I am preparing myself to GM a Dungeon World game, two advices given in the book (which is filled with good advice) are: play to find out what happens and draw maps, leave blanks. I am a bit of a control freak when it comes to prep, as I said earlier, so in order to let myself go while still leaving most of the work for the game itself I decided to get started on a premise for the setting.
Dungeon World, like D&D, thrives on having ancient ruins from long forgotten civilizations right beside newer ruins and living, breathing towns, villages and cities. This can be a little odd when confronted though, how come those civilizations come and go, what happened to them? This is my premise here. The world needs those to have interesting things to be done, and dungeons everywhere is a good thing for this, as a result, the world will be one made on apocalypse.
Getting the idea from the Mass Effect video game trilogy and Skyrim after reading David Guyll’s post in Points of Light, I have made my mind around why the world has so many dead civilizations: Dragons. Like in Mass Effect the world is based on a Cycle of Extinction, except that instead of the Reapers the world has Dragons, the most inspiring and feared creatures in RPGs. I have even obtained a copy of Reign of Fire to help me picture this idea.
Whenever the world triggers something (leaving it open here and now), Dragons reappear. This means two things, I know my game will have Dragons as mythological creatures from ancient times, pictured in caves an ancient drawings from long forgotten civilizations, but never seen, touched or felt in the world. Enter the game.
The game starts In Media Res with the party doing whatever they will want to be doing at the time at whatever place they want to be doing, when they are suddenly attacked by a Dragon. I can’t think of anything that would cause more emotional impact and commitment to start the game, specially when the only medieval fantasy game my players are familiar with is D&D, where Dragons are the stuff of the higher levels.
The game itself won’t be about dragons everywhere at all though, this beginning is meant to incite curiosity and give them instant notoriety and recognition, the battle with the dragon is gonna involve a lot of the surroundings and the situation, if there are people they will flee, scream and many will die, for example. Heroes will be made instantly, even if the dragon just leaves them there they managed to live, something not many will be able to say, even less if we discount the party.
What they are doing after that will be up to them.
The only other idea I have in my head right now is that because dragons are ancient carvings in the cave walls, that they might be tied to the gods in the mind of the people, I can already think of giving the gods some aspects and the names of mythological dragons, as well as known dragons from D&D, like Bahamut and Takhisis. But how that will form, if at all will also depend on the players upon character creation.
In short then: The world has many ruins from civilizations long gone, those ruins, sometimes, are made of different civilizations occupying the same place. Dragons are an ancient myth, carvings in the ancestral homes of the civilizations that thrive today, and on some of the ruins that one stumbles upon. Dragons are the agents of extinction, their coming is the beginning of a cycle of extinction.