I have been working on homebrew class replacements for dungeon-world, and as part of this we have added "class triggers". Class triggers look like the compendium class triggers. However instead of them being fulfilled during a game to unlock further classes, players start with classes and have to explain how their character met the trigger in their backstory.
We love this system, because it helps people build their characters and share their backstories. It's often the case that you have the idea for a character because of the trigger, and that's great. Plus triggers help to give an idea of the class before they get into reading all the details. We put them at the top of the page, just below the class name.
So it's really important to us that the triggers be the best they can. In this question I wanted to ask about one of our triggers. The trigger is for the Thief and is:
When your flair for the dramatic, in an instant, ruins a heist you have been planning for months, you may take this class.
Now first let's start with what we like:
- A lot of players have an expectation that thieves are solitary, antisocial, and sneaky. This is mostly how the Vanilla thief is. Our class goes for a different archetype of a thief. We feel this trigger establishes the Thief is a class based more on charisma than anything. The thief is probably a bit brash, probably enjoys showing off, and certainly has a flair for the dramatic.
- The answers to this question often lead into other interesting questions. Since the player character failed their heist, what happened next? In play-testing we've had players go to prison, and escape or learn new skills and make connections, we've had players who are on the run from the law because of the failed heist. It seems to lead to interesting characterization.
Early on we felt that this trigger was one of our strongest triggers, and we frequently used it as a model. However as we've tested it we've found one hangup.
Most other triggers involve achieving something. Usually proving their worth, or discovering new talents. This trigger explicitly involves failing. This I think can end up being a little mean, since other characters start with cool achievements while the thief starts as with a major element of their backstory being about how they failed at being a thief.
But we are still unsure. There's a good deal positive, but something just feels a little off. And we're not sure why it feels off or what that means for us.
Usually when we are unsure we go to the GM principles for advice. These guide the whole game, so when something fits well with those principles we feel it fits well with the game, and when it doesn't that can maybe explain how or why something feels off or give guidance to fixing it. Looking at the principles we felt like it might go against the GM principle:
Be a fan of the players.
The players are supposed to face adversity, but I'm not sure if demanding that they fail something is adversity. There was never any chance of them succeeding the heist. On the other hand, when this worked well the players tended to overcome the adversity but in a different way. e.g. escaping from prison.
So the question then is: Does this go against the principles of Dungeon World?
I would love to hear someone explain how exactly this breaks the principles, or how it doesn't. I feel that would help us clarify how we feel about it.