Thinking more about Dungeon World

As I mentioned earlier this week, Dungeon World was a big hit with the after-school club kids and I’m now preparing to put together a campaign for a group of them. However, while the Basic Game comes with a couple of very good scenarios, the little kid in me really is itching to adapt one of the classic AD&D modules in my collection. In particular I’d really like to see if DW manages to capture the feel of the game I grew up playing without all the rules wonkiness and minutiae that I no longer enjoy. The conversion itself shouldn’t be too time consuming or difficult given the simplicity of what is needed for DW – monsters consist of 3 “stats” and a few descriptive custom moves, and mostly you just need a map, a situation or two, and some NPCs, all of which those old adventures have in spades.

The real question is which adventure though and that’s not something trivial to decide. My first impulse is to go with The Village of Hommlet. It seems ideal for DW because it’s so open-ended, has a few of evocative locations and situations (e.g., the moathouse, the temple’s spy ring, the missing priest, etc.) , and a whole host of interesting NPCs. On the down side, I’ve run the adventure a bunch of times and would like to try something new. So here are the others I’m considering:

  • U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh – great locations, great situation, lots of potential to build off the events, or even just follow up with the other adventures in the series.
  • L2: The Assassin’s Knot – this one is a bit of a mystery, which is risque in terms of player buy-in & effort, but it has a lot of potential, especially to bring in more social situations and conflict.
  • UK2: The Sentinel – I’ve always been fond of this adventure along with its sequel (UK 3: The Gauntlet) and I think it would be a good choice for a “semi-epic” kind of short campaign. Tempting…
  • B4: The Lost Cityvery open-ended (more of a big location/sandbox) with lots of interesting stuff to interact with including the yaun-ti which I love.

Any others that I should consider?

Pangone: The setting for our Apocalypse World Campaign

Warning: This text contains some profanity since it’s supposed to capture the flavor of both the setting of our game and the tone of Apocalypse World itself. If you’re sensitive about profanity, stop reading here.

This is the “intro” text to our new Apocalypse World campaign, which sums up what we came up during Session #1’s setting creation process. Session reports will follow but it’s helpful to understand what we decided about the basis for our apocalypse, which revolves around an environmental one. The “cell phone pulse” stuff is something I added later (unabashedly borrowed from Stephen King’s story “Cell”) to make more sense out of the decision that people avoid the cities. I also wanted some sort of hostile threat out there aside from other survivors in order to add a bit more of a horror element to the game at times.

My granddad says it all started with that damn experiment at CERN – somethin’ to do with new tree nose travelin’ faster than light or some shit like that. I can’t say how long ago it was seein’ as clocks don’t work like they used to. My granddad once told me it was 50 years ago, but like I said, that don’t mean much now, plus he’s not always right in the head.

Where was I? Oh yeah, CERN. Fuckin’ CERN. I guess they never figured that messin’ with nature like that was goin’ to lead to the end or they wouldn’t have done it I suppose. Anyway, whatever they were doin’, somethin’ went wrong that ended in a big flash but that wasn’t the real problem. The real problem was those damn newtreenos did somethin’ to the Earth, slowed its spinnin’ down, like a brake on a wheel, all of a sudden. The days got longer, temperatures got hotter pretty fast, and the oceans started sloshin’ around, drainin’ back to the poles. Who would have thought that was possible? The Dutch went first. Sparks said he read that nearly the entire population of Holland drown in the first hour. Ten or twenty million maybe. Shit. The rest of the Europeans didn’t fare much better. Supposedly it’s all under water now. Russia too. Siberia was nothin’ but lowland, you know. And Canada. There ain’t no more point singin’ “Oh Canada” ‘cuz it’s all under water. Michigan is now prime beach front real estate. I shit you not. So is Idaho. All gone. Tori says she came from the east coast and New York City ain’t nothin’ but the tops of skyscrapers.

Course there’s more land in places. In fact we got one big land goin’ all the way around. People call it Pangone. I think that’s supposed to be ironic or somethin’.

The landscape now is different: Most of the vegetation is gone. I saw my last tree when I was 10 – we chopped that fucker down and used it to help keep us warm. I wish I could find another. Same goes for the plants. There ain’t a lot out there – some scrub grass, some lichen, a few cactii. Sometimes you see flowers when it rains. ‘course it doesn’t rain but maybe once every couple months. At least not here. I’ve heard there are places where it rains all day, every day. But not here. We mainly get by eatin’ lizards, scavenged food (canned foods are worth more than gold nowadays), and whatever animals we can hunt. Which ain’t a lot. Oh and potatoes. They seem to grow good. Sometimes. 

