Dungeon World: The Pitch

Ho, Nerds!

Over on email we were talking about the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, and I remarked that I’d rather play Dungeon World … and here we are.

Dungeon World!

A little bit about the game. Dungeon World was published in 2012 by Sage Kobold Productions. If you’re going to play this game for any length of time, you should buy a copy. Dungeon World has been a bit of a phenomenon in the indie RPG world and has spawned a host of supplements, fanzines, and allied game systems. Dungeon World was itself based on an earlier game called Apocalypse World — a post-apocalyptic game that is also worth playing, although it is considerably more grim than Dungeon World, and I think more challenging to play.

This system is a challenge — and a challenge worth facing — because it turns role playing rules on their head. Where a game like Dungeons & Dragons concentrates on “crunch” (character stats, abilities, spell lists, monsters, levels, experience, fighting) Dungeon World is more concerned with the “soft factors” (like character personalities, the bonds between characters, and the way adventurous stories are actually told). It is not too much of a reach to suggest that Dungeon World is about all the things that Dungeons & Dragons is not — that if you look at the “negative space” of the Dungeons & Dragons rules, you will see Dungeon World staring back out at you.

Which is not to say that Dungeon World is without rules. Actually, it has quite a lot of rules. And quite a lot of “crunch,” too — you will find the canonical D&D character types here, each with plenty of class-specific rules, so your Bards will be doing Bard things and your Rangers will definitely be doing Ranger things. It’s just that the emphasis of the rules are different, in that they are intended less to facilitate the mechanics of a game (attacking, leveling up, etc.) than they are to facilitate the conversation of a game (the give-and-take of role playing as it actually occurs).

Dungeon Heroes

If I had to isolate the biggest difference between Dungeons & Dragons and Dungeon World, I would say it is this: Dungeons & Dragons ends when a character fails at something, whereas Dungeon World doesn’t really begin until a character fails. For example, in D&D, when you attack a monster, you roll to hit, and if you hit something, you do damage. If you miss, you miss — that’s it, end of scene, move to the next attack. With Dungeon World, the designers realized that mostly what happens in a game is that heroes fail to do things, so they decided to make failure interesting. Along the way, they made success more interesting, too, and they built all sorts of degrees of failure and success into the game, and put players on the spot by giving them plenty of hard choices to make at every step.

Dungeon World is a rich and intriguing system, but I’ve found that running it face-to-face has been like grasping at smoke. This game requires a quick-thinking GM … and I’m not as quick-thinking as I used to be! My players came away from our face-to-face games satisfied and ready for more, but as the game master I usually felt a bit overwhelmed and concerned that I wasn’t using the rules to best effect. Playing by post here at Goblin Soup will let me slow things down and better use the system. In time, we might get together for face-to-face play, but for now, let’s see if we can get things off the ground online.


If you’d like to play, you need to do two things.

First, check out the Dungeon World SRD and pick the character type you’d like to play: Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Thief, or Wizard. We should have no more than one of each character type in our first party — first come, first served!

Second, set yourself up with an account here at WordPress (or reactivate your old one) and note your choice of character class as a comment for this blog post.

There is your first quest. Good luck, brave adventurer! I’ll keep an eye on Goblin Soup for the next several days, and if we get any kind of critical mass, then we will march forward together …

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Back Through The Future

A lot of blood under the bridge since my last post. That Pathfinder game did indeed expire. My solo Traveller game is still in cold sleep. And I’ve managed to play about a half-dozen games of Dungeon World.

But I write today about an older game than any of them — Tunnels & Trolls.


I received an email from my old buddy David. We were best friends in high school, and while geography has led us to drift apart, we’re still in touch a couple times a year. David’s soon-to-be-stepson was looking for video game alternatives, and David wanted to stage a role playing intervention with a Skype session of Tunnels & Trolls. I don’t expect playing T&T by Skype with a fifty-odd-year-old dude is going to change anyone’s religion when it come to video games, but I was game …

… and so it was game on, Saturday morning, with my lad Jack and I gathered around the table here at my southern California Secret HQ, and David and Gabriel video calling in from northern CA. The future, really, when you think about it — video calling, computer networks, all this backbone working automagically to bring us all together around our technologically-conjoined tabletops to play a role-playing game first published almost forty years ago.

