My first Dungeon World campaign

I just finished my first adventure running Dungeon World. It was a relatively brief set of sessions, maybe 8 altogether over three months, because two of the players just moved away to go to grad school. Overall I really enjoyed it and I look forward to playing more.

It’s very different from running D&D or Pathfinder, even if there’s a lot of cultural homage to them. The stats and the character generation are pure old-school D&D; they feel like Basic, which I ran a few years ago. But the action is all Apocalypse World, all D6, and the DM almost never rolls. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I never needed much in the way of battlemat, at most just a quick sketch of relative positions when the party got ambushed by kobolds.

On the one hand, how the rules work, and how you’re encouraged to work them, are great for improving at improvisation. And that’s something I could definitely get better at. More than that, it’s a lot of fun, because it WANTS you to do something even more crazy.

On the other hand, I never really felt confident about starting any particular monster encounter. Maybe this was because 90% of this game was wilderness; I think it could work better in a purely dungeon environment. The final night of play felt strongest strategically, but I don’t know how much was me developing new ways of organizing, and how much was being in a dungeon. But it still feels like an awkward aspect of the rules.

I love the collaboration with players in fleshing out a world. I had a rough idea of a place, based on some old game ideas I’ve played with before, but being able to ask the players about where their characters came from etc gave me new ideas that I ran with later on. I hope that I get to keep running a game with the players who have not moved, so that I can use some of the ideas that never got touched on.

As a GM (and busy person) it was pretty great to be a light hand on prep; it was weird to be told by the rule book NOT to have a scenario all ready to go, but I was happy to oblige. I think going forward I’d to put a bit more time in between sessions; by the last game I had started to play with some ideas using cards as an ad hoc flow chart, and I also had a lightly annotated dungeon sketch.

Totally separate from the game system, having gotten into drawing was great for my game. I drew some landscape-style drawings of the dungeon’s surroundings and of the town that the party visited. I also used some specific techniques from class: a nice section drawing of the dungeon, and a conceptual plan of both the town and the temple (of Flufhe). (The conceptual plans helped me prep for drawing the landscape, even!) Plus a perspective sketch of a location, which I initially drew for my own amusement but ended up using in play.

Also separate from system: I played with people I’d never played with before, who mostly hadn’t played together. And it worked! The people who initially asked me to DM wanted to play D&D but were game to try Dungeon World, which I really appreciate, and when their friend fell through, were happy to let me recruit other people. The play styles meshed well, I think, and I always enjoy playing RPGs with people who are willing to be totally absurd while also in character. I was just sad that Justin wasn’t able to be in more of the games, although at least he picked a character for whom disappearing unexpectedly was completely in character.

So yes: I like Dungeon World, I want to keep playing with these rules, and I want to keep playing these rules and this world with these people. Which all in all seems damn successful for a role playing game experience.

(At some point I want to write about how I used Github, XSLT, and Drupal to make my own DW monster compendium. But that seems like a tangent.)