Saturday, September 26, 2020

Take Watch is a bad move and you're a bad person if you like it

"Did you hear that? It sounds like... click bait!"

Strong personal opinion: Take Watch is a bad move. You don't need it. Dungeon World doesn't need it. I'd even go so far as to say that it is antithetical to the rest of the game.    

Just to be clear, I'm talking about the bog-standard version in the original Dungeon World text. This one:

When you’re on watch and something approaches the camp roll+Wis. * On a 10+ you’re able to wake the camp and prepare a response, the camp takes +1 forward. * On a 7–9 you react just a moment too late; the camp is awake but hasn’t had time to prepare. You have weapons and armor but little else. * On a miss whatever lurks outside the campfire’s light has the drop on you.

It breaks the usual flow of the game. It doesn't add much of anything to the fiction, and what it does add presumes more than it should about how any given PC will react in every situation. (A full explanation, and what to do instead, after the break.)

Saturday, July 4, 2020

My recipe for starting adventures

I've got a little process that I use whenever I start a game of Dungeon World or Homebrew World. It's similar to the first session procedure that's described in the book, but different in some key ways. I've found that this approach reliably kicks off a new game quickly and with a lot of energy, in a way that makes it pretty darn easy to run and improvise.  

Here's the recipe:
  1. Establish the adventure's premise with the group
      > Premise = a fantastic location + a grabby activity
      > Do this before anyone picks playbooks or makes characters

  2. Players create characters, GM writes/updates hook questions, which should establish:
      > Motive: why are they here, doing this?
      > Stakes: what's on the line, why is this important?
      > Urgency: why shouldn't they dawdle?
      > Dangers: what do they expect to face? what do they know about them?
      > Detail: what specifically are they hunting/seeking/fleeing/fighting/etc.?
    Complications: what's getting in the way? making it harder? constraining them?

  3. Do introductions (by name, pronouns, class, and look).
      > Do not do bonds (or in Homebrew World, background questions) just yet. 
      > You're just establishing who the characters are.
      > Yes, you can ask questions, but keep it light for now.

  4. Ask a few of your hook questions
      > Usually 1-3
      > Pick questions that elaborate on or clarify the premise
      > Address specific PCs, not the group at large
      > Ask follow-up questions; encourage the players to do so, too!

  5. Do bonds (or in Homebrew World, background questions)
      > Ask follow-up questions; encourage the players to do so, too!
      > Use this to establish how they know each other, why they're working together

  6. Finish asking your hook questions
      > Doing bonds/background questions often rolls naturally into this
      > Ask follow-up questions; encourage the players to do so, too!
      > Ask additional questions as they occur to you

  7. Frame the initial scene, tightly
      > Start in media res or at least right on the verge of action
      > Who, where, when, doing what?
      > Give up to 3 strong impressions, ideally from different senses
      > Make a soft GM move
      > "What do you do?"

That's the recipe!  More about the background, details, and suggested prep after the jump break.

I keep hearing good things about Delicious in Dungeon,
but haven't read it; just seemed appropriate, y'know? Cuz recipes.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Desafiando o Perigo

The coolness continues!

Frederico Fiori (a.k.a. /u/pidin on Reddit) translated Defying Danger into Brazilian Portuguese. As I speak no Portuguese, I can hardly comment on the quality of the translation, but the layout is slick!

I'm rather shocked that both this translation and Francesco's Italian one managed to make everything fit in basically the same space. I tend to fill my projects' layout to bursting, with lots of thought given to cutting words and making each line "fit." That's hard enough to do in English (o scavenger of words! o lexicographic bone-picker!), which often has a dozen ways to phrase any thought, many punchy and short. The romance languages always struck me as having longer, more flowing words and phrasing, so it impresses me to see translations of this game squeezed into the limited space.

Anyhow, here's the goods:

click for PDF

Frederico actually sent me this almost a month ago, so I feel bad for just now posting it. I'd like to blame the pandemic, but, really, I'm just sometimes a bit of flake.

Anyhow, I'm sure Frederico would love to hear about it if you use his translation. You can contact him on Reddit or via email at "hayako" at protonmail dot com.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Sfidando il Pericolo

Well this is all sorts of cool.

I got an email out of the blue from Francesco "Checco" Catenacci, who stumbled on my game Defying Danger and translated it into Italian.

Click to see it!

Francesco also pointed out a few typos and whatnot in my original draft, prompting me to update it. Nothing major, but the current version is now just a little better. Grazie Francesco!

If you use Francesco's work, I'm sure he'd love to hear about it. You can contact him at checco at tutanota dot com.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Running Fights in Dungeon World & Stonetop

I've been working on the GMing chapters for Stonetop, and recently finished the "Dangers" chapter. Part of that chapter is a section on "Using Monsters and Running Fights." It's a distillation of procedures, advice, and wisdom that you'll find floating around the Dungeon World community, but that isn't really specifically laid out in the DW text. 
If you've been GMing Dungeon World (or any of its hacks) for a while, you probably know all of this already. I'm mostly posting this for newer GMs, or those who've been running the game but still feel uncertain when fights break out.  
Some caveats:
  •  The Multiple Combatants and Abstracting Groups sections assume that you're using an updated version of the Follower rules originally presented in the Perilous Wilds. In Stonetop, Followers can make the same moves that PCs do (like Defy Danger or H&S), but the roll either +0, +1, or +2 depending on their tags and you might have to Order Followers to get them to do things.  Expect a future blog post on that!
  • You'll see references to GM principles, moves, and agenda items that are slightly different from those of core Dungeon World. I trust you can see the parallels. It definitely assumes that the GM move "Deal Damage" has been replaced with "Hurt Them" 
    Okay, let's do this. As always, questions and feedback are appreciated!

