New playbook for #Stonetop : the Would-Be Hero.

New playbook for #Stonetop : the Would-Be Hero.

New playbook for #Stonetop : the Would-Be Hero. I’m trying some new things in this one, so feedback is particularly appreciated.

EDIT: New version posted. A lot of the conversation below might not make sense if you’re just reading this now.

Here’s the gist: this is someone who has bravery and determination, but isn’t on par with the other PCs in terms of skill.  But over the long run, they have the potential to become possibly the most effective/powerful character in the game.

To reflect that:

 – Their stat line starts worse than usual: 15 (+1), 14 (+1), 12 (+0), 11 (+0), 8 (-1), 8 (-1).  – But, they’ve got the Potential for Greatness move causes a base stat to increase (up to 16) each time they use it and roll a natural 12. (This will hopefully have the side effect of encourage the player to always be trying stuff, especially stuff they aren’t good at, because of the potential for improvement.)

 – Their starting available moves are all either mostly defensive or about playing off the other PCs. But most of them get replaced with moves that are (intended to be) pretty potent & powerful.

 – They’ve got the widest range of multiclass moves available to them, so they’re super flexible/customizable as they improve. My intent is that it reflects the inexperienced hero learning from everyone and everything around them.

Again, feedback is particularly welcome on this one.

36 thoughts on “New playbook for #Stonetop : the Would-Be Hero.”

  1. Specific questions I’m looking for feedback on:

    a) The name:  should it just be “The Hero?”

    b) Does this look like fun? Would you play it?

    c) Does the Potential for Greatness mechanic feel like it’ll work in general? 

    d) Would Potential for Greatness be better if the stat boost was on any 12+ roll, rather than a natural 12? (I’m torn.)

  2. I don’t generally like the idea of tying the bonus to rolls, I would prefer a less random mechanism allowing to spend holds for successes. The idea sounds fun, the name could be “Hero in training”?

  3. A. Would be hero is a great name for this

    B. It looks super fun, in fact it would be the first stonetop playbook I’d reach for

    C. Potential for greatness move works great, it makes you want to leap into danger

    D. I would keep it as is, makes rolling boxcars that much more exciting

  4. 1) Like the concept; love the name.

    2) Potential for Greatness will require testing to see if it holds up in play.

    3) While I can see that you’re aiming for a cohesive fit with the multiclass moves, they don’t build on any sense of “character.” I’d rather see opportunities for declaring a nemesis, staking your reputation (real or imagined), and making a fool of yourself (in the biggest and best ways) possible.

    I’m a fan of your work overall, though. Will be interesting to see the next iteration of this.

  5. I love it.  Damn, now I really want to play this character.

    I love the level 6-10 moves that make it clear the character is no longer a wannabe, especially Underestimated -> Force to be Reckoned With.  (Maybe there should be an explicit trigger for retitling the character?)

    Potential for Greatness looks awesome, but I would want to playtest it to know if it’s balanced.  Permanent bonuses to rolls are really valuable.

    That’s a lot of multiclass moves.  Without seeing all the other playbooks I don’t know if there’s anything unbalancing, but if there are three others with moves as strong as Potential for Greatness looks, that could be really powerful.  

    I assume in “Get knocked down” the player chooses whether something breaks, but the GM chooses what it is, correct?

    “Tough Love” seems problematic if things ever come to PVP hack & slash.  I’m not sure if automatic success on defence is reasonable or not.

  6. A) Would-be hero is fine. “The Hero” is a little too arrogant; all the PCs are supposed to be the heroes.

    B) Playing the underdog sounds cool, but it doesn’t really fit the Dungeon World vibe, for me, as I see DW as being more “high fantasy badasses” than that. Also, some of the advanced moves seem too strong to me (never needing to roll for Defend or Interfere, making misses in combat basically not a thing), and some are flatly better versions of moves from other classes. Can’t speak to Stonetop as I’ve not read any of your other stuff for that; maybe it’s more in line with those. The basic feel of “I’m going to be the real protagonist of this story in a few levels” is worrying regardless.

