Last week I found myself at a retreat on the Oregon coast, so of course I GMed four nights in a row of 2-3 hour…

Last week I found myself at a retreat on the Oregon coast, so of course I GMed four nights in a row of 2-3 hour…

Last week I found myself at a retreat on the Oregon coast, so of course I GMed four nights in a row of 2-3 hour sessions of Planar Codex Dungeon World. It was super awesome. For the first time ever, my players broke into applause at the end of the last night’s session. Haha. Yay for the Planarch Codex! 

I used the “ill-met in ditchwater” kick-off letter, and it just went crazy from there.

15 thoughts on “Last week I found myself at a retreat on the Oregon coast, so of course I GMed four nights in a row of 2-3 hour…”

  1. Haha. I was just seeing if folks wanted more details. Here we go!

    I had 7 players the first night. 2 dropped out and then we had 5 for the last 3 nights. Using ill-met in ditchwater, we kicked things off with the paladin attacking the Fleshtaker landlord (clearly someone was new to the big city).

    i love the Planarch Codex because of its Agenda, “Reflect the Diversity of Real Life”, and I was excited to express this through the principles. I had not doubts that the players would make all kinds of assumptions that would make bad situations worse for them (unintended consequences!)

    The story arc was basically:

    1. Get arrested by Road Wardens for almost killing landlord.

    2. Get taken to palace for adjudication. Get advice there from friendly Road Warden that asking for work from Sultana would get them out of a nasty sentence.

    3. Have choice between donating organs to fleshtakers, or taking Sultana’s job.

    4. Take job to “eradicate the monks of the green orb, who have been kidnapping the city’s nannies”.

    5. Long arduous journey through Dis (via Cogrwreck and Bottomless Parishes) back to Ditchwater where the Monastery of the Green Orb was located.

    6. See amazing sights of the diversity of Dis along the way – the majesty of the cogs in Cogrwreck, the mystery of the Bottomless hole, sit in on a years-long dice game between a chaos dwarf, a green slime, and an eagle lord, spy through a window on a family of a wasp-headed something, a dwarf, and a little waspy baby dwarf thing. 

    7. Enter monastery, find it connects to another plane which Dis is consuming. Find nannies clutching green orbs lovingly, terrified that clockwork golems are mining the plane for ore adn dumping ditchwater’s effluvient there.

    8. Figure out the Monks of the Green Orb are actually Fomori peace keepers, who work for and worship the preservation of a peaceful future, as symbolized by their green glowing eggs (the orbs).

    9. Figure out they have all gotten sick from the Ditchwater effluvient – the drone class succumbing first, hence the nanny “kidnappings”.

    10. Figure out they’re all dead except for 12 eggs.

    11. Return to the Sultana, claim to have eradicated the Monks, while secretly clutching the eggs and trying to figure out how to help the nannies hide them.

    12. Have them kicked out of the palace due to overlong negotiations with the Sultana over possible expenses, finding themselves out the back door and somehow on a ledge in the Bottomless Parish, far from home, with 12 nannies to feed and a clutch of glowing eggs.

  2. I hit all the planarch principles hard –  “Give everyone personhood”, “Reveal Greater Diversity”, and “Cultivate Anthropologies”, “Juxtapose the incompatible”.

    Maybe there was another one in there somewhere – “Keep Morality Ambiguous”. I didn’t want them to have an easy choice, a good/evil decision. I wanted each time they looked at a situation for more information, it just got more complex and confusing morally and ethically (reveal greater diversity was the big lever for this).

  3. Basically I went for what made me feel sad and lost, and threw it at them, haha. And then of course used the awesome visual scape of Dis (I forget who wrote the supplement that I pulled Cogwreck and Bottomless from – thank you whoever you are) to sweeten the experience. 

    At the end the players, were filled with almost a quiet awe at what had happened. I’m not trying to toot my own horn here – this was a remarkable and unusual experience for me too. I think the agendas and principles just fit really well into what was meaningful for me and that was transmitted to the players through play (one player even said later that she didn’t like the setting – “too much metal” – so it wasn’t just the setting either).

    In previous games – and I’ve played and GMed countless dozens of games – I’ve usually felt exhausted by play and just didn’t have the endurance. Somehow DW, with the Planarch spice, was just really easy to play. We “played to find out” every step of the way – nothing was planned, the Monks of the Green Orb started out as an alternative room rental to the fleshtakers in the first session, then got reincorporated with the Sultana’s job, and then towards the end defined as this crazy ant peace activist race.

    Play to find out!

  4. Moral abiguity is definitely a good one. Honestly, I find it to mostly be part of “give everyone personhood.” Even people who do terrible things typically have interesting motivations! The other principle that I wish I’d put in the booklet is “everything is recycled,” i.e. all people, places, practices, objects, ideas, dungeons, etc. have a history and origins that are different from whatever they are currently being used for.

  5. You know, there’s one more thing here that made my game really successful for my own play needs. Players would periodically revert to just rolling dice, or just saying “I cast a spell”, etc. Every time, I would demand that they tell me how they do that, what it looks like, questions questions questions. If they struggled, I would keep poking them until I felt like my imagination was sparked by what they were saying and then I would take over.

    This kind of partnering, which of course is a central *W thing, is really new for me – feeling allowed to demand players help shoulder the creative load. I never gave myself that permission before – I never really had the structure for it, the pedagogy that would help me do it. The real strength of the *W games, for me, is this structuring of the conversation, passing narrative and creative responsibility back and forth, rather than having the traditional DM/Storyteller:Player/Audience dichotomy.

  6. Willem Larsen Yeah, training yourself to be a “lazier” and more collaborative MC is the best. The success of the game/story is no longer my sole responsibility! It’s something I can share with the players! Plus, that tends to make for a better, more surprising, and more engaging play experience overall. SO GOOD. Asking questions is such a simple and powerful tool.

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