Course, those that died were maybe the lucky ones. See that CERN thin’ sent out some wacky pulse that fried the brains of other people. Anybody on a cell phone supposedly got fried. Left him hollowed out, but mean. Real mean. They got the basic instincts: eat, shit, fuck, but not much else other than attack anythin’ they can get their hands on. For some reason they leave each other alone though, unless they’re hungry. Hungry ones are just plain scary. Most of the folks that got fried were in the cities so nowadays you stay way from those places. Unless you’re desperate. Like most of us. 

Given all that you’d think mankind would get their shit together and help each other out. You’d think that but you’d be wrong. Instead it’s pretty much every man for himself. Sure some of us band together, that’s natural and smart. There’s a lot of petty warlords out there, and cannibals, and raiders, and religious freaks. They’re all predators, or prey, dependin’ on how desperate you are. Don’t let anyone kid you, we’re all desperate.

Life is hard.

Our game is set in Michigan, north of Detroit, not far from what is now the northern sea’s coast. The landscape is largely desert thanks to the lack of rain and the ~24 hours of daily (days are 36+ hours long now) sunlight the area gets.


Trying out Dungeon World with the students

This afternoon I ran a session of Dungeon World for the after-school club kids and it went over really well – so well, that I have at least nine students eager to play next week which means I will need to see if I can get one of the 12th graders to GM a second group.

For today’s session, which was run simply as a demo for the group to watch, I had a human fighter, human paladin, elf wizard, and halfling thief. I ran a section of the Blood Stone Idol adventure that’s included in the Basic set PDF, starting the group at the entrance of the dungeon and letting them explore the first few areas. I was surprised at how quickly the students picked up the rules and how well they engaged with the narrative elements of the game. What was most interesting to me was how much they enjoyed exploring the typical D&D tropes and story elements in an entirely new way. The session ended with the paladin being smashed flat by a marauding ogre, followed by the halfling thief running up the ogre’s leg, burying his dagger in to its throat, and then riding the dagger down the length of its neck like a pirate sliding down a sail. The group broke in to a cheer and we wrapped up the demo.

I also found the game a lot of fun to run. My favorite part was the list of GM moves which essentially dictate how I could react to failures. I loved the fact that the story’s twists and developments grew organically out of the characters’ “failures” rather than my rolls and how my main job was simply to react and spring board based on the players’ decisions.

All in all it was a great session and the result is we’ll be playing a lot more Dungeon World over the next few months.

Back to school, back to gaming

School’s back in session and the first meeting of the after-school gaming club has come and gone. Like past years, I spent the first meeting explaining my plans for the year, seeing which of the seniors might be interested in GMing, and pitching game ideas to the veteran players. This year I was quite stunned to discover all of the RPG players – we have a small group of Warmachine players this year as well – want to play the indie RPGs I introduced last year. This includes the group that last year who were dedicated to playing 4E D&D – apparently they’re looking for a change too.

Of the various games I pitched the ones that got the most enthusiastic responses were:

  • Fiasco
  • Mouse Guard
  • Trail of Cthulhu
  • InSpectres
  • Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple
  • Big Eyes, Small Mouths
Two of this year’s seniors have offered to GM – one has Mouse Guard in hand, while I’m going to pass along InSpectres to the other. Next week, time permitting, I’ll start teaching the groups as a whole how to “play” Fiasco so that they can start running the game without my facilitation as well.
Next week we will also see how many new players show up – the official first meeting for everyone is always the second meeting of the year since it’s the one I openly advertise. This lets me get my “ducks in a row” so to speak and have some games ready to play for the next players. I’ve changed the style of posters I use to advertise the club, with the hope of attracting a few more younger players (grades 6-8) since for the past few years we’ve largely attracted only high school students which means the membership turnover every couple of years is fairly high. We’ll have to see if the new posters are effective.

I’ve moved

You probably won’t have noticed but my blog has now moved over to free hosting on Hopefully I’ll have the RSS feeds and everything else worked out within just a few days but otherwise everything seems to be working fine.