Archive | July 2013

Bracers with an edge

It has been declared Thief Week on the Dungeon World Tavern, the DW community on G+, and in that light, I’m converting a magic item from 4th Edition D&D to Dungeon World.

Bracers of Infinite Daggers

This pair of magical bracers carry the sigil of the moon and looks inconspicuous at a glance, but a closer look reveals a hidden compartment in each, sporting the hilt of a dagger. These daggers can be pulled out and used as weapons, and they are balanced as throwing weapons. It carries a lot of daggers, a new hilt appearing every time you pull one of them. It eventually runs dry, but it replenishes itself at every moon rise.

When you roll a 7-9 result on a volley, you may mark ammo instead of choosing the other options, even though you are using a thrown weapon.

When you’ve marked of all the ammo, no new daggers can be pulled out until the next moon rise. At every moon rise, the bracers regain 1 ammo to a maximum of 2.

Tags: Weight 1, Ammo 2.


Of Wing and Tide

This is a Compendium Class I promised Tim Franzke on G+ to do a week or two ago. Sorry for the wait buddy!

The intend of this Compendium Class is to mimic Talrand, a merfolk “sky summoner” from the Magic: the Gathering card game:

TalrandSkySummoner_M13_1920x1080_WallpaperExcept for the names of the moves, which we sort of decided upon together, I got a pretty free reign.

Summoner of Sky and Sea

When you have received the blessing of The Water Wyrm, the next time you gain a level you can choose this move instead of a move from your class:

Serpents of the Sky
When you are in danger and call to the skies for aid, roll+INT. *On a hit , a Drake Hireling, with Warrior 1 and large enough to carry a rider, comes to your aid. *On a 10+, it has Warrior 2 instead. *On a miss you still get one in addition to whatever the GM says. They leave when their services are no longer needed.

After you have taken the Serpents of the Sky move, the following moves count as advanced class moves for you and may be taken upon level-up:

Trident of Salt
When you call upon the power of salt, a trident made entirely out of salt appears in your hand. It has reach. roll+INT. *On a 10+, choose 2 from the list below. *On a 7-9, choose 1.

  • You avoid paying the price of the Sea.
  • It deals +2 damage.
  • It has the mystic tag.

When the trident leaves your hand, it crumbles and disappears.

The mystic tag means that you add your INT when rolling for Hack & Slash instead of STR.

Master of Tides
A fast, black frigate obeys your every command. You can call it forth in any larger body of salt water, and it will descent to the depths again at your whim. It needs no crew to operate, but it has a captain’s cabin and hammocks for 20 crew members. It also sports a cargo bay that can support 2000 weight of cargo. Once it descents, any remaining cargo is lost to the sea, along with all the unfortunate guests still on or below deck.

Release the Kraken
When you _take on the form of the octopus_, roll+INT. ✴On a 10+ hold 3. ✴On a 7–9 hold 2. ✴On a miss hold 1 in addition to whatever the GM says.
You gain all physical qualities of a giant octopus and gain the large tag, though your stats do not change. Once you’re out of hold, you return to your natural form. At any time, you may spend all your hold and revert to your natural form. You can spend your hold one for one to make the moves below:

  • Pin someone down.
  • Move something heavy.
  • Spray ink.
  • Hide with camouflage.

Perhaps my best “hard choice” to date

Eric and Bastien asked me if we could play again. Naturally I said yes, as I wanted to see what would become of Falafael the Fighter and Sinathel the Druid.

I’m not going to make a long breakdown of that session. Instead I’ll share the results of a miss that really changed how the session went about.

They were undertaking a perilous journey through the Blue Mountains, and Falafael had only just enough rations for the 5 day trip. Sinathel was the Scout, as per the move, and Falafael was the Trailblazer. Falafael rolled a miss on his roll+WIS, and for once I decided not to externalize the trouble, since Eric is pretty happy with having a pretty stupid elf with a wisdom of 8. So, they got lost.

Sinathel shapeshifted into bird form, scouting the area for a way to Khaz-Nog-Drach, the dwarven city they were heading to. He rolled a partial, so I gave him an ugly choice; they could backtrack, adding two days to their travel total, or they could get there within a day by taking a shortcut through a mountain pass just ahead. The catch was that there was a 10 meter tall Mountain Giant slumbering there.

The decided that adding two days to their journey was too risky, as they would be relying on finding food along the way for Falafael. Besides, the Giant only really posed a threat for Falafael, since Sinathel could just fly over.

All in all, getting lost was a problem almost exclusively to Falafael, which wasn’t that bad considering he was the one rolling the miss. So the rest of the session was more or less about how to avoid a confrontation with a Mountain Giant, which they of course did not succeed at. The did take the fellow down though in a pretty awesome fight.

My journey as a GM

I had played a lot of different RPG’s before I encountered Dungeon World, and I really mean a lot. The reason I picked up Dungeon World in the first place was that it was mentioned some random place on the internet, a place I found because I was looking for a new group. I looked it up and saw that it had won the 2012 Golden Geek award, and then decided to buy it, just to see what the fuzz was all about.

I hadn’t played regularly for almost a year, so I bought it with no actual intent of ever playing it, but when I read it, I was hooked. I couldn’t say what it actually was that made this game seem like the holy grail to me at the time, but I can now.

