Further Dungeon World Thoughts

Playing, RPG

On Thursday my regular Skype group picked up our Dungeon World game again after missing a bunch of sessions during the holidays, and I wanted to record some more observations (earlier DW posts here and here).

My Fighter Seems Overpowered

The Fighter’s base damage is 1d10. On my first level up, I took the Merciless advanced move, giving me +1d4 damage. On my second level up I took Scent of Blood for +2 damage any time I attack the same enemy in subsequent rounds. If I’m supposed to have +1 damage for wielding a sword like the equipment page says, it would be even more damage (it’s unclear to me if the Fighter’s signature weapon inherits the tags from the base weapon — it would be nice to have that clarified). I have a lot of armor and hit points, so the weak hit and strong hit are both pretty good for me, and I started with a +2 mod on my strength so (if I’m doing the math right) I get a 7-9 weak hit 41.66% of the time and a 10+ strong hit 41.66% of the time. That means 83% of the time I’m whomping monsters pretty badly, frequently killing even impressive beasties in one or two hits. Compare that to a typical cleric, who’s doing 1d6 damage, might have a +1 strength mod, and likely has less armor and hit points (which means the weak hit isn’t a very desirable outcome). He’s getting a strong hit 27.78% of the time, at which point he’ll generally do less than half the damage my Fighter will, and he’ll get a weak hit 44.4% of the time, which will probably hurt pretty badly in exchange for doing a comparatively small amount of damage. In play, it sort of feels like the other player’s Cleric is kind of a spectator in these fights (he’s also a level behind, experience-wise, exaggerating the effects, and I increased my strength at third level so my hit rate is even better). His healing has been important, but I feel guilty for seeming to be so much more effective in combat. Now maybe this is the way it’s supposed to work, and I’m just very effective in my spotlight area while he’d be able to shine when we’re doing something else, but I’m not sure I’ve seen that in play (and I noticed a similar Fighter + other guys pattern in The Walking Eye DW APs). I thought maybe the Cleric would have some sort of edge when dealing with mystical stuff, but he doesn’t appear to.

Having Strength Highlighted Is Boring

This session my Strength got highlighted for experience again, and I noticed I had a lot more fun when my Strength wasn’t highlighted last session because it encouraged me do to a bunch of crazy stuff. Since my Fighter does so much damage, the Hack & Slash move starts to feel like an “I win” button, and the reward for hitting it over and over again starts to feel pretty hollow. While I’m having fun stomping on monsters, I think I have a lot more fun when the fights seem frantic and on the edge of control, where I’m Defying Danger quite a bit and the fight is dynamic and interesting rather than a slugfest.

The Classic D&D Stats Don’t Translate to Enough Stuff in the Mechanics

I gave my Fighter a high intelligence because I thought it would fit the character. The only thing I can really do with that in play is Spout Lore, which I’m finding that I don’t really enjoy. It always feels a little bit awkward when I do it, like I’m fishing for information, and the stuff that the GM tells me on a hit frequently feels like stuff I had already worked out from context anyway, so it ends up seeming cheesy and redundant. I suppose I could use my multi-class move to pick up the wizard move that would let me Discern Realities with Int rather than Wis, but that seems like a weak use of the multi-class move when it could give me something as impressive as spellcasting. Basically, I feel like I’ve made decisions based on the fiction (what my vision of the character is) that are obviously mechanically suboptimal, and that’s not a good feeling. I think that some of the stats are too narrow in what they affect mechanically, such that it’s hard to rationalize spending points on them.

The Aid/Interfere Move Kinda Sucks

Since we’re playing with only two players and a GM I think we frequently forget about the Bond mechanic. We were in a situation last session, though, where it made fictional sense to use it, so I rolled Aid, and then realized that the thing only goes off on a 10+, which means that more often than not you’ll end up making things worse when you try to help. I probably won’t try to use this move again since it seems like such a bad deal mechanically. I don’t like that I’m feeling encouraged to completely ignore this subsystem. [edit: In the comments, Jesse suggests that I’m not interpreting the 7-9 result for this move correctly, which is certainly possible]

Grundloch’s Magic Is Annoying

Dealing with Grundloch’s magic in the intro adventure often makes me feel like I’m standing around like a chump, which is completely at odds with how I want to view my character. Maybe the way our GM is running things has something to do with it, but I think the mind control and illusion stuff that my character is being subjected to is really frustrating, and I can never actually get my hands on the caster because he seems to act via illusionary duplicates. In the last session we were in a room with illusionary monsters that were inflicting a mental effect on us. We knew exactly what was going on, but it didn’t seem like there was anything we could do, mechanically or in the fiction, to make it stop. His ability to arbitrarily act at a distance is just lame, as far as I’m concerned, because all we really seem to be able to do about it is wait until it’s over.

I’m Not Sure What D&D Tropes This Game Is Trying to Embrace

When I created my character, I decided to make him a weathered mercenary type, so his priority in going to the dungeon was to find some treasure, but in our initial explorations there barely seemed to be any, but the “dungeon” included a cavern large enough to house multiple armies. Now our GM is really pressing the “if you don’t stop Grundloch bad stuff will happen!” thing, and it feels like the forced urgency of that is totally overshadowing anything else that I might be interested in doing in the dungeon. I’m not really sure if DW is supposed to be about old-school dungeoneering or whether it’s supposed to be more of an “experience this thrilling action tale across a sequence of set-pieces” thing. Personally I’ve never played any version of D&D on the tabletop (which also means a lot of the lame D&D-isms in this game like the dramatic change in survivability between level 1 and 2 just feel lame to me rather than nostalgic), but my mental image of exploring a dungeon doesn’t involve a numberless horde of baddies or being taunted by a big bad. I think I want more mirrors and ten-foot poles than I’m getting.

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