DW One on One Dungeon World

ThirdWizard

Visitor
I've been in love with Dungeon World ever since I first read about it. I missed out on the kickstarter, but when I found out about the game I jumped over to the Dungeon World Gazetteer. It has everything you need to run the game, but I quickly bought the book because it has so much awesome GMing advice, game explanations, and goes deeper into the game itself than the website does. I finally convinced my wife to play a one on one game with me. She plays in our twice per month D&D game, and she was skeptical of the game's ability to play with only one player but agreed to try it out. Dungeon World is a bit different than D&D, for those of you who don't know. I'll get into the differences as I go with this post.

The game itself took about 2 1/2 hours total to play out. The first half hour was getting everything set up (we had some printer issues), filling out the character sheet, and going over initial rule explanations.

Here is the online character sheet for reference. Here are the character sheets in PDF format, complete with Basic and Advanced moves included on the sheets. This is what we used for the game, and it was all the reference that was required once we got going.

My wife opted to play Nohnee, the chaotic elven ranger. Character creation was pretty easy. We just went down the character sheet filling things out. You really don't need to read over rules in the book - everything you need to know is listed right there on the sheet. That includes all the Basic and Advanced Moves available to all characters as well as the class specific Moves that Rangers have like Tracking and how animal companions work. One thing I really like is that your racial Moves are based off of your class. This creates a nice synergy.

Nohnee's animal companion is a wolf named Pup. My wife chose Ferocity +3, Cunning +1, 1 Armor, Instinct +2 for Pup, with the strengths of Quick Reflexes, Keen Senses, and Stealthy. It's extra training is to Guard. And, its two weaknesses are that it's Frightening and Stubborn. Pup is a good fighter! That +3 Ferocity is added to damage if Nohnee and Pup work together in an attack. Pup is also helpful at tracking with those keen senses and ability to stay hidden. Finally, he's a bit of a handfull. If he doesn't want to do something, its hard to get him to do it, and people find him really scary. He must be mean looking!

For equipment, she went with a short sword and extra arrows. This gave her a hunter's bow, a short sword, leather armor, 6 ammo, 5 rations, and adventuring gear. I gave the short sword the Precise tag. Without anybody else with her, she's doing all the fighting herself. She'll need it. The extra ammo is good too, as a ranger who runs out of arrows is a very sad ranger.

There were no other PCs so we skipped bonds.

Assigning ability scores, she went Dex 16, Con 15, Wis 13, Int 12, Cha 9, Str 8. Nohnee is very dexterous, so great with a bow. She's also sturdy and makes a good lookout. All good ranger-y things.

And, we had a character made! We were ready to continue on to start the game!
 

ThirdWizard

Visitor
Dungeon World is very much about improvisation. This is both on the part of the GM and the players. So, I prepared only the bare bones of an adventure before starting. Much of the detail would come about during play. Starting out, I had a list of prepared questions to ask that would help the player inform me, the GM, of the world we were playing in. I'd take that and, hopefully, use it to enhance the scenario. All I knew was that there was going to be some kind of cult that the player was after, they were in some inhospitable area a few days from a city, and some notes on possible monsters to use. That's it! So, I started asking questions.

You are in pursuit of evil cultists.
  • Why are you after them? I was hired to go after them.
  • Who do they worship? They worship the Gates of Hell
  • What will you do when you find them? They are attempting to perform a ritual that I must stop.
Fairly standard stuff ther- Gates of Hell??? Awesome! So these cultists worship the Gates of Hell, and Nohnee has been hired to track them down and stop the ritual they're trying to perform. I can work with that. Maybe throw some undead in, seeing as how the gates would allow the cultists to break down the barriers between the living and the dead. So some more questions.

You’ve been following them for days. This land is particularly rough to travel over.
  • Where has it taken you? A tangled forest.
That one's fairly standard, but we decided to make it extremely overgrown, with vines snaking everywhere and no straight paths available. I also decided to emphasize the elven nature of our protagonist. She would be able to traverse through the forest fairly easily, while her hireling had more trouble. Ah, yes, she has a hireling.

You have a guide to take you through this area. There were lots of guides to choose from in the city you came from, but you chose Malrock.
  • What made him stand out? His good looks.
  • What skill or background does he have that none of the other guides had? He was quieter than the others, who boasted of their abilities to no end. Something about his nature stood out, and I could tell that he had seen more than his fair share of battles.
Based on this, I created her hirling. She started in a large city, so I had pre-determined that Malrock would have 6 points to distribute. Loyalty was first, and I put 3 points into that. Since she hired him because she recognized his skill, I decided that he recognized her skill as well, and a mutual respect would be part of the dynamic, thus a high loyalty. She emphasized that he was a stoic warrior, but also that he was likable. We decided to make him the strong silent type, but very charismatic all the same. I gave him the Warrior skill at +2 and the Minstrel skill at +1. I wouldn't play up the fact that he's a "minstrel" just use that skill as a shorthand for him getting along with people. He's the tall, handsome, and brooding figure that people tend to be drawn to. He's quite a guy!

There are many dangers in this land.
  • What are you most worried about? Evil spirits who possess intruders.
  • What danger scares your guide but doesn’t worry you at all? The many four legged predatory animals. Wolves, cougars, and other hunters.
So the forest is haunted. That gives it another bit of feeling that I hadn't considered. That would also explain why the cultists who worship the Gates of Hell, and thus have some sway over the undead, would be willing to travel through such a dangerous area. And, the spirits aren't just ghosts who wander the forest. They possess intruders! You might find yourself unable to control your own actions, or your allies might turn on you.

Overall, I was really intrigued with the answers, and we moved onto the starting scene of the adventure.
 

ThirdWizard

Visitor
In the first scene, I started the group out crossing a deep stream. The water came up to Nohnee's waist, and Malrock followed behind with his backpack hoisted over his head. The wolf Pup paced on the bank behind them, not wanting to get into the water due to his stubborn nature. As they traversed the water, and Nohnee tried to coax Pup to follow them, it was about to step in when a large splash by Malrock surprised them all! A crocodile, easily fifteen feet across, leaped onto Malrock, landing on him, and pushing him down into the water!