In fact, it has nothing to do with the game itself, even though it is an excellent game in its own right. It was the spirit of the game, the endless enthusiasm it inspired, and the wonders it promised. It was the new paradigm. Well, new to me at least. I’ll get back to the paradigm later…

I have learned more about the art of GM’ing in the year I’ve known about Dungeon World than in my 9 other years of gaming combined. More precisely, I’ve learned what I think makes for a great game, one you will remember and hold dear forever.

What makes a game great?

So, I read through Dungeon World, paying close attention to the Move mechanics, because mechanics is what makes a game, right? Wrong! Wrong, wrong, wrong! Well, that was my first lesson; a game is so much more than its rules. And setting for that matter; the setting is just another set of rules, a kind of a context for rules, the assumptions about what the game tries to make work.

I learned that for me, the most important part of a game is how it enables and amplifies the social aspects of gaming; how it handles player input, how it lets the group tell a story that no member could tell on their own, and how it allows people to utilize the rules for the enjoyment of the group, instead of assuming that we should “ignore them when they get in the way”. Dungeon World was very upfront about this; if you don’t play by our rules, the game will probably not work as intended. It’s cool and all, but all warranties expire immediately.

Moves are central here. A player’s moves are a kind of leverage. They can be used to make an irreversible impact on the game, and there’s no fail-safes; the GM doesn’t have the authority that other games assume, he can’t veto something just because he doesn’t like it. For example, when a player discerns realities, then the answers the GM gives them is true and cannot later be altered, only added upon. This makes it really hard to keep the players in the dark about things, since they cannot be denied the roll to discover the information. If a move is triggered, it happens, no matter how many tears that are shed by the GM.

What I’ve learned from actual play is that the GM is just as much along for the ride as everyone else. Sure, the GM Moves are a lot more ambiguous and open-ended, but he has no authority over anything except “narrating in the moment”, telling players what they experience now. He is not allowed to actually decide anything else about the characters, unless a move explicitly says so.

The new gaming paradigm…

… is called “inclusion”. I always hated prepping, and Dungeon World gave me a very easy way to avoid making the prep that I didn’t want to do; it gave me a list of principles to follow, two of them being ask and build on the answers and draw maps, leave blanks. The game actually tells me to prepare less and ask questions whenever you are out of ideas! It tells me to say “yes, and…” to everything the players give me.

This makes games a lot more improvised, pushing it in the direction of “play” in contrast to “work”, as I felt Dungeons & Dragons always did. I GM’ed a game of D&D 4th Edition for one and a half year, I think, and the burden of being GM was tremendous for me. I couldn’t make up monsters on the fly, there were too many stats for that. I had to work out encounters prior to the game, which meant that I either forced encounters upon players, or made an enormous amount of prep that would never be used. In other words; work, work, work. And it was a mediocre experience, it wasn’t personal.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t think D&D is bad, I just never ‘got’ how to GM it properly. Sadly though, I did it exactly the same way everyone else in my local gaming community did it; heavy railroading.

So the new gaming paradigm is all about “sharing the load” and letting everyone be equal participants. This was a huge, new thing to me. I always wanted it, but I never had the ability to formulate the wish. So, this is a thing that Dungeon World actually taught me; to go along with what everyone else did, even if it wasn’t what I would have done. They make something up, I build upon it. Yeah, it sounds bad saying it like that, but it’s successful GM’ing in a nutshell; let everyone contribute equally.

Where I went from there

I picked up a lot of really nontraditional games like Microscope, Fate Core, Fate Accelerated Edition, and recently I bought Fiasco, though I haven’t finished reading it yet. I also backed Kingdom because I thought Microscope was brilliant, and the elevator pitch for Kingdom was great.

All these games has one thing in common; they rely on building upon what other players give you, making something together that you couldn’t have made yourself. Fate might be the more traditional of the above, but it’s still not exactly a traditional game. It is very discussion based, the GM hasn’t really got any authority about the characters, and he hasn’t got any more authority about the setting than the players do, which is very nontraditional.

I also read a book about improvised roleplaying called play unsafe, and it taught me a lot about how to deal with this very upon-ended kind of play; how to start the game out, how to build on other people’s ideas and how to work together to make something truly great.

Where I am now

I’ve gotten to the point, where I’m comfortable running games without preparing anything, and I feel that the feedback from the games I’ve run have been a lot more positive for it. I’ve also become aware of what I like about roleplaying in general, and the mindsets that I’m looking for in other players.

I’ve also learned that making bad calls is okay, and everything can be taking back or mended. It’s not about making a masterpiece after all, it’s about having fun. And screwing with the players (and the GM) is as fun as it gets. Oh, how I love when a player totally screws with me, when he throws me a curve ball…

Where I’m heading

I don’t actually know where I’m going. Hopefully, I’ll get a real world group going and play some more Dungeon World. In person games are a lot more personal, and I’ve been going too long without that weekly game. Hopefully, I can find a group that wants the same things that I do, but alas, most gamers I know are of a very traditional breed. I’ll just have to sell it to them!

All I know is that I’ve become a much better GM over the last year, and I’d even dare to say that I’ve come very close to the GM I want to be; the one that rolls with whatever the players do, the one that tries to give everyone a chance to have an awesome character, one that actively work to include everyone equally. I’m not perfect, but I do try. At least I know what I would want in a GM, and I know how to do be that kind of GM.

The last year has been a journey in gaming for me, and I’ve learned a lot. I hope you have learned something from this as well. Thanks for reading!