Last week we had our second session of the Dungeon World campaign. Since the first session was a Funnel adventure I decided to treat this as our “first session”.
To prepare for this I came up with two different adventures. I did not even call them Threats, yet, since neither had that much going on. I presented them to the players at our forum. They chose to defeat lizard centipede first and deal with the lost elven ruins later.
I’ll try to use this post to discuss the First Session of DW by thinking about what happened in our game.
Our game started with finalizing the level up of Villager-characters to actual playbooks. As we had already established tha
t the gods of the Sylvan World were dead, I had customized each playbook for this campaign. Most of the changes were only cosmetical. Priest became Elementalist and Paladin was changed to Knight. I also purchased the Sundered World: Player Fragments to incorporate elemental weapons for us. Santtu bought the Headhunter for his playbook and I also customized and wrote as a more “good” Trophy Hunter.
After making sure each player had their characters ready we discussed a bit about their relations and the changes in Fairmill since their last adventure. After that we went straight for the good stuff.
The actual adventure started out at the front steps of an ancient temple. A young elf had brought them there from his home village Esh Anore which the lizard centipede was terrorizing. Even though Ville and I had played Blades in the Dark and the whole group consist of experienced players, the concept of starting in medias res was a bit lost to us.
The beginning of the adventure felt a bit forced. I got the feeling that the players would have liked to investigate about the danger they were getting into before hand. Even though I explained that the characters had actually already done that, this fact was quickly forgotten and the game proceeded as a more regular dungeon crawl. Since I do not have anything against dungeon crawls I chose to go along with it.
The actual temple was only a small place where elves came to dream before the Fall of the Gods. In my mind it would be quick brawl with the monster before getting back to the elven village for socializing. But as anyone could have guessed by now it wasn’t that easy at all.
Thirsty for knowledge about the world the players used Spout Lore and Discern Realities a lot. These are also my favorite moves in the game and for the first session I considered them to be more relevant than any other moves. As usual the players kept missing lore checks. It did not take long for us to have a vast amount of lore about the dead gods and their enemies Purple Princes.
Missing rolls was one of the issues we discussed after the Funnel adventure. Sami in particular felt that a greater variance was needed in my interpretation about their outcome. I agreed and decided to built the story forward upon the misses. This meant that the characters learnt a lot about the world. And even though some of the information I gave them was false I decided it to be better to share this information with the players. I hope helps us to avoid confusion about certain things in the future but that remains to be seens.
In addition of giving false information I disturbed their moves with showing sings about approaching threat. When the characters defeat the lizard centipede (in a bloody manner) they were drawn to this quickly made up information like a moth to a flame. And I had nothing planned for this. It even happened only moments after we had discussed how people tend to take even the smallest red herrings as hooks they need to bite.
All of a sudden the party wasn’t returning to Esh Anore as I had planned. They were fumbling their way to an underground river. And when I say fumbling I mean that. They got so much experience from missed rolls that two out of three were ready to level up at the end of the session.
In our previous campaign greatly misjudged the deadliness of DW’s ghouls. Since then I have been on my toes about creating combat encounters on the fly. But as my players descended into the underground darkness I had to improvise a combat with six troglodytes. I share a love for Heroes of Might and Magic with Sami. He was already expecting them even before the characters had seen them and I decided to use those troglodytes here. They should be only minor enemies defeated with ease. But they managed to even wound the armored Trophy Hunter.
Running a combat with multiple enemies has never been easier. While searching for something else I stumbled upon this paragraph I have missed:
If the action that triggers the move could reasonably hurt multiple targets roll once and apply damage to each target (they each get their armor).
Noticing this meant that the characters were able to defeat their enemies in epic fashion. It only took a few rolls but the story about three adventurers fighting six troglodytes was awesome mix of elemental powers, powering through with strength and slapstick slipping on the wet surface.
Even though I did not ask as much from the players as during the Funnel adventure I deemed this as an exceptionally successful session. We all had fun and got a firmer grip about the system.
I also learnt to trust my instinct more which was an important lesson for me. I have learnt to trust players to mess up with any plans I have. But now learnt about not getting too frustrated about it. While this means that a lot of my prep is now either invalid or unusable in the immediate future it also means I have something new to think and work out.
The session ended with a great cliffhanger provided by Sami’s elementalist. While I was willing to let the players just climb out of the tunnels he decided to ask direction from the elemental spirit residing in his warhammer Groundfury. The elves of their home village borrowed it to his character and it comes with a [dangerous]-tag. He missed his roll. Instead of the elemental just being quiet I saw this as a perfect opportunity to fail forward. Now Groundfury is leading them out from the tunnels – but the way just might be more [dangerous] than they believe…
In medias res doesn’t work as well if the moves don’t support them. Blades is built on that. Our DW doesn’t have them. The play tends to gravitate towards the available moves.
I’d say we don’t need them either. Blades is a gig-style game. DW is more about adventure and I think I like to proceed in a straightforward manner.
You are right of course. It was an interesting thing to try though.