What are the advantages and disadvantages to using heritage moves instead of racial or background moves?

What are the advantages and disadvantages to using heritage moves instead of racial or background moves?

What are the advantages and disadvantages to using heritage moves instead of racial or background moves? What campaigns or stories are they better suited to?

I recently bought Dark Heart of the Dreamer, and wonder how to decide which to use, since both approaches to a character’s background/upbringing/etc are pretty cool.

26 thoughts on “What are the advantages and disadvantages to using heritage moves instead of racial or background moves?”

  1. Chris Lenk they’re better with slightly-more experienced players who want an opportunity to play a character whose capabilities are influenced in more than one direct way due to their culture or race. For example, someone who wants to play a character highlighting disparate race / cultural traits or portray a handful of different aspects (some maybe contradictory) of the same culture or race or combination thereof. It’s embracing the weird.

    Also, it’s a fuck of a lot easier to use Heritage moves than have to come up with a racial move for a half-goblin / half-faerie raised on some mythical feline heaven-plane.

  2. In addition to what Adam just said, Heritage lends itself more to settings where weird and disparate character background concepts are common. 

  3. Thanks for the responses, guys!

    Now this probably isn’t rules-as-written, but I saw someone using heritage moves in a Planescape campaign to model not only race but also faction, deity, or patron. I could also see them being used for a previous profession the character used to have before they started adventuring. With all of these options in play, characters even in settings without weird race combinations become a lot more interesting. Why should I stick with the base game’s racial moves instead of heritage moves?

  4. Because the base game moves generally interlock with the class mechanics perfectly, rather than being an add-on feature. 

    Base game moves: I am an elven fighter.

    Heritage moves: I am a fighter. I am also an elf.

  5. Racial moves make statements about a race in a specific class — we know what elf fighters are like and can extrapolate for the setting, we know what halfling Druids are like and we can extrapolate for the setting.

    Heritage moves make statements about cultures and species broadly, but not necessarily how they intersect with individual classes. So heritage moves are open to conflict, contradiction, and development because of the standards they suggest for their people, versus whatever the player/character gets up to.

  6. I love the end result of diversity that should arise from a heritage move strategy, but without an established, vetted for PC use, compiled list of potential heritage moves, it seems like a lot of extra work to support. I keep hunting around for something like this but all I’ve come across is a few lists of move names but not the content of the moves, which still leaves a ton of work.

  7. Because neither of those are needed, I’d say. The book has several chapters of monsters all written up, as close to a compilation as we have, and there’s no need to vet them since they have no mechanical components to balance.

  8. That said, they can be very flexible and interpreting them is part of the fun / skill of using heritage moves. Writing them (and druid animal moves, as an extension) is really a lot like just asking a child “what does a demon do?” or “what does a spider do?” and then picking three simple things. Interpreting them in play is the table’s responsibility. 

    As far as how well they function, they function as well as the fiction allows. Like, “strike a powerful blow with my claws” might deal damage, it might outright kill something or it might do nothing, depending on what you’re striking and how you narrate yourself doing that. Same as anything. They tend to lay a little on the side of letting the player have what they want, because they did make a move at the start of the session, and there was some risk there (though admittedly, I don’t really like moves that happen with die rolls outside of the narrative).

    Anyway, they’re not perfect, but they’re one way to get at a particularly open, cosmopolitan setting.

  9. Fred Hicks in the case of heritage moves, they’re not the traditional “roll dice, make choices, etc” kind of moves. They’re just names. They’re one statement of effect, paid for and obtained by the heritage move currency you get at the start of session. So if I spend one point of hold on my heritage move “strangle a foe” then they get strangled, provided it makes sense in the narrative (I can’t strangle a block of stone, for example). It’s a direct exchange, which is what makes them (and druid shapeshifting) so powerful.

    In case that wasn’t clear. When you said you could only find a “few lists of move names but not the content of the moves” I wondered if maybe that’s something needed clearing up.

  10. Ah, yeah. I guess that makes sense, tho I didn’t always feel the lists of moves I saw were chock full of clarity about their use, so I suppose it’s not for me without a little more rigor.

  11. The monster moves do exactly what they say, at that moment in the fiction. Seriously, that’s all. If it says crush and there’s a PC in their claw – crush the PC. If they’re near enough to grab a PC’s weapon – crush that instead.

  12. That can be true and can still be paired with moves that don’t give me a lot of clarity for their use. I’m not confused by the principle, at all, so please refrain from assuming that I am.

  13. Until you offer concrete examples of where you’re lacking clarity, all I or anyone can do is offer broad advice in an attempt to help. I’m not trying to assume you don’t understand the principal, I’m trying to respond to what you’re saying — and I’m being treated kind of rudely despite my best efforts, I feel. I understand I’m not Adam or Sage, but I’m also not so out of the loop that I can’t help, in my opinion.

  14. Heh. That’s the internet for you. I tend to read implicit assumptions that I have no idea how to operate the rule principle in question as rude. So of course I responded as though I was being given offense.

    I’m gonna walk away from this discussion. I said upstream that I felt what I was being told meant the method’s not for me. That’s not a call to convince me otherwise! I promise. It’s okay. I’ll still have fun when I play.

  15. I find the D&D 4e Monster power titles and subsequent  fluff description give great ideas for heritage moves. The 4e MM digest format comes along with DW everywhere 🙂

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