Presidential Misery: Shit Won, Shit Lost

Boy, it’s been awhile. I didn’t think my first blog post in a good, long while would have to do with politics. Frankly, I hate politics.

One thing I actually make a concerted effort not to do is vent on social media. I include any blogging I do in that philosophy.

But I guess I see no harm in breaking that rule on occasion, especially under these circumstances.

For many people, as far as the eye can see, this 2016 United States presidential election has been taxing. For me, I saw two horrible, corrupt people leading the way to become arguably the most powerful person in the world. Meanwhile, the least corrupt people in this race, our third-party candidates, simply did not have the financial nor big media support to possibly compete. Imagine if the presidential debates were between four candidates instead of the two major party leaders? But I digress…

For me, I was confident that at least one of these horrible people would win this Presidential election. I was mentally and emotionally prepared for this eventuality.

So why am I feeling so emotionally drained, miserable, and angry?

It’s actually fairly simple; there are a couple of members of my family, people I love very much, that are acting like they won. They’re happy that Donald Trump won. They’re acting like an inspiring beacon of hope, truth, and justice has won the presidency.

And it’s pissing me off.

“Calm down. Don’t take this so seriously. Have a sense of humor about this.” My family members say. This is rich, considering the person who says this has a shorter temper than me, and basically yells about something stupid everyday of their life. Said person also emailed me a link to Trump’s acceptance speech and let me know that America will be great again. Unbelievable!

I’m charged and angry because their mindset is that one of these people running is horrible (Clinton) while the other is a fantastic human being (Trump.) It’s pissing me off, because they’re not necessarily saying this; instead, they keep saying it’s the “lesser of two evils.”  It’s pissing me off, because actions speak louder than words, and their actions are telling me very loudly and clearly that Donald Trump is the Superman ideal: the bastion of truth and justice that we should all aspire to.

I have never bought this argument. Like I said previously, both are horrible people. When you compare shit with shit, no matter how much paint and nail polish you pour over it, it’s still shit. And make no mistake; both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both despicable human beings.

So please stop acting like good has conquered evil, because that’s not what happened. Evil was going to win in either event. Shit won and shit lost. Case closed.

Maybe America will be better in four years, when it’s all said and done. Maybe Trump will be the progressive president that he painted himself to be. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll at some point recognize the delusional mindset and cognitive dissonance that plagues his psyche and make a concerted effort to move forward and become a better human being. At this point, that’s all I can hope and pray for.

But if I were a betting man, I’d say America will be worse off. He’ll do nothing to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Foreign relations will be jeopardized. Mega corporations, the foundations of extreme corporate greed and corruption (and ironically backers of Clinton) will be richer than ever with corporate taxes having been cut. And Donald Trump will be much wealthier than he is now, much more than the President’s annual salary would indicate.

Perhaps the greatest irony is if Hillary Clinton won, I would have written the exact same final paragraph. That’s how horrible this presidential election has been. And perhaps, for the moment, it’s what America deserves.




Thank You Neil

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post of any sort. Close to a year. D’OH!

Time flies when you’re having fun, and in my case, it flew. It soared! And in that fun (work, really, but whatever) this blog faded for awhile.

But at the very least, I can say that I’ve written one entire blog post for 2016 (this post), but not because I felt any pressure to do so. For the first time in a long time, I was inspired to do so. I hope it’s not one-and-only for 2016, but we’ll see.

So I often write about tabletop RPG’s; I run and play in games nowadays. In fact,  I will run an adventure tomorrow at my FLGS, and need to prep for that.

But I digress.

So last night I participated in one of the most fun game sessions of D&D I played in awhile, certainly in recent memory. Long story short, our party engaged in combat with a demonic entity. It was a very tense combat, as half the party went down at some point. But that wasn’t what made it fun for me.

What made it fun was that there were so many revelations. Many of them were silly and came out of some free-flowing, organic narrative soup, where it started with the correct / incorrect name and snowballed from there. Here they are, in no particular order. As a note, while I list these, I will try to provide context so you, the reader, can hopefully understand.

1.) The name of the big bad of the week, or at least the name our party of a-holes (we are definitely a bunch of jerks!) believes to be true.

So this is how the session began last night. I’m paraphrasing due to my poor memory.

Demon Guy: You will all serve me now!

Party Leader: And who is the name of the person we may serve, for a fee of course?

Demon Guy: KNEEL!

The Rest Of Us: Neil? Your name is Neil?! Oh, that’s a…won…der..ful name. Neil!

…and combat ensues. For the rest of this campaign, this Demon Guy who we later find out is a fallen Paladin that became demonized,…this Demon Guy whom we barely defeated…will always be Neil.


2.) Clangeddin is the name of a deity in the Forgotten Realms. No, really.

So our Dwarf Barbarian wields a sentient, magical hammer named ‘Whelm.’ for close to a year now. Whenever he uses the hammer, the hammer screams “CLANGEDDIN!” For this entire time, each and every member of the party assumed it was some Dwarven war-cry of some sort.

So through magical shenanigans I don’t fully understand, our Dwarf destroyed the Big Bad’s source of power (I think) with Whelm, and the room we were in magically transformed into a shrine to Clangeddin. When the DM described the circumstance, including the altar having the symbol of Clangeddin on it, we all looked at each other briefly.

Dwarf Barbarian: Wait…are you saying Clangeddin is a god?

DM: Yes.

Dwarf Barbarian: That’s so awesome!

DM: Wait, you didn’t know?

No. None of us knew. We just thought it was like a war cry of some sort. How did we not know this?


3.) Shang-Chi thinks Kesh is fat.

So Shang-Chi (Human Cleric Jock who is not proficient in religion, because he slept through class and got through on natural talent alone,) is not a nice guy. He used to be a nicer guy, but hanging out with this party, combined with other traumatic events has turned him a bit cold and angry.

I mentioned some crazy magical shenanigans in the place we were in. One of the crazy magical shenanigans afflicted Kesh, our grey-skinned Half-Orc Barbarian with a great deal of sadness and apathy. In other words, when combat ensued, he moped around and wouldn’t participate in battle.

So Shang-Chi, played by yours truly, did the only thing he could think: give a back-handed “inspirational” speech. I should also mention that he’s below average on the Intelligence scale.

Shang-Chi: Listen, and listen well you Half-Orc Barbarian Fatty! Snap out of it, and get angry! Rage! If you don’t get angry and start fighting, we will all die here! Do you understand? We will be dead, unless you tap into you fury and start attacking Neil!

On his turn, Kesh proceeded to respond to these words…by giving Shang-Chi a hug.

Take two!

Shang-Chi: We don’t have time for this you damn fatty! Do you want to give up? Do you want to die here? Because that’s exactly what will happen unless you do as I say! Now, go rage and attack our enemies before it’s too late!

It appeared to work the second time around. Kesh finally raged and started doing what he does best, which is crushing our enemies.

For the record, I’m sure Kesh is nothing but a slab of Half-Orc muscle. But in game, Shang-Chi is confident that Kesh needs to lay off the junk food just a bit.

(And off topic, yes the name is a reference to the Marvel comics character.)


4.) We love side quests

So as a side quest, we journeyed into the Underdark to retrieve supplies and / or take revenge on raiders that stole supplies. Since then, we have somehow gotten on a side quest off the side quest we were on. Or so I thought. Apparently, we’re on our fourth side quest according to the GM.

At this point, I’m just curious as to how we’ll ever get back onto the main road.


5.) We are the Expendables

Honestly, we’re quite the bunch of misfits. I mean, my Cleric was formerly a life domain Cleric, but is now a Death domain Cleric (though technically not evil in alignment; homebrew for the win!) The journey of how this all happened is a post for another time, by the way.

The Wizard / Pirate Captain is a feared celebrity considered to be mad by his fans, hence the name: Mad Barth. The Rogue is a superstitious kleptomaniac. The Half-Orc Barbarian, even before his temporary, magically-afflicted sadness, is perhaps the most civilized barbarian ever conceived. All he needs is a suit and tie. Or a bow tie. Our Dwarf Barbarian is the hairiest being alive, with little plastic / clay miniature elves hanging off his beard. Our Gnome Fighter / Eldritch Knight is probably the most…’normal’ murder hobo among us, and he suffers from amnesia (he has no idea how he got to the surface. He just met up with us one day and decided to hang out.)

