Tabletop RPG Review: Dungeon World

dungeon world cover

I’ve been into tabletop roleplaying games since I was about 10 or 12.  My dad and one of my brothers had been into the hobby before me, and I was around it a lot growing up.  But I didn’t get into it until I was starting to try to write for the first time (at the aforementioned 10 or 12).  Unlike most kids who get into the hobby, I did not start with Dungeons & Dragons.  My father had become disillusioned with the game, and had moved on to greener pastures.  So he started me on Worlds of Wonder (and generally Chaosium’s Basic Role-Playing).  Only later did I try my hand at the ‘first rpg.’  And I didn’t take to it at all.  Trying to play D&D feels like banging my head against a window.  I can see something out there that looks interesting, but this stupid window keeps me from getting to it.  With Dungeon World, authors Sage LaTorra and Adam Koebel have done what I didn’t think possible.  They’ve made D&D fun.  

No, this isn’t just Pathfinder or D20, or some other variation of classic Dungeons & Dragons.  This is a totally new game system.  But it’s one that tries to take all the fun things about D&D, all those images and ideas that sparked so many young imaginations over the years, and to boil it down and rebuild it into something that doesn’t stifle imagination and story.  This game attempts to recreate the vibe of those early modules, of the 70s art, of that era of mustaches, van art, and Led Zeppelin on the stereo, without having so many limiting charts and graphs, or feverish pickings through rulebook after rulebook.  It filters old school gaming through more modern, story-based rules.

On rare occasion, I get that hankering for old school, 70s style gaming.  But when I do, I tend to think back over those times I’ve tried D&D, and how much I hated it.  Folks always say, it’s not the rules, it’s the players.  But I’ve played D&D with players I know I enjoy gaming with, and I still hate it.  So, now I have an option to scratch that itch, without making my head hurt.  

There is a lot to this book.  There are a lot of rules, and I think it’ll warrant several re-reads before I try to run a game.  But while there are a lot of rules, it seems like they’re designed to get out of the way.  The authors continually mention that ‘the Fiction’ should be the main focus.  If a rule gets in the way of the Fiction, put it aside and move on with the story.  

For fans of that retro-fantasy vibe, or for those like myself who find Dungeons & Dragons too unwieldy to be enjoyable, Dungeon World is one to try out.  While it might be a bit tough for a starting Game Master, I think it would probably be a good starter game for players just getting into the hobby.
Check out my Facebook or Twitter.  And take a look at my Patreon page, where I’m developing a tabletop RPG setting. You can also read my fiction over on Amazon.

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