Day 4 of RPGaDay asks what was the most surprising game for me.
The game that surprised me the most was Dungeon World by Sage Kobold Productions.
Now, in all fairness, Dungeon World is Powered by the Apocalypse, so really I should be saying that Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Bake is my most surprising game, but I haven’t played that game yet and Dungeon World was my first exposure to that game system, so Dungeon World it is.
To explain what I’m trying to say is that most RPGs are designed around either a simulationist approach, where they try to simulate the real world for game play or a narrativist approach, where they try to tell a story.
Simulationist games fail in that they keep intruding on role-playing and the story with game mechanics. Narrativist games also fail, because they don’t have enough mechanics to make it a satisfying game, it’s just story-telling.
Dungeon World’s simple mechanic of rolling two dice, adding them together and that gives you a result of fail forward (i.e. move the story forward despite failing), succeeding with consequences or a twist and fully succeeding, was revolutionary to me.
Here was a simple mechanic that got out of your way and let you tell a story. It was the first time I found a game that was simple enough to run, but had enough depth that it wasn’t just story-telling.
Simply put, Dungeon World surprised me, in a very good way. Haven’t looked back since.