I just imagine us as the ‘Lord of the Ring’ B-Team. We’re the guys that were considered to be the Fellowship for maybe less than 10 seconds, before Gandalf and Elrond realized what a horrible idea that was.

But here’s the thing; it actually works for us. We’re flawed to the nines. We’re hardly heroes. We’re mercenary adventurer’s with very little tact and respect for anyone, friend or foe. We’re silly beyond measure. And that’s just fine.

All of this may very well be a ‘You had to be there,’ experience to find and understand the humor in any of this, but for me, it was the most fun, and humorous session as a player I’ve had in awhile. And it’s all thanks to a Demon Guy named Neil.

The Fifth Blog of 2015: Dungeon World Gaiden, Part 2

The following post was written by Chris Fong and the player for Philo / Lux. Enjoy!

We once again had issues with players unable to meet, so with two players in attendance, it was decided to improvise another ad hoc adventure with brand new characters, set during the war that was referenced in the first Gaiden adventure. This gave the players an opportunity to play around with different classes abilities. They started out as level 4 characters already, a reference that they’re not rookie adventurer’s in this historical tapestry.

During the last great War of the Realms, the Council of Necromancers formed, desperate to conquer the realm in their lust for power. The civilized races of humans, elves, dwarves, and outlanders joined forces to defend themselves and their homes from this threat. Calling themselves the United, a great war was waged, and destruction scarred the land.

During this time, great heroes emerged to lead the people against the chaos. Among them was the Iron War Elemental, a mighty iron golem imbued with the soul of a heroic, nameless dwarf. Called Zentral among his closest allies, he set out on a quest with two of his closest lieutenants to acquire a powerful artifact, the Urn of Heroes, said to possess the ashes and souls of heroes past. Zentral hoped to utilize its magic to help him forge a shield impervious to the magics employed by the Council of Necromancers.

Meanwhile, one of the most powerful Necromancers, a dwarf mage named Halorin, and the archrival to the Iron War Elemental, broke away from the council, forming a third power for the Council and the United to contend with. It is also said that Halorin too seeks the Urn for his own gain…

The Iron War Elemental stood nearly twelve feet in height, a hulking humanoid of metal and destruction. Yet he moved with surprising quickness and was light on his feet considering his massiveness. He was breaking camp with his two lieutenants, a mutant salamander barbarian calling himself Thing-of-Nouns (I like to think of him as a ninja turtle, except as a salamander and more barbarian-like,) and a human paladin named Lux. While the overnight hours had been kind with no attacks of any kind, this morning would not be so kind, as two massive creatures nearly as tall as the Iron War Elemental suddenly appeared. Sporting bear-like bodies with owl-like heads, these two owlbears roared and hooted all at once before attacking. The Iron War Elemental suddenly found himself wrestling on the ground with one, while Thing-of-Nouns charged at the other with his greatsword. Lux joined his fellow lieutenant in the fray, and the two were able to damage their foe, with the salamander using his greatsword to slice off the beak of his prey. Meanwhile, the Iron War Elemental quickly snapped the neck of his owlbear. For inexplicable reasons, Lux ran over to the dead owlbear and stabbed it in the head, followed by Thing-of-Nouns, who brought his greatsword down on the already dead owlbear.

“I think you both have your own enemy to deal with.”

Thing-of-Nouns and Lux glanced at each other before turning around and finishing off their foe in quick, brutal fashion. The mutant salamander hissed a victory cry and kept the dismembered owlbear beak as a trophy of his conquest.

For the next few hours, the terrific trio traveled through the forest until they happened upon what looked to be ancient ruins. Two giant stone doors stood before them, towering in height, even taller than the Iron War Elemental. Suddenly, a giant roar pierced their ears coming from behind them, to their left. It sounded to be miles off, and yet it was no less blood-curdling. A dragon was nearby. The Iron War Elemental made a decision.

“My friends, the two of you must go into the ruins to recover the Urn of Heroes. I will go dragon hunting. Lux, if I may have a word?” The Iron War Elemental pulled Lux aside, and pulled out an orb the size of an apple with a pin in the middle.

“Are you familiar with alchemist’s fire?”

“No, sir.”

“I…really? Have you ever seen alchemist’s fire used?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. I designed this device, inspired by alchemist’s fire. Just pull the pin and throw it at your enemy if things get out of hand. I have no clue what danger you’ll encounter in those ruins, but it is critical that you and Thing-of-Nouns succeed in this mission. And now, I must be off.”

The Iron War Elemental handed the curious throwing weapon to Lux before running off, away from the ruins. As he received the new weapon, Lux closed his eyes tightly and bowed his head down. “I give you my sacred oath sir, that we will be successful in our most holy mission. I, Lux, paladin of valor, will bring light to the darkness, and see your will be done! You have my word! I thank thee lord, for in thy mer-”

“Who are you talking too?” asked Thing-of-Nouns, curious at Lux’s strange behavior.

Lux opened a single eye, realizing no one was around to hear him except his mutant salamander companion. “Uh, come Thing-of-Nouns!”

Patience was not a strong suit of Thing-of-Nouns, and he went straight towards the doors and began to push. Straining his muscles to the utmost, the mutant salamander hissed as, slowly but surely, the doors parted before his impressive might. With the doors now open, Lux lit a torch and proceeded into darkness, his salamander friend following behind.

For several minutes, the two walked down a seemingly endless corridor, well-carved stone brick surrounding them, reminding Lux of fine, dwarven craftsmanship. Thing-of-Nouns chose to crawl on all fours, occasionally eating a stray insect as he traveled. Lux suddenly walked straight into what appeared to be an invisible wall, rubbery and slimy by the touch, and sticky too! Before he knew it, his body was being sucked into a gelatinous cube! The torch still glowed brightly within the cube, illuminating its shape.

The cube proceeded to attack Thing-of-Nouns, doing damage as the two traded blows. Some would have called Lux “trapped” in the Gelatinous Cube. Lux bravely stood his ground within the cube surrounded by all sides. Using all of his might, he tried to push through the monstrosity, but was unable to move. It was like trying to wade through slime. Things were not looking good. his skin was beginning to get tingly and hot. The gelatinous cube would slowly consume him if he was not freed!

In a fine maneuver of swordsmanship or tomfoolery, Thing-of-Nouns charged and pierced his greatsword into the gelatinous cube, incidentally striking the shield of Lux with such force that the paladin went flying through the other side of the gelatinous cube, covered in acidic slime. Acting instinctively and heroically, Lux quickly whispered an oath and slashed his sword as he went flying through the other side, doing even more damage to the slimy dungeon monster. Realizing a need to end the battle quickly, Lux said another oath and leapt through the air above and over his foe, his body spinning as he brought down his blade, glowing with the purity of valor, bisecting the gelatinous cube completely, and dexterously landing his on his feet in front of Thing-of-Nouns. The enemy defeated and despite being wounded himself, Lux healed Thing-of-Nouns injuries, recovered the slimy torch, and the two proceeded forward into the dungeon ruins.

A few minutes later, our heroes found themselves in a large chamber with four unlit torches resting in wall sconces, and a stone door with intricate carvings at the far end with no apparent way to open. Lux decided to shed some light on the matter and lit all four torches. This prompted the appearance of a Minotaur sitting in a giant throne, materializing out of thin air at the center of the room. Introducing himself as Alexander, he applauds Lux for even thinking of lighting the torches, something he hasn’t experienced before. He proceeds to tell them that if they wish the door open, they must answer three riddles correctly, and gives them five categories: 1.) human ability, 2.) magical energy, 3.) Exorcism, 4.) the Four Horsemen, and 5.) the Seven Sins. After a brief huddle, they select the Seven Sins as their first category:

I covet what you have

Green eyes glinting

Alighting always on something beyond my grasp.

