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Saturday, September 27, 2014

It's not you Dungeon World, It's me.


Before You start this post you might want to read this about converting my venerable D&D game to Dungeon World. You might not want to cause you know the blogs not that great. If you do great, it's all related.


So I started that process. Converting  my D&D game to dungeon world.

I hate it. I'm sorry.
Well lets be honest, I'm not sorry, and hate is a strong word.


Let me explain.

I like Dungeon World very much. I like the  way games are set up, I like the way it runs,  and what I particularly like is that characters right out of the box are bad ass.


What I don't like is this:

In my mind the transition of characters from humble beginnings to transcendent heroes, is the game. When the last true druid presented the Master a low level druid with a totem walnut and told the Master he was to pledge himself to the earth as it's protector. It was a harbinger of the future, a direction to move towards, a burden of responsibility that the character was in no way ready for. The player is still boggling a bit over the humble walnut. 
Willhelm's story can be built into a front in Dungeon world.


  • Discover the takers of Willhelm's hand
    • Danger : Ancient thieves guild (ambitions organisation) (take by subterfuge)
      • a Wheldon brings a message
      • death of a friend
      • discovery of Careth
      • guild hall
      • a distant shore

What happens next is the Impending Doom.


Here is the  problem, there isn't one. If Willhelm never finds out who took his hand and  how it can be reattached the only player or Character it will ever effect is Willhelm. Dungeon world looses out on one of it's strongest attributes, it's elegance.



More on that ... (hang with me here)

So a person could say, then why use fronts, and  grim portents and all that just play your game and use the dungeon world moves and die mechanic.

In-fact one of the players has said exactly that already. I appreciate / respect his point of view, he's correct I could do that.but there is a reason why fifty  pages out of a 394 page book is dedicated to how the dice work and the  basic moves. It's not the games strength. 




Before I continue I am no expert with the system I'v read the book and run the game three times, I am not a devote. So if I make some miss quote about  Dungeon World below, sorry.  I know there are some pretty devoted fans out there, save it. The  devil is not in the details this time, it's in the concept.

In my opinion the system is't more or less crunchy than anything else. The 2d6 mechanic is nice having a 50% (after modifiers) chance to succeed or succeed with complications on any action is fine by me, our game phase was very similar. 
Being able to  Deal damage as a Gm's move pretty much any time a player rolls below a 10  is  nice, but repetitive. I find my self starting  to stretch the  narrative a bit to fit in other consequences such as using the "put them on the spot", or "offer an opportunity" move when a character gets 7 to 9 on a hack and slash move. 
It's all nice but it's more fiddly than D&D's roll to hit, roll damage if you hit. Not really worth the fiddling if that's all I'm going to use.




Where dungeon world shines is from page 157 to page 218. The GM and setting up the world sections.
It is genius. It's the most elegant way I have ever see a game's writers put forward how to sit down with payers an create a game scenario and in turn a world that will engage and hold them from now through the life of the characters. To not use that part misses the point of the game. The players create a very personal game world that is there's to explore, it all dovetails nicely  might I say again elegantly with the gm's moves, the Gm's fronts, the dungeon moves and the character moves. The system works best when you start from the beginning and then move forward with a story. 



Unfortunately I have already put in that work. In a campaign world that has been around a long time, and has some history. Dungeon world doesn't do history very well. If some one gets to spout lore they get to tell me where the lore came from. That works great in a fresh new Dungeon world setting, In fact it could be a hook for a whole new front, or  adventure, Like I said, elegant genius.  
In my game you need to go find that lore. I already  have an idea where it is. 


Is that Gm ego? Sure it is I guess because some details are truly meaningless, and holding onto where a certain sword is buried or why  they never find magic items, is an act of GM's ego.
But that's also mystery, that's tension, that's the unknown. I don't care what my players say at the table. If  Willhelm's player was to say "Forget my hand  were going  NORTH!" I would say OK, because I know what's north. If the Master were to say, "I toss that f*ing Walnut into the ocean." I know the ramifications. 
I don't think that's ego I think that's GMing, 

Found randomly on  Google from Missmarek's Flikr

If I use try to take Dungeon World and graft it into an established campaign mid story I end up robbing the system of it's elegance. It's not Dungeon world anymore. The game becomes fiddly D&D with the same old setting, and a neutered GM.

So that's that, perhaps I just can't get my head around it.

I would love to run a dungeon world campaign. I'm volunteering to. I'll roll20 it on Mondays. The one condition is that the game is from the bottom up. Fresh characters and a fresh setting. I have no qualms about doing that, I think very highly of the game and it's system.



On the other side of that coin I can't just graft Dungeon world over an existing campaign mine or any other. I think it fails the system and by extension the players.


Thank you for reading.
Please level questions comments or lit  sticks of cartoon dynamite in the  crate of  10 foot poles below.