Through the future, we went back to the past.

Aside from being only quasi-face-to-face, it was everything you could want from a T&T game. I’d intended to cook up a custom adventure, but the week got away from me and I ended up hastily converting an encounter from the D&D supplement Dungeon Delve (sacrilege!), but the game went off without a hitch. The heroes cleaned out the goblins that were squatting in the Shattered Tower, earned a bit of loot and a magic sword, became the toast of the town for their heroism, and left two of their own buried dead on a lonely hillside (because this IS Tunnels & Trolls, and we play for keeps).

A couple survivors leveled up, and we split up the treasure and said we’d all had a good time and would have to play again sometime … but you know how these things go. Even at its best, role playing is a commitment of time and energy. Our game whiled away three hours on a Saturday morning, and felt just long enough, but in the grim light of opportunity costs and this and that, so many other activities conveniently elbow ahead of tabletop role-playing, and I expect we will all be back to our video games and Hearthstone and shake-it-out-of-the-box boardgaming well before we return to Tunnels & Trolls.

But it was great to get back to T&T, if just for one day, and to delve a dungeon with David again, I don’t doubt it’s been the better part of twenty years since last we role-played together. We might as well have been teens again, picking up the same jokes, easily falling into the rules we’d committed to memory way back when.

The game is still T&T, of course, which means it is fragile, and swingy, and deadly for the heroes, and (frankly) only as good as the dungeonmaster makes it; I flatter myself by thinking I’m a pretty good dungeonmaster, and I switched things up plenty, isolating characters in combat to spice up the clunky combat system, and giving each character a chance to shine (which included the aforementioned death scenes for a couple of them — characters are as fragile as the game system, particularly at low levels). Though combat-oriented, our game was still rife with the things that only table-top RPGs can do, with breakneck action, unexpected diversions (like the sensible combat plan that went awry when a dwarf’s natural lust for goblin blood got the best of him), and a narrow victory that might as easily have been a total party kill if not for some judicious (and entirely appropriate) dungeonmaster legerdemain.

Great times! And it was great to come back from the future, if just for one day.

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52 Pick-Up

Our Pathfinder game is on life support. The next couple weeks will likely tell the tale.

It’s the usual story — scheduling conflicts leading to suspended play leading to lost momentum leading to … the usual place.

We did actually play a time or two since my previous entry, and I may type up those adventures if this campaign resumes … but it is starting to look as if this particular games has gone the way of all things.

We did meet last night to play the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

… which was OK, but no real substitute for role playing. There is some enthusiasm to keep gaming, but whether this will manifest itself in continued role playing gaming remains to be seen.

Since this blog may shortly lapse back into suspended animation, a few words about the aforementioned Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. The idea is clever — maybe more clever for the publisher than for the players — but no matter, as this is a quality production that I think will earn its share of fans. What Paizo has done is to repurpose their Rise of the Runelords art for a cooperative fantasy card game that uses quasi-Pathfinder mechanics to quasi-reproduce the events and adventures of their Runelords Adventure Path.

The result is a polished-if-mechanical exercise in flipping cards and rolling dice, with a little bit of RPG flavor filtering in via table talk and rationalizations about what is happening (“That dog pissed on my leg at the waterfront!”). S’okay. The clever bit is that this is a sort of slow-motion deck-building game, with character decks and abilities evolving over a continuing campaign … but after playing it twice last night, I’m not sure I see myself playing this game often enough to explore its secrets.

But my palantír is cloudy these days, so who knows?

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Clean-Up Crew

Leaving no XP unearned, we decided to return to last week’s evil temple … just to be sure. This return visit was easier than the first, as we mopped up a few more Sinspawn, splattered some Varghulf, and encountered undead (and a hideously mutated goblin). We scored some treasure — including a +1 Longsword for Roog, which was worth the price of admission — and received further indications that our friends back in Sandpoint are hard against it, caught in the middle of an ages-old Runelord squabble that looks primed to hot up again.



Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a pair of ritual murders of local townsfolk, bodies left where we can find them with seven-pointed stars carved in the carcass. We have a note but few leads — I expect running down these killings will be the focus of next week’s game.

Seven Deadly Points


one point for each of seven deadly sins?

