Friday, 15 November 2013

Dungeon World: A new game with old friends

So I finally convinced my most loyal friends and players to try Dungeon World. I can't blame them for having doubts. I have a short attention span when it gets to RPGs. I'll often start a campaign and get inspiration for another one and lose interest in my original idea. I was the guy with a new RPG every couple of months. We switched from D&D 3.5 to Star Wars revised to D&D 4E, Pathfinder, Mutants and Masterminds, d20 Modern etc. I have a couple of games that I never actually played because they just knew that in a couple of weeks I'll try another one.

I'm a junkie and I need new games.

But Dungeon World is different somehow. In a certain way Shadowrun too but this post is about Dungeon World.

So after running a game of Dungeon World with new friends and players (my girlfriend, a colleague and his wife), it was a blast. At first I thought the fun came from having new players but also from the mechanics. The only thing on your lips that night was how cool the system is but the players had something to do with it. After playing a couple of games with them I decided to give it a shot with my old friends and players. Last time I dropped a game with them it was because the mechanics lead to a point where I felt imprisoned into a cage of number crunching.

Quick tip. If you need to stop and think about how the mechanics will reflect your idea instead of how you should describe your idea...something is wrong and you should consider if you're comfortable with the system you're playing. In my case, even after years of D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder I wasn't comfortable. I'll never be.

 So after convincing one of my old players to try it with me ( I have to say my girlfriend was already preaching how cool the game is) we had to make a deal with another one. He was the most skeptical of them. He's a hardcore 3.5/Pathfinder fan and for him the rules are simple and enable him, both as a player and a GM. So why switch to Dungeon World when you can already do exactly what you want in Pathfinder? "Because it's just faster and more exciting in Dungeon World" my girlfriend said.

I was so sure about Dungeon World that I said: if you give me one night to show you Dungeon World and you don't like it, we'll switch to Pathfinder. He knows how I feel about Pathfinder so he knew something was up.

So we play our first game. Character creation goes well and they already feel inspired by the options for bonds and looks. I told them they were totally optional and we could come up with our own if we want. But they loved them. Since they already knew about the collaborative part of the game I (excessively) sold them, Frank comes with an idea. "Can I lead a small thieves guild and we own a tavern as a front?" Wow that's an awesome idea! Then I schemed and suggested the inn was called the Slayed Dragon. He was sold. Because the Slayed Dragon is the famous inn that they built in the city they established in our previous 4E game.

See, in our previous game of 4E, which was my longuest game ever that lasted 6 game sessions, we started in small town threatened by orcs and when the city was invaded they had to flee with the survivors. They migrated south and established a camp near a fortified city called Greenwall. After dealing with politics they got permission from the lord of Greenwall to establish a small town. As a group they chose the name: Hopewell. We quickly roleplayed the following months of constructions and they went to kill a dragon and put his bones on the roof themselves. So when I used that as a lever for my game of Dungeon World, their mind were blown.

For Dungeon World we basically took off where the 4E game ended but with new characters and in a darker time. Players are discovering who was behind the orc invasion of Fallcrest. The thieves' guild was interested in an artifact possessed by a local lord. They went there, infiltrated the fortress and found the artifact was actually a neckless of Gruumsh. They came up with what it does, how dangerous it is and even the name. Being a GM was never so simple. Just let the player argue on how dangerous the item is and make a call when you feel like it. So it's dangerous right? Ok. Now they leave the castle and when they do they surprise the lord in a meeting with the orcs. We've (not just the players, me too) found out that the lord was responsible for the invasion of Fallcrest and now he plans to take over Greenwall and Hopewell. He kept the artifact at hand to manipulate the orcs into submission. But with the neckless gone, who knows what's he's gonna do now right?

