I have put a post on my blog…

I have put a post on my blog…

I have put a post on my blog (https://mhuthulan.wordpress.com/2017/07/23/what-i-like-about-dungeon-world-and-what-i-do-not/) describing what I like about Dungeon World, what I am conflicted about, and what I don’t like.

I am interested in comments on it. I am particularly interested if:

* You’ve experienced a specific problem I mention, and can tell me how to fix it

* You’ve enjoyed one of the benefits I mention, and can tell me how to port it into other games

* You’ve experienced anything I mention, and have other words to describe it

My primary goal is to help myself understand DW, and my experiences with it, so that I can design similar games that I like better.


27 thoughts on “I have put a post on my blog…”

  1. My simple response based on what you’ve written is it’s not for you so rather than force the issue move on. Gaming time is in short supply so it’s better to play what you really want than trying to figure out why you don’t get it. I have seen enough posts like this where the OP asks to be convinced to like a certain game and it almost always devolves into mud slinging and in the end the OP still doesn’t like the game. You’ve played enough now to have a firm grasp on whether you really like it or not and it’s doubtful random Internet strangers will change your mind

  2. Hey Rob, great post! Stirs a whole bunch of thoughts.

    In regards to the damage system and why it feels “soft…” first, I completely agree. As for why it feels soft, I don’t think it has anything to do with you the items you listed. I think it’s because:

    1) PCs tend to have a lot of HP

    2) It’s mechanically easy to restore them

    3) There’s no inherent connection between the numbers and the fiction

    In LotFP, you’ve got #3, but HP are generally pretty low and (IIRC) slow to come back. Squishy PCs makes losing HP actually scary, and that fear is where is “hardness” comes from.

    So, how to fix it? Assuming you’re tinkering with DW (or a DW-like game), the easiest ways would be to:

    a) Reduce PC HPs

    b) Remove the “Deal damage” GM move and have HP loss always be a side effect of another GM move (see here: https://goo.gl/Z3iWVx)

    If you’re, like, making an entirely new game, then you also have the option to c) do something totally different for damage. I talk about a lot of possibilities and considerations in this old thread:


  3. Regarding your core beef (the large of number of moves and triggers to track), I think you’re going to run into that in almost any game immediately identifiable as PbtA. There are some counter examples (World of Dungeons & its children, Simple World), but the idea of specific moves with specific triggers that tell us how to resolve specific circumstances is, to my mind, one of the core features of this type of game, and what makes them work for me. But I also have 0 problem memorizing a couple dozen move triggers and recognizing them in play (as long as they’re good triggers).

    Are you familiar with Blades in the Dark? I think it does a lot of what you’re talking about as advantages (top-level structure, genericized 3-level results, the benefit parts of different rules for players vs. GM) but mostly does away with specific move triggers and instead gives you a process for setting difficulty and stakes each time you engage the core mechanic. Plus, it’s a lot more tolerant of mechanical/situational modifiers, and GM fiat regarding what does/doesn’t warrant a roll.

  4. I don’t have problems with most of the things you have problems with, but I can relate to one thing: Sometimes it feels like there are just too many moves in the game. For this reason, I sometimes prefer starting with a more stripped-down approach like with World of Dungeons (http://www.onesevendesign.com/dw/world_of_dungeons_1979.pdf). You can then add moves gradually as you decide as a group, “we do this thing enough that a formal move might be useful.”

    As for number ranges, the tightness of the 2-12 range doesn’t bother me, but I do sometimes miss rolling a 20-sided die. It’s occurred to me you can emulate the effect by just rolling a d20 and replacing “7-9” with the statistically equivalent range. That would also open things up for more numbers if that’s your thing. (I personally appreciate that discouraging numerical bonuses on magic items leads to fewer modifiers to track, less math at the table, and more items that are interesting because of unusual effects rather than generic bonuses, but I get that this isn’t how everybody rolls.)

  5. Paul Sheppard I’m not asking to be sold on the game. I’m asking for comments on my understanding of the game’s design, and for ideas about the design space surrounding it.

    Put another way — I’m not looking for game recommendations. I have no immediate plans to run any game RAW. I’m looking for input into my design work.

    Edit: I’ve edited the last section of my post to make this clear.

