Dungeon World is...

  • 52 Replies
Dungeon World is...
« on: February 25, 2012, 01:24:27 PM »
There's a lot of suggestions in this forum and elsewhere about things that might be tweaked for Dungeon World Beta.  Some of these suggestions are reasonably good mechanically.  Others, especially those offered in brainstorming mode, are awful.  Or they transparently do not fit the current direction of the game, either thematically or on a crunch spectrum.

As I understand it, while it's maybe close to finished, the Dungeon World XP system is still in flux.  This indicates to me that what Dungeon World is about is still in flux; the reward system for PCs is a core element of a role-playing game like this.

Is there somewhere a clear mission statement about the kind of game Dungeon World wants to be that Adventurer's Guild people can look at?  I suspect Sage and Adam have a very clear idea about the kind of game they are designing but reading some playtesters' suggestions, I feel like some of us have a much less clear idea of what Dungeon World wants to be.  Or maybe it's clear to people but they can't help going into hack mode to create a game that's more to their own group's vision of what a dungeon game should be, even though it doesn't really align with what Sage and Adam are going for.

I really adore Dungeon World.  I have several ideas and criticisms regarding different parts of system but if I had a clearer vision of what Dungeon World is I, (and perhaps others), would know when to simply shut the fuck up.  And Sage and Adam might benefit from having fewer suggestions that are not useful to them.

To be clear, I'm not talking about "Dungeon World is a world of fantastic adventure.  A world of magic, gods, demons, Good and Evil.  Brave heroes venture into the most dangerous corners of the land in search of gold and glory."  That's clear enough.

I'm talking about the feel of the game with respect to what editions of D&D or OSR-clones it looks to.  I'm talking about a spectrum of tactical decision making, a spectrum of lethality, a spectrum of niche protection, a spectrum of the importance of gear relative to character abilities, a spectrum of detail, a spectrum of exploration versus party dynamics versus combat.  Those kinds of things.

Do you sometimes offer suggestions for changes that you suspect are perpendicular to the current direction of the game?  Do you think the skeleton of the game is transparent and solid enough that you will feel confident in hacking the game to your tastes when the game is "complete"?

What do you think Dungeon World is?
« Last Edit: February 25, 2012, 01:44:20 PM by nemomeme »

Re: Dungeon World is...
« Reply #1 on: February 25, 2012, 01:43:08 PM »
I want to make it clear that I don't think it's important for designers to provide this kind of detailed blueprint to anyone other than themselves for most game development.

It's the baggage and disparate visions associated with more than thirty years of dungeon adventuring games that makes me think it might be useful for a game like this while it's in beta and while people are beginning to playtest and provide feedback on the beta 1.1 version.  A game that is also weaving in some awesome Nu-school tech and technique.

That baggage is there when players sit down to a game of Dungeon World in a way that is not present for Apocalypse World and the final game text should be cognizant of and reflect on that.



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Re: Dungeon World is...
« Reply #2 on: February 25, 2012, 02:31:34 PM »
nemomeme, are you more interested in various peoples' opinions, or the designers'? I don't want to spoil the thread.

As a note on XP: we're not fundamentally changing WHAT gets you XP, but how. Highlighting was supposed to give XP for doing adventury stuff (since all the moves are adventury), but the stat breakdown makes that not so good an idea. The BBC XP system fixes it, but we've gone a step beyond that.

The basic idea is, as it has been for a while, to reward exploration, dealing with the world, gaining wealth, and playing your character in relation to the other characters.

In Basic highlighting rewarded exploration and dealing with the world, Alignment and the Parley move covered XP for playing your character in relation to others.

Now we have end-of-session questions that cover exploration, dealing with the world, and gaining wealth. Alignment still adds to playing your character in relation to others, as do the new Bond resolution rules.

We haven't changed any of what it's about, we've just found better ways to make it about that.



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Re: Dungeon World is...
« Reply #3 on: February 25, 2012, 02:33:01 PM »
One more note: there's also a less obvious reward cycle in the interaction between the GM and players, forming the effect the players have on the world. It's less obvious but more rewarding than XP.

