Ran a pretty intense freewheeling one-shot of DW for some friends at a birthday party/minicon on Saturday afternoon.

Ran a pretty intense freewheeling one-shot of DW for some friends at a birthday party/minicon on Saturday afternoon.

Ran a pretty intense freewheeling one-shot of DW for some friends at a birthday party/minicon on Saturday afternoon. (Caution: long AP ahead).

I had five players, two who had played DW before, one with AW experience, and two with old-school D&D experience. Character creation went pretty smoothly, though next time I do a one-shot I think I might limit the classes available to the number of players I have. In this case, I probably would have slimmed the list to Fighter, Thief, Cleric, Wizard, and Ranger, just to speed things up. As it was, we had Bard, Wizard, Ranger, Fighter, Paladin (this is the order around the table clockwise).

I really enjoyed asking a lot of questions of the team, especially about where they were from, how they formed those specific bonds, and what they thought about the world. I also liked that the answers to the bonds created some interesting world-building: the Bard, Wizard, and Ranger were all elves, and had all pointed their more trusting bonds at other elves; the human Fighter and Paladin were similarly ethnocentric. That said, the humans pointed bonds of mystery and curiousness at the elves, and the elves pointed bonds of destiny and fate at the humans.

The Fighter, while choosing gear, asked me “What kinds of monsters are we going to be likely to face?” and I turned the question back and said “What kinds would you like to face?” He picked goblins, and made his special weapon a goblin-slayer. 

Based on what we had, we quickly brainstormed a world where the elves were nature-worshippers, and believed strongly in fate, but the human religions had splintered off, still worshipping nature of a sort (the main church, where the Paladin had taken holy orders, was the Temple of the Four Directions) but with more emphasis on freedom. The Paladin decided he was on a quest to discover the true nature of the history between elves and humans, and gave himself boons to see the truth, and to be immune from magic. I thought about saying that immunity to magic was too potent, but I just checked off every obligation instead. Spells would roll off him, but he had to be a full-time paragon. I made a mental note to put some of his principles in opposition to each other.

I then grabbed a sheet of scrap paper, drew a little hut to represent a village and labeled it “Grim’s Edge”. I told them that Grim’s was basically a fantasy Deadwood, and that it was on the edge of the Grim Wastes, which I also drew. I told them the Wastes were blasted, ashy lands, prone to earthquakes and geysers and poison gas clouds, and that in modern terms it was probably the caldera of a semi-dormant supervolcano. Probably. Then I passed the map around and told everyone to add one detail of their choice. I recommended places that they had come from, places that they wanted to go, or other important locales. I ended up with a few mystic sites and some home towns, and the aforementioned Temple.

Then I said “You’re out in the Wastes, and you’re in the middle of a fight. What are you doing there, and who are you fighting?” They decided that some children had gone missing from Grim’s Edge, and they feared that some goblins had come in from the Wastes and stolen them, so they were hunting the little gobbers, and when the Ranger caught sight of them, the Paladin was compelled to jump in and declare a challenge. Battle was joined, and unfortunately, the Wizard had neglected to prepare any combat spells, so she was stuck Spouting Lore and Defying Danger, but that worked out OK anyway, especially when the Paladin routed some of the gobbers, and it was the Wizard who realised that if they fled they would come back with reinforcements, as per the Goblin Move. The rest of the team made some poor rolls, and I kept having to escalate the situation. I flipped through the Cave Dwellers section of the book and decided that a purple worm would be attracted by the commotion and dig its way to the surface.

I started by foretelling its arrival with what appeared to be small, localised earthquakes, then a sinkhole, then it rose out of the sand in all its glory, and the goblins fled. At that point, I let the group notice that the goblins were all marked with purple tattoos and carried charms, indicating that they worshipped the violet vermicelli. The fight with the worm didn’t go so well (I had expected the group to flee back to Grim’s Edge and regroup, but they pressed on), and though they nearly killed the worm, the Bard had to approach the Black Gate. I asked him to describe the gateway, and he gave me a red-sandy beach on a murky orange sea, which was great. The Avatar of Death appeared as a menacing figure in rusted elven armour, bearing a banner with a corrupt version of the crest of the elven kingdoms (the players told me that the elven flag was the image of a stag and a tiger, both rearing, facing each other. Death’s flag was a skeletal stag and a black panther with red wounds in the same pose). The Avatar told him he could return if he built a roadside shrine to Death within the month, and the Bard agreed.

I had the worm retreat into the tunnels below the wastes, to buy the party some time to regroup. Since it was a one-shot, I let them make camp and restore health, and also to swap around stats if they felt they had chosen poorly (the Paladin had put 8 in Strength, not realising the importance of Hack and Slash. He swapped it for his 15 Intelligence). They searched the area, and I ruled that the worm had treasure and other things that stuck in its slime, and often left them behind when it burrowed. I let them roll a d6 for treasure, and they hit Magical Trinket. I came up with a dwarf-craft ring that glows in the dark, getting brighter the darker the surroundings. The ring also made the bearer immune to night-blindness. The Ranger laid claim, since it was decided that the party’s tracker and main ranged combatant needed the light the most. I also gave them a handful of coins. They asked me if there was anything interesting about the coins, and I said “Of  course! One of them seems ancient, and it’s tarnished to the point where it is illegible. The others are gold and silver from an ancient dwarf city. Bard, you have heard that once there was a mighty dwarven fortress in this area, before it became the Grim Wastes.” That didn’t end up going anywhere, but it was a good opportunity to add colour.

The Bard awoke covered in hardened ichor, with fat purple worm grubs, each the size of a small dog, crawling towards him. The party eventually made their way down and rescued him, happy that he wasn’t dead (as they had feared). So then I had some cave rats show up, and in response to a Spout Lore roll, I told them that cave rats love the taste of purple worm grubs The group used the grubs to try to distract the rats while they fought, but a series of bad rolls left the Fighter separated by a cave-in, and also with the sudden approach of some goblin scouts. Meanwhile, the rest of the party, also rolling badly, got attacked by a modified roper (I treated it more like the Watcher in the Water from LotR). They killed it with a clever Defy Danger, dropping some stalactites on it, and then dug the fighter out.

The party attempted to Parley with the goblins, but the Fighter double-crossed them and another little skirmish broke out. The group handled the scouts with ease. The goblins wanted the tarnished coin, but wouldn’t say why.

We were short on time, then, so I did a quick narration about how they charged in and rescued the kids, then went back to town for a heroes’ welcome.

All in all a good session! I probably could have used an extra hour, and for whatever reason, the players’ were rolling really poorly, which meant I kept having to improvise new danger, which I find somewhat harder in DW as opposed to AW or even Monster Hearts, because of the action-heavy nature of the game. It might be easier in long-term play, because I can always foreshadow off-screen badness rather than raising the immediate stakes.

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