Dungeon World

dungeon_world

Tabletop roleplaying games are one of my oldest hobbies, but at some point I realized that I’ve played in so few games over the years, that I don’t actually know what is happening in the world of RPGs. I embarked on yet another endless project to get up-to-date with what’s been happening in RPGs on two fronts. First is mechanics – what are the new novel ways of organizing the rules. Second is worlds – reading stories gives you those stories, but reading about an interesting world gets your mind racing and creating dozens of stories by itself. This is the first victim of that project.

As soon as I asked questions about interesting recent RPGs, Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) titles started to pop up. Consensus seemed to be that Dungeon World is the best, so off I went to pick up a copy.

The System

So, PbtA seems to be a system, that in itself kind of defines the genre, the common actions in the genre and thus the common actions in the game. That is, the system works as a sort of guideline to the style of games intended to play with it. It seems to me that the system works best, when the focus is quite narrow and well defined. As far as I’ve heard, the bad PbtA games tend to be the ones that don’t have a clear focus and try to do a bit of everything.

The beef of the system are the aforementioned actions. Those actions start with the fiction – when you are not involved with the rules, you are co-creating a story, and when that story hits a spot that sounds like a defined action, you jump into the rules of the action for a while. The actions contain some resolution mechanics, and finally they return to the fiction, that is, the resolution given by the action is usually defined in pretty general terms, and that resolution should be fleshed out to fit to the story being created. That is, although generally you are creating the story, when the story hits a conflict point, you give chance a role to find a resolution to the conflict, and then you fit the resolution into the story again.

The system is very lightweight. In a conflict, the traditional RPG systems usually involve a lot of dices being thrown and tables being consulted. Mostly you jump out of the fiction for a long time, or you even let the dice tell the fiction completely for the duration of the conflict. Here, the system gets in seamlessly triggered by the fiction, and when you are done with the system (which should happen quickly), you are right back in the fiction. It is a system that allows you to add excitement and chance into an experience of collective story telling, instead of being a system of combat simulation.

The World

Among RPG hobbyists, D&D is usually thought of as the most simple, most generic type of fantasy. It has orcs, who are green and usually angry, it has elves, who have pointy ears and are usually lofty. That literally is the entire depth that the D&D worlds have. Obviously the game is the oldest RPG around and has spent all of that time (I think) as the most popular RPG in the world, so the amount of stuff released for the game is mind blowing, and inevitably there’s mostly more depth than that, but it’s still simplistic. The world is literally an excuse for going to dungeons to bash in the heads of monsters in cool scenes and loot their stuff to be more powerful for the next dungeon.

Dungeon World is D&D done with the PbtA system. In order to keep the PbtA system running in a well focused manner, Dungeon World takes D&D and actually simplifies it a lot.

That’s ok though, since PbtA is not geared towards a complete world with a bazillion details – it’s geared towards starting somewhere and seeing where it goes. You are supposed to be creating most of the stuff on the fly anyway. This means that the depth of the world is entirely up to you. Obviously the system keeps things limited to the strengths of Dungeon World, and those are quite narrow and simple – kicking the asses of bad guys and taking their loot. Hopefully there’s a plot involved somewhere.

My Thoughts

D&D style power fantasy has its time and place. With D&D you get the benefit of endless amounts of material to run with. Ready made adventure and campaign modules are endless and thus it’s easy to jump in and play for a bit. I think I’d still go with Dungeon World next time I’m in the mood for something like this, since with it you can just create a few quick characters and start running and see, where it goes. The system is mostly out of the way and concentrates on making things interesting. It doesn’t get bogged down on endless details, but keeps things, where they are interesting – in the fiction. This was definitely an interesting acquaintance and now I’m the mood for one or two of the other more praised PbtA games.

Recently I Have Been Mostly RPGing…

Unsurprisingly, my Great Adventure Game Project has not progressed as expected. Long story short, my little personal time has been spent on table top RPGs recently. The thing I have done for this project is that I spent some amount of Zorkmids on GoG summer sales and now I have pretty much a complete library of games for the project. Now I just need to find the time for playing them…

I have very little time for me time projects altogether and right after getting excited about adventure games, I got excited about table top RPGs again… What can I say, I’m easily inspired – too bad I don’t have the time to follow up on all of the inspirations.

A friend of mine set up an RPG discussion channel and I found some other general RPG communities as well, so I’ve been engulfed in inspiring table top RPG discussion. As a result, I’ve been getting up to speed on what has happened in the scene, since I was previously active.

As a result of the inspirations, I signed up with a Pathfinder game rolled by the GM. Some nicely grim and Lovecraftian elements to it. Maybe some dozen sessions done by now. The first big arch is going to be finished next session. Probably should see, where we head after that during the session as well. Been most excellent just to get to play a bit.