Nohnee lept into action with her bow, letting loose a shot at the beast, but it was a glancing blow and the crocodile continued to focus its attention on Malrock, going into a death roll with the poor guide clenched in its jaws. Pulling out her short sword, and giving a call to Pup, Nohnee deftly moved through the water and stabbed at the crocodile's exposed belly, cutting deep and drawing blood. Pup landed on its back as it rose away from Malrock, but was thrown off. The beast turned on Nohnee immediately. With all the blood in the water it was difficult to distinguish whose was whose, and Malrock limped in the water, stumbling away from the battle with a possible injury.

The crocodile now moved in to attack once more, trapped between the three adventurers. It's jaws flashed, and while Nohnee tried to hold it off with her sword, its jaws got hold of one of her legs, pulling her underwater with it. Submerged, it was only a matter of time before she was drowned by the reptile. Desperately, she clenched her sword tightly in order not to lose her grip and stabbed at the creature, striking home under the head and driving home through its brain. The creature dead, the jaws released, and she pulled herself up out of the water to take a breath.

Malrock suggested that there might be more, and they should move quickly. On shore, they bandaged up their wounds. Malrock's pride was hurt more than his body, and he was able to continue on without trouble. A bit of searching on the opposite bank revealed the cultists' trail that they had been following. With the thick underbrush it was fairly easy to find and follow them. However, as they continued onward, several completely different trails crisscrossed with the cultists'. It appeared to be some kind of game trail - and a humanoid one at that considering the tracks found on its paths. With their injuries and needing some rest, Nohnee decided to check it out, despite the possible dangers. The cultists were moving slowly and only a couple of days ahead of them. They'd need some recuperation if they were to fight. Hopefully whatever people they found would be friendly.

[sblock]The combat went fairly smoothly, although we didn't apply all the rules correctly and it was our first actual Dungeon World combat.

The way Dungeon World combat works is that the GM states something that is happening and then asks "What do you do?" The player responds, moves might be triggered, and rolls are made. Then the process starts all over again. Each action and reaction is based on how previous and current events are narrated by the participants. So for example, this is a paraphrasing of how some of this combat proceeded when we played.

GM: You're wading, waist deep, in the water to cross the stream. Suddenly, a large crocodile, at least fifteen feet long burses out of the water with a splash near Malrock! The poor guide is caught unaware with his sword and backpack held aloft at an awkward angle, and the creature lands on top of him, dragging him into the water beneath it. What do you do?

Player: I pull out my bow as quickly as possible and fire an arrow at it!

GM: Okay, that's a Volley Move. Read it off on your character sheet and follow the instructions.

Player: It says I roll 2d6+Dex... that's +2. Okay its a 9. I have to choose one of these options. I had to make several shots, so I mark off one ammo.

GM: Okay, then roll your damage.

Player: I rolled... 1.

GM: The arrow glances off of the crocodile, barely scratching it (Crocs have armor 2 so it did no damage). The croc ignores you, focusing on trying to kill Malrock. It starts spinning. You see a hand come up, grasping at nothing, then go back down. Pup is now on his way into the water, but he looks worried and unsure of himself. Malrock surely can't last long like this. What do you do?

Player: Forget the bow. I'm going in with the short sword and stabbing at it.

GM: As it rolls, Malrock in tow, its underbelly is exposed. You move into position and strike down at its exposed flesh. No need to roll for a move here. Just do your damage, and you'll ignore armor.

Player: I deal 8 damage!

GM: The crocodile squirms as you stab into its soft belly, letting go of your guide. Rising up and seeing you standing over it, the crocodile snaps at you with its jaws. There is blood in the water, but Malrock looks like he's injured but still able to move. He stumbles, fumbling in the water for his weapon, but clutching at his leg. The croc's jaw flies toward you now. What do you do?​

It wasn't long until we were humming along quickly, describing actions and basing Moves off of the descriptions. It was sometimes hard for her to decide between going defensive and going offensive. The monsters in Dungeon World are always active, they're always trying to do something. So, you can either act offensively and risk taking damage or act defensively and have less chance of being injured. But, you have to be offensive sometimes, or else you'll never defeat your foes. This is a bit more difficult with a single player, so I'm glad we went with the ranger. The wolf companion with the guard command was useful for holding off enemies while she fired her bow at them. The hireling was useful as well. I mostly used him in the game to distract opponents when there were multiples, Pup staying more with the PC.

In this particular combat, I emphasized Pup's stubborn nature as well as the fact that he wasn't trained to fight non-humanoids. He tried to help, halfheartedly, but overall did not do much. Malrock's injury early on and the fact that he lost his sword in the water, meant that he didn't participate either. It was up to our intrepid PC to dispatch the first enemy of the session. The croc had tags and custom moves made it quite a challenge.

Crocodilian
Bite (d8+3 damage)
10 HP
2 Armor
Close, Reach
Special Qualities: Amphibious, Camouflage
Instinct: To eat
  • Attack an unsuspecting victim
  • Hold something tight in its jaws
It has the amphibious and camouflage qualities, so I decided it got the drop on the party with no problem. I lessened the blow here by making it go after the hireling instead of the PC. It also has the "Hold something tight in its jaws" quality so I had it actually drag people down into the water. Because it has reach, I also got to put the group into a defensive position, where they had to avoid its jaws before they could get in close with melee. Poor Malrock would have died if Nohnee hadn't gotten in close and decided to draw its attention onto herself. It would have been a very short lived hireling, that's for sure. But, Dungeon World combat looks to be pretty deadly.
[/sblock]
 

ThirdWizard

Visitor
Nohnee followed the trails, which seemed to converge on a central location. Hiding, she and her companions approached a small village. To her surprise, the residents were elves! With a bit of hope, she revealed herself to them. The villagers were standoffish, but not outwardly hostile. Eventually someone came and approached the group, asking who they were and why they were here. He said that their small village didn't get many visitors and he was obviously worried about the wolf that traveled with her, as well as eyeing the human she brought along. Nohnee introduced herself, Pup, and Malrock to the village and convinced them that they meant the elves no harm. They trusted her, as an elf, and were convinced to allow the group to enter and traverse their tiny village freely. Nohnee inquired about a village healer as well as a place to sleep for the night.

