In my experiences in running dungeon world there are two main concerns as far as class balance goes with the core rulebook. It’s common to hear complaints of wizards and paladins being ‘overpowered’ because of their flexible and very fictionally powerful moves. However, in my experience, it’s the aspects of those classes the GM generally CAN’T touch that make them so strong. Yes, the spells of the wizard can be extraordinarily powerful especially in changing the direction of the plot, but intervention of a planar power or other magical entity can make disruption of a particularly powerful spell possible, and as each spell’s effects can be interpreted in many ways: especially depending on roll results and the interpretation of partial and full successes as well as failures. Even ‘I am the Law’ can be house ruled or have it apply differently than usual. Instead of ‘attacking you’ physically, they do it verbally and expose a misdeed to a local authority, leaving you in some serious circumstances to deal with. My point is, as a gm I have plenty of tools to mix what I imagine into my world despite the moves as written. I love that about dungeon world. However, there are two main concerns I have with these classes.
Let’s start with the Paladin. I am the Law gives him a spell-like ability to control NPC actions if they respect his/her diety. Lay on hands gives you a consistent heal you can use on your party. Quest allows you to gain substantial fictional boons in return for some costs and sacrifices. All of this makes him very strong, but I still love it and he’s easily manageable. The problem I have is that he muscles into the fighter’s role. Yes the fighter has their own cool bag of tricks, but statistically, why play a fighter when you can deal the same amount of damage, have the same amount of armor, have the same base health, as well as be able to control NPCs, heal and call upon divine power? Because of this, the fighter’s martial skills are pretty well marginalized when you can be just as tanky and still have a d10 class damage even if you are also a healer and divine. Fictionally and mechanically, that get’s formidable: which is okay, I like having strong paladins, but fighters just get overlooked imho once the players become experienced with the mechanics of dungeon world and look at just the numbers. Obviously, playing a fighter is still very different as far as moves go and play-style feels. But the Paladin can still take as many blows and chop as many monsters as the fighter at the same time. I’m not entirely sure what the thought process was behind giving a divine class 10+con health and 1d10 damage. Reducing one or both to 8+con health and/or 1d8 damage would make the fighter feel relevant again. It just means the fighter stands out as either as doing more damage and being as tanky as the paladin, or as doing the same damage and being tankier than the paladin. I really feel like that one small nerf (which I used in house rules) would change how I could deal with paladins. They will have at least one part of their class that isn’t entirely optimal and it will give other classes a chance to show off their strengths: that no one else has in their specific blend of it.
Now for the wizard advanced moves. Spell defense, arcane ward, and arcane armor make a slightly broken combo. At level 2, a wizard can have as much armor (3 armor) as a typical level 2 fighter or paladin and can still roll to reduce damage on top of that (arcane defense) as long as they don’t forget all their spells in one day. You literally just have to choose a mediocre level 1 spell and then choose to never cast it and you become a wizard who never has to worry about physical harm. At level 6, the wizard can have up to 5 armor with plain jane leather armor: above and beyond a lighter clad fighter. To get that amount of armor, a warrior would have to wear heavy plate mail as well as a shield. And warrior’s can’t cast spells and run around willey nilley without being weighed down. This makes it exceptionally hard to know how to deal with wizards. If you try to overpower them with physical force (you would think that would be their weakness, as they are wizards). You either throw enemies that can ignore armor at them (which is a possible solution, but annoying, because they basically become orc and goblin proof unless they get unlucky or are put in a spot) to teach them they can’t play tank mage, or you knock them with enough damage that it gets through their armor. However, since they’re wizards, one or two high damage rolls (what you need to deal any damage to them after their armor) will almost kill them. If you try to challenge them via magic it can be much more entertaining, but that’s they’re strong rolls and suits and if you make every magical entity able to overcome them they won’t feel powerful, wizardly, or heroic anytime soon. In other words, I’m finding it hard to challenge and make adventures exciting and interesting for wizards who can overcome physical danger just by having a high armor score (not something the hero actually does, just has) as well as use his cool magic abilities to solve many a problem. It means every time I want to challenge a wizard, or ‘show a downside of their class’ because these moves make it harder for me to challenge them physically, and they should be able to take a spotlight when their arcane talents are needed. In response to this, I really think reducing the armor granted by arcane ward and armor by 1 would balance that out. 1 armor point in dungeon world is pretty huge: it’s pretty much the equivalent of a heavy shield, and granting a lot of it through magic has become problematic
The paladin is stealing the fighter’s spotlight, he’s just as physically capable. In my opinion, their max health and/or damage should be reduced to 8+constitution or 1d8 to allow the tankier or more martially adept Fighter class to have their own spotlight where their talents are most useful.
The wizard’s advanced moves are making them have as much damage reduction (armor) as a fighter or paladin at both low and high levels. This makes it very hard to stress a wizard’s frailty or physical weakness mechanically and not just physically if you rarely have to worry about any mundane attacks. Reducing the armor by one on both arcane ward and arcane armor seems reasonable, especially because of the basic move ‘spell defense’ can also protect the wizard from any sort of physical attack.
I have implemented both of these changes as house rules, but what do you guys think?