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DungeonWorld is broken


Variable damage is rubbish, it always has been and rather than being a feature reflects roleplayings origins within skirmish wargames. AW and all the other hacks and conversions use fixed damage in the form of Harm and damage clocks.

I don't think that is by chance. I think its part of making success and the consequences of failure matter. Rolling low damage after a high check roll is effectively cancelling the initial result. You achieved something but nothing happened as a result. Virtually nothing works this way in AW.


Bonds are good and a great way of setting up the intrigue and relationships in the adventuring party. After a great start though they seem to peter out into rules irrelevance.

The can be used in Aid and Hinder checks, where indeed they are vital to making the move work but have virtually no other mechanical effect.

Even in the basic moves I feel they could be used in the Defence move and it feels as if there should be more playsheet moves that work with them.

As for creating new Bonds it feels that they should be a valuable way of tracking milestones in the game, rather like Hx in AW. The post-session payoff for XP mechanic feels like the wrong reward. It feels like it rewards players for atomising the group rather than deepening their relationships.

Aid and hinder moves

In principle these are a good and necessary idea. A way for other players to approve or disapprove of one another. However mechanically they just don't work, the bonus is very small compared to the risk of the check and if lots of players want to try and help or hinder then their failures create a kind of massive backlog of GM moves that need to be resolved before you can get back to the action that triggered all responding actions.

DungeonWorld's reliance on the MC

DW's biggest problem is that for the majority of its basic moves it asks the MC to come up with something interesting. Partial defy danger checks, spout lore, all manner of mechanics ultimately require the MC to create something engaging and interesting in the world that returns the flow of the game back to the PCs by forcing them to react to it.

Thats a massive burden on one person. It also ultimately changes the game into "tell me an interesting story".

AW feels to me, when it works right, like a machine passing control and responsibility back and forth between the PCs and the MC. However ultimately it is the players who are in the driving seat, choosing when to risk something and using the mechanics to make their own hard choices.

DW by contrast seems stuck between the world of traditional fantasy gaming with its Dungeon Master prerogative and modern collaborative gaming. It frequently refuses to define what game it is by defining mechanics and instead looking towards the MC to drive the action forward.

Even fronts and strongholds seems to ask the MC to create something interesting and to tell everyone an interesting story. Far from being supportive mechanics they seem to work in the form of constraints that are creatively exciting.

This reliance on the GM is not a fatal flow in DW but it does mean that we are back to the old world state of affairs where when asked whether you want to play the game the first question you want to ask is "who is running it"? With an unknown GM you want to probe them a bit to figure out what kind of game they want to run and whether your perceptions of a good game are sympathetic or not.

I don't feel the same about the other AW games, MCs may fail to bring the awesome but I have confidence that when I have my spotlight time my playsheet gives me the ability to drive my character's story forward and that I am rewarded for incorporating the other characters into my story.