The villager who they had been talking to became distraught. He told her that their holy man had been taken by strangers who came through the forest, interlopers who disrespected the forest. The small village has no real warriors, and they could not fight these humans off. Describing them, Nohnee suspected these were the cultists. The villager told her that without their holy man they could not receive the blessings of the forest for their hunters, they had lost their wards of protection against the goblins to the southwest, and they could not read the portends to know how to please the spirits. Their village would be doomed without him. His apprentice was young and inexperienced. Without further tutelage, he could never be a holy man himself. Nohnee didn't mention her suspicions about the cultists, but promised to help the holy man if she found him.

That night, the villagers put her and her companions up for the night as well as fed them and bandaged their wounds. They showed great hospitality for such a poor people, and Nohnee was moved beyond her normal mercenary nature. She wanted to help them, to save their holy man. With the first light of dawn, the group left to reacquire the trail left by the cultists. The cultists had been steadily moving south, which would most likely mean they intersected the goblins that the elves were talking about. The group slowed their pace, trying to stay hidden as they moved into more dangerous territory.

[sblock]My notes for the adventure mentioned the possibility of running into a friendly group as well as a hostile group. I wanted some dialogue to be part of the game. Malrock worked, but I thought some kind of village would be nice. I decided to make them elves because with the description of the forest based on the questions above mixed with establishing that Nohnee's elven nature helped her move through the forest more easily, it seemed like elves would be a good fit. It was also nice that it gave the PC an "in" with the locals, despite the fact that Pup is pretty frightening! Malrock's innate charisma helped them accept him, and Nohnee convinced them that Pup would not hurt them. For a minute I was wondering if they would end up turning the group away, but it all worked out for the PC and entourage.

The problem with the village also came into play naturally. I knew I needed some kind of ritual, and a sacrifice seemed good. When the player asked about healing, I knew I had a winner there. Someone that everyone would care about was in danger. Add this to the fact that Nohnee is Chaotic, which means bonus XP for freeing a prisoner, and I've killed two birds with one stone here.

I also wanted some kind of enemy village, a Mirror Mirror to the friendlies. I made this a goblin village because why not? I almost went with gnoll, but I thought it would be neat to have a small, less intelligent and powerful, race that the cultists are pushing around. The goblins don't necessarily want to work for the cultists, but they have to because the cultists scare them. This establishes that the cultists work with monstrous humanoids. The PC hasn't found out they're working together yet at this point in the story, though, so we'll get to that later.[/sblock]
 

ThirdWizard

Visitor
Nohnee picked up the trail of the cultists without much issue. The overgrown forest left little opportunity to hide one’s tracks, especially for those who were not accustomed to the back country. And, from the looks of the trail, these cultists knew nothing of travel of this nature. Not only did they leave a trail of hacked vines and broken tree limbs behind them, but they discarded anything they might have used along the way – torn clothes, food wrappings, used up water flasks, and more. Following this trail eventually led upon a mixed trail of other humanoids, much smaller.

These new trails were more like the elven trails from before. They looked like game trails, very distinct from the cultists’. There was no overt destruction in their path, just heavily used trails that a lesser tracker would probably have missed, but Nohnee caught the signs. Some kind of small race of humanoids definitely hunted this area. From these were the goblins that the elves had warned her and her companions about. She knelt down, signaling the others to slow down as they entered goblin territory. It was likely that the goblins easily came upon the cultists, who didn’t appear to be hiding themselves. Maybe that was okay for them, but she would rather go through this area unnoticed. At her lead, the group slowed to move more quietly, and she listed as they moved for any signs of danger.

Following the cultists trail, she saw at some points the cultists’ tracks intermingling with those of the presumed goblins. These were not the tracks of a battle or other conflict. And, at some points the goblins were even appearing to travel with the cultists. The two groups were working together. She had hoped that skirmishes between the two groups would have slowed the cultists’ advance, but the opposite was probably true. With the help of the goblins they would be able to move through the underbrush more quickly, finding better routes, and moving in a better direction toward whatever their end goal was. She still didn’t know where that might be.

As the group moved around a rather large tree, Pup’s ears perked up and he started to let out a very low growl. Taking the cue, the group took cover in the underbrush, and peeked out around the tree before proceeding. That’s when they saw the goblin patrol. Four goblins on lookout moving through the tangled vines and branches of the forest just as easily as the elves moved through. The goblins’ movement didn’t change, indicating that they did not spot the group, thanks to Pup’s warning. With silent signals, Nohnee send her companions into a flanking position.

As the goblin passed the group sprung an ambush, Nohnee standing and shooting what seemed to be the leader, aiming for the leg to make it more difficult for them to run away. Pup and Malrock charged in amongst the goblins. However, her arrow flying wild, the goblin group scattered in all directions, choosing to run instead of stay for a fight!

The group jumped into action. Malrock was able to fell one of the goblins before it escaped, but two more dashed in different directions. Nohnee and Pup took off after the goblin she had initially fired at and missed. The thing moved quickly, ducking and dodging, even rolling, between tangled underbrush, thickets, and snaking vines. It took everything she had to keep up. Malrock was nowhere to be seen, the goblin, elf, and wolf having lost the human in the dense forest. Leaping over a giant root, Pup took a quick lead ahead of his master and caught up with the fleeing goblin, jumping onto its back and dragging the creature down to the earth. It hissed and rolled out from under the beast, pulling out a dagger. It was too late, though, and Nohnee’s bow was already out, shooting an arrow and hitting its arm.

The goblin wasn’t dead, but was heavily injured. It spewed curses at the elf, spitting toward her as she walked to stand over its prone form. As she did so, the thing cowed, but the anger in its eyes did not subside. It clutched its wounded arm, an arrow still stuck in its scrawny bicep.

“Where are the humans?” she asked simply.

“The south! The south!” it yelled out, obviously in pain.

“What is your relationship with the elves?”

“The elves? We love the elves!”

“You love them?” She was a bit confused by this response. Had she been mistaken about the goblins?

“They’re delicious! But, not you! I won’t eat you if you let me go.”

Nope. Not mistaken at all. “Where is your village?”

“I’ll take you there. We can go. It’s a nice place. You’d like it.” The creature looked a bit more hopeful.

“I won’t be going to your village… Tell me more about the humans.”

