Fuck Space Dracula, ok?
Last summer he killed my 4e Gamma World guy with his Draculasers and now he's back again in this Dungeon World playtest trying to kill my paladin, Axl the Claw.
It's not easy.
My paladin always lied (he tried to trick the space draculas into fighting the aliens, didn't work), Reynaldo's paladin always told the truth (he had an oath or something). That really confused the space draculas.
Then we met the devil but we didn't fight him, I just confused him talking about real estate while this pangolin attacked the ceiling. Also there was a math wizard. Trust me it was fun.
Anyway: Dungeon World...
No matter who's GMing or who is playing, all D&Dlike games that I've played in feel similar enough that you forget what system you're using, especially when you aren't in combat. In the last year I've played DCC, LOTFP, WFRPG, Rolemaster, 4e, Swords & Wizardry, Petal Throne, Castles and Crusades, Basic, OSRIC, 3e, 0e, Stormbringer, NGR, Runequest, AD&D and Labyrinth Lord and I'd put all those experiences in this "D&Dlike" category. At least when I'm playing them with the people I play with.
And no matter who is GMing or playing, all the following storygamey games felt different from the D&Dlikes but also felt very similar to each other in practice: Over The Edge, Marvel Heroic RPG, Dread, S/Lay With Me, FATE, the 3 quickie story games I wrote (STACK, the superhero one, and another one I never blogged up) and Burning Wheel.
So now does Dungeon World, a game that bills itself as "A Game With Modern Rules & Old School Style" more resemble that first batch of games--the D&Ds and D&Dlikes--or that second batch, the storygamey games?
When we played it--definitely the second batch. It's got rules and ability scores and whole lists of spells and details and looks very D&Dlike on paper, but in practice it felt like a totally open-ended, do whatever, whenever game.
Characteristics of the "second batch" games when I play them:
-They feel really "easy". Both to solve the problems the character has in the game and to think up the kind of textured narrative explanations that these games run on.
-The tenor of the game is extremely dependent on the relative levels of seriousness and extroversion of the players involved. One or two loud serious players can make the game serious, one or two loud silly players can make the game silly. Way more than in the D&Dlikes, which kind of hover in a narrower band of funny-reality/serious-game zone.
Really, though, probably down to who I am and know, it's usually just a question of time before the storygamey designs meltdown into total silliness. Players used to puzzle-solving style play (everybody I roll with) run roughshod over these games--stuff gets weird very fast.
-They are fun. They are basically about as much fun as hanging out with the people you're playing with even without a game, though.
-At no point am I afraid of dying or, really, of any consequences at all. So that tension isn't there if, like me, you like that kinda thing. (Exception: Dread.) I suppose if you were really invested in having the characters do this thing (and be alive) instead of that thing (and be alive) you might start to fear consequences but I never feel that feeling ever about fictional characters so it's kinda lost on me.
-If you're one of the louder people, by the time the game's over you feel as if you just GMed the whole game yourself. You also have to be conscientious about not talking over the quiet people in a way that's not such an issue in more traditional games, there's not a lot of regulation on who talks when.
-When you play them and post about it on the internet two things happen:
1. The people who wrote the games and/or the people who got excited enough to GM them for you read what you have to say and go "Yeah, I can see that, good point".
2. Lonely defensive indie-game evangelists read the exact same things and freak out and call you names.
Some Things That Made It Like That
-No initiative order and no limit on how often you can act. So: loudest person does more stuff than everybody else.
-Characters are really rrrrrreally powerful relative to the environment. Hitting stuff is easy and I had 21 hit points and didn't take any damage the whole time. If my paladin took an oath I could've made it so I could unwaveringly sense whatever I was looking for or been immune to the attack form of my choice.
-Characters are not just very powerful but able to warp reality at first level in ways that can totally change the terms of conflict. Like the level of narrative control is such that you can completely jiu jitsu a traditional dungeon without even trying if that's the direction your instincts lean.
-It has a really simple basic mechanic: 2d6 + stat bonus to do anything. As far as I can tell (which isn't that far, I only played one session) it relies on the players and GM to make the game scale up (in terms of the kinds of monsters you face, environmental difficulty, how-long-do-you-have-to-play-before-you-can-try-to-assassinate-the-duke etc) over time in long term play. Like the numbers don't do it for you as much as in trad D&D. But we only played one game so it's hard to tell.
-The weird restrictions on the names, PC classes, and appearance I noted yesterday had no effect on anything in the game and I'm still kind of mystified as to why they are there.
-The "there are no turns but if you stop talking the GM can attack you with monsters" thing--I don't know how it's spelled out in the actual rules--seems to compress the story. You begin to fear lulls in the dialogue and it seemed, in our game, to squeeze out inter-PC roleplaying.
-The group's overall take is the people who'd like this game best would be not people who just wanna kill monsters and solve problems and not people who can invent a crazy story with lots of textured details out of their head at a moment's notice but a kind of person in the middle who wants to create a crazy story out of their head but isn't naturally going to do it and so wants a game structure that keeps prodding them to do that at intervals.
Anyway that's that.