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A player asked tonight if he could write a bond with a key location where the party'd just arrived. "I'm obsessed with figuring out why the magic of the Red Keep is going awry" was his proposed bond.

On one hand, I've heard that while the rules in DW are not numerous they are very important to adhere to. So I don't want to open up some easily-avoided problems. And it's clear from the text that bonds are to be written with characters.

But on the other hand, this key location is soooo much like a character: it's got a story, it makes moves, I have "given it life." When the party arrived they spent days observing it, discerning reality, exploring, getting to know it as best as possible: it's as if the table had a new player. And the proposed bond is definitely one that (seems like it) would help drive the fiction.

Is there a strong reason not to allow a bond with a location, rather than with a character?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd be interested in an answer from you after you've tried it. \$\endgroup\$ – Jason_c_o Aug 5 '16 at 6:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, he's got the bond now, so in a few weeks we'll see how it's playing out =) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Aug 5 '16 at 12:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would note that if the location is itself a character (such as Finnegan's Green in The Sandman, or perhaps Hogwarts in Harry Potter), then a bond with it makes sense: that location is a character taking actions, it just happens to also be a place. \$\endgroup\$ – Nathaniel Ford Oct 7 '16 at 4:04
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Per the main bond rules, bonds are strictly between player characters.

Bonds are what make you a party of adventurers, not just a random assortment of people. They’re the feelings, thoughts, and shared history that tie you together. You will always have at least one bond, and you’ll often have more.

Each bond is a simple statement that relates your character to another player character. Your class gives you a few to start with, you’ll replace your starting bonds and gain new ones through play.

Emphasis mine. The purpose of the bonds is to focus on the relationships between the player characters, which is why there are no particular rules for bonds (as a mechanic) between PCs and NPCs, or PCs and locations. This doesn't mean a player character can't have, figuratively, a bond with a place or an NPC - it's just in unruled territory, left to be handled by the players' own roleplaying.

Play for the fun, not for the rules

That said, no one is forcing you to stick to the rules about anything you want to change as a group. I see no obvious issue with allowing bonds to affect NPCs and locations, as long as players continue to manage PC-PC bonds too. In fact, the "Advanced Delving" chapter already has an example of a rule modification that allows bonds between PCs and NPC deities.

Some issues that may need to be addressed:

  • Bonds as a mechanic may not correspond 100% with the players' perception of a bond as a narrative element. If a player wishes their narrative bond to be thought of as a mechanical bond, are they willing to resolve it eventually?
  • Bonds are meant to be relationships, not directly objectives (even though resolving them is rewarded). Therefore bonds should stress out the emotional aspects of the whole ordeal. "I'm going to buy the Manor of Crawforde" is a rather flat bond; try "I had to sell my home at Crawforde to cover my debts, and I long to get it back" instead.
  • If you want to treat bonds with NPCs and locations as mechanical bonds, they need to be capable of being resolved like normal bonds. "Rajan the shopkeeper is my brother" is neither very deep nor very likely to change, but "Rajan never paid me back for that time I covered his gambling debts" has both narrative significance and possibility of moving on with the story.
  • The bonds are still primarily meant to be a mechanic for reinforcing relationships between player characters, so the players must agree not to overuse any non-PC bonds.

If you want to twist the rules really safe, grant the player the bond, but make it clear it's an exception, see how it works out for you and use it as a baseline when figuring out future cases like this. As long as it's just a single bond, it can't really rock the dynamic too much.

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This definitely falls into houserule territory, not RAW. However, bonds have two mechanical effects:

  1. Take +1 ongoing to aid or interfere with the target of the bond.
  2. Mark experience once when the bond is resolved.

I can't think of a way for the former to come up, but if it did, it would probably be awesome.

The latter is equivalent to rolling a miss instead of a hit on one move, or to following one's alignment for a session instead of not, which doesn't sound too extreme. On the other hand, if the party can learn something new and important in a session, they all mark experience, so this could be seen as letting one player double-dip once.

On balance, were this happening at my table, I would allow it after the character had already demonstrated their obsession -- if it is affecting play as much as following their alignment, then it seems fair.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ On "I can't think of a way...," the location--effectively a dungeon--does have its own moves, so there are definitely interesting possibilities lurking over the horizon =) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Aug 2 '16 at 19:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 And I'm sure they'll be awesome! \$\endgroup\$ – Trip Space-Parasite Aug 2 '16 at 22:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ How is it working out? \$\endgroup\$ – Trip Space-Parasite Aug 29 '16 at 16:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ So, end-of-summer scheduling woes have conspired such that we've only had one session since establishing the bond =( But I will come back and drop some feedback when I've seen it play out [/rimshot] \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Sep 1 '16 at 12:03
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Rather than tying it to the bond, I might suggest the player to put that in place of their alignment statement- those have the intent of directing the character's role play interactions with the world in general rather than the strong interpersonal bent of the standard bonds. That would allow it to have a similar effect in terms of experience gain and once resolved you just go back to whatever alignment statement they had before.

It doesn't touch on the Aid or Interfere rule and it does risk the double-dipping problem that @Trip-Space-Parasite has mentioned, but it puts it on the sheet and gives both player and GM chances to explore the idea further.

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Bonds between characters keep the party together in various ways.

Thus it's reasonable to assume that a bond to a location would keep the character with the bond tied closer to that location, thus pulling them away from the party and keeping them tied closer to that location.

This would be a great bond for a retiring character: feeling less attached to the party and adventuring in general, and developing a stronger bond to this location and its mysteries, eventually resolving to remain behind to examine all these mysteries in greater depth.

However, for exactly the same reasons, it will put stresses on the party.

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