In the summer of 2012 I kinda blundered into pledging at the hard cover level for Dungeon World Kickstarter. It was a hazy decision I kind of half remember. The pitch talked about monsters, classes and Dungeons. It enthused about modern rules for an old school feel. The pictures were bright and dynamic, I was bedazzled. I was even getting a cool graphically designed T-shirt of the logo. Awesome dude! (picture Newt having a Rufus moment with Bill n Ted over this, high fiving and shouting Station with excitement).
Then I went away and forgot about. Or I would have done if it wasn’t for the constant stream of excited updates from the designers. Most were reassurances the book was coming. One even announced that one of the co-authors had go married! Of the remainder links to the draft of the game and various stretch goal mini-supplements where posted. All good fun which helped keep the buzz going in my head.
I finally bit the bullet and ran the game after getting the final pdf, which was also bundled with a Kindle version from which I learnt the game reading it off my smart phone’s screen on the way to work.
I then proceeded to play the heck out of it in a combination of home based face to face, a convention game or two and a short mini campaign of Google hangouts.
I could go one about this game since its impressed the heck out of me but here’s a bullet point list of its pros and cons.
What DW does good.
- Its a very accessible game. All the rules are summerised on two Moves sheets (Basic Moves- things every body can do and Special Moves – things that crop up occasionally like what happens when a character faces death) and on the Hand out Character Class sheets which tell you all the rules. I’ve played it with a combination of people completely new to RPGing, die hard D&D players and pedantic Storygamers and once they’ve settled down in to the groove of the game with its give and take, they’ve all effortlessly got on with having fun.
- Its a good at supporting improvisational play. The GM presents a Starting scene say “you are standing outside the skull gates of the Mountain stronghold of the Order of Black Assassins” and then the players take it from there by telling the GM why their characters are there and what they are doing next. Play flows fast and furious from there, but its always in response to what the players do since they get to Move first and the GM only gains the ability to initiate moves when the players fail dice rolls or under special circumstances as dictated by the rules. Detractors may say this leads to a non-fun game from the GM’s perspective, but all its doing is reining in the GM and giving the players an equal share of the game. It also has very robust GM guidelines that support the GM while they adjust to the paradgim shift of perspective that the game requires. I found very easily the the mega-dungeon from when I was a 15 year old AD&D DM effortlessly sprang onto the table, and worked this time, in a ten or session mini-campaign we’ve played on and off via G+ or face to face since I’ve got the game. For me it makes a very good stand in game since its GM techniques makes it very easy to play self contained games, at the drop of a hat.
- It looks at class abilities and is not afraid to make them fun. Not being D&D directly, means that the authors have deviated from normal expectations and revised the class abilities, called Moves here, from the ground up. This quite frankly has lead to some Maximum Game Fun choices 🙂 The sub-classes especially benefit from this: Lawful Neutral Paladins modeled after a certain staring character from 2000AD, Heavy Metal Bards, Druids who can shape change into Bears 🙂
- Very fast play. Normally its just a case of common sense and saying Yes to small details and NO when a character can definitely not do something. When you do need to roll dice its 2d6 + ability modifier + any mods for your character’s class Move. The results are never ambiguous, because generally its 6 or less and you fail (and the GM may decide to make a Move for a monster or the environment), 7-9 you succeed with complications, 10+ you succeed flawlessly.
- Its an All in One rule book, which in my space limited world (both in the physcial and mental space) is a good thing. However its a thing 300+ book so I’m glad I got the Limited Edition as part of the Kickstarter 🙂
What DW does Bad
- Book presentation can seem a bit superficial and silly at times. Some of the art (big gonzo comic book art) and tone of book in places supports this to a degree. Don’t get me wrong I do include a hefty bit of humour along side the grim in my games, because after all its meant to be fun, but disruptive tedious “hey lets play old school d&d and have a bit of a laugh at it” effect that some players bring to the table before they settle down really grinds my gears some times.
- Its a New paradigm for GM to get head round. Sitting back and let players ‘move first’ . Reacting not Acting. Good that it prevents overbearing DMing, bad if players don’t do anything, and takes practice for the GM not to butt in. This is where the game through no fault of its own will fall flat on its face for some people. Which if I’m being an old misery leads me on to ….
- Its not real D&D. I miss bean counting and some of the familiarity of the rules, and survivability of characters ramped up. If I’m being critical and all nit picky this can really sour me on the game, and I pick up a real version of D&D. However if I accept that what DW does really really well is that it captures the ESSENCE of all those fun moments in D&D really well, then I am happy as Larry once again 🙂
In summary though its an excellent game who’s praises I can’t sing highly enough of. It really strips down the clutter that some incarnations of D&D accrue and is not afraid to go off in new directions.