“They’re to the south, I said.” It looked defiant for a moment, but then its face fell once more. “They go to the ruins. Old city there, long gone. Goblins don’t want to go near it. Humans go there. I take you!”

She did not need the goblin to take her there. She merely wanted to some information. The cultist trail was more than enough to take her wherever they were going. But, a ruined city wasn’t quite what she was expecting. She had heard of it, though, long ago in stories told to her. Those were a distant memory, the city of Dalv. She only knew them as an old warlike people who were killed in the wars that they started. Beyond that, she couldn’t recall. Maybe something would come back to her. Grimacing, she looked down at the pitiful goblin beneath her. She could not let such a vile thing live. She would show no mercy. Her sword fell on the creature, finishing it off with a scream escaping its throat.

Malrock caught up with them as she was cleaning her sword. The stoic man said nothing, merely nodded at the sight of her dead quarry. And, with that the group was off again, following the trail of the cultists once more. It wasn’t long before the group came upon the ruins that the goblin had talked about. Nohnee racked her brain some more. She did remember some things about the city from the stories she had been told. One of those things that came back to her, looking at the ruined ramparts above, was that the people of Dalv had performed sacrifices to imbue their warriors with great strength. This was a fitting place for the cultists to gather to perform a ritual of their own.

[sblock]Being a ranger, the player used the Hunt and Track class Move that the ranger has in order to follow the cultists’ trail. She rolled, I believe, a 10, so she also got a bit of useful information about the cultists. I let her know that it appeared that the cultists were traveling off and on with goblins, so the two groups were definitely working together in some way.

The player gave Pup, the animal companion, the Keen Senses strength, and I wanted that to be a benefit, so I used the companion to alert the group to the coming goblin patrol. Pup also took the Stealth strength, so it was able to hide extremely well. Finally, when the chase started, it had the Quick Reflexes strengths, so it could move through the forest to give chase very quickly. I had it actually catch the goblin, knocking it down. It’s also frightening after all!

As for Nohnee starting a fight with the goblins, the player regretted that afterward. She figured she could have followed them and played it safer. But, there’s no guarantee that would have worked either. The shot at the goblins leg was a Called Shot trying to hobble it so that it couldn’t escape. If that had hit, things would have gone much smoother for her.

However she rolled a 6 on the Called Shot attack. That means I get to make a move. In that case, I opted to use the goblin move “Retreat and return with (many) more.” I wanted to give her a chance, though, so she pursued, caught and killed the goblin, and went back into hiding. The goblins from then on were on alert, but she managed to keep that from being a problem, somewhat negating the GM move. That’s okay. I like it when something a player does gets around obstacles.

Also, she got an XP for the 6, so it wasn’t all bad.[/sblock]
 

ThirdWizard

Visitor
Nohnee hid nearby the ruins, watching carefully. Every once in a while goblins could be seen patrolling the walls and the interior of the ruins. Luckily for her, the city was a big place, and the goblins weren’t numerous enough to fill it out. Even on alert, she’d be able to sneak through. But to where? She watched carefully, taking in everything she could, and moving along the wall to peer in through the holes lining the ruined city’s exterior. It was overgrown and in rubble in many places.

She didn’t remember how long it had been since the great city of Dalv had fallen, but she was aware it had been quite a long time. The structures had held up surprisingly well. She could see tall buildings on the inside, towers, roads that held back the encroachment of nature even after its people were long since gone. She wondered if this place was haunted, patrolled by warrior spirits of a time long since gone. Shuddering, she pushed the images from her mind. She had a job to do.

In the distance she could see one of the towers on the inside, smoke rising from the top. Someone was there. Could be goblins, but it could also be the cultists, it stood to reason. Taking a chance, she signaled for the others to follow and slipped into the city proper through one of the small cracks in the wall. The group snuck slowly through what used to be back alleyways, dashing between former thoroughfares so as not to be seen. Eventually the group made it to the tower where two goblins were patrolling the grounds outside. Waiting and watching the two’s movements for some time, the group found and opening was able to sneak past them into the bottom floor of the tower.

Catching their breath, the group looked around. The crumbling stonework was covered in a slippery moss, while vines snaked through cracks in the masonry, and beams of light cast through tiny openings in the walls. Old statues of posturing warriors stood watching the small group, untouched by the elements for the most part even after all these years due to the shelter afforded by the tower, even if the tower itself did not fare well. A well-worn stone staircase, its steps indented and smoothed by thousands of climbers, rose around the side of the tower into the floors above.

They started moving upward, Nohnee in the front with Malrock bringing up the rear. Progress was slow. The ranger was convinced that the cultists laid traps in their wake. She didn’t think they knew that she was following them, but from descriptions of her employer they did not seem to be ones to take chances. As she climbed, she prodded each step first and kept an eye out for things like trip wires and loose stones and her ears open for any new sounds.

After climbing several stories, and leaving just as many floors and landings below, Nohnee’s prodding turned up something, and she halted the group behind her quietly. They had made barely a noise, and so far things were looking up. She bent down to check a loose pile of wooden planks that lay in front of an open doorway between her and the continuation of the staircase in the next room. It was a hastily designed trap, probably created by the goblins, a rough thing that would have only caught the most foolhardy adventurers off guard.

Someone had excavated a hole in the floor, directly in front of a doorway, to drop a victim into a closet or some other small cavity in the floor below. That small room had been filled with spikes jutting up from the floors, and most likely any former way out was barred shut. The entire pit had been covered in the loose wooden planks she had found, each cut through enough to lay across without issue but to break under any weight that was placed on them.

If she had stepped on them, she would have been met with a nasty surprise. But, this was a roughshod job, almost an insult to her. Contemplating their next move, she heard movement in the room, and quiet voices. Goblins. She didn’t think they had heard her yet. They were probably set there to shoot or stab anyone who fell into the trap and didn’t die, and she doubted they expected anyone to make it this far without setting off some kind of alarm in the city. They would have to be dealt with, but they could be taken by surprise. She loosed her bow, motioned to the others to follow, and leapt across the pit with her bow at the ready.
 