We are all on the edge of Level 3, and I find myself wondering if I should swap out my Wizard for a Bard after Amrudrel levels up. I enjoy the puzzle aspect of running a Wizard but the character isn’t coming together for me, personality-wise, and I wonder if I wouldn’t have more fun running a loudmouth snake oil salesmen. Hmm.

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Temple of Fear!

“Fear” is proving to be a pervasive effect in the early stages of our Pathfinder game. Fear first routed nearly all our party while engaging a mummy, and then in this most recent game put flight to all of us at a critical moment of a big dungeon battle. But more of that in a moment …

We didn’t get as much done in our last game when compared to previous sessions, probably because we spent too much time farting around with a shopping expedition. With a bit of coin in our pockets it was wise to upgrade our gear, but we could have slain a Beholder in the time it took us to settle on a couple suits of armor and a few adventure kits.

I know, I know … there are no Beholders in Pathfinder. I don’t care.



Anyway, with our armor classes marginally improved, we returned to the smuggling tunnel beneath the Sandpoint Glassworks and discovered the new tunnels let onto a very ancient tunnel complex, which jibes with the information we’d already uncovered about a threat to the city from the depths below.

Exploring the dungeon confirmed our emerging (and worst) suspicions — we’ve run afoul of cultists of Lamashtu, a dark god of particularly twisted and icky things. The ancient Runelord Alaznist figures into this too, to judge by the big statue we found in the dungeon.

Runelord AlaznistRunelord Alaznist

We fought our way through waves of Sinspawn before finding the heart of the temple, where some little, flying imp summoned monsters and had the best of us (thanks to that Fear effect) for a moment or two. It looked bad, but the crew recovered in good form, and got the little devil boxed in (thanks in part to the illusion of a hovering web via Amrudrel’s Silent Image spell, that I think helped keep our enemy grounded). After that, it was all over but the hacking.

We grabbed some treasure and retreated to town. We need to send a team of dwarves down there with pickaxes to break up that temple. And we need better resistance to Fear … at least until our Paladin hits level three and begins radiating an Aura of Courage!

In the meantime, we need to puzzle out the cloyingly familiar runes we saw on that subterranean temple wall …


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Level Up: Amrudrel!

With my Fighter Leveled Up, it was time to turn my attention to my androgynous Wizard, Amrudrel! Here’s how he/she … Leveled Up!

Level Up!

Amrudrel nearly died in our last game, going to negative three Hit Points before stabilizing, so more HP are welcome for my Wizard. Anrudreal earns 4 HP from his/her Hit Die, no bonus for CON, +1 for “favored class,” and +1 for his/her Toughness Feat. This take Amrudrel’s HP from 10 to 16, a substantial improvement.

Amrudrel’s Base Attack Bonus and Will Save both get a bump, but there are no Wizard Class Features at Level 2. He/she earns 2 skill points for being a Wizard, plus five more for INT bonus, for seven points! But Amrudrel is bound by the restriction of not having more levels in a skill than he/she has hit dice, so that means no more than two levels in any given skill.

I used those seven points for a single level in each of Appraise, Craft (specifics TBD), Dungeoneering, Engineering, Geography, Local History, and Religion, which now gives Amrudrel a level in all his/her class skills except “Fly” and “Profession.” Starting next level I’ll fill those in, then specialize by applying additional levels to class skills that I’ve already got.

knowledge is power

knowledge skills can come in handy

For Wizards, of course, the fun is in picking new spells. At second level, Amrudrel gets to memorize an additional Cantrip (4) and an additional 1st level spell, which with his/her INT bonus lets Amrudrel memorize three first level spells (with one more loaded in his/her bonded object Quarterstaff).

Amrudrel gets to select two new spells of any level s/he can cast — since s/he already knows all the Cantrips, these will be Level 1 spells. I’ve already gotten the most valuable ones (I think) in Protection From Evil, Color Spray, Silent Image, Sleep, Charm Person, Grease, Obscuring Mist, and Mage Armor, so for my two new L1 spells I select Enlarge Person (to cast on Roog) and Unseen Servant (which I don’t really want, but as a specialist mage, Amrudrel has to select a spell from the Conjuration school).

