Dungeon World - my new go to pickup RPG!

edited September 2011 in Story Games
Talking about Dungeon World on Story Games feels a bit like singing to the choir. But here's an informal mini review...

We've been playing a lot of Dungeon World when no one wants to GM or prepare a game. Dungeon World feels like playing D&D as a kid but with modern day RPG game design.

Why do I like it?

- Easy to GM.
- Feels like playing D&D when I was a kid but without the bad stuff.
- GM doesn't roll anything!
- Making characters takes 15 minutes.
- Playing is fast. Combat takes minutes, not hours.
- It's rules light.
- You can download and play the Beta rules for free.
- It feels immersive, the rules are tied to your character's action in the fiction, moment to moment.
- The PDF for the basic rules costs $5 (the expanded and print versions come out in 2012).
- The character classes really hone in on what's great about being say a Thief or a Wizard.
- Great for when I want to play an RPG without tactical components. No minis or grid maps. You spend most of the time speaking in character.
- Leveling up is fun!
- You don't need multiple supplements or books to play.
- Player Characters are pretty bad ass! A wizard doesn't cast 1 spell and then hide behind their allies fearing anything and everything!
- You earn XP for playing your Alignment.
- Classes feel unique and distinct from each other.
- There are simple rules for throwing parties after returning from triumphant adventures, rules for outstanding warrants when you return to a city where you've broken the law, rules for making camp, rules for undertaking perilous journeys, rules for looting monster lairs, and much more!
- When a wizard rolls to cast a spell, if they roll high enough, they don't forget the spell!
- Characters have Bonds / Relationships with each other. You have a reason for adventuring together.
- When you hit 0 Hit Points, roll! If you roll awesome, you are stable. If you roll ok, death offers you a bargain, take it and stabilize or refuse and die. Roll crap and you just die.
- And much more!

What don't I like about it?

- Highlighting stats tied to gaining XP works against the immersive feel of the rest of the game.
- I would prefer the option to inflict named wounds instead of reducing hit points. But hit points feels more like old school D&D.
- I would prefer if trying to convince someone to do something had a bit more back and forth. Right now you just make 1 roll to see if you convince someone. Where in a fight, you make multiple rolls.
- I would like some sort of quest / goal mechanic. I prefer games where character motivations are external. External motivations makes the GM's job much easier.
- There are few mechanics for individual traits, personalities, drives, or beliefs to diversify characters mechanically beyond their class.

Minor dislikes aside, I highly recommend Dungeon World! It's my new... don't know what to play, lets play DW!
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Comments

  • <blockquote><cite>Posted By: jenskot</cite>

    What don't I like about it?

    - Highlighting stats tied to gaining XP works against the immersive feel of the rest of the game.
    - I would prefer the option to inflict named wounds instead of reducing hit points. But hit points feels more like old school D&D.
    - I would prefer if trying to convince someone to do something had a bit more back and forth. Right now you just make 1 roll to see if you convince someone. Where in a fight, you make multiple rolls.
    - I would like some sort of quest / goal mechanic. I prefer games where character motivations are external. External motivations makes the GM's job much easier.
    - There are few mechanics for individual traits, personalities, drives, or beliefs to diversify characters mechanically beyond their class.

    </blockquote>

    Awesome! Let's see your hack!
  • I think custom moves could fix some of your dislikes. For example, a move that let you take XP for doing some dungeon-based things could provide a quest/goal mechanic, certain creatures or weapons could inflict named wounds, and diplomats might have moves that allow for multiple parleys or have each side start a countdown clock to social defeat (if you wanted to steal some AW goodness to do social combat).
  • Good news, I hear highlighted stats probably won't be in the final version! And that could lead to a quest/goal mechanic or something like beliefs/goals or both!

    Your point about social situations is making me ponder a social move that's more like: 10+, hold 3. 7-9, hold 2. Spend your hold to offer someone you're talking to XP for doing something, make them act under fire to not do it, or (for PCs) counteract hold they're spending on you.
  • Posted By: jenskot
    - Highlighting stats tied to gaining XP works against the immersive feel of the rest of the game.

