Dungeon World: The Tale of Old Dogan

I forgot to pack my story cubes or plot twist deck for Friday’s game, so I was doing things entirely by ear. We had an interesting crew: Dogan the fighter, Sanguinus the Pirate Paladin, Tetra the dashing hero and Urv the wizard.

Things started in medias res with me asking Sanguinus why he was in a knife fight, naked. Turned out that the assassin chasing him had threatened nearby innocents, forcing him to strip, but he’d grabbed a knife when they were distracted, and they’d taken the fight outside. Meanwhile, Tetra spotted an assassin at a party, a bunch of guys had jumped Dogan and Urv was chasing someone who had stolen his spellbook.

Tetra’s assassin, I should note, was up in the trapeze under a big top tent, which lead to some immediately climbing, rope cutting, and fighting up in the air. Urv’s thief ducked into the same tent and ended up using one of the falling assailants to take down his thief. His sleep spell also managed to stop the assassin, but caught Tetra as well, leading to an awkward knife fight in the net under the trapeze, which we described as a knife fight in a giant hammock. Urv stabbed a guy from underneath, Tetra got free from her attackers, but that’s when Urv’s thief hit them both with a color spray, grabbed the book and took off again. Urv and Tetra pursued, with Tetra staying to the rooftops to keep the guy in sight as he made his way to the laughing gate.

Meanwhile, Sanguinus had managed to drive off his attacker (who proved entertaining enough to merit a face card) but came back to the tavern to discover his pants (and other gear) had been stolen. He procured an apron from the barkeep and headed towards the Laughing Market, the nearest place one might fence those kinds of goods at this hour of the night.

Dogan had finished off his attackers, and took off in pursuit of the figure who had seemed to be directing them. Fearing he could not catch up with the guy on foot, he tried for a shortcut through Umulon, but he blew the roll badly enough for an “I’ll get back to you.”

Now, the timing of this worked out interestingly, because Dogan’s player was pulled away from the table for a while, long enough that this ended up going from an inconvenience to a central point.

The pursuit of the thief passed through the Laughing Gate in time for them to pass a bare-ass Sangunius, who joined in the chase, allowing them all to catch the crook. Interrogation followed where curiosity was peaked by the young man (who was having difficulty speaking) revealed that he had stolen the book to save “the bellringer”.

Meanwhile, Dogan found himself someplace dark and dank, and ended up rescuing some human slaves from fungal-infected overseers (with an assist from a stone throwing 10 year old boy), but in doing so raised an alarm, and found himself facing a fungusaur.

Urv’s conversation with the kid revealed that he had been a slave to the “big hats” in another place, and that about 10 years ago, the Bellringer had arrived, taught them how to fight and had cast out their overlords, but was still trapped there with the people. It also revealed the young man was a tremendous natural talent with magic, having more or less taught himself what he knew.

While this was going on, Sanguinus and Tetra tried to recover Sangunius’s gear. and were largely successful, recovering his pants, weapon, armor and magical compass. However, they did not recover his holy symbol, so that’s now floating around out there somewhere.

Meticulous study of the Boy’s notes allowed them to make contact with “Old Dogan”, who had clearly tapped some additional power in Bellringer. Communication was difficulty, but he shared a map that looked like gibberish to Urv, but was clearly a battle plan to Sanguinus. It seemed that was Old Dogan was proposing was to take this plan to current-Dogan and win his war early.

The kid and Old Dogan had an enigmatic exchange, ending with the kid saluting and agreeing to something. He helped Urv re-open the way to the Black Crypt, but revealed that his blood was a key – he cut his hand deeply, set it on the marks, and urged them to hurry, since it would only last as long as he was bleeding.

The group entered this new way just in time to find Dogan defeating the Fungusaur. They shared the battle plan with him, and went into action.

Much fighting followed. Basically, the whole underground was a giant fungal growth, but Old Dogan’s plan called out exactly where the center of it was and what its weak spots were. In charging it, they saw many half-grown Fungusaur and not-yet-active mushroom soldiers, and they managed to burn down the central tower (at some cost of self-inflicted injury) before these things could be fully activated. Explosions happened, and the various human slave camps were hurried out the one known exit as the fire spread. Urv lead them out, while Dogan, Tetra and Sanguinus followed them out. The stone throwing kid came with Dogan at the very end, and as he did, the spellbook thief simply vanished (to no ones surprise – they’d done that math).

