Dungeon World – GenCon 2012 Edition

Note: This post has content disclaimers.

I was slated to be a Games on Demand Game Master (GM 🔍) for 12 hours at GenCon and a host for 4 hours. After some quick reconsideration, . I did, however, manage to facilitate several games of Fiasco – and sometimes two games at once – as well as run one game of Dungeon World.

But this isn’t about the game of Dungeon World I ran; Though I will take a moment to thank Jason Morningstar for providing a fantastic 2 hour adventure to run. And I’ll give a shout out to Clark Valentine’s pit slave “nameless”, for escaping and carrying on the religion of those who had fallen. And to Nick Garcia, David Morford and the two gentlemen who had to duck out early (glad to hear you weren’t sick just coping with the overheating room).

Instead, this blog post is about an impromptu after hours Games on Demand adventure run by Jim Crocker. After hosting 5 transitions at Games on Demand, I was exhausted, but didn’t want to slink back to my hotel room. Joining me at the table as players was Lizzie Stark, Travis Scott, Morgan Ellis, Mark Diaz Truman, Marissa Kelly, Derrick Kapchinsky, and myself.

Before I go on, how did it happen that I was so privileged to play with this fantastic group of players, many of whom were GMs at Games on Demand?

  • I stuck around Games on Demand well past closing time.
  • Blearily I went and got dinner with the GMs from the food trucks
  • I laughed over some absurd gaming nerdgasms – a vinaigrette-based conflict resolution and other things that may result in my eternal damnation.
  • I built on existing conversations, not seeking verbal one-upsmanship
  • I then shambled along as everyone sought to keep the good times rolling.
  • When several vocal players voiced that they wanted to play Dungeon World, I sought out the playbooks

It’s a really simple recipe – engage and facilitate. But that is somewhat beside the point.

Funniest Session of My Life

Prior to GenCon, I maintained that my favorite gaming sessions were Diaspora character creation sessions, the “Irv the Mole” one-shot, and the first session where I gamed with Jaron – not because Jaron rocks, which he does, but because the session was a well laid plan that unraveled and was still doggedly adhered to – a Fiasco if ever there was one.

I can now add “That Dungeon World game I played until 4am at GenCon on Sunday morning.”

Why did it rock? Because the players all went gonzo and the GM let it happen while keeping things moving – Bless you Jim Crocker for your patience as it was your patience that allowed the absurd to shine through. Not only was Jim patient as we unwound and flexed our inner absurd, but he kept asking questions and folding those answers back into the game.

For example:

Why was the human settlement nestled into an old abandoned dwarf mine? Because the climate was terrible in the region.

Why was the climate terrible? Because Marissa’s character introduction involved her bursting into the tavern with snow whipping around her.

Why did Marissa narrate such a grand entrance? Because the first character introduction by Morgan was “bard turned up to 11” and things continued throughout all introductions – though mine was weak sauce as I was a skulking thief.

During this session, there were three players (Morgan, Travis, and Derrick) who were consistently pushing the comedic envelope. But Jim masterfully took their shenanigans in stride and rolled the narrative into the game.

We created our world together building upon each other’s assertions, there was an internal consistency.

  • Dwarven stone graffiti was much like an editor’s red pen, but instead of pen a chisel were used, attempting to correct perceived imperfections.
  • Dwarven healing magic was a painful experience.
  • Elven ale served at human establishments is the Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR 🔍) of elven beer craft.
  • The bard’s “Arcane Music” was instead theatrical stage directions as per Kenneth Branagh directing and starring in a Shakespearean play.
  • Dwarf culture is “Every single minor imperfection bitched about endlessly.”

Certainly there were other assertions, but it was late, and I was doing everything in my power to remain engaged in the game as the clock slipped towards 4am.

This was an eye-opening experience for me as players were cleaving quite close to Graham Walmsley’s “Play Unsafe” advice – always say “Yes and ” to build on another player’s assertion. Jim expertly kept things rolling by issuing a constant barrage of questions, as if he demanded a ritualized sacrifice of answers to proceed.

And it sounds as though my GenCon experience with Dungeon World wasn’t a unique experience – JJ Lanza and his boys (whom I had the privilege of gaming with at GenCon) also experienced the magic of Dungeon World and its barrage of questions.

And for those curious, I did and also had a great time. This time, however, things went to 11. Thank you to all who played as I will certainly cherish this game, and crib procedures and ideas from this game for years to come.

Next years goal? To play Dungeon World with Nykki and Matt Boersma.