameworks to help me do this. As an example, the characters ended the session making it back to the village. Nothing has been determined about this village, except for the fact that an old man who wanted a certain book lived there. But, Dungeon World has some great templates and guidelines for creating “steadings”, as they’re called in Dungeon World parlance. This should give me some more interesting ideas for what’s going on in this corner of the world.

I think we’re off to a great start. I want to try and nudge my players to fill in more blanks about their characters, as this is a fairly blank world. I know the cleric’s deity, which is great, but I could also know about the wizard’s education, as an example, or even something simple like their hometowns. This doesn’t all have to happen now (or any time soon, necessarily), but like all PbtA games Dungeon World has ample opportunity for player input.

It was a solid first session. I see a lot of opportunities for both characters and the world to grow and develop as we keep playing.

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