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,