I know that Dungeon World, the new RPG from Sage Kobold Productions, has been available to check out online on GitHub for quite a while now (the RPG is being released under Creative Commons) but, despite putting in for the Kickstarter, I haven’t really taken a look at it until I got my pre-release PDF of the game over the last weekend. I also haven’t played Apocalypse World (the game’s predecessor), so I’m sure some of the things I think look interesting are well established for some of you. I also haven’t had a chance to fire the game up yet, but I’ve given it a few read-throughs now and thought I would share my first impressions of Dungeon World which are: I think it looks amazing. Honestly, for running an old-school dungeon crawling game, it looks like a game that concentrates on all of the interesting parts of the genre without all of the extra fluff.
Indeed, Dungeon World seems to be all about stream-lining while adding a lot of customization through modularity. So, the base game in Dungeon World includes seven classes (Bard, Fighter, Cleric, Paladin, Ranger, Thief, and Wizard), which seems to cover most of the bases, but it leaves room for more to be added in the future, as well as for you to make your own classes and customize them as you see fit. Dungeon World is an RPG built for the players and GM to be having a conversation and to use a list of appropriate ‘Moves’ which are basically a menu of all of the things that you can do to move the story forward (attack something, defy danger). Classes add their own list of Advanced Moves to choose from (like Rangers gaining the ability to speak to animals), so there’s a lot of freedom within the construct of that move list. Some things in Dungeon World certainly challenge the way I’ve played games in the past. For instance, the GM does not roll for damage (although players do). Instead, when it is narratively appropriate for a creature to do damage to a PC, the PC rolls for the damage that the attacker is doing. Period. On the other hand, there are also spell list that require nightly memorization and spending in order to use them in a nod to the familiar.
In Dungeon World, it’s up to the GM and players, from the looks of it, to keep a balance in their conversation. The GM doesn’t just go through his list of foes and have all of them do damage each turn. He does damage when it is narratively appropriate. Instead, at another time, he may decide to put a character on the spot with one of his moves instead of just going with simple damage dealing. This balance looks like it should encourage building interesting narratives during a dungeon crawl, providing a list that acts as a reminder that there are a lot of different things you can do. The dice rolling mechanism is a skill check similar to what is used in other RPGs, but different. Pn a 7 through 9 on a roll of 2d6 plus skill you succeed, but with a caveat (which is explained on the ‘Move’ list) on a 10 or above, you succeed at what you were doing, and below a 7 you fail and it is up to the GM to decide what your fate is. Dungeon World puts a lot of power in the hands of the GM, but encourages the GM to be judicious and fair in trying to do what is appropriate to challenge the PCs in distinct and interesting ways. Oh, and while the game can be run with almost no prep from the looks of it, there are also rules for getting new equipment, some interesting magical equipment, a slew of new abilities to gain as you level up, and a lot of new advice and advanced rules, making it a very well-rounded RPG, indeed.
So, in case you couldn’t tell, I’m pretty darn smitten with Dungeon World. It’s got a nice, stream-lined system that still allows you a lot of room to do all of the things people love doing in these games (getting new powers as they level up, mercilessly customizing the game, getting loot, buying a ‘grand castle’) that makes it a pretty amazing-looking mix of dungeon crawling along with modern game design sensibilities. Now I just need to get it to the table.
Has anyone gotten to play it yet? What was your experience? Does the idea of a streamlined dungeon crawler appeal to you? Talk about it below!