Discovering Dungeon World

Since discovering DCC RPG, I’ve been wandering from one modern rpg system to another, buying pdfs here and there, sampling the field to see what looks good. I’ve been running a Pathfinder campaign for over a year now, and in that time I’ve grown… disenchanted with D&D 3.5. Too many rules, too many exceptions, to much need to look stuff up when you just want to be playing. So I’ve been wanting to see what else is out there, and how current rpg design might address my issues with Pathfinder.

I got excited about FATE Core, since it streamlines the overly-detailed system used in Spirit of the Century, and ordered the hardback. It’s a tight little package that does a great job of boiling the FATE system down to its, well, core, but even in its currently concise form there’s too much jargon for my taste (“aspects,” “compels,” “boosts,” etc.). What I love most about FATE is how much say the players have in the game world, but the language is off-putting. I don’t think the designers of FATE could have done anything differently — when you create a new system, you need new terms to define it — but I was looking for something that I could grasp quickly, and, more importantly, a system I could communicate to my players in 5 minutes.

Enter Dungeon World, by Sage LaTorra and Adam Koebel; a “hack” of D. Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World that reframes those rules in a classic D&D context. Here appeared to be what I was looking for: super simple rules that put story before mechanics, instead of the other way around. I read the pdf, session reports, and some great tipsheets about how to run the game. I also bought the pdf of Apocalypse World and read that, in order to understand the origins of the system, and laid my hands on Adventures on Dungeon Planet, a pulp sci-fi hack of DW by Johnstone Metzger. In my worm’s-eye view investigation of what turned out to be one of the hottest indie titles of 2012/2013, I was delighted to discover that the creation of DW was inspired in part by Tony Dowler, an old Seattle acquaintance. Tony is an incredibly creative guy and a total mensch, who helped me playtest early versions of my pulp adventure boardgame, Thrilling Tales of Adventure! His involvement in DW was the synchronistic straw that broke the rpg camel’s back — I had to try the game.
And so, on an off week when two of our Pathfinder players were AWOL, we did. An account of that session will follow, hopefully within the next few days.