Rise of the Runelords

rise_of_the_runelords_cover

As a result of not finding more games to sign up with immediately, I also ended up rolling up a Pathfinder campaign of my own. I haven’t been GMing in nearly 20 years, so I decided to go easy on myself and go with ready made stuff instead of rolling up my own. As I was pretty familiar with the rules having signed up for a campaign a few months earlier, as there’s an endless amount of ready made stuff for it, and as there must be a reason for its success, it was an easy decision to go with Pathfinder. After some browsing of the adventure paths, I noticed that the Rise of the Runelords adventure path had been re-released as an anniversary edition. One hardcover edition, way cheaper than buying the six piece paths individually, still in print, adventure path is still regarded as one of the better ones released by Paizo – another easy decision.

After some prep time and finding a group, we’ve now played through two sessions. I’m still finding my feet and so are my players, but thus far fun has been had. During the next session the story is shifting gears and the first major action of the campaign will be encountered. As this is D&D based stuff, the campaign is very combat oriented – down shifting happens only rarely and for short times. But railroading and high octane action is easy enough to GM, and as there are a few newbies in my group of players, it should be nice for them to get into as well.

Ropecon

Also went to Ropecon – a big Finnish non-electronic gaming event… or a scene event… Not sure, what it should be called and not sure, if it’s the biggest, but to me, it is the one and only gaming event of the year in Finland. I was able to attend only on Friday, but what a nice day it was.

Unlike most of my Ropecons, this time my schedule was very tight. After getting in, I headed straight for the table top RGP sign up desk to sign up for Fate Core Combat Academy GMed by Petri Leinonen. Got to do a bit of history by spending the first “etuilulippu” (priority ticket) in the history of Ropecon. Everyone was given one for the whole weekend to pick a game to attend with priority over others. I was going to attend only this one game, so obviously I used my ticket to make sure I got to the game. The game itself was an introduction to the Fate Core mechanics using a heavily railroaded scenario designed to introduce the mechanics one by one in a Star Wars setting. Petri has been running the scenario several times prior to Ropecon, but due to scheduling conflicts, I missed all the sessions previously. This time I got in and it was a fun ride. Unfortunately the game started some 20 minutes late due to the time it took to sign up people for all the games starting at the same time and as a result, we missed the ending of the scenario. That obviously was not the point of the session, but would’ve been nice to see, how things ended up, as even with this kind of rules heavy, story light session, Fate Core manages to set up exciting things in capable hands. It’s easy to fall into character and into the scenes of the story. It’s easy to be dramatic and to find usable things to do in all scenes with all characters. Had immense fun and got exactly what I was looking for – my mind is now racing with ideas about campaigns I could run with the system. Firefly and Star Wars are the top candidates for now, but we’ll see, when I’ll get to those. I’d like to start by getting the scenario material from Petri and trying to run that introductory scenario by myself, so I can use the scenario as a sort of Fate Core GM Academy for myself.

That took me well into the evening. After a quick snack break I headed to Roolipelaajan peruskoulu: Kaaoksen ja järjestyksen välissä (Roleplaying 101: Between Chaos and Order), a lecture held by Sanna Koulu and Pekka Hänninen. Basically they were going through what a player can do in various table top RPG games to make the game more interesting and fun for everyone. Basically the message was to introduce some order in chaotic games (sandbox settings) and to introduce some chaos in ordered games (amusement park rides). The things discussed have been bubbling somewhere in the back of my consciousness, but I’ve never really got them out into the open and under more scrutiny. Again my head went racing forwards. Some thoughts about steering my players towards some direction in the campaign I’m GMing and on the other hand some thoughts about improving my game in the campaign I’m playing in.

Altogether two nice inspiring bits of program. At that point I should’ve headed to sleep according to my regular schedule, but with all the thoughts racing through my head and with a lot of friends heading to the bar, I went for a few beers to relax and to meet up with people I see far too rarely. The new venue worked very well. Oxygen didn’t run out and despite the venue not being as intimate and as atmospheric, it still felt like Ropecon. Got to get to know the layout of the location a bit better, before I’ll feel at home there, but that shouldn’t be a big issue. The only complaint I have is that the table top RPG room assigned to Fate Core Combat Academy, there were over half a dozen other games running and the acoustics was not up to that – I spent a lot of time concentrating on blocking out all the phrases drifting to my ears from the other tables and we had to use a lot of voice to hear each other in our own table. That should be easy to fix though and altogether I have no wish for Ropecon to return to Dipoli after this first year in Messukeskus.