Giving the Immolator the Cold Shoulder

Sometime last August there was a charity that you could donate to in order to get early access to the immolator, a Dungeon World class made by the actual creators of Dungeon World. Sounds exciting, right?


I can't find the link anymore, but it was yet another charity aimed solely at getting women into tech, because as we know all men are privileged and the real reason there aren't just as many women in the field is because of Teh Patriarchy™, and not at all because what women tend to want isn't what men tend to want.

Except for the fact that they don't, but let's not let bothersome things like facts get in the way.

So, yeah, I didn't contribute to it because A) I know too many women that seem to have no trouble doing what they want to do, without whining and making excuses for their laziness, lack of talent and creativity, and/or requiring yet more special treatment, B) I think most of the core Dungeon World classes are severely lacking, and C) I write my own stuff anyway.

And you know what? I'm really, really glad I didn't, because here we are over a half year later and this is the best they can do. The file is suffixed with V1, which I guess means version 1, I did The Psion in a couple of days, and The Cultist took just a bit longer than that (and both were more than complete classes). It took them this long to arrive at that point? It hurts my brain to think what the alpha and beta might have looked like.

So why do I think it's half-assed? Well, let's take it from the top.

(NOTE: I'm going to suggest some additions and changes. While I understand that we could take this class and easily make it much, much better, that doesn't excuse its lackluster quality.)

The stats are all over the fucking place (at least one starts at 17): you use CON to conjure your flaming weapon (I's got a reach of touch, and every weapon has a range tag of at least hand), INT to attack with it, WIS to use another starting move, and four advanced moves use CHA. Overall this class would make perfect sense just sticking with a mix of CON and CHA.

There are only two races to choose from, human and...salamander? Okay. It's not entirely reliant on the bog standard Dungeons & Dragons races, which I guess is a start, though I'm guessing it's still the Dungeons & Dragons take on a salamander, which is a kind of fire elemental, but the playbook doesn't specify so who knows.

The human move has you regain all of your hit points so long as you make camp next to a large, open flame. Fictionally this tells me that the fire rejuvenates you, which I can get behind, but there's no mention of debilities. A healing potion can instantly heal 10 hit points or restore a debility, and while this move can completely top you off it does nothing about debilities.

Also, dwarf would have been a logical addition. There is after all a bunch of blank space on the front page, but maybe they were super busy this past half-year?

Moving on to starting moves, Burning Brand sucks ass. Partially this is again because of all the stats you need: you have to roll+CON to conjure it, then you have to roll+INT to attack with it, and after every three attacks (not hits, just attacks) you have to roll to conjure it all over again.

Why does it rely on two stats? Let's compare this to the thief: the thief also deals d8 damage, can easily use its best stat for all of its attacks (DEX), and every weapon starts with at least the hand tag (though usually you'll end up with the close or near tags). The immolator deals d8 damage, can use its best stat to either conjure or attack with it (you gotta choose), its second best start to conjure or attack, and it starts with the touch and dangerous tags.

Depending on how well you roll when conjuring it, you can give it the hand or near tags, add in all of +1 damage, or remove that pesky dangerous tag. If you give it the near tag, then aside from the dangerous tag if INT is your best stat you've put it on par with the thief, assuming said thief isn't a halfling and thereby gains +2 damage with all of his ranged attacks, all the damned time.


Another issue is that you're forcing the player to roll simply to have a three-attack weapon on hand. The druid, despite all of its faults, has you roll once to gain 1-3 auto-successes. Why not just say "you can conjure flame from your hand at will: treat them as weapons with the fiery and hand tag", or at least let you roll+CON to conjure and wield the weapon, or even +CHA to attack with it, so that you need one less high stat.

Zuko Style, pandering aside, sounds like what I wish Burning Brand was all about: punching and kicking fire everywhere. I would have also gone with something that represents you getting angrier (taking +1 against someone who hurt you or someone you have a bond with). The effects of this move sound more like vanilla firebending.

