World of Dungeons by John Harper

Note: This post has content disclaimers.

update: World of Dungeons is now available for legal download at

John Harper has made some fantastic games; I’m familiar with Agon and Lady Blackbird, both of which are outstanding in their own fashion. So when I learned that he was offering his “World of Dungeons” as a stretch goal for Kickstarter, I was super excited.

World of Dungeons is a complete short roleplaying game that answers the question “If Dungeon World was the latest version of a classic roleplaying game, what would the original look like?

Here we have a hack ( Dungeon World 🔍 is a descendant of Apocalypse World 🔍) that is being hacked such that it could stand in as the originator of the gaming hobby. This is interpolation at its best. I love it.

So what’s in it? There are two versions, the old blue print with aged paper look and the clean Black and White (B&W 🔍) for printing version. Both Portable Document Formats (PDFs 🔍) are otherwise identical. The PDF is 3 pages long. The first page contains two character sheets. The second page contains rules on equipment, hirelings, magic, character creation, and rolling the dice. And the final page has an old school drawing, an advancement chart and suggested names.

These rules are yours to bend to your will! You may find it natural to expand, redact, and modify them as you your game goes on. We advise keeping an open mind and lively discussion of possibilities at the table.

World of Dungeons

Is it enough to go from? Yes, if you are willing to improvise. These simple rules are a complete distillation of the player side of Apocalypse World and serve as an excellent foundation for building other hacks.

Mind you, there is precious little help for the Game Master, but then again, the originators of the hobby were making things up as they went along.

There is no discussion about moves, though John does provide an excellent post on regular and hard moves in Powered by the Apocalypse gamespardon the regular expression, as the Apocalypse World hacks are taking on a life of their own.

The rule are very light, because, most anyone that is downloading the PDFs are already intimately familiar with the various tropes and are likely part of the collective gamer memory. And if you need some help on what the Game Master (GM 🔍) moves are, I’ve provided a handy translation from .

Vincent Baker, who started this worldly madness, has already blogged about concentric game design, and John Harper’s World of Dungeons codifies it to what is almost it’s most core element while still retaining the identity of a fantasy Role Playing Game (RPG 🔍). John Harper has applied a thin veneer on the core system…others could just as easily make a “World of Star Wars” or “World of Indiana Jones” by following John’s minimalist approach.

Is “World of Dungeons” enough of a reason for backing the Dungeon World Kickstarter? No, but it is some damn tasty frosting on this already decadent cake.


For those curious about adding more to your World of Dungeons, there is a fantastic wiki resource that is evolving over at story-games.