    Minor dislikes aside, I highly recommend Dungeon World! It's my new... don't know what to play, lets play DW!
    I agree with most of that, especially your conclusion, but not your issue with highlighting stats. I don't see how that breaks immersion, but that's the subjective joy of "immersion" for you! I hope they leave that in, or come up with an even better way of focusing PC actions on, you know, actions!
  • I like the idea of using a custom move that gives XP as a quest goal mechanic (or as a series of goals). Sort of like the "Open Your Mind to the Worm God" move in Purple Worm Graveyard, but more specifically tied to whatever goal you come up with for the quest.
  • Posted By: J. WaltonGood news, I hear highlighted stats probably won't be in the final version! And that could lead to a quest/goal mechanic or something like beliefs/goals or both!

    Your point about social situations is making me ponder a social move that's more like: 10+, hold 3. 7-9, hold 2. Spend your hold to offer someone you're talking to XP for doing something, make them act under fire to not do it, or (for PCs) counteract hold they're spending on you.
    First off, Jonathan's right that we're thinking we want something else than highlighted stats. As for what that is, I'll tell you when I know - Adam and I have probably hundreds of emails about that topic.

    The social move is an interesting one. Hold was originally part of that move, but it ended up feeling slightly metagamey, the hold spent didn't correlate well with the fiction it invoked. I'm fairly happy with the current version, especially since there are some class moves that expand that area.
  • Oh, and thanks jenskot for sharing your thoughts! I saw the NerdNYC thread too, it's really cool to have people share their opinions on the game.
  • edited September 2011
    Hamish, Immersion is definitively subjective!

    But most of the people I've played Dungeon World with (over 16 so far, many more if you count Apocalypse World) felt the same way.

    Why?

    Dungeon World expects players to play their characters as if they were real people. There is little meta thinking in the game. I can't say I "Hack & Slash" a monster. I don't reference most moves / game mechanics directly. Instead I simply say what my character does in the fiction and the GM evaluates if my roleplaying triggers a game mechanic. This adds to our immersion (which is subjective to us). It helps us feels close to our characters and the fiction.

    But trying to figure out ways to use a Stat that someone else highlighted to gain XP so you can level up breaks that mind set for us (which is again subjective and may not be the case for many other people). The players in Dungeon World only have 1 agenda. And this mechanic seems to run counter to that agenda. At least that is how it felt in play for us.

    There were also other issues with tying XP to limited stat use. Certain stats may be used more frequently in a given session. If my charisma stat is highlighted, I may spend 10 minutes roleplaying and only roll charisma once. If my strength stat is highlighted, in that same 10 minutes, I may roll strength 3+ times. Combat has hit points which means rolling multiple times to achieve a single goal. There is also the issue that some classes make frequent use of a single stat, so if 1 players has their class stat highlighted and another player doesn't, the difference in XP gained was very apparent to us. Which meant the player not gaining XP started thinking of ways to get more XP. Which often meant not playing their character as if they were a real person, but more as a puppet or avatar.

    That all said, I don't want to make this sound like a bigger deal than it is. I really enjoy playing Dungeon World!
  • Sage you rock! Also, I forgot to mention, I really like the new Dungeon World website!
  • Only against PCs, you'd roll+Bond, rather than +Cha, or at least add bond into the mix somehow, yes?
  • John, I have the basics of an AW-style quest mechanic here, which might give you some ideas. It's not for DW specifically, but it's AW-derived.
  • Posted By: jenskotWhat don't I like about it?
    I miss the "I experimented on ___________" Bond in the Wizard playbook.
  • Thanks for expanding on that, John! That makes a lot of sense. I'm used to playing DW/AW with mechanics closer to the surface than that.

    I hadn't thought of the variations in stat use. I've only played a fighter and a cleric, so I don't think I've had CHA highlighted, but if I did I would get some hirelings. Also, it sounds like I'm used to playing in a much more action-oriented style. I don't think there's been a lengthy conversational scene in any of the games I've played or run.
    Posted By: UserCloneOnly against PCs, you'd roll+Bond, rather than +Cha, or at least add bond into the mix somehow, yes?
    In the current AG version, you roll +CHA against both. I don't have my Red Book handy.
  • Posted By: JohnstoneJohn, I have the basics of an AW-style quest mechanichere,which might give you some ideas. It's not for DW specifically, but it's AW-derived.
    That looks very cool, Johnstone! I'm definitely going to put that one in the bag of tricks!
  • Posted By: Anarchangel
    I hadn't thought of the variations in stat use. I've only played a fighter and a cleric, so I don't think I've had CHA highlighted, but if I did I would get some hirelings.
    Oh man... now I want to play a CHA-based fighter with Heirloom, Dangerous, a bunch of hirelings and maybe a multiclass Bard move! Okay Nerdly Beach Party, here I come!