“What is envy?” Thing-of-Nouns asks. He is correct. For the second category, the duo chooses natural ability.

Nimble-footed, nimble fingered,

Dodging blows by reflex, doling extra attacks

Faster than blades,

I speed arrows on their way.

“What is the dexterity of a thief?” Lux proudly asks. Alexander ponders for a moment; the mention of a thief was gratuitous, but does not make the actual answer any less relevant, so he allows it. Wiping the sweat off their brows (do mutant salamanders sweat?), they select exorcism for their third, and hopefully final category.

Always wax, yet always wane:

I melt, succumbing to the flame.

Lighting darkness, with fate unblest,

I soon devolve to shapeless mess.

Lux thinks for a moment before pulling a candle from his adventuring gear, and says: “This!” Alexander reminds him to phrase it in the form of a question. “What is this?” Lux says, pointing at the candle in his hand. Alexander nods, clearly impressed with the two lieutenants standing in front of him, and with a few gestures, the door at the far end rises and opens. For answering all three riddles correctly with no wrong answers, the minotaur rewarded the dynamic duo with a glowing bottle, citing that Lux “looked like bull poop!” Lux took the observation as a challenge to drink the mystery liquid. He immediately downed the potion, and found the injuries he suffered in the previous battle healed. The minotaur waved farewell and vanished before their eyes. With the path before them clear, the two made their way down another corridor.

A couple of minutes passed before they happened upon a larger chamber, where hundreds of rupees lay scattered throughout. At the far end of the chamber was an alcove, where a brilliant urn rested. There was no sign of life within the room, save for one curious rabbit. Feeling an irrepressible, barbaric urge to skin the rabbit, Thing-of-Nouns charged at it, brandishing his greatsword. The rabbit suddenly leapt at the mutant salamander with surprising speed and grace; his greatsword managed to connect a grazing blow as the rabbit landed and gnawed on the salamander’s shoulder.

Thing-of-Nouns hissed in pain as Lux leapt into action, grabbing at the rabbit and pulling it off his companion. The rabbit went hurtling at the wall, only to springboard off it straight at the paladin. Raising his shield, Lux perfectly times his defense, and shield bashes the rabbit to the ground. Thing-of-Nouns takes advantage of this opportunity, driving a dagger straight into the rabbit’s head, killing it instantly.

With no more enemies before them for the moment, Lux walked over to the far end of the room, and retrieved the urn from the alcove. It appeared ordinary in its appearance, not golden and lacking any intricate detail. And yet, it shone brilliantly, and both Lux and Thing-of-Nouns felt inspired. Lux shoved the urn into his backpack, and tried to heal his friend’s wounds. However, his healing abilities failed him, so he sacrificed his own health by transferring any wounds and diseases the barbarian had to his own body.  Lux ponders his sacrifice. Knowing Thing-of-Noun’s hedonistic tendencies, Lux really hopes it won’t start burning when he has to use the outhouse.

Feeling better, Thing-of-Nouns began to skin the rabbit, and kept the carcass as another trophy, his second of the day. He also proceeded to scoop up rupees from the floor, even though it was not essential to their mission. There was no reason not to; their task is complete, or so they think. Suddenly, the commotion of cursing and battle fills their ears, coming from the corridor they just came from. The dynamic duo looked at each other before uttering a single word and running from where they came.


Moving with haste, the two returned to the chamber where they met the riddling minotaur. They encountered a grisly sight, the minotaur on the floor, covered in his own blood and the blood of his enemies. Over a dozen orc bloodwarrior bodies lay defeated, scattered throughout the room. Standing near Alexander’s prone body was a lone orc bloodwarrior along with two goblins wielding spears and another goblin that appeared to have no weapons.

The orc bloodwarrior swore bloody vengeance for the death of his comrades, intending to take out his oath on Lux and Thing-of-Nouns. The mutant salander hissed a challenge at his enemies, immediately drawing the attention of the orc and two armed goblins. The lone goblin took several steps backward, making arcane gestures. A goblin magic-user! Lux had wanted to attempt healing Alexander, but the greater threat had made itself clear, and as a paladin of valor, he could suffer no evil creature to live. With the goblin magic-user preparing an incantation, Lux chose to charge it, with the hope that he could take it down quickly enough and hopefully heal Alexander, assuming the Minotaur could be healed. Lunging forward, Lux screamed his holy word.


The goblin magic-user unleashes a putrid green orb from his hands, slimy and transparent. Lux tries to anticipate where the attack will land and raises his shield to counter. He anticipates incorrectly, and is struck in the forehead for his efforts. Despite the blinding pain, he now finds himself in melee range with the magic-user and strikes down. Meanwhile, Thing-of-Nouns winds up, intending to knock his enemies down with a wide swing of his greatsword, but he mistimes his swing and hits nothing but air. The goblins are so shocked by this turn of events, they freeze in their tracks, perhaps anticipating that they are being baited. The orc does no such thing, and injures the mutant salamander with a jagged blade.

Lux manages to greatly injure the orc magic-user with a swing of his blade. Once more, he utters his holy oath! Over and over again!

“Die! Die! Die!”

The magic-user manages to conjure another acid orb, but is unable to let it loose before Lux swings his mighty blade with great valor, killing the goblin magic-user. Thing-of-Nouns meanwhile manages to nimbly dodge the orc bloodwarrior, and shoulder tackles him down to the ground. Raising his greatsword for a killing blow, he surprisingly misses, while the orc counterattacks from the floor, stabbing upward, his jagged blade once more drawing mutant salamander blood.

Lux charges forward, swinging his blade at one of the goblins. The goblin tries to parry with his spear, but the blade slices through the spear and neck of the goblin, killing it instantly. An enraged Thing-of-Nouns swings his greatsword once more, finally connecting with the orc, killing it instantly in a mess of blood and entrails. The lone goblin drops his spear, and runs down the hallway. The goblin footsteps grow more and more faint, before a clang is heard. Metallic footsteps fill the hallway as the Iron War Elemental emerges into the room, looking somewhat haggard and fatigued.

“My friends, did you recover the Urn of Heroes?”

Lux produces the Urn for all to see. Sadly, Alexander the minotaur has died and is past the point of healing, magical or otherwise. The Iron War Elemental and his two lieutenants make their way towards the ruins entrance, their mission an apparent success…

As an aside, the riddles I used are from ‘So What’s The Riddle Like, Anyway III’ from Raging Swan Press. No, I don’t work for them, and you can find it here.

The Fourth Blog of 2015: Dungeon World Gaiden

The following post was written by the player for Philo with contributions by Chris Fong and the player for Tesla. Enjoy!

(FYI: Gaiden is a Japanese word for ‘side-story’ or ‘tale.’ You can read more about it here, but as not all players could make it, that’s essentially what was run on this night rather than continue the previous Indigo Galleon adventure and trying to reconcile the fiction of why this character was no longer around. So it was decided that we would have an adventure where three of the characters meet for the first time.)

“Grunhilda, are you sure about your translation of Halorin’s diary?”

“Quite sure, Lord-Regent King; the cypher was surprisingly easy to solve. The only question that remains is, who should we send to recover the artifact?”

The Lord-Regent sighed. The bulk of his strongest warriors were away on city-watch business. Andrade did boast one of the realm’s finest Adventurer’s Guilds, but adventurers and mercenaries have proven to be unreliable in the past. Still, time was of the essence. The Lord-Regent was not the only one with possession of Halorin’s diary.

“If I may, Lord-Regent, I have a fairly competent friend from University whose hobby happens to be the pursuit of magical mysteries. I am sure he would be more than happy to undertake the journey to recover the artifact.”

The Lord-Regent sat down on his ruling chair, deep in thought. “If you vouch for this wizard, then please summon him, and make haste. I will also need you to go to the Adventurer’s Guild to see if anyone would volunteer for this errand.”

“At once, Lord-Regent.”

