And once again, Dungeon World provided the ingredients for a fantastic one-shot experience. I split the session observations into a separate blog post.
For me, the secret is in letting the players pick from the plethora of playbooks and letting those interactions roll around. In particular it is helpful to have playbooks that hint at things far larger than the characters.
Saturday afternoon, I attended my first BoardGamers of Michiana – though it was a prearranged meeting place for playing Dungeon World. I did also manage to squeeze in a game of Ninjato and a few short games.
As we assembled the players began selecting their playbooks:
- Grovo Butterbuck, a halfling
- Shou, a human lantern
- Hawk, a human namer
- Gavin, a human templar
- Vess, a human witch
We established a monotheistic region dedicated to Sola. The Knight Templars of Sola devotion is to the purging and purifying light – ready with the thumbscrews and pyres. And there was Shou, a bearer of a piece of Sola; A calming and soothing voice. Hawk knew the true name of Sola. Vess leveraged her fire magic to blend in amongst the torches and zealotry.
Brother Sam, upon torture had confessed that the Monastery of the Setting Sun had fallen to heretical ways. And Gavin was going to lead the inquisition.
As the characters embark traveling through the forest, they encounter a burned villages, a destroyed shrine to Gaea with the charred remains of a man
As they draw closer to the mountains, they round a hill and stumble upon six guards on foot (spears and gambeson armor) and a wagon driven by a monk.
A brief exchange, and Gavin orders all of them to stand down; The guards, realizing Gavin is both the law and their superior, flee. The monk attempts to drive the wagon through the characters. The monk quickly subdued and his wagon brought under control.
To help prepare the monk for Gavin's inquisition, Vess performs a creepy blood magic ceremony…plucking a worm from an apple, slicing open her wrist to cut out a small vein, mixing the two in a golden bowl, then anointing the monk with this bloody admixture. How's that for +1 forward on an Inquisition!
Gavin attempting to draw a confession from the monk, instead angers Sola. Sola strikes him deaf. This does not stop Gavin from stringing the monk up and burning him as a heretic.
Deciding to rest and recover, Grovo cooks up a fine meal, restoring Gavin's hearing. Were this a long term campaign I probably would've required atonement for Gavin to regain his hearing.
That evening, as Grovo is grooming his pony – also named Gavin – he see's the glint of spears. Waking Gavin, the templar, with only a moments notice before the guards assault the camp. A frenzied battle ensues as.
Vess rushing to the aid, draws a deep breath and exhales a noxious cloud of death that engulfs 4 of the 6 assailants as well as Gavin and Shou. From Hawk and Grovo's perspective, the cloud takes the form of a horned face.
To frighten his adversaries, Hawk explains that this was Helaxis of the 7th Pit, a fallen battle cleric of the Sola consumed by the breath of demons. He now gets +1 forward against the assailants.
Grovo, attempting to distract one of the assailants instead draws attention to himself…his leg is pinned…Gavin is surround and being worn down. Hawk attempts to draw the power of Sola by using its True Name, but Sola is fickle and retreats.
On her broomstick Vess flies through the melee pulling Gavin into the air. Gavin drops and crushes one of his opponents but destroys his shield As Vess turns to assess the situation, she belches forth Helaxis and a battle in the sky ensues. Something was waiting for her.
The battle on the ground draws to a close as Vess tussles with Helaxis…Grovo manages to distract Helaxis just long enough for Vess to grab a potion and shatter it, bath both her and Helaxis in acid. Helaxis dissipates but fills Vess's head with an infernal chanting. She drew unwanted attention to herself.
Gavin commands the surrender of one of the last standing of the guards, and he drops his spear. They learn that there are only two guards remaining at the monastery, as well as 12 monks, the prior, and Symbol the witch.
At the Monastery
Grovo, ever cheerful and friendly, grabs a bag of apples and approaches the monastery. The guards, seeing Grovo's friendly face, let him in and agree to send four monks to help him with his wagon.
An ambush is successfully sprung; being short on time, I hand-wave any kind of conflict and the characters quickly don the disguise of monks.
They return, and the guise holds up under a cursory inspection from the guard on the tower. Long enough for Shou to demand and receive entrance into the bailey. Grovo knows the peace won't last long, so he sneaks up to the guard on the ground and undoes his scabbard.
It just about then that the guards realize Gavin is a little large for a monk. Gavin strikes quick, dispatching the guard on the ground. The guard on the bell tower sounds the alarm as Shou peppers him with arrows of light. Only as the bell rings does the chanting in Vess’ head subside.
The monks come out of the kitchen, dormitory, and chapel…see the chaos and they quickly flee into the monastery.
Gavin and Vess charge up the tower…all the while the chanting in her head takes on a fevered pitch.
Grovo, Hawk, and Shou give chase, and through Grovo's charm and Shou's command the monks leave the door open for them all to retreat to safety. Inside they see two monks prostrate, the prior chanting a sermon, with Symbol wresting an arm on the prior's shoulder.
Back to the tower, Gavin gains entrance to the rooftop and with a quick slash, the guard hesitates and hell erupts.
Ashen faces with smokey serpentine bodies erupt from the guards mouth, ears, nostrils, and eyes, all swarming towards Vess. Gavin, cleaves one as it passes, but the other six fly into Vess's body. The player wanted to stop so she could join another boardgame, and had just rolled a 6-, so I hit real hard.
Shou coaxed Sola to reveal a secret, and a light shines on Symbol revealing the truth behind an illusion; a horned head, with canine snout and cloven feet.
Back to the tower, a spawn erupts from Vess's face. Demonic tendrils of smoke and shadow whip and writhe from her ears, nostrils, mouth, and one eye; The other eye burns with witching purple. And Gavin steels himself for the fight ahead.
In the monastery, Hawk cows Symbol by muttering her true name. Symbol begins to bargain and plead with Hawk…offering visions power. Hawk wrestles with the temptation…
And Gavin, locked in a battle, loses sword, breaks free of a grapple, dives for his sword, as the monster continues to sap his strength.
And Hawk, having given pause, utters Symbol's true name again and she dissipates.
Finally Gavin makes one last plunge; defying the smokey tendrils to sink his sword into the creature that once was Vess. Gavin, victorious, limps down.