A Sundered World: Reworking the Wizard

No Dungeon World play reports this week since both our GM and Melissa were too sick to run and play respectively. There also has not been anything noteworthy on the 5th Edition front, so nothing to say there (which some of you probably appreciate).

I have started a community on Google Plus for A Sundered World, but since not everyone is on Google Plus I figured that I could post some content here to try and get some additional feedback, starting with a class that Dungeons & Dragons has never gotten right: the wizard.

Despite Dungeon World's wizard being based on whatever bits of lore Dungeons & Dragons arbitrarily decided to adhere to, its magic system actually makes more sense: only one of the 7-9 options is that you "forget" the spell, and though spells have levels you do not have separate pools of leveled slots (whatever the hell those are even supposed to represent).

Instead you have a total number of slots equal to your level + 1, and you can prepare any combination of spells with levels up to that total. As an added bonus, since you do not always forget a spell after using it, it makes handling adventure pacing a lot easier (no 15-minute workday).

In the end it is better, but still not exactly what I am looking for. I am a fan of The Dresden Files (both the books and role-playing game) and The Kingkiller Chronicle, and wanted a similar kind of flexible magic system that exhausted the spellcaster with repeated use. Since people have reacted favorably to various "countdown" mechanics I have used before, this lead to the following move replacing Cast a Spell:

When you cast a spell you gain fatigue, and when your fatigue is equal to your current hit points, you fall unconscious. You can recover fatigue through rest: when you rest for a few minutes, reduce your fatigue by 1, and when you make camp reduce your fatigue to 0.

When you unleash a blast of arcane power against a nearby target, choose an element, gain 1d4 fatigue, and roll+INT. *On a 10, deal 1d8 damage and choose one:
  • The attack gains the Forceful tag.
  • The attack gains Piercing 1.
  • Deal 1d4 damage to a something near the original target.

On a 7-9, deal 1d6 damage and choose one:
  • You draw unwanted attention or put yourself in a spot, the GM will tell you how.
  • Your magic impedes or harms someone or something you do not want it to, the GM will tell you how.
  • Gain an additional 1d4 fatigue.

When you spend a few moments gathering magic energy, gain 1d4 fatigue and roll+INT. *On a 10+, hold 3 magic. *On a 7-9, hold 1 magic. Spend 1 magic to do one the following:
  • Create a minor magical effect or object—light fires, create a small block of stone, repair minor damage to an object, etc.
  • Give you or an ally +1 forward—describe how it helps them.
  • Conjure a temporary barrier or magical effect that reduces an attack’s damage by 1d4.
  • Impede someone—describe how it hinders them.

Flexible, makes sense, a bit unpredictable and risky, and keeps the wizard on one page (like most of the other classes). For A Sundered World I also replaced your choice of race with magical languages (though you can choose from a list of race moves when you level up), which serve as the foundation for your magic. The three (current) languages are:

Tongue of the Dragons
You can exhale words like a dragon breathes fire. When you unleash a blast of arcane power, you can choose to deal your damage to every nearby creature.

Currents of the Maelstrom
The energies of the Maelstrom echo throughout the Sundered World. Choose an element like air, earth, fire, or water. When dealing with that element, take +1 forward.

Song of Creation
The language of gods and angelic beings allows you to give life as well as take it. When you cast a spell, instead of dealing damage you can heal a nearby creature.

Here are some of the advanced moves:

Arcane Wards
When you hold magic, gain armor equal to that amount.

Dragon's Breath
Requires: Tongue of the Dragons
When you use your magic to deal damage to every nearby creature, deal +1d4 damage.

Great Barrier
When you use your magic to create a barrier, it reduces damage from an attack by 1d8.

I'm in my Element
Requires: Currents of the Maelstrom
When you are in or near an elemental vortex, take +1 forward to cast a spell.

Intense Evocation
When you unleash a blast of elemental energy and roll a 10+, choose two options.

Second Language
Choose an additional language and gain the corresponding move.

Requires: Song of Creation
When you unleash a spell against a living creature or devil, it gains the ignore armor tag. If you heal a creature, they regain an additional 1d4 hit points.

So what do you think? Based on the material presented would you use this wizard in place of the default one? Why or why not?


  1. I really like your take on the wizard, strong way to get away from spellbooks without using a "whatever you want to do +consequence" approach like the Mage playbook. It feels very 'sorcerer-y' instead of a typical spellcaster. I'd like to see a few more spell options, the first move is good for dealing damage without a wind-up, but there are other effects I'd like to use without a wind-up. Telekinesis, mind control, causing status effects. I know some of these can be caused by the second ability, but it would seem spells like these take time to cast. If I'm going to command the giant's guard dog to fall asleep so we can sneak passed, it loses its touch when the dog can bark for several moments before I get the spell off.

    Apart from that, I'd love to see the full playbook, and more of A Sundered World. I'm very interested to see how the world comes out as I've seen a lot of letdowns with past supplemental material for Dungeon World. Luckily, it isn't too hard to do a re-write to make things make sense in a system like DW.

  2. I felt that the mage was WAY too open-ended ("it certainly helps"), somewhat lazy in execution, and even nonsensical at times ("when you weave a spell to help solve a problem", which I guess means you can only ever use your magic if you have a problem that needs solving).

    A big question is just what are the limits of mortal magic? Should a mortal be able to manipulate emotions, much less take control of someone's mind?

    In Sundered World the wizard weaves magic through a combination of willpower and reciting words from the original language that the gods and primordials used to shape the world in accordance to their whims, which is why it has a strong elemental focus.

    I suppose you could argue that the "you or an ally takes +1 forward" option would give better odds to sneak past a guard dog (maybe you create a subtle wind that pushes your scents in another direction), but that is really not what this wizard is about: they can conjure fire, raise walls of stone, and with Ritual unleash a tempestuous hurricane.

    That said, Melissa and I are working on a telepath, which is a psychic class that can read minds, influence emotions and decisions, sift through and implant memories, and ultimately take control of people.

  3. This is alright as an elementalist I suppose. Much too mechanical for my tastes, though, and too much to track. That's not to say the Wizard is great, though. I do like the Mage, but agree it needs some more restrictions.

    The problem is that "Wizard" is too open-ended a concept. The Wizard only worked initially because "Generalist D&D Wizard" is fairly well defined, just not interesting or good. "Elementalist" is good, I just don't particularly like highly mechanical classes. Nothing wrong with it, just not to my taste.

    1. If you're talking about Randolph's mage, I felt that, like everything else I've seen him do (especially Inverse World), it was a very lazy attempt to "improve" the wizard (and the other mages seem like equally lazy attempts to cash in on a mage-focus-playbook-treadmill).

      I disagree that a wizard is too open-ended a concept. I think it depends largely on the fiction/concept surrounding it. In A Sundered World, the elements and astral matter play a huge part, and wizards are just those that know the languages that the gods, primordials, and dragons spoke to easily bend reality to their whims.

      If you've ever read/played Dresden Files, wizards are pretty similar to this. You know how to use two or so of the five established elements, and there are two types of magic: Evocation lets you do fast, blasty stuff (and also create barriers), while Thaumaturgy covers the more "ritual magic" effects.


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