Level 1 RPG Player: Dungeon World

Tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons are becoming cool these days, or at least they’re being viewed as more acceptable and less niche that they once were. I’ve been listening to The Adventure Zone almost non-stop for the last month, and it’s shown me a side to D&D I didn’t think existed. The McElroys make tabletop gaming humorous, irreverent, and most importantly fun. So with this is mind I decided I wanted to try my hand at roll playing games.

Lacking enough irl friends willing to play with me, I turned to Roll20, a website that allows tabletop games to be played online easily with others. Pretty quickly I managed to find a newbie friendly game of Dungeon World, which we played over 3 1/2 hours yesterday.

Even in my lack of experience and knowledge of RPGs, I’ve heard of Dungeon World and a exciting and accessibly system. It featured of Waypoints launch stream and I’ve been curiously following its designer and Roll20 GM in residence Adam Koebel on twitter. Dungeon World was appealing to me due to its relatively few rules (especially compared to D&D) and the amount of potential available to the players and GM to create the in-game world together.

We only played a one-shot game, but what stood out most to be about the DW system was creating a dynamic way for the player characters to relate to each other. Each character has bonds which outline their feelings or ties towards the other PCs. In our game I played a Barbarian princess who thought of the Thief as her best friend. The Thief however found this trust placed in her to be amusing and misplaced. And straight away we have an interesting dynamic between these two characters. Despite out party (which also included a Druid who used violence only as a last resort,) having very little in common it became clear why they were friends and worked together so well despite this. As I had a lot of interest in the creative and impov side of the game, I really appreciated being able to develop this.

Dungeon World keeps its suspense and tension high by using a strong system of risk and reward. All dice rolls fall into three categories: Complete success, partial success and failure/small success. In a complete success the PC achieves what they were attempting with no other consequences – e.g. landing a blow on a enemy and dealing damage. This category is statistically less common. A partial success (the most common kind of roll) allows the PC to achieve what they intended to, but there is some kind of consequence to be faced – e.g. landing a blow and dealing damage but also being dealt damage from an enemy. And the failure/small success adds further danger to the consequences, but this is ultimately decided by the GM. Sometimes these rolls meant me failure an attempt, other times we were offered a choice (and this applied to partial successes too) – like breaking down a door completely but falling into the room and being vulnerable, or only partially breaking the door. I enjoyed the feeling of not knowing what would happen next and every dice roll felt tense. It really kept the energy up over the length of game.

I’m looking forward to playing more RPGs and especially more Dungeon World. If future groups are as creative as my previous one, then I look forward to more epic scenes like riding a giant bear, ripping the arms off a zombie and making fantasy Molotov cocktails. As someone who often wishes I had more freedom in RPG video games, I can’t believe I didn’t try this sooner.

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