Last month, I ran a short four-session campaign of Dungeon World using the Homebrew World hack in a science fantasy world. For the aesthetic, think the new She-Ra and the Princesses of Power or Breath of the Wild or Horizon Zero Dawn. I’ve previously written about some of the sessions and prep, but this post will center on what we enjoyed and what I learned.
The entire series is available on the Variant Roles YouTube channel.
Branching out into a different aesthetic provided a really nice breath of fresh air. While the mechanics didn’t change at all, just stepping away from a Tolkienesque setting in a faux-medieval world made so much of a difference. We felt freer to come up with new things, and I tried to infuse the world descriptions with color and pop.
Also, diversity made for a better game. Some were friends of friends, others responded to calls I put out, but some of the intentional signposts I put up probably helped people self-select into a community that fit. The group didn’t consist of five middle-aged straight white boys and so every person had something different to throw into the mix, whether that meant cultural references or approaches to character archetypes or anything else. I don’t think I can go back to playing in groups where everybody looks like me, because that’s just… boring.
That said, although the game went well, I want to improve a bit. First, it’s really important to make sure everybody’s in a position to be able to play safely and engage fully. Real life comes first and I don’t want any of my friends (new or old) to feel like they need to be in unsafe situations of any sort to play. This isn’t to criticize anyone at all, but twice I heard players describe themselves as placing their desire to play above their personal safety. While they’re adults and can make their own decisions, I didn’t intend by any stretch for that to happen and, had the risks materialized, that would have been a major burden on the other players and me.
Also, some of the Homebrew World playbooks could use some tweaking. In a few cases, I felt like there was more implied setting than I wanted (e.g. deity names). Writing a few new spells for classes like the Bard or Cleric would also be fun, although not too many: maybe a couple each.
All in all, short campaigns like this work really well and I’ve made new friends already. This has only reinforced my desire to play with lighter rulesets for a while, and I will definitely keep ramping down my time in the Forgotten Realms or similar cliched “high fantasy” settings.