Another session has gone by and the group is really getting our feet underneath us. Technical quality has continued to improve and I hope to continue to improve my stream. The video is available on YouTube and embedded below. If you want to see players fail their rolls 12 out of 14 time and mark tons of XP, this is the session for you!
We haven’t had too many opportunities to “loot memorable treasures.” This campaign won’t really lean on that at all. So I took inspiration from a Barbarian move:
You and your people are not from around here. At the beginning of each session, the GM will ask you something about your homeland, why you left, or what you left behind. If you answer them, mark XP.
I asked each character a question tailored to their background and class, without (so far) revealing any of the extra secrets they’ve confided in me. Several came from the Setup Material post from Red Box Vancouver. This week I asked the Bard about her greatest rival (a spurned lover); the Fighter about the monsters that plague his nightmares (zombie children, more or less); the Thief about the greatest threat to the city (organized crime); and the Paladin about who she distrusts within the Church of Saintly Blood (the highest authorities).
Every session, I will do the same thing with new questions. Everyone who answers gets to mark XP.
At the conclusion of the previous session, Duro Lovac (the local leader of the League of Rat-Catchers) had invited them to “partake of the power” of the slain wererat mage. They politely declined and in fact became much more suspicious of their (erstwhile?) patron, who wears the head and skin of a wolf. (As another potential patron has previously asked them to report on what the League wants, I expect that will drive some interesting conflict.) In fact, he even suggested that two of them might have fey ancestry due to their red hair.
As they left, the party split itself up. I didn’t even have to use a GM move to do that! The Thief slipped out on his own and almost got himself followed by the Fighter. This gave me a chance to introduce a new threat when he failed a Discern Realities roll and ran into bell ringers, spectres who portend the arrival of something truly terrible into the world. Unable to follow the bell ringer, instead he went to a guard house where he checked in with his “case officer” and took a shower after their foray into the city sewers. The rest of the party doesn’t know that the Thief is actually an undercover city guard!
The Paladin headed back to the hostel under the church where she stays in a very basic, spartan cell. She bathed, paid her tithe, and went out to purchase a vase to pray over (or bless) some water. The hostel supervisor, a heavy-set older woman, questioned her being out so late. After hearing that the Paladin intends to cleanse the city, she warned her against temptation.
The Bard and Fighter both returned to the Ample Stern, the tavern where they stay. Helga, the owner, is a massive woman and force of nature, runs the place, and in fact much of the rest of the session took place here as I introduced one personage after another. None of these took place randomly: every one of them has some amount of importance. (So many failed Spout Lore rolls, so many complications!) This included Mad Barnabas, clad in stinking furs and rags, sent by a militant church faction known as the Choristers to deal with heretics. This might lead them to another city known as Chancel, and they’re still considering that possibility. It also included Prester Granville, sort of a Solomon Kane stand-in who has come to hunt lycanthropes and made some vague threats against the Thief. Both of these men could become allies or foes, depending on choices the group may make later. Krevborna is full of such people and I plan to continue to use this trope. No one in this world is truly “good” or “bad”: they have goals and flaws that may align with the group or may oppose them.
The next day, the Paladin rose early to attend to some of the mundane matters of the church by assisting acolytes. She also wanted to find some good deeds to do in the city, so I gave her an indigent old person looking for alms. When her Lay on Hands failed, she took damage without actually healing the beggar – which has all sorts of confusing implications for folks, as an entity other than her patron saint answered her plea.
The young toughs they encountered outside the herbalist shop in the very first session came up again, because the Fighter and Thief decided to hire them to keep an eye on the League of Rat-Catchers. I started running out of ideas on how to deal with failures, including on Aid or Interfere, because this happened over and over through the night.
Back in the tavern, the Bard and Paladin learned of the concept of pomenysh: those who bear the marks of fey ancestry, potentially including unnaturally red hair. They also heard of greshnik, who bear the marks of supernatural lineage or other sorts of cursed blood, including lycanthropes, undead taint, and fiendish dalliances. This made the Paladin extremely nervous, as she paled and fled to the other side of the room when she heard of this.
They also decided to stop by a blacksmith and wanted to parley for a discount (something I have noticed this group really likes to do). After another failed role, I did something I really shouldn’t have done and had this blacksmith leer a little too hard at the Bard, who just wanted a ranged weapon. In discussions with the group later, I apologized directly and noted that the scene violates my own lines for the game. This will not happen again.
As the session concluded, the Thief separated himself from the group again, without any prompting from me at all! He went out looking for people to help and things to bring back to the Thieves Guild who had prompted him to keep fulfilling his “duty”. On yet another Discern Realities miss, I introduced a direct threat: a writhing mass of bloated seaflesh climbing up out of the water! And on that, we ended the session…
I’ve done a lot of work to improve the backdrops when we are in full narrative (“theater of the mind”) mode. I should really remember to change the backdrops to match the scene more often. Most of the time they spent in the tavern still had the dockside warehouse backdrop! I need to create a proper stream overlay as well to improve the “production value” a bit.
After reading some more on session prep in Dungeon World, I realized that the typical D&D DM style still guides me more than it should. The characters still react to the situations and quests I give them, rather than “inventing their own problems”. Next session will hopefully be far more player-driven in that sense, and I think they’ve given me enough ammunition to do that in the form of specific dangers that will replace some of the ones I’d started to maneuver in the background.