and improv. Lots and lots of improv. Three days ago, I read Play Unsafe for the first time, which I wrote a review for yesterday. You can read it here.
By dumb luck, I actually managed to find two players, who wanted to play some Dungeon World. The premise for that game was that it would be totally improvised, which the players found interesting.
Before the game, I spoke with the players, Misha and James, about the book and some of the advice found in it. They seemed to like the idea about “being obvious and boring”, and I told them they were welcome to screw around with me, whenever they wanted.
We also spoke about putting spotlight on other players’ characters, making an effort to set another player up for success. They seemed to like the idea of spreading out the responsibility for making the game great for everyone.
Mind you that the following report is extremely long. You’ll notice that it’s much more detailed, which is primarily due to the “obvious and boring” approach. It really worked wonders on the amount of details. I even left out some detail in the write up. To keep it from becoming too long…
James and Misha made their characters. James played the human Bard, Dunwich, while Misha played Cadeus, the elven Fighter. We spent about twenty minutes or so asking questions about the characters and the setting, and after that we had a world filled with problematic political struggles.
We had the capital city Davenport of a so far undisclosed country, a place ripe with corruption. The city guard is easily bribed, they care nothing for the citizens, and generally they are more concerned about safeguarding the noble district, which is under a lockdown because the rest of the city is currently suffering an epidemic.
Dunwich lives here, and was born here. The situation neither pleases him, nor the common populace. The city is on the verge of riots, and should the conditions not change, riots will come. To make matters worse, the slums around the city is expanding at a near catastrophic rate, which renders the city guard completely powerless in the area, as slumlords and bandits have assumed control of large parts of this ghetto.
Davenport is currently expanding so rapidly that the Council of Lords have deemed it necessary to break an old treaty with the the Elves to the north, by starting a deforestation of the vast woods of Evereth. Naturally, the elven lords will have none of this, but they are intent on resuming negotiations with the lords of Davenport, rather than attacking the city outright.
The forest of Evereth is divided into territories, or forest states (yes, it’s that big), each occupied by a village under the leadership of an elven lord. The decree to divide the forest between the lords was enacted, because the forest have grown increasingly dangerous and overrun with monsters during the last few hundred years. Dividing the forest between the lords was a desperate act, meant to delegate the responsibility of keeping the forest safe unto the individual lords, by in a way granting them the land. The elven village closest to Davenport is Ilathia, where Cadeus was born.
A lot of this background material was generated during the game, not just up front, but it’s hard to distinguish between what came when. Everything was improvised, even as the game began everything was improvised. Most of it by the players, I might add, I merely asked questions about the stuff I found interesting.
And so we began…
Cadeus and Dunwich enters the tavern, looking for their contact. They see a cloaked figure in the corner, and know it to be her, the disguised elven diplomat Vendethiel. Dunwich goes up to the barkeep and orders to tankards of ale. They go down to talk to her.
“Do you have the information?” she asks. “What have you learned?” Dunwich tells her that it’s worse than they thought. “Fill her in, Cadeus”. And so he does. Lord Darius has commanded a small contingent of between 15 to 30 elite soldiers to go into Evereth, without the consent of the Council.
Vendethiel could hardly believe what she heard. “But what of the king? What role does he play in this?” she asks. Apparently, the other council members were bribed to ignore it, Lord Darius has very deep pockets. As for the king, what role he played in this is unknown, but Darius certainly has some sort of sway over him.
They hardly get to say anything else, before the tavern door is kicked in, five guards entering the establishment, weapons drawn. “Where is she?” they commanded. Knowing they’re in trouble, Dunwich stands up and shouts “Drinks on me!” A few drunkards stands up, cheering, while the rest of the clientele just looks at him. “You ain’t got that kind of money, Dunwich. How stupid do you think we are?”
The guards attention are attracted by this display. Disgruntled that they are being ignored, they proceed down to the table where Vendethiel, Cadeus and Dunwich are seated. “There she is” a guard shouts. Cadeus stands up, spear at the ready. “We are hear to seize the diplomat! Out of our way!” They look wary, they didn’t expect people to put up a fight. They exchange some nervous glances.
