I already own and have access to the Dungeon World book/manual and I've read and will refer to the Advanced Delving section. Beyond that however I'm looking for any other guidelines and tips when going about creating a home brew class.

1)I'm building a class based on the Witchers a la Geralt of Rivia of Andrzej Sapkowski's book and story series. There are already 2 classes similar to this on the Dungeon World hangout, but I was motivated to create my own because I felt the existing examples were overly mechanical (not true to the spirit of dungeon world) and failed to capture the essence of the character (focused on mechanics in the video games, not on the narrative history and world).

2) If I'm looking to self publish this class eventually, does dungeon world have any legal guidelines of their own? For example Dunegon World itself seems to play pretty fast and loose with fair use as many of the moves or advanced moves reference very popular stories, characters, and catchphrases that are owned IPs.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just don't use the word "Candy" or "Saga" in the name and you should be fine \$\endgroup\$
    – user4000
    Jan 30, 2014 at 20:35

1 Answer 1


(First, I'm not a lawyer, this isn't legal advice, retain a lawyer if you have any doubts.)

Referencing things has nothing to do with copyright law

Let's get one thing out of the way: Dungeon World's references to bits of pop culture and literature and stuff is in no way a violation of copyright, trademark, or patents. Trademark and patent law don't even remotely apply, and copyright prevents copying and transforming a copy, not plain referencing. Those are the three prongs of IP law, the entirely of what creators have to worry about, and none are relevant to referencing pop culture. This will probably make the rest of this stuff make more sense.

You can make stuff for Dungeon World. Please do!

Dungeon World is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. That means you can make anything you want using even its text, and you can sell it so long as you give attribution to Sage and Adam as the creators of what you're using. You could even just copy the, say, Druid class wholesale, call it "The Shaman" without changing anything else, stick an attribution line at the bottom, and put it up on RPGNow for $5 and that's legal. See "How do I properly attribute material offered under a Creative Commons license?" for details on how to correctly attribute Dungeon World as the basis of your work, if you end up using any of its text (like, say, borrowing a Wizard move whole).

But for just a class, you don't even need that. Publishing a class that's compatible requires no use of copyrighted material from the original, so you don't even need the CC license in that case. You just publish.'

Even saying "This is compatible with Dungeon World" is legal: that's called "nominative use", and the use of a trademark to indicate compatibility is a protected right that you have. TSR went to court over this ages ago, and lost hard, so it's even a fact that's been tested in the RPG world. Kenzer Co openly publishes material for D&D without using the OGL, because they aren't copying any text and it's legal to say "This works with Dungeons & Dragons" without getting WotC's permission.

Besides which, Sage and Adam encourage people to make stuff for Dungeon World, an have provided a "For Use With Dungeon World" kit that you can (optionally) use if you want a recognisable shared graphic.

Lots of people have already created new classes for use with Dungeon World and are selling them just fine. Not only are you in the legal clear several ways from Sunday, Sage and Adam aren't interested in suppressing that kind of thing.

You should be paying more attention to the actual threat

All that said, you do have to be careful basing a class on the Witcher. File the serial numbers off, make sure that people can recognise it but you're not using any words, names, images, visual character designs, or anything else that is owned by Atari, and you should be okay. If you're planning on making any money off it, you may want to research your legal rights and obligations here. You can produce something based on someone else's work, but it has to be pretty substantially separated and only recognisable by people who really get the references.

A DW class PDF for sale on RPGNow based on the Witcher is highly, highly unlikely to draw Atari's attention, but you never know. They've sued people into bankruptcy for less. Your safest best is to not make it obvious that it is a Witcher, because if you use Atari's trademark to draw attention to your class, if you advertise "You can play the Witcher in Dungeon World!" as a feature of what you're selling, you've violated their trademark and you are—if they notice you—potentially in serious trouble. At best they send a Cease & Desist to RPGNow and they pull your PDF. Worse, RPGNow closes your account. Worst, Atari goes for you directly.

So don't get noticed, and don't do anything that will make anyone notice that your class is based on the Witcher until they've already bought it, and you should be in the clear.

Of course, if you're not selling it, then you can probably get away with saying you've made a Witcher class and here's the PDF, since there's a lot of precedent for ignoring fan-made stuff that's not for profit, but you still have to watch out, because you're on the wrong side of the law then, and you're only OK so long as the company a) doesn't notice you and b) turns a benevolently blind eye.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you are going to attempt to sell anything even tangentially related to copyright material then you should pay a lawyer who specialises in that area to check it out, even if you have no doubts at all \$\endgroup\$
    – Wibbs
    Jan 30, 2014 at 19:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ So what I meant in terms of referencing vs. quoting, for example "I Am The Law" is one of the class moves for Paladin and very recognizable catchphrase from 2000 AD, companies have been brought to court over more obscure connections. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2014 at 19:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoshuaAslanSmith Being a catchphrase isn't protected unless it's trademarked, and then it's only a violation if it causes confusion. There is zero possibility that the words "I Am The Law" appearing in the middle of the DW text will confuse a reader and make them wonder if they're actually reading 2000 AD, so it's not a violation even remotely. Using pop culture referneces is a protected right. The current "common wisdom" that that kind of thing isn't okay is FUD produced by the RIAA and MPAA to try to gain power the law doesn't give them, nothing real. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 30, 2014 at 19:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Excellent answer, I didn't realize we had anyone who knew much about these sorts of things. Led me to ask my own question that I've been pondering for a little while now. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jan 30, 2014 at 19:53

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