Observations After a Game of Dungeon World

We did not actually visit a dungeon... yet.

I finally played a game of Dungeon World this weekend, and I’m conflicted about my responses.
I had a lot of fun. One of Robin’s old buddies ran the game, and he did a great job of keeping everyone engaged and active. I played a barbarian, so I got to be dumb and hilarious. Everyone had a good time.

EDITED TO ADD: I’m slightly more awake than when I started this post, so let me add some more things I liked about Dungeon World. The lack of a formal initiative or turn system means the action scenes really move with the fluidity of fiction, rather than the stilted (and sometimes inexplicable) fashion of most RPGs. Since classes in Dungeon World do damage based on their class rather than their weapon, it also meant that I could have my barbarian fight by using stunts like head-butting his opponent or throwing it against the wall rather than whipping out my sword for everything. The focus on the fiction also means that otherwise dull choices (like whatever the Help action is called) remain exciting within the context (in this case, trying to fling a hag into the path of shape-changed druid’s claws) whereas it’s dull as dirt in D&D 5e.

Sitting across from the GM, though, I kept imagining that I would be bored out of my mind if I never got to roll dice. For that matter, the collaborative world building and storytelling aspects of the game do require players to wear both actor hats and writer hats at the same time, which detracts from immersion (though only slightly in the game we played). My suspicions about the Apocalypse World Engine needing at least two players and a GM were confirmed as well; there’s way too much collaboration assumed to work as a duet game.
That said, though, I wonder if it would be possible to whittle away some of the collaborative assumptions in order to trim the mechanics back to better support duet play. I guess that if you just assume that when a mechanic asks for a bond or interaction from another player that it instead means an NPC character, then that could work. Hmm…
I’m intrigued enough that I started rereading my copies of Monster of the Week and Monsterhearts to get a better handle on AWE mechanics and concepts. Robin and I are currently playing an urban fantasy game and – despite owning Fae Nightmares and Marchland, the urban fantasy settings for Savage Worlds – we’re basically making up the setting as we go. Splicing together MotW and Monsterhearts might actually give me a simpler, player-focused structure for introducing a greater element of risk without having to work up stats for NPCs I’m making up on the spot.
Bleah. I’m rambling badly. It’s amazing how a four-day weekend can throw you off your schedule. (No, it isn’t. It’s bloody obvious.)
Other thoughts:
  • Yep, I can see where D&D 5e steals from Dungeon World.
  • Sam, the GM, in explaining the fiction-focused mechanics mentioned how one could not destroy a castle with a single sword blow since that generally isn’t accepted as part of the fiction – and then backtracked a little to say it would be possible if the group decided it was possible. I immediately started thinking about the over-the-top power levels of anime and manga heroes (well, I immediately thought “I damn well could destroy a castle in one blow if this was a Fairy Tail game”) and so spent last night poring through all 505 of the products DriveThruRPG has listed under the Apocalypse World Engine. While there are several anime-inspired Dungeon World playbooks, there aren’t any anime-inspired AWE hacks. This is a mistake. The fiction-focused mechanics of AWE could easily justify the way characters throw around explosive, mountain-crumbling attacks that their fellow fighters just shrug off.
  • There are a couple of obviously Avatar: The Last Airbender/The Legend of Korra-inspired AWE games on DTRPG. They could probably do Fairy Tail pretty well, but I’m still surprised someone hasn’t put together a "Shonen World" game that allows you to emulate everything from Attack on Titan to Yu Yu Hakusho. The playbooks would obviously be based off of the personality types – Blue Oni, Girly Girl, Lancer, Red Oni, Tomboy, etc. – rather than specific power sets, allowing the playbooks to be easily adapted to whatever the conceit of the setting is (baseball, mecha, supernatural martial arts, etc.). 
  • I’m very tempted to buy Spirit of ’77.
  • I did pay a buck for Monster Force Terra – a really short PWYW AWE kaiju game – which, weirdly, seems like it would work fine as a duet game. Maybe I could get Robin to run a game for me, since I doubt she'd want to play a brainless force of destruction for even a couple of hours. I like playing barbarians, so obviously I'd be up for it.
  • Maybe I should try running Monster of the Week for the group. Most of them are fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Supernatural.


  1. Glad you enjoyed DW. It's probably some of the most fun I've had DM'ing in a long time.

    I don't know if I'd make it my final, end all be all system, but it's a great time with active players.


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