“I’m afraid you are mistaken. That woman is my sister. We know of no ‘diplomat’ here.” They looked at them, puzzled. Were their information wrong? They were suspicious, but she was wearing the clothes of a commoner. They decided to leave before the scene got embarrassing. “OK, lets move boys! She can’t be far!”
A scrawly man named Lath decides to join them. “I know she ain’t your sister Cadeus. What’ll you pay me not to go out there and fetch the guards again?” Cadeus was displeased with this. “How about letting you keep your life?” Lath just laughed; “You wouldn’t kill me here, that’d attract too much attention… But as you wish, I’ll fetch the guard…” He began to walk slowly towards the tavern door.
Dunwich snuck up behind him, and stuck his foot in between his legs, causing Lath to fall over hard. “Ouw! You son of a bitch!” he yelled. Dunwich and Cadeus picked him up, holding him so he couldn’t run. His nose was obviously broken as blood flowed from his nose. “Looks like someone had a little too much to drink!” Dunwich shouted. “Lets get you home!” And so they left.
Vendethiel was quivering. They decided to try and leave town and get Vendethiel to safety in Ilathia. Dunwich knew just the guy to help them, Aiden, a guard posted at a sewer grate to prevent people from sneaking down there and into the Nobles District.
“Hey Dunwich. What’re you doing here. And who are they?” Dunwich looked at him and slipped him a few coins. “Do you even care?” The guard shrugged. “Not really… So, you want to go down into the sewers again?” Dunwich nodded, and Aiden opened the grate. “See ya around…”
This was far from everything that transpired, but I’ll save the rest for my next update. Until then, happy gaming!
I started a discussion about sexism in gaming yesterday on G+. People were generally polite, but it was on fire. I think it is a pretty hot topic at the moment, considering the #1reasonwhy trend and the fact that there’s a kickstarter for a documentary about the harassment of women in gaming.
After discussing it with other people, hearing them out, and actually changing my view on things, I came to an important realization; when I GM, I rarely have female NPC’s, and if they are there, they’re peripheral. This thought came to me after reading We have always fought, an article about how women are portrayed in the media, by Aidan Moher. It’s a really interesting read, I can highly recommend it.
In my “The Rise of Ri’leth” adventure, I had exactly one female NPC; Olive, the murdered girl. She was the only woman in the story. It’s strange, because it wasn’t even a choice I made, it wasn’t a conscious decision. Also, it’s maybe a bit much to even classify her as an NPC…
I feel guilty about this in a way. When women appear in my sessions, I victimize them. And I don’t even notice. It’s not something I do on purpose, but somehow that just makes it feel worse. I’ll have to think more about this when GM’ing.
This sounds like an odd name for a lesson learned, but it is in fact very fitting. I’m unsure as to how many people this will apply to, but it sure is something I have learned.
Even though I mostly GM, it is only recently that I’ve started playing Dungeon World. When you ask questions, then never expect the players to give you answers that you want to hear. Deal with it. Not all answers sound great when you get them, but lets face it; not everything you say as a GM is awesome either.
The really strange thing is that no matter what answer you get, it always seem like an awesome answer after the session. Falafael, the Fighter from my recently ended three-shot, had to explain where he had learned to cast spells. He answered in a mildly jesting tone that he had learned it in “elf high school”.
I knew that the game was not meant to be very seriously toned, we had discussed that prior to the game. Yet somehow this answer just seemed dumb when he gave it. After the session though, I realized I was just being elitist about the game, and I actually felt bad just for thinking it. It was a pretty fun answer, and it actually spoke volumes about his past. His character had formal education.
So when you feel that a player gives you a “dumb” answer, then deal with it. The player wouldn’t give it to you if he didn’t like it himself, and it isn’t just your game anyway; it belongs to the group.
I changed the names of two of my posts, mainly because they were boring. I hope this doesn’t annoy anyone, but “Lesson Learned X” was kind of dull.