After-Action Report

  • 9 Replies
After-Action Report
« on: January 09, 2011, 10:16:12 AM »
We played DW last night for the first time and it was fun, but not amazingly fun. More on that in a second.

So we're four guys, all of whom have played AW at least once, a few of us quite a bit. We were all excited to try Dungeon World. Three of the four read the rules and handouts before we got together. Our session was about four hours long.

We all loved the character types, the alignment based XP, and especially the bonds, which work so much better than AW history to me. As GM I really found the monster section useful in building out my own stuff. I didn't print out enough moves sheets.

I set up a pretty broad setting with a variety of potential adventures and pressure points. It was all based around humans colonizing the ancestral lands of the frog-men, deforesting and looking for gold in their swamps. It was, as Ara pointed out, a cross between Ursula K. LeGuin and an episode of Captain Planet. There were a pair of cool dungeons and a wizard's tower, but they went for the more social adventure and tried to discourage a bunch of squatters from illegally invading frog-man lands. So - swamp excitement, social parley, fighting frog-men, that sort of thing.

It went OK, I thought, but we struggled at times and found stuff in the rules that did not ring true. I really hope the other guys will jump in because I can't remember everything.

Some issues - the Thief's signature move guarantees that he will never just steal a thing and get away clean. We were all taken aback by this. It's his thing!

We had a hard time with the synthesis of AW and D&D styles in combat - we did it AW style, but AW is sort of predicated on the PCs being very powerful and competent, and foes being individuals or gangs. When we had a bunch of individual monsters, it got weird. At one point Clinton's cleric recruited three miners to help in the defense of the squatter camp, so I said he could treat them like hirelings. That didn't work well, because the hireling move assumes they want money and autonomy. Also, the three guys gave him a +3, and I didn't know how to deal with monster damage to him and his "hirelings". It was just awkward and there was no guidance.

I was really hoping my deep experience with traditional D&D style play would be useful, since I struggled with running straight AW a little, but it wasn't any help at all. I still had a hard time internalizing what I was supposed to do and what I could do in terms of making moves. This isn't DW's problem but it impacted our game.

I made the mistake of giving some of my frog dudes 3 damage, which was completely soaked by one guy's plate armor. They'd need to make a special move to even have a chance of harming him and I didn't realize that until too late. I'd suggest assigning a die type to all normal monster damage, so that even the weakest at 1d4 could maybe hurt a dude.

I felt the strong desire to directly provide challenge, which is a very D&D impulse but seemed at odds with the rules for DW.

Everyone commented that the mechanical spread was harsher than AW. I'm OK with that. We started with second level guys and they all leveled up mid-game, and the increase in effectiveness was pronounced. I think they'd just get more potent, so this may be a non-issue.

I'll add more if stuff occurs to me. We all had a good time, but we all had a better time playing Apocalypse World straight. I hope some feedback is useful, because I love DW and want it to be as excellent as possible!

« Last Edit: January 09, 2011, 11:39:37 AM by Jason Morningstar »

Re: After-Action Report
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2011, 01:10:46 PM »
Thanks for sharing!

I have no idea what you mean about the thief not being able to get away clean. Isn't one of the choices that the thief isn't detected in the process? One of my players used this as the very first roll in our game. He nailed it with a 10+ and I think he was able to pick 3 options, one of which was the "no one detects you doing it" option.

The big battle in our game was an absolute blast. It consisted of three PCs, one NPC, and 5 or 6 goblins. I didn't find that there was any trouble coordinating things at all. There were usually one or two enemies attacking an individual target, but I would have gone to the rules for mob/group damage if there were any more than that and would have used some of the usual ways of making things clearer, such as using dice to indicate everyone's position, making some of the individual monsters appear distinct by giving them special equipment or characteristics, and the like.

As a worst case scenario you could probably treat each side as their own unit and handle the battle that way, though I would have probably just kept track on paper and described some nasty group attacks, such as one of the NPCs smashing a frog dude in the gut, causing it to double over as the wind was knocked out of it, giving the PC a chance to come in for the kill.