ThirdWizard

Visitor
Easily landing on the other side, the ranger looked left then right. On each side of the covered pit trap were two goblins, sitting with their weapons on the floor with some kinds of makeshift playing cards. In a far corner were another two goblins, sleepily lying on the floor in piles of straw. They looked up at her, their mouths agape and eyes blinking for several moments. Nohnee did not hesitate. She aimed her bow at one of the goblins flanking the doorway and shot it through the skull with a sickening crunch as the arrow bit through its skull and flung goo out onto the wall behind it. The other goblins finally started moving, grabbing nearby spears. Behind her, Pup and Malrock cleared the pit to join the fray. As the goblins moved toward her, Nohnee stepped to the right, trying to put the wall behind her. Malrock moved to intercept the goblins who flanked the wall, and Nohnee shot out a quick command, “Intercept, Pup!” The wolf moved between her and the far goblins to keep them from reaching her while she readied another volley of arrows to take them down. Finally putting her back against a wall, Pup was able to keep them away and she took aim, catching one of the goblins in the chest, the creature falling to the ground with a yell before going quiet.

The other goblin went down quickly as well, but Nohnee heard a crunch and Malrock’s voice call out for help behind her. Turning she saw two goblins still standing with spears extended, and Marlock hung from the side of the pit by one hand as the goblins advanced on him to impale him as he hung there defenseless. Letting loose another arrow as she advanced on the scene before her, she caught one of the goblins in the back, which plummeted over Malrock into the spikes below.

Reaching the final remaining goblin, she dropped the bow and pulled her sword on it, forcing the creature to turn its attention to her or be sliced from behind. She moved quickly within its reach, Pup taking up position behind it, the goblin’s eyes going wild with surprise at suddenly being surrounded. Pup lunged, the goblin losing its balance, and got hold of its leg. Nohnee took advantage of that and cut its throat with one deft motion, avoiding the flailing spearhead that was striking toward her. The goblins dispatched, Nohnee pulled Malrock up out of the pit. The hired sellsword was more embarrassed by his being maneuvered by the goblins into the pit than anything else, and with no new injuries the group made their way up the staircase that lay on the far side of the room. Nohnee continued searching for anything out of place, the group taking their time as they proceeded up the stairway and through various rooms in the tower.

Eventually, the searching became fruitful again. This time the ranger turned up a trip wire that lay on the far side of an otherwise empty doorway. Peeking to the other side, she found it attached to a crossbow, the tip of the cocked bolt dripping with some kind of liquid – most likely poison. Silently informing Malrock to step lightly over the wire, she helped Pup to avoid the trap and the group continued on, making sure to keep their eyes out for anything more out of the ordinary. So far they were two for two on discovered traps, a good sign.

It was while ascending a short staircase that the group found one of the ornate stone statues like the ones that they had seen earlier, this particular statue midair and headed straight toward their heads. With a quick shout Nohnee and Pup ducked, and Malrock threw himself to the wall. The statue flew past them with a loud crack being heard at the bottom of the staircase. Looking up, they saw an ogre standing at the top of the staircase, laughing. It stood gleefully, lifting up a large wooden club over its head and leapt down the staircase straight for them.

Nohnee barely moved out of the way of the wide downward swing of the club. She moved back and shot, but it went wild and barely caught the ogre, leaving only a small, but bloody, wound and not finding a true target. Blood being drawn, the ogre began to look more deranged, roaring at the ranger with a manic smile on its face. The staircase proved to be too narrow, or the ogre too wide, and Malrock and Pup tried to get into a good spot to bite and claw the monster, but he had trouble. They would need to get to a more open area or trade places. The group didn’t have time to formulate a plan, however, before the ogre’s club swing again. She tried to move out of the way of this second blow, but the club slammed against her with a loud crunch. She found herself being lifted off her feet and flung down the stairs, striking the stone steps and rolling the rest of the way down to the bottom of the staircase. Her bow was out of her hands somewhere. Malrock and Pup stood their ground, but the ogre was headed for them next. Looking around, she quickly scooped up her bow and fired a shot. Her arrow struck the ogre in the shoulder, the creature only appearing to draw more rage from their mad opponent. Malrock and Pup were able to strike it slightly, and it wavered for a moment, but it licked its lips readying another deadly strike.

With a bit of franticness to her voice, Nohnee called out to the others, “Come! Retreat! Follow me!” Pup immediately obeyed without hesitation, and Malrock was not far behind. The ogre stopped swinging mid-motion, its crazed smile deepening at the ensuing chase. As the group backtracked their previous path, running down the hallways single file, they could hear its heavy footsteps behind them.

Thud.

Thud.

Thud.

“Remember to jump!” Nohnee called out behind her, loud enough that Malrock could hear.

He nodded as she leapt down the final four steps of another spiral staircase, and he flung himself over the railing to land right behind her.

Pup was beside Nohnee at this point, and she grabbed onto the fur on the back of his neck, pulling up when they came to the trip wire. The trained wolf followed instructions perfectly and leapt with her clearing the trap. Malrock jumped over the wire as well. On the other side, in a small-ish room, Nohnee turned again, pulling the draw string back on her bow, the others taking up position for a final showdown with the ogre.

As the humanoid beast reached the room, they could hear the trap being triggered and the sound the bolt made when it struck the ogre’s massive leg. It paused for a moment, looking down at the bolt, which for it was quite a small nuisance. Laughing, it raised its club again, swinging in a large arc to hit both Pup and Malrock, but the two of them were able to move out of the way at the last moment, Pup dropping to the floor and Malrock stepping back and almost falling with the force he used to throw himself away of the oncoming club. The end of the swing went wild, though, the club being flung out of the ogre’s hands. Swaying, a wave of confusion melted over the ogre’s face before it hit the ground and did not move after that.

Malrock said nothing, but moved to the doorway to keep an eye out in case anyone came to investigate the loud thumps and crashes caused by their former opponent. Pup went over to lick Nohnee’s wounds, who collapsed against a wall in the room, sitting down, but keeping her eyes on the ogre. She pulled out some bandages to wrap the recent injuries. She was already starting to bruise, and her muscles felt sore. She wasn’t sure if one of her ribs was broken. That one blow had taken a lot out of her. However, they couldn’t stop and rest for long. Once she had bandaged herself, she stood wincing and the group continued up once again. Surely at this point they were almost to her quarry.

