Yesterday, my Five Shores game was cut short due to lack of player attendance, and so I had the great pleasure of joining The Jessa Channel‘s all-female Dungeon World one-shot (which may be turning into more of a campaign).
I was the most experienced player, both in terms of RPGs and Dungeon World, so I reassured Jessa right away that I saw my role as support– feel free to ask rules questions, and I have the book handy for lookups and will do so, and I’ll try to remind players of their abilities, but I didn’t want to step on Jessa’s toes or tell others how to play their characters. As anyone who has played with me when I’m not the GM, that’s not always easy for me to do, but it’s something I’m working on.
I’m going to gloss over a lot of what happened. Jessa posted on Reddit this week about the experience, so you can check it out there. We started at 3 and wrapped up at about 8 PM– so 5 hours. About 2 hours were spent on character creation, before bonds, and explaining the system. I did a lot of knitting during this time, because I didn’t really need to walk through character creation step-by-step, and I wanted to pick a character who would not step on anyone’s toes.
Then we spent time on world creation. I don’t usually do this for Dungeon World one-shots. By the time players have their characters and bonds (usually 15-20 minutes, when I’m running), I’ve sketched down a few ideas already. I use bonds to generate campaign hooks– when someone names a bond, I turn to the object of their bond and ask them leading questions about it. Sometimes, I will find a way to link three bonds together into a story hook– “so, you and Mithrendil are running a con together– does that mean you’ve been deceiving the lord of this castle? Or is he in on it, too? Cool…”
Jessa takes it from the other direction. She starts with a “mad libs style” campaign starter and lets us throw ideas around to fill in the blanks. Here’s what we ended up with:
You are at the entrance to The Keep of Uther in the Blackmarsh, which is located in/on/by The Darksea, the vast underground ocean. You have journeyed here to retrieve the Blue Luminescent Dragon’s Egg on behalf of The Realm. Your luck has turned sour though, because there is a bitter Civil War, and that’s a real problem because you’ll be hung for a War Criminal if you do not bring back the Egg. To make matters worse, you have just seen signs of Blackmarsh Dragon Cultists approaching from the shore. You can’t turn back since the Darksea is riddled with Giant Piranha Fish, so you must push on. Looking at the entrance, you get a feeling this won’t turn out well for all of you. What do you do?
We hacked together an idea of being on a ship. At this point, we still had not created bonds for our characters yet, nor have we, even after playing a session. Although we knew that we already knew each other in some way, we did not know how.
In the party, we had (all women, btw: both players and characters):
- Reyes, the paladin
- Snikt, the halfling rogue
- Breyar, the wizard
- Thistle, the ranger
- Osona, the druid
- Makino, the barbarian (my character)
The barbarian is a tricky character to play when the GM has set up a bunch of macros already, because unlike other PCs, I don’t roll 2d6. Barbarians roll 1d6+1d8, which translates into a higher chance of success (about a +1, overall), but if the result on the d6 is higher than the d8, the GM gets to make a soft move.
There were a lot of the typical, good-natured jokes around the table, and we had a good time getting into character. Most of our players were much more comfortable “emoting” by typing, rather than describing verbally their actions or dialogue.
We jumped into the media res, with the ship being under attack by the dragon cultists. I hung back, verbally, making some minor suggestions and reminding people to mark XP when they rolled poorly, and other little rules details. I tried very hard not to be too lawyer-y, and I hope I succeeded. As I said– I considered myself in a support role, in terms of my player role.
Action was rather limited, and with 6 players, that’s not uncommon. We were under attack, the hull had been breached, and the captain of the ship was attacked by a cultist, who perforated him with a spear. Reyes attempted to heal him, but rolled poorly and it went terribly for the captain. She finally grabbed him up and ran for the lifeboat. Thistle tied herself to the steering wheel to keep the boat moving forward. Back in the engine room, Makino pulled the throttle out completely, intending to overrun the cultists. Which happened.
Meanwhile, Snikt had been sneaking around the cargo area, stealing anything not nailed down (this started as the first action in the game, basically…) Breyar grabbed a few casks of provisions.
As Reyes commented “Where’s Makino?” the barbarian screamed her barbarian yawp, charging the full length of the ship, stern to bow, leaping from the bow onto the cultist’s ship. Rolled a 5: 4 on the d6, 1 on the d8…. GM gets to make 2 moves? I took an oar to the head, knocking me out cold.
Osona in bear form had some difficulty crossing the rope gangplank onto the lifeboat, and she, Reyes, the captain, and Snikt ended up in the piranha-infested waters. Fortunately, Reyes thought fast and saved herself by singing to the piranhas, which we knew would soothe them into not attacking.
When I came to, the remaining cultist on the ship was a woman standing over me, looking a mix of frightened and impressed. Flat on my back, with her above, I grinned and said “Aha! I have you exactly where I want you!” She kind of blushed and backed off, begging me to spare her male cultist companion from certain death in the waters. I sighed, leaned an oar out and fished him out. More trouble than he’s worth, but he can row, at least.
We rowed over to the lifeboat, picking up the remaining party members. At this point, we have the original 6 PCs, the ship’s captain (Capt. Robert Cassius), a (yet unnamed) female cultist who Makino has claimed (“You are my woman now!”) and the cultist’s man. The male cultist made some brave boasts to Makino, who laughed and said “you are of very little use to me. Think carefully before you speak again.”
We’re on 2 ships, Breyar was wise enough to provision us for the remainder of our trip, and we are heading into the Keep of Uther, in pursuit of the World-Dragon’s Egg. Our next adventure will be posted on Jessa’s YouTube channel.
This experience reminded me of running all-girl games when I was in college. It was something I did to encourage new players and GMs, and it worked pretty well. I’ve decided to do another one on March 29th, here in Vegas, so if you’re local, female (or female-identified), and a gamer or wanna-be gamer, hit me up for an invite! We’re playing in the afternoon, and should be done by 6.
(Full article contains spoilers!) I bought the D&D Stranger Things Starter Set, and I was all kinds of excited to run it. I read through it a few times, thought “hmmm…” about some of the choices, but overall it reads like a fairly straightforward adventure.
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