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Dungeon World / Attacked by Groups
« on: March 01, 2012, 02:46:15 PM »
Over in this thread:, my group ended the session by indicating their desire to enter the tunnel that the two goblins were guarding at the beginning of the fight.  (From the Bloodstone Idol module in the Basic rules.)

Now, this tunnel leads down into the goblin warrens, where I fully expect the characters to run into large groups (if not ONE HUGE group) of goblins.

My question is this:  How would you run an encounter with 20 to 30 goblins against a party of 4 adventurers, assuming it leads to combat? (Darn bloodthirsty dwarven cleric!)

In my mind, this is like a swarm.  I am considering giving the entire swarm a number of hit points (and narrating individual deaths as each 5 points of damage is done to the swarm).  But this would probably mean that the swarm should have a grossly high damage rating. 

Or maybe the swarm has a lower damage rating but does damage (or moves) versus ALL the characters involved in the encounter.

But this would mean that when Merton (the Paladin) rolls 6- on his Hack and Slash, every character in the group would take damage (or a hard move).  This seems slightly unfair and definitely not part of being a fan of the characters.

So, does anyone have any advice for a DW Newbie?

Having recently stumbled across AW and this glorious hack, DW, I just knew I had to give it a whirl. 

The only problem was that my regular Friday night group had already suffered through a dozen different systems in the past two years.  I didn't dare tell them I wanted to switch systems yet again, specially since our current campaign is only six sessions old.  That would probably have led to a mutiny and bad feelings all around.

So, I put together a new group.  A mix of old and brand new friends.  A group that, for the most part, has never played this kind of game before.

Having read and re-read and re-read again the Basic rules, I got us all together and we had our first session last night.  And, I don't mind telling you, I believe everyone had a blast, even if the overall impression was one of barely controlled chaos!

"Barely controlled chaos?"  Yes, that's how it felt for much of the actual play, once character creation was complete.  All of us are used to a much more structured game when it comes to combat: D&D, Savage Worlds, Swords & Wizardry, SilCore, etcetera ad infinitum.   This is the first time any of us has played a game where initiative is left up to the collective imagination of whomsoever manages to come up with a great move and narrate it.  It's a bit of a learning curve, but we still managed to have a great time and I imagine that we'll only get better at it with practice.

Alright then, enough rambling, let's get on with the story!

Cast of Characters:
Felix, Human Thief (played by David)
Grummer, Dwarven Cleric (played by Adam)
Henri, Human Wizard (played by Kevin)
Merton, Human Paladin (played by James)

Before we can even get started, Henri decides that he's too good to be carrying his own equipment and uses "Unseen Servant" to carry his quarter staff as they trek through the forest.  ("Arrogant" is the word that Kevin used.)

Setting the Stage:
After reading through "The Bloodston Idol" a couple of times, I decided to throw the party into the thick of things at the back entrance.  So, the session started like this;

"As night falls and you follow a game trail through the dense underbrush of the forest, looking for a clearing to camp in, Felix (who is in the lead) pushes aside a particularly heavy pine bough and steps into a clearing with a circle of standing stones and a group of startled goblins. 

"The nearest goblin is holding a decapitated chicken by the legs, its blood dripping and pooling onto the surface of a large block of stone in the center of the circle.  The goblin's bone and feather headdress shakes and rattles as he turns to face you.  Two other goblins stand on the far side of the central stone.  One is wearing a tattered robe while the other is wearing patched together heavy armour and a rough, spiky iron circlet.  On the other side of the circle stand two more goblins, leaning on their spears beside a small tunnel entrance."

What do you do?

Felix; I step forward and greet the goblins.

Grummer;  I step around Felix so I can see and then shout, "Forget talking!  Those are GOBLINS!"  Then I charge the one with the headdress and swing my hammer at him.

So, Grummer makes his Hack and Slash roll, getting a 10+ and hitting the goblin shaman for a whopping 1 damage.  (Wow.)