    C) I don’t like it, personally. With the lower baseline and all the randomness, you’re either going to end up with a lower stat block than everyone else (not fair to you) or a higher stat block than everyone else (not fair to them). If you started off with a lower baseline and got extra points to allot as you leveled until you catch up, so you get added flexibility of distribution but not extra power, that might (might) be better.

    D) That would make it worse. The race to the top would be way too easy, especially with all the situational +1s the class can whip out.

  7. James Etheridge, now you have me wondering how strong Potential for Greatness really is.  

    So, if I’m rolling a stat with a +1 bonus, I have 10/36 chances of failure and a 1/36 chance of boxcars, so I should get on average one stat boost per 10 xp.  A stat with a +0 bonus has 15/36 chances of failure, so one stat boost per 15 xp;   and a -1 bonus has 21/36 chances of failure, so one stat boost per 21 xp.

    (Rolling lots of skills you’re bad at is the way to level fast in DW – I’m not sure that Potential for Greatness is really that much extra motivation!)

    I’ll also get xp from end-of-session moves and from rolls on my +2 stat(s).  We tend to play short sessions; I would guess I get a quarter to a third of my xp that way, so let’s bump up those numbers by say 40% to account for that.  And suppose I make half my relevant rolls at +1, a third at +0, and a sixth at -1.  That adds up to:

    (10/2+15/3+21/6)*1.4 = 19 xp.

    Roughly only +1 statscore boost every 1.5 to 2 levels!  And only about half of those will actually increase my bonus for rolls.

    Would-Be Hero has a few moves that will affect that.  Anything that gives bonuses to rolls or eliminates failures will slow down leveling and give more chances for stat boosts.  It looks to me like Inquiring Minds at level 1 would be the biggest effect there;  also But I Get Up Again (level 6), Tough Love, Underestimated, and maybe anything available from multiclassing.

    On the other hand, anything that gives bonus xp (notably In Over Your Head) will speed up leveling and make Potential For Greatness less powerful.

    TL;DR:  As it stands, I don’t think Potential For Greatness sounds overpowered at all.  It occupies a starting move slot in place of something like Armored or Animal Companion, and that might be alone enough to justify it, no need to reduce the starting stat line also.  But I’m speculating here, playtesting required.

    One other thing:  If the adjustments to the starting stat block are required to balance the move, and there’s any way for another class to take this move multiclass, you should make a note of what should happen.

  8. without reading the book, my initial reaction is the the Potential for Greatness move while cool, is a little too powerful. you are only 6 lucky rolls away from being 18 across the board.

    Going from an eight to a 16 is a big leap. What if you went to the next highest  tier. So if you are at an eight you go to nine… if you are in the 9-12 range you go to 13. 13-15 range you go to 16, and at 16+ you go to 18.

  9. Chris, I think you’re misinterpreting it. It only increases the base stat, not the bonus. And it can only take a stat up to 16.

    Here’s the actual text:

    When you roll + a stat and roll a natural 12, if that stat is 15 or less, increase it by 1. (If you raise a stat to 9, 13, or 16, its bonus increases by +1.)

  10. AH… well I guess I should have read it first instead of just the comments.

    Disregard previous comment, will read later when I have time and try to comment intelligently later.

  11. colin roald That’s a very good in-depth analysis of the math involved. However, all I think it really does is show that things are more likely to skew in the direction of the “not fair for the Would-Be Hero” outcome, rather than the other way around. I imagine that if you did the analysis for the proposed “any 12+ roll” it would skew in the other direction. Either way, it likely creates an imbalance that’s outside of players’ hands, and that strikes me as creating a problem without really adding anything to the game.

    Multiclassing is another good point, good catch.

  12. It may be a problem also that the variance of how many 12s you roll is going to be pretty high.  Though maybe not, hard to say.  I’d be willing to take my chances — the character wouldn’t be crippled if the dice don’t work out, and you’d have to be really ridiculously lucky to get an excess of 12s only when rolling on your weak stats for things to really unbalance in your favour.

