Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dungeon World

I ran my first game of Dungeon World last Saturday night. Given that I was suffering from food poisoning and had to eventually kick everyone out mid-dungeon it went relatively well. I made a few bad choices in retrospect, and I'm not entirely certain that my players quite got how important it is to be proactive, but it was fun.

I hadn't actually planned on running it at all. I usually run my fantasy themed Fate game for this group, but one player wasn't going to make it at all, and another was several hours late, so it seemed like a good chance to try something new.

Since I didn't have anything prepped I just started with a basic situation. The players were returning from a night in the inn. From there I decided to roll with whatever happened. I was hoping that, by not actually starting in a dungeon, I'd have time along the way to come up with any details that needed to be filled in.

As the group passed through an alleyway the paladin decided to search for evil, so of course evil men were waiting in the shadows. He yelled to his friends that evil was about and rushed toward one of the ambushers, who promptly let fly an arrow that bounced harmlessly off the paladin's shield. The thief took the opportunity of the distraction to slip off into the shadows, and the ranger leapt to the side to avoid a second arrow, but a bad roll sent him into a stack of crates that he managed to knock over leaving him sprawled on the ground. After that the rest of the enemy was upon them, grappling with the warrior types and bearing them down where their daggers and close weapons would be more effective.

Luckily for the party this is when the thief decided to step in. Coming out of the shadows behind the enemy she ran two of them through before they knew what hit them. That, and a little intimidation on the paladin's part, was enough to send a third guy running and cause the fourth to surrender.

The thief started after the fleeing brigand, deciding to discern reality in hopes of seeing who they were, but one bad roll and an unwelcome truth later she discovered that they weren't thieves at all, but agents of the Federation government wearing cloaks to disguise their uniforms.

This of course lead to the paladin parleying with the prisoner, offering him freedom in exchange for information about who they were and why they were ambushing the PCs. The guard agreed, and told them they had been following a bard who had been seen slipping something into the possession of the PCs while they were carousing in the inn. The paladin claimed to know nothing of this, but after finding that his belt pouch had been torn during the fighting the alley was searched and a lumpy clay statue was found among the rubble. Realizing that there was no way the guard would believe that the two dead agents were all a misunderstanding (and given that they had detected as evil to the paladin) the group took the opportunity to flee into the night, leaving the small town behind and making a camp in the nearby forest.

At this point there was a lot of discussion about what should be done, and the thief took out the statue to examine it. Noticing that the clay was covered in a thin layer of paint and cracked from the fighting, she decided to break it open and found a second, small golden statue inside along with a map written on which was "The goddess Theodonus holds the key in her hands".

Not sure of what this was supposed to mean, the group decided they needed to find the bard that slipped them the statue. Since the guard had been watching her it seemed likely that she was in custody by now, and thus there was only one obvious choice: prison break, something the ranger agreed with whole heartedly since it played directly into his alignment.

The group snuck back into town where the militia was being called up to search for them, and took advantage of the confusion to make their way to the small stockade at the outskirts. There they found the agent they had let live and a handful of citizen militia guarding the bard and another prisoner. The ranger let fly an arrow that stunned the agent and the paladin stepped in and commanded the militia to flee, thus leaving the thief free to open the cells and let loose the prisoners.

At this point our late player joined us, which was interesting, because she hadn't heard any of our schpiel about how to make a character or play, but we handed her a bard sheet and told her to get to work.

One Spout Lore later she was telling the group that the goddess Theodonus was the goddess of magic and knowledge, outlawed after the last war when magic had been turned against the people to terrible effect. The map points to the last of her temples, hidden underground to protect it against the Federation.

It turned out that the other prisoner was being held as a spy for the rebels who were working  against the corruption of the Federation as well. There was something dark at the heart of the nation, and a government that would employ evil men to do its bidding was not one to be trusted.

Seeing his point the group decides there was naught to do but check out the temple and see what there is to see, so they set off into the wilderness, and three days later they arrived.

Here the bard told the group that the hidden temple had been built by a necromancer at the end of the Federation's invasion of the area as a place to store spellbooks and magic that might be useful in a future attempt at regaining the land's freedom.

Intrigued by the possibility that they might find something inside that could aid them in their attempt to put down the oppressive Federation the group prepared to enter, first sending the thief to check the door for traps while the bard searched the area nearby for clues.

The thief did indeed find a rather ingenious crushing trap on the door that would quickly lower a rock shelf down upon anyone attempting to bypass the lock. She also found  the keyhole, which looked to be perfectly shaped to accept the golden statue that the bard had slipped them.

The bard, for her part, found something as well. It was the long dead body of some previous adventurer that looked like it had stumbled from the cave and taken shelter in the trees, where he had died. What was intriguing about it was that he hadn't died from the crushing trap they found, but some sort of stab wound that he must have suffered inside.

After some discussion it was deemed worth the risk to continue. The thief slipped the statue into the keyhole where it immediately began to sink out of sight, while the stone door of the temple rose into the hillside. Noting that it would only remain open for a little while the group used a piton to hold it open and moved inside only to find themselves in some sort of large receiving chamber strewn with the bones of several men.

Almost immediately the bones began to move and join themselves into the forms of skeletal warriors. The paladin threw himself into the battle, with the ranger moving to his side to help. The thief used the cover to push to the far side of the room and begin to search the door there for traps and unlock it. The bard meanwhile wracked her brain for what little she knew about these creatures, but all she could come up with was the fact that they were difficult to kill, and could reform themselves if enough bones were still around.

Looking at the piles of bones around them they decided the fight might be a lost cause. As soon as the thief had the door open everyone rushed out of the room.  Everyone, that is, except the paladin who had gotten himself cut off from the others in the fighting. Thinking quickly, the bard wrapped a rope around herself, tossed the other end to the remaining members of the party and waded in among the dead after him. Both were injured in the attempt, but the others managed to pull them free and slam closed the door, placing its bulk and sturdy locks between them and the skeletons.

Unfortunately, that's as far as we got. I was pretty ill by this point, and had to send everyone home. We did have a fun time though, and got a fairly good run at the game. I was especially impressed at the fact that the bard's player was able to just pick up a sheet, build a character, and jump right into play even though she had never even heard of the game before, and missed our brief "how to play" discussion at the beginning.

I have a lot of thoughts about Dungeon World, and I'm bummed that I can't say exactly when we will play again. That'll have to wait for a future post however, this has gone fairly long already.