How would you handle this?

How would you handle this?

How would you handle this?

So, I ran my first game last night. (It was a blast, but I’ll post a report later).  During character creation, the Druid decided that he had an animal companion, and he came up with a pretty cool story for it. His companion, a large arctic wolf, is actually the avatar of the Druid’s totem spirit, who has been imprisoned by a White Dragon somewhere (we’ll play to find out where). The wolf is leading the Druid on a quest to free the trapped spirit.

I said, yes, of course, because you always find a way to say yes. But my conflict is this: how much should I let this wolf companion get away with? how much should it influence the game? There is also a Ranger in the group, and the Ranger has a specific class move devoted to his animal companion. I don’t want to step on the Ranger’s toes, but I also want to make the wolf a part of the fiction.

Any thoughts?

24 thoughts on “How would you handle this?”

  1. Make it a hireling?

    Warrior 1

    Tracker 2

    Loyalty 3

    The above shouldn’t outshine the Rangers pet in anyway. In fact, it’s only “good” because it has a high loyalty, i.e. it’s dependable. The stats are not that good.

  2. Good idea! I got to know the rules pretty well before my first session, but Hirelings were one thing I glossed over because I figured they probably wouldn’t come up. They didn’t even come to mind, but I think that will do the trick.

  3. Hirelings are wonderful 🙂 I used them in a skirmish battle in my last session. Elven Elite Warriors, with Warrior 2. Three of those make your character a “one-hit-wonder”

    It’s important to use the enemies’ attacks to target the hirelings though, as characters are too hard to touch when they have sufficient backup.

    Remember; Warriors take the brunt of the hurt directed at the characters, as the skill says. Mister Giant Wolfie will often be hurt fighting alongside that druid, but it doesn’t have to die, just be rendered useless until Making Camp or until they get a small break.

    I’d advise you to read the Hireling section thoroughly. They are wonderful. It’s one of the best implementations of helpful NPC’s I’ve ever seen in a game.

  4. It’s important to use the enemies’ attacks to target the hirelings though, as characters are too hard to touch when they have sufficient backup.

    The above part wasn’t a strategy tip. One way of dwindling character resources are making them lose HP. Another is to kill hirelings. The latter is quite dramatic, as it is also a “spiral of death”. They are a big help, even though they often doesn’t last very long 🙂

  5. My first thought is “don’t do that.” That’s a heck of a lot of backstory to be cramming into a new character, and it does risk feeling like a freebie for the Druid. (If it happened organically during play, that’s different.)

    But obviously not helpful.  Going forward my first thought was to include the wolf in description color, to let it effect the fiction, but don’t provide any mechanical advantages.  So it’s participating in battle, but never managing to land a significant blow.

    The though to simulate as a Hireling is really good. It’s still a bit of a freebie, but not too much of one.  So having been exposed to the idea (thanks Kasper!), that’s my new plan.

    No matter what, I would hint to the Druid that maybe he’d like to get the Ranger move as a cross-class option.

  6. Until he takes the multiclass move to have an animal companion, I’d either treat it as a Hireling or just a friendly NPC.  As in, ” The wolf stands there as if beckoning you to follow him.  He trots a few yards down the path and then glances back…”  In combat either he stands aside and does nothing or toss in a few extra mooks and describe how the wolf mauls them during the battle.

  7. I think you guys worry a lot about the balance of something that is quite insignificant in the long run. But maybe that’s just me, I wouldn’t care much about it, not if the rest of the party didn’t mind.

  8. Kasper Brohus I think people worry about balance in DW too much period. I’m not even sure its a concept that really applies to this game.

  9. I think the Ranger would have a reason to be bummed – not that he’s the only one that could have a pet, but that one of the special things about his class is being given to someone else for free.  Would you let the Ranger say “Oh, well, I worship a god that hates undead – so I can turn them.”

    It’s sort of the same reason you don’t let multiple people play the same class in the beginning.

    Anyway, I think the ‘part of the fiction, provides no benefit’ is a good compromise.  Honestly I think it would have been cool if the Druid mentioned this idea to you, and you worked in this ‘spirit wolf’ that keeps appearing at the edge of the campsite then disappearing, etc, during the first adventure – culminating in him taking the feat and ending up with the Ranger move 🙂

  10. To emphasize something Michael brought up: the Ranger didn’t have an opportunity to be cool and unique in this area for a bit before someone else started encroaching. It defeats part of the benefit of avoiding duplicate classes.

    I can see other players being frustrated, because there is an implication, “If you come up with a cool backstory, you can stuff that makes your character cooler before play even begins.”  Part of the problem is that the social pressures mean you may never  hear of the frustration, even if you ask point blank, “are you okay with this?”

