Languages in Dungeon WorldUsing languages that the player characters are not supposed to understand has always been tricky for me in games. I’ve always been of the opinion that if there is something important that the characters need to know, just tell them! However, in the back of the Planarch Codex, one of the Kickstarter supplements for Dungeon World, I noticed the following move that caught my imagination:

When you interact with someone and don’t share a common way of speaking or doing business, roll+Cha. On a 10+, choose 3. On a 7-9, choose 2. On a miss, choose 1 but they’re clearly not happy with you.
• you make yourself understood
• you grasp more-or-less what they want
• you don’t look like a fool, child, or asshole
• you catch something they didn’t intend you to understand
• you make progress in learning how to interact with these people; start a new countdown or fill in a box of an existing one

The GM should use the number of filled-in boxes in your countdowns as a measure of your fluency, helping determine when to roll this move.

Countdowns were introduced earlier in the Codex, essentially you draw three to six boxes on your sheet (depending on length or in this case difficulty of learning a given language) and the GM can give you incentives to progress down them, or make progressing down them part of a move, etc. When they are full, a thing happens. In this case it would be “Become fluent in language X”

This seems like a great way to have languages be part of a game, because no matter what you roll, the player will always have the option to understand what they want, and can choose a level of understanding that reflects how important they think the conversation is.

Inspired by this, I’ve come up with language related moves for the other mental traits:

When you study a written text in a language that you are not fluent in, roll+Int. On a 10+, choose 3. On a 7-9, choose 2. On a miss, you can choose only 1.
• You grasp the purpose of the text. (It’s a warning sign, It’s a treatise on herbology, It’s the name of this mine shaft, etc.)
• You understand more-or-less the literal meaning of what has been written.
• You glean a hidden meaning, metatextual element or cultural context.
• You don’t take a long time.
• You make progress in learning how to read this language; start a new countdown or fill in a box of an existing one.

When you actively listen to a language that you are not fluent in, roll+Wis. On a hit, you understand the conversation, more-or-less. On a 10+, choose 2. On a 7-9, choose 1.
• You gain additional information about the speakers. (Where they are from, level of education, etc.)
• You understand a reference not meant for the casual listener.
• It isn’t obvious that you understand what is being said.
• You make progress in learning how to understand this language; start a new countdown or fill in a box of an existing one.

I think these moves would be great in a game where you’ve already asked your players “What is your character’s home language?” and maybe “What language is your character trying to learn?”. They could even start with a Countdown partially filled out!

This is another compendium class for the Dungeon World game I am running.

Bloodbound Magus

The Bloodbound Magus has researched Alien Beings of the Otherworld, and dabbled in the magics only whispered of in the dungeons beneath the great schools of magic. When you complete a magic ritual that binds you to an otherworldly being create a bond with the otherworldly entity. The next time you level up, take the following move:

DARK PAST: You have dabbled in the worst sorts of mystical arts and tied yourself to an otherworldly being or cosmic horror of immense scope and notable inability to relate to the morals of man. When you trawl through your memories or reach out on your connection to a greater being for something relevant to the situation at hand roll + Int or Wis. On a 10+ ask the DM two questions from the list below. On a 7-9 ask one question. On a miss, you can ask one question anyways, but that means you were personally complicit in creating the situation you are dealing with now. The questions are:

  • When I dealt with this creature (or one of its kind) what did I learn?
  • What black magic do I know that could help here?
  • Do I know anyone who might be behind this?
  • Who do I know who can help us right now?

If you took DARK PAST, count the following moves as class moves for you; you can choose them when you level up.

BLOOD MAGIC – When you cast a spell you can choose to fuel the magic with your own blood. You can spend Hit Points one for one to a maximum of a +3 bonus to the roll. You must make this decision before your roll.

DESTINY’S PLAYTHING – At the beginning of each session, roll + Bonds with your otherworldly entity to see what is revealed about your immediate future. On at 10+ the GM will reveal a useful detail about an upcoming adventure. On a 7-9 you get a vague hint about it. On a miss, something bad is going to happen to you.