Re: Dungeon World is...
« Reply #4 on: February 25, 2012, 02:48:58 PM »
nemomeme, are you more interested in various peoples' opinions, or the designers'? I don't want to spoil the thread.

I guess other peoples' opinions initially?  And then if you see something you think is interesting or curious you can comment or not later?  Thanks, sage.

Re: Dungeon World is...
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2012, 02:55:14 PM »
To get a great insight into the designers' vision, listen to their interview on the Walking Eye podcast.

Re: Dungeon World is...
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2012, 02:59:20 PM »
I did, and others definitely should too.  It is helpful. 

It was that, combined with posts here and some tone confusion I've seen in playtesting that prompted this post.

Re: Dungeon World is...
« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2012, 03:51:29 PM »
I've always looked for interesting ways to push the boundaries of the rules, sometimes taking them where they weren't originally intended to go, without leaving the game space laid out in the latest draft of the rules (that I have access to).  That said, I'm usually not suggesting changes to the core rules but giving examples of ways they could be [re]interpreted or used creatively.

Re: Dungeon World is...
« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2012, 05:28:32 PM »
Ah... Just listening to the podcast and I totally get where they're coming from with the XP system now.

The Beta 1.1 system and especially the post-adventure questions are guidance for people coming to the game for the first time.

BBC works on the assumption that everyone at the table already knows they're there to kick down doors, swing through caverns, and punch dragons in the face.

Re: Dungeon World is...
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2012, 05:36:26 PM »
Do you sometimes offer suggestions for changes that you suspect are perpendicular to the current direction of the game?

Yes. Every time I talk to Sage about DW, I think. It's become something of a running gag. Some of my moves still survive in the current game, though. :)

Do you think the skeleton of the game is transparent and solid enough that you will feel confident in hacking the game to your tastes when the game is "complete"?

Definitely. I'm preparing my alternate basic moves and classes already.

What do you think Dungeon World is?

Currently it strikes me as "generic fantasy adventure" in the vein of Dragon Age. I don't mean that as a slam. But the art and general tone is far removed from the dark and gritty 0D&D or the weird fantasy of most of the OSR stuff.

Despite its name, Dungeon World doesn't seem especially concerned with dungeon crawls in the classic mode, but more the "adventuring" fantasy mode that I associate with 3rd Edition D&D (for some reason... not sure why that is) and now stuff like Dragon Age, Warcraft, Reckoning, etc. And I like that kind of thing! But...

Since its inception, DUNGEON WORLD has rung like a bell in my head and I cannot un-ring it. That name conjures something primal for me as a gamer. I appreciate the direction Sage and Adam are going in (it's taken me a long time to grok what they're trying to do!), but for my own DW play, I have to do something a little different.

Fortunately, the game will make that super easy for me! The Hacking chapter especially should be very cool. I'm really looking forward to it all said and done.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2012, 10:12:40 PM by John Harper »



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Re: Dungeon World is...
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2012, 09:44:24 PM »
When Tony first started hacking AW into APOC D&D, and I'd only just started playing the first run of AW, and begun to understand the implications of the system, I was hooked. I freaking LOVE this game in all its iterations
In my mind, DW gives you:
*A fantasy 'adventure' RPG: Quick Chargen, Prep-light, concise ruleset
*The thinest outline of D&D tropes that your group is encouraged to embellish at will
*Heroic Class based niche protection with associated 'cool powerz' as you 'level'
*A robust story game engine designed with a co-authoring, narrative based reward cycle
*Excellent mechanics that support colloborative, interpretive task resolution and playing to see what happens
*A very 'hackable' core set of rules, with modular custom 'moves' created as needed

What DW is (to me) is a fusion of all the BXD&D emergent narrative properties of a structured 'encounter based turn' into a codified mechanical core ruleset. A Ruleset that presumes you will tell tales across the broad Spectrum of D&D expressions, but with not-so-subtle nods to the 1st / 2nd Ed. Notions of the devil being in the descriptive details, of immersion and exploration, of discourse about our story rather than debating the rules, of excitedly describing what you do and feel and see rather than a droll mechanical iteration.