    Which ties in with a concern: it sounds like a heck of a lot of character backstory got created during chargen. My interpretation of Dungeon World would make that a no-no.  We should be learning about characters through play, not before play.

  11. Like Michael said, if you give it to him for free then you should let the Ranger turn undead, or cast Wizard spells, or something.  In fact, give every member of the party a multiclass move of their choice for free and then everyone has a chance to broaden their character’s backstory… “I worship this deity” or “I was a failed wizard’s apprentice before becoming a fighter” or “I inherited this special weapon from my uncle, who was a great warrior.” 

    Or heck, if someone says “I want to be an experienced adventurer”, just start them at a higher level than 1st.  If everyone starts at 2nd or 3rd, then the Druid can take a multiclass move and get the animal, and other characters can get their own advancements of their choice.  That’d be fair.

  12. Hmmm… This thread is bringing up some questions that I’ve had in the back of my mind about where to draw the line between fiction and rules.

    The basic moves are very broad. Hack and slash, for example, covers a wide range of melee attacks. Whether you are swinging your sword at the Orc chief’s leg or trying to spear the troll through the gut and pin him to the wall, you roll hack and slash. But the fictional effect of the outcome is different: on a hit, the Orc chief might fall to the ground or start limping, but the troll might just be stuck in place until he breaks loose.

    So, what good are moves like the Ranger’s called shot? Shouldn’t any player be able to disarm a foe by slashing at its hand? If any player cannot get creative with their hack and slash, then what prevents combat from becoming a boring slugfest?

  13. Hack and Slash is an interesting question. My personal interpretation is that if you’re seeking something beyond doing damage, you’re not Hacking and Slashing.  You’re probably Defying Danger by taking the risky shot.  I might be convinced you need to Defy Danger to take the risky shot and follow with a Hack and Slash.  Either way, Called Shot is superior.

    But, the move does say “When you attack an enemy in melee,” and one could call “Trying to slash his arm” is an attack. Not how I’d rule, but I can easily see that interpretation.

  14. My thought is that you indeed ALWAYS let your players have what they want in terms of fiction, but in turn, they will ALWAYS let you ruin what they take for granted.

    Who’s to say that the Druid will always stay on good terms with his animal totem? Every hard move owed to you is yet another good time to make this player’s tangible god-friend a huge liability. In contrast,The Ranger, with his mundane but serviceable animal friend, shouldn’t have to face the crossfire existential divine conflict like The Druid.

  15. I’m with you on as far ad interpreting hack and slash goes Ish. As long as the fiction doesn’t prevent the monster from making one of its move hack and slash can go far beyond just dealing damage. Think of it like this: in DW the game begins and ends with the fiction. So if my fighter wants to swing hook his ax around a goblins ankle and pull his feet out from under him can he? Of course. That’s the fiction. Now is there a move that covers that? Well, hack and slash is when you attack an enemy in melee so that seems right. Go ahead and roll it.

  16. Ish Stabosz 

    Whenever players ask for stuff, or try to do stuff that makes you scratch your head, roll+ WIS.  On a 10+, ask ‘How?’  On a 7-9, let them do it.  On a 6-, say ‘No.’

    Okay, while that is presented jokingly as a move, I feel it’s pretty solid advice.

    The second thing I could suggest is starting them at second level so the Druid can take the AP move, or letting him wait for second level.

    “I said yes; I didn’t say when!’

  17. Why don’t you tell the druid and the ranger: “ok guys, your characters, you decide how their things work mechanically. When both of you are satisfied tell me how it works.” If they are new to the game and you’re teaching it to them, just help them explaining the rules.

  18. Called shot to me is special because when you roll a 7-9 you don’t have to choose a ‘consequence’ like a normal Volley- you just do the special effect and no damage. That’s a pretty cool benefit. As well, if someone tried to disarm with Hack & Slash I wouldn’t have them do damage.

    I really think telling your players to hash it out between them isn’t fair to the Ranger. He probably doesn’t want to cause friction, and it’s hard to say: but that’s one of the reasons my character is special, so I really would prefer you didn’t have a wolf for free.

    Does the wolf need to be actively involved at first level? First level goes by fast so it’s not that long of a wait, and I think using it like I mentioned up above could lead to some really great scenes.

  19. Thanks for the advice everyone. I should clarify something, though, because it seems like I may not have made the situation clear enough. The Druid didn’t ask for the same sort of animal companion move that Rangers get. He even told me that he didn’t want it to be overpowering. Any time that he wanted the wolf to do something, he always asked if it was okay by the rules.

    So, it’s not that he is trying to get a free move. He just thought that it would be cool if his character had a wolf and I said yes. So, now I’m looking for a way to reconcile the rules and the fiction. I think the hireling rules do this well because the wolf would have some influence, but not very much, and it would have a cost like every other hireling.

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