    I heart Dungeon World!
  • Posted By: JohnstoneJohn, I have the basics of an AW-style quest mechanichere,which might give you some ideas. It's not for DW specifically, but it's AW-derived.
    Quests as +workspace. Yes yes yes.
  • Posted By: JohnstoneJohn, I have the basics of an AW-style quest mechanichere,which might give you some ideas. It's not for DW specifically, but it's AW-derived.
    Cool, I'll check this out when I get home.
  • There's actually a *ton* of stuff from the hack that I miss... Perilous Journey, Hireling rules, etc. Not to mention of course the Bard, Paladin, and Ranger!

    Matt
  • A Red Book Paladin has been done as a pdf, not sure of how one gets it.
  • Posted By: jenskot
    What don't I like about it?

    - I would prefer if trying to convince someone to do something had a bit more back and forth. Right now you just make 1 roll to see if you convince someone. Where in a fight, you make multiple rolls.
    !
    Seconded. When I have run old-school games, the players have been much more interested in talking to/making deals with/tricking/befriending any monster that's willing and able to speak or at least make interpretable gestures than they have been in killing things. I wish it had a little more mechanical heft.
  • edited September 2011
    John, your enthusiasm is infectious! I wish more people would break down their recent experiences in such a positive and informative way. I think I need to be that change!

    Regarding social mechanics: When I run my one-shot, about 50% of the groups use the parley move to obviate certain combat encounters. This interaction gets roleplayed and doesn't feel like a boring shortcut, even though it is essentially a single roll. It feels to me like an homage to the source material, actually. I also think there's a surprising amount of meat on the bones of "give them concrete assurance".
  • So this is surprising to me - I thought Dungeon World pretty much required a "module" or dungeon or something, so how can it be a pickup game for when no one wants to prep? How do you play it pickup?
    (Is this already in another thread?)
  • I think it demands perhaps 15 minutes of prep that need not be done at any particular time. So if you have a handful of monsters on index cards and have a minute to sketch a map you are good to go. Look at the characters and their bonds, ask a few questions, go. I'm sure this varies widely by taste and GMing style but pick-up, absolutely.
  • I noticed this inconsistency and thought it was worth bringing up.

    Dungeon World Basic says, "This book contains an adventure to get you started in Dungeon World: The Bloodstone Idol. Once the Idol’s halls have been explored you’ll have a good idea of how to run Dungeon World. You’ll be ready to create your own adventures or just run the game off the cuff." It also says, "The first part of every dungeon is the fronts." The implication is that in DW, you write adventures before you play. You can wing it if you want ("off the cuff") but in DW you play adventures and "Adventures are the GM’s domain."

    This clashes with the last manuscript of the full game sent to the Adventurer's Guild (before the designers paused to put together the red book), which has a section on GM prep for the first session that says (and I'm paraphrasing here) you are filling your brain with cool fantasy, starting a game of DW in media res, asking questions and building the world around players' answers at the table, not prepping plot at all, and waiting until after the first session to write fronts. Not mentioning adventures, the implication is that play is generated whole cloth at the table (not unlike the first session of AW).

    It seems the two rules sets are at an impasse regarding how the game is to be played. I think it likely that, when the full rules are published, they will accommodate both styles of play.
  • I've been meaning to do a blog post on this, since there's been some confusion: you don't need an adventure as prepped as the Bloodstone Idol, certainly.

    The stuff in the last full draft about the first session is not well presented. I'll work on that. The Red Book is also targeted at people who don't yet know about fronts and all that, it's the way of starting a game without telling you why it starts this way or how we made this stuff.

    To play DW you really just need a clear idea of some threat the players are facing (a front) and some fantastic ideas about the locales and monsters that includes. If you're comfortable with the general HP, damage and Armor ranges you can probably even make up your monsters on the fly.

