Dungeon World combat post
OK, yesterday I ran a one-shot, and we were setting up for a small fight scene when Craig Hatler had to leave for work. “_Damn your luck…_” But I realized one thing about the fight, and that had something to do with “zones and situational aspects”.
Situational aspects and tags
I ran Fate pretty much like I would Dungeon World, with the exception of breaking the action up into scenes. I realized how much it added to the game to sit down and make situational aspects.
The game began in a tavern, and we had the in the dead of night, *behind enemy lines, crowded* and loud aspects here. The two first had more to do with the outside environment, meaning that it was midnight and that the players were in a different gang’s territory, but just adding the *crowded* and *loud* aspects made the tavern they were in much more alive.
In fact, these aspects helped me describe the situation much better. All it took was a conscious effort to think a bit about them. I even compelled the players on one of them, which would be akin to be making a move on them.
In Dungeon World we could have done the same same just with tags instead. We could have had the midnight, enemy territory, crowded and loud tags, and they could have had more or less the same effect. The aspects are open in the sense that the players know that they are there.
If it’s pitch black they can’t see a damn thing without a light source, and that could easily become a “golden opportunity” for an ambush later.
But we could also use location moves (or dungeon moves) to emulate the tags; a location can after all have moves just like a monster.
So, let’s look at the tavern…
The Bait & Switch
– Attract shady clientele
These moves can be made as appropriate. Since they are in enemy territory, a soft move could be that a larger group from a rival gang enters the place. A hard move could be that a player got hit in the head with a chair, took damage and got disoriented.
All because of tags. Fiction first, right?
But we can extend the concept a bit, because now we are going to talk about zones.
In Fate, a zone is a part of a conflict in which all characters present can interact with each other, as in they are within fighting distance. A conflict can include multiple zones, and in Fate, you can move to an “adjacent zone” and still take an action.
We don’t have actions in Dungeon World, but we can still use zones as a unit of length. If two characters are in the same zone, then they can freely attack each other. An adjacent zone could be near distance and also charging distance. Zones longer away than that would be at far distance. If you have something that lets you ignore distances, like incredible speed, you can probably increase your charging distance.
While using zones as a unit of measurement can be sort of useful, the power of different zones is that they can have different tags.
The fight I was setting up in Fate was on a docked ship. We had three zones (which should have been four, so I’ll include the fourth):
– Above deck
– Below deck
– The Pier
– The crow’s nest
We already knew that the piers had the aspect crates everywhere, and it was still in the dead of night, but the “above deck” zone had the aspect rigging, which would also be the only way to access the “crow’s nest”, and it might even require a roll to get up there, defy danger, if someone was in the nest and tried to murderize you on your way. The nest would have been cramped, meaning that at most to people could be up there.
The map would have been like this:
– Above Deck would have been adjacent to all other zones, but there wouldn’t be “line of sight” to below deck.
– All other zones would not have been adjacent.
– The crow’s nest had line of sight to the piers and vice versa.
Even if incredibly formalized here, it wasn’t really hard to come up with in practice. If you feel the need, you can also add zones on the fly whenever it makes sense. If one was thrown into the harbor, we could add the harbor as a zone, possible with the water and filthy tags (or aspects).
Zones would lend a tactile element to Dungeon World, making the combat more formalized without adding any real overhead. I say “no real overhead” because tags derive from description, so writing down one or two words per descriptive element doesn’t really take much additional effort. It’s also a big sign to the players saying “you can use this!”
What it does is that it helps you force yourself into actually adding these elements. It does so by helping you think in terms of “What is here? What makes this place special?” and just writing it down. You will finally remember to include that total darkness description that you always forget! (OK, that I always forget, but come on, I’m hardly the only one…)
I was quite amazed how the focus on situational aspects in Fate helped me describe circumstances with mechanical details, and I think that the same approach can be used more or less the same way in Dungeon World with tags.
I’m at least going to give it a try some time. What do you guys think?