I gives the players and GM clear roles, but also highlights the shared responsibility as we play to see what happens. It encourages me (as GM) to quickly take an inspirational idea for an adventure and supports the group mechanically as we play together to create amazing fictional expressions of our very own Dungeon World.

The DW rules (as with all *World Games) instigate a unique narrative expression every single time you play. The vision of Dungeon World is not in the Rules, its in the players that sit at the table, engaging with the rules to create the Dungeon World of their own collaborative choice.




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Re: Dungeon World is...
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2012, 05:57:39 PM »
"It's like D&D, just quicker" said the lapsed grognard in my group. To him, it felt like D&D (fantasy adventures kill dudes and take their stuff) just with less stuff to manage and a lower handling time. I think it's really an ideal and contemporary introduction to D&D for anyone who's hear of but never played the classic stuff.

Harper's right to point out that despite some substantial nods to the classic editions, it's much more contemporary. Which is probably a good thing.

Personally, it's fun and it's scratching not my nostalgia for classic D&D (I'm far, far too young for that; I've played a small amount of Planescape and a ton of 3.x) but rather my introduction to role-playing via Palladium Fantasy. I suspect that within the next few sessions (like five or seven) I'll probably be itching to try something else. (Probably Monsterhearts.)

What it has been is enlightening about the whole hack AW process. There's a space opera game in my head about transformation, identity, and archaeology that I may or may not be working on with Kira Scot (Harrison Ford: the Queerening). Seeing both Joe and Adam + Sage (and John too) produce games via AW has taught me a lot about the process. It's given me lots to think about and some hope too.

Re: Dungeon World is...
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2012, 10:58:35 PM »
I don't think I have a really good handle on what Dungeon World is. The intro text in the character playbooks makes it seem like it's a bit of a crazy action-adventure lark, and there's grittiness but it's mostly an affectation. However, the low amount of starting resources (i.e. deciding whether you're bringing rations is an important decision) makes it seem like it's actually gritty. From the GM's side, the high monster damage makes it seem like characters should be treated as disposable but the GM advice seems to lean toward making the adventures relevant to the characters and players, which I think argues against disposable characters. Most of the GM rules make me think it's supposed to have a very sandboxy feel, but some stuff (like starting sessions in medias res) seems to run counter to that. I think I know what the GM's stance is supposed to look like (play it straight, no pulled punches, the monster damage is the monster damage), but there's sufficient vagueness in the rules to make me doubt that conclusion, and some of the vocal fans seem to have very different opinions about that and nobody says that they're wrong.

Personally I hope that DW is a strongly designed game that wants you to take it's rules seriously, not treat them as vague guidelines that serve as a springboard to freeforming. I worry that the hacking culture and the fuzziness of some of the rules and principles make it mushier than I want it to be. I also worry that the D&D legacy and nostalgia are too powerful for the moves list to effectively control people's frame of interaction with the fiction, i.e. people will play it like they would whatever their preferred flavor of D&D is regardless of how the moves are intended to guide them to play.

Re: Dungeon World is...
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2012, 12:35:36 AM »
I just listened to episode 182 of The Podge Cast where Josh Mannon talks about the Dungeon World adventure path he's working on. It seems to me that he's got a radically different take on the tone and feel of this game than I do, so I wish Sage and Adam would talk more definitively about how the game is supposed to work. I think I read the damage numbers and from them assume that the game is supposed to be lethal and gritty. It seems like other people assume it's a wahoo game and from that conclude that you're almost never supposed to actually do the damage that the numbers call for since they're so lethal. I'd really like to know if one or the other approach is wrong, or if the game is supposed to encompass both.



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Re: Dungeon World is...
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2012, 11:26:30 AM »
Okay, I've avoided replying to this thread as asked, but there are some questions directly for me, so I'm going to break silence. Posting has slowed down anyway.

First off: everything I'm about to say here has been made more explicit in Beta 2. That said, Beta 2 is in editing limbo since Adam is on vacation, so you may not see it for a week or so.