*     *     *

Philo had come back to the great city of Andrade for a few days. Usually, only long enough to resupply and maybe line-up some guide work. Sure, a true ranger could get by without civilization, and Philo wasn’t fond of all the abstract laws found in cities; where his snake was and wasn’t allowed, and what you couldn’t do depending on what day it was, etc. However, Philo was no fool, he wasn’t in the habit of letting pride get in the way of some well-crafted hunting supplies or a meal cooked with “spices.”

Philo also found big city entertainment to his liking. Unfortunately, the chief draw, gambling, made sure he didn’t enjoy for too long. No sooner did he find himself with some extra rupees, than they seemed to make their way over to someone else’s pile. Still, it was all fun and games to him. People got so mad about losing those little stones. Stone’s won’t keep you well fed or protected in the wild. A Ranger had his wits for that.

As Philo’s last rupee made its way over to the dealer’s pile, he was ready to become a Ranger once again. Suddenly the door to the adventurer’s hall slammed open. In the doorway stood a matron wizardess flanked on either side by two greenhorns. A female bard stood to the left, probably one of the students over at the Bard college. And staring intently to the young gentleman on the right. He must be a wizard; who else would wear all that purple?

Grunhilda called out for volunteers. “Payment is 10 rupees upfront and more upon successful return.”

Ten rupees wasn’t much, but out in the wild, it was better to travel in packs. Making camp alone was always a gamble. Philo had Whiskers to watch his back, but snakes were a little odd. Once every few weeks, Whiskers would disappear, returning once he had a full belly.  Once Whiskers got hungry, there was no telling if you were on the menu or not.

10 rupees, Philo thought. I was headed back out there anyway. I might as well go with money in my pocket and someone to talk to. He looked around; just as he suspected, he was the only taker. After all, adventurers were not in the habit of escorting city-folk for paltry sums. They were after that big score, so they could be rich and buy a castle or something. Philo chuckled to himself. What would I do in a castle?  

*     *     *

Returning to the mansion of Lord-Regent King, the terrific trio were told more details of their mission, and the world in general. In the last great War of the Realm, the civilized races joined forces to fight necromancers corrupted by their lust for power and domination. Among the most powerful necromancers, and perhaps the most mad, was Halorin, a Dwarf wizard with a knack for causing chaos. His arch-rival on the battlefield was known to many only as the Iron War Elemental, an Iron Golem that housed the soul of a powerful, nameless Dwarven warrior. During their final battle, Halorin defeated and entombed the Iron War Elemental, and teleported him away to a cavern for no good reason other than sheer madness. According to remnants of Halorin’s diary, recently translated by Grunhilda, the Iron War Elemental’s shield was also entombed. Lord-Regent King promised the party 50 rupees apiece for successful completion of recovering the shield, or at the very least ensuring it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Directions to the cave were provided, again information acquired from the diary…

*     *     *

Making their way through the wilderness was going better than expected.  The three set out to find some old shield that belonged to some old dwarf who fought in some old war. Philo noted enough of the details to get them where they were going.  It would be up to the others to deal with any magic or traps. Or so he hoped…

Another beautiful day in the forest was drawing to a close when the party spotted a campfire up ahead. Philo counted five goblins sitting around the spit roasting a squirrel and complaining about the lack of human meat. He gave hand signals to his party and let loose the 1st shot. Definitely not his lucky day. The arrow hit the squirrel, alerting all of the goblins to their presence.

Philo let off another shot. Whiskers, being the fearless snake he was, dove right in to assist. Biting the goblin in the foot ensured that the arrow hit the preoccupied goblin in the head.

Lilly busted into the camp with bravado, singing at the top of her lungs in goblin. Suddenly, one of the goblins turned and attacked his companion. Philo didn’t understand what she was singing, and was glad he didn’t, because it was her song that made the goblin turn. Both Lilly and Philo looked around. No wizard. Two goblins left, meant they had more important things to pay attention to.

Another goblin quickly met his end. Down to one, and now the wizard decided to show up. Purple blasts emanate from the bushes and the final goblin is roasted, but not before a snake that wasn’t Whiskers coiled down from a hanging branch and attacks Tesla. The group dispatches the snake as Whiskers looks horrified by what happens next: Lilly may have grown up on the wrong side of town, or just have some odd tastes, because she helps herself to some nearly raw goblin, while the other two try to figure out what to make of it.

*     *     *

The rest of the journey to the cave was not as eventful. Another days walk brought them to the mouth of the cave. Upon entering, they encountered a fleshy dwarf quite literally bonded to the wall. Think Han Solo frozen in carbonite, except he could talk. All attempts to free him failed, but the dwarf didn’t seem to mind. He was happy, content to remain there. Clearly evidence of the power of this mad wizard and what he had done during the ancient war.

A little ways beyond the dwarf was what resembled a frozen pool of water. Philo and his cold-blooded companion thought better than to test out the ice. Lilly on the other hand dashed out, discovering that though it looked like ice, it wasn’t slippery at all. Also, she was quickly surrounded as four flesh golems, dwarven in their sewn-up appearance, rose up through the ice. The golems split up, two attacking Lilly, and one of each on the remaining party members. Thinking quickly, Tesla turned Lilly invisible, and was quickly punished by the nearest golem. Philo attempted to ignore the enemy in front of him and help Lilly. The nearest golem ended up deflecting the arrow shot.

New round, and our team found new resolve. Lilly bashed her pan pipes into a golem’s neck and began to play, bursting its brains. Philo and Whiskers dispatched the golem who had deflected his previous arrow. Tesla attempted to use his magic missile spell, but perhaps unable to concentrate fully, it fizzled out, uncast and forgotten. Opting for physical force instead of magic, Tesla unleashed his staff on another golem, cracking its head in the process. The party worked together to dispatch the final golem. They won, but clearly paid a price. Lilly and Tesla were badly injured and Tesla had lost his magic missile spell. The party decided it would be best to lick their wounds outside the cave.

*     *     *

The party once again camped overnight; luck was still with them, for no creatures disturbed their slumber and they awakened refreshed and ready to trek deeper into the cave. Or they would have been, if they hadn’t been rudely interrupted after breakfast.

Four figures approached them, two of them brandishing swords, another a bow, along with a diminutive, cloaked halfling figure. After some conversation about going to retrieve the shield, Tesla shook the hand of the apparent leader and successfully charmed him with his not-as-patented-as-magic-missile-but-still-very-effective ‘Charm Person’ spell. With his new ‘friend ‘till the end,’ the two groups found themselves allied together and entered the cave together.

*     *     *

The expanded group heads into the cave. They make it past the stranded dwarf and the ice-pool areas without issue. The next part of the cave is a large cavern filled with stalagmites and stalactites. As the party starts making their way through the rock formations they are greeted by the sound of wings. Bat wings. Large bats start attacking the party, but they appear decomposed in appearance. Now bolstered with reinforcements, the party mows down the zombie bats. Their new “friends” took the brunt of the damage.

The forces regroup and continue into the large cavern filled with various bones. They see a tomb at the other end resting on a stone dais. This must be the treasure that both parties came for. Just as the group thinks there is only loot left to collect, Lilly runs up to the tomb; the moment she steps onto the dais, magical runes flare up, an eery green glow fills the cavern, and the bones on the ground start moving.  A room full of skeletons starts to form at the feet of our adventurers. Battle ensues. Everyone fights valiantly, but despite our best efforts, Tesla’s ‘friend till the end’ indeed meets his end. The halfling disappears in the chaos.

As skeletons and allies fell in brutal fashion, Philo decided now was the time to strike, and fired an arrow at the hunter. Tesla, for reasons only known to himself, tried to interfere with the strike, lunging forward in an attempt to knock Philo down. While he is successful in altering Philo’s shot, the arrow does let loose, arcing through the air…and piercing the hunter’s throat, killing him instantly.

Luckily, there was enough confusion to cover the kill. Philo and Whiskers went over to investigate the other Hunter. Removing his arrow and making it look like the Hunter had succumb to skeleton attacks, both Philo and Whiskers rush back to join the battle. Philo reasons, Tesla and Lilly might not agree with it, but hopefully two down will prevent the intended mutiny.  

