Dungeon World: Mappers part 2

Ok, so as we left off, our heroes had found a safe place to plan. Urk laid out the details and between some riffing and Spouting Lore, we identified some details. The Godless Cavaliers were swashbucklers, and high class defenders of the Chapel of No Gods[1], which was in the Crowntop neighborhood of Umalon – atop one of the biggest towers. They oversaw duels and nominally acted as the watch in Crowntop, but very few peopel are dumb enough to start trouble in Crowntop, as it’s one of the richest neighborhoods in the city. They usually patrol in pairs, and if the crew could get into Crowntop, then they could jump one.

Part of the planning here lead to a brief sidebar as the players noticed that the role of the gods in the setting was a strange one, since our two touch points were the Chapel of No Gods in Umalon and the Forgotten Cathedral in Rzae. The story turned out that the Um (it sounds better than Umalonian) were religiously anti-religious – it’s really the chapel of “No Gods”. In Zae, there had been priests, but they failed to save the city from the plague, and they were purged when the Plague Doctors took over with their wacky ideas of “Hygiene” and “Germ Theory”. We all concluded that it was a shame we had no Cleric of Paladin in the group, and that we look forward to that changing.

This lead to the question of how to get to Crowntop, and for that we looked to the map. Since the Burial Pits were next to the Chapel card, we decided it was through there, and that the Burial Pits could be gotten to through the Infinite Academy. All well and good, but no plan survives contact with the dice, and it turned out the connection from the Academy to the Pits did not come out where expected, and the group had to cross the pit.

The Burial Pit is where the plague Doctors drop bodies. It’s on an island that holds an old arena, and all but one bridge to it has been destroyed, with the remaining access controlled by the Plague Doctors. This is nominally to keep people out, but evidence suggest things may be reversed.

So, as the players are crossing the field of bodies there are, of course, sounds of movement and indications of unpleasantness that culminate in the players spotting 4 Draugr before they closed with the party and, of course, a fight. Fiction-wise it went fine – Dogan was a monster, and the biggest question was who he was helping at any given moment, since his bonds pulled him in both directions. Jack had a rough time at first, losing her weapon at one point, but (as seems to be jack’s pattern) finished with style and panache.[2] Urv got to bust out some magic missile and otherwise try not to get his face eaten.

Mechanically it was a lot more involved, though not in a bad way, since it was our first time trying out a number of things. I took a little bit too long picking the opposition, in part because I don’t yet have much of an instinct for how to “balance” an encounter, and there were definitely options that feel like they would have just wiped the party out. I think it turned out right, but some of that was luck. I definitely need more practice.

This fight definitely revealed the potency of Dogan’s weapon being Huge and Flexible (We determined at this point that its extra range category was reach, reflecting his ability to slam the hammer for shockwave attacks). He was not doing any real extra damage, but he was more or less controlling where the fight took place. Because he could engage the Draugr with reach, and because he could knock them the hell back, he effectively kept at least one enemy out of the fight at any given time. Extra damage or armor piercing would have been cool and useful too, but they would not have been better.

It also revealed that I don’t yet have a handle on what exactly an “attack” means on the GM side, nor any kind of clear rubric for when I would call for a defy danger roll versus when I would just inflict some damage. This isn’t a huge problem. The lack of clarity allows me to use it as a throttle for pacing, and I welcome that. And, honestly, the fiction often makes the most reasonable path clear. But it’s still got rough edges under my fingertips, so I need to get a hang of that.

Anyway, the guys won the fight, but with two different “Draw attention to yourselves” complications, so things ended with a hell-bent-for-leather run for the what they hoped was the door and, well.

The good new is, it was an exit!

The better news is, it was an exit to Crowntop!

The less good news was that it exited through a stained glass window into a lovely meeting happening in the Chapel of No Gods, crashing down onto the Buffet table, panicking the guests, and alerting the cavaliers.

The fight that followed was delightful. Dogen rained death while trying to scoop up as many sandwiches as he could from the buffet. Jack got in a lovely backstab and got himself a mud-bronze rapier and maine gauche off the body. Urv…well, Urv was more concerned with not being recognized, and very nearly accidentally cast a charm spell on the Chancellor of the academy before pretending to be one of the crowd and getting ushered out while Dogan and Jack got their violence on.

(Mechanically, I definitely understatted the Cavalier, something I will rectify next time)

Net result was that Jack had a bundle of weapons from the fallen cavaliers, Dogan had a bag full of sandwiches, but everyone managed to get away and meet up back at the Muddy Yak. The only real complication that followed was needing to give Slim Jimmy an extra weapon set to buy off the aggrieved raft holder who was upset about the thief and the hole in his raft. At that point it was late enough that the sale of the steins to Professor Delvish went off without a hitch (for now) and we wrapped everything up with a big carouse roll, which ended in Slim Jimmy becoming a more permanent ally and with a hook for the next session. Oh, and with Dogan making a Defy Danger roll for his unwillingness to let the sandwiches go to waste, despite the lack of refrigeration for the tiny shrimp.


