Aftermath of Bard Week

During Bard Week I created six compendium classes of varying quality, each representing a different kind of performance. The concept was that the entry move should be a boost to Arcane Performance, and the rest should just be related to the type of performance, even if only vaguely.

The compendium classes are, in order of creation:

  1. The Wardancer
  2. The Rhymer
  3. The Godsinger
  4. The Bongó el Monte
  5. The Alpine
  6. The Headbanger

Formatting style is ruthlessly stolen from Tim Franzke, the guy who normally makes all the compendium classes. You should check his content out as well! You can find it here. Don’t forget to bookmark!

If you are going to use any of them in a game, or already does, then give me a message and tell me how it plays!

Celebrating Bard Week!

So, yesterday Bard Week started on The Dungeon World Tavern over on Google+. In honor of that, I have made a compendium class for Bards who include breakdancing in their Arcane Performances. You can see it below, but first I’d like you to see this on air hangout I participated in as a kickoff for Bard Week along side Tim Franzke (the host) and Joe Banner! We discussed the class in depth, both the fiction and the moves!

Athosian Wardancer

When you have been tutored in the secrets of the wardancer, you may take this move the next time you level:

Dazzling Wardance
When you make the dance of war as a part of your arcane performance, on a hit you can move between foes without endangering yourself and you get +1 hold next time you defend in this battle.

Once you’ve taken “Dazzling Wardance,” the following moves count as class moves for you. In addition to your normal list of moves, you may choose from this list when you gain a level.

Air Flares
When you make the “air flares” dance move roll+CON. On a 10+ you can briefly fly and can carry a nearby ally into an advantageous position. Your GM will give you a choice between two such positions. On a 7-9 you also get slightly dazed and take -1 forward as you vision keeps spinning for a while.

The Windmill
When you make the “windmills” dance move roll+CON. On a 10+ you create a wave of repulsion that will blow back any enemies at close range. On a 7-9 it goes out of control and you blow away all allies as well.

Street Cred
Your mad dancing skills attract all the b-boys and flygirls in town. When you make a street performance showcasing your latest and most difficult moves roll+CHA. On a hit you attract a group of fans. On a 7-9 they can introduce you to some useful and influential people in the city’s underground. On a 10+ one of the fans has some influence in the city’s underground milieu and is willing to pull some strings for you.

The inspiration for the windmill and air flares was harvested for this neat site, so check it out! It’s a list of the 25 craziest breakdancing moves that’ll be pretty awesome to see even if you don’t normally have any interest in breakdancing.

Back to the tavern…

If you care to celebrate bard week with us, then join us on the tavern! I have a vote going about what other Compendium Classes I should make, so come on in and join the party!

A Matter of Choice

I read a post on a GM’ing community about choices in RPG’s. It was inspired by an episode of Extra Credits with the same theme. If you haven’t seen it, you can see it right here. There’s more videos in this EC series, but the link directs to the first one.

Meaningful choices in RPG’s is kind of a pet peeve for me. Choices are important, because it is the thing that makes our medium relevant. We can make choices and make reasonable assertions about the consequences, but a computer game can’t. A computer game is scripted. When playing an RPG our choices are limitless, because we can improvise.

The beautiful thing about choices in an RPG is that we can make them about literally anything! It is not only about how to solve a problem, but which problems to solve, which conflicts to engage in, what to say to people you meet, literally anything that can affect the situation at hand or future events in the game world.

That is a thing I truly love about RPG’s, and it is why we can play the exact same scenario with two different groups and have two extremely different outcomes. It is also why I dislike railroading, because railroading is all about removing meaningful choices in order to script the future.

To me, RPG’s are not at all about problem solving. They are about meaningful choices and how they affect the fiction in ways you can’t possibly foresee. It’s beautiful, really.

A few Principles more

This is the final installment on my series of posts devoted to the Agenda and the Principles. I know it’s a long time since the last entry, but we just moved and it took a week and a half to get our Internet up and running.

The Principles I will go over today are be a fan of the characters, think dangerous, begin and end with the fiction and think offscreen too.

Be a fan of the characters

I’ve played role-playing games for about 10 years now, and the worst GM’s that I’ve had were the ones that weren’t fans of the characters. I think this is the single most important Principle in the game, and it is an important notion in most other RPG’s as well.

Being a fan of the characters is pretty simple, because it is all about putting spotlight on them. Every kind of positive spotlight is great; giving the character a challenge that play to his strengths so that they can “show off”, or making that character important by in some way letting them have a significant impact on the setting. Everything is great!

The one thing you absolutely must not do is to hold their hands. In action heavy games, you really have to push the heroes to their limits. We want to win despite the odds, not because of the odds, because that’s what heroes do.

All this doesn’t mean that the heroes should never fail, on the contrary. As the book says on the subject: “Cheer for their victories and lament their defeats.” Even heroes fail sometimes. The possibility of failure makes the game all the more exciting!

This also a call-out to all the GM’s who uses GMPC’s. Having recurring NPC’s are fine, but we are here to see what the character’s are doing, not what the NPC’s does.

Think dangerous

As I said, we want to see the characters win despite the odds, not because of the odds. Dungeon World is a game of high adventure, about exploring the most dangerous parts of the world.

Put the characters in some dangerous situations. If it doesn’t threaten their lives in some way, it is probably not meant to be the focus of a game like Dungeon World.

This is one of the things I really suck at. I’ve pulled it off a few times, but I’m pretty much a soft GM. I really want to see them win, and because of it, I some times don’t push things as far as I really should. My experience is that the game is way more interesting when the party is struggling for their lives.