Upon returning, Philo set about his next task, finding that sneaky little halfling. Philo searched high and low while the others repelled the skeletal onslaught. Finally, the battle was won. One very badly beaten-up warrior, a halfling that had been missing for most of the battle, Tesla, Lilly, and Philo stood victorious against the remaining skeletons.

Our impostor group decided that they had had enough. This was supposed to be an easy mission. Now at half their original strength and their leader dead, they decided to throw in the towel.  Upon hearing this, we allowed the remaining members to join us for a cut in the loot.

It turns out that we found just the halfling for the job. He made whatever adjustments were needed to open the lock on the tomb safely without setting off any more traps. Now all that was left was to collect the treasure. Opening the tomb, they were greeted with what resembled an iron golem, nearly twelve feet in height, along with what can only be his shield, shining and brilliant in its appearance, and a curious looking tome, something they did not expect to find. Tesla’s research had taught him ways to communicate with the dead. We decided to use his new-found magical skill to ask permission to loot the tomb of the great hero of Andrade. The soul of the Iron War Elemental was fine with his shield leaving him as long as it was going to the hands of good. He had no attachment to the tome, and wondered what it could be. He certainly wasn’t the only one. Could Halorin have placed it here?

What happened next? Tune in next time on Adventures of the Adventurers of Dungeon World.

The Third Blog of 2015: A Dungeon World One-Shot?

So two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to run an impromptu Dungeon World one-shot. It was very last-minute, but I was up for the task. In all honesty, I was going to run the Slave-Pit of Drazhu once more, but I realized I forgot the item cards that are unique to the adventure. Not that they’re required to run it, but I would have needed to take some time to at the very least list and improvise a bunch of items both magical and mundane to give to the players throughout the adventure. Not only that, but on the drive to the FLGS (that’s friendly, local game store) where we played, I realized one of the players is a regular in my normal Dungeon World game, and had already experienced the adventure before. I wanted the experience to be different, fun, and fresh for him, so I decided to improvise basically the same adventure from a different perspective.

So we had three players in total; of the two new players, one of them was really young and also a min-maxer / munchkiner though not much of a meta-gamer. The other player, I honestly wasn’t sure, but from initial impressions he seemed to also fall into the mix-maxer category. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Character creation was fairly quick, one of Dungeon’s World’s greatest strengths, but I grew concerned as more and more questions piled up related to min-maxing. What stat should I dump? What’s the strongest weapon I can use? Before the game began, I couldn’t help but think that both new players would hate this game before long. Not enough crunch and super-high damage numbers to keep them happy.

Still, it was time to put on a show, so I had the adventurer’s happen upon a mining town that was strangely quiet and seemingly deserted. After poking around an inn, they find a child hiding from them. Convincing the child they mean no harm, they relay that some creature adorned in purple robes with a skull for a head riding a giant spider came to the town with orcs and goblins, and captured all the townsfolk, taking them to the town mine and enslaving them. The kid did offer them a small sack of coins if they promised to rescue his parents. The party readily agreed to do so.

So off to the mine the party went. The kid gave them directions, and before long they happened upon it. Upon entering, they found themselves in combat with zombies, but the party was up to the task and defeated them rather handily. That’s not to say they emerged unscathed; a few moments later, an earthquake shakes the foundation and some party members are injured from falling rocks.

The injuries are minor however, and the party continues forward, deeper into the mine. Due to time, I had the party encounter the big bad: the evil lich Drazhu and his Giant Spider at this point, much more quickly than I would have liked, but c’est la vie. In the center of his throne room, Drazhu stands at the center with a circle of glyphs on the floor, and a bunch of dead bodies within the circle, looking drained of blood.

This fight proved a bit more challenging, but in the end, Drazhu teleported away to live and fight another day, though his pet Spider, Spider-man (I couldn’t improvise a good name for Drazhu’s giant spider pet; I was tired! Though in hindsight, I wish I had called him Spidor.) is killed, and the various sarcophagi looted. Most of the villagers were rescued from slavery and there was much rejoicing.

What happened next actually shocked me; I was prepared for this to be a one-shot. Bam! One and done! Then the two new players asked me if we could play again.

So here we have two min-maxers / munchkiners who enjoyed Dungeon World more than I thought they would. Not that I thought they hated it; I could see they were having fun throughout the game, but I also sensed a bit of frustration at times. It was cool and gratifying to see that even in a game where narrative drives the game mechanics, min-maxers can enjoy the game and even want to play it more.

In all honesty, due to time and scheduling, I’m not sure we’ll ever play again with this particular group, but never say never.

The Second Blog of 2015: More Fun with Dungeon World

The following post was written by Chris Fong and the players for Philo and Tesla. Enjoy!

After escaping the Slave-Pit of Drazhu, you all managed to find a waterfall to bathe in. Despite the intense cold, it honestly felt like the greatest shower you’ve ever experienced. You found clean water to drink; sweeter and more satisfying than any ale you’ve drunk. You hunted for some wild animals, and roasted them over a campfire. It was the best meal of your life. Over the course of the month, you all slowly managed to reintegrate yourself into civilization, doing various odd jobs to earn money, and buy clean clothes along with the gear you normally enjoy.

And now, in your travels, a mighty tempest blows in. You all instinctively know to seek shelter. You also all know that there’s a small fishing village nearby named Codcliffe. Your destination determined, you all make your way towards the shelter of an inn until this strangely powerful storm passes…

This is me paraphrasing roughly how the night began for the second session of Dungeon World. The big damn heroes continue to be:

  • Lilly, a female, human bard. Joyous eyes, rather fit, usually wearing fine clothing and a stylish cap. Wildly in love (or lust, not sure at this point) with Tesla.
  • Philo, a male human ranger. Wild eyes and physique, wearing a cape and hood. Accompanied by his animal companion, a snake named Whiskers.
  • Sashin Hadib, a male human thief. Shifty eyes, messy hair, knobby physique, and usually wears fancy clothing. Also stands 5’0″.
  • Tesla (aka The Artist Formerly Known as Eccentrius), a male elven wizard. Haunted eyes, wild hair, and very thin, adorned in strange, purple robes.
  • To be revealed…

Staying at an inn called the Fishhead, the party stayed a few days after the storm passed, enjoying Codcliffe’s salted fish and the peace and relative quiet the village offered them. Friendships were established, and Tesla and Sashin played games with the village children while Lilly composed and performed songs dedicated to Tesla. Meanwhile, Philo just kept an eye out for everyone in general.

Then the Empire came; thanks to the storm, the HMS Relentless, an Imperial treasure galleon, washed ashore near the village, mostly intact but no longer sea-worthy…

It’s morning a few days after the once-in-a-lifetime storm. A commotion occurs outside the inn; Philo, Sashin, and Tesla go out to see what’s going on, while Lilly sits and enjoys her fish stew. Most of the townsfolk are outside, listening to the ramblings of Captain-Senator Balbus, his sorcerer bodyguard Apothiko Vitula (whom I kept calling buff sorcerer dude for some odd reason), and six Imperial soldiers. Calling on the villagers to do their duty to the Empire, Balbus explains that they need volunteers to capture their escaped prisoners: the notorious Colbert and his Marauders. Sashin tried to negotiate for rupees (we collectively decided to not have gold coins like virtually 99.9% of all fantasy RPG’s, but rupees. Yes, this is in fact a Legend of Zelda reference) to do this deed, but Balbus would have none of it. After all, peasants and commoners should be glad, privileged, honored, to serve the Empire. With no one volunteering, Balbus had his bodyguard turn some of the villagers into chickens. Philo tried to stealthily attack Apothiko, and managed to stun him with an arrow momentarily. This distraction gave Sashin enough time to try and sneak attack Balbus, lunging at him with a weapon. But alas, fate was not kind to the diminutive thief, and he found himself face first on the ground, immobilized by an Imperial soldier. For their insolence, Balbus had Apothiko turned two children into chickens, the very same children that Sashin and Tesla had played with just the day prior. Angered, but realizing the situation they were in, the party finally agreed to Balbus’s demands. The Captain-Senator in turn explained that his scouts have determined that Colbert has been captured and being held by Octopus Folk (think mystical Octopi that can thrive on land as well as under the sea, and don’t play nice with other species) at their Islet Cave Home, and that the Marauders are camping out in a nearby abandoned Dwarven mine. Both areas are south of Codcliffe, and a map is given to the party. Before they leave, the party demanded a gesture of goodwill; feeling generous, Balbus had two children chickens (I suppose they would actually be chicks) polymorphed back to their human form. As a final warning, Balbus told the party that the Relentless was guarded by the Empire’s strongest magicks, and that they were forbidden to go near it.