Dungeon World is a game of fantasy adventure. Your characters go on adventures that range in scope from saving a village to saving the world. Those adventures usually revolve around a location, possibly an underground dungeon. An adventure isn't a series of set encounters, it's a bad thing that will get worse unless the players do something about it.

The adventures themselves are serious stuff. People's fate hang in the balance, life and death are on the line. The adventurers involved in them may be wise cracking and fun. The tone ranges somewhere from Indiana Jones to Ghostbusters.

Just like those films (and similar TV shows from Bones to Psych) the threat is serious but the player characters are competent enough to meet it with some humor. Humorous events may happen too, but there's rarely a comedy of errors. Along with the wisecracking adventures there are occasional moments of drama, usually based on Bonds.

Adventurers are prepared (they all get rations now, by the way) and well above the average person, but the world is a dangerous one, and they will face tough challenges. It's not grim, but if the players don't act it'll head that way.

Death happens. When you start play you make your first character and then find out how long you'll play them. Characters occupy the perfect level of investment for this: they're interesting in and of themselves but making a new one is quick and easy and they're instantly linked to everyone else.

Death is also reversible. Resurrection becomes an option at 3rd level (a change from Beta 1.1) so that if you so desire you can keep playing a character you lost. Resurrection has been rewriten a bit so that it both poses minimal delay in the action and still requires decisive action to actually bring someone back.

You don't always need to Resurrect because death is a present. It's a goldmine of adventure. You can have a new character in minutes and meet up with the party ASAP and from there your old character's death is just a motivator for more play: who wants revenge? What was left unsaid? Who will miss them?

As a side note: monster damage is high because monsters don't have very long to do damage. They don't nickle and dime you. We're always balancing, but a typical low level monster will likely always be able to kill a first level wizard in just a few attacks, maybe 4 or so. (This isn't quite true in the current rules partially because people love answering those questions "yes," something I didn't quite expect.)

Looking at our influences, we want to draw from the clear focus and simplicity of Moldvay but take some of the broader scope of 2nd and 3rd. That's not the only way to do it, but its the one that I most enjoy playing, so it's what we're designing for. By broader scope I mean that adventures may have clear effects on the broader world that the players will have to deal with, the typical cycle goes something like: adventure -> effects -> deal with effects. The entire thing snowballs through the Campaign Front: your adventures have effects which lead to changes in the world and more adventures. Some of those effects may play out in cities or among noble courts, those can be adventures too.

We're definitely not OSR. We've never really tried to be. That's not an area I quite know enough about to be part of. We certainly draw inspiration from Moldvay in a lot of ways, but we're not trying to make that game. As John is fond of saying, we're kind of going straight to 2nd/3rd Ed Dungeon World. There could be a hypothetical 1E or 0E Dungeon World that was more directly related to Moldvay, but that's not what we're making.

A few direct answers to Dan: I don't quite know what the definition of Sandboxy is here or how in media res runs counter to it. You start an adventure with the players about to do something because any other opening is pretty boring. We're not going to carry over that weird D&D trope where you start an adventure by basically agreeing to play an adventure by taking a job or something.

Actual play is sandboxy, I guess? I'm still not quite sure what that means. Sandboxes are boring, they just sit there. In Dungeon World there are bad things happening, things which the GM is going to make evident. You're going to stop them for gold and glory, or they're going to get right in your face. I don't see where the Front rules say anything about making them relevant to the players, except in that your Fronts are going to mess up the world unless they do something about it. There's nothing there about taking the players into account at all, actually. You're just adding these big bad things to the world that will happen, those kind of implicitly run counter to the players, or at the very least give them an opportunity to make money and gain glory.

It'd be great if you could explain what you find vague. I've edited the hell out of the GM chapter again, but I didn't find much vagueness to begin with. What's not clear?

I haven't had a chance to list the The Podge Cast yet and likely won't get to it for a bit, could you give me some ideas what you heard that doesn't mesh? I've read over much of Josh's stuff (he was kind enough to send a preview copy) and it seems completely in line with the tone we've had in the books so far. The adventure deals with big godly threats and dangerous places, the writing is casual but clear. It reads a fair bit like the Bloodstone Idol, actually.