(AP) Hall of the Vampire Queen

  • 6 Replies
(AP) Hall of the Vampire Queen
« on: June 14, 2012, 10:04:56 AM »
I love this system. Sadly, it wasn't the case for all of my 3 players in yesterday's playtest, and one of them was being sort of a douche by the end of the session, thus ruined the last hour or so of gaming. I'll get to that in time, though! Let us talk about Dungeon World, point by point!

Character Creation

Everybody loved it, I believe. It's fast and flavorful, and even the die-hard D&D player (3.5 and down) thought Bonds were clever and wonderful. I loved the speed of it and how unique characters were. In less than 15 minutes, we had established that the rogue and the wizard were trying to establish said wizard as a God (one for money, the other, because he truly believed he should be). The third character was a Paladin of a bloodthirsty and violent god. So the cast was Xeno, the elven wizard aiming for godhood, Omar, the halfling rogue, and Sanginus, the Lawful paladin.

Later on the paladin died (to a party of sahugins) and made a ranger.

So we essentially ended up with an evil party, which I don't normally agree to, but I figured "eh, what the hell, they have fun characters". Evil parties work pretty great in Dungeon World, I would say.

GM's prep

Adventures really do write themselves. I made a simple front, where a cult trying to resurrect their vampire queen (Lady Elvira), kidnapped the virgin daughter of a local lord (The Duke of Garmholm). The cult was currently residing into a haunted castle (unholy place) in the middle of the nearby swamps. So essentially, I had 2 dangers: The Thralls of the Vampire Queen and The Haunted Castle of House Fizlaus.

The Game

I really enjoyed the simplicity of it. Two of my three players were more open to narrativist gaming than the third had fun, but both felt that the game did not seem like it would work as a very long-term campaign, and that was fine for both of them, as most gamers nowadays are adults with responsabilities that can't really handle a 3-years long campaign. I usually run short, 5-10 session campaigns myself, so I found the pace pretty great.

This wasn't the case with our DnD player, who's last few campaigns were all over a year in lenght. I felt like he sort of lost patience or interest after 3 hours or so because of a lack of tactical diversity available in the game. And he was the loudest one at the table (while the two other players were much more reserved), so I felt like his rather obvious dislike of the system hurt the game session for everyone.

Overall, I really liked it, but one of my players resisted a too much to the change for it to have been an amazing session (which is a shame, because honestly, some really cool things happened, such as the ranger leading a troll into the Vampire's castle, or the invisible wizard throwing the sleeping vampire queen out through a window in the middle of the day). I was very surprised at the game's lethality. Pleasantly so. Granted, they fought pretty high-damage monsters.

The players got to fight a group of 8 Sahugins, a group of cultists lead by a Vampire, a Troll, and finally, a group of 3 vampires and 4 cultists with an hostage.


I vote yay. I have no regret for my kickstarter pledge and am looking foward to receiving my copy of the book. I'd really like to play under an experienced GM as to get a better idea of how it should be done, but it's a new game, so I'll have to figure that out on my own. Bonds are really great, but I'd like aid/interfere to have more impact. I feel like alignment moves aren't quite where they should be yet (some are much easier to do than others), but otherwise, this is a game I want to play more of. It was a little weird to have no structure in combat, but I rolled with it and it worked, but I would've liked to have more information on how combat works (I very rarely used my monster moves and generally had my players try to Defy Danger to evade it, I wasn't sure if I should have).

Loved: Bonds (They are more interesting than Hx, in my opinion), Spellcasting, anything being rolled at 7-9 (except one or two things), Discern realities (which is essentially an excuse for me to give tips on being awesome to my players, I love that)

Liked: Simple mechanics that encourage cool descriptions, variable power level based on whatever the group agrees is appropriate.

Needs work: I'd like to see failure being a little more defined (with volley and backstab, specifically), I felt like getting a partial success volley was underwhelming (players always chose to lose 1d6 damage and never risked having to move and exposing themselves to danger) and finally, the pace of leveling feels too different from character to character and class to class, I'd like to try it with 1 attribute highlight and see where that goes.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2012, 10:11:14 AM by tehnai »



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Re: (AP) Hall of the Vampire Queen
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2012, 10:21:59 AM »
Hey tehnai! Welcome aboard.

Sadly, a counterproductive player isn't really the fault of the game, nor is it something any game out there can really fix.