As an aside, the original adventure had the notorious marauder leader named Hobart, but for some reason I kept calling him Colbert (pronounced like Stephen Colbert, of the The Colbert Report fame…I’m sad that show has ended…), and it just stuck. But I digress…

So the party left the village and after some discussion, decided to make their way straight for the HMS Relentless. For Sashin, the pursuit of wealth and treasure was his first priority, and the fact that the Relentless is a treasure galleon was simply irresistible. For Tesla, he immediately distrusted the Captain-Senator and was hoping to find more detailed answers at the ship. For Lilly, she trusted Tesla implicitly and would follow him to the ends of the realm. For Philo, he felt that someone had to watch over the party, it may as well be him; well, that and the fact that he too appreciated a good rupee when he sees one.

By mid-day, they make it to the HMS Relentless; on their approach, they can see the ship washed ashore, the tide lapping itself against the ship bottom. There are holes wedged in with broken ship debris throughout the bottom parts of the ship. It’s likely that water is slowly leaking into the ship. On the deck of the ship, there is movement. The party investigates, and discover these fish-like humanoids, almost undead in their appearance as their scales had a decomposed look to them. They are in fact Sea Ghouls (as opposed to seagulls, which is what one player thought I said.), and combat ensues. During the combat, a new friend appears: Muneera, a female human cleric clad in chainmail and brandishing a warhammer and magical shield. She is also apparently a cousin to Lilly, and has been looking all over for her.

Making fairly quick work of the Sea Ghouls, the party finds their way to the Captain’s Cabin. Sashin is confident the door to the Captain’s Cabin is not trapped. He is correct. He continues to declare that the treasure vault they find within is not trapped. He is incorrect, and the entire party is sprayed in acid for their efforts. They do however find in the vault 2,000 rupees. It is here that we learn that when Tesla casts ‘Detect Magic,’ the spell connects with his olfactory sense. In other words, he literally smells magic, and he does smell something magical about this treasure, though he’s unsure what is so magical about it.

Proceeding below deck, they find more rupees, along with weapons and armor in good condition. Sashin is confident all these weapons and armor could be sold. It’s all very heavy, but Philo is up to the task of hauling so much equipment. Continuing onto the bottommost deck, they find the water here to be waist high, and that there are mangled iron bars here that were likely a makeshift prison of some sort. They also manage to discern that there are thousands of rupees concealed within the stones of the ballast underneath their feet. However, Tesla detects magic once more and smells something cursed about this treasure, a fact that Muneera reinforces, for she has studied Imperial ships in her past. Despite these warnings, Sashin desperately tries to get to the treasure, and the party resorts to dragging him out to the beach.

Between the battle, the ship exploration, and simply putting away all the treasure and items they find, most of the day has passed. With less than an hour of light remaining, the party elect to camp for the night. We also discover that at some point in their lives, Sashin and Philo were both pirates together, as they both proceed to bury the treasure they acquired off the HMS Relentless. The night passed uneventfully, and fully recovered from their injuries, our stalwart group of adventurers make their way to the abandoned Dwarven mine where they were told the marauders were hiding out.

Entering the mine, they proceed about 100 yards from the entrance before happening upon a shaft station, with a shrine to the Iron God, a Dwarven deity, at one end, and a door in the corner. Muneera calls upon her deity for guidance, and as her deity is on friendly terms with the Iron God, a torch near the corner door briefly flashes a bit more brightly. Opening the door, standing before them are four marauders, who are shocked to see them and appear angry. Lilly charges in, tackling one of the marauders to the floor.

Over the next several moments, the party tried reasoning with the marauders numerous times, and there were quite a few tense moments where they considered lowering their weapons. Philo even managed to disarm one charging marauder, and with the help of Whiskers, redirected an incoming attack from another, all in an attempt at peaceful resolution. In the end though, the party had to put the four marauders down; Muneera smashed the skull of the marauder pinned by Lilly with her warhammer, while Sashin killed two others by throwing a rock (seriously!) and his steel bucket attached to a chain. Tesla blasted a hole through the body of another with his magic missile spell, which he has dubbed ‘Purple Rain,’ (or is it ‘Purple Reign?’) and with no more time left, the play session came to its conclusion.

The adventure we’re playing is The Indigo Galleon, written by John Aegard, and will continue when next we meet in Dungeon World.

Things I Still Like:

  • Two-and-a-half play sessions (I’ll explain the ‘half’ in a different blog post.) and the game is still fun to run. I totally did not mean to make a rhyme there. I think my players are having fun, I know some of them are since they told me such.
  • Many tabletop RPG’s have the mechanics drive the narrative. With Dungeon World the opposite is true, where the narrative drives the mechanics. After two sessions, I still find this to be accurate, and continue to find it refreshing.
  • Players contributing to the fiction / story much more continues to be a blast. They find out things about their characters they never knew, then have to justify it in their backgrounds / origins somehow. Case in point, when Tesla casts Detect Magic, he basically does so with his nose; he starts sniffing like a hound dog. I love it! Reminds me of the episodes of Tabletop when they played the Dragon Age tabletop RPG by Green Ronin Publishing, and one of the player characters smelled everything. It’s worth watching, here you go:
  • Everything I mentioned about character discovery is really cool, but I wonder…

Things I Wonder About:

  • …it occurs to me that in the long run, this self-discovery could lead to an uncomfortable degree of retconning, as well as an overabundance of things that simply don’t make sense. So, you were an elite athlete, master-of-arms, basket-weaving champion, ladies man, poker champion, master chef, scholar of rocks, and trained in weapon-and-armor-smithing, and a gold medalist in yogurt churning and chicken laying before you turned 18? Really?! Still, we’re not at that bridge yet. Heck, it may be a bridge we never get to, so no sense in worrying about it…yet.
  • I think we’re all still getting used to the rules. I know for a fact that I’m still getting used to them, and I’m running the game. As for the players, basically everyone has come from playing D&D, so I suspect it’s weird for them to not be making skill checks and the like.
  • Stun damage is a bit strange to me; it’s basically the equivalent of non-lethal damage in Dungeons & Dragons, where the player wishes to subdue rather than kill. However, there’s no mention of a player declaring such; rather, it appears to be a weapon tag, where certain weapons / attacks inflict stun damage. Ironically, none of the weapons listed in the base book appear to have the stun damage tag. I had emailed my players discussing a homebrew rule, where a player can declare stun damage and attempt to justify it in the fiction (I use the flat of my blade, the pommel of my warhammer, etc.) However, on this morn, I’m now thinking it should be an overlay over their damage dealing moves. So normally in Dungeon World, the idea is that if you roll: 10+: the player gets what he/she wants, 7-9: the player gets what he/she wants at a cost, 6-: the player fails to get what he/she wants. So let’s take that a step further; if a player wants to subdue somebody and can justify it in the fiction (no, you’re not knocking a dragon the size of a small barn unconscious with the flat of your blade. Not gonna be able to do it!), he or she can roll their regular Hack and Slash move (a melee attack), simply to determine if their attack is successful. If it is, before they roll their damage, then they roll a second time and if they roll: 10+, they deal their damage as stun damage, 7-9: they do reduced stun damage (Damage die minus damage die; they basically overcompensated too much in trying to pull their punch, and can potentially do zero damage), and on a 6-: they in fact do regular, killing, death-dealing damage. Choices, choices…
  • I’m still not entirely sold about the lack of initiative order. Then again, I think I ran it better the first time, and honestly wasn’t on top of my game the second time around. I work my arse off at DM-ing, but that doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes all the time. In hindsight, there were a few moments where I should have pushed things forward. Ah well, you live, learn, adapt, and strive forward. Easier said than done, I know. 😉

