Is there anything I should be aware of if I were to choose to create a campaign with no classes?

I was thinking of simply giving everyone "starting skill points" that they could spend toward a skill tree that branches off to different specialties (even class based). Say a player chooses to place his starting points on some ranged attacks and continues on a similar path but with the option to choose other branches if the skill is within the "path".

Any ideas or experience doing something similar with Dungeon World?

  • \$\begingroup\$ The creators have said before that you could just pick from all the moves and the game would work. I may be able to track down the link/quote... \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 26 '13 at 8:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah didn't think about that. So in theory I could do the same with custom moves.. \$\endgroup\$ – RBlack Dec 26 '13 at 16:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've seen it for one-shot starters. I swear I saw a John Harper scenario where you all start as slaves in a mine, but I can't find it at the moment. \$\endgroup\$ – okeefe Dec 26 '13 at 20:10

You Can But Shouldn't

Removing classes makes characters less unique.

When a character isn't The Class but is instead Alvin, Alvin's baggage and perks from being The Class are lost. Depending the MC's game, that could eliminate huge piles of resources, disallow a vast number of moves, and prevent the player from easily determining the limits of his character's abilities.

Alternately, in a game of optimizers, it could lead to everyone latching onto specific narrative hooks that create sameness among characters. If Alvin says that he's trained by the Falcon Ninjas of Avalanche Grotto so he's picked up Poisoner, and the MC makes poisons common, other players--with the Poisoner move not limited The Thief and without their classes providing obvious methods to do something equally effective but different--could dogpile into also being trained by the Falcon Ninjas of Avalanche Grotto just for the short-term advantage that might give.

Ditching preconceptions by making characters generic makes the game more difficult to run, both for players and MCs. No longer can the player add to the narrative by saying something like, "My mentor--the one who gave me my spellbook--might have mentioned that," because the preconception that magic is learned from a mentor no longer exists if it's just Alvin rather than Alvin The Wizard unless part of Alvin's story establishes that first.

Mechanically there's little impact, but when running the game having no classes means even more work in a game that already requires a creative, quick-thinking MC.

If you're playing with a noncompetitive group that's intimate with AW and its hacks already, the downsides to classless play are much less likely to occur. If introducing a group to an AW-style system, you should have classes.


Yup, you can go classless. As a conceptual foundation, Adam and Sage have said (though I can't find the exact link & quote right now) that you could start with your class and just pick from all the moves, and the game would work just fine. Why it works is because moves don't really ever give you more power, they just back some of your existing fictonal choices with a new degree of consistency. When you understand moves in that way – they're consistency insurance – suddenly moves look a lot more flexible and mungible than they at first appear in the book.

The design point of classes is to reinforce theme and niche – but not every game design needs niche protection for characters, and theme is something that you can develop in other ways. Theme is particularly important for *World games, in that it's not nearly so optional, because it establishes fiction and the establishment of character fiction is essential as a foundation for your players doing fictional positioning. (And *World games are all about fictional positioning: doing something is about building up the fiction to put you in a position to pull off the next thing you want to do.) Classes implement theme in an easy way: here is your playing piece, here are your customisation options, here's the resulting heavily-suggestive, evocative character to start with.

It sounds like you're researching in order to do a moderate-sized hack on Dungeon World. So long as during development you keep in mind the issue of niche protection – that is, do you want it in the first place and if so, does your moves-tree design generate it – you'll be fine.

Theme will be harder to implement, but not impossible. You just have to make it a design goal of your hack. In a tree system you can embed theme in the branches, effectively moving the bits of fiction that make a person who they are out of the class structure and into the branching choices. If your branch bases are heavily fiction-laden, then they will effectively serve the same thematic role as classes in normal Dungeon World, acting like combinable mini-classes. Take the enchant-my-gear and the sharpshooter branches? You've got something that feels like an arcane archer. Take the heavy-defense and melee-smash trees? You've got a wrecking-ball knight thing or something like that. The videogame Skyrim works this way, and the resulting characters are extremely evocative and indistinguishable from traditional classes.

So, yeah, be aware of what classes do for Dungeon World in-play, consider how much of that you need to preserve, and roll it into your moves-tree design. Go for it!


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