Compared to other game systems like The Dark Eye or DnD, Dungeon World seems to lack in character differentiation through game mechanics outside of combat environments.

A player of my group recently brought up that he would prefer the more detailed set of support and craft talents that TDE uses. In DW, he argued a character could principally do anything he wanted as well as anybody.

How do you handle character differentiation outside of combat /adventure environments (e.g. during intermediate downtime in cities)? Do you create custom moves or even advanced moves (forcing a choice when levelling up) that a PC has to acquire to become able in a craft? Do you simply keep pushing the adventure?


1 Answer 1


A player of my group recently brought up that he would prefer the more detailed set of support and craft talents that TDE uses. In DW, he argued a character could principally do anything he wanted as well as anybody.

I'm not familiar with The Dark Eye but I'll assume you're comparing a narrative system like Dungeon with a simulationist one (like Dungeons and Dragons). The intention of the game design is to not crush the players under numbers to validate and differentiate them from the others. It leaves room for you to make your thief different.

Numbers are not what makes you different from a peasant in Dungeon World. So what does?

The player's job in Dungeon World

In Dungeon World, when a player picks a playbook, he's taking the role of that character. Nothing on your character sheet says what language you speak, where you're from, what "skills" you have. If you're afraid of heights or if you are the best shoemaker of the surrounding 4 villages, it is your role to make it true as the game progress. The GM will guide you, ask you questions and build on the answers with you. What makes the fighter different than the Wizard? The narrative aspect of the game allows the fighter to know as many languages as the wizard. Hell, you could be able to craft magic items right? This might raise some questions, like "How can you craft wands? This secret craft can only be learned from the elite mages of the Emerald Tower." Unless you have an extremly good reason for outshining another playbook's nature, you should focus on what makes your class, your class.

Also, the unwritten contract of roleplaying games is to let other people shine from time to time. The best example I can give is "what language do you speak". The GM should never ask this question like that but if you encounter goblins and the GM ask "Who here speaks goblin". At some point, if your dumb city human fighter can read ancient demon scripture, the GM should ask "How did you learn such a forbidden language only a few high priests were able to study". This gives room to awesome character growth but you should also consider if the cleric shouldn't be the one speaking that language.

Tropes exist in Dungeon World. They are just not codified in the rules.

The GM's job in Dungeon World

The GM should follow the rules and be a fan of the characters. Which means allow the players to take ownership of the world their characters live in. Remember one of the most versatile triggers of GM moves in the book: When a player gives you a golden opportunity. This means that if the Fighter (I always hit on the fighters) claims he can craft poison, maybe it's time to show a downside of his class and have the Thief in the group shine a bit. The whole game is a balance between the player's job and the GM's job.

How about making a move?

There are no such things as "skills" (in the Dungeons and Dragons way) in Dungeon World. We have moves. Moves are made to validate options or speciality in your game. If crafting potions will be important in your game, make a move! If opening dangerous manholes will become something important in your game, make a move. Custom moves shouldn't replace the basic ones but complement them. For instance Adam Koebel's ideas for crafting magic items suggest that magic item crafting should be reserved to magic users. Just remember to read Advance delving on how to create moves and ask feedback for your custom moves. Ask your players or here (stay in the scope of the site) or on the Google + tavern. Peer reviewed moves are really common there.


What makes your character different than the others is the player. If everyone in the group wants to be unique in the same way, the GM should intervene and suggest things. Tropes still exist in Dungeon World so the dwarf is more likely to speak goblin than anybody else because they are commonly enemies but if it's different in your campaigns, make it different. It's ok if everyone speaks goblin. But can you be a shoemaker, blacksmith, banker, own a tavern and be the best cook in the city? Maybe that's what you think. As a GM, I would ask you to prove it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your well written answer. I should have clarified that by Skills I meant an advanced move that a player may pick when levelling up. Is the Google Plus Tavern a well visited place? Up to now I still refuse to join Google Plus... \$\endgroup\$
    – iraserd
    Jul 29, 2014 at 12:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @iraserd That's fine. I see you edited your question. Welcome to the site BTW. Feel free to hop in the chat whenever you reach 20 of reputation. \$\endgroup\$
    – user4000
    Jul 29, 2014 at 12:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yep, all of this. My Fighter can sail ships and my Rogue is a shoemaker, but nothing on their sheets say so. But if the thief tried to trim sails and the fighter tried to make a shoe, they wouldn't hear "Okay, you do it," like the other would, they'd hear, "Oh really? Okay, that sounds like Defying Danger." \$\endgroup\$ Jul 29, 2014 at 17:22

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