During its beta, I ran Stonetop pretty much Rules As Being Written, though we didn’t always update to the latest version.
As I wrote in my review of Stonetop, “My hacks to the system were minimal: integrating a Flashback move to keep things advancing, and experimenting with different forms of prep (threat maps, Monster of the Week countdowns).”
More often I brought in material that Jeremy Strandberg, Stonetop’s author, and Jason Lutes, his publisher, had created elsewhere.
For my Dungeon World campaign, I had hacked together this move:
When you propose that you took some previously undeclared action in the past that can affect the current situation, and the GM agrees, roll +INT. On a 10+, it’s as you specified. On a 7-9, it’s not quite what you specified; the GM can introduce a complication or a cost. On a miss, things have changed that you’re only now learning about.
[Adapted from an unnamed custom move in Apocalypse World 2e that begins “When you declare retroactively that you’ve already set something up…”]
Initially in my Stonetop campaign, we handled flashbacks informally and conversationally a few times, which resonated enough that I thought the move might be warranted.
However, when I first introduced this move to my Stonetop group, they only suggested using it comically or to cause time-travel paradoxes! “Well 20 years ago I planted a bunch of trees here so that we could use them for timber!” (No, no, you didn’t.)
My players eventually got into the spirit with which the move was intended. The ranger fired an arrow at the enemy, and it struck; while it only did 2 hp it exposed the enemy (who had been in partial cover). The conversation moved to the next player, then the ranger said, “By the way, I rubbed that arrowhead in deer scat before I fired it.” I had him roll Flashback, because that’s not a common practice of his character: he rolled a 10, we said that of course he had, and went on. That enemy fled to tend its wound. Considering that two players ended up at Death’s Door (the Stonetop equivalent of Last Breath), they needed every advantage they eked out that session.
I subsequently added that move to my Impulse Drive campaign (swapping out the stat). Bringing everything full circle, I’ve now added the move to our new Apocalypse World 2e campaign!
Other Custom Moves
I adapted the following move from Scout Ahead in The Perilous Wilds by Jason Lutes.
…And Back Again
When you return home across dangerous lands over many days, consume the number of rations needed. If you don’t have enough, drop your hit points by half and take a debility from the GM. If you have enough, roll +CON. On a 10+, restore your hit points to maximum, and the GM will share news with you now or at the start of your next session: an ominous sign, travelers who share an interesting rumor, or something you missed when last you traveled this way (a landmark, a curiosity, or a peril). On a 7-9, you endure the trip with no ill effects. On a 6-, mark XP and the GM will instruct you to mark a debility, describing what happened to make you weakened (STR/DEX), dazed (INT/WIS), miserable (CON/CHA). [Dungeon World: weak (STR), shaky (DEX), sick (CON), stunned (INT), confused (WIS), or scarred (CHA).]
I originally created this move to provide a quick way back to the village of Stonetop at the end of the session but ended up using it for a quick return home in Dungeon World as well. The design goal is to advance the story while not delaying the conclusion of a session with any setbacks.
A problem with the move is that Seasons Change and none of the negatives matters (Seasons Change advances the time by months). So the negatives were only an issue when the next session starts right after in fictional time—when they’ve brought an NPC back and need to work through that, when things have been going wrong at Stonetop while they’re gone, etc. As a result, I toyed with moving “an ominous sign” to the 6- and moving towards worsened fictional positioning for the next session, but I never re-wrote that move in that way. I’m tinkering with it again for my AW2 campaign.
I also used some of Jeremy’s moves from his supplement, Drowning & Falling.
Perilous Almanacs: The Paths of Ateşkazé
In my article, Anti-Canon in Stonetop, I mention rolling up some encounters with the Ustrina, mysterious underground dwellers that my PCs encountered underneath Gordin’s Delve. As my PCs journeyed deeper and deeper, I decided to use “The Paths of Ateşkazé,” a starter from Perilous Almanacs: Adventure-ready Regions for Dungeon World. These two pages describe a forested cavern, surrounding tunnels, and a nearby dungeon.
Two of my PCs swam through a flooded tunnel in the Labyrinth under Gordin’s Delve—using Jeremy’s Drowning move from Drowning & Falling—and discovered Orman Magara, the forested cavern. They explored tunnels looking for an unflooded passage to return. The “Obstacle – Difficult Passage” table, rolled with a d12, lists nine passages. When the players rolled a number they had rolled before, I just read the next unused item from the table. After exploring 6 passages they found a chimney which they climbed upward to find the tunnel the rest of the party were waiting in. Two of my players (a married couple) are cavers, and they absolutely loved the descriptions of passages—they said it felt very realistic, so much so that a couple times they had to stop and tell us a story out of character about their caving.
We ran a few sessions in and around Orman Magara, before moving on to the dungeon fortress nearby.
The Perilous Wilds
The dungeon the PCs then encountered was very briefly described. As luck would have, Jason Lutes was looking for beta testers for his revised edition of The Perilous Wilds (now published). The new dungeon-generating procedures worked great, and the dungeon I created provided content for another three or so sessions.
Near this dungeon, I wanted to integrate material from Jason’s Servants of the Cinder Queen module, but that never came to fruition.
Some other customizations of Stonetop I’ve seen, but not yet used, are these two custom playbooks:
- The Stranger – “In every community there are those who embrace the things that others fear. You are one such soul, at home in the moon-light, adrift in the dawn. Tell me, are you the black goat of Stonetop? Or are you the wolf that stalks its herd?”
- The Harbinger – “There’s trouble coming. You can feel it in your bones, smell it on the wind. And these ‘nice’ folk aren’t ready. They need you, Harbinger: to put the fear in them, to prepare them for the worst. And if they cross you? Well, you can always cause a little trouble yourself.”
Like most PbtA games, Stonetop is easy to customize to your table. The wealth of other material from Jeremy Strandberg and Jason Lutes makes customizing Stonetop even easier.
Note: You can pre-order Stonetop here.