SPEAK WITH BLOOD – When you have time to complete a short ritual, and a sample of someone’s blood, you can summon forth the secrets trapped within. Roll + Int or Wis, on a 10+ hold 3; on a 7-9 hold 1. While you are speaking with the blood, spend your hold one for one to ask the GM or relevant player the following questions:

  • What was your character’s lowest moment?
  • For what does your character crave forgiveness? and of whom?
  • What are your character’s secret pains?
  • In what ways are your character’s mind and soul vulnerable?

On a miss, you alert the owner of the blood sample of your location and the nature of the ritual you were attempting to perform.

One of the coolest concepts from Dungeon World is the idea of the Compendium Class.  Conceptually it is an idea similar to Dungeons and Dragon 3.x Prestige Classes, or D&D 4e Paragon Paths / Epic Destinies. What I like about the implementation if it is that they require specific fictional conditions before you can use them, but they are short and simple enough to create that if there is a specific request from a player or need for your campaign, it doesn’t take too long to grab and re-skin some moves from other classes, or other Apocalypse World based games and come up with something thematic and very relevant to the game you are playing in.

I’ve built a few Compendium Classes for my current Dungeon World game that I plan to share on this blog.  The first one, Karnarath Penitentiary Tracker, can be found below.

Karnarath Penitentiary Tracker

When you sell your soul to the devils of Karnarath Penitentiary, you take whatever job they give you. For you, they have decided that you will hunt down the blackguards and monsters that haunt the world for the rest of eternity. The next time you level up take the following move:

IMMORTAL SERVANT – You are immortal, and will never die from old age. In addition when you use the LAST BREATH move, instead of bargaining with Death, you will bargain with the current owner of your soul.

If you took IMMORTAL SERVANT, count the following moves as class moves for you; you can choose them when you level up.

HOT PURSUIT (Roll + Wis) – When you follow a trail of clues left behind by passing creatures, roll+WIS.

On a 7+, you follow the creature’s trail until there’s a significant change in its direction or mode of travel.

On a 10+, you also choose 1:

  • Gain a useful bit of information about your quarry, the GM will tell you what
  • Determine what caused the trail to end

SOULGAZE (Roll + Wis) – When you want to figure out what someone is thinking or feeling, roll+WIS.

On a 10+ hold 3; on a 7-9 hold 1.

While you’re interacting with them, spend your hold to ask questions about the character, 1 hold per question:

  • Are they telling the truth?
  • What are they really feeling?
  • What do they intend to do?
  • What do they wish I would do?
  • How could I get them to _____?
BRING THEM IN ALIVE – Take +1 forward when performing actions to incapacitate or secure your quarry so they can arrive at Karnarath Penitentiary alive.
Mine is a Noble Class

Mine is a Noble Class

This weekend I was part of a particularly awesome Dungeon World session. In the climatic battle, our GM described an attacking NPC as casting a magic spell targeting my character, a Fighter. The words of the spell were projected into the air as the NPC recited them.  My reaction was stab the spell while it was in progress and attempt to interrupt it through sheer physical force. This translated in-game to a Defy Danger roll using +STR.

While Defy Danger works well for dealing with that on the fly, I felt the concept should be expanded into a full move if I were to use it in the future. That I leveled that session and needed a new move may have also been an inspiration.

The physical classes don’t have a proper spell interrupt move in Dungeon World.  One exists for the Wizard: Counterspell. It can translated easily enough to classes that use spells. The cost of a staked spell means it can’t be used by non-spellcasting classes via multiclass moves.

Spellbreaker/Protective Spellbreaker is based off of Counterspell/Protective Counter. It replaces the cost of a staked spell with a debility of the GM’s choice and changes the +INT modifier to +STR. The debility is a big cost, but even a partial success is going to null any effect of the spell. If you want to get the job done, you’re going to have to put something on the line.

Spellbreaker (Levels 2 – 5)

When you attempt to break an spell that will otherwise affect you, roll+Str. On a 10+, the spell is interrupted and has no effect on you. On a 7-9, the spell is interrupted, but you suffer a debility of the GM’s choice as magical energy is conducted to the ground through you. Your spellbreak protects only you; if the interrupted spell has other targets they suffer its effects.

Protective Spellbreaker  (Levels 6 – 10)

When an ally within sight of you is affected by an spell, you can interrupt it as if it affected you. If the spell affects multiple allies you must interrupt for each ally separately.