I thought about going with Protection From Chaos instead of Enlarge Person, but I already have Protection From Evil and I can’t see memorizing two Protection spells at any one time. I hope Protection From Evil will be enough for an edge over most foes (and now watch the parade of Chaotic Neutral enemies the GM will throw at us …). I also can’t resist the notion of making big, dumb Roog even bigger and dumber.

Enlarge Person


I’d building Amrudrel as a “battlefield control” Wizard per Treantmonk’s Guide, and it will take a few more levels before this path’s best spells (mostly in the form of summonings) really start to manifest. In the meantime, Amrudrel will load up on Sleep spells, think of creative use for Grease, and try to avoid getting dead!

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Level Up: Roog!

Our recent dungeoneering glory has landed enough experience points for our characters to attain second level. Here’s how my Fighter — Roog — Leveled Up!

Level Up!

Once again I find that while Pathfinder is a robust rules system, it isn’t an especially good rule book, as I can’t find any single paragraph or section that gives me a simple “do this, then this, then THIS” checklist for leveling up. I am informed the not-so-supplemental-but-instead-actually-essential Pathfinder Beginner’s Box does a better job of laying this stuff out. I don’t have that product — I’d depending on the PDF of the core rules I bought from Paizo — but after poking around on the web for a bit I found EXACTLY what I was looking for!

After pinging our GM, I found that rather than roll a new hit die at each level, a house rule allows that we can take half the maximum roll, plus one (effectively an average roll, rounding up). This will substantially improve the survivability of our characters, particularly at the lower levels, where a run of low Hit Die rolls could cripple a character before averaging out at higher levels.

Hit Dice

no need to roll …

Roog is a Fighter, with a D10 Hit Die, so he earns 6 HP, +2 for his CON modifier, plus as I’m taking another level of Fighter I’ll apply his “favored class bonus” for one more HP, so Roog gains a total of 9 HP at 2nd Level, going to 22 total.

This makes Roog feel a little more secure in his role as meat shield. He saw his grandfather’s face while holding the door against the goblin horde in the Sandpoint Glassworks last game … which was not good, because Roog’s grandfather was killed by the Sandpoint Devil. It’s not optimal when your big, dumb fighter gets down to one hit point and has to holler for healing. Roog has more margin now, and that’s a good thing.

Sandpoint Devil

the Sandpoint Devil isn’t horsing around!

Fighters get +1 attack bonus at Level 2, so Roog’s attacks go up across-the-board, very handy at this stage in his career. He also gets a bump in his Fortitude Save, and a class bonus with Bravery, allowing +1 to Will Saves vs. Fear.

For skill ranks, Roog gets 2, plus his INT modifier of … -2, meaning nothing. Roog is not a highly skilled individual. However, being Human, Roog gets one bonus skill point, which he puts into Ride, a Class Skill that is now +7. This low INT is a charming part of Roog’s character but I may need to bump him up to INT 8 with part of his attribute bonus at 4th level, just to take the edge off and start getting some skill points.


Mongo (and Roog!) only pawn in game of life

The fun part for Roog is choosing a new Feat. As a Fighter, he gets a bonus Feat at Level 2, but it has to be a “Combat Feat.” I’m kind of following the “Defender of the Weak” sword & board fighter described in Rogue Eidolon’s guide for Fighters, which has a heavy emphasis on two-weapon fighting and shield stunts. I had just about convinced myself to take “Double Slice,” to improve the damage Roog does with his off-hand spike shield, but then I remembered getting outmaneuvered in the Glassworks fight last night, and instead took “Combat Reflexes.” This will give Roog an additional three Attacks of Opportunity, which will let him do a bigger job of clogging the lane to pin several enemies at once.

Along with his starting Feats of Two-Weapon Fighting, Improved Shield Bash, and Weapon Focus (Longsword), Roog is on his way toward emulating his shield-slinging hero, Captain America (or whoever seems most like Cap in the Pathfinder world).

Heavy Metal Cap

Medieval Captain America!

Looking down the line, I will need to bump Roog’s DEX to 17 at Level 4 so he can go for Improved Two Weapon Fighting at Level 6. In the meantime I will look for little edges like Shield Focus and (probably next level) Double Slice.

There are no stat increases at Level 2 … so that’s it! Roog has leveled up!

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