I'm looking at FAE or Dungeon World for a first RPG for some ~11 year olds with me as a GM (who hasn't played anything but AD&D in nearly 30 years). The kids are interested in a D&D style setting, being fans of Skyrim & LOTR, so having a system of traditional classes & magic worked out is definitely needed. My goal is to have 1-2 games in the next 4 weeks and hope that we can all get up to speed fairly quickly.

I see the games taking 2-3h, with a prefab setting involved (Freeport or something similar - or a conversion of an old AD&D campaign). I would like to engage the players in a quest of some sort so it's more than just wandering & exploring. I have no desire to plan things out to a T - that's why I'd like a detailed setting with some flexibility. I see deciding with the kids how they all know each other when creating characters and then starting off the story in a place like Freeport, where I can describe the setting, let them explore and nudge them along by interactions with NPCs towards a quest (finding treasure might be the most fun to start). I want the kids to have fun and respect their creativity (also another reason I'd like a detailed setting).

What say you? What are the pros & cons of FAE vs Dungeon World with those ideas in mind?


4 Answers 4


I have experience bringing kids (my own son and his friends) into RPGs. I have experience with Dungeon World. I have experience with Fate and FAE. However - I do not have experience introducing kids to RPGs with Dungeon World or FAE. Just to be explicitly clear.

With that being said, as the probable instigator of this question, I feel that it is incumbent upon me to at least attempt an answer, so here goes:

Both games are products of a new school of game design. They fall into a category I will call here Fiction First. In neither game is the answer to the question What do you do? present on the character sheet. Ever.

In a Fiction First game, the game is played by talking - it is a conversation, where the GM describes situations and then poses the essential question of roleplaying, What do you do? Players answer and the GM rolls the outcome of their answers back into the fiction and the cycle continues, permutes, and repeats.

Dungeon World

Dungeon World is a very focused game, and it is focused upon the very genre you want to play. It is an excellent game in general, and has been an excellent vehicle for me to introduce new players - character creation is fun and collaborative and results in parties that are connected before the start of the adventure. When I warned before of the different principles, here is what I was warning you about:

Dungeon World is derived from the groundbreaking game Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker. One part of the brilliance of AW that shines through in DW is the concept of Moves. Moves encapsulate the mechanics of Dungeon World. You've seen them. Player moves read like this:

When you attack an enemy in melee, roll+Str. ✴On a 10+, you deal your damage to the enemy and avoid their attack. At your option, you may choose to do +1d6 damage but expose yourself to the enemy’s attack. ✴On a 7–9, you deal your damage to the enemy and the enemy makes an attack against you.

That's Hack and Slash, a basic player move, from the DW SRD.

The structure of a move is very important - it defines an inflection point in the fiction - a point at which the mechanics kick in - and describes simply but exactly what to do and how to fold the result back into the fiction. A move is invoked by an action in the fiction that triggers it. But a player may never state, "I Hack and Slash the ogre!" - The player has to describe something that triggers the move instead. This is what I mean about the answer not being on the character sheet. This is confusing to some people, especially those used to selecting options from video game menus or boardgame actions.

But Dungeon World is an asymmetrical game. You, the GM, are not playing the same game as the players are. The GM has moves, yes, but they are not the same as player moves. They do not have a trigger/roll/consequence structure. You, as the GM, will probably never roll dice. I usually have my players roll damage for my monsters and other threats. Your moves are things that just happen in the fiction. You say it, it happens. From the gazeteer:

Whenever everyone looks to you to see what happens choose one of these. Each move is something that occurs in the fiction of the game—they aren't code words or special terms. "Use up their resources" literally means to expend the resources of the characters, for example.

  • Use a monster, danger, or location move
  • Reveal an unwelcome truth
  • Show signs of an approaching threat
  • Deal damage
  • Use up their resources
  • Turn their move back on them
  • Separate them
  • Give an opportunity that fits a class’ abilities
  • Show a downside to their class, race, or equipment
  • Offer an opportunity, with or without cost
  • Put someone in a spot
  • Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask

So - players take fictional actions and trigger moves. You use your moves to create fictional actions and / or situations. If a monster has a move like Call for reinforcements, that's exactly what it is - but there will be no check, no percentage chance that reinforcements hear them - what happens is what makes sense in the story. Are all the other goblins (or whatever) dead? Did they already call for reinforcements? Did the players already eliminate or make a deal with those reinforcements? Are they too far from the lair to hear? That's all up to you and what makes sense given the story so far.

You don't really need much in the way of a planned adventure for Dungeon World, I have found. A juicy starting situation and a little local information, plus whatever you think would be super fun to throw at the players is usually plenty. The events tend to spin off on their own as players act and the rules are engaged.


Fate Core (and FAE, by extension) is a generic game - not generic in the bad sense of "low quality" or "one-size-fits none". Rather, FAE is generic in that it is designed to create adventurous stories through play, while the genre forms, tropes, settings, and specifics of those stories are outside the scope of the system.

The heart of Fate is Characters - though many mistake the (once-novel, now at least 8 years old) concept of Aspects for the game's core. Aspects are great, and they were once novel, and they changed the way I play everything. But you'll understand it better if you think of it as Characters - thus, the Fate Fractal. From the SRD:

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.

Aspects are just one piece of Characters, and a very flexible piece, but don't forget you have the whole palette of tools to choose from and get stuck using just aspects.

