Dungeon World and Ape City

My friends Mark and Lucas came over for some Saturday night RPG-ing, and although we almost got waylaid by my wife and her desire to play board games, we successful adjourned to the dungeon.

Neither had played Dungeon World but have played a number of RPGs before, and both have played at Story Games Glendale. They were interested in chatting about the mechanics at first for a bit, so we spent probably 15 minutes talking about how PbtA games work, which felt a little unusual to me, as recent DW games have occurred at convention, and has been mostly a learn-as-you-go type scenario. 

We dived into character creation, and started with Aegor the Elven Druid of the Great Forests and the Blasted Wastelands (played by Mark), and Sparrow the Human Thief (played by Lucas). Through the bonds, we found that Aegor the Druid has heard from the spirits that Sparrow was being followed by a dark force, which we called The Dragoon. We decided that this inadvertently occurred when Sparrow walked over some hallowed group in the blasted wastes. Why is Aegor trying to help Sparrow? Well, it turns out that The Dragoon spirit is required for equilibrium in the wastelands, and until the situation can be fixed, this was causing havoc on that land. 

I decided to try a dungeon starter by Ray Otus, of the Gauntlet RPG community, called Ape City. (Get it as the free download at his patron site!) It has a bit of that Planet of the Apes feel, and like most dungeon starters I've dealt with, starts with a list of questions the players answer which also starts them in media res... in other words: in the shit.

Here are are some of the leading, starting questions include Ape City, and how we went about answering them. We answered some in the middle of character creation, going back and forth.

What did you lose when the apes caught you? One of the apes grabs a pendant worn by Aegor the Druid... a pendant from his mother.
Which of you has dreamed about this city before? What danger was the focal point of your visions? Sparrow dreamed of the city, and a dark shadow of Dragoon follows him there.
Why is it obvious that someone else ruled here before the apes? What can you guess about those predecessors from your observations? As they are dragged through the city, they pass an old mural showing the original rulers, a tall, think humanoid race. And in that mural was apes serving and working for them.
While being force-marched through the streets, you glimpse a figure on the walkways high above. What suggests another time or place? In this case I asked Aegor how old he is. He answers in the hundreds of years. (Great!) The question becomes, "what is the being wearing that you haven't seen in at least 300 years?" A jade headdress with gems, from material that is now quite rare.
Who or what do the apes fear? How do they show this fear? They are dragged through a square with a large statue of the original rulers. It looks scratched, but otherwise impervious to attempts to pull it down. The apes skirt it and become quite as they pass this part of the city.
What unique technology do the apes utilize that they don't understand? How do they display their ignorance? The door to the King Kuka's throne room uses an intricate keypad that the apes use hesitantly. They seem relieved that it works and they didn't do it incorrectly. Makes you wonder what it looks like when they fail.

The Druid tried to turn into a mouse to escape through the net. Rolled a miss. He turns into a mouse, but is quickly grabbed by the ape with his pendant, and carried along.

They meet the King and his retinue, and Aegor tries to intimidate the King. One thing I love about Ape City is the page of Moves, including this gem: "When you maintain eye contact with King
Kuka for too long, he charges you. Roll+Cha.
" Aegor stands firm, and King Kuka screams threateningly, but stops short. Some more positioning. King Kuka hits Aegor over the head. The PCs are imprisoned. 

Most of the rest of the scenario involved breaking out of prison, meeting Tarl the barbarian cell-mate, the Druid turning into a lemur monkey to find escape routes, and the Thief breaking his picks to open the gate. They launched a plan of escape by distracting the ape guards. They staged a prisoner riot and ran for the city exit. Chaotic combat ensued, and General Urgo kills Sparrow... and the Dragoon claims responsibility and is released from stalking the Thief. Tarl is able to take revenge on the General, but only as he also goes down, and Aegor turns into a jaguar and escapes through a gap in the soldiers.

Ape City was fun to run. I used only a fraction of the scenario itself, as it includes other interesting elements, including possible friendly apes, otherworldly creatures and portals, strange magic items, and a very large and nasty beast in an arena. The structure is very usable, and is reminiscent of all the things I love about Servants of the Cinder Queen (another DW module): great leading questions, impressions of the locale, threats to deal with - in DW fashion with simple instincts and moves - and some cool scenario moves and dangers / fronts. It definitely goes in the con-bag for future one shots!