Archive | May 2013

Don’t hold back!

It’s a lot more fun to win despite adversity than through the sheer lack of it. That’s a very important lesson learned from playing with Eric and Bastien.

I see this question a lot of times on the net: “How much can I throw at my players in Dungeon World?” Short answer: All you’ve got!

Dungeon World really empowers the players, sometimes to a scale where the GM can feel a bit powerless. If they continue to roll well, they can more or less do whatever they want, as long as it does not contradict the fiction.

As the principles goes, we are supposed to be a fan of the characters. We are doing that by letting them be awesome. They are awesome when they win despite the odds, not because of them. Also, we should think dangerous but we shouldn’t limit it to thought.

Keeping a hand over the character only blocks their limelight. Think about your own campaigns; which moments were the most exiting? The ones where the players leveled armies without breaking a sweat? I’m guessing the answer to this question is a big resounding “no”.

In my last game I actually had a player roll Last Breath. Just telling a player to roll that made me shiver. I really wanted to make the roll meaningful, and if he had rolled a miss instead of a hit, I’d probably had let him be the one that toppled the tower over, sacrificing himself to save his reality. That would have been an epic ending, but I’m still glad both characters survived.

Without danger, adventure is meaningless. Don’t hold back, and give them all you’ve got! If you know that the characters will survive, then they are not really in danger.

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You can never ask too many questions!

I was tempted to word this lesson learned as “you can never ask enough questions”, but that might be stretching it a little. Some of my biggest “regrets” as a GM is that I don’t ask enough questions, as asking questions is to ask for player input.

There’s a principle called “ask questions and use the answers”, and I should really get better at following it.

During the second session in “The Rise of Ri’leth” adventure, Eric wanted his Fighter to multiclass for wizard spell casting. I figured that I would find a way for him to loot a spell book or something, as it is required for spell casting. This was a big mistake, one that I felt required retconning in the third session.

I failed to let him find a spell book, which I’m almost embarrassed about. I wasn’t a fan of his character when I didn’t give one to him. He bought the advanced move fair and square.

This could easily have been resolved in the beginning of the second session with one simple question: “How did you find that brand new spell book under your arm?” If I had done this, then I’d been a lot more proud of that session. Don’t get me wrong, the session was great, but it would really have made that session even better.

Another reason why asking questions might be important is that you sometime have an awesome idea for a hard move, but you are unsure whether or not your player will think it as awesome as you do. In the third session of the three-shot, Falafael the Fighter wanted to trip a cultist leader to prevent his escape. He rolled a miss of course, which he always does, and I got an idea; why not let the cultist leader fall onto his own blade, atop the alter, making him the last sacrifice in the ritual?

In my head, it just sounded so funny and so obvious, but I was afraid to do it since it might seem a little “railroady”. So I just said to Eric that I was tempted to do it, looking for confirmation that he thought it would be cool. He just told me to do it.

No matter what he answered, I would have learned something about what Eric wanted in the game, which really just made it a win-win question.

Asking questions is one of those things that just make this question so damn great. In more traditional games, I wouldn’t feel it was appropriate to do it. And even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to improvise so heavily as I do in DW. I’m not that confident in my ability to improvise entire encounters in D&D, or even World of Darkness, but in Dungeon World it’s a breeze for me.

So, lesson learned: Ask more questions! About everything!

Lessons learned, chances burned.

If you have tried Dungeon World, You will know that the gaming paradigm is slightly different from more traditional games. After GMing it six times, there’s a lot of stuff that I’ve learned and I want to share that.

In the future, these “lessons learned” will be posted under the category of the same name. It will make it easier for both you and myself to browse for them in the future.

And now, the conclusion!

The third session of the three-shot ended this Tuesday, and it had one of the most epic and gut wrenching endings I have experienced in my 9 years of role-playing. At one point I started to sweat a little, and not because of the room temperature…

Cathing up

The second session ended with a not-quite-so invisible fighter, Falafael, and a Druid that couldn’t see because he was currently a bat with terrible eyesight. They had just escaped a room in the dungeon, where they’d been trapped for about 24 hours because of a cave-in.