  6. Fair enough. As I stated your understanding seems correct to me so I have nothing further to add to help you. People like Jeremy can assist there as they have a better understanding of the rules and system than I ever could.

    Despite playing RPGs since the late 70s design space stuff is beyond my capabilities so I don’t bother trying to waste people’s time with my thoughts on it

  7. I don’t consider myself experienced enough with other RPGs to really say what works and does not work in DW comparitvely. However, I found your section about tone and writing to be interesting, because it’s one of the things I actually like about DW. I don’t really like the art, and I think the writing style is kind of… over the top sometimes. But it really sets the tone for what I think is the core, to me, of DW: Be A Fan Of The Characters. I don’t like games where the GM is the enemy, out to destroy you. I like the idea that the GM is responding to your character by creating a challenging world, but then they step back and say, “oh shit can they get out of this one?”, not, “Muah ha ha you’re not getting out of this one!”. I think DW tries hard to keep you as GM from doing that, and so it bleeds though in the tone, and it’s something I like. BUT I’ve never been in a game where the GM was good at doing it otherwise and it didn’t just feel like they were playing god.

  8. I am perplexed.

    You have run a lot of DW, but never noticed that PCs mostly track their own moves? I have never played a game of Dungeon World where someone said “Oh, crap, y’know we totally missed a move there.” Indeed, I find missing moves in DW to happen far less often than missing some other sort of mechanic in other games.

    You seem to have grasped that there is a sort of “applicability test” on Hack & Slash but rather than regard this as an example of how the game is intended to work, you seem to view this as some sort of odd one-off exception?

    As for stuff about “Well, it feels like it’s all about fighting!” and “It says it’s a love letter to D&D” well, the former of those is, as they say, Working As Intended because of the latter of those. The game doesn’t apologize for what it is – it’s pretty much right there on the tin. I wouldn’t pick up Grey Ranks and expect a feel good game, and writing in a review that it’s depressing isn’t precisely useful criticism. Of course, maybe you were just presenting your views regardless of whether you felt that is useful to anyone else, but once you start asking for feedback on social media, people may judge you for that.

  9. I mostly agree with what Paul Sheppard said up top: you gave it an admirable play through, analyzed the experience honestly, and now no one but you can tell you what you “should” do with your conclusions. So… cool.

    However, one comment about damage to PCs: when you get a 7-9 on a hack and slash, it doesn’t say “the monster does its damage to you”. It says the monster gets an attack. That attack can just as easily be to make one of its moves on you. Some monsters have moves like “remove a limb”or “scramble their perceptions”. Technically, that wouldn’t do damage at all, and can’t just be fixed with a healing potion. It sounds like you might be interested in monsters with a totally different tone of moves.

  10. Mike Pureka By my reading, the “applicability test” on H&S is indeed “some sort of odd one-off exception”. Does the main text say otherwise?

    (I appreciate that anyone starting to play now would be well advised to read not just the book but a good chunk of e.g. the /r/DungeonWorld syllabus. It’s unreasonable to expect that the core book is still the best reference five years on.)

    WRT people judging me… my goal is to learn about rpg design as best I can. And that means expressing my honest opinions as clearly as possible. Being popular online is a secondary goal at best.

    docs.google.com – Dungeon World Syllabus

  11. Rob Alexander I’m not sure spending this much time on feelings, likes, and subjective tastes is the best way to learn about design. It doesn’t matter how you personally feel about a design decision, it was still made.

    Read and play more games of all sorts.

  12. Aaron Griffin what I’m trying to understand is why I feel a certain way in response to certain design decisions. If I can understand that, and how to achieve (or avoid) that feeling in other designs, I’m better placed to build games that I like.