  13. Allowing modified 12s seems like a bad idea, though.  For one, it isn’t hard to get up to a +2 modifier, and that would makes 12s six times more likely.  Also, it would mean that Potential for Greatness was more likely to boost your best scores than your weakest — it doesn’t sound like that’s what Jeremy wants.

  14. Also considering a modded score, any roll on an attribute with a -1 will never hit 12+ (unless say taking +1 Forward/Ongoing but the probability of that combined with a double 6 roll is pretty small, no?) The weakest attributes will never rise. Considering this character starts with 2 -1s, it really limits the ability.

  15. Taking a different tack on “Potential”:

    What if you fashioned it into a +1 ongoing with a core list of triggers that could be modified with advanced moves?

    Ideally, the triggers would involve “underdog” moments where the character strives to go “beyond the impossible”.

    In a similar vein, I’d like to see some advanced moves that play off the backgrounds provided.

    If you haven’t already, I’d suggest reviewing the Barbarian and the Disney Princess classes.

  16. I’ve been mostly sitting out and watching to avoid poisoning the well, but I’m seeing most of the pro/con arguments that played out in my head.  So, how about a few thoughts to chum the waters…

    First, this class is pretty tightly fine-tuned to work with the rest of Stonetop. None of the playbooks will have free-reign multiclassing; those that have multiclass moves will be limited to specific playbooks, and no one will be able to pick moves from The Would-Be Hero.  So I’m not worried about Potential for Greatness getting picked up by other moves.

    A couple other Stonetop-specific things that might play into this here. The purpose of these tweaks is to slow down advancement and (hopefully) speed up resolution of an “adventure” when the PCs have been out in the field for a while.

     – Level Up takes more XP (I’m going with 12+level for now) and requires weeks or months of downtime.

     – There’s an extra move, Burning Bright, where you can burn 2 XP to get an after-you-roll +1, but you can only use the move when you have more XP than you need to level.  (The Driven background gets to use it anytime, which is why they get the two drives for more XP… they’ll spend it more!)

    I hadn’t thought about Tough Love being too powerful, but I’m reconsidering it.  I’ve never seen PvP in any DW game I’ve played, so I have a hard time assessing how powerful “auto interfere” would be.  There are definite analogs out there in the PbtA sphere, allowing you to Aid with 10+ automatically.  Maybe auto interfere really is different?  Not sure.  Anyhow, I might just make it “When you oppose a fellow PC because you honestly think they’re in the wrong, they take -1 ongoing against you.”

    I’m not too worried about the 6+ replacement moves being better than ones that are out there.  Consider that in most playbooks, the “replaces” moves are just better versions of the original moves. Most of the Would-Be Hero’s “replaces” moves actually cause you to lose functionality, so the thing that’s replacing it should reflect that. 

    Multiclassing… yeah, I hear y’all.  There are some hero-specific moves that didn’t make the cut just to physically make space for them, so I’ll probably cut a few.  At least 2, maybe 3.

    More thoughts to follow soon on the big question, Potential for Greatness.

  17. So… what are the design goals for Potential for Greatness?

    1) Reflect the “zero to hero” arc you see in some fiction. I’m thinking of Tavi in the Codex Alera or Neb in the Hymns of Isaac. To a lesser extent: Neville in Harry Potter (unrelated, but he’s totally the inspiration for Tough Love.).  I feel like the move does this, but it’s not the only way to do it. There’s also the question of whether it does so predictably enough. 

    2) Push the player to take risks and play up their weaknesses, acting boldly and wrecklessly and getting themselves (and their allies) into trouble.  I feel like the current rule does that quite well; rewards that unpredictable yet attainable are a powerful motivator.  So to me, the randomness is a serious plus. I totally understand that some will dislike it aesthetically and thus avoid this playbook, but if it doesn’t disrupt the game for others I’m OK with that.

    So for now, let’s take it as a given that some version of Potential for Greatness will be there (and that it won’t be available for multiclassing by other classes).  It’s still got issues, yeah?  Maybe, at least.

    My chief concern is James Etheridge’s point that the move won’t trigger enough and will actually screw over the Would-Be Hero.  That might be alleviated by the slower advancement rate. 

