Mythic Mortals: Learning from Dungeon World

I love Dungeon World…I mean, I REALLY love it! It’s amazing! The playbooks make character creation incredibly fast and simple, while the GM advice in the corebook is second to none. Dungeon World is the system that makes me feel the most free, and allows me to GM off the cuff and let the action and the story over-run the rules. I now run ALL game systems like Dungeon World.

Mythic Mortals

So obviously, when I started to work on my next game, I studied it closely. In fact, by the end of the first month, I ended up just re-making Dungeon World with cards! I felt pretty silly, and adjusted my strategy with this thought:

Dungeon World Already exists, and it’s awesome. I don’t want to re-make it, I want to make my own thing. So what can I improve upon? And what do I want to preserve?

Character Sheets

I really like the format of the Dungeon World Playbooks. Character creation is fun and simple, more like a multiple choice test than advanced calculus. I wanted to keep that simplicity and fun in my character sheets.

Allomancer Dungeon World Playbook

Allomancer Dungeon World Playbook

However, the biggest problem with Dungeon World Playbooks is that every class only has 3-4 starting moves, and the rest are unlocked one at a time after a level up. I’ve been running Dungeon World for over a year, and I’ve NEVER had a player get above level 7. That means that most players only get to experience a fraction of their classes potential. That sucks.

My solution has been a shifting character Sheet. As perform actions, cards on your sheet are placed and replaced. Depending on which suits are placed on your sheet, the skills you have available fluctuate and change. It IS possible to plan out what skills you have active, but it’s very difficult to keep skills active for more than one or two turns. After that, you’re at the mercy of Fate.

Simple Moves

One of the fun things about Dungeon World is that players can do anything they want, and then the pick the “move” that the action is closest to. For example, the Elf throws his knife at the fleeing demon. However, he doesn’t have any “knife-throwing” skills or anything. So Dungeon World just says, “eh, it’s close enough to a Ranged attack, just do that.”

That kind of thinking keeps the rules simple, and allows for players to do a lot of cool stunts and actions. The only downside is that mechanically, there is very little variety in your actions.

I wanted to keep that simplicity and freedom while also adding a little bit of variety through the mechanics. Luckily, this problem kind of solves itself by the game’s very nature.

Mythic Mortals has a strategic element not unlike that of CCGs, like Magic the Gathering or Hearthstone. Every Turn, players have 3-4 difficult choices to make on what actions they perform, where they place their high cards, and how they minimize their low cards. Players must also keep in mind their available skills.

For example, here’s a tough choice:

A player has just drawn a 10 of hearts. It’s a very high card! When placed on the mat it means that player can do maximum damage, or guarantee a hit next turn. The problem is that all of the abilities he wants require spades to be on his mat. He has a 4 of spades, but that isn’t nearly as good. What should he do?

These kinds of difficult choices and interesting strategy decisions land a little more variety to your moves than Dungeon World while still keeping the narrative freedom.

 Camera Flow Turn Order

I don’t think it has a name, but in DW, the GM doesn’t keep track of initiative. Instead, to keep players involved in the fight, the present players with a threat to start their turn. Once a player has dealt with the threat and performed an action or two, the GM moves on to the next player, and presents them with another threat. In practice, this is similar to a movie director panning around to different scenes that may be happening simultaneously, but are in focus at different times.

I wanted to bake this into the game. If it makes sense, the GM starts every player’s turn by present them with a threat, which they can choose to either dodge or block. Dodging is more risky, but blocking only prevents SOME of the damage. After they have dodged or blocked, then they have the opening and freedom to do whatever they wish; make an attack, use a special ability, etc.

Hopefully this will keep players from having to tract initiative while also re-engaging them in the combat when their turn comes back around.

That’s it for Dungeon World. A few features I’d like to implement:

  • Monster QnA stats generator – questions like “does it have thick skin? or armor” “can it fly?” etc.
  • Better GM advice. It seems wrong to simply say “Go Read Dungeon World!”
  • A guide for making Archetypes and classes.