Monday, December 10, 2012

Adventure World: an explanation

I keep hearing criticisms from gamer friends that my Adventure World playbooks are unnecessary because somebody already made an Apocalypse World hack and it's called Dungeon World. Yeah, I know. I have a copy of the Dungeon World pdf and it's an impressive piece of work. But if I wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons using an Apocalypse World design philosophy, I would probably just play Dungeons & Dragons and use the MC moves out of Apocalypse World.

I am not a fan of level-based role-playing game systems. D&D is usually the game everybody starts with and so they just get used to this idea that power ascends gradually, but it's always felt disconnected in some way. I remember trying to learn the magic system for the first time and it took me a while to grasp that a 2nd-level wizard doesn't really have access 2nd-level spells. (I was 7 years old, and you'd think it didn't make sense too if you were that old.) When I first got exposed to GURPS and a purely skill-based system it was to play a Star Trek game where I suddenly had a lot of freedom to do whatever I wanted and so I focused on playing a fighter-type. It's what made me comfortable, and I've found that I gravitate toward the same play style every time I'm exposed to a new system.

Apocalypse World is probably the first RPG I've ever not played a warrior-type my first time playing. Without knowing anything about it, it just seemed like a very alien kind of game at first and I dove in with a somewhat random choice of playbook. I've come to really appreciate the game, and when I was recently asked if I wouldn't mind taking over as a GM sometime soon I thought "Well, I'd like to keep playing Apocalypse World, but in a fantasy setting."

That's where my Adventure World playbooks ave been coming from. I read through Dungeon World and didn't like that they retained the level system of traditional D&D, so I decided to make my own fantasy-themed playbooks that would owe more to the core game of Apocalypse World. I take inspiration from multiple sources: the Apocalypse World playbooks and bonus playbooks, the Dungeon World rules, and the Barf Forth Apocalyptica forums. I'm trying to make something unique for my game and my group of players, that still recognizably looks like the core game I started with.

And I've only just started. These playbooks I've been writing are first drafts.


  1. DW's levels are substantially different from what you see in traditional D&D--they're mostly AW-style advances with a slowly escalating XP cost. HP never inflate, for example. So it's a little unfair to tar Dungeon World's advancement mechanics with the same brush.

    That said, I am not one who would rag on you for making a different AW dungeon crawl hack. In the indie/hacking space, or even in the AW hacking space specifically, the more the merrier!

    1. I don't think I've tarred DW's mechanics or even ragged on the game specifically. I merely said I don't like level-based systems and I don't like what they've retained of D&D's level-based system. You still have levels, hit points, and armor class; to me that isn't Apocalypse World's mechanics, that is D&D's. My opinion of Dungeon World is that they've taken the design philosophy of AW and applied it to D&D, and it looks good, but I still don't really like level-based systems.

      Plus, having a race and class is very much a D&D thing and I don't like that aspect of DW either. I thought AW was brilliant for having archtypes and I thought the natural progression for a fantasy hack would be like what I've done with mine: THE Halfling, THE Dwarf, etc.

  2. You know, it's funny. I have exactly the same beef with Dungeon World (it keeps all the stuff I didn't really like from D&D, like the way hit points work), but reading this post it seems to me that my complaints are completely different from yours.

    For instance, "levels" in Dungeon World are no different than in AW. It's just a number measuring how many advances you've gained. There's no armor class; armor works the same way as in AW.

    I think going to D&D classes (and D&D stats) instead of archetypes and character-defining traits (like cool or sharp) weakens the game. I think the use of hit points and damage weakens the game. For my tastes, obviously: lots of people love that stuff.

    1. My complaint is really a simplification, but generally Dungeon World keeps the trappings of D&D without really innovating. I think the levels in DW are different, for instance you can't start with the Fireball spell nor can you take it as your first advance. It's still a leveled system with abilities stuttered out in an arbitrary way.

      I think I would agree with you about the classes and stats. Can you elaborate on what it is you don't like about DW?

      As you can see I made my own stats, but I didn't really deviate from the classes. I started thinking about changing the classes/playbooks two nights ago once I finished them. Think of everything I've written here as a first draft, just a place to get my ideas down and in a public space where others can potentially offer criticisms or advice.

  3. That's a good point about the spells. Are there other important effects that are controlled by character level?

    The thing I don't like about DW is that it keeps a lot of elements from D&D that I don't find terribly interesting.

    I think hit points (and damage rolls, a la D&D) are fundamentally more troublesome and less interesting than almost any other damage system I can think of.

    The stats and classes aren't evocative, they don't inspire me. When I read about "the Brainer" or "the Chopper", I get a distinct sense of what Apocalypse World is like, and what kinds of stories I might play out in it. The standard D&D classes don't give me much at all.

    The same goes for a lot of other elements (for example, I by far prefer the magic system in World of Dungeons to Dungeon World).

    So it comes down to a lot of things I don't like about D&D--in a way, that has very little bearing on Dungeon World itself, except that it keeps some of those elements.

    Another issue is how so many of the abilities and moves are geared around tactical combat. I prefer how AW covers a variety of different types of situations and playstyles with its moves.

    I hope that's clear enough! I'm typing really fast here.

    1. I pretty much agree with that entire sentiment.

      I thought the Hyborian Age hack was more interesting than everything I've seen released for Dungeon World.
      Link to the forum =
      Link to the playbooks =

    2. Agreed! Hyborian Age is pretty much how I would do fantasy Apocalypse World, or very close to it.


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