[sblock]The three encounters going up the tower were actually bullet pointed list in my prep. It read like this:

  • Spiked Pit, attacked by waiting monsters if he falls in
  • Poison Arrows around a corner
  • A massive creature of some sort lobs a statue at the adventurer as he climbs, then a fight ensues
That’s all I needed to go on to play out the encounters. It was a breeze! I didn’t need to stat up anything, I didn’t need to decide what the poison did, and I didn’t need to make detailed encounter notes beforehand. Coming from running a D&D 4e campaign (which is a great campaign, don’t get me wrong), this kind of timesaving is great! I spend about 50% of the time prepping for my 4e campaign as I did for my 3e, and I spend maybe 5% of the time prepping for DW than 4e.

In the first combat here with the goblins we got to do a few neat things.

Nohnee’s animal companion got to have one extra training, which I mentioned in the first post. This was the command “Guard” and the PC used that in this combat to keep the goblins off of Nohnee so that she could more safely fire arrows at the enemy. Now, this is somewhat dangerous as normally I might use a GM move to put Pup in danger, but since Pup is already in danger, I might end up using a Move to injure Pup or be more devious. Luckily it didn’t come to that – this time.

When Nohnee tried to shoot the second goblin to take him out, I can’t remember the exact roll but it was somewhere between 7-9, which is a “Hit, but…” effect. In this case, I decided to put Malrock in a dangerous position, hanging for his life over the side of the pit. If she didn’t act quickly, he would fall to be impaled on the spikes below! I don’t know if this is a listed GM move, but whatever. It fit the situation nicely and it added some tension to the end of combat.

Ogres are interesting creatures. Dungeon World describes them as thus:

A tale, then. Somewhere in the not-so-long history of the mannish race there was a divide. In days when men were merely dwellers-in-the-mud with no magic to call their own, they split in two: one camp left their caves and the dark forests and built the first city to honor the gods. The others, a wild and savage lot, retreated into darkness. They grew, there. In the deep woods a grim loathing for their softer kin gave them strength. They found dark gods of their own, there in the woods and hills. Ages passed and they bred tall and strong and full of hate. We have forged steel and they match it with their savagery. We may have forgotten our common roots, but somewhere, deep down, the ogres remember. Instinct: To return the world to darker days
This was really a creature I could see working with the cultists, revering the same darkness that they do. Perhaps an ogre wouldn’t worship the Gates of Hell, but something similar or a god who was aligned with the Gates themselves. I threw the ogre in here as someone they possibly recruited after arriving, a denizen of the ruins. I didn’t go into any in-game detail, but I could have if the PC had taken that up.

The encounter itself was incredibly deadly. Ogres deal 1d8+5 damage! Nohnee’s 23 HP wasn’t a lot compared to that. One blow took off a bit over a third of her health! The ogre’s attack also has the Forceful tag. The tag itself doesn’t have any defined crunch. It just says “It can knock someone back a pace, maybe even off their feet.” Well, being on a staircase, knocking someone off their feet is a bit more dangerous, so I had it fling her down the stairs. I was almost positive that combat was going to end with a dead wolf or a dead hireling, but the retreat and use of the poisoned trap was something I hadn’t considered. it worked out well!

At that point, the ogre actually only had 3 hit points left. One more hit would have downed it. But, it might have taken someone out with it. The use of the poisoned bolt possibly saved the NPCs’ lives.[/sblock]
 

ThirdWizard

Visitor
On the top of the tower the cultists stood in a long circle around the sides, the smoke from multiple bright red fires rising into the open sky above. They chanted, low and steady, their voices as one with no discernable difference in cadence between any two members. They wore gray cloaks, hoods pushed back to expose shaved and tattooed heads. At their sides were curved daggers, but they stood with their eyes closed and their arms extended in front of them, their hands closed in fists. Their eyes were closed and they sweated despite the cold dry air around them, the sun beginning to set in the far distance.

Their leader stood in the center, near a stone slab that looked to have been built into the stone of the tower itself. Dark red blood stained its surface despite the stone’s long exposure to the elements, the remains of long forgotten sacrifices. Now chained to the stone was an elf, shackled and unmoving. His eyes were open, staring into the sky. He was not pleading nor crying, only lying quietly. Patiently.
On the far side of the scene there stood four, unmoving, human skeletons. Each wore no armor but carried swords. They could have been museum pieces, save for the pinpoint of red in their otherwise black eye sockets. They stood at attention, as if they were soldiers standing at their posts, living their lives despite their lives no longer existing.

This is the scene Nohnee came to find at the top of the tower, peeking out of an overhead hatch she had found on the top floor of the tower. This is what she came for, to stop the ritual that the cultists would be performing. Squinting, she could see some kind of force connecting the cult leader to the skeletons. It looked like the waves of heat given off by a fire, the distortion making everything on the other side of a fire look wavy as if through the ripples in a pond. That same look carried from the cult leader to the skeletons. It had to be important. They were his guardians, but they relied on him, too. Stop him, and she might just stop the skeletons as well.

She decided the leader would be the focal point. Stop the cult leader, stop the skeletons, stop the sacrifice, and stop the ritual. As far as plans went, it was easy in its simplicity if not in execution. Slowly and quietly she readied her bow, drawing an arrow to fire on the cult leader. The others waited behind her, anticipation building, to burst out as soon as that first shot was fired. Malrock gripped his two handed sword, his knuckles turning white. Pup lowered his head, the hair on the back of his neck standing up.

Nohnee took a deep breath, held it, then burst upward, bow ready, and loosed her arrow. She caught the group completely unprepared, the cult leader unable to react to the unexpected ambush in their own tower. The arrow caught him in the forehead, almost slicing through his brain, blood spurting out of the wound. The man grabbed at the gash, blood pouring over his eyes.

The chanting stopped.

“We are under siege by outsiders, enemies of the Gates! KILL THEM!”

The cultists’ eyes widened. Only three went clumsily for their daggers, the others looking wildly about and moving in a mass away from the combatants now emerging from the tower below. A murmur went over the previously unified group, the conformity of the previous chanting giving way to a mass of solitary individuals pushing their way through each other in fear of combat except for the few who, despite the fear on their faces, stood their ground with daggers in hand.