  13. Why would a clarification on how something works be a one-off exception? Should we be guessing that attacking is special in that it’s not okay to “attack” something that you wouldn’t be able to hurt but that it would be okay to “manipulate” something that you cannot persuade? Indeed, the Parley text goes into a similar talk – “What counts as leverage depends on the people involved and the request being made. Threaten a lone goblin with death and you have leverage. Threaten a goblin backed up by his gang with death and he might think he’s better off in a fight.” – That’s very closely related to “Attacking a dragon with inch-thick metal scales full of magical energy using a typical sword is like swinging a meat cleaver at a tank;”

    While other moves don’t explicitly call this out, that’s often because they’re not explicitly targeted – it’s unlikely that anything is going to be able to stop you from Spouting Lore – or have an implication that the target is willing. Defend has clear text indicating that when you’re no longer near your target you can’t defend them anymore, so if they move away…

    So yes, I maintain that it is clear from the original text that the move needs to be applicable in the fiction before it can be applied and that it is the GM that does that AND that it’s not specific to Hack & Slash. What text do you believe indicates otherwise?

  14. Hi, here my thoughts on some of your points taken.

    [EDIT] Did you not play the game? Try it, it’s a eye opener [/EDIT]

    The PBtA move format (“When you X…”) is a nice way to capturing new special-case rules

    Same here, but it gets better the more i play. After each session i find a few “Oh this should have been move x…” moments. I hope i learn from it.

    and coming up with 7-9 results on the fly can be hard.

    That is what i thought, but in my actual round it is surprising easy.

    I get Problems when i let the player roll and then find out i wasn’t really a move. So if i have no idea for a soft move, i have to rethink if it is even a move.

    My greatest fear is the Discern Reality move where i need to answer questions i would have never ask. Or the Spout lore where i have to give out a useful fact.

    Because of the narrow range of die results, and the fixed values for for interpretation (6-, 7-9, 10+) there is very little room for modifiers e.g. from equipment or spell effects.

    That was hard for me! My way right now: A weapon giving +1/+2 Damage is ok. Something giving +1 for a very specific move (Spout Lore about Goblin Warfare) is ok. Everything else is not. especially something giving +1 on Hack & Slay.

    Right now i run a Plague of Storms Campaign where you could find Finest Dwarven Armor / weapons. The Effect of the Dwarven tag is “When item gets Damaged, remove Dwarven Tag and it continues working”. So no Armor Bonus, No damage Bonus!

    I will get used to.

    The assymmetry of PCs and NPCs again seems odd to me.

    This has major benefits, though, particularly in making NPCs very mechanically simple.

    Same here in the beginning. I do not Roll? Tho Orc does not roll when attacking? how do i know it will hit? If all depends on the players roll (wich does not change) how is a goblin different from a Orc?

    Right now i love it. Played Savage Worlds yesterday. Spend a lot time looking up. What was the Werwolf Fighting Skill, Weapon Damage. The Priest’s Willpower, Spell efekt. etc.

    In DW i look up the Hitpoints, Armor, damage. Get a Impression on the Moves and thats it! Rare that i have to stop the flow to look something up. And i think my Player will get the different from a group of Orcs Vs. a Group of goblins.

    The base game, as written, is predominantly about combat and adventure. It has minimal support for social, craft, political etc conflicts.

    Yes. There is the Parly move which rarely apply in my game. Or the Defy Danger with Cha.

    The damage system somehow always feels “soft” to me — it feels as if injuries are not injuries, just some vague idea such.

    From the players perspective it feels strange to me. But my players do not complain. The fighter does Forcefull / Messy Damage. I think he is satisfied with the result.

    We had Caverats (11hp 1d6 Messy) and the players see them long before and i told they how they are feared because of their sharp teeth. When it comes to a fight no one complained when the rat tears the leg muscles away and leave the player Shaky.

    The original version of the following point was badly worded, and created a lot more heat than light. I’ve revised it. You can see the original, along with more detail, in my follow-up post.

    Yep, i need to read the guide to understand the game. There will be a german Translation (hopefully this month) and the author say he had fixed these issues. I am looking forward to it.

  15. Some things that stick out to me:

    “coming up with 7-9 results on the fly can be hard”: Not if you’re a pessimist who can see a problem with anything.

    Asymmetry: I think that style of play is something that we’re not done experimenting with in RPGs. That’s not to say that any method is better, but experiencing stories in different ways is really valuable.

    The massive number of Moves: This is what campaign RPGs generally do. They add rules as you play. Not all are relevant, you just use what you’re interested in. Played pedantically you should trigger every bolded text in a PbtA game. I don’t see the fun in that. Constantly adding rules is something you’re not going to escape. I know some GMs like their players to never change, never learn, never level-up. I’m not a big fan of that gameplay.

