the wonder of role-playing games: reviews, solo rpgs, old-school & narrative games

07 May 2015

Actual Play: Dungeon World (Part One)

Someone at the Lone Wolf G+ community asked about how PtbA-games handle solo play, so here’s a write-up of a solo Dungeon World session.
This is a weird mix of both emulating the PC and the GM. With Dungeon World I’m more interested in playing the GM so I’ll narrate this side of the screen during the scenes while Mythic GME will handle most of the NPCs actions/reactions. However, I will still use Perilous Intersections as solo engine so the actual plot will unfold via play. “Play to find out” is one of Dungeon World’s mottoes so that fits! RPG System: Dungeon World
Solo System: BOLD for character background, Mythic GME for random questions & PC emulating, Perilous Intersections for framework, Rory’s Story Cubes: Voyages for inspiration
Random Tables & other inspiration: D30 GM Companion, Scarlet Heroes, Combat Swipes, Abulafia
Dice Roller: My character is a Shaman called Filasor. The Playbook is taken from the supplement Grim World. I didn’t use anything else from Grim World (i.e. no Death Moves).
I’m stealing some ideas from Scarlet Heroes for this solo adventure, namely the Fray Die (a d4 in this case) and the Defying Death mechanic. Shaman by tammalee

Character History (using BOLD)

Early Age

BOLD: unreliable bounty hunter (hard foes) overcome by the people When she was young, a bounty hunter mistook Filasor for a rich offspring and tried to kidnap her. The people of her run-down neighborhood saved her: “We gotta stick together”. This experience left her with a deep-set loyalty for the common man and a belief that even the weak can help themselves if they set their mind.

Teenage Years

BOLD: quiet mob (easy foes) overcome by favorite skill During her teenage years, her town was overrun by a mill of shambling zombies. In a pitch, Filasor discovered that her carved little wooden figurines allowed her to call the Wordly Spirits and to kill some of the undead. This experience left her with a gratitude for the spirits and the spirit world as well as a firm belief in their powers.

Defining Moment

BOLD: fixated misunderstanding (party) overcome by act of nature Filasor and her first companion, a fighter called Merrik, had a falling out because Merrik accused her of stealing part of the loot. He couldn’t be convinced otherwise. The argument took place in a ravine. In a fit of rage, Filasor stomped away just to see how an earthquake buried Merrik. This experience left her with an urge to control her emotions and to remain calm. Filasor is certain that Merrik is dead but is he? And will he seek revenge because he thinks that she has betrayed him?

PC Goals (using PI)

Filasor is tasked to find out what’s behind the poisoned food at Ferro’s Fabulous Circus. Ferro’s is a well-known attraction which brings lots of folk to Sharan La. The townsfolk only tolerate the circus people though.

Big Questions

(copied out of the PI PDF)

  • Who? all events point to a person, or better yet an affiliation, be it an organization or group. In the initial stages, this question should not be answered specifically or conclusively.
  • What? this is about what the nameless antagonist is doing. This action also should be cryptic enough that a Who and Why are not immediately knowable. Oftentimes the What is about the end-result of the action. Take over the city, or destroy the elven resistance can be good What’s.
  • How? this is interchangeable with and often encountered earlier than a What. Separated from the more clearly macro perspective What, a How can tell us about the action in the here-and-now, the clues, without the context of a What. Masked men escaping CIA headquarters under fire or an ambush on the elvish outpost could all be good How’s.
  • Why? this is the big one. The true motivation of the antagonist will usually be the last reveal of the adventure, and not until just before the big boss fight.

(Who?) tries to (How?) which will (What?) because of (Why?).


Here’s what Rory’s Story Cubes gave me:

  • Music Note
  • Spark
  • Bag (of money?)
  • Dial/Scale
  • Beans
  • Glasses

Actual Play

Something Amiss

Scene One

Danger Level: Advantaged (-1)
Seed: Bag (of money?) Location: filthy street corner in the city of Sharan La, wrong part of town, beggars, narrow streets
Sharan La: government: thearchy, reaction to outsiders: envious, economic background: hopeful, low, settlement issues: beggars, minor/contained, nearby threats: harpies (rolled up using D30 GM Companion)
Weather/Time: early afternoon, gentle rain (I decide that the bag means a bag of money and so there are hired goons.) Rain drizzles gentle down on you at a filthy street corner in the city Sharan La. You have tracked down an informant, a shady business dealer in the rough part of this city. However, some vigilant bodyguards take their job seriously and don’t want you to talk to Ignor. They crowd you menacingly and demand that you bugger off.

