Dungeon World: Developing the Dragon

A few weeks ago Maria hit me up in chat, asking what I thought about making a dragon "class" for Dungeon World. My immediate thought was yeah I think that could work, which was quickly followed up with me throwing out some 16ish moves. Here's more or less my thought process as best I can remember it (because maybe it will help you design your own classes):

For starters, dragons tend to breath fire/have a breath weapon of sorts, can fly, have thick scales, claws, and teeth, so right there we got the four starting moves out of the way. I like to provide advanced moves that build upon the starting moves (and sometimes expand on them, but we'll get to that later), so with a 2-5 and 6-10 upgrade to all of that, we've already got eight moves accounted for and are therefore almost halfway done if we want to do the bare minimum (psh, yeah right).

But, what about backgrounds (which we do instead of needlessly restricting a class by race)? Whelp, this is a monster so we don't need backgrounds; in this case I think it would make more sense if you chose a type of dragon.

Now, if we're thinking Dungeons & Dragons then that would just be various color types (since I think chromatics are cooler than metallics, but if you wanna do metallics you can just rename them pretty easily): each color mods the breath weapon starting move in some way, and makes you immune to something (ie, red dragons get fire breath and are immune to fire).

If we use black, blue, green, red, and white we'll have a whopping five things to choose from (most classes only get 2-3 options). We can always pare them down or change them to something else later (which we did, at least for the default dragon).

Going back to advanced moves, polymorphing into human form is a thing: I'm thinking you can turn into a human for one move, and then retain some dragon abilities as a 6-10 upgrade (so you can be a human and breath fire).

Also, being able to smell treasure and/or other creatures (keen senses), deal damage when a creature wounds you (probably something like "when you take damage, you can take +x damage to deal your damage" because of burning/caustic/harmful blood), and something that lets you use magic (mebbe using the A Sundered World wizard as a foundation, but if that's too complex it can go in the back).

That's another 6-8 advanced moves. Not sure if I can think of an upgrade for keen senses and the blood thing, but we'll see, and in any case, we're now well past the halfway mark! I remember mentioning a tail sweep, and hitting things with your wings could also be cool (and I can't forget about adding stuff for flying).

At this point I can't think of a way to implement it all, yet: your claws and fangs have the close tag, and while I suppose your tail and wings could have the reach and forceful tag, weapon-range-tags almost never come up, and I think a dragon should be able to swat creatures around with their claws.

I decide to give my brain a break and come back to it the next day, during which I start fleshing out what I already have, add some more moves (let others drink your blood for temporary buffs, magic resistance plus spell reflecting, etc), change/figure out how some moves work (for example, tail and wing attacks get folded in with your claw and fang hack-and-slash: if you get a 12+ you can do more things), and as expected bump the dragon magic stuff to a compendium class because that way I can better represent it (even with our space-efficient character sheet it wasn't going to fit anyway).

I've heard some people claim that it can take a month or more to design a Dungeon World class, but by this point I've only spent about an hour or so of time actually working on The Dragon, and much of that was reading up on dragons from various mythologies because we held a vote and people preferred that over D&D dragons.

We ran it through a few rounds of feedback (which adds more time but is worth it if you get some good people and listen to them), and then added other dragon types in the back (such as the cockatrice and wyvern), a dracolich compendium class, and so on because why not include everything we came up with during the design process?

The entire design process was to basically think about what a dragon could/should do, independent of mechanics (worry about that when you get to it), jot some notes/names down, and then later go about attaching mechanics to them (a process I go into more detail here, which also works for creating awesome magic items). No forced gag move names/pop culture references, or clunky, gimmicky mechanics.

If you're curious about FrankenFourth and/or Dungeons & Delvers, you can find public alpha documents here and here respectively.

A Sundered World: Player Fragments, the first supplement for A Sundered World, is finally out!

If you're looking for a class that lets you play almost any were-thing you want (plus a bunch of related extra content), then check out The Therianthrope. There's also The Dragon, a class that lets you play almost any dragon-ish thing you could think of.

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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