Prior to the third session, I spoke with Eric, the player of Falafael, because I had regrets about not giving him access to a spell book. His first advanced move was Multiclass Dabbler and he chose the Wizards spellcasting moves. I felt bad for letting him play for an entire session without getting to use those moves because of my mistakes, so we decided to retcon a little. We agreed that he had found a spell book in the caved-in room, where they had beheaded a cultist and taken three others as prisoners.

Behind the scenes

The other cultists knew they were captured in the caved in room, because they hadn’t returned to Threebridges. They could verify this because of their spies in the town. So, now that the meddlesome heroes were out of the way, they kidnapped some townsfolk to sacrifice in an evil ritual to open the prison of their wicked god.

What happened…

Sinathel flew into the next chamber in the caverns, silently using the bat’s echolocation ability to get a rough estimate of how many people were in there. There was a lot of activity in there, and he flew back to Falafael to report. He reverted to elven form, only to discover that Falafael was not invisible, which Falafael was unaware of.

Falafael decided to cast the invisibility spell again and went into the room to spy on the cultists. They were in the midst of a ritual of sorts, chanting around an alter on which a human was bound and gagged and stripped of all clothes, except for a loin cloth. There were three similar victims lying dangerously near to some owlbear cages.

There was a large stone seal, held firmly in place by two statues resembling armored warriors. On the seal was an etching of a large birds skull. One of the cultists was obviously leading the ritual and was now brandishing a large curved blade, about to cut the throat of guy on the alter.

Falafael sneaks back to Sinathel and explains what he has learned, and they immediately run in to stop the foul ritual. Sinathel readies his sling while Falafael sneaks into the room, carrying his axe. One of the cultists is hit in the back of the head by Sinathels pellet, sending him sprawling to the ground. Falafael drops his invisibility and casts a Magic Missile at the cult leader, severely damaging him.

Surprised, the tree other cultists draw their weapons and heads off to kill Sinathel, while their leader heads off to release the owlbears.

Sinathel asks a favor of an earth spirit to crush his enemies, but it demands that he must pay it in kind by returning to it a precious gem, which he will know when he finds it. It then proceed to shape the cavern wall into a giant stony fist, which knocks two cultists into the opposite wall, killing one of them. It then grabs a third and crushes him to death in a symphony of shattering bones.

Falafael tries to stop the leader, but the cultist hit by the sling gets to his feet an tackles him, knocking away his weapon. The leader lets an owlbear loose, which the charges in to maim Falafael. The cultist picks up the axe, to which Falafael responds; “That axe carries the spirit of my father. It cannot hurt me!”. He then turns around to face off with the owlbear.

Amazingly, Falafael was right, the cultist did not succeed at hurting Falafael, even though he hit him twice in the back. In the end, Falafael wrestled the weapon from him and killed him, and in the mean time Sinathel tricked the other remaining cultist into the stone hand, but in the struggle, the cultist snagged Sinathels sling, which was then destroyed alongside the cultist.

Sinathel asked a flame spirit to burn the owlbear and the cultist leader, who in the had gone back to kill the terrified man on the altar. The fire spirit complied but in its desire for destruction, it consumed the body of the victim on the alter. Now burning, the owlbear went into a panicked rage, while the cult leader threw himself back, rolling wildly and ripped off his clothes to escape the fire.

As the man on the alter died, a bluish vapor escaped his mouth and nostrils, which was then pulled into one of the statues. It then let go of the seal on the cavern wall, drew its weapon and then stood dormant to the side of the seal.

Sinathel went to Falafael aid, but was hit square in the back of his head by the owlbear, resulting in a light skull fracture and a concussion. He was flung onto the alter in the process, barely conscious.

The cultist leader got to his feet and leaped at Sinathel with his blade drawn, intent on making Sinathel the final sacrifice. Valorously, Falafael leaped onto the alter, defending his friend from such a vile end. He fought them off, and after awhile Sinathel regained consciousness, and transformed into a mudgoose, and flew out the dungeon.

