Monday, April 29, 2013

First Impressions From Playing Dungeon World

Art by Kyle Ferrin
I had the opportunity to play Dungeon World this weekend at JonCon '13 in the Twin Cities, MN. Overall, I thought the game was a lot of fun. I was quite surprised at how easy the game was to play - and how fun, especially compared to my experience with d20/3rd Edition. Combat is fairly fast-paced. Agency is almost entirely in the hands of the players. The GM rolls no dice; players even roll their own damage when they suffer an attack by a monster.

A number of people on line have commented about how hard it is to GM Dungeon World. When I brought this up with the GM after the game, he said that this is because it requires a very different mindset, in which the players are the ones setting the pace and determining what happens next. It felt a lot like playing FATE, so the whole experience felt pretty natural to me.

There are a couple of things I am still not quite sure of about the game's defaults:

First, I agree with +Zak Smith's criticism of the design decision to force players to pick from a list of names. I get doing something like that with a specialized setting with unique naming systems, like EverwayMouseguard or Tekumel, but this seems pretty stupid to me for a game with a generic fantasy setting. I had pretty similar feelings about some of the character specification "choices" like "sad eyes, sharp eyes, blubbery eyes", etc. Why are the choices so constrained? Who benefits from that, really?

Second, I am not sure whether this is a "serious" game. That is, I am not sure whether Dungeon World is making fun of first edition. I guess this is a matter of perception and perhaps more exposure will tell.

While I find some of the Dungeon World spell names amusing, like "Metal Hurlant" for the bard, that really militates against immersion, at least for me. It undermines attempts at serious world creation, the kind going on in places like Hereticwerks. When it comes to serious world creation, there's nothing in Dungeon World yet that makes me want to abandon FATE Core or FATE Accelerated Edition, or that makes me feel it is a viable fantasy RPG toolkit like Swords & Wizardry or Legends of Anglerre.

Still and all, I had a great time with a wonderful GM and group of players. The experience left me wanting more, and I'd definitely like to play Dungeon World again a bunch more times.

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