I need an opinion on the semantics of the Shapeshift move for the Druid.

I need an opinion on the semantics of the Shapeshift move for the Druid.

I need an opinion on the semantics of the Shapeshift move for the Druid. I had a PC with the domain Depths of the Earth who wanted to turn into a magma golem. I originally declined, saying just animals are allowed, but he argued that the wording of “you may take on the physical form of any species” implies more than just regular animals. Since we were opposed, I allowed it for that session and told him I’ll find a definitive answer.

So, tavern-goers, what do you think?

19 thoughts on “I need an opinion on the semantics of the Shapeshift move for the Druid.”

  1. Does it makes sense with the fiction? Did it sound awesome? I think the answer you will likely see here a few times is to roll with it if it sounds fun.

    I would allow it, though there could certainly be consequences (the fun part!). Imagine him dripping magma… starting a forest fire (in a forest), burning down a building (in a house), or choking fumes that the other players have to deal with (if in a cave), etc. Imagine he gets hit with a “Messy” weapon – I could see magma chunks flying everywhere that the other players (and mobs) must try and avoid.

    There’s also a lot of possibilities there for “failed” rolls, or even partial successes (when changing forms) which are things I like to consider. EX: I had a player roll a 5 when changing into a Gorilla… so instead of changing completely, his hands actually grew 3x as large as normal, and his arms got really thick… they essentially weighed him down.

    My point is, you can certainly demonstrate the cost for taking such a form (and maybe the player is okay with those consequences), but in my opinion yea, go for it 😉

  2. Well, first off there’s no “definitive answer”; I’m not saying that to be snarky, it’s just that with Dungeon World it’s not about there being one distinct universal way to handle things.

    That being said, if you decide that magma elementals are a species, then yes he can turn into one and do whatever it is magma elementals do. It also implies certain things about them; are they just other-dimensional animals, or are they intelligent? How do they breed? What do they eat? Things like that.

    If you say they’re not a species, then the implications are different. What are they? Unintelligent constructs? If so who creates and controls them? If they’re just random manifestations of an element, then what forms them at random, and why?

  3. I tend to restrict species to more-or-less real-world animals. There might be a two-trunked elephant or whatever, but mostly “real” creatures.

    An elemental sounds like it would require the Thing-talker move to me. I’d tell the Druid “sorry, that’s not an animal, but you might think about taking this move when you level up.”

  4. Mike’s answer makes me giddy. What a perfect opportunity to teach you player the lesson about “be careful what You wish for”

    I can just see Yoda-druid shaking his little wooden stick in frustration “kids today…always with the fire and lava, you are…”

  5. Born of the Soil 

    “when shapeshifting you may take the shape of any animal who might live in your Land.”

    So any species of any animal. 

    Sage LaTorra why only “real” animals? Shouldn’t it be a fantastic world?

  6. Tim Franzke, the first question you have to answer is “animal, as opposed to what?”

    Some things I would let them change into: owls. Bears. Eagles. Lions.

    Some things I wouldn’t: intelligent creatures like elves or centaurs. (They could totally do centaurs or merfolk after taking the mix & match move though.) Golems, robots, wagons, crossbreed wizarddidits, and other things made by people. Undead. Spirits (like elementals or demons)

    Some things depend on the setting. Owlbears are OK (unless they are magically created by wizards). Gryphons, unless they’re intelligent. Pegasi (if they are naturally occurring – if the only Pegasus sprang from the blood of the decapitated Medusa then no).

  7. Tim Franzke  a two-trunked elephant or giant eagle isn’t fantastic enough for you?

    There’s a reason there’s an advanced move specifically for becoming “inanimate natural objects (plants and rocks) or creatures made thereof” and a move beyond that for “pure elements—fire, water, air and earth.”

    We wrote the move intending that Druids be able to take on the form of naturally occurring non-intelligent beasts native to the mortal realm knit together from flesh and blood, but that’s all a bit verbose, so we summed it up as “species.” If a first level druid can take on the forms of the pure elements, wow, there’s not many places to go from there.

    That said, Mike’s advice about showing the downside to becoming a being of fire stand perfectly well once the player has the appropriate moves.

    Oh, and of course remember that advancement is prescriptive and descriptive: if the player really wants this ability, now, maybe tell them what rituals and so on they’d have to undertake to get that ability.

  8. Tim Franzke Thanks Tim, yea I should have left that bit out re: partial success – was thinking out-loud and quickly without actually looking at it 😉

  9. Tim Franzke: are these things common and natural parts of the environment, or are they mythical unique monsters? If the only Hydra is the offspring of Typhon and Gaia, then definitely not. If the cockatrice comes from a mommy and a daddy cockatrice, maybe, but if its hatched by a toad from a rooster’s egg then you are deeply in unnatural territory already. If the giant spiders are just overgrown regular spiders then OK, but if they’re the descendants of an evil angel and smart enough to be taunted by the halfling to keep them away from his dwarven friends then no.

  10. I usually say “non-magical beasts” when asked about what Druids can shapeshift into.  That seems to settle things in peoples’ heads.

    If the Druid wants to shapeshift into something more exotic … maybe the Wizard can help them do so with a Ritual?

  11. Uhhh did this discussion become why doesn’t shape shift have plug and play magical powers? Again?

    Wait I guess I should have an answer: Because magma golems will fall apart and die at surface psi.

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