Urv permanently sealed the way (opting to do so safely rather than harvest its power) and the characters took the refugees up to the Antesian hillfolk (since they were near that gate) to get them somewhere safe and to give a chance to heal some unpleasant wounds and lay low while there were assassins (who tried one more time at then end) looking for them. Some ended up as crew on the Ice Witch, and the boy is now somewhere between the new cabin boy and Urv’s apprentice.


Takeaways

  • Advantage/Disadvantage has fully replaced +1/-1 to excellent effect. In this session, we had a number of debilities in play (the fungal attacks inflicted them like mad) and the disadvantage rule made them feel really toothy.
  • I’ve pretty much concluded that the Dashing Hero isn’t quite all there. Almost all of the class’s cool is front loaded, which has made advancement an ongoing pain for the player, since the only really fun options have been multiclassing. Combined with occasional weirdness in interpreting her key moves, it’s a source of frustration. We’ll stick with it, but I flag it for my own future reference.
  • Speaking of multiclassing, we may switch the multiclass spell casting rules from “current level -1” to “Half your current level”. The current model makes spellcasting an overwhelmingly potent multiclass move (if you take it early) and greatly disincentivizes waiting to pick it up. It also kind of flips the bird to those actual classes, since spellcasting is such an essential move.
  • More broadly, there’s a temptation to entirely return multiclassing by just giving each class a “multiclass move” which is what the multiclass moves learn. The best argument against it has been the coolness of Dogan picking up the Druid’s “Balance” move, so I’m still undecided.
  • I want to write up a set of moves, one per player, that can be used once per session to represent the influence of absent characters. So “Jack knows a guy” may allow the current game to hook up with a useful NPC when Jack isn’t at the table. I doubt this is something that many games need, but for my rotating cast, I think it’ll be a nice way to keep it feeling like everyone is in circulation.
  • We’ve only got one level 6 character so far, but we have several at level 5, so we’re solidly moving into second tier play. As we get closer to 10, I think we’re going to need more Compendium Class options to handle “higher level” play (since the current level 10 rules don’t appeal to the group much). It may not be too much of a big deal, since it may also be a sign that it’s time to go into endgame.
  • One advantage of throwing a lot of things and seeing what sticks is that unresolved threads (like the assassins) provide excellent fodder for future sessions.
  • There remain plenty of moments where I regret the inability to offer players’ Fate Points for particular twists and opportunities.  It’s not a huge problem, but I definitely feel the absence of that tool from time to time.

7 thoughts on “Dungeon World: The Tale of Old Dogan

  1. Greg Sanders

    That move when available from absent characters idea is really compelling to me. I’m not sure it speaks to the breadth of applicability, but I’ve got a different -World hack where the PCs are typically split.

    I hope you’ll post examples if you go with it. In our current Monster Hearts hack game we’ve got one existing power that works kind of like that, namely my character has the Wingman trait and thus she can talk someone up that’s offscreen to have them roll with Hot remotely. It comes in play most with one particular other character, and his player has given permission to just roll the move in his absence. I suppose the inversion would be a character that everyone can talk up remotely, which could work well if you have the noble or other party figurehead.

    Reply
    1. Pôl Jackson

      The “custom Moves for the party based on absent characters” idea is really tasty. You could also use it for deceased characters. “Use the Thief’s old contact network”, “Look for something useful in the Wizard’s gear”, “Pray for guidance from the Cleric’s spirit”, “Invoke the Fighter’s reputation”, etc.

      Reply
    1. Rob Donoghue Post author

      I’ve considered it, and it would likely take a form like this, were I to do it, but I’m trying to play it pretty straight up for the moment (so as to better hack it later)

      Reply
  2. Marcus

    We have been playing a Shadowrun hack PbtA and our MC made little love letters with custom moves for absent characters. It functioned really well and I think it’s particularly good for games that reward niche protection.

    Reply

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