The scene the cultists were making was in stark contrast to that of the skeletal soldiers. Their heads snapped back, the pinpoints of glowing red in the eye sockets converging on the enemies now standing before them. As one, they lifted their swords and began a marching advance on the attackers at the command of their master, who himself was unable to do anything himself at the moment.

The top of the tower was a mad house, and Nohnee had to change positions to get a good shot at the cult leader again. With the advancing skeletons, their movements directed toward her, she knew they would be on her any second now. For now she still had a clear shot. She took it, grazing the cult leader, but not dropping him. She cursed, pulling another arrow, but by this time the skeletons had quickened their march and were almost directly on top of her. Behind her she could see Malrock had moved to intercept the cultists and was making short work of them. Not short enough, however, and she tried to get away from the skeletons, which were much faster than she had anticipated.

As they descended upon her, she tried to find some escape route, but the mass of fleeing cultists with nowhere to go were forming a human blockade, even if they didn’t realize they were doing so. Dodging a swing from a skeletal soldier, she lost her balance, and another swing came down aimed directly at her neck. Throwing herself to the side, she managed to move out of the way, but she lost her balance and fell to the ground, the skeletons forming a circle around her to keep her from escaping.

As they closed in on her, Pup came to her rescue, jumping in beside her and snapping at them to keep them back. Gripping her bow, she tried to get out from the middle of the group. If only she could drop the leader, the one controlling them, then the skeletons might be defeated that way. She rolled left, trying to regain her feet, but found the skeletons too fast. Two were on top of her. Before they landed their blow, however, Pup intercepted the attacks, jumping in and grabbing one of the attackers by the arm. Nohnee was able to slide out with the momentary distraction, but Pup took a mean blow from the other skeleton, and the four converged on her wolf.

Pup valiantly fought back, snapping, circling, and moving, but he was surrounded. One blow would finish off her beloved companion. Looking back, Malrock finished off the last cultist who was fighting back, but he was blocked from her by the cultists, who now were staring to sit and lay down. “We surrender!” “Please don’t kill us!” they were calling out. Nohnee sneered in disgust at these people. She would handle them later.

The prostrate cultists now meant she had a clearer shot at the cult leader, who by now was beginning to regain his composure. He held the blood back from his eyes and looked at her through the circle of skeletons, a scowl on his face, an expression of pure hate. Nohnee moved left to get a clearer shot and fired her bow as the skeletons made their final moves toward Pup.

The arrow pierced the leader’s chest. His last expression did not change. There was no remorse. No surprise. No sadness. Only hate. He fell forward, grasping the arrow buried in him, but his eyes never left hers until his face was planted on the ground, his eyes now dead and looking at nothing. The shimmering leading from him to the skeletons ceased and they collapsed around Pup, the wolf growling and pawing at the piles of human bones now surrounding him.

With their leader dead, if the cultists were going to offer any kind of struggle they did not now. Malrock proceeded to tie them with rope in a long line. Nohnee approached the elf on the stone slab and freed him from the manacles holding him tight.

“Easy… we’ll take you back to your village.”

The elf said nothing. He merely smiled and cried.

[sblock]This was an awesome combat. There were several failed rolls and success but… rolls, so even though the combat itself didn’t last long it was very tense.

The encounter started off with Nohnee attempting to see if there was anything she could use to her advantage in the scene. This was a Discern Realities roll which she only got one question for. That question was “What here is useful or valuable to me?” Before that I hadn’t really considered the question, but I thought for a moment, and I realized the skeletons were fairly strong for her to take on by herself, so I added the stipulation that they were being controlled by the leader. I decided to let her know that if she killed him, then they would lose their tenuous grip on the magic animating them.

When the combat actually started, her opening move was to try and go for a head shot on the cult leader. This was the second time, I think, she tried to do a Called Shot. This time it worked with a 7-9 result. She didn’t do damage but she stunned the cult leader for a little while. A little while was all she ended up needed, and he remained stunned through the entire combat, short as it was. That was a huge help, as he was a spell caster and would have been a ranged foil against her.

Finally, she kept getting success but… (7-9) and failure (6-) rolls when she tried to get away from the skeletons to get a clear shot at the cult leader. So, they were buying time for the cult leader to recover and I put Pup into danger to keep things moving along. On the 6- I decided dealing damage would be too nice. Instead I gave her a worse outcome. She got out from being surrounded by the skeletons, but Pup was trapped. And they were going to kill him. If she had not dropped the cult leader right then and there, Pup would have been killed or maimed. Like I said, very tense!

Luckily she rolled well (finally!) and dropped the leader, making the skeletons fall to the ground, the magic that animated them being linked through the cult leader to them.[/sblock]
 
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Rune

Once A Fool
I must say, I am very much enjoying this story hour.

I am also currently running a Dungeon World campaign (sometimes one-on-one) and it's great to read another account of how the system plays out. It really is as smooth and cinematic a system as your story hour makes it look! Your writing really emphasizes that aspect of it.

I look forward to reading more!
 

ThirdWizard

Visitor
I must say, I am very much enjoying this story hour.

I am also currently running a Dungeon World campaign (sometimes one-on-one) and it's great to read another account of how the system plays out. It really is as smooth and cinematic a system as your story hour makes it look! Your writing really emphasizes that aspect of it.

I look forward to reading more!
Thank you! :)

I really want to emphasize what you said about it being very cinematic. There aren't any embellishes from game to story hour taking place here. How I'm describing things in the posts are how it was described in the game itself. I'm sure you know this, but for those who aren't familiar with Dungeon World, describing the action is the gameplay. Moves are really just a side effect of the fiction.

I'm really loving running it. This was just going to be a one shot to test the system out, but we're continuing with it, and I'll continue with the thread to go with it.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
By the way, [MENTION=12037]ThirdWizard[/MENTION], I think you should consider letting your player (and more players, if you get any in the future) create bonds with NPCs.

I think you'll find that it makes the whole experience richer for both of you.
 
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ThirdWizard

Visitor
By the way, I think you should consider letting your player (and more players, if you get any in the future) create bonds with NPCs.

I think you'll find that it makes the whole experience richer for both of you.
Yeah, I was debating that for the first session but didn't go with it. I really wish we had done it, so going forward, we'll definately be doing bonds with NPCs!
 

