I am trying to make a few modern custom classes for Dungeon World system for my future themed campaign. However I am getting a little lost, I created a class and most of his "advanced moves" are basically abilities that activate upon certain situations or choices or based on the "standard moves" or small perks/buffs to roll+STAT moves. None of them are actual abilities that you simply say "I do this ability!" rather they must meet a situation or condition. I figured that was the gist of DW mechanics...

I was noticing the classes that originally come with the game have very few abilities if any. Most are things like getting information, rerolls, +1 damage etc. Any tips? Anything wrong to making my advanced moves a little more ability like. Here is an example of one I have:

  • Dirty Fighter

    A kick in the jewels stuns target, and agrees to your demands on 10+. 7-9 the target yells in pain and allies are alerted, 6- Target passes out.

or another:

  • Shadow Fists

    When HP=1/2 roll 8D4 for damage and choose best 6 *once* during a battle

I'm using the 1st Edition Nov. 2012 copy. And I just meant like they aren't abilities per se like actual attack actions or specifically for attacks. Maybe I am not wording it right.

Like the Fighter for example I really only see Merciless and Taste of Blood and bloodthirsty that directly affects an attack. And it is merely adding more damage to his base attack. It doesn't really add a new attack ability or anything like that. Perhaps I am just still clouded up with D&D flavor abilities. Like my two examples I showed above, describe them better and adds a little more to the condition.


1 Answer 1


So, you want to make more of your game's class moves into "attack" type things.

You can totally do that. There's a big caveat though: you won't be playing a "Powered by the Apocalypse" game anymore, in that it won't run and flow and evince all the emergent gameplay stuff that Dungeon World (and its parent Apocalypse World) are celebrated for. It won't play like Dungeon World at the table, and won't hand the GM the material and hooks they need to riff off the characters' actions. Your GMing section will end up quite different because of that.

Why? Because making more of your class moves about attacking means you're moving most of the fiction-generating mechanics into combat, leaving the out-of-combat events more undefined mechanically. With fewer moves triggering outside of combat, the flow of the game overall will be located more often in the GM's sole hands instead of located in the back-and-forth between players and GM, requiring (or allowing! two sides of the same coin) the GM to make up more of the game's overall structure and direction by themself. This will require a rejiggering of the GM's moves, since what move to make and how to make it is usually heavily informed by what the players have been doing – but with fewer out-of-combat class moves, that becomes less dynamic and more predictable, giving the GM less inspirational material to work with on the fly when making their GM moves. Along with that, a rewrite of the Agenda and Principles would probably be necessary – specifically, you won't be able to play to find out what happens anymore; and that in turn will require changing the Agenda to allow for presenting more of a GM-controlled plot.

Moving more class moves into the sphere of combat would shift the game into a design space that's halfway between Dungeon World and D&D 4e. If 4e is your bag, that might be a cool project to work on. On the other hand, that makes it completely unexplored design space, so you're pretty much on your own. That might be a downside, or it might be an exciting opportunity. You might be able to get some advice from the designers on the Apocalypse World / Dungeon World hacks design forum, but you might not – you might be doing totally alien things and teaching them new stuff.

So if that sounds good, go for it. Sadly, I can't give you any advice on making good moves then – and probably no-one who is good with DW can either.

If that doesn't sound good though, then your next step is probably to step back from your project and learn more about what makes Dungeon World really tick. (This might all be irrelevant, so I'm sectioning it off.)

If that's what you choose, for starters you could look at how moves should work and the relationship between moves and fiction as they have to be used during play. As written, those two moves aren't good Dungeon World moves, mostly because they're backwards: they lead with mechanics, when Dungeon World always begins and ends with the fiction. Another place to start research if this is you, is to dig into or ask about your perception that classes have few moves they can use in combat – that's actually not true, and points to a common misunderstanding of how moves work in general, and during combat specifically.

A great way to just absorb wisdom about Dungeon World is to browse through the Dungeon World subreddit. There are a lot of people who've been playing for a while and just "get" the game fundamentally, and the creators hang out there too. There's also the fan-written, creator-endorsed Dungeon World Guide which is specifically about explaining how Dungeon World ticks to established RPGers coming from very different systems.

For an example of working up a full DW move, let's look at your first move:

Dirty Fighter

A kick in the jewels stuns target, and agrees to your demands on 10+. 7-9 the target yells in pain and allies are alerted, 6- Target passes out.