It shouldn’t always be life-threatening, but if you have a four hour session without a life-or-death situation, my experience is that the game will neither be entertaining nor memorable. YMMV.

Begin and end with the fiction

Every move in the book follow this procedure; trigger happens in fiction, move takes over, effects narrated in fiction. When we say “begin and end with the fiction”, but what is meant is best explained by an example. Which of the following sounds most interesting?

  • The orc deals 6 damage.
  • The orc slashes your arm. You take 6 damage. The wound is pretty deep, and it starts bleeding quite bad.

I really hope you think the second one. The reason this Principle is important is because of the paradigm of Dungeon World: All mechanical effects are triggered by and impacts the fiction.

The example about the orc conforms to this. The orc slashes your arm, which triggers the mechanical effect of dealing damage, which then impacts the fiction by mangling your arm. You can’t slash someones arm and deal damage without any fictional consequences. That just wouldn’t make “sense”.

Think offscreen too

Sometimes you will know things before the players do, and things can happen when the characters are elsewhere. When you make your move, it might be better to make it somewhere else than where the characters are now. Remember to foreshadow this though; this is a good time to use the reveal an unwelcome truth or show signs of an approaching threat.

This Principle is important because helps you portray a dynamic world; things happen even though the players aren’t there. The most simple way to use this is to point out small (or even big) changes in an environment the players return to, like a village or just a room in a dungeon.

It doesn’t take much effort really. The hardest part is to remember actually doing it. Once that is solidly drilled into your skull, this Principle can really make that game world come alive!

What is a Roleplaying Game?

What is a Roleplaying Game?.

This game is brilliant! I’m going to try this as soon as I can!

A fistful of Principles

It’s time to go over the next four Principles. Today I’ll talk about never speak the name of your move, give every monster life, name every person and ask questions and use the answers.

Never speak the name of your move

This Principle is all about making the game seem real, and it can be readily applied to any other game. If you have a Thief scaling a wall and he rolls poorly, then say what happens, not which move you invoke. Don’t say “I’ll reveal an unwelcome truth here. You can hear the rope creaking, and you only have a moment to catch yourself before falling to your death.”

Reminding players that you are invoking a rule doesn’t help you portray a fantastic world, only an artificial one. Say what happens, not which rule you invoke. It sounds so logical when you say it, but I really never thought of it before this Principle explicitly instructed me not to do it.

Give every monster life…

… unless it’s undead. Pun aside, this Principle is pretty important if you wish to avoid the “hacking at a block of HP” trope. No one likes boring monsters, and the only boring monsters out there are those that feels like just like another “bunch of rules with graphics”.

“The monster moves four squares, avoids your attack of opportunity, and uses its Gore attack on the wizard”. I’ve made these descriptions so many times that I’m almost embarrassed for saying it. That is not a real “monster”, that is just gaming jargon and die rolls.

A great monster does things in the fiction, and then the rules kick in. In my experience, this will make the monster feel more alive and a lot more intimidating for that matter.

“The monster runs by you, keeping its distance by running in a great arch. As it is clear of your reach, it takes up speed in an attempt to smash into the wizard.” I don’t know about you, but actually saying what the monster does is way better in my opinion. If the players ask, you can always explain the rules then.

I really wish I thought about this when running my D&D campaign a few years ago. That campaign was really just a series of tactical encounters, and the reason for this was the heavy focus on the rules from my end. Well, you grow and learn, right?

Name every person

This is actually pretty hard to do, at least it requires conscious effort from me. Furthermore, it shouldn’t be taken literally. Walking down a market square, don’t give the players the name of everyone they see, but do name everyone they interact with. At least if learning their names through this interaction is plausible.

I’ve found that this has a tendency to spawn some really interesting NPC’s, and they will populate your world making it feel more alive. Players shouldn’t go down to “the blacksmith”, they should go down to “Galdruf Goldfist”, or whatever naming convention you follow for dwarfs.

Players stop saying “we find a blacksmith” and start saying “we go down to Galdruf” instead. This just feels so good, and it requires absolutely no effort. Unless you are bad at coming up with names of course, but this is easily solved with a random names generator.

Try it out and feel the difference! It can’t really see how it can make the game worse, but it has a huge potential to give life to the game world.

Ask questions and use the answers

Not only is this a great way to make players more involved, but it is also the closest thing to “GM cheat codes” that I’ve ever known. This Principle instructs us to ask the players for input, when whatever they answer can be important.

A good example can be when a player goes out to buy ingredients for a potion or something like that, then you can ask him questions like “who do you usually buy this from?”, giving that player a chance to tell you something new and important about the setting.

An even better example that really emphasizes why I call it a “cheat code” would be to use this whenever the players ask you a question that you don’t know the answer to. So, when the players ask you “is there a mage guild or something like that in this city?” then you can turn that around with “I don’t know, is there?”.

Of course, they’ll answer in the affirmative, or give you something similar. They needed it after all, hence why they asked. This great because it allows you to ask all sorts of questions about it, letting the players fill in a lot of blanks in the setting! “How old is it?”, “when did you visit it last?”, “what has changed since then?”, “who leads it?”, “who do you know there?”. All these questions expand on the setting, and tie the character to it!

GM’ing the World – First Sessions

We just rounded off the first panel on GM’ing Dungeon World. This time we focused on First Sessions, and we plan on going over Prep & Fronts the next time.