(For those just looking for the homebrew Dungeon World bonus content, skip to the bottom of this post).
Next week will mark almost 8 months since I started running All Things Under Heaven, my East-Asia-inspired West Marches campaign.
Over the course of that time (and the preceding few years, when I avidly watched Steven Lumpkin run Rollplay's epic West Marches show) I've come to a realisation: Dungeons & Dragons just can't handle the kind of West Marches game that I want.
This isn't a slight on the system or designers, just a comment on the fundamental difference in genres.
For the West Marches I want magic that feels inexplicable and wondrous rather than systematised, and operates in discrete unique units each with their own underlying logic. I want characters to grow outwards rather than upwards, to become more broadly-empowered rather than straightforwardly powerful, and to be able to lose things through their own choices and through the hardships the game throws at them.
I want a world that is dynamic and has systems that encourage that dynamism, I want unique regions that all feel definitely and meaningfully distinct, I want to plan broad strokes and fill out the details in play based on what makes sense, what comes before, and what my players suggest and achieve.
I want, I've realised, a Powered by the Apocalypse game.
Spells and items and rituals as individual moves; character growth/loss fluid in the style of the "change playbook" option; a GMing structure that replaces Threats and Fronts with the individual regions of the Wastes.
And so I've begun working on the skeleton of a system, a (very) loose hack that draws equally from Dungeon World and Apocalyse World.
Since there was no session of the Twitch ATUH campaign yesterday and thus nothing that needed to be done with my usual hour of streaming GM Prep, I started to actually put some flesh on those bones: designing the initial very-rough draft of what the Basic Moves might look like.
They're still in early stages, but I'm liking how this system is coming together.
It feels cohesive, and like it should deliver the experience that I want (of course, playtesting will undoubtedly demonstrate otherwise).
So, here's a couple of the draft moves. Feedback and commentary very welcome!
(For an insight into my thought process as I put some of these together, check out the video here.)
When you go into battle, roll +Force. On a hit, you do harm to your opposition and they do harm back to you. On a 10+, choose 3. On a 7-9, choose 2:
- You strike especially hard, inflicting extra harm on your target/s.
- You defend especially well, taking less harm from your target/s.
- You are a flurry of motion, engaging multiple foes.
- You push forward, gaining ground or momentum
- You drive the enemy back, creating an advantage or an opening
On a miss, you take a nasty hit. You may still do your harm, GM's choice.
When you push through danger, ask the GM to name the danger/s you risk and roll +Force. On a 10+, you do it. On a 7-9, you still do it but choose 1: you survive but some equipment doesn't, you charge right into something worse, you falter and lose the initiative. On a miss, prepare for the worst.
When you read the lay of the land, roll +Insight. On a hit, you can ask the GM questions. Take +1 when acting on the answers. On a 10+, ask 3. On a 7-9, ask 1:
- What happened here recently?
- What should I be on the lookout for?
- What here is useful or valuable to me?
- What, if anything, appears out of place (or is not what it seems)?
- What is the safest position I can take?
- What is my best way out / way in / way past?
On a miss, you overlook something important but ask 1 anyway.
When you notice something unusual, roll +Insight. On a 10+, ask 2. On a 7-9, ask 1:
- Is this a thing of the civilised world, or of the wild magic?
- Is this thing created, caused, or naturally occurring?
- Is this something that might have value or use to me?
- Is this something that might be dangerous or helpful to me?
- What, from what I know and sense, might happen next?
On a miss, ask 1 anyway and it is older and stranger than you thought.
When you ask around for information before a journey, roll +CHA. *On a 10+, hold 3. *On a 7-9, hold 2. Spend your hold 1 for 1, now or during the expedition, to gain the following information about your destination:
- Directions to a significant or interesting location
- General information about the region, its terrain, and inhabitants
- Names of a few powerful local figures, and a little more about them
- Information about dangerous predators or creatures in the region
- Warnings against a common threat or danger to travellers
- Rumours of a great treasure or magical artefact
On a miss, hold 2 anyway but the GM will answer one falsely (their choice).
(Plus, for those wanting something a little more specific than Defy Danger)
When you steel yourself against magic or outside influence, roll +WIS. *On a 10+, you do it and gain an impression of the motive behind the attempt. *On a 7-9, you do it but choose 1: some lesser trace of it lingers, your resolve is shaken by the effort, your resistance or refusal is obvious. *On a miss, prepare for the worst.
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