Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Go Play NW: Dungeon World (and Community Megadungeon)

Hey there! So, before I jump into the Dungeon World AP, I wanted to talk about a piece of the con that I forgot about yesterday. Probably for the best since now there's an image of it. Anyway, that's the Community Megadungeon. This was a couple of long tables (like full-on cafeteria tables) with a single huge piece of graph paper across them. This stayed throughout the whole con, and everyone was invited to draw in new things to the dungeon. There was some wacky, crazy shit in there, and it's extremely cool. Greypawn on the GPNW forums works in a print shop and was nice enough to take the map with him and scan it in, so here it is! Props to him for doing that, and props to everyone else for making such a cool thing!
WARNING: It is ENORMOUS. Like, this is a 21 mb pic that's 14450 by 2950 pixels. Click to witness the glory, but be warned about the size.
EDIT: It seems that Blogger can't handle this much image. Here's the full image.
I actually do NOT have a contribution on there, and that's one of my biggest regrets of the con (which I guess also just shows how few regrets I have about this con).
What I'm jealous of is the games that Tony Dowler and Ben Wray were running on the map. Yeah, World of Dungeons being played right there on the community megamap. That sounds so cool.

Next year we totally need to do one of these in the shape of a Metamorphosis: Alpha generation ship. Hot damn. (If you don't know what that is, comment and I'll tell you or just wait a couple days for the Metamorphosis: Omicron AP)

Anyway, to DW!
"DUNGEON WORLD (Go Play NW) Actual Play
So this was the first game that I played at GPNW, a story gaming convention that happens here in Seattle every summer. This is my first year, and in fact my first convention overall, so I'm very excited (typing this right now during the lunch break after my first session). As the title says, we played Dungeon World as the first session. Tony Dowler was the GM, making this the first time that I've ever actually played a story game instead of running one, Fiasco notwithstanding. We had 7 players:
Charon as Sir Cassius the Paladin,
Nate(? I think?) as Dorrund the Cleric,
Kingston as Shirroseth the Fighter,
Ogre as Lily the Bard,
Eric as Xeno the Wizard,
Dave as (I'm sorry I don't recall your guy's name Dave) the Ranger,
Myself as Felix the Thief,
and Tony Dowler as Dungeon Master!

At first I was worried about gaming as a public activity. I didn't know these people (and have never had experience gaming outside of the small group of friends that I started with), and even worse, I know that these people are pros. All of them are GPNW veterans, and here I am at my very first convention. I didn't want to seem like a total amateur.
Forgetting my dice at home when going to a freaking GAMING con didn't help that much.
Anyway, those fears vanished pretty much immediately. I'm glad I picked a game that I know to play first, and I can say for certain now that the DW annotations I did definitely helped me remember stuff. We played pretty fast and loose with things, but it was very enjoyable.
The adventure consisted of us being hired together as a group by a wizard patron of ours (we'd worked as a team before other than Lily from what I got - Lily's player showed up last minute a bit after we began, but integrated quickly). So we were going to be teleported to a distant land to find treasure and knowledge. We were exploring the dungeon and pretty immediately ran into awesome. The first passage we went down had a pit trap which I found (thank goodness I asked for trapfinding, I almsot didn't and just about ran us all into it) and the following room had this altar with coins spilling all around it and several owl statues. Another successful trapfinding found that the coins were cursed - they turn to acid in the pockets of whoever takes them, a curse laid upon them by the god of the altar: Cortholux the god of Taxes. I also noticed that the owl statues weren't, um, statues at all, but were instead skull-faced ghost creatures under an illusion! We fought, and succeeded. High points for me included me getting myself into a corner with the things and needing rescue, me exploding one of them with a great backstab, and an excellent revelation that the only way to break the altar's hold on the dungeon was to feed the beast the coins, which several of us attempted to do, and we eventually won. The altar in that room had been to the great Cortholux, God of Taxes. Bad rolls through everything ended up making him angry at Dorrund and a failed Cast a Spell meant that he couldn't cast Cure Light Wounds again until he was audited.
We fought against a small horde of shorter skull-critters that put up this crazy fog that made targeting really hard. It was a pretty standard combat minus two interesting things: Xeno did a spell that made a magical target (like concentric red rings) stick to the enemy, and the rings shone through the fog. It was pretty sweet. The other thing was the last one's final move: poison the Paladin. He rolled pretty average and wasn't too hot afterwards, but we finished combat and fixed him up (mostly)
Now the auditor showed up: an Angel. Because Dorrund's god believes in Trial by Combat, that was what was decided. Dorrund was allowed to choose a champion, however, and chose Sir Cassius. The (still-poisoned) Paladin started to fight the Angel - and rolled AMAZING. And so, the Paladin beat the living daylights out of an Angel. I bet his god of Good is gonna love that one.
Something neat about the dungeon was that it was unstable - quakes kept coming along. Clipped some of us pretty good at one point when a wall gave way. Turns out this dungeon was perched on the head of a titan, the entities who lost to the gods and were made to hold up the planes. This one was trying to shake us off, and his name was Atlar. I scaled down to his ear and we spoke with him. We convinced him to put in a good word for us with the gods and such, but he said that he'd only do it if one of us took his place in holding up the 5 remaining rooms while they fell. We obviously couldn't - we're not quite big enough, but he accepted that if one of us would stay behind and help him hold it up while we destroyed the remaining rooms the deal would still be good. Dorrund stayed behind and stood and helped Atlar hold it while the rest of us went in, with a good roll found the best supports for the whole place, and set to, with a mighty effort, break the support. We succeeded and activated our talisman that would bring us home (breaking apart two horns) as the walls fell around us, leaving Dorrund to go with Atlar to wherever his destination was. And the session ended!

