Races are really accessories in Dungeon World. How can you translate more potent races (or race features) from other settings to Dungeon World?

For instance I'm trying to make an Eberron game using Dungeon World (I think the sytem would work really well for the setting) but when it comes to advantages and new races with special abilities I'm not sure how to proceed.

Changelings can disguise themselves at will into non-specific individuals. I shouldn't give them a level 6-10 thief ability for free that would be too much I think. So what can I do? Create a new move for the changeling saying that they can pass as any other race? Making the disguise more for specific disguise situation?

What about Warforged that don't need to sleep and eat etc. How do you handle it and what's the point for other characters to not take it. How do you balance those choices.

I'd like to add Dragonmarks as well but they are really powerful gifts. Should I create a "race" called Dragonmarked and say that you are simply a dragonmarked version of another (valid) race?

What about Drows in Forgotten Realm? How would you translate their ability to create shadows? All moves? But how does free moves like this balance in the game mechanics?

Related question: Playing Dungeon World in an established setting


Nothing in Dungeon World is a straight conversion of D&D – everything is re-imagined. Even the base classes provided can't be used to convert a D&D character straight across (for example, in stock DW there's no way you can make a Dwarven Druid, while you can easily do so in D&D 3.x without creating a house rules). A straight conversion of new material is never going to be simple. To convert new material, you have to re-imagine it fresh, with the aim of capturing the flavour and style of the material instead of the raw abilities.

For complex or powerful races, you are actually better off creating a new playbook for the race, with a few optional abilities to pick depending on what class they are. So instead of picking up the Fighter book and choosing a Fighter-class Drow racial ability, you pick up the Drow book and pick a Drow-race Fighter class ability. Doing it this way you get a very Dungeon World–style character: they're the one Drow (or Warforged, or Dragonmarked, or …) in the party, and their abilities have a flavour and mix that is unique to them.

You still have the challenge of balancing a new playbook, but you avoid the mess that can easily result from hacking up and rebalancing the existing class books.

  • \$\begingroup\$ A similar situation comes up in Rifts, and the approach to fixing it is similar. \$\endgroup\$ – TimothyAWiseman Mar 5 '13 at 16:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Conversely, a DW druid at level 1 can shapeshift any number of times per day. For D&D druids, that's a max level capstone ability in 5e and unattainable in 3.5e. \$\endgroup\$ – Joel Harmon Nov 5 '16 at 13:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ It may be interesting to note that this suggested tackle on the issue is more or less how the original D&D handled this stuff - "Elf" was actually a class back then! \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar - Reinstate Monica Feb 13 '17 at 10:09

This is the answer I would have given now that I know more about the game concepts.

Races in Dungeon World aren't meant to be a full set of special features fully documented. That part is just assumed in fiction. For instance Dwarf can see in the dark, you don't need to document that fact. Same for Elves speak Elven or halfling being small.

What you have to do when you create new races is to ask yourself : How would that race use the best of his abilities in the context of being a 'insert playbook'. A Changeling thief might be an expert in disguise so you could give him a move that when he defies danger using a disguise he takes +1, Which is similar to the halfling move for the fighter in concept. It is really specific and open to creativity.

Like 7d said, really powerful races should have their own playbook. Warforged Juggernaut and Drow noble are good examples I think.

For races that defy the common knowledge of players, just present the option and explain to the players what are broad lines of that race. Changelings are half human, half doppelganger able to change their appearance. Nothing more. Ask questions to your player about how that would inspire him.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes! In fact, I dislike my answer now that I'm running DW more. There's a few good thoughts in it, but I really should make compendium classes the core of the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 5 '13 at 16:32

An important thing to remember about DW that is different than D&D, is that the DW characters start out as heroes, not as first level mooks. They already are powerful. If an Eberron race can change shape at will or whatever, why wouldn't a DW race be able to do it. If you are worried about tipping the scales or other players complaining, then boost all the race moves to RE-balance the scales.

Remember your GM Principles and you'll be golden.

In response to another reply: "...for example, there's no way you can make a Halfling Druid in DW..." I believe you are mistaken. The way to do it is to make a halfling druid move. Adding to the rules does not break the rules.

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    \$\begingroup\$ And actually there's an halfling move for druid already \$\endgroup\$ – user4000 Jan 25 '13 at 13:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MrJinPengyou Is there? I must have an out-of-date playbook set… \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 25 '13 at 15:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I got the book very recently from Drive-thru so maybe they updated it \$\endgroup\$ – user4000 Jan 25 '13 at 15:59

A lot of a race is just descriptive, so you can just describe your character's actions and capabilities.

The simplest mechanical way, a good first step, is to write new racial/class moves. Pick one special thing about that race with that class, and write up a move that encompasses it. If you want to get more elaborate, you can write some custom moves or write a compendium class that adds racial moves for advancement.


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