For the final “Hoorah” of my GenCon vacation, I ran a game of Dungeon World for my son and his friend. They decided to play 2 characters each; They quickly rolled up a fighter, wizard, bard, and paladin.
We hurried through back-story and quickly got to the adventure site. The party burst into the dungeon and found the main entry room had two other barricaded exits. A gruesome combat ensued.
This was my second time playing Dungeon World, though it was my first as Game Master. It went remarkably well. I made sure to quickly explain the basic idea of Dungeon World – Roll 2d6 plus a number, if the result is 10+ then good, 7-9 is mixed results, and 6 or less is bad.
With a hastily drawn map and the initial stage set, I opened with the ever so popular “What do you do?” In no time, my son and his friend were engaged with the system.
The wizard was constantly weaving into and out of danger. The fighter always in danger, laughed as he hacked his foes. The paladin protected the bard and smote the infidels. The bard was always fleeing danger and firing arrows into the fray.
We ended up playing for about two hours. We had three engaging combats, some interesting parlays, and a quick return to town for purchasing equipment.
Dungeon World is very easy to run. My entire energy is spent responding directly to the players moves.
If they get a 10+ they just keep on rolling. Once the 7-9 shows up, I interject with a “tough bargain” and they retain initiative. And when they roll a 6 or less, I get initiative to further complicate the situation and follow up with the “And what do you do?”
Midway through the second combat my son said “This is more fun than Dungeons and Dragons [4th Edition].” And I couldn’t deny him that. There was something liberating about drawing the combat map on a small sheet of paper and slowly filling things in as the combat progressed.
Both my son and his friend quickly grasped that the Game Master (GM 🔍) wasn’t going to be rolling to hit and damage. Instead, I was going to be giving their character hard bargains (i.e. “To get a clear shot, you’re going to need to move deeper into the unexplored cavern. What do you do?").
What I found as I was playing was that while the one-shot can work quite well, I still need to understand the forces acting against the players. And the reason for this is that I need to have options for off-screen hard moves, so as to not overly tax the players with each and every 6 or less.
So congratulations to Sage LaTorra and Adam Koebel for making such an excellent adaption of Vincent Baker’s ever so wonderful Apocalypse World. Tonight’s world was fantastic, full of adventure, and we had a grand time playing to find out what happened.