ThirdWizard

Visitor
Nohnee and Malrock were greeted as a hero in the elven village.

The goblins had offered no resistance at their leaving, a long file of hogtied cultists in tow behind them. Perhaps they were no real friend to the cultists or perhaps the sight of their allies being led away to face punishment frightened them into keeping their distance. Whatever the reason, the trip back to the village was a short and uneventful one. And, the cultists themselves put up no struggle. They were cowards, as had been proven in the battle atop the crumbling tower in the ruins of Dalv. They knew they were being marched to their death, but there was nothing in them to fight it. Perhaps they were small minded people with so little in their brains and hearts that they were easily manipulated into the cult. But, whatever the excuse, their crimes were real. They would hang.

In the meantime, the village celebrated. Their holy man was returned, and their people would be blessed once again. Their lives were saved. They gave their saviors all that they could. A bed to sleep in for the night. Bandages to cover their wounds. A meal for a cold belly. And, the group was on its way again to the city, several days’ of uneventful travel.

Once they arrived, the prisoners were handed over to the authorities and Nohnee received payment for a job well done. With that, a celebration was in order! She and Malrock took to the local tavern, drinks for everyone! Such a night had not been seen in recent memory with merriment spilling out into the streets and into nearby taverns, as the group traveled from place to place, collecting more and more people, more and more drinks, and giving the best night of business many of the taverns had seen that year! At one point the captain of the guard was called in when a fight broke out. However, enough beer and mead was offered to him that he decided to join in the festivities. Even Nohnee’s patron made an appearance, and she figured he wasn’t such a stuck up rich guy after all. Things died down a bit as the sun came up, and people started filing away to go to work or sleep.

In the aftermath of the ruckus, as people were going home, Nohnee had a chat with a middle aged man she had met the night before. It turned out that he was a merchant with a caravan headed toward another city. She had impressed him with tales of her exploits, and knowledge of the cultists she had brought back was at this point both extremely well known and a verified event. He offered her a job guarding his cargo on the way. He also noted that there was rumored to be activity of the same cult in that part of the kingdom as well, and it might be worth looking into.

[sblock]So, Nohnee performed the Carouse Move and paid +100 gold pieces. This is a great move to do in order to learn about things, get people to hear about you, and just have a big old party! And, she rolled well, at a modified 11, which is an unqualified success. That meant she could choose from three options. She chose "You befriend a Useful NPC," "You hear rumors of an opportunity," and "You are not entangled, ensorcelled, or tricked."

For the first, a useful NPC, I had the captain of the guard come to break the party up, but instead the two became friends and he joined in the festivities.

For the second, an opportunity, I had her meet the merchant who would hire her. He also dropped a hint about further cultist activity.

For the third, nothing bad happened. It was a good party.

I like the Carouse Move. It was fun for her to list out what she wanted from it and come up with a story about what happened during the revelries based on her decisions. It was also a good improvisation exercise, as I had to figure out how to work within the framework. For example, who was the useful NPC? What opportunity did she find? I had to think on my toes.

And so our session came to a close. At this point, we assigned Experience Points. XP isn’t gained by killing monsters in Dungeon World, at least not like in D&D. In this game, your reward for killing things is that you didn’t die. Instead you get XP for interacting with the world around you, specifically for a list of activities (below) and as a consolation prize whenever you fail a die roll (roll 6-).

Did you resolve any bonds?
Normally you get XP if you resolve a bond with another PC. That is, everyone has open ended connections to each other, and finding a conclusion to those connections results in experience points being awarded and new bonds forming. There were no other PCs, so no bonds, so we skipped that step. Thinking about it, in the next session, I might allow bonds to form between the PC and Malrock even though he’s an NPC. Now that they’ve got an adventure together under their belt together, that’s something to think about. Of course, being an NPC, his life expectancy isn’t that wonderful.

Did you free someone from literal or figurative bonds?
The alignment question for Rangers of Chaotic alignment is about freeing prisoners. This is a yes. They freed the elf from the stone slab where he was literally manacled.

Did we learn something new and important about the world?
I’d say she learned a lot! There was a lot to learn about the cult, first of all. They control the undead. They form alliances with local monstrous humanoids. They use sacrifices in their rituals. She also met an elven village, and made allies with them.

We also talked a bit about what it meant to worship the Gates of Hell. She decided that they are trying to slowly open the gates with their rituals. As the gates open more and more, then they can control more powerful undead. And, there are cultists everywhere doing this. There may also be ways to attempt to shut the gates, which would undo some of the damage they do.

Did we overcome a notable monster or enemy?
Take your pick between the ogre and the cultists/skeletons. The ogre was big and bad, and the skeletons were quick and bad. Both could have taken somebody out quite easily. So, we answered yes to this question.

Did we loot a memorable treasure?
We answered no on this one. There wasn’t any treasure to loot.

So, that’s 3 XP from story awards. Throughout the game, she rolled a total of five 6- failures on rolls. That added up to be 8, just enough to level up to level 2!

With that the first session drew to a close. Next time, a (hopefully) somewhat atypical caravan escort adventure![/sblock]
 

Tharian

Visitor
This was a fantastic read!

I'm hoping to get a chance to run some Dungeon World and it's looking like my best shot will be to run a 1 pc game so seeing this thread has been great for pointing out ways that DW can work well in such a situation.

I do hope more session write-ups are coming.
 

chadum

Visitor
I came across this today while looking for details of how to run Dungeon World 1:1 with my wife.

Thank you so much for the naration and the GM notes. They have inspired me.
 

ThirdWizard

Visitor
Thanks! Wow, it's been almost 5 years since I wrote this. Dungeon World is perhaps still my favorite system to run. Good luck!
 

ThirdWizard

Visitor
I've run Dungeon World about a dozen times since, plus a play by post game that ran for about a year or so.

It is always a blast. I ran, I think, 5 games at Dragon Con several years ago and they all went over extremely well. That includes character creation, and I went in with (much) less prep than this game above. Every game was completely different, from "rescuing" dragon eggs from their worshippers to retrieving a holy book that could commune with the gods, to saving a town from a Cthulian monstrocity. I wish I had taken more detailed notes or I would have written up a story hour for some of those as well. There is always lots of player involvement and Dungeon World is just so easy to get into and just play.
 

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