Philo’s Observations After Playing Two Sessions of Dungeon World, as Told by Philo:

  • Paying attention is critical. In D&D, stepping aside for a second and finding your way back into the action is usually easy. In Dungeon World, it’s a different story; even the same characters doing the same thing twice in a row is usually wildly different. Instead of “I attack that guy”, players are allowed to do something unique and not have to worry if they took ranks / are trained in ‘jump’ or ‘climbing’ 5 levels ago. This is great for player engagement, but it also demands a higher level of player attention.
  • Dungeon World encourages quick action over careful planning. When the GM sets up the situation for the player, everyone thinks about how their character reacts. Reacting first means that you deal with the situation given. Reacting second means that you deal with the situation that the first player just altered. It seems to encourage spur-of-the-moment moves over strategic planning. This is not a bad thing.  In D&D, there’s usually a slower pace set about by unspoken election. Unless there are 2 or more players with the same abilities, informal voting usually dictates who the main driver will be. Locked chest? Send in the Rogue. Disgruntled noble? Let the Bard do the talking. Gnoll with an axe? Let the fighter handle it.
  • In Dungeon World, all players are usually equally equipped to deal with the situation, but in their own way. This was something that I really came to appreciate when playing Star Wars D20. Everyone was okay in a fight because we all had blasters. You have a socially centered character that had a decent shot at blasting a flunkie. Your Soldier would still do more damage, but everyone felt capable.  In D&D, the wizard doesn’t charge into the front lines.
  • There’s definitely a different feel to dealing with the situation.  This means that everyone has a shot at dealing with the situation at hand, but sometimes also creates a race to act on your solution, and I feel, speeds up the pace of the interactions.

Philo’s Concerns After Playing Two Sessions of Dungeon World, as Told by Philo:

  • Sharing basic moves makes play feel very balanced. My question is: will advanced moves change anything? They should help separate each character, but I wonder if it will set some character’s apart too much, or create the old, “Here’s a lock, you need a Rogue” situation.
  • I was also worried that having roughly 8 basic moves would be repetitive. So far it has been the opposite and the advanced moves should only serve to further that. Then again, it’s only been two sessions, so the sample size is small. (It feels like I just resolved a bond with my moves sheet, lol).

Notes From Your Friendly Wizard, Inventor, and Part-Time Accountant, Tesla:

  • I am loving the freedom that Dungeon World is providing. Having played Pathfinder, I find in that game it can often take a long time to get around the table, whereas in Dungeon World you can act on a whim so long as you’re not talking over anybody. Similar to what Philo mentioned, I can run head-first into battle if that’s what I feel my character would do in that moment. Though I have no armor, every character seems to be well-balanced, I suspect this has a little to do with the lack of a point-buy in the party, though two of our party members did roll for their stats, and everyone seems to be doing fine.
  • The freedom isn’t just in the mechanics, however. I feel a lot less constrained by a backstory since I have opportunities to discover and add on to that all the time. A good one was after the exploding acid fiasco in the Captain’s Cabin on the HMS Relentless, when I wanted to patch up my robes. The GM asked how I knew how to sew, so I improvised that I had done some experimenting with an automatic sewing device (I’m going for the very eccentric, mad-scientist type of character, hence Tesla). Thinking on my feet like that is something I’ve never been very good at, so the GM has been really pushing my creativity and decisiveness.
  • Also, since the detail for moves is usually minimal, it leaves a lot of room for making them your own. Using my nose to smell magic when I cast detect magic is a blast. I can definitely feel myself improving as we play, and it helps to have a DM that describes the gory beheading of an enemy rather than just saying: “He’s dead.”
  • I find it a lot easier to get into character with this game than in any other I’ve played. Sashin is really hilarious and I can play off of that, which is great because I love playing goofy characters. I found myself nearly yelling at Captain-Senator Balbus because I didn’t feel that Tesla would have any reason to follow his demands (plus it’s hard not to argue with a guy who calls himself Captain-Senator). In Pathfinder, a simple roll can end the conversation, but in Dungeon World, you really have to work your way out of situations.
  • My only negative so far is that players need to put a lot of effort into being on the same page. In most games you can strategize between turns, but in Dungeon World, it can be easy for your party’s actions to interfere with your goals. Mostly due to my distrust of Balbus, I really didn’t want to kill those marauders, but I was forced to use Purple Rain when we were unable to calm them down. Of course, some of that is on me for not being a larger part of the conversation.
  • All in all I’m having a great time with Dungeon World, and I hope to continue playing if we can get everyone together. So far, I’d say this game is worth a shot for anyone who isn’t overly aggressive in conversation or a logic-bent robot. The optimist in me has hope that creatively-challenged people like myself can get some good practice with it, and maybe your friend who’s slightly on the min-max side of the force can learn the value of good, honest, pure roleplay.

The First Blog of 2015: Experiencing Dungeon World for the First Time

You have all been enslaved by the evil Lich Drazhu and his vicious minions! All of you have been put to work digging tunnels to expand Drazhu’s underground lair. You’ve lost track of time, and have no clue how long you’ve been down here. You don’t remember the last time you’ve seen sunlight. You’re starving, thirsty, and malnourished, only getting a tiny piece of rotten food and dirty water if you’ve done your work for the day. The air is thin, stale, and makes you all nauseous from the foul smell of sweat, body odor, and decay. Or it used to make you nauseous; you’ve all been here long enough that you’ve gotten used to the stench. To make matters worse, there are metal gates here etched with magical runes that prevent anyone capable of magic from casting spells. On top of that, the strange magic of these runes make animal companions feel sick and weak. The only thing that has kept you going is that an enterprising dwarven slave, who has since passed, has managed to make a detailed sketch of the complex. A map that is now in your possession…

I basically paraphrased how I opened last week’s foray into running the tabletop role-playing game Dungeon World, an award-winning fantasy tabletop RPG. No seriously, it won some awards, including:

  • Golden Geek RPG of the Year 2012
  • Indie RPG 2012 Winner: Best Game, Best Support, Best Production
  • ENnie Award Winner 2013: Best Rules – Gold Winner.

I thought I’d blog about it for my first post of 2015. First, I’ll go back to the story, as that’s the most important part of the game, then write about my impressions running the game.

So as I’ve said so many times in the past when blogging about RPG’s (usually Dungeons & Dragons), the big damn heroes are:

  • Lilly, a female, human bard. Joyous eyes (normally; maybe not so joyous after being enslaved for god knows how long!), rather fit, usually wearing fine clothing and a stylish cap.
  • Philo, a male human ranger. Wild eyes and physique, wearing a cape and hood. Accompanied by his animal companion, a snake named Whiskers.
  • Sashin Hadib, a male human thief. Shifty eyes, messy hair, knobby physique, and usually wears fancy clothing. Also stands 5’0″.
  • Tesla (aka The Artist Formerly Known as Eccentrius; for whatever reason we all had problems saying his name, so he instantly changed his name to Tesla), a male elven wizard. Haunted eyes, wild hair, and very thin, adorned in strange robes.

We take some time establishing how the characters ended up being enslaved. The player’s get to exercise their creative and improvisational muscles here, guided by some choice questions by me. Lilly served as a court jester, and made an inopportune joke about Drazhu’s mother. The next thing she knew, she was working in Drazhu’s slave pit. Philo actually worked for Drazhu as a guide until he was framed for stealing a treasure, the irony of which he was actually after said treasure. His life was spared because the real thief was caught, but enslavement was inevitable. Sashin used to be an information gatherer, but was caught with the Prince’s daughter and his profile was deemed too high. His usefulness in question, he was given to Drazhu, who enslaved him immediately. As for Tesla, he apparently tried to steal books about becoming a Lich (and gaining immortality), from Drazhu. He failed, and was enslaved for his efforts.

