I’m just curious. Has anyone thought about a move acquisition structure other than Base Class & Compendium Class?

I’m just curious. Has anyone thought about a move acquisition structure other than Base Class & Compendium Class?

I’m just curious. Has anyone thought about a move acquisition structure other than Base Class & Compendium Class? 

I ask because I’ve seen a large proliferation of base classes, but to me it seems like an awkward way to go about variations on central themes. For instance having to write a whole new Burglar class vs. the Thief class which has stealth-based abilities instead of Poison abilities, or a whole different class for a ‘Light-Arrmed’ theme Fighter vs. the core design.

Has anyone tried going with a system with a core group of basic classes (a.k.a. Basic Classes like Warrior, Mage, Priest, Rogue) then having “specialties” (a.k.a. Kits, Advanced Classes, etc. like Burglar, Con-Artist, Soldier, Thug, Bounty Hunter, Berzerker, Illusionist, etc.) that the PC can choose?   The basic class would only have moves that are key to the core concept and shared by all specialties for that class, while other ‘themed’ moves would be specialty specific? 

Would this even work in DW?


* Warrior Basic Class (melee fighting/defense class) – includes basic weapon use, armor use, Spout Lore – Weapons and Armor, Basic Fighting Techniques.

* Background: Choose 1 specialty from the list of options. This specialty’s moves count as class moves for you and you may choose from this list when you level up in addition to the moves of your base class. Additionally, you gain the core ability of your specialty.

* Example List of Specialties:

– Bodyguard (Core: Bonus to Defend)

– Berzerker/Barbarian (Core: frenzy/rage ability)

– Duelist (Core: Use +DEX vs. +STR for Hack and Slash)

– Soldier (Core: bonus to Make Camp and Take Watch)

Each specialty could have its own unique Spout Lore bonuses, etc.

Compendium Classes would remain the same, special lists of abilities linked to a specific fulfillment requirement. These would be special classes, not generic ideas. For instance a Guild Thief of the Flaming Blades CC would only be something available to someone who actively becomes a special agent of the Flaming Blades thieves’ guild in game, etc.

11 thoughts on “I’m just curious. Has anyone thought about a move acquisition structure other than Base Class & Compendium Class?”

  1. I don’t like it. Are you trying to use the D&D 3.0+ structure with those silly bonus representing a class? The Bodyguard, Barbarian, Soldier, etc, they have their own “theme and color”.

    When a d&d player tastes DW, he really feels the class with all the moves and descriptions included in the playbooks. I want a playbook for The Illusionist, another for the Soldier, and so on.

    I’m curious about what’s coming in Pirate World, maybe I can change my mind.

  2. Long answer: I thought long and hard about this for #pirateworld , as I wanted both more flexibility in character development and a more natural progression. The end result is background classes

    At character creation, players choose a core class and a background class.

    * Core classes are naturally slightly than DW’s with 3 main moves, and more focused as a result. Core classes focus on the unique abilities a character has; for example the Avatar gets their god to manifest and possess them.

    * Background classes are groups of 4-6 moves, and you start with one move at character creation. They’re skills, careers and experiences that characters of that background’s archetype will have, and aren’t necessarily unique to the player’s character. For example, the Armoured background is all about crafting armour, wearing it better and (eventually) enchanting it. It’s up to the player to decide (and explain) a character’s background.

    Background Classes also have one major difference to other DW classes; you advance through a background class via a fictionally-based End of Session move. i.e.

    “did I expand on my background?”

    It’s for the group to decide, not the player. The group can also decide they’ve expanded into a separate background and award a new background to expand through.

    They combine to give your character class’s name, so you could have an Armoured Brute and be totally terrifying, for example, or a Necromantic Pirate, or a Reefmonger Cultist.

    Each core class has a unique background class (or two) available to it, and these have skills that are tailored exclusively for the class. There’s also a full collection of Background Classes that players can choose from, meaning you’re not stuck with one archetype just because you picked a core class.

    For an example of how it looks, check out The Reefmonger class I posted earlier today; it has a choice of three backgrounds.

    * The Cultist, based around dark rituals and secretive allies

    * The Arcane, based around reigning in magical energies

    * The Cannibal, based around eating people

    But they’re not limited to these classes. A player picking a Reefmonger could decide their character grew up on a ship, and so have the Swashbuckling background, or that they enjoy shooting stuff and have the Gunpowder background. A Reefmonger could have a pet parrot (likely possessed by some eldritch Deep One, but still!), and so have the Pet Master background instead.

    I’ve got to run to class, hopefully that’s been useful! I’d love to hear your input; I plan on making the backgrounds section of the Pirate World book pretty significant, including a section on

    * how to convert DW classes into PW classes

    * write your own background classes.

    I’ve got the Backgrounds Rules actually written up and ready to release (and it’s a huge section, almost a DW supplement in itself!), if you could help me go over it that would be amazing! I’d love to release it online very very soon (it won’t be published in hardback for a couple of months yet) and could do with a quick hand.

