Long but worth it (in my opinion)! This is the game I played last night, kicking off a new campaign! Read if you want to know about avid D&D players, frozen undead, ice golems, or gorillas! It was a great time! This is a full AP with set-up and game play.
Disclosure time: I have run Apocalypse World tons, a bunch of Monsterhearts, a little Monster of the Week, and two or three games of Dungeon World that ended in me not being a big fan of the game. It just wasn’t working for me. Well, I wanted it to work for me! So I arranged this game, and spent the past week going over the book and digesting its advice and principles! I reminded myself that experience with other PbtA games does not mean I am a master of DW! I opened myself up to playing as a noob and I had a blast!
I played with two college friends and my girlfriend! My girlfriend has experience with every PbtA game that I do, and my two college friends have experience with nothing but D&D and MMOs. We had dinner, and I explained what Dungeon World was — a super cool D&D-style fantasy game that puts fiction first, and is always moving forward when the action happens.
I explained that the mechanic is 2d6+stat and I had to explain to J (one of the college friends) that that was for everything. He kept trying to ask if that was for skills, combat, utility, or what and I had to explain that none of that is distinguished in DW. It’s just rolling, when appropriate. S (his wife) caught on quickly enough, and helped smooth the transition.
I walked them through what made the classes cool, and then pitched my idea for the starting situation and they were down for it. So, I handed out the sheets, and fielded questions as they made characters.
J settled on the Paladin based on its ability to get (as I put it) super powers when on a Quest, so long as he followed his vows. He asked about how the Quest works and how the powers work and was stunned at complete immunity to edged weapons being a valid option in the game.
He told me about his order being devoted to Law, and how they didn’t worship (per se) a god or gods, but they did respect and call on many different races’ gods of law and order! They borrow their strength as a sort of holy police force! We figured out he was currently Questing with the blessings of the dwarven god of victory, Vanir, a bawdy swordsman deity.
S chose the Druid, since she had played a druid in WoW. She really went nuts with explaining to me what kind of wildlife is found in the Great Forest! Our world’s forests are scary, guys — full of panthers, gorillas, giant spiders, and other bugs and small mammals.
She told me that she was human, but more like Human+ and that her Druid powers were natural to her — not any sort of externalized or borrowed magic. She simply communes with the spirit world overlapping the mundane world, as naturally as we breathe or walk.
D, my girlfriend, made a Thief because she loves thiefy types and played a Thief in our last game.
She told me all about being a Halfling growing up in the City and how you steal to survive, and how there is a family of street rats, pickpockets, and urban vagabonds that look out for each other. His biggest score was an emerald unicorn necklace off some rich lady, but he stashed it away so he wouldn’t get caught with it.
We assigned bonds and there was some cool stuff:
Ozymandias the Paladin fears for Mouse the Thief’s soul, but does trust him because they stood together in battle! He thinks Aziz the Druid’s ways are strange and hopes that she converts!
Aziz and Ozymandias have shared blood, when she was wounded and Ozymandias’ lay of hands took her wounds into his body and they’re now linked on the spiritual level! She even showed him a rite of the land. She also knows of a great danger stalking Mouse…
Mouse has pilfered a journal from Ozymandias, not knowing its importance as his last tie to his long lost sister. And Aziz knows some sort of incriminating details of Mouse’s life!
Knowing all of that, and knowing the situation I was framing them into, they figure they had been traveling together for around a year. They and their larger band of allies had been hunting down a great evil all that time — and they had now, finally, pursued it back to its hideaway!
I framed them into the moments following a charge gone horribly wrong.
They are the last surviving heroes of a band that has, for a year now, been on the trail of the monstrous Sorcerer-Fiend. They have finally tracked it to its frozen fortress, and stolen their way deep into its heart by strength of arms and acts of guile. Breaching the Fiend’s library, their companions charged ahead and were frozen to death in their tracks by the Fiend. The Sorcerer-Fiend turns, and crosses the threshold of a giant brass door that begins to shut swiftly. Chromatic clouds drift down over the bodies of their three freshly frost-bitten companions.
“What do you do?” was answered with nonstop awesomeness. I asked about their band of heroes, and they named their fallen friends Farley the burglar, and Gwen and Tobias the warriors. Ozymandias the Paladin tried to get the door jammed open, but was caught off guard by their undead allies getting up again and attacking him! He held off Gwen’s scimitar barely, and was pushed back by the weight of Tobias and Farley as they stabbed at him with their knives.
