I’m working on what I hope will be a booklet of monsters.

I’m working on what I hope will be a booklet of monsters.

I’m working on what I hope will be a booklet of monsters. While I anticipate releasing my work for free, I’d like to at least leave open the option of charging a buck or two in the future. I had some questions about what creatures might (or might not) be permissible to use. 

I note that the DW rulebook includes a lot of monsters that were specifically created for D&D, including some that were introduced in 3E (e.g. girallon, gray render). I also note that all D&D monsters used appear in the d20 SRD, even though DW–as far as I know–isn’t published under the OGL. 

Is the presumption that as long as a creature isn’t considered WOTC product identity (e.g. beholder) it’s fair game? Could I, for example, include the darkmantle?

Also, what’s the status of the Cthulhu Mythos monsters? While they’re not in the d20 SRD, they are in the Pathfinder SRD, which further includes some that were not derived exclusively from Lovecraft (e.g. Hound of Tindalos). I don’t see any attribution given to Arkham House or Chaosium in the Paizo legalese.

I know, I know, the easiest way to avoid any problems to make up original monsters, but just as the original D&D “borrowed” from every book, comic, movie and plastic toy available at the time, it’s fun to stat up pre-existing critters.

I am attempting to stat up a mythical monster, the Shaggy Beast of France.

I am attempting to stat up a mythical monster, the Shaggy Beast of France.

I am attempting to stat up a mythical monster, the Shaggy Beast of France. Legend has it that it was invulnerable with one notable exception: it died when someone hacked off its tail. 

My question: would it be better to give it 4 armor and declare that the killing blow had severed its tail; or to leave HP and armor blank and simply give it the special quality “may only be killed by cutting off its tail?”

I GM’d my first official game last Friday night at a local convention.

I GM’d my first official game last Friday night at a local convention.

I GM’d my first official game last Friday night at a local convention. In preparation, I created a bunch of reference materials for both myself and the players. Here are links to the Google Docs:

GM Screen (4 pgs) – basic, special, GM and dungeon moves; equipment and services; GM characters.


Player Reference (3 pgs) – character creation; gameplay guide.


Tags (2 pgs) – equipment, weapons, monsters and steadings.


Tags for players (1 pg) – equipment and weapons.


Character standees (5 pgs) – half-sheets that you can fold into “tents” to place in front of each player. Includes class name with room for them to write their character’s name. 


DW GM First Impressions (part 3)

DW GM First Impressions (part 3)

DW GM First Impressions (part 3)

As I look ahead to the convention event this Friday, I’m wondering how I may have to change things. I had nine potential fights planned, but given that we managed to get through only two, I am going to have to reduce them. How many encounters would be reasonable for a four-hour convention slot? Would it be worth pre-generating characters to allow for more dungeoneering?

I am also wondering how I should handle magic items. When the characters looted the Orkaster, they found an orb. It didn’t seem right to just tell them what it was, as the ability to do so is restricted to the Wizard and even then it’s an Advanced Move. First-level characters should be out of luck until they can get back to town and find an expert, but that seems wrong for a convention event. Should I just not worry about it and simply hand them a treasure card?

One thing I didn’t previously touch on was mapping. While I drew myself a map, I never got around to drawing out the dungeon for the players as they went. Since they only got to the second room, it wasn’t a concern. Still, I’m wondering how the “draw maps, leave blanks” thing works in practice. How do you leave blanks in an engineered environment such as a dungeon? If I tell them that the room has two doors, how can they choose Door #3? 

Finally, how do I prepare for the potential of a long run of failed (or partially failed) Hack and Slash and Defy Danger moves?

I do want to wrap up by saying that the game ran very well and we all had a good time. I know that some of my concerns will lessen as I gain more experience with storytelling games in general and DW in particular. That said, I would gratefully welcome some advice as Friday looms on my calendar!

DW GM First Impressions (part 2)

DW GM First Impressions (part 2)

DW GM First Impressions (part 2)

There were goblins in the barracks beyond the secret tunnel, and they were prepared for the party’s arrival. I did not predetermine the number of goblins, but rather suggested that there were a bunch of them. I used the characters’ failed Defy Danger and Hack and Slash rolls to Put Them in a Spot and have them menaced by two or more goblins.

The fight took a surprisingly long time. Kyle had a horrible run of die rolls, and while he was racking up XP like crazy, I found myself challenged to keep coming up with bad things that weren’t simply more damage. The goblins’ special moves all involve bringing new goblins to the fight, and I felt that the last thing we all needed was the arrival of MORE goblins.