    Let’s see… the Would-Be Hero starts 4 statbase points lower than standard PCs. Taking colin roald’s estimate of 1 boost per 19 XP, that’s (19 x 4) = 76 XP required to “catch up.”  At 12+Level XP to level up, we’re looking at having to level up 5 times before their stats are on par with other PCs.  Which, interestingly, is where the Would-Be Hero starts really turning into a full-fledged Hero with moves like Force to Be Reckoned With, But I Get Up Again, and Undaunted showing up.  So… maybe that’s just right?  Or maybe I give back a statbase point to the starting array.  That’d have them caught up by 5th level, and then anything after that becomes a bonus.

    Then the question becomes, do I really mind the potential extra statbase points that the now-Hero might accumulate?  Probably not. I think it’s unlikely you’d get anything unbalancing.

  18. Sorry to spam this, but just putting more thoughts down…

    If Potential for Greatness was triggered on any 12+ instead of a natural 12, that’d make it something the player could aim for.  It’d encourage:

     – Taking & using Inquiring Minds and Underestimated, and trying to use it to get that +1 bonus.

     – Using Discern Realities a lot, and acting on the answers for that +1 bonus.

     – Asking for help a lot (from Aid). 

     – If they have accumulated enough XP, using Burning Bright if it makes a difference.

    These are all good things.  Like, I want the would-be hero to do all of that. 

    The problem is, that makes them much more likely to get stat boosts, especially to their +1 stats.  Oh.  OOH.  So do that, and then limit the # of times they can get the stat boosts.  Enough times that they it makes up for being subpar to start with, but not so much that it makes a huge difference after the fact.

    I might have something here…  watch this space.

  19. It’s rough on the class if it takes until level 4 or 5 before its signature move even stops being a penalty, never mind becomes a benefit. Everybody else will have moves that are strong from day 1.

    But that’s not necessarily a problem if it allows the potential for greatness later on. Classic D&D magic-users are like that, and lots of people (including me) love to play them.

  20. OK, made some significant updates. Check ’em out if you’re interested.

     – Revised the stat block and Potential for Greatness

     – Dropped two of the multiclass moves

     – Replaced Underdog with Better Part of Valor

     – Updated Voice of Experience to be more worthwhile.

     – Updated Tough Love

     – Added something for colin roald in particular

    There’s still room now for 2-3 more moves.  Definitely considering some sort of nemesis or “so we meet again” type move.  Maybe some sort of “cheat death” move (ala Harry Potter vs Voldemort).

    But I need to sleep now.

  21. If I may, I’d like to set aside specific mechanics for a moment to ask a couple of questions.

    1) Is it an explicit design goal to have this class start off weaker than everyone else, and end up stronger than everyone else (it seems like it is from the way you describe it and how it looks)?

    2) If so, is this a good design goal?

    Because the thing is, the type of character growth you’re describing works great in traditional literature; that’s why we have things like Campbell’s Monomyth, the Hero’s Journey cropping up pretty much everywhere. But when you’re playing a game, with other human beings who all want to feel important to the collaborative story you’re creating, having the kind of disparity that growth creates (both at low levels and at high levels) does not facilitate a fun game. The example of magic users has been brought up, so I’ll just add that sure, those types of characters can be fun to play–for the magic users. For the more “mundane” characters who still want to contribute equally to the fiction, it’s not really fun in my experience to watch your core competencies be made irrelevant.

    (NB: I am aware this does not happen at every table. Nonetheless, the DnD caster/martial disparity is well-established as a problem, and I’ve experienced it firsthand from both ends.)

    Now is the Would-Be Hero as bad along those lines as, say, a 3.5 caster? No, I wouldn’t say that. But the underlying philosophy of creating one character archetype whose entire shtick is eventually outgrowing and outshining the other archetypes is, I think, a very bad thing to build a class on.

    Now if every single class you built had its own version of the Hero’s Journey, so everyone could experience struggling together at lower levels and getting to those turning points where they become total badasses at later levels, that would boss as hell. But if it’s just one class, one character at the table, who’s being treated like a hero on a much more fundamental mechanical level than everyone else at the table… well, see question number two.

