Saturday, December 26, 2015

Puzzled about Dungeon World

I have read through Dungeon World and the jargon made my brain hurt. I just can't get my head around how it actually plays. I know that some folks really love the game and I'm not questioning their enthusiasm for it, but before I make another attempt to understand it, I would like to know:
What existing flaw or limitation in traditional RPGs does Dungeon World address that makes it worthwhile to play? I'm not grasping its raison d'etre.


  1. The verbiage gets my hackles up, too. If you already know its ancestor Apocalypse World, I think all DW brings to the table is a D&D veneer :)

    I'd say Dungeon World's contribution to state of the art is a structured commitment to "failing forward". It's core resolution mechanic produces graded outcomes -- not binary pass/fail outcomes -- and the rules handle interpretation of those outcomes extensively.

    So, for instance (and this is from shaky memory!), your basic "attack" action -- here called "hack and slash" because it's not quite just an attack but also because $&%&$ing verbiage! -- does damage to the enemy on successes, but on failures the GM can choose damage the monster but the monster counterattacks, or the attack results in the player being overextended; on a more severe failure, the attack altogether misses AND the monster counterattacks or the player falls down or whatever. Or something specific to the monster. Or whatever. And those examples aren't off the cuff, but encoded in the rules, which keeps things ever moving and ever evolving.

    Also, character-class rules encoded in the playbooks themselves. Good design.

  2. A longer copy of my G+ comment is on my blog:

  3. The classic example of how Dungeon World plays is this:
    There is also a longish play example toward the end of this:

    I love Dungeon World. For me, the chief advantages are:
    1) a commitment to something happening every time the dice are rolled. Partial successes are always possible (and usually more interesting than a full success), and also *something* happens also on every failure. Having it be DM's choice, with no restriction other than that it make sense in the fiction, means the players have to be a little bit afraid every time they pick up the dice.

    2) Monsters are stripped down to their bare minimum. Even when I was as up on D&D as I've ever been, I could never remember what monster attack bonuses or saving throws were supposed to be, and then I went long enough without playing actual D&D that whatever I did once know was gone. So, all of those parts that I would either have had to just fake or waste time looking up – Dungeon World ditches them. Makes it much easier to invent interesting monsters on the fly, too. The only things you need to know are the actual interesting parts.

    3) Less important (but still good): hit points are scaled way down, so combats go faster.

    4) Possibly really valuable depending how casual your players are: all the character-specific rules are on the character sheets.

    All of this combines to help me make fights much more dynamic. If I want a monster to tackle or trip or throw characters around, I don't have to make up grappling rules or whatever – I just have to wait til the players roll less than a full success and then the monster can just do it.

    I couldn't go back to regular D&D at this point. I'd just end up houseruling it until we were basically playing DW again.

  4. I've seen players turn overly cautious or feel intimidated because their GM deems bad rolls worth extra punishment. A gradient of results could be difficult to keep fair and transparent.

  5. It's the fantasy AW hack?

    I mean, maybe it doesn't need another reason to exist other than that. We found that it struck a balance between traditional D&D and FATE for us as far as cinematic play goes. It's easier, again, imho on a GM to plan since you're doing a diagram about what's going on, what's going to happen without PC intervention, and what signs point towards what's happening.

    On top of that, getting xp for failures, and making failures interesting, or at least having the option to, is pretty fantastic. Sure, sometimes the grue is just going to bite you when you flunk the hack and slash roll. Other times, it's going to slap your sword hand with a pseudopod and send your sword skittering off down a hallway.

  6. There is a podcast...Adventures From The Shed that had several episodes devoted to an "actual play" of Dungeon World. I got a lot out of that myself.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.