3 Vigilant Bodyguards Group, Intelligent, Organized
Sword d6 damage; 6 HP; 1 Armor
Instinct: to protect their employer

  • surround their enemies - threaten menacingly - call for reinforcement - beg for mercy

(reskinned Guardsmen template from the rulebook) Does Filasor try to talk to the bodyguards? (very likely, CF 5) - No. Filasor cries: “PAHEEN!” to release her Prickly Porcupine Spirit. -makes a Spirit Talk roll: 10+
The pale shadowy ghost of a porcupine flows around her.

Most of the pedestrians glance fearfully at you and quicken their step. One of the beggars slowly takes his measly belongings and relocates to the other side of the street. A whiff of his stale body odor still lingers.   

Filasor strikes with her spear at the first bodyguard. -Hack’n’Slash: 10+, damage 4 + Fray Die damage 1 (Guardian Spirit reroll: 3 + Forceful tag)

Your spear punches through your foe’s armor, sinking deep into his stomach before exploding out of his back in a welter of blood, flesh, and intestines. Some of it sprays onto the next beggar who jumps up with a loud curse.  

(GM Move) However, your spear is now momentarily stuck in the corpse of the bodyguard while the two others swing their swords at you.  

Filasor tries to shoulder one of the guards to keep him between her and the other thug so they can’t do much damage with the swords. She lets go of her spear. -rolls for Defend: 7-9: spends 1 hold for “deal damage to the attacker equal to your level”

So, the one thug cannot harm you because you closed the distance. A trail of blood follows the other's blade as he strikes you at the shoulder though. -roll damage: 1 (mitigated by armor)  

Filasor makes a quick jab at his jaw. -deal damage 1 (mitigated by foe’s armor)
The Prickly Porcupine Spirit deals 2 damage (ignores armor). (One down, one at 4 HP, one at the full 6 HP).

The second guard tries to grapple you and to hold his sword to your throat. "Hold still, filthy brat! Grum, let's call for help to tame this cat."  

Filasor wants to use Grum as a springboard and push back and thus crush the other thug’s nose with the back of her head. This way, she wants to break his hold. -Defy Danger using STR: 7-9

Your head crushes into his mouth. With a grunt he stumbles back. Some teeth fly and his saliva and some little blood splatters spray down on you. You hear a loud crack as his heavy boots step on your spear which was stuck in the first bodyguard. ("use up their resources", ouch!)  

Filasor tackles Grum and wants to beat the shit out of him. -Hack’n’Slash: 10+, with Fray Die & Guardian Spirit reroll (with Forceful tag) 4HP+4HP damage

You slam into his body with force. He crashes into the nearby wall of the narrow street and his neck breaks with a loud THUMP! (one to go!)  

The remaining thug laughs nervously and lowers his sword. "Look, we're all friends here... I'm just doing my job. Ignor is not paying *that* good. Just knock me out and don't tell him, ok?"  

Does Filasor ask for Ignor’s hideout? -Yes, but.
Filasor presses the bodyguard for Ignor’s base but also asks that he turns over all his valuables. (roll on DW’s treasure table: 4: a small item (gem, art) of considerable value, worth as much as 2d10x10 coins, 0 weight. Looking it up on Scarlet Heroes Treasure Table + rolling 2d10x10: 140 coins, Jasper gemstone) Filasor sweeps up one of the thug’s well-kept swords. Not a beautiful weapon but still useful although she prefers the spear. With a well-placed punch she renders the last bodyguard unconscious and saunters into the gloomy alley.

You can locate Ignor in his den and can convince him to talk to you.  

Story Probe: Can Ignor confirm that the nearby harpies have something to do with the poisoning? -Yes! (d6=6 minus 1 for being “advantaged”=5) That answers the question “Who”? The Harpies (fact).

As you can see, Dungeon World works fine in solo play. I’m gonna post scene 2 soon. Thanks for reading.