Felix; Okay, I rush forward and stab the goblin with my rapier . . .
Merton;  Okay, I run forward, grab the goblin by the hair and, lifting it off the ground, swing my sword at its neck . . .

With both of them acting at the same time, Felix makes his H&S roll, doing 4 damage to the shaman, while Merton rolls a 7 on his H&S.  So, while this would normally mean the shaman would get to attack back, he's dead at this point, so I rule that Merton has only managed to lodge his sword in the neck of the goblin, meaning he's going to have to take that into account for his next move.

Henri;  I wait in the treeline, staying in cover and watching to see what happens.

Ah ha!  This would be a good time for a soft move on my part, so Henri notices the goblin in the tattered robes begin to make arcane gestures while the goblin with the spiky iron circlet makes a beeline for the open tunnel and the two warriors by the tunnel move forward to cover his exit.

Felix; I make a dash for tunnel, trying to cut that goblin off from escaping.

This is obviously a Defy Danger move as Felix ignores all the other potential combatants in his attempt to stop the goblin chieftan.  Felix makes his roll and quite easily manages to get ahead of the goblin, causing him to skid to a stop and draw his rusty weapon.

Grummer;  I stand between the two goblins with spears and Merton, preparing to defend him while he frees his sword.

Grummer rolls his Defend and gets 3 Hold.

Merton;  I finish decapitating the goblin.

Okaaaaayyyyyy.  This is obviously a Defy Danger, as Merton ignores everything else and focuses on turning the shaman into two distinct pieces.  He rolls a 7.  Oops.  And here's where I get a bit fuzzy on the rules, "On a 7-9, you stumble, hesitate, or flinch: the GM will offer you a worse outcome, hard bargain, or ugly choice."  I interpreted that as offering the player a choice of three things.  Is this the correct interpretation?  Or should I pick one thing and go with that?  What does "offer you" mean?

So, anyway, I gave Merton 3 choices: You finish cutting off the head but you slip and stab Grummer who's back is to you, You get your sword stuck in a vertabrae and can't use it for the rest of the encounter, or You slip and cut your own hand off.

Cudos to James as he thought about those three options for a minute and almost chose the dismemberment of Merton option but eventually settled on backstabbing the Cleric.  For 6 damage no less!  Yay for amour!

As Grummer is reeling from this blow, the two warrior goblins throw their spears at the paladin, who is still holding the head of the shaman.  Grummer chooses to use his 3 hold at this point, deflecting one of the spears at himself for half damage, and reducing the damage of the other spear by half as it flies at the paladin.

Merton desperately reaches out to stop the spear in midflight, Defying the Danger, but misses that roll as well.  Again, I have to offer Merton 3 choices; Take the wound in the hand, Have the spear slash across the bindings of your armour, causing them to fall to the ground, or You only partially deflect the spear, causing the haft to swing around a smack you in the forehead, knocking you out for the rest of the encounter.

Merton didn't think very long this time, choosing to have his armour fall off.  Which prompted this;

Henri; I cast Invisibility on Merton!  None of us want to see his exposed holy symbol!

<pause for groans>

Ahem.  Okay, so Henri gets his spell off with a 12.  Merton is now invisibly, standing in a pile of his armour.  Merton, of course, does not yet realise he is invisible as Henri is still standing in the treeline behind him.

Felix;  I try to run the goblin (chieftan) through with my rapier like rapier.

<so much for bad jokes>

Felix manages a sound hit on the chieftan, but weak damage, leaving the goblin staring down at the thief's hand and the shaft of steel sticking out of his ribcage.

Felix;  I pull my rapier out of the goblin and slash at his throat, assuming that I can use a rapier as a slashing weapon!

Me; Sure, it's got a sharp tip, if you hit his neck properly, I don't see why you couldn't open it up.

Felix rolls H&S again and . . . gets a 6.  Heh.  As Felix pulls his rapier out of the goblin, the goblin steps back, bats the rapier aside with his sword and draws a bloody line across Felix' ribcage and under his arm. Felix takes 6 damage.

