When a you roll last breath "On a miss, your fate is sealed. You’re marked as Death’s own and you’ll cross the threshold soon. The GM will tell you when."

Sometimes, the fictional positioning can allow you to keep the character alive until the end of the session, though they are marked for death and in a bad shape. It can be made known to the players that the character will officially die at the end of the session.

Sometimes, though, it may be more difficult because they somehow died early in the session or there is no satisfying way to handwave their death temporarily.

This is where my question comes in: some people let the play switch POV to a hireling but how do you do that in a satisfying way?

Hirelings don't have a character sheet. Do you draw up a sheet mid-session? If you use the stats from the hireling (Warrior, Burglar etc.) how do they map to the usual player stats for basic moves? Do they have a class?

  • \$\begingroup\$ What are you looking for in an answer? I'm not sure there are official rules on this, so answers are likely going to be opinion based. \$\endgroup\$
    – lucasvw
    Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @lucasvw I would like as close to a canonical answer as possible. However, considering that hacking is encouraged even within the rules, a third party solution is fine too. As long as it upholds the GM agenda and principles. \$\endgroup\$
    – NeRoboto
    Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 21:14
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ if your player has died, they're not going to be playing a hireling or much of anything else \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex M
    Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 18:29

2 Answers 2


Believe it or not, the rules state this directly:

No matter the prospects of resurrection for now you make a new character. Maybe a hireling becomes a full-fledged adventurer worthy of a whole share and a part in the real action... In any case, make your new character as you normally would at level 1. (Dungeon World, First Edition, p. 24)

Narratively, the hireling goes from being a redshirt in the background to one of the stars of the show. Just create the PC as you would, with the caveat that you've already played to find out at least some of their backstory, personality, etc.

Mechanically, the hireling status goes away, to be replaced by the PC's playbook.

The only thing I can think of that might make trouble is discrepancies between the hireling's gear as established in the fiction (if established), and the PC's equipment. And at that point, you can work with the player and party to work out how the PC has (or gets) these things.

  • \$\begingroup\$ To clarify, are you saying that you stop in the heat of fiction to build the character sheet or do it after the session? And if after the session, what do you do until then? \$\endgroup\$
    – NeRoboto
    Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 5:20
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @LordRatte That sounds like one of those up-to-the-DM situations. The DM could continue to run the hireling while the player whips up a provisional character sheet, or he could make it on the snack break. When its ready, the player takes over, and completes the character sheet after the session. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 5:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LordRatte The rules don't specify. You'll need to (or put another way, you're free to) make a judgment call on your own, depending on the particulars of your situation. If you share those details (by editing them into your question), we can advise you on how we'd handle them, and in fact RPG.SE tends to yield more concrete, focused, and overall useful answers this way. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 6:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note taken, StopBeingEvil, thank you. @ShawnV.Wilson I guess my question I was trying to ask (without the right vocabulary for it) was "What does it take to make a provisional character sheet without breaking the flow of the game?". But the impression I'm getting is that it's each GM to themselves. Is this the case? It's quite daunting if it is. \$\endgroup\$
    – NeRoboto
    Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 7:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @LordRatte You can also talk to more experienced GMs for advice on how to deal with this. The only time I had to deal with a death mid-session that wouldn't wait, the player who died rolled stats for a new character while the others finished the decisive battle, and some of the session was used to introduce the new character and the other players helping "settle the affairs" of the deceased character (so the new guy ended up with some of the deceased's equipment, for example) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 17, 2021 at 13:13

No one "somehow dies" in Dungeon World.

Yes, philosophically, all adventurers are mortal, each adventurer's death is an accident, nobody wakes up in the morning thinking "well, I guess this is the day the Apocalypse Dragon dissolves me into chaos". However, mechanically, nobody takes damage unless you the GM decide they do. (Okay, some player moves like Penitent involve self-initiated-harm, but you the GM are also deciding whether or not to allow them, so.)

Dungeon World is not a game that works well if you decide not to interest yourself about the player characters and their abilities and their hit points and armor, so you, the GM, should always know how much armor and how many hit points each of your players have at all times. This isn't super challenging - armor is a single digit and hit points are low doubles at best. So you know, when you're thinking about dealing damage, whether or not that damage is going to kill somebody.

You should be a fan of the characters, right? Give them what they've earned, don't take away what makes them interesting? If this is an interesting time to die, if it's a finale they've earned, sure, go ahead. Otherwise, when it comes time to make a GM move, you have "deal damage" and at least a dozen other options. Pick one that makes sense. If "nothing else makes sense", that's a sign that you might have incautiously set up a scene and ad-libbed some opposition in there without a clear idea of what they wanted there so you're defaulting to murder. But that's a terrible default. Take some time out to think.

But when a PC gets an interesting death, that's in the process of trying to resolve something important, right? And the thing about resolving something important is that there's time afterward to reflect on less important things. Like: Warlord Krozar is dead, the orc armies are in full retreat... what are we to do with Fightgar's broken body?

Be a fan of the replacement, too.

So from the question it sounds like you might have this idea that Fightgar dives to protect Clericsdottir, takes Warlord Krozar's axe to his entire ribcage, remains conscious just long enough to see she's safe -- and then, in an instant, the spark of protagonism jumps over to Regdar the hired bodyguard, who has suddenly obtained a signature weapon and a desire to bend lift some gate bars.

But that's not really fair to anybody, is it? You're not going to just demand everybody break this fight, so Steve, player of Fightgar, can make a new character. Part of what made Fightgar interesting can be summed up as he will be missed. Let him be missed! At least for a little bit. Besides, maybe Steve has a hankering for one of the other options:

Maybe a hireling becomes a full-fledged adventurer worthy of a whole share and a part in the real action. Maybe the characters in the party find a new friend in a steading, willing to join them. Maybe your character had a vengeful family member who now seeks to take up their blades and spells to make right what happened. In any case, make your new character as you normally would at level 1.

-- "After Death", from the repo's Playing the Game section

but neither of those other options could be fifteen feet away from Warlord Krozar and closing fast. Please don't pressure Steve to take up a character he doesn't want just for the sake of making the next ten minutes a little more interesting to him.

If Steve wants to take up Regdar, then you can pick up with Regdar at the same time you'd pick up with Bightgar, brother to Fightgar, arrived from afar on a mission of vengeance, or perhaps with John the Gold, guard captain and friend to the party who had to organize the last line of defense against Warlord Krozar. You'd have the whole aftermath of that interesting event to give Steve's new character a proper introduction, explain the bonds, maybe let Regdar pick up a proper Fighter's set of starting equipment if that's the way it broke.

You have enough time to give this brand new character what they've earned: a proper introduction as its own focus, not saying how-do-you-dos with Warlord Krozar still waving his bloody axe around screaming for covering fire.


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