Last game was entirely around the mage trying to make a ritual to hide the neckless and protect it. See rituals in Dungeon World works in a really cool way. You call what you want to produce and the GM will tell you how you can manage it. "Awesome idea but you'll need to find the powerful instructions in a scroll and you recall them being part of a collection of scrolls in the ruins of Barad Draks. The dwarf city in the Grey mountains." So a single ritual created this awesome adventure.

Now they love Dungeon World. They still play Pathfinder in their own games but when they come to my place for Dungeon World, they can only expect being on the edge of their seat.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Shadowrun 5th edition quick review

I had the chance to get a review copy of Shadowrun 5th edition for a while now and I'm still waiting for my copy of the physical book to arrive it didn't stop me at trying it. Without internet at home I had plenty of time to read and plan my game and I'll probably start a play log soon but first let's get a quick review done.

Disclaimer: This is a short review. If you want to know what's different from the previous editions or more detailed reviews I suggest looking at the review or visit for the list of differences between 4th and 5th edition.

What's Shadowrun 5th edition

I started a "What's Shadowrun in a nutshell" so you should look at it. I'll post part 2 soon, I promise. But let's just repeat some of the basics here. It's a roleplaying game set in a distopyan future where magic came back in 2011 and megacorporations rule the world. There's magic, cybernetics, augmented reality and races of lord of the rings and dragons ran for president (how awesome is that?). The 5th edition is the most recent one and 4th edition just before that added lots of upgrades on the technology side of the setting.

First impressions

The art and tone of the book is way better. I should avoid comparison because I assume you know nothing of the previous books but in 4th edition they had these entries of text mixed with blocks of comments from people living inside the setting. So let's say the paragraph would describe the city of Seattle as a great city a comment below could say: "Yeah it's cool but you forgot to mention the acid rain and frequent gangers encounter". This is a cool way (I guess) but I think it's just noise when you try to find a specific piece of info. 

In 5th edition there's no such things. The humor is right in the content but it's not too much. Like the following parapgrah:

Theoretically, a detonating explosive’s blast could rebound repeatedly off each of the six surfaces in a small,
well-built room, raising the effective Damage Value of the blast to a value far higher than the original damage of the grenade. This is known as the “chunky salsa effect.”<

What's cool about it

The rules have a lot of crunch but they are straight forward enough to be enjoyable. My biggest advice is don't worry too much about the rules. I adopted a read the rules once and play. Then if a player wants to do something and you're not sure how to deal with it, just make him roll something that makes sense and deal with it. Later you can look at the book. On my first game a player wanted to open a door with brute force. I didn't know how to deal with it so I said: Well you have a 4 in Unarmed combat right? Just roll that. Quick and advantageous to the player.

The setting itself is why I play Shadowrun. I like distopian future mixed with magic and cybernetics. The setting knowledge empowers you so I suggest digging it. The core book itself answered questions I had before when I was playing 4th edition. 

I like the return of the priority system. Basically when you build your character it takes a couple of minutes to build the big parts and then you only need to shop. It was a major complain from a couple of my players but the only reason they have issues with that is it cuts their mix-maxin fun. 

Being a hacker is just awesome in this game. Since technology is everywhere you can hack almost everything.

What's meh about it..

The only complains I had was from min-maxers and power gamers. They feel the character creation rules won't allow you to play something less defined. It is true that 5th edition asks you to choose between money and being a great mage, but for me it's just for the best.

The current model won't allow you to play weird races like Goblins and Drake. It's not a problem for my group but there's no entry for weird races in the priority table and it's hard to figure where I'd put those since they are way above the regular guys. In the point-buy system it was kind of easy.

I don't like that hackers MUST be with the party. One of the key aspects of being a hacker before was being able to "work from home" or stay in the van and guide the players. With the new "Noise" rule, distance penalize you and I think it's just sad. No smart hacker would put himself in danger except if he has to. It's not a deal breaker but I really like that aspect of hacking being the cool guy in a coffee shop plugged and assisting the party at safe distance.