So, all in all it went very well. I think everyone had fun. No one got quite enough XP to level, but it was close, which was probably just right. I definitely feel more comfortable throwing Dungeon World onto the stack of comfortable pickup games, with my sole hesitation being that I am not quite comfortable scaling opposition yet. That said, I need to figure out a few things:

  • I am definitely going to need to come up with one or two mapper moves. Probably one for finding a nearby passage and another for navigation between the cities. The map was a nice gimmick, and it can inform a roll, but it really needs a move.
  • I am slightly worried what happens next session when the cast changes. I’m not worried about the players or the group – my players aren’t going to waste time ‘getting the group together’ but rather about things like Bonds. I’m going to have to get some more Bond Mad Libs and let people add more bonds for more people, but keep their “active” bonds (ones involving characters in play today) limited according to their class. More generally, I also worry that after several sessions, the rotating cast may introduce new problems.
  • Thinking about a misdirection move. I totally get that I can use defy danger for it, and I will in a pinch, but its something I’ll keep an eye on how often I use.
  • At some point I will need to give more than passing thought to cash, but it won’t really be an issue until we reach a point where it is not expected that “broke” is the default starting status for a session.
  • Probably going to start with a front in each city, with a focus on them investigating and trying to seize control of the passageways. That seems a good starting point, with room for unexpected dangers to come in form other vectors as we play.
  • Will probably let each new player add something to the geography. Because why wouldn’t I?

  1. In some part of my head, they are now Bioshock Swashbucklers. and I’m good with that. They will almost certainly be part of a front too, after the events of today’s session.  ↩
  2. The fight also lead to a brief but somewhat existential discussion of the rules. We mentioned the “when in doubt, defy danger” idea, and I noted that my instincts are such that the game could easily be nothing but defy dangers (which is, I think, how World of Dungeons handles it), but the reasons not to is that the extra mechanical bits in some of the moves (the 10+ Hack & Slash being the example of the moment) make them more interesting  ↩

7 thoughts on “Dungeon World: Mappers part 2

  1. Paul Weimer (@PrinceJvstin)

    Getting players to add to the geography gets them to “buy into” that geography.

    Changing the layout of characters does run up hard against Bonds…but when my gaming group and I played DW,we didn’t use the bonds that much.

    1. Fred Hicks

      Yup. Player-generated geography has always been a pretty big deal for us as a playgroup. First game ever of Fate featured a lot of that.

  2. Fred Hicks

    I figure the low stats on the Cavaliers is due to them being more of a “decorative guard” at the time and totally not prepared to see three assailants come tumbling through a stained glass window into their midst.

  3. Harry Connolly

    Having started a DW variant a few months ago, I’m still getting used to the mechanics. Every Defy Danger roll we do is based on DEX and I keep making my character do things he’s good at instead of things he might fail at (and get XP), so I’m behind everyone in leveling up.

    Still, it’s fun and less of a grind than the old-style THE FANTASY TRIP or whatever.

  4. Pôl Jackson

    Upon reflection, I think that “Parley” does work for a “Misdirection” move. Parley requires that you promise something; when you’re misdirecting someone, the unspoken promise is, “I’ll steer you straight”. That promise is a lie, and there are consequences when its discovered to be untrue, but the base idea is the same. On a 10+, they believe your unspoken promise (that you’re being honest) without proof. on a 7-9, they need tangible evidence of your promise; that translates to being suspicious. They might do the thing you want them to, but maybe not in the way you want them to, and they’re keeping an eye on you. On a 6 or less, your unspoken promise of honesty isn’t good enough; they flat-out don’t believe you.

    As for Defy Danger, I think it’s really important to stress that it should be done in response to player action. I played in a con game of Dungeon World where the GM used Defy Danger basically as a way for the opponents to get a turn to attack. We all took a turn, then we each rolled Defy Danger to avoid getting hit. I found it really unsatisfying, because we weren’t doing anything active to provoke the Defy Danger. It can be used sometimes passively as a saving throw, but only if the character faces “great calamity”.

    Thanks so much for these write-ups!

    1. Fred Hicks

      Parley contains the requirement that you have leverage on the target, otherwise you’ve got no hand-hold, so to speak, to make the move. So part of the question to be had here is whether or not misdirecting folks is something that can be done without leverage.

      Certainly, tho, the Bard class’s advanced moves give some credence to Pol’s perspective, here: see Bamboozle (p. 85) and Con (p. 87).

    2. Rob Donoghue Post author

      And that is roughly the logic we ended up using in going with in using Parley, and it works, but it definitely feels like it’s stretching the membrane a bit. Not bad enough that I’m feeling like we *definitely* need a misdirection move, just enough to put a pin in it.


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