    The writing style is nice: Your favourite authors constantly court internet drama. Maybe I want to read something written by someone who isn’t a career asshole. What’s wrong with a book that kids can read?

    Damage is shit: Yes it is. But it’s easy to explain to noobs.

    Fictional positioning is shit: Yeah, that one isn’t easy to explain to noobs. I love it as a concept and all GMs should be forced to play that way as a rite of passage, but I’m over it. I feel the only reason it’s a massive thing in PbtA is because if you hand out +1s you break the game.

  16. Aaron Steed Writing style: While I don’t like internet assholery, it seems that the writing I really like often draws on the same circuit.

    (Although I don’t really have Baker or Stuart pegged as drama foci. Did I miss some prime beef?)

  17. Jan Berger

    > [EDIT] Did you not play the game? Try it, it’s a eye opener [/EDIT]

    Yeah, as I said at the top of my post I played about 45 sessions, mostly as GM.

  18. Aaron Steed, several others — Maybe forgetting to trigger some moves isn’t such a great loss. Maybe the problem is merely the bad feeling I have about that; the overall is game experience may not have been otherwise suffering much from missed moves.

    My suspicion is that games with one repeatedly-used task/check mechanic give the group a better chance to avoid the most common play errors — you can master that, and be confident you’re overall mostly ok. (I’m thinking of BW first and foremost here)

    However, it’s possible that the core loop (the thing I mention in the “what i like” section) is the DW analogue – as long as that’s basically happening, the most important parts of the mechanics are engaging.

  19. Rob Alexander the meat of PbtA games are about the conversation and how to structure it, so I think you’re right in that the core of the game isnt a Circles Test or anything, but the “what do you do?” loop.

    There’s a reason why people seem to associate “what do you do?” with PbtA now in circles I frequent.

  20. Rob Alexander Huh.

    I find it odd that you say “games with one repeatedly-used task/check mechanic” with the implication that DW is not one of those games.

    DW, to me, has a single repeated task/check mechanic. You roll 2d6 and add an attribute and check if the result is 2-6/7-9/10+. To me, that’s more unified than games like Burning Wheel where you “gather some dice based upon an attribute plus bonuses, roll them, and compare the number of successes to a target number set by the GM”.

    I also find it odd that we’re discussing this at all, since it sounds like, really, the issue you are talking about is “forgetting” when moves trigger. But I don’t see how this is different from any other game. If you’re playing Burning Wheel, have you ever forgotten, I dunno, a Steel check for being hurt, or whatever? (My knowledge of the specifics of Burning Wheel is pretty rusty. I’ve read it once but never played.) Dungeon World, to me, has a much SMALLER number of times when you need to “remember to pick up the dice” than most RPGs.

  21. Mike Pureka — “Dungeon World, to me, has a much SMALLER number of times when you need to “remember to pick up the dice” than most RPGs.” — Possibly you’re right. I don’t have much tolerance for complex games at all these days. E.g. although I like the top level of Burning Wheel (hub and spokes, basically), I find the full detail way beyond my limit.

    (that said, BW examples other than Steel aren’t leaping to my mind here)

  22. Rob Alexander Even in general, I feel like BW involves more rolls – heaven forfend you engage in any of the “conflict” subsystems like Fight or Duel of Wits; Then you’re looking at tons of rolls for very specific things with very specific implications. Yes, you’ve now clearly shifted into “everything requires a die roll” mode, but you are picking up the dice A LOT. Indeed, you pick up the dice for all KINDS of “skill” stuff.

    Dungeon World has basically 6 common events, of which two are pretty much “fighting only” (Hack & Slash, Volley), that cause you to pick up dice and a couple more fringe or class specific ones. I’ve never felt like I had a hard time remembering when to roll dice in DW.

    You’ve run the game a lot; Have you EVER realized “Oh shoot, I should have had them roll in that situation”? Because to me, this sounds so improbable as to almost defy comprehension, and I’d be curious as to what circumstances you were in that caused you to “miss” this that you wouldn’t have also missed in a game that say, requires you to roll dice ANYTIME your character “uses a skill”.

    Or to ask another question, what games do you play that you don’t have trouble remembering “triggers”?

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