I love it. The game flows better, combat is interesting and dangerous and the setting is worth a read. I'd recommend everyone who are not intimidated easily by big games to give it a try. I also suggest trying Shadowun Returns (the computer game) so you can get an idea of the setting if reading is not enough.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Dungeon World RPG Review

Here's a really short review of Dungeon World RPG. If you like reading pages of review I suggest you go read the links at the bottom of this post but stay a while and listen. I want to keep my reviews short because most of us don't have time to read pages of info about the game. In 3 words:  I loved it. Here's why.

Some background

So my experience with RPG can be track back to Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. Not Advanced DnD, not 3.0..3.5. So yeah...some would call this a limited experience. But I tried a lot of d20 RPGs and read tons of other systems such as GURPS, Fate and Savage World. After playing Pathfinder for over 4 years now I got really tired of the system. I'll post a review of Pathfinder but let's just say I couldn't play it anymore considering the lack of consistency in the gaming quality. So I come from a d20-based system background. I played a lot of those and it basically sculpted my perception of what a RPG is.

Quick question: What is Dungeon World RPG?

Dungeon World is a hack for Apocalypse World RPG that was financed on Kickstarter. The game is meant to feel Old school but with modern mechanics. It's easy to learn and you don't have to read 5 chapters of rule to become familiar with the basics. It only takes 5 minute to make a character and the game is ready.

First impressions

So I open the PDF of Dungeon World and start reading. Surprise, the system is based on "Moves". The most simple unit of action in the game. Seems interesting. When I realized there are no initiative and rounds in combat, I was stunned. From my classic DnD perspective this couldn't be weirder. I had a hard time imagining how you're possibly supposed to play this game in a cohesive manner and without having all players scream at you.

The example of play clarified a lot but what really helped me was the Guide to Understanding Dungeon World. The game is meant to be fast, fun and is based on the players, not the GM's secret plan of dragging the characters into his story.

Basic mechanics

You roll 2d6 (two six-sided die) and add the attribute's modifier based on the move you're making. The GM will tell you which one. If you roll 10 or more, you successfully accomplished your action. Between 7 and 9, you succeeded but something else happen. On a 6 and below you failed. the GM make a move and you gain XP. That last part for me was a revelation. I head it's not the only system that uses failure to give XP. I think it's brilliant. The system always keeps thing in motion. Failing is never the end of anything.

A GM will never have to roll anything. A GM acts when the players triggers his moves. Moves such as : Reveal an unwelcome truth or Use up their resources are part of the GM's arsenal on what happens when the players look at you waiting for something to happen. Those familiar with RPGs won't learn anything new here but it's cool that tools like that have been codified and documented in a really interesting way.


Instead of talking about this game for hours and explaining every detail of it, I simply suggest you go get the PDF. It's only 10$ and it's worth all the penny you'll pay for it. There's also a setting available for 5$ but for 33 pages I thought it was too expensive.

Some links

Questions about the game? Ask them here

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

First post of a new blog

Well..hello there! My name is Patrick Joannisse, I'm a young man in his mid 20s and I live in Canada. I don't pretend to be a skilled blogger or even fluent enough in the English language (French is my first language) to start a blog. All I know is I love Role Playing Games and I want to explore ideas and share them with ze InterWebs.

Why you should read me

They say "Learn from your mistakes" so I did. I keep making new ones so it's a great source of learning experience. I also think some of the mistakes I did could have been avoided if I read more blogs and watched more videos.

You should also read me because I promise you one thing: I'll keep my post as short as possible. As a web developer specialized in web accessibility and user experience, I know how bad it is for a user to read plenty of text. When is the last time you read a whole big wikipedia article (such as the one about WWII or the United States) without skipping a single line?

What is the blog going to be about

I'll share my experience and ideas about the various RPG I played and read. I'll experiment and I would like to create a setting and post it in a step by step (or more like a post by post) process.

I'm also working on a couple of personal projects for people to share about RPGs.

Hope you enjoy!