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Why Dungeon World fascinates me

My winter vacation is coming to an end, and next to spending some more time with my girlfriend and playing video games, I’m also using my loads of free time to read through new tabletop role-playing games. Next to Fiasco (which I praised a few days ago), another title has caught my attention due to the amount of discussion about it in the blogosphere: Dungeon World.

If you have been so unfortunate to have not heard of this game, Dungeon World takes the well-known dungeoncrawling genre, and adds a layer of storytelling and narrative gameplay. The GM plays a rather small role in the entire campaign, being there to pose challenges to the party and to interpret their rolls. The GM himself never rolls a die (except for damage) and is only there to guide and navigate the story. This basic premise intrigued me, and now that I’m done reading the rulebook, I am more than intrigued. I am fascinated.

"The World" by Tony Dowler

“The World” by Tony Dowler

You see, Dungeon World puts emphasis on the conversation between players and the GM. It’s an old concept, one that every one of us has used at the table: the GM describes a scene, sets the mood with the right words and when everyone has an idea of what’s going on, the classic question “What do you do?” is posed. It’s nothing special, but Dungeon World puts this whole conversation into the spotlights. It makes the whole back-and-forth between descriptions given by the players and the GM the essence of the game, instead of focusing on dozens of little rules that might disturb the flow of gameplay. Just keep on telling an epic story in a fascinating world full of adventures, and worry about the rules later!

Talking about a fascinating world, Dungeon World does not expect you to come up with a fleshed-out campaign setting before starting your first game. Instead, it expects you to start your first sessions with almost no preparation whatsoever, and to just use what the players throw at you. This premise is awesome: right after character creation (which also focuses on “bonds” and relationships between the party members, so that no mysterious guy has to recruit them in a pub) the players and their heroes dive into some cool scenario and fight their way out. Use what’s on their sheet, instead of what’s behind your screen. In a way, Dungeon World is the game for the lazy GM: just go with what your players want, as long as you keep the action flowing!

It makes me happy to see game that takes the old and somewhat boring dungeoncrawler concept, and makes it so enchanting by adding this layer of storytelling. Really, you should visit the author’s homepage or head right to your digital friendly gaming store to buy it, and see what little gem they created. I will probably prod my group into playing this soon, and you will hear about it here. Have fun plundering dragon hoards!

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TSWoD – Anima explained & the birth of Fiddles

Hello guys and gals, and welcome back to another post about my The Secret World of Darkness project, in which I melt the rules of the new World of Darkness with the setting of Funcom’s The Secret World. In today’s installment, we will elaborate the aforementioned Anima power stat and pool, and start the creation of an example character. Call your secret society and tell them Cthulhu has to wait, because this will keep you busy!

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Three reason why you should give the Song of Ice and Fire RPG a spin

A month ago, I did two things for the first time in my tabletop role-playing career. The first thing was to organise a campaign that will be played entirely online (well, except for our next session). The other thing was to start playing the Song of Ice and Fire RPG (SIFRP) by Green Ronin. I can say that both of these ideas were good ones, and I am especially surprised by the system presented in SIFRP. Today, I want to share my enthusiasm with you and give you three reasons for trying a game in Westeros.

Reason #1 – You don’t create characters, you create a house

Alright, that is a lie. Sure, every player still creates a character, but before you get to that, the entire group creates a House. Anyone familiar with Martin’s world knows that the Houses of Westeros play an important role in the daily life and politics, and it was a great idea to give players the chance to create their own. Through a series of dice rolls and choices, the group will give birth to a minor House, loyal to one of the famous major Houses. During their adventures, the player characters will influence the destiny of their House, and will hopefully uplift it.

The House system includes rules for the management of the House and “House Fortunes”, which can be positive or negative. Players and their characters will have to decide where to take their House, and what role it will play in the Game of Thrones. It is intriguing and a nice distraction from the regular adventures and politics, and that can never be a bad thing!

Reason #2 – Combat is fast and deadly

I love Exalted. I do. I think that Exalted is one of the best games that I have ever played. But you know what I seriously hate about it? Goddamn combat. Why? Because it takes ages, and since every competent fighter is some demi-godly superhero, combat drags on and on until someone has run out of their supernatural fuel and is brutally murdered by the equivalent of a human nuclear bomb. Gosh, I hate it.

In SIFRP, combat is the exact opposite. It is fast and deadly, often done in just a few rounds. As long as a character has some competence, fights will be dramatic and exciting, yet short because of the high damage and low health points. The only problem it has is shown when two equal fighters meet each other. Then it can become the boring back-and-forth I despise so much about Exalted. However, as long as you as a GM know your PC’s, and throw the right enemies in them, combat is just a delight in SIFRP.

Reason #3 – It’s Westeros, damn it

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past two years, you will know that the HBO show of Martin’s books has caused his fan base to grow by a gazillion percent. Everyone loves or hates Game of Thrones, but every geek on the planet now has an opinion about it.

I am not trying to say that you should play SIFRP because Westeros is all cool and mainstream now. No, what I am trying to say is that you should give the setting a spin because there is more source material now than ever before. Next to the books and source books by Green Ronin, you have two seasons of a marvelous TV show to refer to and use for your players to learn the setting. It is easier than ever before to discover the thrilling world of Westeros, and to create your own tales in it.

So, if you are still looking for a Christmas present for a fellow gamer, you could do worse than to buy him or her a copy of this game. Tell them that winter is coming, and what better to do during the Long Night than to roll some six-sided dice and pretend you are a knight?