So there are two gated areas that lead out of the slave-pit; one leads to an area guarded by Orcs, while the other area leads to the killing pit, a large hole where misbehaving / dead slaves are disposed of. After enduring misery that would crush the spirit of lesser folk, a fortuitous event happens when the ground begins to shake! An earthquake proceeds to cause chaos, destroying the metal gates that forbid magic, and Philo’s animal companion, Whiskers is no longer felt ill. Sashin took this time to heroically…run for the tunnel leading to the killing pit, quickly followed by Tesla. In the meantime, Lilly and Philo proceed to take out the lone Goblin Task-Master, and quickly follow after their companions.

The two happen upon an interesting sight; Sashin and Tesla locked in combat with a giant spider! Philo’s snake Whiskers provides a distraction while Philo manages to use some rope he found to tangle up the spider’s legs. Sashin swings at the spider with a metal bucket he found (and eventually wears on his head), while Lilly does damage with a makeshift club. Eventually, the spider is defeated, and the four search the area for anything useful before proceeding forward. They happen upon a deep chasm with a giant web leading across. Proceeding across the web, the not only encounter no danger, but also manage to find even more useful items, before finding themselves in a tunnel that leads to…Drazhu’s sepulchre.

Interestingly enough, Sashin goes in trying to reason with Drazhu. This turns out to be a mistake, as he is ambushed by Drazhu’s most trusted servant, an Orc Tunnel-Keep. Lilly joins the fray, taking down the Orc while Sashin, Tesla, and Philo take down Drazhu. Tesla casts a magic missile spell to do some damage to the Lich. In a more hilarious moment, Sashin takes out a wand he found earlier, and tries to use it on Drazhu. The wand fails to work, but Sashin doesn’t realize that as Philo fires a scavenged arrow he found and seemingly takes down Drazhu…naturally, Sashin, thinks he slayed Drazhu, though this isn’t entirely accurate, as Drazhu has a second life (like many video game bosses. Think Ganon in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.)

But the party is up to the task, and Drazhu goes down once more, and loot the tomb. Sashin takes Drazhu’s beheaded skull, presumably as a trophy. In an interesting, yet strangely disturbing twist, Lilly starts consuming raw Orc flesh. The party leaves the Sepulchre, and narrowly avoid getting into combat with a small horde of zombies, before getting to exit. For the first time in a long time, the party is nearly blinded by the sunlight, the air is sweet, and the four leave to find clean water, a good, hot meal, and a bath.

To give credit where credit is due, we played a free Dungeon World scenario, the ‘The Slave-Pit of Drahzu,’ written by Jason Morningstar, designer of Fiasco and owner (I think) of Bully Pulpit Games. If that game sounds familiar, it may be that you’ve seen it played on Tabletop. Here are some links:

But I digress; back to Dungeon World!

Things I Liked:

  • I’m liking this game a lot! Granted, it’s a rather small sample size, but it’s pretty fun thus far.
  • I think my favorite thing thus far is that results of rolls aren’t binary; there are degrees of success worked into the mechanics. When running D&D, I try to work degrees of success into skill checks and what not, at least in terms of the flavor I use to describe things if not mechanically (since it’s not really built that way), but not so in Dungeon World. Here, when you roll, 6 or less is a failure, 7-9 is a partial success / success at a cost, and 10+ is a complete success. It’s working out really well in practice.
  • When creating a character, one can choose to use a stat array (no point buy) or roll for stats. When rolling for stats, it’s old school 3d6, not the debate-ably generous 4d6 and take away the lowest die that has permeated modern d20 games. Furthermore, one can roll 3d6 and assign stats or roll 3d6 in a specific order of stats (super-old school!) However, if one does the latter, he / she can opt to change their class after rolling. Two of my players opted for the stat array, while the other two opted to roll for stats and assign them, and it was hilarious how…statistically average they rolled. No one rolled higher than a 12, and no lower than a 7. That’s more or less in line with expectations for rolling 3d6. Go to anydice, and calculate 3d6 to see what I’m talking about. As an aside, anydice is a great tool for any fan of tabletop RPG’s, players and GM’s alike.
  • Because we’re finding things out together, and contributing to the story as a whole, it was nice to see the players get to contribute to the fiction of the game. Dungeon World emphasizes / advertises itself as a conversation, and that turned out to be absolutely true.
  • It was nice for the players to role-play not only their characters, but the situation they were in, and try to get out of dodge. Due to the direction they took, they ended up having to fight Drazhu, but I like that they got out of the ‘We must clear out and loot every single room.’ mentality that permeates D&D and Pathfinder at the moment. For those that would argue about a desire for revenge, tell me how you feel about that when you’re severely, severely, severely, severely, severely, severely, severely, malnourished and dehydrated. Not to mention lacking the gear you usually enjoy (though the party scavenged several nice items to play with.)

Things I Wonder About:

  • I’m not entirely convinced this system is for everybody, but then again, that makes sense. There’s no such thing as a perfect system, and as a wise person once said, different strokes for different folks. I think people who love min-maxing and meta-gaming wouldn’t like Dungeon World as much. It’s not a crunchy game rules-wise, certainly there are far less rules than Pathfinder or fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons. This makes the game easier to run, but for those that emphasize player minutia and enormous damage numbers over the narrative, I don’t think Dungeon World would be a good fit.
  • I also don’t think it would be a good fit, or at least a good starter game, for players that are incredibly shy or lacking confidence. Placing them in a situation where they must contribute isn’t kind, though I suppose an experienced GM could ease them into the situation as much as possible.
  • Also, since we are in fact having a conversation at all times, those with short-attention spans / focus issues or tend to dominate conversations wouldn’t function well in Dungeon World unless they are fully aware of their quirks and can rein them in when necessary. Since the narrative is the #1 emphasis, so much so that it drives game mechanics, constantly going on side conversations / tangents will bring the game to a halt. Mind you, that’s true of any tabletop gaming experience, but I suspect it to be even more true with Dungeon World.
  • I’m also not entirely convinced this makes a good starter game for a starter GM, with the caveat that said GM really puts a ton of time and effort into prep. It’s not that Dungeon World is prep heavy per se, as I mentioned there are less rules than D&D. Rather, the GM is controlling the ebb-and-flow of the conversation, and needs to make sure everyone involved contributes to the conversation. I can imagine a brand new GM struggling with this, and letting one person contribute more than another, or conversely allowing very little contribution to be had because he / she feels a need to control what’s going on. Speaking of which…
  • It was weird to let go of some of the control I usually enjoy GM-ing tabletop RPG’s, but it was also…kind a liberating. Less to think about, less multi-tasking, more opportunity for everyone to be creative and improvise. It was good…I think.
  • I still feel like I’m wrapping my head around the rules and the experience, but I think several more sessions will get me and eveyrone more comfortable with the system. It’s weird to me that I’m not rolling monster attacks regularly. It’s doubly weird to me that I’m not having anyone roll initiative, but strangely enough, the system appears to work…so far.

For me personally, tabletop role-playing games are at their most fun as a shared, cooperative, storytelling experience. Dungeon World emphasizes this by having the fiction drive the game mechanics, which is a rather large paradigm shift for me. I had one player mention this game reminded him of Fate Core, which I own but have never had the opportunity to play. (It’s currently on my bucket list to play / run.) All the players appeared to have a really good time, and we’ll definitely be playing it again. There were two other free scenarios that came with the game when I bought it. Also, the players left a lot of fun stuff to play with by the way they handled playing through Drazhu’s Slave-Pit, so there’s that to consider. In the end, I would say if you would love a tabletop RPG that emphasizes the story, the fiction, over everything else, and the players you run games for are of the same mindset, than pick this one up.

In the meantime, I got permission from two of my players to post their character sheets. I’m just going to post the first page (usually 2 pages, but spellcasters also have a list of spells too.)


Philo's Character Sheet, Page 1

Philo’s Character Sheet, Page 1, Level 1

Tesla Character Sheet, Page 1

Tesla Character Sheet, Page 1, Level 1 (formerly known as Eccentrius)