Aziz the Druid jumped the dead guys with a cool fly transformation! She buzzed behind them, undetected, and transformed back! She instantly killed Tobias by severing his neck, and skewered Farley before he could reach her to respond — he was a petty burglar and childhood friend of Mouse the Thief when he lived on The City’s streets 🙁
Mouse examined the brass doors and saw it used a simple rolling mechanism and gravity to shut itself. So, with the choice to break the rollers and cause a ruckus or just jam the track and stall the door, Mouse swiped a dagger off re-dead-friend Tobias’ body and jammed that door good.
Meanwhile, Ozymandias was basically fine but stalemated? His Quest made him immune to edges, but he was pinned down on one knee from the ferocious scimitar blows and couldn’t draw his sword. Instead, he smashed Gwen’s face with his shield and rose up! He slashed her up fierce with his sword as she scoffed at his Paladin immunities and kicked him away, re-dying in the exchange. Worn down from her repeated attacks, Ozy’s shield arm is now battered and exhausted.
Ozy raced forward and grabbed hold of the brass door and held it wide open while Mouse examined the room that the Fiend escape into. Earlier, Mouse recalled that the door lead to the Fiend’s Esotericum! His mystical laboratory! Examining it now, Mouse saw slave laborers of various races acting as arcane servants, and it was terrible.
Aziz followed, and Ozymandias shouted at the group of slaves, invoking the dwarven god of combat and hedonism to order them to battle with whatever creature awaited them one level up in the tower (Mouse’s keen sense detected its lumbering presence one floor above them).
Most of them panicked and fled, but the dwarven slaves — shamed and charged by the Paladin’s call — ascended the stairs solemnly, in a death march of great honor. The Druid triggered the door, keeping it open, and the Paladin was able to lead the charge up the stairs! The party followed!
At the top of the stairs, the Paladin found an ice golem! The size of a large man, broad flat feet, hewn of solid ice! He executed a jumping charge and brought his sword down on its arm… And promptly lost his grip, flipping under its arm like he was clotheslined, and sent sliding across a patch of ice-water into the stairs leading upwards.
The Druid and Thief were right on his tail, and examined the scene. The three dwarves were wrapped up in combat with the golem, trying to hack away at it with small hammers and shivs to no effect — one was scooped up by the frozen hands of the golem, and he began to turn a pale blue as the cold set in.
The Druid threw her spear to little effect, but Mouse clambered up its back with his blades and from the vantage of its shoulders, he took in the scene.
At the top of the stairs, ascending to the next floor, were two dark elf knights wearing the insignia of some nation, the Sorcerer-Fiend dragging some weight along with him (though they could not see what it was), and the blue-purple animated corpse of another fallen companion! In life, his name was Neal, and he was another druid of the same sort as Aziz! They had bonded, before he was killed in battle by the Fiend’s forces. But that would have to wait, because Golem!
The Druid shouted out what she knew about Golems, with the help of Mouse shouting down what he could see looking into the frozen construct. Aziz knew that golems are built to serve a roll, but they weren’t intelligent, so they would work under certain conditions and stop under others. If only they knew its job! Mouse’s shouting drew its attention, and it batted at him with his massive hands, which he nimbly evaded without relinquishing his seat on its back. Still, took some injuries.
Ozymandias regrouped himself, and rushed the golem, grabbing hold of his sword — still embedded in its dense arm. He struggled to pull it free and was backhanded forcefully across the room for his trouble! Crash! Boom! Crates and barrels topple over under the force of his collision! They smell of incense, spices, and the like, and I mention cinnamon dumping out of one of the containers onto the ice.
I inform them all the situation has changed, subtly, and if someone wanted to Discern Realities — now would be good. Aziz the Druid does, and realizes the barrels are useful, realizes the Golem has shifted its stance towards the containers. It’s responsible for them! So, she shouts this info to Ozymandias and the Paladin begins to hurl barrels and crates down the stairs. The golem turns, slowly, and lumbers after them, dropping its half-frozen dwarf victim before disappearing down the stairs.
The Paladin rushes over to the dwarf, and uses Lay on Hands, annihilating the dwarf’s injuries and restoring his light and warmth! He sits up suddenly, thanking the dwarf god that Ozymandias channeled, and hailing him as a hero! A champion of the god! He introduces himself as Guldir, and these others were Ur and Hwynn. Ozymandias, hesitant to say “hey get out here, go run past the golem” instead told them to stick close and stay quiet.
Mouse, who hopped off the golem at the first chance, scampered up the stairs and spied while telling the party to hang back. He hid himself at the top of the stairs and examined Level 3 of the Sorcerer-Fiend’s Esotericum! Two slabs were visible, one of which held a body being dissected by two slaves. The other slab held the now-animate, blue-purple body of Finn — the farmer teen who joined them on their quest to stay the Fiend 🙁 but who was himself slain a month ago, in an ambush.
