I recently paid (on DriveThruRPG) to download a zipped file of the Dungeon World rules. I had read some favorable reviews which said, in effect, that it was obviously inspired by the original D&D approach, but that the DW creators had tried hard to keep the rules and mechanics pretty darn simple in order to keep the adventure moving along at a brisk pace when the Player Characters are in the middle of a dungeon. That sounded appealing, so I took the plunge and paid for the download.
I've been looking through the rules. I think I understand nearly all of what I've seen, in theory -- although I'd want to play in a few sessions before I was sure I grasped how it all fits together, in practice, if the GM (and everyone else) is "doing it right" -- but one paragraph really threw me for a loop by upsetting my previous assumptions.
In the "Getting Started" section, where the game's creators are offering advice to a GM on starting a new campaign from scratch, it offers examples of common questions which players are likely to ask while they are generating their new characters. Along with suggested answers to those common questions. The Q & A combo that stunned me was this:
Are there other wizards? Not really. There are other workers of arcane magic, and the common folk may call them wizards, but they’re not like you. They don’t have the same abilities, though they may be similar. Later on there may be another player character with the same class but no GM character will ever really be a wizard (or any other class).
As far as I can tell (after having looked at a lot of other stuff in the book), they never really elaborate upon the details of this distinction between player characters of a certain class (such as "Wizard"), and NPCs controlled by the GM who can use "similar" abilities when they set their minds to it. Which left me scratching my head as I tried to figure out what the ramifications of this briefly-stated "principle" might be.
Until I ran across that paragraph, I think I'd been assuming that if, let's say, a player creates an eager young Level 1 Wizard as her PC, it is at least implied that higher-level Wizards already exist somewhere in this new campaign world. Maybe not anywhere within a hundred miles of the Wizard PC's current location, and maybe they are very thin on the ground even when the adventuring party visits a major city (a national capital, for instance) at some later time in the campaign . . . but I'd assumed that more experienced and presumably much more powerful wizards still existed, somewhere offstage, even if the GM wasn't supposed to let them hog the spotlight by tagging along on the party's adventures.
But, in that paragraph I quoted, the implication seems to go along the following lines: "If you are a Level 1 Wizard, you are already the highest-level Wizard in the world. If you are a Level 1 Cleric, you are already the highest-level Cleric in the world. And so forth." I'm not sure how that would work in practice.
Is that quite what DW's creators are getting at? For instance, should I presume that until a Wizard PC reaches Level 3, there is no one on the face of the planet who can reliably perform a Level 3 spell from the "Wizard Spells" section of the rulebook, and so forth?
Or does "don't have the same abilities, but similar," mean the DW creators expect us to draw a much more subtle distinction -- something along the lines of the GM saying to the person playing a wizard: "the Big Bad can cast spells that look a heck of a lot like yours, but they don't have quite the same impact, since he is not truly 'a wizard' in the same special way that you are!"? Or what?
In short: As I asked in the title, what's the exact difference, in practical terms, between a PC who is of the Wizard class, and an NPC who just has "similar" arcane abilities? For instance, if it comes down to a violent showdown between the two at the climax of an adventure?