Hello, all!

Hello, all!

Hello, all! Got a long-ish and mostly irrelevant setup for what I hope will be a fun bit of brainstorming, so feel free to skip to the last paragraph if you like.

So, I was reading the Evil Empress Guide the other day (‘Tis the distaff counterpart to the Evil Overlord’s list, and I was quite unaware of it), and was struck by one line in particular: “If I married into the title of Evil Empress under duress then using the Hero to free me of the Overlord does not obligate me to abdicate my throne.”

Now initially this struck me as an awesome adventure twist: have the party members liberate the kingdom by killing the evil dictator with an underlying expectation of sovereignty as a reward. But planning that far ahead really undercuts the beautiful “play to find out what happens” philosophy of DW (though it might work in other games).

So then I thought, well, why not start off with killing an evil dictator, and see what happens from there? Have the royal palace be the first dungeon, that kind of thing. It seems like an idea rife with possibilities, but it would also place the game at a very… for want of a better word, Exalted level of play. Whether the PCs become the new government or public enemy number one or go off in another direction entirely, the game would still be starting at revolutionary regicide and escalating from there.

So, what do you think, taverners? Would a second-act closer like killing a king work as a first session? And if so, any advice on how to make it work well?

14 thoughts on “Hello, all!”

  1. I am a big fan of starting at the end of a big story arc. The play begins with a big bang, and if you want, you can flashback to before this happened, or continue on and deal with the fallout. 

  2. Very true; some of the most memorable games I’ve been in have started like that. Home town blown up, previous alpha wolf eaten alive, party member’s sister recently killed by another party member…

    It’s more the scale that I’m worried about, I suppose. Where do you go after an opening such as this one?

  3. Where you go with it? Oh, man, where don’t you go with it?  The PCs just ushered in an impending doom. Or two, maybe three if they’re ambitious.  You’ve got power struggles, succession, riots, petty warlords, foreign invasions, cultists proclaiming the end times! 

    I think you just gotta ask the right questions while the regicide is underway.  “Paladin, why are you so convinced that killing this king is the only just thing to do?”  “Thief, who’s footing the (sizeable) bill for this hare-brained revolution? What’s in it for them?”  “Wizard, the Prophecy is clear that the final sign will be the king’s demise. Given how dark the Prophecy itself is, why are you along on this mission?”  “Fighter, which ambitious noble is most likely to make a claim for the thrown when the king is dead? Who is most likely to oppose him?”

    My main concern would be that you box the players into a game of political intrigue (or that they box themselves into that).  DW, especially with 1st level characters, isn’t super well suited to political intrigue.  Like, there’s nothing wrong with it, but the PCs aren’t going to be particularly good at it (compared to, say, dungeon crawling or adventuring). 

  4. I can think of a few directions that game could go in, depending on the players’ choices. If you were starting them all at level 1, then a few questions spring to mind:

    *Who among the now-former dictator’s court helped you position yourselves to kill him/her?

    *Did the dictator have it coming? How will the public feel about their being overthrown?

    *How about the dictator’s personal guard, who just burst through the door with weapons raised?

    If, based on their answers, it looks like the party will be outlaws, now they’ll have to escape the royal estate, possibly with further aid from whoever helped them get inside (or possibly betrayed by their former ally, who now has designs on the throne him/herself?), and once they’re out you can worry about how they’ll survive in the sudden power vacuum.

    If, on the other hand, it looks like the party will be crowned champions of the new order (or even kings/queens/etc), introduce a few complications to the gig they weren’t aware of: the royal treasury is basically empty, which is why the previous ruler’s taxes were so high – what rumors have the PCs heard that make a lot more sense in light of this discovery? Or, skip forward in time a bit to an envoy from a neighboring country/kingdom/empire who got wind of the political upheaval and sends its best and warmest regards, and also surrender your kingdom immediately or be conquered, have a wonderful day! Now the PCs get to deal with an invading army – what have they heard about this rival nation that makes going to war with them the last thing the PCs would ever want to do?

    Jeremy Strandberg beat me to the punch!

  5. All awesome points. And that’s a good cautionary note re: political intrigue. Discussing that as a thematic element before the game begins would be a good idea, to see if people would be down for it or not.

    Of course, Traveling Haberdasher makes a good case for allowing their role to evolve more organically than that; I think that’s the way I’d go about it.

    That said, the PCs are already rebels as-is; rebelling against the narrative moving them in a certain direction could be interesting in and of itself.

  6. Mmm… you’re probably right. I definitely think it can handle it–never mind Spout Lore and Parley, Discern Realities is just begging to be used to maneuver a high-powered social gathering–but the lack of support in the class moves means it wouldn’t fare well as a primary focus.

    That said, I think it could make a very solid secondary focus, with the right group. Sort of an adventuring royalty kind of a feel. Or like the Imperial Guard, if that analogy holds up, know what I mean? All that dealing with bureaucratic red tape and political dogma is very strongly in the background, but they’re ultimately going out and fighting monsters to protect humanity. More or less.

  7. Party conflict is something that I wouldn’t care to prop up anyway, at least not for Dungeon World, so that’s not so big a deal. Plenty of other games that handle that just fine.

    (I’m also not a fan of game mechanics that dictate how your character feels about something, but that’s a completely different discussion)

  8. Negative. Terrifying might make your character shaky, or make actions more difficult, but it doesn’t take away player agency. You can act in spite of your terror. It’s nice and vague like that. Parley on the other hand has a concrete outcome and concrete ramifications: you agree to do X, and implicitly you agree with the concept of doing X. I don’t like an outside force being able to say that about my character.

    You could maybe make the argument that the terrifying tag could be used by the GM to state that your character flees in terror as a hard move, but that crosses a line for what’s acceptable narrative in my philosophy.

    Likewise, you could say that Parley works if you allow the targeted player to say whether something counts as leverage or not, but at that point, honestly, just roleplay it.

  9. Terrifying: Its presence and appearance evoke fear.

    You can tell someone what to feel and and making that particular GM move is well within your rights. 

  10. And Manipulating other player characters doesn’t have to work like parley. Could be like this: 

    (original apocalypse world move)

    For PCs: on a 10+, both. On a 7–9, choose 1:

    • if they do it, they mark experience

    • if they refuse, it’s acting under fire (defy danger)

    What they do then is up to them.

  11. Again, “in my philosophy.” If you want to use the tag to dictate PC responses, as you said, the rules allow it. I would never pull that particular stunt, and I’d look very harshly on a GM who did, but different strokes and all that.

    That said, “you can flee in terror, or stand your ground but X” is fine with me, as a consequence of a failed DD roll for example.

    I like hard choices. So although I’m still not going to hack PvP mechanics into DW, if I did, that move wouldn’t be a bad way to do it.

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