The DW rules are super simple but are very interesting in that they are player driven (the players make all the rolls) and in that they allow for more than just success and failure, but partial success/success at a cost. This has resulted in meaningful decisionmaking in combat – ironically much more meaningful than in Pathfinder, which despite all the options is usually reduced to “who do I unload my full attack on… roll roll roll.” Hit points and damage don’t go up much at all with level so single rolls plus more normative hp = very fast action.
While Dungeon World purists might scoff at the notion of using a written adventure with DW (no really, some do) – we like it. An adventure, and a defined game world like Golarion, keeps the factor of exploration in the game. Without that, when you’re just “making it all up as you go” – IMO it degenerates quickly into wish fulfillment and to be honest, most peoples’ off the cuff ideas a) aren’t that good and b) get repetitive quick. Mummy’s Mask is a good one – it’s “tombs are here, want to explore them?” and then a metaplot that unfolds as other folks take actions. If I want to directly control what happens with the game world, I’ll be the GM, thanks.
And the GM is doing a great job of melding the concept of Fronts (player initiated action) with the adventure. So the adventure as written was apparently with the Scorched Hand as primary opponents and the Forgotten Pharaoh stuff just color and “stuff the bad guys want.” But given our backstories and interests, instead we became fast friends with the Hand – partially through Khaled wanting to seduce Velriana, but also because there’s actually no reason given as to why you should oppose them. “They want to go explore a temple sacred to their faith! And she’s kind of a bitch!” Uh, OK. My response was “sure, we’ll help you!” It wasn’t until we learned the Forgotten Pharaoh stuff was in there did we even have a reason to be interested in the Erudite Eye. And then it was only because Murdus has declared himself the new incarnation of the Fiend Pharaoh, and that he has a twin sister who also thinks that. So Hetshepsut his sister became the antagonist instead. It feelsd perfectly organic and tied to our characters, while having plenty of backing material to provide interesting NPCs, locations, encounters, etc.
The net effect is that we finished Book 1 in 5 sessions rather than the 6 or so it normally takes in Pathfinder – but also nearly half the action in each session was self-generated; not out of the adventure at all. And the session summaries are longer, because there’s more interesting stuff happening and less math (which tends to get left out of the summaries).
The only problem is that the pace of leveling was too fast. In Dungeon World you get to level 10 and then that’s it – it’s built around weird old AD&D 1e tropes, so you retire your character or do bizarre “you forgot your powers” dual-classing or whatnot. That’s not exactly congruent with a long story campaign modern style. So once we got to about level 4-5 just in book 1, we discussed the problem and Paul our GM said “OK, just double the XP needed to level.” That seems to have put us on a good trajectory, though we do have 5 more chapters to go so we’ll see.
The lack of rules texture hasn’t been a problem yet, mainly because we all have cool Moves, so the limited set of core Moves doesn’t bother us (and the fact that since it’s fiction-first, you don’t have to be worrying about whether there’s a Move for something, you just have good ideas and go with them, and it’s the GM’s job to tell you if you need to roll something or not). It does sometimes get hard to figure out more interesting “partial success” options for the 7-9 rolls especially because they happen a lot (on 2d6 that’s the average result) – seems like a good opportunity to sell us some tables or a card deck or something! “My third partial on a Volley in a roll… Oh I don’t know let’s liven it up with a random option!”
So far, it’s two thumbs up for the combination! I think the AP might be a little… trying… under the full-crunch ruleset. But with the DW rules, it’s moving at a great pace and it’s a lot easier to hit our desired mix of fight/talk/explore when you’re not constrained to invest 2+ hours every time there’s a fight.
So we’re happily rolling forward into Chapter 2. I’ll keep you all updated! Enjoy the summaries…