[Dungeon World] Sandstorm!

edited March 2013 in Story Games
So, I'm going to be running my first game of Dungeon World (or any *World, for that matter) tomorrow night. I'm trying not to plan too much for the first session, but I know I want to start the PCs on a trek through the deep desert. I'm planning to ask them a few questions toward the beginning of the game, like, "What hazardous and possibly foolhardy quest has brought you so deep into the Sea of Sand?"

I want to start the game with action, though, and I thought a sandstorm would be cool. But how do I do that? Custom move? Could any of you maybe help me think through this?

According to some quick research, sandstorms can... deal damage (abrading the skin), destroy your supplies (do I need to be more specific on that one?), cause blindness (if sand gets in your eyes), get in your lungs and suffocate you, bury you alive, and impair visibility (causing you to get lost). Bear Grylls () says suffocation and blindness are the two major concerns.

Another point is that I want to give them a chance to escape the storm... first they'll see it on the horizon, moving toward them quickly (soft move). They *might* be able to outrun it, at least long enough to get to a rock formation in the distance (where other dangers might perhaps await).

Any ideas? Thanks!


  • I would totally set up a mini-Front. Grim Portents that trigger as they get more and more lost.
  • edited March 2013
    I don't really know that this is the best idea. I'd suggest starting with a dungeon; perhaps already in it. Then, if they have to trek through it to get back to the Steading, a sand storm might be appropriate.

    Maybe write up a Dungeon Starter?

    I say this because it's your first time running it. So, yeah! Sandstorms! Keep that tucked away for when it comes up. But just follow the rules on page 175. Which means that you should like read about deserts too. Maybe the Crusades? Cool archeological stuff in deserts? What kinda monsters live in deserts? What are the locals gonna be like?

    That shit is gonna come up so daydream about it a bit, and sack wikipedia for plausible info and ideas.

    But like this "there's gonna be a sandstorm" and "I want to give them a chance to escape it" and "first this'll happen, then that" talk is gonna wreck your game and make not fun.

    Do exactly what it tells you to do in the First Session chapter. Which means that where the players all start is a pretty collaborative process. Having a few dungeon maps and some strong imagery about deserts is all you need. Don't worry about planning events or set pieces.

    And oh man do not worry about Fronts until the second session at the earliest.
  • Well, I was also thinking there could be a rock formation concealing caves inhabited by the mysterious Fremen-like sand goblins...

    Or perhaps the PCs have been sent to investigate trouble in the Sultan's spice mines?

    But I still want to figure out how to do a sandstorm.

  • Orlando, why is it better to start in a dungeon?
  • A few reasons: you start as close to the fun stuff as possible (combat, exploration, danger, weirdness!) and the party is already together, and like, First-time, first-session, it's hard to go wrong with a dungeon. It's easy, it's manageable, it's familiar.

    You totally don't have to start in one though! Start where ever makes sense for the party and the characters. That's something you won't know until you get there.

    So, yeah, Fremen-goblins, sure, and a Sultan and spice mines! Cool. Make one of these for the desert. Seriously.

    Then, like, during character creation be like, so, does anyone know the desert goblins? Who's an exslave from the mines? Escaped from the Sultan's harem? Does the Sultan venerate the same gods as the Cleric? That sort of thing.

    A plot and a kicker usually fall out of it.
  • Thank you! I will try to at least sketch out a dungeon map and maybe put together a dungeon starter if I have time on the train tomorrow. And I am definitely not going to create any fronts until after the first session.
  • Good luck and godspeed.
  • Always kick the game off with a scene that demands action! Hit them with the sandstorm and have a Dungeon as a potential place of (dubious) sanctuary.
    Also, sand goblins sound cool! Like Orlando says, daydream a lot. Surf for imagery. Kickstart your imagination and have lots of ideas floating about, but nothing concrete.
    The Shallow (sand) Sea is a wicked idea to adapt. Marshall's Dungeon Starters are the bomb.
  • My Apocalypse World Sandstorm Move, don't know if that helps

    When you go out into the sandstorm roll +hard
    On a 10+ you arrive where you wanted to go without much trouble. On a 7-9 choose 2
    - Some of your stuff get's damaged
    - You take 1 harm
    - You don't arrive where you wanted to go
  • edited March 2013
    Maybe the ruins of a city with building interiors clear but a sandstorm outside. Map a bunch of building interiors on separate sheets of paper but make the space between them a sandstorm void. Make them defy danger when they go from building to building. On misses, you arrive at a random building rather than the one you intended or get separated or some other move. Maybe start them in a building with a couple bleeding allies that they were sent to rescue. The allies know where to get water and medicine (back at the allies' base camp; which brilliantly is in the back room of a building on the outskirts) but can't be moved due to their injuries. Keep the pressure on to find the supplies and get back. Don't forget tunnels and interior passages and other reasons to explore a building. I wonder what lives on those buildings? It sucks that they all seem kind of similar until you really get inside a ways.