  22. Once upon a time in Roleplaying not all characters started out or ended up on equal footing.

    For some of us that was part of the fun. I say leave it and any one that is not fun for wont play the playbook.

    Not every book should appeal to ever player. That kind of dilution makes for a boring game in my opinion. 

  23. I hear what you’re saying, Chris, but from a design perspective you can’t just consider what’s fun to play as; you also have to consider what’s fun to play alongside. And thinking along those lines, power* disparity isn’t a feature, it’s a bug.

    (*”power” here refers to the ability to engage with the fiction, and the ability to allow other people to engage with the fiction, as that’s really the only thing that needs to be balanced regardless of system. DW’s streamlined mechanics makes it harder to get that wrong enough to matter, but it can still happen, and it’s something to avoid.)

  24. Potential for greatness is now limited to six stat point boosts, and the character starts out four stat points behind.  Stat points, not bonuses, so that might work out in the end to an extra +1 on one ability — hardly something that will overshadow other characters.  Also, everybody does get a hero’s journey — that’s what levelling is all about.  

  25. James Etheridge I think when I started this playbook, I was envisioning them as ending noticeably more bad-ass than others in the 7+ level range. 

    That’s not really what I’m thinking now. I don’t think that’s what this is doing. It’s more about feeling like you’re going from liability to super-competent badass. 

    And yeah, the Would-Be Hero probably does end up a little more mechanically powerful & reliable than it’s cohorts. But not that much. And nothing close to the quadratic wizard problem of old.

    colin roald & Marshall Brengle… does this current version still excite you guys the way the original version did? 

  26. The class still looks like fun to me.  Though maybe the capping mechanism feels a little blunt, like why should it stop there?  You just pick up any other move, how is that connected?  It would be awesome if maybe it was more of a countdown timer, and when you’ve checked all the boxes you get … maybe it’s called Comes Into Your Own.  I’m not sure what it does, though.  Maybe it’s just a different spin on what you’ve got there, but it would be great to have a fictional trigger, the rite of passage, “next time you _, replace potential for greatness with _

  27. Still into it and like most of the changes. Been following the conversation and had a thought – what about tying Potential for Greatness to fictional situations instead of a stat mechanics? More or less a DW implementation of Fate points. Maybe something like, “When you attempt something adventurous or extraordinary for the first time, hold 1 Potential (up to your level). Thereafter, you may spend Potential one-for-one to a) treat any result of 6- as a 7-9, b) double the effect of any result of 10+, c) attempt something truly epic or unearthly that you otherwise could not.” Gives you a way to effect the fiction, without effecting the bell curve, that feels like a Hero’s Journey. You could still disadvantage the stat line a bit, since the whole schtick becomes succeeding even when by rights you shouldn’t, but I wouldn’t think that’s necessary. Just a thought about a way to reduce fiddly bits. 🙂   

  28. I see where you’re coming from, but that feels harder to adjudicate (what is “epic”?) and less like personal growth to me. A one-off stunt isn’t the same thing as coming into your own.

  29. I’ve actually been kicking around something like Marshall Brengle describes. Instead of the Fear & Anger section on the back, you’d have a list of milestones. They’d need to be pretty discrete and cover a lot of ground.  Stuff like…

    [] Stand up to a bully

    [] Get captured by an enemy

    [] Face your greatest fear (which is ____)

    [] Get yourself out of a jam, without help from others

    [] Rescue someone else from danger

    [] Stop or prevent a fight, without resorting to violence yourself

    [] Kill a dangerous beast, up close and personal

    [] Kill a person who gave you no other option

    etc., etc.  Each time you accomplish one, you’d increase a statbase by one, up to X times. After that, something like colin roald’s idea of You Come Into Your Own.

    It could be cool, but the design is too forced for my taste. It gives you a tic-list of “here’s what to do to become a hero.”  I’d prefer a more subtle design that rewards risk-taking, seeking help, being resourceful, etc. without coming straight-out and saying it.

    colin roald: would the cap on Potential for Greatness still feel weird to you if you without the “pick another move” option?  Or any further ideas on what Come Into Your Own might look like? 