The brilliance of Fate Core (and therefore FAE, I'm going to stop mentioning it now) is the distillation of everything in the game down into just four actions:

  • Attack
  • Defend
  • Overcome
  • Create an Advantage

While Dungeon World provides specific moves that guide play out of the fiction, into the mechanics, and back, Fate sets general guidelines that do the same things. So one set of mechanics governs every interaction between the mechanics and the fiction, dispelling the need for the profusion of systems and subsystems that practically defined early RPGs.

So if your player says, "I want to take careful aim with my crossbow so I can be sure to hit the bad guy and not the hostage!" you take that as Creating an Advantage instead of consulting the book to find out if aiming is a free action, whether the player meets the minimum dexterity requirement, what the aim bonus for their particular crossbow is, etc. If they succeed in creating the advantage, you create the aspect You're in my sights! and proceed with play.

If you need something more complicated - the canonical example is On fire! - you can give it skills, like Burn for example, to take actions (like attacking or moving) with, and a stress track to show how far it is from being put out.

Fate isn't completely agnostic about what kind of stories it is designed to tell. What Fate seeks to model is adventure fiction - fun, exciting stories about interesting people doing risky things. And it does a great job of it.


  • Neither game is hard to run or play.
  • Neither is particularly expensive
  • Both games are more similar to each other than to AD&D
  • Both are wonderful games and I would not hesitate to use either one in the situation you describe
  • If forced to choose, I would say Dungeon World - because in your instance, you have only a short time to play. If you had all summer, you might find that the broader scope of Fate allowed you to explore more genres.
  • \$\begingroup\$ The similarities are what have me on the fence. With the time constraints involved, DW makes sense - yet we can play via Skype too. But I like that both are played by talking - these kids will eat that up. We'll go with DW for the immediate time and look to Fate in the future. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 30, 2014 at 16:23

After a quick chat with @Joshua Aslan Smith, I feel good about Dungeon World due to the lesser use of mechanical terms when playing. This is what he said that convinced me:

So as one of the commentators said basically the majority of Dungeon worlds rules are on the GM side I should find some play examples (also if you watch that video someone linked on the original question where I first suggested it) So everything on the character sheet and the basic & advanced moves are things players can do but they never call out to those You don't say I'm going to break bars and bend gates (fighter ability) to the GM You say, I/character name is going to try to bash the door open for any normal character you'd probably just have them roll a strength check saying "roll 2d6, add str mod" except knowing the character is a fighter and has bend bars and break gates that they would get to apply the roll to that instead of a basic check classes with spells are more complicated, but the weapon focused classes like fighter or ranger are very straight forward...

I like Fate as well, its all about the rise and fall and heroic journey, that failure is never a waste but fuels future success but while fate is narratively focused, you still use mechanical terms when playing "I spend a fate point to tag an enemy with "Lost in the dark" Im going to roll my wits to try to outsmart this guy in the poker game etc. In dungeon world the players shouldnt really ever mention the mechanics Fate is like you an author writing a story about your character, Dungeon world is like your an actor playing your character

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer mirrors my experience. In my experience, the GM makes the experience with Dungeon World. Based on your experience level above, the Fate system mechanics will likely seem more familiar to you and thus Fate ought to take less prep time. However, I personally find DW more rewarding than Fate for players in this age group. Food for thought. \$\endgroup\$
    – neontapir
    Apr 29, 2014 at 23:54

Your mention of Freeport leads me to think that the Fate Freeport Companion may be what you want to look at. While it is not Fate Accelerated it is a similar lite setup in terms of mechanics.

As for Fate compared to Dungeon World. I find Fate extraordinary straightforward to run. The problem with most games with universal mechanics is they can wind up pretty bland in terms of being a game. In my experience Fate clever choices largely avoids this allow the referee to easily construct as series of rolls that are both interesting and simple.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I found that when considering Fate, seems cool. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2014 at 17:06

You might want to look at John Harpers World of Dungeons, which is like the accelerated edition of Dungeon World (you can download it at the front page of http://www.dungeon-world.com/)

There is a fun thread on Story Games show how far you can get with these simple rules here

John Harper further developed the idea in Wildlings, a game that has a strong family resemblance to World of Dungeons, and has plenty of cues for kids. I daresay you could combine ideas from both documents and have a nice very simple toolkit to run games. (the above link to the discussion about the game has download links)

  • \$\begingroup\$ In World of Dungeons all moves are folded in one die rolling procedure, so people who have no preconceptions from crunch-heavy games understand 'fictional positioning' (see: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/31791) intuitively. I tried this two times with people of no prior RPG experience (but none below the age of 16), for that i offer the actual play descriptions in the "dungeon girls thread". \$\endgroup\$
    – semiomant
    Jun 6, 2014 at 15:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ World of Dungeons is an easier entrance to gaming because you just need to learn a few paragraphs of rules, create character very quickly and delve right into playing. If you want more structure later, the basic idea rolling 2d6 and interpreting outcome ranges still holds true when upgrading to Dungeon World. The entrance threshold of WoD is much lower compared to DW. Experience has shown that you should only expect difficulties if you relied on crunch (lots of rules) to carry the game before, or if all players at the table are RPG newbies. \$\endgroup\$
    – semiomant
    Jun 6, 2014 at 16:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Much thanks - that is pretty easy. I found that DW itself worked out well for a couple of 11yos, both of whom liked the depth of DW right off the bat. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 6, 2014 at 17:02

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