Henri;  What's the robed goblin doing?  Still casting a spell?  I cast magic missile at it!

A mild success and terrific damage destroys the goblin, but not before one of the magic bolts goes awry and circles around to impact the previously decapitated goblin.  This is a combination of the wizard choosing "Being Noticed" and the Standing Stone's "Spells go awry" as I prepare the way for something from the other side to enter the fray.

(Now, here's an issue I had - at what point in this wild melee should this goblin have finished casting his stinking cloud??  There didn't seem to be an appropriate time or response for him to finish his spell.  Should I have had him finish his spell on one of the paladin's failures?  Would that have been appropriate?)

Merton;  I ignore what going on around me to bend down, grab my armour and try to put it back on.

Okay, that's a Defy Danger, even if Merton is invisible, he doesn't quite realise it yet.  Merton rolls and gets a 3 this time.  As he begins to pick up his armour, one of the warrior goblins sees the armour begin moving around and, eyes full of glee because, come on, it's obviously magic armour, he jumps over the central stone and begins to grapple with the paladin, trying to claim the "magic armour" for himself.  (Merton apparantly loses his sword at this point, too.)

Grummer; I step forward and swing my hammer at the other goblin.

Again, Grummer gets a light tap in on a goblin, succedding in his roll but only getting 1 damage.

Felix; I swing my rapier at the goblin (chieftan) again.  This time he's going down!

And sure enough, Felix finally rolls a huge success and enough damage to kill the goblin.

Grummer;  I attack the goblin again with my hammer.

And finally, Grummer rolls high enough to send the goblins teeth, blood, nose and part of his jaw flying with a solid hit from the hammer.  Grummer grins happily.

Merton;  I grapple with the goblin and try to pin him down, hopefully taking his knife away from him in the process.

We decide that this is another Defy Danger move as Merton is not actually trying to hurt the goblin, just pin it.  And, finally, Merton gets a wild success on his roll.  As Merton becomes visible (due to attacking), the goblin's eyes go wide and he's surprised enough to momentarily stop struugglin, allowing Merton to easily pin him on the ground.

Felix;  I grab the goblin's (the chieftan's) sword and toss it to Merton so he can finish off the pinned goblin, "Merton, catch!"

This sounds like another Defy Danger as Merton is currently engaged with the goblin and would have to let go to catch the sword.

Grummer;  I saunter over to Merton and the goblin and then swing my hammer down at the goblin's head.  (Grummer's been making noises about doing this since Merton became visible, so I rule that this is happening at the same time as Felix's throw.)

So, while Felix make's a great roll on his Defy Danger to throw the sword, Grummer fails his H&S with a 6-, which results in the following;

"As Felix tosse the rusty sword across the clearing and Merton reaches out to grab it, Grummer aims a careful blow at the goblin's head, swings and connects with the rusty sword in mid-air.  The sword gets horribly bent and driven hilt-first into the ground as Grummer's aim is spoiled.  And, while Merton's hand is outstretched to catch the sword the goblin stabs Merton with another knife and squirms out from under him."

Merton takes 3 damage (no armour this time).

Henri;  I cast another magic missile at the goblin, blasting it across the clearing.

And yet again, Henri rolls really well on his casting and damage, sending a series of arcane missiles into the goblin, killing it outright and sending its corpse tumbling to the other side of the circle.

And then quiet descends on the clearing as that was the last of the goblins.  Nice, peaceful quiet.  For all of, like, 3 seconds!

Grummer;  I start casting healing spells on myself!
Merton;  Don't forget me!  I could use some of that, too!
Henri;  Not me!
Felix;  Me too!  I'm almost dead here!
Grummer;  Screw you, Felix, I'm not healing your wounds!  (I've forgotten which one it was, but Grummer is invoking one of his bonds with the thief at this point.)
Felix; What!  Come on!
Merton; Okay, I'm healed, I guess I'll use Lay On Hands for Felix.  Crap!  I just took all your wounds for myself.
Grummer;  I heal the Paladin again.
Felix;  Ha!  We tricked you into healing my wounds!

