So for this weekend and the one before it, I’ve been GMing an introduction to Dungeon World for a group of longtime…
So for this weekend and the one before it, I’ve been GMing an introduction to Dungeon World for a group of longtime D&D players, in hopes of encouraging them to move from their long run of tactical mini games to the fast-and-loose antics of DW’s storygame basis.
For character creation, we ended up for the following characters for the first session:
Abolished – the human fighter
Puck – the halfling druid
Baldric – the human bard
Foldpack the Brave – the human paladin
Through various bonds, as well as leading questions from myself, we found out that at some point Baldric made a terrible-but-undefined mistake that let loose some sort of fire demon. This tied in somehow with the empire of the land, which has been greedily expanding its borders, and in the process cultivating some sort of strange, magical ‘global warming’. It was this environmental change that led Puck out of his home in the Frozen North (he was raised by woolly mammoths) in search of vengeance, where he met up with the rest of our heroes. In addition to these, we established that Foldpack (originally named as a joke after the ‘foldpack’ containers from a chinese take-out place) has some sort of darkness that follows him. Solving this mystery of this darkness, and how it ties into this fiery demon became Foldpack’s Quest, and so he chose Immunity to Fire as one of his pact boons. This would become important.
We joined our heroes as a good night’s sleep in an inn was interrupted by some cultists in service to the flame demon — familiar foes, by this point. They initiated some sort of ritual that filled the sky with burning lines, lighting the night with red fire. As the heroes fought, I had one of them start up a countdown (as detailed in Dark Heart of the Dreamer) that represented the process of the cult ritual. This fight introduced our first villian, the high priest of the demon, who carried a large scroll that he was reading the ritual text from. The heroes tried to stop him, but his hellhound servants and his magical shield (4 armor, burns anything that passes through) made it difficult. As Abolished brought down his signature weapon on the priest’s head for the killing blow, the ritual was completed, and the entire party (and the half-burned inn) was teleported to the lair of the flame demon, in the middle of a hell dimension.
Already, in this first battle we established some interesting motifs. For one, Foldpack frequently found himself being the only one willing to charge into the frontlines of a battle and actually get things done. Everybody else had the tendency to waste time and hold back. Additionally, this was the first time we established that Puck and Baldric frequently team up, with the bard shooting his arrows from atop the mammoth-form of the druid.
For the flame demon’s lair, I used the Dungeon rules from Dark Heart of the Dreamer to help me come up with rooms on the fly. The first or these was the prison room—a stone walkway over a lava pit, with cages full of dead or dying prisoners hanging from the ceiling. The jailer was a large demon with a massive butcher knife (immediately disarmed and knocked into the lava), and a rather unusual breath weapon. Foldpack asked, as it charged its attack, if it would be fire. I let him roll a Spout Lore, for which he had his very first 6 or less roll. So, he found out that the attack wasn’t fire the hard way: a massive burst of spiny tentacles exploded out of the demon’s mouth, taking up more volume than should have spatially been possible. Baldric was nearly thrown into the lava, and was only saved by one of the prisoners in a cage pulling him up in exchange for freedom. Unfortunately, defeating the jailer ended up destroying the jail, knocking the bridge and all of the cages into the lava before any of those poor souls could be rescued.
The next room had some cultists in the middle of some sort of ritual. The PCs decided to ignore them and pass another way. At this point, I rolled randomly for the next room and found that every force of the dungeon was at high strength: quite unintentionally, our PCs found the ‘boss room’.
It was at this point that our first session ended. I feel like everyone had a pretty good time, though I think it was the second session that really sold them on the system.
Some lessons learned from the first session:
– I need to reference the GM moves more often. They’re super helpful and I always forget about some of the less common ones.
– Dungeons As Monsters and Countdowns are awesome and everyone should use them. The psychological effect of the players having a visible countdown, but not knowing for sure what a full countdown means is very potent.
– It is totally viable to literally send all of your PCs to Hell within the first hour of play, though I would probably start a bit less extreme for games that I wasn’t planning on being only a few sessions long.
– Paladins are awesome, and more people should play them. Having someone immune to fire in the party let me do all sorts of awesome things that would’ve been much riskier in a different group.
– The GM reference sheet with all the questions for creating monsters was amazingly useful. I created three different monsters on the fly during the game, but they still had the stats and moves that I needed to make the game fun in a way that wouldn’t be possible in a more tactical system.
– This is less ‘something I learned’ and more a confirmation of what I’ve already seen, but going in to a game with no prep whatsoever continues to be a total blast. If I tried to think up a plot beforehand it wouldn’t be nearly as cool, or as personally relevant to the players, as the one that I built in collaboration with all of them.
– With the exception of one player, everyone bought into the ‘freeform’ feel of Dungeon World with no difficulties, and loved it. One person seemed to dislike not being able to just say “I attack” in the way that you can in the more tactical games. I did my best to draw what I could out of him, but I think, to some extent, that’s just the kind of player he is, so I also allowed him some flexibility to be as prominent or in-the-background as he wanted in a way that I wouldn’t with a more flexible player.
A description of our second session will be on the way shortly.