Creating a Dark Sun(esque) Campaign for Dungeon World

My regular group and I had decided some time ago that we wanted to do some D&D style fantasy but not set in the usual pseudo-medieval environment common in so many RPGs, a number of ideas were bandied about before we eventually agreed on running something set in the Dark Sun world; after that we talked about what rules system to use and chose Dungeon World since we had really enjoyed the previous test game that we had run using the system and the players seemed to quite enjoy the fact that Dungeon World positively encourages player evolvement with the creation of the setting. Having asked on the Dungeon World Google+ community for some advice regarding running a Dark Sun game, the response overwhelming seemed to be not to let our game be limited by the published material; I thought this was good advice and so made it clear to the players from the start that, although we were using the overarching themes of the Dark Sun setting (a savage desert world ravaged by defiling magic), if there were a conflict between our ideas and the published setting, we would be using our ideas.
We had a general chat about the idea of a desert world and of course the Dune Saga was mentioned, rather than try and fight against this, since the players have mentioned it then it must interest them to some degree so I chose Arrakis for the name of our city-state, plonked unceremoniously in the middle of our (then) blank map. I labelled the rest of the blank area desert and, as another nod to the Dune Saga, I draw a rough worm-like creature in the middle of the desert area and labelled it ‘Wyrm-sign’, I haven’t decided what (if anything) it means yet but we can fill that in later.
For the game we are using the Dark Sun Dungeon World playbooks from here: http://www.geneome.com/2013/06/05/dark-sun-canon-and-dungeon-world-characters/
Unfortunately one of our players couldn’t make this session but I gave the players the choice of whatever character playbook they fancied, after some debate we ended up with a human Gladiator (Korvin, an escaped slave known in the arena as ‘the Bloodtide’), Hurgen a half giant fighter who had escaped enslavement in the irrigation/waterworks beneath the city-state of Arrakis and Athrialix a human wizard who was studying philosophy at a large academy in the Arrakis. After the players had created their characters and made their choice of initial moves (character powers) we moved onto them filling in their bonds; essentially in Dungeon World each playbook has a paragraph on it containing blank spaces where you fill in the names of other characters to detail your connection to them.
For example, the bonds paragraph for the wizard (on the Dark Sun playbook) says:
______________will play an important role in the events 
to come. I have foreseen it! 
______________is keeping an important secret from me. 
______________is woefully misinformed about the 
world; I will teach them all that I can. 
______________has seen me use defiling magic. 
Following the character/world/first session generation guidelines detailed in the Dungeon World corebook, after the players had created their characters and we’d talked through them a bit I had them introduce their characters to the other players and we did a brief Q&A with myself and the players taking turn to ask each other questions related to the characters; this lead to some very interesting facets of the characters and the gameworld being discussed and defined (although, following advice from the DW book and the other people on the DW G+ community I was careful to leave plenty of blank space for later expansion).
Some of the interesting things we discovered were:
* Giants, although once common, are now widely believed to be extinct, having been hunted as part of the sorcer kings pogrom against non-human races; however, recognising that the giant’s stength, if harness properly, could be useful, a female giant was captured and from her the race of half-giants were created. Half-giants now breed true, with the occasional throwback being possessed of size more similar to their forebears; most half-giants are used as slave labour and work in the ancient pipe and waterworks below the city of Arrakis.
(I put a skull on the map, possibly to represent the site of a giant graveyard or their last stand)
* There is a threat of war between the City States of Arrakis and their neighbour Pharn; Arrakis’ sorceror king is largely scholarly and spends his time researching arcane and esoteric lore, content to let his Templars rule the city, whereas Pharn has a much more oppressive and military feel to it.
* Arrakis has a high proportion of scholars, learned individuals travel to the city in order to benefit from education at the Academy, a school of philosophy and learning within the city; following further discussion of this it was decided that Arrakis had a distinctly classical look to it’s architecture (columns, etc).
(This came about from discussion with the player of Athrialix the wizard, whose Uncle, a reknowned merchant is financing his education at the academy – mainly as a way of showing how cultured he is, rather than for Athrialix’ benefit)
* An area of wild magic known as the Spellscar seperates the city and is perhaps a remnant of an ancient battle, forked lighting crackles over the landscape of the Spellscar, randomly striking the sand and turning it into strange crystalline glass structures that dot the landscape in this area.
* Much of our map is occupied by a petrified forest, we have not defined any further details about this yet.
Following the first session I have started to nail down a few more details about the steadings in the setting, Arrakis is a large cosmopolitan city but the number of people in it has started to outstrip their resources, this could cause problems in the future; nearby is the fortress of Blackrock where the Order of the Kings Templar are trained and where a large amount of the martial resources that police Arrakis originate and to the east is the Town of Shades, a sprawling outlaw settlement on the outskirts of the petrified forest reknowned for being the home of an infamous slaver (to be detailed later) whose men raid desert tribes and provide slaves to the larger city states.
I’ve also (loosely) defined a campaign front and an adventure front as defined in the book; the first session involved Athrialix being obliged to accompany his Uncle Alexandros to the gladiatorial games (despite his lack of interest in them) in order to stay on the old man’s good side, meanwhile Korvin and Hurgen were travelling there to meet with Alexandros since Hurgen wished to acquire some more healing fruits and Bloodtide had said that he knew a trader who could get them what she needed. Their meeting and negotiations were interrupted by an alarm horn being blown from the city walls, and a number of arachnid style creatures known as Rampagers swarmed the city walls, six of them making it inside and attacking people with their razor sharp claws; our heroes were able to fight off a couple of these creatures despite the panicked crowds, Bloodtide even saving a young mother and her child, Hurgen was badly injured during the fight and Athrialix was forced to reveal his magics (although only to those present). As the chaos started to clear, Alexandros invited them all to his supply house to recover.
Please note: The rampagers occurred entirely as a suggestion from a player and we couldn’t really remember what they were like in the official Dark Sun campaign so we re-skinned them (to something more akin to the Acklay from Star Wars), something which was very easy given DW’s great monster creation guidelines.
I very much enjoyed the first session and it seemed to go well for the players, as a taster of what is to come I think it worked very well and, having drawn up the Rampager attack into an adventure front, I am confident in running the next session.

