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.
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).
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 …