Dungeon World: Tabletop RPGs Made Easy

Dungeon World Cover

NotAnNPC asks:

So…I want to know more about Dungeon World. I’ve seen several tweets about it and how easy it is to play. How is it different from other table tops like D&D and Pathfinder?

 To answer this question, we have Jason Pitre. Jason is an indie roleplaying games enthusiast and writer and he loves Dungeon World!

Thanks for asking! Full disclosure, I have been a fan of Dungeon World since the early iterations.

Dungeon World is the brain-child of Adam Koebel and Sage Latorra, who have worked together to produce a really fascinating game that reproduces all of the excitement of nostalgic, classic D&D. It’s a game where you play badass fighters, strange wizards, zealous paladins and devout clerics, fighting orks and dragons. The designers describe it as a love-letter to the way they remember playing Dungeons and Dungeons as kids.

The system behind Dungeon World is quite different from other tabletop games such as modern D&D or Pathfinder, for good reason. Dungeon World is inspired by and derived from the Vincent Baker’s brilliant post-apocalyptic game “Apocalypse World”. Vincent is well known for coming up with innovative mechanics, which Adam and Sage have refined and recreated to fit the dungeon environment.

The basic system is simple. The GM (Game Master, person who decides the story the players are in) asks you what you want to do. You describe your clever thief sneaking into the royal treasury, bypassing a couple tripwires and generally being stealthy. The GM describes the heavy footfalls and clanging of boots heading in your general direction and asks what you would like to do.  You describe hiding behind a bookshelf in the shadows, and everyone agrees that it makes sense that you could do that.  You didn’t roll dice for any of that.

The entire game mechanic revolves around these moves, which are always resolved by rolling 2d6 + your attribute modifier (2d6 means two six-sided dice).  If you get a 10+, you succeed with style. If you get a 7-9, the GM will offer you some hard bargain, drawback or other complication. If you get a 6 or less, then the GM gets to be mean to you, but you get an experience point that will help you level up.

Let’s say that you want to then sneak out of the shadows and steal the key from the passing guard’s belt. In such a case, you would roll 2d6 to use your move “Defy Danger”.  You roll a 7, +1 for your Dexterity modifier, for a total of 8.  The GM smiles and says that you can get the key firmly in your grasp, but you will attract the attention of the guard. Your life gets a little more complicated, but you did get most of what you wanted.

The system pretty much says that you only roll the dice when it’s interesting to do so. It means that you have free-flowing combat, players have authority to define parts of the setting and you don’t get bogged down in the record keeping of exactly how many arrows you have in your quiver. It’s lightweight, needing almost no preparation and supporting the GM with some excellent guidance text.


Jason Pitre is the owner, designer and barista at Genesis of Legend Publishing

Designer of the Spark Roleplaying Game and Posthuman Pathways

More information about Dungeon World is available here. For even more rules information, check out the Dungeon World SRD!

Do you have experience with Dungeon World? What do you like about it? 


8 thoughts on “Dungeon World: Tabletop RPGs Made Easy

  1. This sounds exciting, and definitely something I’d love to try! I wouldn’t have known without NotAnNPC’s question and Jason’s response. Thanks to you both for the inspiration!

  2. Dungeon World has become one of my go-to games. it’s super easy to jump in to and I love how open ended it is. It’s very easy to run and there is a phenomenal community (a lot of whom will share great ideas and feedback on the G+ Community: https://plus.google.com/communities/100084733231320276299?hl=en) that has made running and customizing the game a lot of fun. Other fantasy adventure roleplaying games are great, but this one is scratching my itch for easy to play and run games with the limited time I have available. Thanks for asking about it NotAnNpc and great write up, Jason!

  3. We’re playing our fourth session tonight. I love it, but there are a few things I have to unlearn from traditional, more mechanical systems. Every time I fall back into old Pathfinder habits, something goes wrong and the player experience suffers. This is a colaborative storytelling game. Fiction drives everything except when the fiction triggers a move, and even then the GM has leeway to twist the fiction around the result. Always “Play to see what happens.” Never “Play to see if the PCs figure out your puzzle,” or “Play to get the PCs to your next combat encounter.” Also, combat is just one thing that happens in Dungeon World. It is not the best thing.

  4. Other elements I dig, to go with some of the comments –

    DM, session 1 – NO PREP. NONE. You are actively discouraged from doing prep, other than reading the book so you know you’re playing Dungeon World and not StarCraft. I think there might even be a chapter labeled This Is Not StarCraft (there isn’t).

    Instead, you get the players involved from the get-go coming up with what happens. Then, after the first session, you take the “what happens” and spin it into a larger story. But you don’t actually make a full story with a set outcome, you just set up “fronts”, which are things happening in the world the players will run afoul of (Like fighting on multiple fronts). So, for instance, you know a tribe of orcs exists under the Red Skull and are building their forces, and you know the Cabal of the Eighth Eye which your wizard ran away from are out there brewing black magic, but you don’t plan a massive conspiracy. You always “play to find out what happens.”

    Character creation also takes ten minutes, tops, if you’ve even glanced at D&D before. Character sheets have all the info on them, and are filled out “mad libs” style (Looks: Are you a sneaky, dashing, or scruffy thief?). It’s a super way to do one-shots, introduce people to RPGs in general, or just fill some time in between other games.

    And it pushes players so much to break the mold of “what moves do I have on my sheet” and instead think “what do I want to do that’s badass and bold?” After one session heads are out of the books, they’re engaged constantly because there’s no solid turn order and everything everyone does feeds off each other… it’s just a perfect way to eliminate “it’s not my turn, back to my iPhone” syndrome.

    There are so many more reasons I rave about DW to other people, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.

  5. Ever since I found Apocalypse World I’ve fallen in love with the “Apocalypse Engine” games. They allow me as the GM to focus solely on the narrative part of the game, letting the mechanics kind of become secondary. It’s not to say the mechanics are unimportant, its just that the fiction is the mechanics and vice versa. It’s a nice change of pace from other rules heavy games out there. My next campaign I plan on running will use Dungeon World as well as the Grim World supplement: http://www.boldlygames.com/grimworld/

  6. Dungeon World (and pretty much anything Powered by the Apocalypse World Engine) essentially codifies what it means to be a good GM and run a great tabletop RPG. If you buy and read Dungeon World/ Apocalypse World, etc. you will be able to take the lessons learned into any other RPG you play or GM. It’s that amazing.

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