But as to combat - yes, you can have some fast paced action, and even some pretty tactical choices.  There are plenty of APs here to choose from, but if you have any specific questions (or a scenario) toss it at us and we'll hash it out and see if we can provide examples to help.

It's funny you mention volley, since my players almost take the -1d6 option.  But then, my monsters tend to be scary as hell, and they don't have the leeway usually (it's a question of downing things quickly before the party gets ripped apart).

Hearing you say 'highlight' it sounds like you're not playing with the newer rules.  You should email Sage and Adam at gm@dungeon-world.com and they can get you the full Beta which may address some of your problems and concerns.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2012, 10:27:19 AM by stras »

Re: (AP) Hall of the Vampire Queen
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2012, 11:56:46 AM »
And for more details on the actual game!

So our "heroes", after visiting the Duke and chatting up the locals decided to leave for the northern swamps, where, allegedly, Ellara's kidnapper as brought her. He would be a crooked, monsterously deformed known as Crabhand, who had been considered up to that point as a simpleton and a village idiot-type character.

So Omar, Sanguinus and Xeno then take a Perilous Journey to navigate through the swamp, which would have gone extremely well if Xeno, taking the trailblazer's role, hadn't lead them directly to a clutch of Sahugins (and making them hopelessly lost). Omar spotted them early enough as to evade an ambush, but was also spotted by the creatures, who followed him to the rest of the party.

The battle was brutal and sahugins are nasty creatures. The highlight of the fight was Omar tripping Sanginus while he was fighting back three of the monsters as to make him fall on top of them. It killed one of them, but also pushed a few extra teeth into his chest. Also Omar accidently stabbing one inside the mouth (and learning from his mistakes. Sanguinus died and was promptly replaced by Gripe, a slightly schizophrenic Ranger with a dead pigeon as an animal companion.

With the help of Gripe, and with little mourning for their lost companion (evil PCs move on pretty quick) the party managed to find the old castle in the middle of the swamp. The castle was surrounded by a moat of quicksand-like mud, the only way to cross was a rickety rope bridge. Omar rushed foward and promptly fell in the quicksand. He was saved by Gripe, who lost a few arrows to the quicksand helping Omar.

The castle was significantly less creepy from the inside, but it felt off, cold. The entrance hall was this grand, marble room, in the middle of which was a large statue of a beautiful woman. 2 strange men in dark robes spotted the players from the second floor. They immediately entered a door near them, panicked. The party gave chase, lead by Omar, and burst into the room after very quickly picking the lock. In the room was 6 cultists and a vampire.

The fight was pretty brutal and ended up with Xeno hanging out, invisible, and essentially being forgotten. It ended with Omar nearly dying after failing to swing from a chandelier, and both of them being chased by the 5, still living cultists outside of the castle. Gripe ran past the rope bridge while Omar hid next to the door, waited for the cultists to be on the rope bridge over the quicksands and cut the rope bridge down, removing the 5 of them from the fight.

They had forgotten about the vampire, who managed ate some blood and was killed.

The party then decided to go back into the swamp and make camp, as to heal and regroup a bit. Eventhough they had some sleep, making camp in a monster infested, corrupted and haunted swamp rarely goes well. They woke up to a troll munching on Omar's backpack.

The fight with the troll was brief as the players started using Discern realities (and I was subsequently charmed with it). It was used by Xeno, who asked:

"What should I be on the lookout for?"

A: You doubt that there are no eyes on you right now. The troll is dangerous, sure, but you feel like the cult as eyes on you even if you can't see them, and they are more dangerous as a group than the troll is.

"What is useful or valuable to me right now?"

A: The troll itself.

Xeno's player smiled. A little earlier in the fight, Gripe had lit a torch, and attracted the troll's attention. Trolls are scared of fire, this was known (after a spout lore), but they also don't react to fear as most things do. What a troll doesn't like, it smashes. Xeno yelled at Gripe to use the torch to lead the troll to the castle, and have him start smashing around in there. And he did just that. It was a pretty magical moment.

The party then gave the troll some time to do its thing and went back to bed. They assaulted the castle again the next morning. The castles door was destroyed and so was the statue on the first floor. A few cultists were cleaning up as the players came in. During the night, the vampires and cultists managed to kill the troll, but they were freaked out enough to speed up the ritual and resurrect their queen during the day instead of waiting for night fall.

The clean-up crew ran to alert the vampires and the remaining cultists, and our "heroes" gave chase up the highest spire of the castle. To finally make it to the room where the ritual was being held. Just in time, at that.