  30. Oh, new version posted. Potential for Greatness hasn’t changed, but I filled in the blanks with a few new moves:

     – Anger is a Gift

     – Resourceful

     – Speak Truth to Power

    Also nerfed Undaunted and But I Get Back Up Again a little.

  31. Resourceful is awesome.  And I love the asterisk on the upgrade moves.  As for the upgrade out of Potential for Greatness, I do think I like the idea that it changes at some point.  The first thing that comes to mind is that the point of being a Hero is to be a hero of my people, so maybe it’s something like “when you ask for aid in a place you have defended, it will be given as far as they are able.”  Except that wording is too definite — there’d need to be some slack to allow for variation in personality, and for the Hero to eventually wear out their welcome, etc.  

    I dunno, it’s an idea.

  32. Hmm. I’m liking this iteration more than the previous one.

    Just a quick thought, though: you have a fair number of moves that give mods to Roll+ or flat out overcome the odds/results. What I’d like to see more of are moves that give options. Case in point, “Something to Remember Me By” feels like a natural setup move for rivals, a nemesis, or archenemy. I could see “Anger is a Gift” being retailored as a follow-up move to that, granting either Rage to spend on a list of options or a Roll+ with a GM choice (like “I am the Law”). Will be showing this class to my players soon for an upcoming game so I’ll be sure to post their thoughts, as well.

  33. OK, new (and for now, final) version just uploaded.

    Jarod Cerf, I updated Anger is a Gift per your recommendation. Solid advice.  I also added Up with People along the same lines of including more options than bonuses. (I think Speak Truth to Power was already fitting the I am the Law sort of niche.)

    colin roald I kept rolling the transition for PfG around in my head, but couldn’t find anything that worked. The Stonetop setting is small and local, enough so that I think debts and relationships and reputations should be based on the fiction rather than moves. (Related, I’m dropping Outstanding Warrants from this for the same reason). 

    The other thing that concerns me is that it’s entirely possible that a Would-Be Hero checks all 6 boxes before they really start becoming/feeling like an actual Hero in play.  So I didn’t want to replace it with a move that implied they really were a hero now.  In the end, I opted to reduce the starting HP and Load a little, then have those (and their damage die) increase over the course of the move. And now it just goes away when it’s done.

    Edit: Also, I added an extra starting move. Since PfG mostly now balances itself against the lower starter start stats and isn’t replaced, that seemed only fair.

    Anyhow, thanks everyone for their insight on this one.  It feels like a much stronger class to me than it did when I started.  I’m gonna put this on the “done for now” shelf and move on to the Fox.

  34. So we’re two sessions into the game (one of my players opted for the Hero) and it seems to run true to concept. He’s playing the youngest in a family of demon slayers on his way to the lone academy that trains them.

    Potential for Greatness kicked in at an opportune time (after a handful of 6- Discern Realities and one Perilous Journey roll ended with the party in an underground torrent of water). Anger is a Gift was definitely the star though: both he and his companion, a Collector, were close to being devoured by an undersea horror (long story short, don’t eat enchanted fire and then pray to unknown gods).

    We decided that our “Hero” could pull one more valiant attempt before rolling for his Last Breath. He chose Anger and through the olden gifts of his ancestors (and a potent aphrodisiac) escaped with his fellow player to the shoreline.

    Now all I need to do is figure out how a love philter affects a carnivorous (and shapeshifting) mermaid in the long run…

    It is indeed a fun class, though. I’m looking forward to his first day at the academy.

  35. Jeremy Strandberg Sure thing, mate. Will post some more thoughts after the next session.

    One thing I’ve noted though: there’s an interesting synergy between Impetuous Youth and Potential for Greatness; particularly when your Would-Be-Hero navigates through an arcane labyrinth and lands himself brilliantly on a reanimate phoenix skeleton mid-flight…

    Only to then use his newfound strength and charisma–from a subsequent Impetuous roll–to drive said phoenix, now ignited, through the central fountain, plumbing, and library in an effort to extinguish the flames.

    If he keeps this up, he might need a Front of his own :).

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