The owlbear was finally killed by the flames, and Falafael cornered the cultist leader, while standing in between him and the alter. He tried to persuade the cult leader into surrendering, but he tried to flee, unwilling to surrender. Unfortunately, Falafael made an unlucky trip with his axe, which resulted in the cult leader falling onto his own blade, right atop the alter.

He died with a smile on his face, an omen that something had gone terribly wrong. As before, blue vapors escaped the cult leaders mouth and nostrils, and it was pulled into the second statue. The statue let go of the seal, which toppled over, opening up a passageway.

An infernal laughter echoed through the caverns, and tremors were felt throughout the dungeon. Falafael decided to act quickly, freeing the three remaining townsfolk and fled the dungeon. Inside the ruined tower above, Sinathel sat and rested. Falafael tended to his wounds, and told the townsfolk to run back to town.

Clicks and clacking was heard, and both of them stepped out of the ruins, only to see that the tower was reassembling, pulling the stones strewn around the ground into a coherent form, brandishing seven huge stone teeth around the top. As it finished reassembling, a large portal opened at the top, looking like a crack in the air, ripping reality apart.

Falafael fell to his knees, pulling forth his axe and asked for guidance. The spirit of his father stepped out of the weapon, telling him that he must not falter. If the portal was not sealed, doom would befall this world. As the spirit disappeared, demonic entities shaped like humanoid vultures sprung out of the gate.

Sinathel recognized that the portal must have drawn power from the teeth, as he knew of a forbidden druidic ritual, where you drew power from the teeth of slaughtered predators. Falafael cast a spell, forming a telepathic bond between them, and they ran into the now 50 meter high tower, intent on closing the portal at all cost.

The new floor above the armory was merely a huge spiral staircase, running along the walls of the tower. As they climbed the stars, three vulture demons ran down towards them, screaming in an tongue unfit for mortal ears. Sinathel grabbed a large warhammer from the armory and transformed into a crow, intending to destroying the stone teeth at the top, while Falafael would buy him some time by facing off with the demons. He smacked them all out over the staircase in one heavy sweep, and ran to Sinathels side.

A fourth demon was awaiting them and the top, and the three others flew up to help it defend the portal. Sinathel bobbed and weaved to avoid the blows from the demons while trying to smash asunder the stone teeth. Falafael tried to defend him at the same time, but after receiving serious injuries, they switched roles.

One tooth was left standing when a demon tackled Sinathel, throwing them both out over the tower, while Falafael was impaled and killed by the last demon, just as he ripped it in half with his axe, turning it into fire and ash as it died.

As the world darkened, Falafael caught a glimpse of the Black Gates of Death, seeing a giant birdlike demon, also resembling a vulture, encased in a giant crystal. It screamed furiously, calling at its minions to free it. The spirit of Falafaels father appeared beside him, telling him that he was not yet worthy of entering the halls of the great heroes of old. He forced Falafaels spirit back into his pierced body, robbing Death of what was rightfully his.

While plummeting to the ground, Sinathel transformed into a Warrior Eagle, the largest predator bird of the Great Forest, fighting the last demon. The demon hacked and him, striking him with a powerful kick that made Sinathel lose the grasp on the bird spirit. He fell to the ground and broke his left ankle.

The demon came at him once more, and Sinathel went into a deadly melee with it, and murdered it while sustaining a brutal blow. Battered and weak, he climbed the 50 meter tall tower on one foot, leaning to his shillelagh. He saw Falafael lying on the ground, just faintly breathing. He picked up his axe and destroyed the last tooth.

The portal closed, and a foul scream of the purest hatred resounded from the caverns below. The tower started to shake, and Sinathel transformed into the shape of a Warrior Eagle once more. As he did, the tower collapsed underneath him, sending Falafael to his death, but in a fast swoop, Sinathel grabs him by the legs, barely before hitting the ground.

