Friday, August 24, 2012

It's all in the Moves

Time to make a Move
Daniel Perez asked a simple question of me prompted by my previous post about playing Dungeon World: did the game mechanics facilitate the experience you describe?

To which I answered:

...the mechanics faded into the background.

Daniel called BS and asked again:

How did your Moves and other mechanical parts help to achieve the experience?

After giving it some more thought, here is how I answer that question:

When you go to dice in Dungeon World, something always happens.

Actions in DW are described as Moves in the rules. When you make a Move roll 2d6 + modifier. On a 10+ you make your move; you hit the Orc and roll damage. On a 7-9 you still make the Move, but there will generally be some fallout, backlash or a hard choice; you hit the Orc, but the Orc hits back. On a 6 or less the GM decides what happens. Based on the moves available to the GM, something is going to happen. A good GM ties this something into the fiction of the current Move. Perhaps I over-extend my sword thrust and the Orc sends my weapon flying across the chamber. The fiction moves forward in a very satisfying way.

So the rules put everything on the shoulders of the GM, right? Well, yes and no. While a lot rides on those shoulders there are a lot of Moves for the characters to make. The choice of Moves has a big impact on play. There are Basic and Special Moves that affect all characters. These represent things that happen often in the fiction regardless of the character's class. But each class also has Custom Moves.

Custom Moves are what a class is all about. Sure, my Cleric can Hack and Slash, but that is nowhere near as effective as Casting a Spell. These Custom Moves are where a class really shines. They direct play through player choice.

There are not a lot of Custom Moves at 1st level. This keeps the character focused and puts the player squarely in the driver's seat though their power of choice. As a Cleric I was looking for every opportunity I could find to use my Custom Moves. This is the primary way of interacting with the fiction. If I roll poorly the fiction may not go the way I was hoping or planning, but it will certainly keep moving forward.

A final incentive for encouraging characters to make a Move: XP. If a character should fail in a Move - roll 6 or less - they get one XP. So even when they fail, characters are still moving forward toward the next level.

Circling back around to Daniel's question, the short answer is something always happens when you go to dice in Dungeon World and that makes for very dynamic and satisfying play.

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Perfect Storm

Dungeon World
I love Dungeon World.

This is not a review of Dungeon World, this is a love letter. Few, if any, gaming sessions have moved me as this one did, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Yesterday was the last day of GenCon 2012. My sons and I had only one scheduled event that day: a 4 hour slot of Dungeon World run by co-creator Adam Koebel. My sons and I sat down to play with two other players and a very tired Adam. Being the last day of the con, with it's melancholy mix of joy and sadness, energy was low as we began.

I have played several sessions of Apocalypse World, the game on which DW is based, so I thought I knew what to expect:

  • Classes & Moves
  • 2d6 resolution mechanic
  • Collaborative story and setting creation
  • Dungeons & Dragons tropes
What was unexpected was the magic that was created at that table: the perfect storm.

I'm not going to go into the details of the setting and our characters because that was part of the magic of that moment; magic always loses something in the translation. I will say that as character creation took place the shared world we explored began to grow with a seeming will of its own. It was a product of no one person, everyone added elements which quickly added up to be something more than any one of us could produce on our own. The storm clouds gathered.

As the world and characters took shape, Adam and all the players became energized. Adam led us through the world we were creating with the simplest of techniques: he asked us questions; lots and lots of questions. Play continued as world and characters became more defined by player choices. Thunder rumbled in the distance.

As we moved on and up, we heard and saw lightning in the distance. We were well aware of the frailty of our protagonists. I could tell by the look in the players' eyes that there was doubt that the characters would complete their quest. And a quest it became as dark deals were made and specters of the past were disturbed. The storm was here.

In the final moments lightning struck, the barrier between life and death was crossed and a grieving heart was set to rest with one merciful stroke. The perfect storm passed and healing rain washed over the world like a cool panacea.

This is not a review of Dungeon World. I love what this game can do. I know I can't recreate the magic of that perfect storm, but I now have the tools to make my own.

I love Dungeon World.


Follow Your Bliss,

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What's in a Name? Redux Part 1

Way back when I started this blog I wrote a post about names. Now I get to revisit that topic thanks to the next in Ray Winninger's Dungeoncraft series of articles. Ray has great advice for naming things (PCs, NPCs & places) in a campaign. I thought I'd take a minute to go back through and put a name to things that I've been talking about to flesh out the setting a little more and examine the choices I made. I've organized these by post in chronological order.

So you want to be a GM? Part 1
This is the first of the Dungeoncraft posts detailing my setting creation. Although I came up the the name of the setting before I started this series, it is worth mentioning the origin of the name Icosa. There is nothing mystical here, and most folks may have already figured it out, but Icosa is a root part of the word icosahedron, also known as the twenty-sided die (d20). Since this world is divided into 20 triangular regions, it seems like a good fit.

In the beginning there was only Chaos
In this post I mention Law and Chaos as primal forces constantly doing battle. This struggle impacts the nature of Icosa. I don't need any fancy names here as Law and Chaos have a long history in the fantasy RPG genre.

There's no place like Home
Here I mention a few names and give reference to a few more that will or should be named. This first the the PCs home base of operations which is named in a later post as Dragonsgate.

Next is the name of the human-controlled lands surrounding Dragonsgate. At first I only mention this as a league of city-states and don't really name it. This form of government is inspired by the Ancient Greeks and the League of Corinth. I'd like to give this government its own name, although stealing the name Corinth has its pluses. Since the humans of the setting have thrown off the chains of their oppressors I think they will refer to themselves as Fremen (free men). Both the Fremen League and League of Fremen has a nice ring to it. It can always be referred to as The League for short.