Space colonies

Settlements in Rogue Trader
Recently Conny Delshagen posted on the Google+ Traveller community about whether anyone had successfully used the World Tamer’s Handbook colonisation rules for Traveller: the New Era; although I don’t really play Traveller at the moment i’m always looking for science-fiction ideas that can be incorporated into my FATE-based WH40K Rogue Trader campaign ‘The House of Black’ which (as of the time of writing) is still running on a monthly basis. Reading the blurb associated with the World Tamer’s Handbook on RpgGeek.com it seemed to focus around star system generation and rules for colonisation; although i’m fairly happy with the Diaspora adapted rules for system generation that I have, setting up colonies and such like was not something that I had covered in much detail. I had previously looked briefly at the colony system presented in Fantasy Flight Games ‘Stars of Iniquity’ supplement but, whilst the system seemed very comprehesive, it was extremely detail orientated and (I believed) too complex to be a worthwhile addition to my RT game; I had switched to FATE to reduce the clunkiness of the rules, so adding in a massively detailed sub-system seemed counter productive.
It occurred to me that perhaps this would be a good place to use the Fate Fractal: for those not familiar with the Fate Fractal (or the Bronze Rule as it is also called in the FATE core rulebook) it states:
“In Fate, you can treat anything in the game world like it’s a character. Anything can have aspects, skills, stunts, stress tracks, and consequences if you need it to.”
I had already used the Fractal to a certain extent when defining my rules for space combat (see http://wh40krpg.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/testing-proposed-narrative-space-combat.html for my most recent post regarding narrative space combat) with the players ship treated as a character (having skills, aspects, stunts, stress tracks and consequences).
What sort of stats would a space colony have?
Taking a tip from my work on space ships I decided that colonies would have five Aspects in order to represent what the colony specialised in an potentially one or two Stunts, the colony would also receive 2 stress boxes and 3 consequences boxes (with the standard 2, 4 and 6 values) in the same way as a character (although additional Stunts could be taken to increase the number of stress boxes).
Some examples of Aspects might be:
  • Primitive
  • High-tech
  • Abundance of natural resources
  • Theocratic government
  • Wise sages

I envisioned that the High Concept Aspect would represent the dominant form of government on the colony and that the Trouble Aspect would represent some sort of challenge or impending danger the colony.
What benefits would players get from visiting a space colony?
In order to make it worthwhile instituting rules for space colonies (although these rules could also be used for space stations and other sorts of bases) it would be necessary to provide some story reason for the player characters to visit them; the most obvious reason for this is to purchase equipment or make repairs to ships/vehicles, etc.
Using the simple model above it would be simplicity itself to make the Aspects of the station affect what objects the PCs can get hold of, they would be able to invoke the colony’s Aspects as they would any other Aspect to improve Resources rolls along with any other actions as appropriate whilst on the space station; for example, if the players are getting a ship repaired at an orbital facility with the Aspect ‘Adeptus Mechanicus workshop’ then they could invoke this to get a +2 to the repair roll. However the reverse is also true that Aspects could be invoked against the players either by the GM or other players; for example if a character tries to get hold of a stub gun in a colony with the Aspect ‘Primitive’ then the GM could invoke this to apply a -2 penalty to their Resources roll.
Colony Maintenance
In any session where a particular colony is featured the GM should roll 4DF and note the resultant number (Aspects may be invoked on this roll as normal), if the result is a minus figure then the colony has suffered some sort of stress and the negative shift should be marked on the stress boxes/consequence tracker as usual (with any consequences reflecting the slow deterioration of the colony, for example: civil unrest).
If the result is a positive then the colony uses the positive shift to first recover from any stress or consequences it has sustained, if there is any positive shift left after this then add an additional stress box to the colony’s total to represent the colony growing.
Setting up a Colony
One of the great things about Rogue Trader is that the player characters are (unlike the majority of humans in the WH40K universe) powerful people with spaceships at their disposal and commanding vast resources; this means that feasibly the player characters may be instrumental in setting up new colonies and bases, any system that I was going to use would need to represent this possibility.
It is my current idea that, when initially set up a colony has only a single Aspect (which should reflect the colony’s initial challenges, no stunts, a single stress box and no consequences boxes); each session after a colony has set up until it has reached the standard beginning colony statistics it should make a maintenance roll (as detailed above), when the colony reaches a total of 2 stress boxes due to growth then it gains the consequence tracker and additional Aspects/Stunts as per a standard beginning colony.
These are just a few ideas at the moment and will no doubt see further development, however, i’d be interested in people’s thoughts/comments.