This last of Grummer's healing spells, while successful, was only a 7-9 and he chose "Noticed" for his punishment.  So, combined with the wonky nature of spells cast within the circle of standing stones, allowed me to finish my summoning of an entity to animate the decapitated corpse of the goblin shaman.  :)

"You see the eyes of the goblin fill with a black light that also seems to spill out of what is left of the goblin's jagged neck while a black, prehensile, barbed tongue emerges from the head's mouth.  Meanwhile, the body of the goblin, also showing signs of this black light, stands up and turns towards you, displaying sharp, black talons where it's fingers used to be."

What do you do?

Grummer;  I display my holy symbol and turn undead!  (There was a minor kafuffle with the thief at this point on whether or not he had previously stolen said holy symbol, but rather then get into PvP he just said fine and gave it back.)

So, everyone stands back and watches as the cleric thrusts out his holy symbol and commands the undead thing to be gone!  (While the roll is awesome, the thing is not undead.  It's a demon possesing the corpse of the goblin.  So I take this golden opportunity to have the body attack the cleric and the head "hop" towards the wizard.)

The corpse ignores Grummer's turn attempt and slashes at him with those claws, doing 4 damage.

Grummer; Darn it.

Henri; I kick the head across the clearing, getting it away from me.

That's a H&S and the wizard fails miserably, so, instead of kicking the head, Henri ends up with a barbed, prehensile tongue wrapped around his leg for 2 damage.

Merton;  I grab the head by the hair . . .
Felix; I try to sever the tongue with my rapier . . .
Merton; . . . I guess I'm holding the head out so that Felix can get a better swing at it.

Merton rolls his Aid to give Felix a +1, and Felix cuts through the tongue, freeing Henri from the grip of the terrible thing.

Merton;  I fling the head across the clearing and down into the tunnel!

Defying Danger, Merton has no problem sending the head flying as the tongue begins to regrow.

Henri;  I hold my fist out in front of me and blast the body with magic missiles!

Again, Henri's spell casting roll is a great success and he obliterates the golbin corpse, thus ending the threat of the demon-possesed goblin corpse.

After a quick bout of healing, and some spell and move-based information gathering (the Dwarf "talked" to the Stones of the circle and found out about the Idol), we decided to call it a night. 

So, <end session> but, of course, I forgot to do the End Of Session move.

My Impressions:
As I said before, "Barely controlled chaos."  While I love the mechanic that controls how and when the DM makes moves, I'm going to need some practice at it.  Everyone felt that the goblins should probably have done more, but we were not sure at what point this could have happened.

And, while it's not readily apparant from the linear nature of this summary, there was a LOT of cross-talking and confusion at the table as the players tried to get an edge in word-wise over each other.

In the end, we decided that next session (yes, everyone is looking forward to sending the thief into the tunnel under cover of an invisibility spell) we are going to try something a bit different for initiative;

1. Declare intent (go around the table and listen to what each player wants to do).
2. Sort and decide sequence (that'll be my job mostly, once everyone has declared their intent).
3. One player's action.
4. DM/Monster move or response if appropriate.
5. Repeat 3 and 4 until all player's have had a chance to act.
6. Start at 1 if encounter is unresolved.

We only had 2.5 hours this first session to cover Meet and Greet, Character Creation and the first encounter of the game, but I thought we did really well and gave the system a pretty good initial shake-out.

Some things, like the looting of the goblin bodies after the fight, seemed awkward or hard to fit into a move, but I think we were just getting into a habit of rolling for everything.  Its not D&D after all, there's no Search check when there's no pressing danger or threat.

I've been following this board for a couple of weeks now, and after playing this first session with the Basic rules, I am chomping at the bit and looking forward to getting my hands on the expanded rules.  Please, oh please, can I get in on the Beta and the Adventurer's Guild?  Pretty please with a goblin on top?  (Now that brings up disturbing images.  Where's my pointy stick?  Yuck!)

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