    How did you find them, here in the heart of the dead city?
    Looking at these folk, how do you know they are the ones you were sent to find?
    Judging from their injuries and their confused description, what do you think did this to them?
    What prevents you from healing them here and now?
    From their instructions, how will you recognize the building where they stored their supplies?
    What have they secreted there that can save them?
    How long has the sandstorm raged outside?
  • edited March 2013
    I think the most important thing is to train yourself to think in terms of GM soft moves -- especially "show signs of doom" and "opportunity with a cost." Then the players must either make a player move to avoid/thwart the doom or to acquire the opportunity. That back and forth is the whole game. GM move. Player move. GM move. Player move.

    "Separate them" and "take their stuff" also seem very sandstorm appropriate.

    I don't think you need a dungeon to start. If you want them in a sand storm, do it. That sounds awesome. Think up a hand full of sand storm issues that can be phrased ways that are likely to induce player action, describe one of them, and ask "what do you do?" And you've got yourself a game.

    Maybe ask a lot of questions about the characters' goals if they make it out of this storm. Maybe have them talk important places on the map beyond the storm. When the winds subside, you'll have plenty of ideas for what comes next.

    I feel like I'd definitely engineer a risky camel rescue in a sandstorm scenario. :P

  • Maybe they're all stuck in a palace during a sandstorm in the middle of a coup. Lots of intrigue and occasionally slipping out into the storm and back in through a different door/window. Protect/kill the sultan or vizier or royal children etc.
  • Ooooh, Marshall... that multiple building maps idea is awesome. I'm gonna use that.
  • I like the multiple building maps idea, too. That's great. Here's an example of a storm-related front I ran recently; it's snow rather than sand, but it works similarly. Essentially, the merchant in distress is a focal point of the heroes' efforts to deal with the storm, and the vengeful ice-spirits that show up are there to complicate those efforts.

    Adventure Front: Lamentations of the Ice-Spirits
    Description and Cast
    Three ice-spirits are now free and finally able to vent their vengeful grief at the long-ago death of their icy Queen at the hands of an ancient sorceror-king by starting a dreadful blizzard that immobilizes hapless travelers, including Rurik the Dwarven merchant and his caravan, traveling with a load of wrought iron and steel tools.
    • Rurik, Dwarven merchant, and his hirelings, with wagons and trade goods
    • Bialel, Cuerin, and Delisse—airy ice spirits of the frozen North
    Custom Moves
    • When you brave the freezing cold, roll +CON. On a 10+, you shrug off the effects of the cold. On a 7-9, the cold bothers you; take -1 forward. On a 6-, you are chilled to the bone; take -1 ongoing until you shrug off the effects of the cold or take a break to warm up.
    Raging Blizzard
    Type. Unnatural Storm
    Impulse. To immobilize travelers.
    • blanket with ice and snow
    • chill with icy cold
    Grim Portents.
    • Ice and cold interfere with routine tasks.
    • Huge snow drifts make the way forward to Lanholm Keep impassable.
    • An avalanche blocks the road back toward Belsarien, Gate of the East.
    • Frost bite appears on unprotected extremities—fingers, toes, noses, cheeks.
    • Rurik and his companions show signs of exhaustion and madness.
    Impending Doom. Rurik dies in the snow, from exposure, starvation, or cannibalism (Destruction).

    You could do something similar to this with a sandstorm.
  • Shouldn't the move include Darude in some way?
  • @kurisu: How did it go?
  • I had a chalk desert that would sculpt humanoid statues of the echoes of people who had travelled there before.
  • Haha! I was totally considering using Darude.

    Anyway, here's what happened: we started in a forest. Yeah, I know. We started making characters, and as the guys were filling out their chosen sheets they started talking about how they were in a forest and how they had met each other, with the ranger having rescued the fighter and the dwarf cleric from a caravan that had been attacked by goblins. Something about the way the character sheets are set up, with the bonds and everything, just naturally led to that happening. And I was fine with it--I started asking them a bunch of questions about their bonds and before I knew it, we were off and running into the action of the game.

    I guess if I had really wanted to do the desert thing, I should have said so before I even passed out the character sheets. Oh well--now I know. But the game went really well and I will post about it in Bite Sized AP. I am definitely keeping this desert sandstorm thing in the back of my mind for future use, though.
Sign In or Register to comment.