    On top of that basis (a front, an impression of a locale, some monster ideas/stats) you can go into more detail: maps (specific or general), rooms (vague or detailed), more fronts, specific people or monsters, etc. The Bloodstone Idol is about the most detail you can have. It's not the way I prep my own games or the minimum required prep. It's a complex detailed adventure because we felt that to publish it it had to be something big and interesting, not just the bare minimum to get you started. I don't know that we'll ever see another adventure in the Idol's vein again.

    Making the Idol look more like a traditional adventure is also outreach to new players. DW isn't just for AW players, we want to go beyond that, so we wanted an adventure that was approachable and recognizable if you're more used to D&D.
  • DW has quick chargen, a great list of monsters and provides avenue for player narrative authority (Spout Lore, Discern Realities, some playbook moves) so if you have a good familiarity with the genre, then it's a great pick up game.

    I don't go into a great deal of detail about my process here, but I did all the "prep" for this game at Gateway while the players were making their characters.

    [Two potential caveats: 1) I run most games with relatively small amounts of prep. 2) At low levels and with pre-made characters, I also think D&D 4e is a great pick up game, so genre familiarity is obviously important to me.]
  • Posted By: Jason MorningstarI also think there's a surprising amount of meat on the bones of "give them concrete assurance".
    Boy, is this true. My last session we left the dungeon with less treasure than when we entered - all in the name of "concrete assurances."

    We got a lot of XP and killed a elder god though, so it's all good...
  • "Concrete assurances" are a GM's best friend - naturally the party being Parleyed at is going to want something they feel comfortable with in exchange for whatever outrageous concession the PCs demand. That, to my way of thinking, ought to be something the players are reluctant to give over. Solemn oaths to do (or not do) something specific are as good as collateral.

    In my Temple of Ungu one-shot, players often Parley with the poor, wretched goblins. They want safe passage to go kill the spider-witch, and the goblins can be persuaded not to molest them. But they are scared of the spider-witch more than the adventurers, so the concrete assurance I use most often is "we're totally cool with you guys trampling through our home to get at the spider-witch. Thing is, once you are through, we're triggering these wicked granite plinth traps that block both the exits, sealing you in there with her."
  • Anybody run any of the classic D&D varient settings yet? I'm thinking about doing some Planescape or Dark Sun or something, despite having never played any of that stuff (or, really, because I never played that stuff), and was hoping I'm not the only one.
  • We started running through Planescape: Faction War but didn't get very far. We may go further back and start with Dead Gods.
  • Posted By: J. WaltonAnybody run any of the classic D&D varient settings yet? I'm thinking about doing some Planescape or Dark Sun or something, despite having never played any of that stuff (or, really, because I never played that stuff), and was hoping I'm not the only one.
    You could probably sit down with your players, make characters, and then brainstorm the kind of things they think are important to that setting. Then, as a group you could write up a setting document. Dragonlance for example, would have dragons, dragon highlords, draconians, death knights, perhaps gully dwarf/gnome/kender custom race moves, special moves for when you take the tests of wizardry, custom moves for when you take your knightly vows, and custom items like the disks of mishkal or Fizbin's hat. Better yet, make it a google doc and have everyone work on it in the week between the first session and the second!!!
  • Posted By: jenskotWe started running through Planescape: Faction War but didn't get very far. We may go further back and start with Dead Gods.
    What were the issues? Not the right fit for the game or for the play group?
  • From a pure gameplay standpoint, opinions on whether it is better to get AW and the DW hack, or get the DW PDF?

    (if you want to factor in cost effectiveness, whether or not I might enjoy AW, or waiting for the DW print edition, please at least answer with those factors excluded from consideration - I'm mainly interested in the differences between the two DW versions currently available)
  • Posted By: sageThe stuff in the last full draft about the first session is not well presented. I'll work on that. The Red Book is also targeted at people who don't yet know about fronts and all that, it's the way of starting a game without telling you why it starts this way or how we made this stuff.
    Which, incidentally, is fucking awesome.

