Let’s do some game design theory.

An attempt at a breath of normalcy in abnormal times.

I’ve been picking apart Dungeon World lately, a game that has been recommended to me many times (mostly by snide D&D players who, hearing that I care about character and story, cry, “Why don’t you just go play Dungeon World, then?”) but which I’ve never played. The SRD for the game was not a very intuitive introduction, though, so it took me finding some podcasts of actual play to get a handle on it. I think it’s a solid game

Like Fate (another frequent recommendation), it does approach to some of my goals without actually quite fulfilling them. I do enjoy the dice mechanics, and the way they’re integrated with the narrative negotiation… a concept my mind initially rebelled against at the level in which it’s present in Dungeon World, but in which I’ve come to be a believer.

So for my latest iteration of A Wilder World, I started with a dice mechanic very similar to Dungeon World, then walked it back to be closer to the last version of AWW’s. Here’s where it stands right now.

A check is made using 3d6. For a very simple, low complexity, low stakes pass/fail, you can treat a 9 or lower as a failure and a 10 or higher as a success. This gives a 62.5% chance of success; anec-datally, around 60-66% success/reward seems to be the tipping point where “random” things are more fun than frustrating.

Any modifier to difficulty is applied to the roll itself (as in the optional rule in Dungeon World). If you have an attribute to apply to the check, it is also a straight mathematical modifier. The scale is: 0 is broadly average, any deviation is meant to be notable, a typical heroic PCs have positive scores of up to +3 at the start of their career.

The game uses an advantage mechanic (similar to the concept in D&D 5E) to represent both significant situational modifier and the main effect of Heroic Qualities. If you have a quality like “Acrobat”, you have advantage on any check an acrobat would have advantage; the current version of the game, being light on mechanics and heavy on narrative negotiation eschews detailed nuts and bolts for qualities and instead offers broad-strokes descriptions of the sorts of things they might cover, with the idea that the player and the Storyweaver will work out exactly what it means.

The basic rule is “If you would expect that a character possessing this quality in the sort of story you’re telling might be able to do it, you might be able to do it.” And if it’s something that anyone could try but your quality would make you better at, you have advantage when doing it.

The exact effect of advantage is to add one die to the pool for the roll, with you still taking the top 3. Advantage shifts the odds without shifting the spread, in other words. And while you can stack multiple advantages, there are diminishing returns.

Benefits of this system over Dungeon World: the dice are less swingy with another one in the mix, but there’s a wider range of possible results, and outright failure stays on the table longer even as it becomes less and less likely.

The simple pass/fail check can be given more gradation, either informally by simply saying “higher success is better, lower failure is worse” or using a “color table” where 9 or lower is red, 10 to 12 is orange, 13 to 15 is yellow, and 16 on up is green. If you’ve seen Dungeon World’s success table, the idea behind the colors is similar: red means outright failure or very costly success, orange means tenuous/partial success, or success with a complication or cost, yellow means simple success or the possibility of greater success with a cost/complication, and green means unqualified success with some unexpected benefit.

The whole thing is very interpretive, with the idea being that in situations where they apply, the Storyweaver might offer the player who makes the roll a choice between the two interpretations for the color they rolled (except for green, which has a single meaning) and possibly soliciting a suggestion for what the cost/complication/boon is, if applicable. Tables/groups that prefer a more straightforward game where the game-runner controls the narrative of the world (apart from player character actions) can run it that way, with the Storyweaver making the decisions.

There are some <BLATANT LIE>fascinating</BLATANT LIE> statistical minutiae regarding the exact odds of different color results and how they shake out when you have various combinations of attributes and advantage, but I won’t spell them all out here.