I found the moves during battle to be my easiest moves (as GM) to make. Generally the players were eager to make moves, so I got to just jump in when they failed a roll with a hard move, or on a successful roll they would narrate their move and I would provide a follow-up or say "what is so-and-so doing while this happens?" I found combat to be an absolute pleasure and seemed to run itself.

I wouldn't worry too much about your PC that's rocking the plate armor. My wife's paladin is doing the same thing. I figure that there will be plenty of chances in the future for big bad monsters to kick her ass. I might propose that you inflict other trouble on that PC when they fail a roll, using a move like "take away their stuff". A player without a weapon is going to have to scrounge and improvise and get involved and won't be thinking they're invincible since they'll be focusing on the trouble at hand.

As an aside to that, my wife failed her Perilous Journey roll and decided to get separated from the party. She wanted to climb a tree in plate armor, so when she had a partial success I described how she got all banged up falling out of the tree with her armor being all dinged and damaged. I'm going to press that in the next session.

I would suggest you don't worry too much about the plate armor and lack of damage because, in my mind, this isn't D&D. It's not all about HP and damage. There are plenty of things that can happen to that character, such as starvation, getting lost, falling, personal trouble, false accusations, magical attacks, loss of equipment, poison, hirelings turning on them, and the like. Poke 'em where they're tender :)

I would "directly provide challenge" like you mentioned. Give them trouble, badness, and challenge. I feel that DW is very strong in that regard because I feel like the AW/DW rules give me explicit permission and lots of techniques for creating drama, challenge, and difficulty. Player moves and rolls naturally set you up to throw difficulty and drama at the players. Look out for those failed player rolls and put their NPC friends, their security, and their chance of completing their mission directly in the crosshairs.

I feel bad for your poor frog people!

Re: After-Action Report
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2011, 04:10:12 PM »
The other thing that was hard for the GM role in our game was that the consequences of not choosing a thing when a player succeeds isn't necessary apparent to the GM. When I pull a stunt, and don't choose "I don't take any damage," it isn't always apparent to the GM that I could in fact be taking damage. That's just a game aid issue, though, I think.

Some things might be a play-style clash. We didn't like that when you parley with an NPC, they choose when to spend your bonds, which means you may well not get what you want, even if you hold three bonds over someone. Letting the player choose how to spend the bonds worked better for us. We loved how parley works with other PCs, however.

I've not played enough AW to make further comments on the differences, but I had a good time, and that DW is really neat. I imagine if I played it a few more times, I'd get better at it, and have more substantive comments.

Re: After-Action Report
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2011, 04:39:34 PM »
Just to be clear, Clinton's talking about holds and NPCs, and the fact that they are written "backwards" from the way they are usually presented in AW, so the player is not the active party in implementing the holds, the NPC is. I think.

I love my frog-men! And I didn't get a chance to pull out my most badass frog trick - they are gastric breeders with skin that secretes convulsive neurotoxin, so as a last ditch defense a frog-woman can vomit her poisonous young all over her attacker.

Re: After-Action Report
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2011, 10:40:16 AM »
I wasn't clear about how some of the moves worked, either. I asked Sage via Twitter and he said that the player always chooses the things they want from the list (though some groups do it otherwise). So when Undertaking a Perilous Journey, my wife rolled 7-9 and selected "getting separated". When thieving or parleying the players chose the options, like "not getting caught" or "befriending a helpful NPC".

I was initially confused since AW seemed to work differently but the players were all over it and it gave them a bit more of narrative control, made them more satisfied, and took some of the work off of me.



