[Dungeon World] Temple of the Spider Lord

use-with-dw-OnLightLast Sunday we managed to start yet another (fantasy) campaign. This time I’ll be GMing it and the game is (not surprisingly) based on the Apocalypse World engine. Dungeon World is a marvellous game of dungeon delving in style of D&D and presents the tools for lethal combat, making interesting worlds and allowing the characters to “level up”.

The hardest part for me with starting this campaign (excluding the major case of hangover I was suffering at the first session…) was not to be prepared. I tend to overwhelm myself with plans and background when starting something new but this time all I did was announce that the whole gameworld would be covered by a forest. (Actually I also started an image blog at Tumblr to collect atmospheric images but since I do it with all of my games that does not count…)

I had read the rulebook over a year ago but was not excited about it. Since then I have had my fair share of running and playing PbtA-games and felt it was just the thing I was missing. Funny how things change.

We started with the character creation (naturally) and quickly formed a new adventuring party. There is a human warrior with a vicious axe that shines with red light when there are (giant) spiders around. A thief with very flexible morals (played by Aki), a elf shaman (played by Halski, another writter here) and a bard that quickly seized the spotlight for the first encounter.

First interesting obstacle we faced during character creation was the land types requested by the shaman. As I had determined that the whole world would be covered by the forest we had to come up with distinctive parts of it for the shaman to use as the base of his shapeshifting. I introduced misty rainforest, pine barres, flooded grove and wooded foothills (they do not actually produce mana [or do they?] but were just a simple way to show different parts of the forest). The players came up with snake-infested marsh, giant redwood, moist and gloomy clump of spruces and afforested city.

We discussed in some length about how the kind of society would work that had next to no agriculture, decided that elfs of this world were more like Melnibonéans and that the afforested city once belonged to their kind.

After the bonds where distributed and everyone had a certain grasp of the rules (two players having never played anything AW-related) we started our adventures. From a dungeon.

At this point I have to admit that I was not feeling all too well. I kind of jumped to some easy decisions but nevertheless I had fun and it seemed that the players had too.

From the single dungeon room they found a chest full of gems and a mysterious potion (I used the Paizo GameMastery cards and they drew the potion at random). Aaaaand after a few failed test they were trapped in the basement/dungeon by a gigantic Spider Lord.

The fight that followed was way more complicated than I had even dared to suspect. I was suspecting some kind of hack’n’slash encounter but instead got a whole load of whackadoo action. Shaman shapeshifted from parrot to elephant to alligator, the thief tried to some backstabbing by jumping on the spiders back and the bard confused the spider with his songs in every possible opportunity. The fighter simply could not get to the spider because of them.

During the fight we also managed to establish elven pantheon (it consist of ancestor gods) and find out that you CAN fool a giant spider lord into thinking that you are dead. It all ended up with one of the spider lord’s legs being torn off (when the fighter and the elephant-shaped shaman fell a statue on it). The spider lord escaped with the bard but he managed to fight his way out of her grasp. And to fall from the treetops.

The bard that was almost seen only as a supportive character had managed to battle with a spider lord (who some villagers naturally had worshipped as a god), visit the Black Gate of Death and return to the land of the living with a promise made to Death.

I think we can rule our first session (only one encounter really) as an epic beginning of a saga.

All in all I really liked the system. The fight takes a bit longer than in various hacks we have played thus fur and this makes 7-9 outcomes to show up more. This is something I need to be more prepared when we return get to play our next session.

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