In the middle of the room was a bath in which a beautiful, naked woman with snow-white hair slept. Crabhand, the head of the cult, was chanting in a strange language and one of the three vampire around the bathtub was holding the duke's daughter, preparing to cult her throat and empty her blood in the bath. She seemed severely drugged.. The fight was tense (You know, hostage) and we saw a parley erupt early on (Omar was threatening to kill the Ellara and spill her blood outside the bath) which ended up with everybody laying down their weapons got people talking, until the vampire holding Ellara hostage lost his patience and charged Omar. In the middle of the Chaos, our invisible Xeno managed to drag the sleeping woman out of the window, into the sunlight, and dusting her. The remaining vampires charged at him (even if they could not see him) and fell to their sunny deaths as Xeno hanged outside, by the edge of the window.

The cultists then quickly laid down their weapons, figuring Xeno would be a decent god to worship too!


Honestly, writing the actual play, I'm realizing something important: my god, the players did some awesome stuff. If not for one of the players resisting the change of pace from traditional RPGs, I would have seen it a lot better, but it feels to me like it's hard to not have awesome shit happen with this system. Discern Realities is essentially "Mister GM, what's awesome right now?", which I loved and yielded great results both times it was used. I really, really want to play this game again.

@Stras, I do have the beta (version 2.3) what I'm saying about XP is that the pace is sort of unequal without using the highlights of Apocalypse world, in some way (given that alignment XP varies wildly in difficulty to achieve), or maybe the alignement moves just need to be revised, I'm not sure, but the pacing felt off. And I agree about the counterproductive player. Not a fault of the system, more of me saying that it was hard for me to have a very solid opinion of the game given the player situation, essentially, I want to play this game again with a group of less antagonistic players before laying down my final judgement.

Honestly, for the tactical options thing, I don't care much. The player really meant figuring out ways to get bonuses to actions, such as his +2 to flanking from DnD, something I do not care for myself. I had a good time and don't really feel the need for it. I really liked the players finding clever solutions to problems (IE using the troll as a weapon, throwing the sleeping vampire queen out the window in the middle of the fight). Essentially, this was not  a criticism of mine, but that of the disgruntled player. I thought it was awesome, I mean, I'm not concealing my enthusiasm much in this second post!

Re: (AP) Hall of the Vampire Queen
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2012, 01:15:15 PM »
In retrospect, I feel like the game benefits a lot from having a central hub (rather than being about a bunch of down on their luck adventurers going from town to town and solving problems). I really really want to run Vornheim with Dungeon World.



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Re: (AP) Hall of the Vampire Queen
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2012, 02:26:52 PM »
"What should I be on the lookout for?"

A: You doubt that there are no eyes on you right now. The troll is dangerous, sure, but you feel like the cult as eyes on you even if you can't see them, and they are more dangerous as a group than the troll is.

"What is useful or valuable to me right now?"

A: The troll itself.

That's beautiful.

The one game I've run, my players didn't use Discern Realities much. Just once or twice, I think, in very obvious situations (e.g. walking into an obvious ambush position).

Was there something in particular that started getting them to use the move in your game?

Re: (AP) Hall of the Vampire Queen
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2012, 03:10:36 PM »
In the troll fight, the wizard was invisible and not really willing to break his invisibility to start attacking, so he was staring at his sheet trying to figure out what he could do.

I suggested Discern Realities. I think that move is the biggest break from  traditional DnD and I feel like it's important for the GM to force him or herself to give unexpected answers. I mean if there's a troll in the middle of a fight, it's pretty obvious that one should look out of the troll, I feel like the GM needs to make an extra effort to give the player information that would give an advantage.

Also, I'd say nudge the players towards it once or twice, especially if they're being silent and trying to figure out a plan of attack. They'll catch on quick enough.



  • 777
Re: (AP) Hall of the Vampire Queen
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2012, 05:15:38 AM »
Nice AP tehnai, I say your emergent story is full of win! And you are right, the players did some awesome things in your game :)

As for reluctant players, at least he gave it go yeah? So story games aren't what he prefers, that's OK.

Yeah, once you start engaging with the steading mechanics and 'rippling out', the game takes on a magical quality, allow your players to as invested as you in this process, allow authoring moves like spout lore and discern realities to 'fill-out' the empty spaces on the (relationship) map, thus providing you with hooks aplenty that te players are interested in adventuring about.

Sounds like you are hooked, which is so very cool :)