  • 549
Re: After-Action Report
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2011, 04:34:25 PM »
Some great thoughts all around. Some of these are issues we're actively working on, some are new things we'll definitely take a look at. Taking a few things from Jason's original post and responding to them:

Clarifying combat is something that's still a work in progress, but I think we're nailing it down. Groups and hirelings are slightly sticky points, you're right. There is no rule for hirelings taking damage, which is something that we need to address as some recent changes make hirelings a bigger part of the game. Sorry to leave you stranded with no help on that front.

Willing Hirelings are just something that hasn't really come up much, and I can see how the move conflicts and the way the rules are written conflicts with how you want to handle it. Order Hirelings mentions "dangerous, degrading or horrible" orders, which is meant to convey that this is something the hirelings don't want to do. If they already agree with the order, or if the order is not particularly bad for them, there's no roll. As long as the hirelings are helping in combat, they add to damage.

My first instinct about the Thief being able to get away without consequences is that the move works as intended, but now I'm questioning that. I just made a minor change to remove one option on Thief Skills, so that a 10+ does mean everything happens without a hitch. The "only takes a moment" option is a little fishy anyway, taking more than a moment seems like it should arouse suspicion (which is another choice) or it's just a way to keep someone out of the action for a bit. That does mean that now a 10+ lets the player choose all options. Anything but a 10+ though I stand by, we considered making 7-9 give two choices but it made the thief feel a little over-competent for a first level character. As the Thief moves to two pages, there are some moves that help a higher level thief feel more competent.

I've actually made that damage mistake a few times, making a fight a non-challenge. This is largely a rules guidance problem, as a lot of the existing monsters don't deal enough damage (or the PCs have too much armor, depending how you look at it). Thomas also has a really good point that DW has so many more tools for creating trouble than low HP that having a nearly invulnerable character isn't the end of the world.

Could you expand a bit more on "directly providing challenge?" I'm not sure if that's something I've been doing and just hasn't been codified by the rules.

The reverse spend on Parley is modeled on the AW Skinner's Hypnotic move, but scaled down a little bit. The intention there in my head is that having the GM spend the hold makes the NPC seem more like a real person, and Parley less like mind control. That way there can be real mind control, through spells and other moves, that feels like something more than Parley.

It sounds like a little more clarification about how badass characters are is in order. Some issues seem like we just have different ideas of how competent characters should be at different levels, which is maybe something the text needs to explain a bit. How do we think of low level characters? They're more competent than say 3E starting characters, but not as badass as AW characters.

Re: After-Action Report
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2011, 06:31:04 AM »
Cool, that's all good stuff, Sage. My inexperience was at work regarding alternatives to straight damage.

In play I felt the impulse to ramp up the difficulty to provide a challenge to the players, who were breezing through all the monsters and bad guys I had offered them. This is what you do in D&D but it is strongly discouraged in AW. Which is right in DW? I trusted the AW framework, but it meant that nobody really got into a dangerous situation with their character.

Re: After-Action Report
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2011, 10:14:28 PM »
Tony's out of town right now, but hopefully when he's back he can say a bit about how he's been running hirelings, since we've been using them right from the start in our game. My impression is that the hirelings have a certain number of hit points and that they take a point of damage for each round they're engaged in combat, but I don't know how accurate that is.

I know that our hirelings haven't been looking for autonomy, but I have had to pay them regularly in addition to using the "Order Hirelings" move on occasion.

Re: After-Action Report
« Reply #8 on: January 14, 2011, 07:46:43 AM »
Yeah, I'll be interested in Tony's take on this. We had a situation in which there were dudes that were loosely aligned with the PCs, who were brought under the Cleric's control through a move. In the moment I told him to treat them as hirelings, but maybe there's a better way of handling that circumstance. In any case a few words on how to handle supernumerary characters in combat would be welcome.



  • 549
Re: After-Action Report
« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2011, 02:06:34 PM »
I'd love to hear Tony's take as well. Adam and I have brainstormed some of how to break down different types of helpers, mostly for the purposes of what moves apply. In combat they give the same bonus (added damage for whoever they're fighting for) and can take damage in some way we'll figure out.