  3. I’d go as far as providing options for one or two Base Move at creation, calling it Archetypes or Style or Background or what have you. That would get you back to one Rogue playbook with a move each for Thief/Grifter/Duelist Archetypes.

    I also like Marshall’s suggestion to write them as Level 1 Compendiums. “Take this move during character creation if your Thief finds particular honor in man-to-man challenges – Duelist (replaces Poisons) ipsum lorem

  4. I think sometimes folks forget the simplest move acquisition system that’s part of the game so I’ll mention it: the fiction. If it makes sense for a character to have acquired a move due to in game action or experience it’s not necessary that they take a compendium class or whathaveyou.

  5. Unfortunately, not all players or GMs see it that way (+Scott McGougan). The “leave it all to the fiction” can and does get some abuse when players can basically so “oh yeah, I did this or that in my past” to cover just about anything. When you can just make it up on the fly, it kind of takes away any real investment in bothering to come up with a character’s background.

    Additionally, a lot of players enjoy the process of creating back-story and like something a touch more defined for doing it. For instance, a Fighter who’s backstory is a veteran soldier, might or even should, have at least one different move (mechanic) than say a Fighter who just took his dad’s sword off the mantle at the farmhouse and went looking for adventure. However, I know that DW attempts to address this as a non-issue by saying that at character creation you can’t have more than one of any given class and by making only the most iconic classes available. However, over a longer game or in a game with more players, that structure doesn’t always come into play or doesn’t hold up to player expectation.

    I honestly don’t see where adding a Background move (or compendium-like background class) is unbalancing to the system.  (I also don’t really see where more detailed races breaks anything either). It may create a touch more bookkeeping by having a few more moves but that doesn’t bother me. Even a slightly “crunchier” DW is still way lighter than many other games.

    The DW system as designed, works fantastic for one-offs and short 3-5 session games where you really aren’t investing in the characters as much as just out for a quick dungeon run game, but I feel it could use a little more depth and breadth to character development to support actual ‘campaign’ use.  Maybe its our coming from more mechanic heavy systems, but our group has always enjoyed systems that have some form of Life Path system, or defined background and personal class niche, involved in character creation and enjoy seeing real differences in a class from one player to another. Especially since we have often shown an interest in running theme games like “everyone is a mage at the wizard college” or “you are all military mercs” or “you are all members of the thieves’ guild”. Hard to do that when you end up with multiple characters that are basically identical carbon copies.

    I’ll be very interested to see where James H. goes with his interpretation of Background vs. Core classes in #Pirateworld. I’m also intrigued by Marshal and Shawn’s take on Level 1 Compendium classes; though in effect I think its basically the same idea James is using, just named differently, and that Jame’s system will allow acquisition of the background moves Outside the normal level up move choice so that the character isn’t forced to choose Between a background move and a Class move.

    However, I am also toying with the idea of outright using the idea of “Kits” similar to old 2E D&D.  You have your core class such as Thief. You then have for instance Con Artist, Burglar, and Thug kits. The Kit doesn’t give you anything “extra” but it dictates a flavor change to the class by say altering a few basics of the class like maybe a different gear selection, and then changes to the class’s move selections for instance…  “Remove the Poisoner, Brewer, Envenom, Poison Master, etc.” moves as class moves and replace them with the “Dirty Fighting, Shank ‘Em, Thug Strike, Merciless, etc.)” moves as class moves. This makes a Core Thief and a Thug Thief feel different. I also think it would be easier to write Kits then whole new classes.

    Or would people simply prefer to see all of the Kit-like variants of a class all mixed in to a core class?  So following the same example, all the Poisoner AND Thug moves would be mixed into the Thief class’s move list and the thief player can pick whatever they want? Personally I don’t care for the idea of the lumped abilities as it waters down the class theme too much. However, I think I prefer the idea of Background/Level 1 Compendium Classes or Kits ideas over scores of individual variant classes.


  6. Mine would be closer to Kits. You’d pick a vanilla class and then substitute a Move or two (and possibly some equipment choice) at character creation if you wanted to start with a slightly different Subclass.

    The first stumbling block I see is physically fitting the extra text boxes on the character sheet, so implementing them on different sheets does make some sense (but then we’re back to the half-dozen Thief flavors). That’s my main reason to implement them as Character Creation Compendium options.

  7. Shawn McCarthy I can understand that standpoint, though personally I have no reliance on the pre-printed playbooks. They’re nice for a one-shot or pickup game (in which case vanilla classes should be fine anyway) but in a more established game, I have no problem using blank sheets with hand written notes or using digital sheets. A blank digital is easy to cut and paste into, or using something like the ‘Sheet Yourself’ app.  I tend not to think of the playbooks as a design restriction. JMHO.

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