Dungeon World is an Apocalypse World Engine game which focuses on playing traditional DnD-style fantasy games. Curiously enough, I have yet to meet two people who share the same interpretation of the game and its concepts. In this short article, I would like to explain what I like about the game.
To me, Dungeon World is a game which has a strong old school feel but is not old school. The feel comes from the original DnD attributes, the hit points, and the character playbooks which retain the feeling of their inspiring classes. To me this is a great benefit as I have grown to love these kind of worlds.
However, the rules are not really old school at all! At the core of the game is a 2d6 check which leads to a result of failure, partial success, or success. For example, in a melee a fighter might hit and injure an enemy, be able to hit the enemy but also suffer damage, or fail. Failure can have different results, such as the fighter being hurt or dropping his sword. This mechanism supports the game’s goal of being story driven and there has rarely been a situation in a fight where the opponents were simply trading blows instead of experiencing a dynamic fight.
The biggest challenge for me as both player and DM is to discard those preconceptions about role-playing which do not apply to Dungeon World. In particular, the game is player facing, so NPCs never roll any dice and in some respect, they do not really act at all. This might sound weird to you and that is exactly the core challenge of the game. For example, a fight does not have any initiative. Instead, the DM describes what the enemies are starting to do and then asks one or more of the players how they react. In effect an enemy normally does not attack but runs towards a PC with its weapon raised. Spell caster start to cast spells but PCs might still intervene, dodge, or do something inappropriate and suffer the concequences. I have seen many interpretations of this concept and for Grognards like me it requires some lateral thinking.
So if you like the worlds and adventures of old school fantasy RPGs but you would like to try a different take on them, Dungeon World is a good choice for you. To me it sounded pretty strange when reading articles (like this one) but in actual play I was quite fascinated by what I saw.