Here, check out my character sheet.

Everything here is quite standard for a DW Thief except a couple pieces. First, the easier one: I have a level 2-5 move. Tony gave us one for free, which was pretty neat. I made my Backstab stronger (and took good advantage of it - many mighty foes were slain by my rapier's high rolls). The other thing was the bonds, which are never standard of course.
* I stole something from Shirroseth but it never came up what it was or that I took it.
* Sir Cassius has my back when things go wrong. We ended up with a good deal of camaraderie between our guys, and the dynamic of "I'll stand in front, you have my back!" "Oh, uh, yeah, definitely! *hiding*" was a lot of fun.
* Xeno knows incriminating details about me. It'll be obvious in a sec.
* Xeno and I have a con running, so yeah, of course he knows incriminating details - he helped! This was a lot of fun to play with. Everyone but Xeno and I were good or lawful, so we ended up teaming up a lot about things and had a big friendship/we've done this before thing going. There was a very funny scene where Xeno had cast Contact Spirit and the spirit was only visible to him and he was talking to it and telling the party what they needed to do. Felix leaned over to Xeno and whispered "Hey man, now isn't the time to be running this scam!" and Xeno turns and whispers hurriedly "No, no, it's for real this time!". Apparently, him pretending to summon a spirit and it asking for gold in return for messages from, like, loved ones and stuff or advice on things and such, which he just took takes their gold and makes up some random shit for an answer.

All in all, the dungeon was a hell of a lot of fun. Action-packed and quick-moving, I very quickly got passed the feeling of being brand-new here and felt comfortable with everyone, and I think it really really really helped that my first game ever with someone who I haven't been gaming with since the beginning went so cleanly and was so inviting and relaxing. Plus, all that action was a great wake-up to start the con with on a sleepy Saturday morning!
This wasn't the last I saw of some of these people! I played again with Kingston, Ogre, and Tony later on. Eric, Charon, thanks for helping me draw my character into the party with the camaraderie there. Wow, thinking about it, I guess Bonds really do work!

Jumping off of that, I wanted to talk about bonds for just a second. So all the major variants of AW that I've seen have done something with a PC-interaction stat. The major ones I know of are Hx, Bonds, and Strings (from AW, DW, and Monsterhearts respectively - The Regiment might have something but I haven't read it), and they each do different things. It seems that they establish connections between the PCs in three separate time frames. Bonds are the Past you two have together. Hx is how well you know each other right now in the Present. Strings are a resource that can be used to affect someone in the Future (representing control, usually emotional control, over someone).
Now, they do different things because of different tones of game, of course. A beautiful thing about all the major Apocalypse Engine games is that, under it all, the game comes down to the character interactions. These three mechanics allow for a game-effect to come of that interaction, and the amount of influence that stat has on the game depends on (or determines, not sure which direction it was designed) the tone of the game. Strings, as a thing being traded about and used a LOT, have a lot of effect on the game. That's because the game is pretty much entirely ABOUT those relationships - they're pretty much the main thing everyone is always worrying about. Most all the conflicts of the game seem to come from within the group (though correct me if I'm wrong, I haven't played and The Walking Eye hasn't done Monsterhearts yet, though they will soon). In Apocalypse World, threats are both internal to the party, and also commonly external. Hx moves around and sees use (and is an XP gaining method!) but it's not constantly being mentioned. In Dungeon World though, the threats are almost all external. Maybe it's the fact that they NEED each other in the dungeon, or maybe "Don't split the party" is just engrained into us when we're starting with RPGs. Regardless, Bonds see the least use. I consider them to be the weakest mechanic of PC-interaction. However, they aren't useless - they do what they need to do in Dungeon World, I suppose, since those party conflicts won't happen as often anyway, or at least not nearly as strongly - in DW, maybe the Cleric refuses the heal the blasphemous wizard after a battle after an argument, but you are only very rarely going to have a character, like, STAB another one, whereas in AW stabbing is pretty much ALWAYS on the table.
What I think Bonds do very well is they provide an excellent jumping off point for the first few sessions for the your characters are going to interact. I immediately latched onto the bonds I made with Xeno and Sir Cassius, and that drove the roleplay for me. I imagine though that after several sessions and you all have a feel for things, Bonds won't be as important, and taking Bonds about things that just happened, while evocative and interesting sounding (like I mentioned in the annotations), it won't actually change any dynamics between characters, simply reshuffle your Aid Another bonuses a bit.
I'd like to see if the game would function with both Bonds AND an Hx equivalent - in fact, flip the names maybe. You have History, which is what your characters' pasts are like together and how you know each other (which is why it makes great jumping off stuff), and then you have your Bonds, which are how close you are to your fellow party members IN THE PRESENT. That would be the Aid check bonus, with History mostly being color.
Anyway, this is mostly just musing; the Bonds system in DW is fine, and works great as it is in the system, but I'm not sure it would hold up as great if placed in most other contexts outside the dungeon. Hope maybe this helps someone.

So yeah, thanks to all of you for a great session, a great opener to the con, and a great introduction to gaming with strangers!"

And I will see everyone later! Probably tomorrow but maybe even sooner if I can't wait to show something off (Hint: I have an Art of the Pantheon thing I'm very excited about!).

End Recording,

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