Saturday, January 26, 2013

Dawn of Worlds: Dear Game Makers, Make This

Our Rough-Draft In-Game Map.
I mentioned in my previous post on 4e that I also got a chance this week to play the free world-building game  Dawn of Worlds from the apparently long defunct Legends Games.  I mentioned as well a decided contrast between the two games that I think goes beyond the different group composition or the method in which we played.  While I enjoyed both of them immensely, I think that where we got lucky with Dawn of Worlds is that we played it with a nearly perfect setup: playing through Google Hangouts using Tabletop Forge with a group that hadn't discussed too many world specifics ahead of time.  I'm going to likely be making more posts soon regarding what we actually created, but for now I want to look more at the process and why you should already be getting a group of people together to make your very own world.

Game Setup


It took a really stupid amount of time for us to get the group together to play this game.  Deciding to play it online was actually something of a fluke brought on by the sickness that I intend to use as an excuse for not posting all last week, but ended up being more or less for the best.  I suppose I can't speak to how playing in person would have gone, but Tabletop Forge proved to be a serviceable tool for the job at hand.  Once we managed to gather setting up the actual Hangout and App were extremely easy though there was a slightly strange malfunction I'll touch on later.

Actual game setup proceeded just as quickly.  Three out of the four players (Dawn of Worlds is DMless so I count) had at least skimmed over the rules and the fourth hadn't look at them at all.  All the same, we were able to get the ball rolling almost immediately and references to the rules were handled quickly and simply.  Frankly, the game isn't a complicated or difficult one to understand which plays fantastically with allowing creativity to flourish.  This lack of complexity may at first seem to be a huge weakness, but it gets the job done and I've not found any other games that really focus in on this topic.

The Plot


We decided after a very brief discussion that we were going to make a world with steampunk elements and above all else no standard D&D races.  We didn't want elves, dwarves, and hobbits messing up the fact that we were making our own world.  Dawn of Worlds actually suggests the exact opposite of this, that non-standard races might cost more to create, but here we flew in the face of the rules because we were looking for something else.  Unfortunately, our discussion may have been a little too brief, because one player didn't realize exactly the level of technology we were talking about until later in the evening.  Apart from that... Well, we went through and made the world.

The Game


The game itself is very simple.  Each round you roll 2d6, add it to your stored points, and then spend it according to a table and list of actions you can perform.  Depending upon the Age you are in (1st to create the world, 2nd to populate it, 3rd to use those populated races) things will cost more or fewer points.  Players are free to attempt to get in the way of other player's plans, but in general we ended up mostly improving and changing our own little sections of the map.  As we went along our histories became somewhat more absurd (raccoons in dirigibles!) and we ended up with quite a few more races than I think we initially planned on.

We didn't actually make it through the third age before we had to call it a night in order to be responsible.  However, this gave us plenty of time to come up with 12 separate races, many of which would be very appropriate for players.  Given that our goal was to make a world from basically the ground up that we could later have a game in, I think it served it's purpose well.  It was simple enough that it could be picked up by just about anyone interested in gaming.  The only problem with the system itself could be that at times things were a little too loose, the question of 'How many points is a BIG mountain range worth?' came up many times. 

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was that Google Hangouts with Tabletop Forge worked surprisingly well.  We were able to draw the map and add things like mountains and forests even if the end result does look a little like something a 4th grader could put together.  The fact that we were online also had the massive advantage that we could Google image search tiles to add in and represent cities, races, or other major objects.  At times this got a little silly (please excuse the Pokemon that show up on the map) but we could move pieces easily and it worked quite a bit better than describing them physically without a picture. 

We did hit one pretty major technical problem.  For some reason if you lose your connection and then rejoin a Hangout with Tabletop Forge you don't actually get to see the drawn lines that were there before you were kicked off.  You still see the background image and any tiles added on, but for some reason the previous lines disappear.  We had one player that lost connection several times and essentially couldn't see the map except for a random splash of tiles.  This was fixed by using Screenshare to show off what we were seeing.  It worked well enough, even if it wasn't perfect.

Overall Impression

All in all, I'd say that if you are planning to play with a specific group and want to start up a brand new campaign that's completely different from previous worlds, Dawn of Worlds is an excellent way to collaborate.  I wish that there were more games like this one, because I like to have choices when I'm settling into a system, but this simple, free gem stands up pretty well on it's own.  So well, in fact, that I'm likely going to be posting more things about the world we made as we expand them more.

If you are interested, this is Ecletia the world we put together in it's raw, unedited form.  It's a little hard to tell what is what at the moment, but when I get around to making a better map it'll hopefully be clearer.  Seriously though, go out there and make your own world.  It's a ton of fun and at the end you don't just have another adventure completed; you have a world of adventure to start in.


  1. Some find that by not reading the rules that they allow themselves to be unhinged and express themselves more creatively and freely.

    1. Is that what happened there? I will say, I'm quite fond of some of the additions that strayed away from the rules a bit! Parity the creature of balance comes to mind as something that Dawn of Worlds really isn't prepared to handle but I think adds a lot. No word yet on whether the first Ecletia campaign will include it!