FLAILSNAILS & Dungeon World — I’ve finally come to accept that, at this point in my life, I’m no good at running…

FLAILSNAILS & Dungeon World — I’ve finally come to accept that, at this point in my life, I’m no good at running…

FLAILSNAILS & Dungeon World — I’ve finally come to accept that, at this point in my life, I’m no good at running campaigns. I don’t have much time or energy to devote to gaming (work, family), and most of the folks I like to play with are in the same situation. Also, there are so many different people I want to play with, both in real life and online, I don’t want to commit to a long-term group.

Ideally, I want to run low-prep episodic games that resolve, more or less, in a single 3- or 4-hour session, and where characters can jump in and out of the game without any weird continuity issues.

I have a few ideas, but I’d love to hear how others are dealing with this kind of thing.

19 thoughts on “FLAILSNAILS & Dungeon World — I’ve finally come to accept that, at this point in my life, I’m no good at running…”

  1. When I was running games at the public library for teens, I made all the PCs part of a large traveling group of refugees. Each week, a party of them went out exploring for resources; it was easy to suck them in to just about any adventure, and then rejoin the caravan, and go on to a new scenario the next time. Characters could come and go, or recur whenever needed.

  2. A lot of my gaming has moved into this space. Really, the rise of one-shot games (Fiasco, Geiger Counter, Microscope, The Quiet Year, Carolina Death Crawl, etc.) in the indie games scene is partially a response to people getting older and having more limited time, as well as the influence from the new wave of board and card games.

    I would love to see a supplement that really nailed how best to one-shot DW. XP is mostly irrelevant, bonds need to be more immediately important, character creation and playbooks need to be simpler, the premise needs to be really toothy, and the players don’t have a lot of time to become familiar with the moves and how they work. For these reasons, I usually use World of Dungeons when I’m running one-shots in the DW sphere, but that’s less good if players want “the full DW experience.”

    Generally for one-shots I run a single microdungeon (10 rooms or less) or a single job from Dark Heart of the Dreamer. You don’t really have time for much else, though it’s still important for player choices to be meaningful, giving them a choice of possible jobs and leaving how they approach the dungeon to be relatively open ended. You don’t want to run a railroaded or illusionist-style game that just has DW rules tacked on!

    But, yeah, an interesting format and set of constraints to work around.

  3. Brennen Reece I’m in your same situation, I think, but with a different problem. Because of time constraints (work, family) and the proclivities of my local game group, I’ve been doing one-shots or 2-5 session games for years. I crave a long-term campaign, but it’s been long enough and my gaming circle has changed enough that I’m not sure how to get one going or keep it running.

  4. J. Walton That supplement is an excellent idea. I’d throw out XP and level and give a more meaningful choice upfront about your moves, as well as try to get everything, including your moves, on one sheet.

  5. I’m rubbish at keeping one-shot adventures inside one session, but If I had to, I’d give the players a goal even before they create characters. Maybe by tweaking the bonds.

    I’m just thinking out loud here, but what about giving each player a choice of bonds with the bad guys?

  6. So:

    – remove XP, levels, alignment

    – improve Bonds

    – speed up char creation, but offer more interesting move choices at start (since you won’t get them later)

    – include everything on one side of a sheet, including basic moves

    – have the players choose a basic premise (“we’re tomb robbers!”) and a target for their adventuring (“the royal crypt of the queen of unlife!”)

    – have an easy method of generating a mini-dungeon, threats, and loot

    – have loot be immediately useful AND/OR a measure of overall success (maybe there’s a leaderboard for most loot)

    – play to find out what happens


  7. Brennen Reece Yeah, Betrayal was a huge influence on Geiger Counter, and probably the D&D Boardgame as well. Lots of good that can be drawn from there. I think card-generated dungeons have some limitations and have recently prefered table-generated ones, since that allows for more variety, but both definitely work.

  8. P.S. I think the main reason to stay a little bit distant from the board/card game model is to take advantage of having a GM who can add color, flavor, and interest, rather than drawing cards that show generic rooms and encourage players to think of the fiction in those terms. If instead it’s a card that gives the GM some ideas about what to say and draw on the map (“Immense Aviary of Pterosaurs!”), I think that’s potentially better for this setup. Otherwise, I think you risk one featureless room with a monster in it after another, which doesn’t really support the fictional-positioning-based play that DW is best at.

  9. If any of you read French, I recommend John Grümph ‘s latest games. Most of them rely on flavour cards to add on to the fiction.

    I hear_Oltréé !_ especially has encounter cards with only a few words to inspire players and GM alike.

  10. Sure, you could definitely structure it as a “hexcrawl” if you wanted. Having an overworld map is a great way to make player choices matter in terms of what areas to explore next.

  11. Fate does that level of conflict and involvement okay

    I suggest “Play Unsafe” as a no prep adventuring book, and games like Annalise, fiasco, my life with master, shock and InSpectres to fill your rpg itch

  12. I was working on moves for my urban rogues type one-shot, and I realised this type of prep would be great for a short game. Basically, give the players the option to take bonds with important elements of the game: the city of thieves, the kingdom, the wizards’ guild… and write a couple of moves like so.

    When you make your way through the alleys at night, roll +Bonds (the city)…

    When you deal with a member of the king’s house, roll +Bonds (the kingdom)…

    When you practice magic in public, roll +Bonds (the guild)…

  13. I’ve been running a Dungeon World game once every couple months with a group of busy players.  Dungeon World is favored because of the low amount of prep time required in between sessions and when leveling.

    I agree with other posters that dungeons are good for one-off type of games.  I ran a dungeon a few months back called Whitesnake Keep where every room in the dungeon was themed after a different metal song and the players had to encounter the various things from the songs, Iron Maidens, Judas Priests, an Iron Man on Black Sabbath, etc…

    In terms of how to structure a scenario for a 3-4 hour game, think about it in terms of the overall story and leave plenty of time for the action that will occur during the session.  I’ve found from the past four DW games we’ve run in our campaign that typically you can get through around 6-7 in depth combat/roleplaying encounters in a 3-4 hour session. 

    So when I create a scenario I try to think of 5-6 fun encounters and then have 1-2 standby random encounters to throw at the party if they decide to rest somewhere inauspicious or want to go off track.  You will probably end up playing it by ear if they stray too much as well, but having a few things prepped with some characters fleshed out helps you anchor the story to a few main characters, villains, locations, etc…even if the party wants to spend more time exploring than following your set quest.

    If you play episodic games without too much overarching campaign, suggest to the players that each person take a turn running a session.  This removes the burden of preparation from a single player.  In DW the campaign will build organically on it’s own from the players’ storytelling even if you are rotating new players in and out and only a few characters may level or roll over from game to game.

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