Hand Crafted lets you craft metal objects with your bare hands, no tools or fire are needed. There is no fictional explanation provided: is it because your hands get super hot? Can you light wood on fire? Can you hurt someone by touching them? Can you do fine detail work? I think that, if burning brand was changed to be something more automatic and useful, this could have been an advanced move that lets you melt through and shape metal.

The second page is even worse: you always start with adventuring gear and a healing potion for some reason, and have to choose if you have dungeon rations (as opposed to every other class, which start you off with dungeon rations and has you choose other things). There's a huge swath of blank space that eats up about a quarter of the page: you think they could have scooted it up to fit in more advanced moves.

There are only fourteen advanced moves to choose from (and only four of which are 6-10, meaning that you will have to waste a 6-10 level up on a 2-5 move), but when you choose Burns Twice as Bright you automatically get Burns Half of Long (which even has a check box for no real reason). Another issue is, again, four of them rely on CHA, and the class already has you using CON, INT, and WIS right out of the gate.

As for move-specific criticisms, here we go:

Burns Half as Long is confusing. Do you have to sacrifice a victory to the flames of fate (whatever that is), and then treat a 10+ as a miss? What kind of victory? Or, do you roll a 10+, and then immediately turn it into a miss? Like, if I would totally burn someone to death with my fire-poke, do I know I'm totally going to burn them to death but then somehow completely flip it into a miss?

This Killing Fire gives you yet more tags you can choose from. A shame you can only ever make two choices. There's not even a "choose +1, and on a miss you still choose 1" or a "on a 12+, choose 3" move.

My nitpick with Ogdru Jahad is that it seems to be about as pandering and boring as Zuko Style. I get the loose association with the Ogdru Jahad, who want to reduce the world to ashes, possibly to give rise to a new race of man, but this move just gives you the wizard's Ritual move, with the added requirement that you always have to sacrifice something.

That doesn't sound anything like you're communing with/trying to free/acting on the behalf of ancient, apocalyptic gods sealed in a prison somewhere in deep space. I think this move could have been written more creatively, but it can at the least be passably fixed by changing the name.

Burning Bridges doesn't make any sense. You die, but burn away your...humanity, I guess, to completely avoid death? It doesn't affect how many bonds people can have with you, nor does it affect your personality in any other way, so I dunno. I think there could have been some association with the phoenix (or for that matter, cauterizing wounds).

The Enkindler and Sick Burn both provide absolute effects against NPCs, regardless as to who or what that NPC is.

Enkindler has you make a CHA roll to see if you incite courage in others, but if you fail (which is probably likely given that you're already juggling three other stats) then no matter what they are cowed or terrified by your presence. We have a similar morale moves in The Pirate and The Bard, both of which I think are much better and don't deal in fictional absolutes.

Sick Burn is even worse (and the name is ridiculous): you insult a NPC, roll+CHA, and on a 10+ they just suck it up. Everyone, from a beggar to a king to a dragon. What's even the point of this move? Who wants to waste a move so that they can insult people and maybe control their reaction? This reminds of the Shopkeeper specialty from Class Warfare, where you can roll to see if your store has items it shouldn't have, with results that will usually just put you in trouble.

At any rate, I think this could be handled by any character via a combination of social roleplaying, possibly with a defy danger roll.

Likewise, who the hell would ever take Burning Ring of Fire? Seriously? You get to roll+CHA, which is probably your worst stat given that you need three for your starting moves, and what's the payoff? If you get a 7+ you can sense the location and emotional state of someone. Whoop. De. Fuck. Worse, on a 7-9 you also share debilities gained, but as with the human move I have to ask why just debilities? Why not hit points?

I dunno what else to say. It looks very half-assed. I wouldn't even use it as a basis for improvement, I'd just discard it and start entirely from scratch. Eh, maybe we'll add pyromancer to our next voting round.


