Tuesday, December 3, 2013

My Life, Powered by the Apocalypse

About a year ago, while reading Dungeon World and preparing for a game, I wrote a little "life-hack" of one of the core concepts of the book.

See, in Dungeon World, the game is framed within a conversation. The GM says something, the players respond to what was said, the GM responds to the response, and so on and so forth. Virtually every RPG since D&D has done this, but Dungeon World, along with its father game, Apocalypse World, is one of the very first games I've come across to directly call out this exchange, and to identify it as an important mechanic of the game. As the conversation between GM and players continues on, occasionally the players trigger what Dungeon World calls "moves," which are little blocks of rules that sort of channel what can happen next. GM's have moves, too, although rather than being hard blocks of rules, GM moves tend to be more oriented on the story, what the GM would say to the players under certain circumstances.

Anyways, those moves, and everything else the GM says, is guided by a three-item agenda:

1. Make Dungeon World seem real.
2. Fill the characters' lives with danger.
3. Play to find out what happens.

The techniques and guidelines a GM uses to carry out that agenda are called principles. There are about a dozen of them, which, if you're curious, you're welcome to look up here at the free online version of Dungeon World: http://book.dwgazetteer.com/

So where does my life-hack come in? Well, as I played Dungeon World, I realized that having an agenda, and using the principles to follow it, create a fun game. Dungeon World is at its best when the agenda and the principles are being followed to the letter.

So, I thought...Dungeon World runs smoothly because of its agenda and principles. Would my life run smoothly with an agenda and principles? And so, back in the winter of 2012, I wrote this:

The GM's Guide to Life

The Agenda:

1. Have fun
2. Take care of yourself
3. Think ahead

The Principles:

1. Ask lots of questions
2. Write everything down
3. Drink water & eat healthy
4. Spend quality time with your spouse
5. Connect with friends & family
6. Schedule appointments, plan events
7. Be honest and communicative, with others and yourself
8. Practice your skills & learn new ones
9. Listen to your body
10. Get what you deserve

I printed this out and showed it to my wife back then. She said it was possibly the greatest thing I'd ever written. So, thanks for that, Dungeon World!

However, I had forgotten about this little guide...until just now. While combing through my emails for something else, I found a copy of it I had emailed to myself. So I've printed it out and posted it on the board next to my desk, so hopefully I don't forget about it again.

Now, a caveat. I wrote this guide for myself, eyeing up my individual strengths and weaknesses. For you, dear reader, your agenda and principles could be different. I came up with this agenda for myself by taking a quick look at my life and identifying a few trends...what my recurring problems were, what things I wish I did more of...things like that. So your mileage may vary, as they say. If you want to start living your life by this guide, I highly recommend you edit it as necessary to fit your own goals, ambitions, and fears.

So, yeah...this is basically proof that role-playing games CAN allow you to live a better life. Or something. So play more RPGs!


  1. This is a wonderful idea. I was reflecting upon the possible "GM moves" that might help implement the principles. A GM move is what you do when the players look at you for what's next, right? So a move in this lifehack context might be what you do when you have a few moments. Some of the principles might actually become moves with this way of thinking.

    A friend suggested the move "check in with your spouse", which is excellent.

    Here's an initial list of moves I'm considering:

    Continue your current task
    Check in with your spouse
    Learn something new
    Improve a skill
    Review your system
    Drink or eat if needed

    1. These moves are a great start! Here's a couple I've thought of:

      -Contact someone and see how they're doing (a more general riff on "Check in with your spouse"
      -Read an article or a few pages of a novel
      -Take a walk
      -Write (about 100-250 words, any topic, fiction or non)


My Own Loser Path

"If you're a Sym main, please exit the stream," was the description yesterday of one of the Overwatch Twitch streams I follow....