I make mention of three major poleis (city-states) that form the core of The League, but I do not name them. Time to  hit the books and see what I can come up with. One of these is martially focused much like Sparta. Why not call it Martialis and say it is named after the founder. Lo and behold, there was a Roman by that name so it sounds like a winner. The ruling members of this poleis and others under its direct control are know as Marshals.

The second major poleis has a more ecclesiastical focus. I'm sticking with the Greek influence since all these poleis would have formed around the same time. I find a Greek work that is a form of cleric: Kleriki. The ruling members of this poleis are know as Ministers and are added by their appointed Clerks.

The last major poleis is a center of trade and scholarly learning. Here I'm going to depart a little from the names I've taken so far. I found the word that works well for the original name of this city-state: Scholasticus. However, I want this city to have more of an Italian feel, so the new name is Scola. The ruling members of this poleis are known as Magistrates.

The race that had formally enslaved the Fremen are known as the Archons. Again, this comes from Greek and means the 'rulers' or 'lords'. You can tell how much the Archons think of themselves.

Arche is the name given to this region of Icosa. Since it is the first such region I'm developing and since I'm already borrowing a lot from the Greeks I call it Arche which means 'the first'.

More names continued in next post.


Follow Your Bliss,

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Let us pray, Part 3

William Blake's "Ancient of Days"
It's time to wrap up this series of posts detailing the major faith of the realm of Arche on the world of Icosa. I'll tackle the last two steps outlined by Ray Winninger in his Dungeoncraft article.

4. Create (at least) Two Myths

Myths help ground the characters in a world that seems more real. They also gives players ways to immerse themselves in the imaginary game world and better embrace their game personas. I gave some thought to the Trinity and came up with the following mythical explanations of worldly phenomenon. Keeping the First Rule of Dungeoncraft in mind, I won't develop too many myths for now. I have created one major myth and two minor ones.

It is believed that once two great orbs of light graced the skies as the father sent his eyes circling the world to see all that transpired. The light was cold and distant and the people of the land cried out for warmth and a respite from the endless day so they might rest from their ceaseless toiling.

The son took to heart the plight of the mortals and put out one of the father's eyes by stealing the flame within and gifting it to men so that they may warm their hearth. As a result, night was born. The darkness caused mortals to grow weary and and afraid as they huddled around their fires. Darkness also allowed Chaos to enter the minds of mortals.

To help light the darkness, the mother carried her shimmering shield across the night sky. Alas, the shadow of Chaos chased her through the darkness, threatening to cause her to lose her way and be consumed. Her son, shamed at the sorrow his deed had caused, pinned the glowing souls of fallen warriors to the dome of night, but even this was not nearly enough to hold back Chaos.

The father, fearing for his wife, took the twinkling points of light placed by his son and arranged them in a ward to banish Chaos. His power diminished by the blinding of one eye, the ward could not completely thwart Chaos, but it was able to hold it at bay. The sun now warms the land during the day and the shadow of Chaos still chases the moon and swallows it once a cycle, but the stars in the heavens help guide the moon out from under the shadow to continue the race another night.

As punishment for the crime against his father, the son is tasked with eternally stoking the fires warming the earth to ensure that they never go out. Earthquakes and volcanos are signs of the son's anger while performing his penance.

Souls of the just are gathered by the father's angels and placed in the heavens to keep Chaos at bay, while the unjust are gathered by the son to work the world furnace for all eternity.

Storms are believed to happen when the father and son are arguing, the rainbow after the storm is a sign from the mother that peace has been made between the two. When disputes are settled, peace is signified by the opposing sides clasping hands and a colorful ribbon wrapped around the joined hands.

Madness is believed to be a curse from the mother upon those who try to avoid the fate she has allotted them. As a result, many temples of the mother house the mad (for the proper donation, of course) in efforts to place them once again on their fated path.

5. Imagine Other Faiths

The final detail suggested by Ray is to consider other faiths of the land. In his article this is targeted at non-human races and the deities they worship. After giving it due consideration, I have decided (for now) to shy away from the traditional fantasy races included in the Lamentation of the Flame Princess core rules. I'm not, strictly speaking, using Tolkien as part of the inspiration for this setting. So what about the classes of elf, dwarf and halfling? Instead I give you the arcadians, homunculi and beast men, all of whom are offshoots of the human race.

Aracadians are the result of the unions between the chaos-worshiping Archons and humans. They worship no gods, but venerate their ancestors that first escaped the clutches of their sorcerous masters. They are represented by the elf class.

The homunculi were created when the Archons infused humans with spirits of the earth. As such, there were well suited to build the great Archon fortresses carved into towering mountain walls. They are represented by the dwarf class.

The beast men are the stunted and tortured remains of the humans twisted by magic to serve as feral hounds to their masters. Outside Archon lands they roam wild in warring pack-like clans, surviving off the land. They are represented by the halfling class.

Then there are the oft-mentioned Archons. While not a player class (at least for now) it is worth mentioning that they pay homage to the various chaotic beings. These beings have even found worship by small cults of humans seeking earthly power.

So I'm off to create a few GM secrets for these facts that I've laid out (Second Rule of Dungeoncraft) and look forward to tackling the next of Ray's Dungeoncraft articles.

Follow Your Bliss,