  1. I got a very bad impression from that class too. I donated, I got the class, I read it, I made some comment to the authors.
    "In particular, LOT of moves I feel they are just a simple "skin" for a normal Defy Danger, with almost no bonuses or special effect added. So I think they not deserve a level for it...

    Also, only four 6-10 moves? Maybe is this a work in progress?"

    I got answers, while I was not too happy:
    "As with anything we release in PDF, we may revise the Immolator, that's the best part of digital.

    As it is, one thing we've learned from our previous designs was that setting a target number of moves is less effective than writing good moves. The Immolator has some really good moves that are also rather long, so we didn't have space for more. We have a new layout coming that may allow a few more moves.

    As for defy danger: everything that has you roll dice is defy danger on some level. Noticing this is usually a sign that you're really getting the design."

    Here the whole post with comments, if you want to read it:

    And it was 1 august 2014. Nothing changed in that class since that day :(
    I still keep seeing as an half class.

    1. // Random complaint mode ON
      ... Also, about Inglorious PDF, almost 1 year with no news :(
      // Random complaint mode OFF

    2. @Ishmadrad: That answer just sounds like a bunch of hand-wavey bullshit.

      "We may revise..."

      Yeah, probably not. If this is the best they could do after over a half year, I'm not expecting much, and by much I mean anything.

      Honestly, I look at the quality of Dungeon World and wonder where the hell the $80,000 went: the layout is VERY minimalist and the art is almost universally bad, when it's even there.

      They didn't need a new sheet layout, though the current one IS pretty bad: they just had to scoot the Advanced Moves up. That's it.Could have crammed in at least another move or two. Also, removing some of the space between moves would have opened up more room (I've had to do that on more than one occassion).

      I'd heard that they were going to make a new sheet layout HOW long ago? I got tired of waiting and wondering, so I just made my own. It took a day or two.

      I see a lot of really bad Dungeon World content out there, and for a while I wondered why some of it gets so much praise. I'm guessing this is why: the RPG itself has such a low standard. Honestly, that's the best part of Dungeon World being Creative Commons: more talented people can polish and refine it.

      I'm not going to bother buying Inglorious. If I want to run a war campaign using Dungeon World, I'll just write my own rules. It'll take less time, and it can't be any worse.

    3. People making their own stuff is always a better thing than us making more stuff.

      Bu we're serious about revising. It'll happen.

    4. Hi Sage, it's been over a year, is that update finished?

    5. Or that adventure and war supplement? Going on how many years late?

  2. Two of my previous comments attempting to comment with Google ID seemed to get eaten/never post. Is there a reason why?

    1. its a google thing, it does that to me as well sometimes in other blospots.

    2. @Anon: What Victor said.

      Not sure why (though I'd check character limit), but that's why I write up my responses in Notepad before even hitting Publish: never know what the hell will go wrong. >_>

  3. Damn, well now that I know it is a Google thing let's try again.

    Basically I agree with everything you said. The class as a whole feels very sloppily designed. What is truly shocking is that apparently the stat of 17 is a typo, and was acknowledged as such *last year* but is still not fixed.

    The coolest part of the class is the creation of temporary weapons that get used up, but that was done in a much better way (imo) in my own Blood Mage class long before the Immolator.

    You can see the Blood Mage here:

    1. Actually, it was fixed last year. Just double checked that we didn't link the wrong version or something, it's all right.

  4. @SneakySly: If they haven't fixed a simple typo after over a half year, then I wouldn't expect much. Or anything. Honestly I'm not sure how you'd MAKE that kind of a typo: when I still used the old character sheet template, it had the stat arrays already there. Do they build them from scratch every time? o.O

    I'm not sure why the class HAS a weapon-creating move. It's not what I think about when I think about a pyromancer-type class. As for your Blood Weapon move, it is better because it doesn't require a roll just to get your weapon ready (especially given that you aren't exactly a melee type).

    Anyway, I'm hoping that in seeing this, people will stop blindly praising people no matter what they create (or at least calling them out). I think it's ultimately just harmful to the indie scene.


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