    Introducing Monsters

    Whenever it’s time to make a GM move, you can introduce a danger and put a monster in the scene.

    Don’t worry about your monsters being “fair fights” or “balanced encounters” or something that the PCs can even defeat. Worry about your monsters making sense. Portray a rich and mysterious world, right? If it makes sense for the PCs to stumble across a pair of (extremely dangerous) thunder drakes, go for it. Then play to find out what happens.

    Exactly how you introduce a monster will depend on the situation, the monster’s tags and qualities and moves, and the actions of the PCs. “Obvious” monsters encountered in a wide-open space will give the PCs plenty of opportunity to plan and react. Stealthy monsters in a dark, cluttered space while the PCs stumble around in torchlight? Not so much.
    The PCs are up in Gordin’s Delve trying to trade off some valuables they found in the Green Lord’s tomb. Rhianna’s off talking to a contact. Vahid, Caradoc, and Blodwen are at a pub. Caradoc and Blodwen get up to leave, and Vahid sees a couple of unsavory types get up and follow.
    Now, if these guys are just a pair of local miners that Caradoc managed to tick off, then I’ll introduce a danger and let the PCs see them coming. “About halfway back to your hostel, you realize that you’re being followed. It’s those guys from the pub and they look pissed. What do you do?” The PCs have all sorts of options—they might try to lose them, or set an ambush, or talk, or whatever. 
    But if these bad guys are stealthy cutthroats who regularly murder unwary travelers in alleys and loot their corpses, then I’ll be much more aggressive about it. I’ll start by hinting at more than meets the eye. “You find yourselves in a dark, empty little trash-strewn square, and everything’s quiet. Too quiet. You feel like you’re being watched. What do you do?” 
    Let’s say they Discern Realities, roll a 7-9, and ask, “What should I be on the lookout for?” I’d say “You’re pretty sure someone’s following you, or maybe circling ahead. And these alleys are a filled with good spots for an ambush. What do you do?” Whatever it is, they’ll be on guard. My next move will probably be to introduce a danger, but softly and with a chance to react. “As you pass a dark side-alley, two thugs rush out towards you, what do you do?” 
    But suppose they Discern Realities and get a 6-, or just ignore my veiled threat and blunder on. In that case, I’ll introduce a danger hard and painfully. “Caradoc, this guy comes out of a dark side-alley and snags your right arm, twists, and shoves you face-first into a wall. Take 1d8 damage. Blodwen, you see a second guy step forward, sneering, a glint of metal in his hand. What do you do?”

    These two guys follow you into an alley...
    (more after the jump-break)

    Thursday, February 27, 2020

    "Discern Realities" in Stonetop & Homebrew World

    Discern Realities is a move that is near and dear to my heart. It's one of my favorite moves, and I've written about it at length: I tried using that "make the question part of the trigger" approach to the move a couple times, but didn't really like how it worked in practice. Either the players had to keep the questions constantly in mind and intentionally ask them, or as the GM I had to keep them constantly in mind and watch for the players asking them. Also, a lot of my playbook moves add questions you can ask to Discern Realities "for free, even on a miss" and those don't jive well with the "ask first" approach.  
    So, for Stonetop and Homebrew World, I use Discern Realities as follows. It's quite similar to the original, the key differences being:
    • the trigger specifically includes "looking to the GM for insight"
    • both games use advantage/disadvantage instead of +1/-1 forward
    • "Who is control here?" has become "Who or what is in control here?" (with "their fear" or the like being legit answers)
    The accompanying text is the first draft of what I plan to put in the Stonetop book. It'll probably get cut down a little to fit on one spread, but this is the text that I wish I had when I first started learning to run Dungeon World. I hope you find it useful, too. 

    Discern Realities 

    When you closely study a situation or person and look to the GM for insight, roll +WIS: on a 10+, ask the GM 3 questions from the list below; on a 7-9, ask 1; either way, take advantage on your next move to act on the answers.
    •   What happened here recently?
    •   What is about to happen?
    •   What should I be on the lookout for?
    •   What here is useful or valuable to me?
    •   Who or what is really in control here?
    •   What here is not what it appears to be?

    Player: "Uh... what should I be on the lookout for?"
    GM: "Well, funny you should ask..."
    (image by Jakub Rozalski)

    Thursday, February 13, 2020

    Defying Danger, the RPG

    Here's a thing I made, as a bit of a distraction from working on Stonetop. It's a light-weight RPG, in the vein of World of Dungeons.

    click for current version

     The highlights:

    • There's only one "basic" move, Defying Danger. The usual 10+, 7-9, 6- framework. 
    • No stats (like, no STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, CHA).  Instead, you choose 2-3 ways of Defying Danger where you roll 3d6 and keep the best 2 dice. Any other time, you roll straight 2d6.  
    • Each class has an additional move, that indicates a thing they're generally better at.
      • warrior gets Hack & Slash
      • rogue gets Manipulate
      • The wizard can Get Answers 
    • Each class has a spendable resource (Mettle, Cunning, or Power) that lets them boost rolls or do cool stuff. Wizards, in particular, use this to cast spells. 
    • PCs don't have HP, per se. Harm is closer to Apocalypse World, but the players have a little more control over how, exactly, they get messed up.  
    • Gear is very similar to the system in Homebrew World, but even more simplified. 
    As of this posting, Defying Danger is a completely un-playtested game. I don't know if any of this actually works!  It's basically an idea that spawned from a conversation on the DW Discord--an idea that got lodged in my brain and now, a week later, here's a game. Enjoy!

    If you play this, please let me know how it goes. In the comments below, over in the DW Discord, or at jack underscore blackfoot at yahoo.

    EDIT to add