Instead I opted for things like having one of his characters slip and fall prone, with a goblin about to ram a spear into his chest. I wasn’t sure about this, though. On a 6- I was fully justified in making a hard move, but by this point the character had already suffered a bunch of damage. The “slip and fall prone” thing struck me as more of a way of delaying a subsequent dealing of damage, rather than anything interesting.

Kyle’s spectacular run of bad luck resulted in the Cleric’s staff flying across the room (Use Up Their Resources) and a lot of (failed) Defying Danger attempting to reclaim it.

Rob’s Dwarf Fighter and Halfling Thief were having a better time of it, though ever here there were a lot of 7-9 rolls that required me to come up still more negative effects. I opted for a goblin jumping onto the Dwarf’s back and putting a knife to his throat. The Dwarf responded by Defying Danger and slamming the goblin into a wall. 

The fight eventually wound down, but I’d estimate that it may have taken an hour of real time. That was much longer than I expected from DW.

At this point, the party had two complications to deal with: a lot of spear wounds and a captured goblin.

One concern that I ran into was how to adjudicate the Cleric’s Cure Light Wounds. Was he allowed to spam the spell over and over until everyone was fully healed? While I presume that this sort of thing is discouraged by the possibility of multiple failures (full or partial), it concerns me that a group of players could conceivably argue that any time they Make Camp in the presence of a Cleric, they could easily have him Commune multiple times as needed until they were back to full health.

The characters Parlayed with the goblin, offering not to kill him if he revealed who was in command. He told them about the Goblin Orkaster in the next room. (This imminent threat did help to discourage any lengthy attempts to heal up.)

I’m not going to go into detail about the fight with the Orkaster, though here too there were a bunch of partial and full failures. As much as I didn’t want to rely on Dealing Damage, I found myself resorting to it when I’d run out of ideas. I did, however, have a moment of fun when I had the Orkaster ignite the Bard’s prized mandolin. But I felt that even this was more of a way of delaying an eventual dealing of damage.

The party was well and truly bloodied after this second fight, and they retreated out of the dungeon to Make Camp. That’s where we ended things. We’d spent about two and a half hours of real time, including character creation.

(concluded in part 3)

DW GM First Impressions (part 1)

DW GM First Impressions (part 1)

DW GM First Impressions (part 1)

In preparation for the convention event I’ll be running this Friday evening, I sat down with a couple of friends yesterday so that I could get a feel for the GM side of the game in a low-stress environment. It went pretty well, but I did find myself challenged at times. Bear with me, this is going to be a long post, but I would appreciate feedback.

I walked them through the character creation process. While it proved to be a good way to go over some of the basics of the game, it took perhaps a half hour. I’m considering making pre-gens for the convention event, though I could be talked out of it. Any thoughts on this?

As we were short of party members, the players ran two characters apiece. Kyle had the Bard and the Cleric; Rob had the Fighter and the Thief. I asked them a bunch of questions about their characters and felt good about that aspect of the game.

I started them in front of the cliffside main doors of the dungeon, and told them that the doors were hanging listlessly off their hinges. The Dwarf wanted to ensure that they were safe, but he blew his Discern Realities check. Here was my first challenge, as the rules don’t cover what happens on a failed check. I took a suggestion from this forum and told him an obviously false piece of information: “The doors look JUST FINE.” They weren’t, of course, and when he Defied Danger to avoid a falling door, it hit the ground with a crash that echoed down the hall.

The Bard wanted to use Bardic Lore on the doors to determine what creatures lived in the dungeon, but we decided that was beyond the scope of that move. I didn’t want to just say “no,” however, so I told him that there were scratches on the doors that were indicative of goblin weaponry. He told us that he’d heard about goblin in a song, and even sang a couple of bars.

The Cleric rolled a 7-9 when casting Light, and opted to draw unwelcome attention. I said that he had used his “outdoor voice” inside the long corridor.

They proceeded into the hall, encountering a couple of chatty magic mouths. The Cleric rolled another 7-9 on his Guidance spell. I felt that drawing unwanted attention was no longer an option considering all the noise they’d already made, so he instead opted to lose the spell. I toyed with having his deity mislead him, but as the spirit of the rules are that a 7-9 is fundamentally a success, I had her point him toward the secret door beneath the magic mouth.

(continued in part 2)

I had a flash of insight this weekend.

I had a flash of insight this weekend.

I had a flash of insight this weekend. I’d been reading a trade paperback of “Dr. McNinja” comics, and it occurred to me that DW’s monster creation process hews to McNinja’s “Inverse Ninja Law.” (“One ninja is an elite and powerful adversary. Multiple ninjas make a group of faceless and incompetent pawns.”) Granted that DW monsters aren’t necessarily faceless or incompetent, but it’s true that the more of something there are, the less powerful they are, all other things being equal.

Nothing more to say except that this realization amused me greatly.