    - Ryan
  • Posted By: J. WaltonPosted By: jenskotWe started running through Planescape: Faction War but didn't get very far. We may go further back and start with Dead Gods.
    What were the issues? Not the right fit for the game or for the play group?
    Faction War felt too high level to play with basic Dungeon World since it only goes up to level 5. We also decided we enjoy low level play so are thinking of starting with a different module.
  • DW Hack is:
    -Slightly out of date (working on it)
    -The classes, moves, equipment and a few monsters only

    DW Basic PDF is:
    -The latest version of everything
    -Four core classes, all the moves, equipment
    -An entire adventure presented as pre-made fronts, maps, and descriptions

    If you try the hack and post (or email us) about your thoughts that gets you into the Adventurer's Guild which gets full access to everything.
  • Posted By: Jason Morningstar so the concrete assurance I use most often is "we're totally cool with you guys trampling through our home to get at the spider-witch. Thing is, once you are through, we're triggering these wicked granite plinth traps that block both the exits, sealing you in there with her."
    Granite assurance.
  • Posted By: sageIf you try the hack and post (or email us) about your thoughts that gets you into the Adventurer's Guild which gets full access to everything.
    Its totally worth it. You get to try out a cool game and, even in its primordeal state, the version available to the guild is a treasure trove of the awesome to come.
  • Does running DW basic count for Adventurer's Guild access?
  • edited September 2011
    Posted By: sage
    If you try the hack and post (or email us) about your thoughts that gets you into the Adventurer's Guild which gets full access to everything.
    Gah! You mean my over-long and overly florid AP-with-notes here doesn't qualify for AG membership because I bought and used Red Book?!

    Talk about a hard move.. ;)
  • edited September 2011
    We're getting together for the second game tomorrow.

    The way the first game shook out, the only surviving player (of two) ended up working for Grundloche (that's the name of the wizard from the Bloodstone Idol, right?), until he had a chance to kill him.

    I'm seriously considering writing all e-mails to the players making plans for the game from the POV of Grundloche.

    We game this THURSDAY! Grundloche will send you into the depths of the Iron Liche's Death Factory. Many of you will not make it back to bask in Grundloche's presence and give him his share of the treasure. So be it.
  • Posted By: CnephPosted By: sage
    If you try the hack and post (or email us) about your thoughts that gets you into the Adventurer's Guild which gets full access to everything.
    Gah! You mean my over-long and overly florid AP-with-notesheredoesn't qualify for AG membership because I bought and used Red Book?!

    Talk about a hard move.. ;)

    Dude, that still works! Shoot an email to gm@dungeon-world.com, you're in!
  • Posted By: FelanDoes running DW basic count for Adventurer's Guild access?
    Yes! Play any version, tell us (or the world) about it, you're in.
  • edited September 2011
    I just got my physical copy of the basic game in the mail. I will now carry it with me wherever I go where there might be gamers. And it'll take up much less space than many of my other go-to games (like the two ginseng boxes I use to carry all of my DangerPatrol stuff, the two boxes that hold my Ghostbusters stuff, or the huge portfolio case that contains my Fiasco playmats).

    Edit: Oh, yeah, and the game is shiny and wonderful. I look forward to more!
  • Posted By: sagePosted By: Cneph
    Talk about a hard move.. ;)
    Dude, that still works! Shoot an email to gm@dungeon-world.com, you're in!

    If we haven't heard from you on this front, should we email again? Last I heard there was a backlog.
  • Yes, please mail again. Adam told me we were all caught up. He will be whipped for his mistake.
  • We were up to date when you asked, jerk.

    People just keep emailing.
  • John,

    You've talked a bunch about the rules in play.

    How does this game work for you in terms of being a "pick up" game? What's the GM/MC/DM's side on this? Do you prep for a game? How do you put together an actual session? Do you use maps? Do you run it like Apocalypse World?

    (Caveat: For all I know, these questions are answered in the text. I've only read the "Hack", so I know nothing.)
  • (I know you asked John but I'm horning in)

    The only time-consuming things are statting up monsters and providing custom moves for them, and custom moves for traps and stuff, and making maps and treasures. Any or all of this can be obviated by stealing directly from the book if you want or making it up as you go. It is largely a matter of taste. Over-preparing is going to be problematic because as GM you don't have a lot of power to control the flow of events.
  • What Jason said!

    Since the GM has little control over the flow of events, I plan as little as possible. I just ask a lot of questions to find out what the players want, listen more than I talk, instigate if they are being quiet, and them improv everything. I mainly use the monsters in the book and will change certain details on the fly to fit whatever the players want to explore.

    We also use DW for what I like to call, "fan fic play."

    We will watch a movie / tv show or read a book / comic together. Then I ask, "what part sucked?" Let's roleplay our own version where we take the suck out.

    It's silly! But it works really well.
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