This has no trigger, so it will never happen during combat. However, it does look at lot like a 4e power. The difference is that moves are never chosen: the player describes what the character is doing, and only if what they're doing matches a move trigger (any move trigger), does a move happen. Conversely, 4e powers are chosen and then just happen. Additionally, it doesn't tell you what to roll, so technically the roll will never happen (you only ever roll when a move tells you to) and the results won't resolve.

So let's give this a trigger:

When you kick for an opponent's sensitive bits

Notice that the trigger doesn't say when you do kick an opponent – that condition would (almost) never trigger during combat, since how can you kick someone successfully before you've checked to see if it's successful? There are ways it could happen, but it would be a weird two-move dance using Defy Danger or an unarmed Hack & Slash that was aimed at the sensitives, and that would actually stack the dice against ever bothering to try. Or, of course, out of combat while kicking a defenseless opponent (which requires no move). So in order to make it trigger, we have to give it something that could actually plausibly happen in the fiction during the flow of combat – an attempt to kick in the crotch fits.

Now let's give it a roll. Dexterity sounds good, because this is a precision move.

When you kick for an opponent's sensitive bits roll+DEX

Now, because the fiction leading up to the move is different, we need to adjust the outcomes and wording:

When you kick for an opponent's sensitive bits roll+DEX and tell them your demands. On a 10+ you kick them where it hurts: they're stunned and agree to your demands. On 7–9 they yell in pain and allies are alerted. 6-: they pass out.

A bit better now. But what if there are no allies near? The 7–9 doesn't make sense all the time, and a move should always just work as long as the trigger was met. Also, it's important to remember that a 7–9 result is a success – a qualified success, but still success. So we need to give the player success, with conditions.

When you kick for an opponent's sensitive bits roll+DEX and tell them your demands. On a 10+ you kick them where it hurts: they're stunned and agree to your demands. On 7–9 they say they agree, but only until they can get away from you. 6-: they pass out.

Better. The 6- needs some work though: passing out is a pretty weak for a miss result. We should add that the passing out is in addition to the normal miss result, which is the GM making a move.

When you kick for an opponent's sensitive bits roll+DEX and tell them your demands. On a 10+ you kick them where it hurts: they're stunned and agree to your demands. On 7–9 they say they agree, but only until they can get away from you. 6-: they pass out, and the GM will tell you what else.

There. That's a move in the mold of Dungeon World.

But there's still something to consider before giving it a stamp of approval and putting it into a game: does this do anything that an existing move doesn't? On the surface, without any more work: no. This is pretty much an in-combat Parley, using the leverage of "I'm going to kick you in the sensitive bits otherwise." It's a bit different in that it takes +DEX and stuns the kickee, but that's not really worth a move with this much write-up. (You could do a simpler stat-substitution move instead: "When you inflict pain to intimidate, use +DEX to Parley instead of +CHA.")

Now, that doesn't mean you can't make a custom move for fighting dirty. It just means that, to bother with a custom move about fighting dirty, you have to consider what you want to give a player consistency guarantees about, while fighting dirty, that they don't already have from the existing moves. (That's what moves do: they give consistency to fictional efforts. They don't actually make the character more powerful.)

This also demonstrates something about combat: it's way more flexible than it at first appears. Any move you can trigger during a fight, you can use. That includes the "social" moves – and I put that in scare quotes because calling them that is misleading in exactly this manner, making them sounds like they don't apply during combat.

If I were to write Dirty Fighter myself, I'd first start by thinking what advantage fighting dirty gives a combatant. People are mostly going to be fighting dirty already (who fights honourably when life is on the line?), so we don't actually need a move to make the dirtiness happen. A move could, though, codify the ability to really put an opponent into a spot when they're vulnerable. On the other hand, most of the time when an opponent is vulnerable, you can just hurt them or do whatever without having to go through a move like Hack & Slash. (Remember that, if you're not in a melee – your opponent isn't endangering you and neither are other combatants – you don't do Hack & Slash, you just murder them without a move.) That makes thinking of a trigger that doesn't actually make it worse than normal kinda difficult. In that case, Dirty Fighter would probably end up being a passive move: something that just helps you when fighting unarmed, maybe.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Good answer. I think a better move would be something like: When you fight dirty and make demands, roll+CHA to intimidate. On 10+ they yield. On 7-9 they yield and retaliate viciously at first opportunity. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tanath
    Jan 24, 2015 at 20:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tanath Yeah, that's a much more succinct treatment of the move idea! \$\endgroup\$ Jan 24, 2015 at 20:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I thought so too, but I just realized Parley already covers this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tanath
    Jan 24, 2015 at 22:18

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