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In my specific instance, I have an Immolator player that wants to gain the following move:

Ogdru Jahad
Gain the Wizard move Ritual. The GM will always tell you what you have to sacrifice to gain the effect you desire.

and the Wizard move Ritual is as follows:

Ritual
When you draw on a place of power to create a magical efect, tell the GM what you’re trying to achieve. Ritual efects are always possible, but the GM will give you one to four of the following conditions:

  • It’s going to take days/weeks/months
  • First you must ____
  • You’ll need help from ____
  • It will require a lot of money
  • The best you can do is a lesser version, unreliable and limited
  • You and your allies will risk danger from ____
  • You’ll have to disenchant ____ to do it

This player has said that they want to use this move to gain the ability to breathe fire. I'm totally OK with that part; what I don't know is if I can (or want to) let them permanently retain this new attack from using Ritual. Just for context, let's assume I write a new move for the player called Fire Breath.

The options I have considered to gain Fire Breath are as follows:

  1. Simply use Ritual as usual to gain Fire Breath as a permanent move.
  2. Gain Fire Breath based upon the Ritual. The longer the character prepares, the more items they sacrifice, the more powerful the items, etc. extends the amount of time they can use Fire Breath. When the time runs out, they can use Ritual again. (Example: The character spends one full day preparing and completing a Ritual. As a result, they gain Fire Breath for three days.)
  3. Perform a Ritual to enchant an item that grants the wearer the ability to use Fire Breath.
  4. Permanently expend Ritual in order to permanently gain Fire Breath.

Which of these options is most like a "typical" use of Ritual? If none of them are appropriate, or they need to be modified, please provide an example.

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The Ritual move gives you all you ask for already!

Have the player tell you what they would like to achieve: gaining the ability to breathe fire permanently or temporary, or enchanting an item to grant them the ability to breathe fire, or whatever. If the players' indications are not clear enough, ask questions and use the answers!

Then, with your players desires, look at the options that the Ritual move gives you and decide which of them are appropriate and fit your fiction as well as what the player wants.

Example: if they want to gain a permanent breath of fire, I would not reccommend a limited version by time. So the bullet points appropriate to the power level might be: It takes a long time to learn, maybe a full decade or so. You need the help of an ancient dragon to teach you his magic. (First) you need to live with the fire, maybe in a volcano or so.

If you want to be less restrictive on requirements, or they ask you for an easier to accomplish version you could lessen them by introducing side effects or a lesser version: maybe they always breathe fire, or the flame will only be anough to light paper afire, maybe burn flesh but not really melt steel.

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  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know why that wasn't clear to me, but now that you've said it, that makes perfect sense. Coincidentally, I've loosely written a dragon-themed overarching story for my players. That option with the ancient dragon may be just the thing! :) \$\endgroup\$ – Sean Beach Jun 4 '15 at 6:03
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Your instinctive reaction was to go with the "lesser version, limited (but not unreliable)" with some other options. That's okay, but generally not the best option, since it seems to come from a desire of keeping the game in control and balanced, which might not lead to most interesting game.

First, consider if you have already established something in the fiction about learning to breathe fire, steal the powers of dragons or fire gods, etc. If yes or if inspiration immediately strikes, use that.

Second, do you have a front, countdown or other preparation that you can tie into breathing fire? A fire cult, monster or religion, for example? Some force that could be turned into front but you haven't yet done so? If yes, tie the ritual into that front, preferably so that the interests of the front and the player character are not in absolute conflict or absolute agreement, but something in between.

Third, consider why you are playing roleplaying games in general, and Dungeon world in particular. I'll outline a few options below, but you might have some other goal. Set the requirements and consequences of your ritual to match the way you play and your creative agenda.

3a) We play to tell epic stories and have dramatic adventures. In such a case, you should certainly give the character the opportunity to learn to breathe fire, but make it an epic adventure with potential for dramatic consequences. Stealing the fire from a fire god sounds like fun to me, as does eating the heart of Smaug.

3b) We play for character drama and difficult choices. In such a case, you should make acquiring the power cause such drama. Maybe they need to steal it from an ally, or maybe they need to destroy an item that another character has, or maybe learning the power will unleash some ancient evil. You don't really need to consider character balance, as it does not (in general) make such drama more difficult.

3c) We play to face great challenges, and try to triumph over them. In this situation, you should consider how powerful the ability to breathe fire would be and make learning the ability a correspondingly difficult challenge, so that the players need to consider if the risk is worth taking (and they might decide it is not).

Fourth, you should ask the players. Ask them for ideas, ask what would be reasonable, ask to confirm that they don't mind one character learning such a super power (or maybe the super power will be the first power of a compilation class).

You should consider all of the options outlined above. Also, recall your agenda and principles: adventure, fantastic world, etc. Also, remember that the characters might fail or choose to do something else - play to find out.

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There is no "most typical" way of using ritual - it already tells what the possible costs are, and any of those is okay. Any effect you can justify in the fiction is also okay. The choice needs to be made based on your agenda and principles.

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