Something that’s been bugging me recently is how many times can I rewrite the same old fantasy tropes?
I do dabble in writing standalone games (see No Sleep Bad, for example) but basically since I discovered Dungeon World I’ve focused my energy on making stuff within a tried-and-tested system. The problem with that, I’m feeling right now, is how many times can you set up a game in a market, or tomb, or cave, or keep or whatever until you’re just rehashing old content?
I hope never of course! But while it’s on my mind, I thought I’d try a little thought experiment. Here’s the idea: 3 adventure starters, all around the same setting (a marketplace, chosen randomly.) All based around a game of Dungeon World with say 2-5 players.
I’ve not included damage and HP values, but if you want to develop these ideas for your own games start with the following and tweak to suit your tastes and group:
- Solitary: d10 damage, 12 HP 2 armour
- Group: d8 damage, 6 HP 1 armour
- Horde: d6 damage, 3 HP 1 armour
Option 1: UMBERTO BY NIGHT
“You’ve reached the market just before the city gates close for the night, wrapping you, the market and your hundred or so fellow shoppers in twilight. Garrulous salesmen pester you from every corner while you cautiously watch your back for pickpockets. Suddenly, you’re almost bowled over by a beautiful woman in clean silks; chasing her is a particularly filthy merchant wielding a jewelled scimitar. Flecks of goose-fat still spit from his lips as he unleashes a stream of curses at you for letting her get away. What do you do?”
- A great wall extending around everything
- Furtive looks to the moons and beyond the wall
- Constantly getting knocked by passers-by (and hoping it isn’t a pickpocket)
- The smells of fresh dates, fine desert silks, and camel dung
- A commotion that draws all the guards to the gates for a few minutes; they come back bloody, if at all.
- You only saw her for a moment, but she looks familiar. Who do you think she is?
- What has some no-good street urchin stolen from you? Where is the urchin headed?
- Why are the market gates shut and barred at night? What do they keep out? Where does everyone sleep?
The Fat Merchant (Solitary, Intelligent, Organised, Hoarder)
Instinct: To hoard material wealth
- Summon the djinni within his scimitar
- Issue orders to the guards
- Flaunt his wealth and higher social status
The Urchin’s Cousins (Group, Organised, Stealthy, Cautious)
Instinct: To defend their own
- Answer a call for help from family
- Steal from the rich (and keep for themselves)
- Escape to above or below the market
The Other Shoppers (Horde)
Instinct: To get a great deal; (if trouble looms) to flee
- Beat you to a great deal
- Trample others underfoot
- Point out someone trying to get away
Option 2: THE NIGHT BEFORE THE WAR
“The camp is filled with nervous energy. Grizzled veterans play dice solemnly, while anxious young soldiers write letters to their loved ones. Everywhere is the sense that tomorrow may be your last. As you patrol the camp, a haggard veteran approaches, clearly in his cups. He declares you a cutpurse, mercenary and no better than a thief. You could probably take him, but you don’t know about his colleagues. The general is nowhere to be seen. What do you do?”
- A distant campfire on the facing hill – the enemy
- Quartermasters looking out for number one
- The blacksmiths’ tent, still churning out steel
- A quick scent of medicinal herbs
- A tent of walking wounded, reeking of blood
- The general’s tent, lavish and well-guarded
- The horses, closely watched against deserters
- What did the opposing camp offer you to join their side? Why did you turn them down?
- Why doesn’t the general trust you?
- You had a friend in this army, but he didn’t make it. What happened to him?
- Why is morale so poor here?
- [Thieves or those of shady character] What did you steal from the drunkard earlier?
- [Clerics or those of divine character] What have your gods said of this place?
The General (Solitary, Intelligent, Organised, Cautious)
Instinct: To win the war
- Break up a petty conflict personally
- Pass judgement on dissenters and deserters
- Consult his war council
The Drunkards (Group, Organised)
Instinct: To try to forget about tomorrow’s battle
- Start idle threats
- Remember their training
- Break down from stress
Quartermasters (Horde, Devious)
Instinct: Find profit in war
- Sell vital supplies
- Arrange for something to go missing
- Provide favours, at a cost
Option 3: A CONFLUENCE OF PLANES
“Your mind perceives place this as an astral corridor full of mirrors, but you know it to be far greater than that. Silibant whispers echo from each mirror, each tempting a greater power than the last. At last, you come to a mirror so shadowy to be almost opaque. Your reflection twists within and seems to be holding a wooden box in one hand and a key in the other. What do you do?”
- The chill of other customers, from other times and spaces
- A vaunted ceiling of stars
- No obvious exit or entrance
- Your patron, all smiles and crackling with energy, seemingly talking to himself
- Mundane items alongside objects that defy the laws of physics
- Who is your patron?
- Who is he/she/it talking to?
- What are you here to buy?
- How will you pay for it?
- Can you escape to other planes via these portals, or are they one-way only?
- How do you get out of this place when you’re done?
Your Patron (Solitary, Hoarder)
Instinct: To help you commit to a purchase
- Offer help and advise on your purchase
- Serve an infinite number of customers at the same time
- Tell a lie, but just a little one
What lies beyond the smoky mirror (Group, Terrifying)
Instinct: To break the confines of this plane
- Create an avatar on another earth
- Offer a deal with terrible consequences
- Give a taste of addictive power
The Planarch Mirrors (Horde, Large, Hoarder)
Instinct: To tempt
- Provide an item or service, with cost
- Extend into the infinite
- Defend their own if attacked
What do you think? This was pretty fun and quick to write, so I may do some more. (Good practice for my Patreon stuff, obviously!)