In the middle of the room stood a blue crystal the size of a grown man, with many facets, glowing faintly. Across the room was a brass cage that held the Fiend and his servants. Mouse also gets a look at the weight the Sorcerer-Fiend is dragging around — the desiccated, dried up remains of a human corpse, skin drawn tight over huddled bones! The cage began to ascend! And Mouse saw that above him was a wooden catwalk braced with timber and stone, ringing the room’s perimeter.
So, spouting lore because Mouse knows shit, Mouse remembered being taught by Auntie Humble (a member of his street family in the City) about a crystal called the Storm’s Eye that could survey in excruciating detail any place that was being rained upon at that moment.
Mouse also knows about brass contraptions and recognized the handiwork of the lift across the room — it was made in the City of Keys by the Inventor-King, and likely uses a simple mechanism just like the brass doors to the Esotericum. Mouse signals the others to join him and is joined by Aziz once again in the shape of a fly. Ozymandias creeps slowly up the stairs, so as not to cause a ruckus in his scale armor.
Mouse slinks quietly around the edge of the room, ready to slide her knives into Not-Finn’s kidneys — but the moment vanishes! Finn stands up, stretches and turns and sees her! He raises the alarm with a shout! And gets a knife to the heart for it! Slump, bleed, dead.
The jig is up! The baddies know the heroes are right on their tail! The Druid shifts into a giant jungle spider and terrifies the autopsy slaves, sending them screaming away! Ozymandias crosses the room with swiftness, unobstructed, and forces the gates of the lift open, and (with Mouse’s guidance) sees the counter weight system the lift is using! But, drat, not fast enough as the Fiend and crew step out on the next level and continue their escape!
Aziz the Druid shifts back to human form and then again! Taking on the appearance of the mighty Gorilla! The Paladin and Thief climb onto her back, and with a jump and a swing off the Storm’s Eye, they ascend to the 4th Level and corner their quarry as they step off the elevator! Ozymandias and Mouse jump off the gorilla and face their enemies.
Ozymandias charges forward and engages the two dark elf swordsmen! Fending off two at once is difficult, and when they realize their blades have no effect on his invulnerable skin, they throw their weight upon his weakened shield arm and force him into the railing — intent on sending him over the edge!
Aziz rushes forward, drop kicking the elves with her mighty gorilla thews and Whoosh! Over they go! One crunches on the floor below, while the other lives, clinging by her finger nails to the catwalk. Mouse takes in the situation and sees that Neal’s body is beginning to warp, and stretch, and turn pale white. He lines up a shot with his knife and prepares to let it fly but is stopped!
The Sorcerer-Fiend conjures up a miasma of mystical might and slings a snowball at him — a snowball that turns to ice, and then grows legs, and is looking much more like a Facehugger than a snowball when it slams into the Thief’s chest! It’s legs wrap around Mouse’s torso, and its body flattens out, wrapping around his arms and torso and growing harder, constricting his movements with a frozen strait jacket!
Neal finishes transforming and let’s out a polar bear’s bellow as he tackles Aziz-as-gorilla and pins her beneath his bulky mass! The catwalk groans and wheezes under their weight! Ozymandias looks around, taking in the scene, and notices some relevant details.
He spies Neal’s druidic tattoos banded around his massive polar bear wrist, and knows that a druid’s shape is disrupted if you damage their markings. He also realizes the Sorcerer-Fiend is clutching that corpse closely, and there is certainly much negotiating power to be had from threatening it or taking control of it. And he, obviously, should be on the lookout for another show of power from the Fiend’s spell repertoire.
Ozymandias raises his sword up over head and brings it down with a sick crack, lopping off Neal-as-bear’s hand! He shifts back, but not before striking Aziz’z Druid marks! She shifts back into a human, stunned momentarily, as well! Finally, Neal is a human again and his guttural bear bellow becomes a pained human wail as he clutches his stump, leaking melting ice water.
And that was where we stopped!
Overall: I had a blast! The players had fun! S and J told me about how they loved everything about it that was different from D&D. They loved having no rounds, no turns, and they seemed to enjoy building up the setting as they played.
My entire prep for the game was: I drew a map of the room they started in, and knew the opening scene. The players supplied me with: the presence of slave servants, the Ice golem laborers, the dark elf warriors, the Sorcerer-Fiend’s identity as a frost troll, all the details of the undead and who they once were, and everything about their classes!
They’re still learning how triggering moves work, but they followed along well enough. S was ready to roll for shape shifting all on her own after using it twice, and J latched onto how to use I Am The Law from his first use onward, although he seemed highly skeptical of its utility to start.
Overall, it was fun, and the players scheduled the next game already! That’s a good sign all on its own, I think 🙂
Next time we play, the other players will be joining us. I’ll post after that one too, if people are interested!