He carried Falafael back to Threebridges, were the returned townsfolk had been alerted the town about the cultists, which had then been captured and thrown in jail. After three days, Falafael awoke from his coma, and the villagers praised them as heroes, throwing a celebration in their honor.

This is the third and last session of the “The Rise of Ri’leth” adventure. The write up for the first session can be found here, and the write up for the second session can be found here.

The Rise of Ri’leth

The session ended yesterday with a bang, and since the story was concluded, I’ll post my fronts here as promised, along with a nifty monster I made that the players luckily avoided.

Adventure Front: The Rise of Ri’leth

A mysterious cult is attempting to free their long forgotten god from his eternal prison.

Cast

  • Dunstan, the mayor of Threebridges
  • Madwich, the cult leader
  • Ri’leth, the vulture demon prince

Stakes

  • Can Ri’leth be permanently banished?
  • What did Olive, the mayors daughter, find out that got her killed?

Danger: The Cult of Ri’leth

Impulse: To free their god
Grim Portents

  • Madwich creates more abominations
  • The cult prepares the ritual
  • Human sacrifices are made

Impending Doom: The prison is opened.

Danger: Ri’leth, the vulture demon prince

Impulse: To escape his prison
Grim Portents

  • An otherworldly portal opens
  • Demons spill through
  • The seal is broken>/li>

Impending Doom: Ri’leth is let loose upon the world once more.

Comments on the front

The trouble with publishing fronts is that they are filled with innuendo. My players would probably understand almost everything I’ve written above, but an “outsider” would probably not understand the meaning of a lot of it.

“The seal is broken” made sense in the fiction (and I’m pretty sure that my players are aware that it happened), but it doesn’t make much sense out of context. I’ll make a session report later. Hopefully it will make the intend behind most of it clear.

Ri’leth, the Demon Prince

This is the stats on Ri’leth. I made them in case he’d escape, which luckily didn’t happen. His moves are evil, one of them horribly detrimental, and he just has a lot of those nasty tags.

Instead of fumbling around with HTML code, I’ll just post a link to the Dungeon World Codex entry: Ri’leth, the Demon Prince of Chaos!

Final finishes to my fronts

I revised my fronts made for the three-shot (it keeps escalating, I know…). It seemed that I had a minor misunderstanding of how it worked.

I thought that the grim portents were tied to all the dangers, not that the dangers had their own grim portents. I don’t know how I got that mixed up, but it certainly explains why the book suggests making┬áso few.

I hope we get done today (No Eric and Bastien, I’m not trying to get rid of you), if only because I’ve learned a lot about GMing for Bastien and Eric, and I really want to run more one-shots over hangouts, where I use this newly acquired wisdom. Actual one-shots, not these drawn-out pseudo-campaigns.

I plan to make a post containing all the things I’ve learned from this “campaign”, as soon as it is done. If they don’t stop the cult tonight, I’m very tempted to make a “rock falls” on them. Seriously, I’ve been a big softie so far. Time to show them some real steel.

So, Dungeon Morphs…

It seems my idea about using coasters isn’t that original. At least not if you take a look at Dungeon Morphs. First this was a bit of a letdown for me, I really thought I was quite brilliant for a few days.

Now that the slight disappointment has passed, I see that I can use this to my advantage; I no longer have to make the cards, and can just start writing the adventure!

The idea will be modified a bit for this purpose; the Dungeon Morphs (all 90 of them, wauw) will be shuffled, and every time a Morph card is left, a new one will be drawn and placed in extension. There will now be rolled dice to decide which encounter is met.

The mechanic will be simple; you roll a die, maybe a d8, I don’t know yet, and take the d8’th unmet encounter on the list, marking it off. This is what is encountered on this Morph card. When you roll higher than the amount of remaining encounters, simply take the highest.

In this way, the dragon will be placed lowest on the list, and the longer the list is, the “deeper” the dungeon will become. Having more encounters on the list than the sides of the die also ensures that there will be some encounters prior to the dragon.

How do you people like this spin? I was also thinking about using my coasters to write the encounters upon, and pseudo randomizing those.