A Revised Shapeshifter Move for the Druid

A Revised Shapeshifter Move for the Druid

A Revised Shapeshifter Move for the Druid

Because I’m thinking about core DW classes and their moves, and maaaybe because I’m avoiding other work I should probably be doing, here’s my stab at redo the Druid’s Shapeshift move.

I think Shapeshift is playable as-is, and in theory I like the idea of rolling x1 to take on a form that “banks” limited auto-successes for the future. But in play… eh? I find that play kind of grinds to a halt when the druid takes on new forms, as you’re establishing the moves of that form. And I also find that it’s a bit too reliable and just too good, as:

1) you get too much hold (3, 2, or even 1 on a miss)

2) spending the hold generally skips a roll, so there’s none of the interesting results that you see on a 7-9 or even a 10+ to Hack & Slash or Defy Danger

3) Because “At any time, you can spend all your hold to revert to your natural form,” there’s relatively little risk involved with taking on an otherwise useful form. Why not turn into a polar bear while you wander around the dungeon? If it starts to cause trouble, just shed the form.

4) Because spending hold generally lets you skip rolls, WIS becomes the hands-down most important stat and you can generally shapeshift your way around any shortcomings to your physical stats.

5) The only time the GM gets direct say over what happens with the move is on a 6-, and because WIS is so important, it’s not going to come up that much.

6) Players can keep spamming the same forms over and over again.

So… a revision. I know lots of folks have floated revisions, but this is mine.

The key things I’m doing here are:

* Removing the roll to assume a shape, and instead making there be some (hopefully) interesting choices

* Removing the list of “monster” moves that you spend hold to use, and making the move basically all about fictional positioning instead of “banking” successes.

* Giving the character an instinct for the form, as a way to add (further) complications to being shapeshifted

* Making them roll to leave the shapeshift, giving the GM a chance to screw with them on a miss, or to inflict a lingering complication (the instinct), or to take that form away as an option.

* Explicitly calling out that you don’t get the purely supernatural powers of a form you take, unless you take a move to get them.

Anyhow, I’m sure there are some rough spots, but give it a look and let me know what you think! And if anyone feels up to trying these out, or putting these into a formal-looking playbook, let me know!

8 thoughts on “A Revised Shapeshifter Move for the Druid”

  1. Cool. Gonna read this shortly, but I’ll echo the idea that I want it to be dangerous to stay in form too long. I use that sometimes when a player rolls a 6- to assume a form or while in form – I describe them feeling the “call of the wild” and make them roll to avoid running off in their animal form. This is an old idea in lycanthropy but I remember it best from Ged turning into a hawk in the Wizard of Earthsea – when Ogion has to coax him back into humanity. I did this to my youngest son’s character once. He failed the roll and went feral. I made him reroll every day after at -1 until he came out of the shape and told him if he ever took that shape again there would be a danger (he’d have to roll to revert back to human). Soooooo … good call on that!

  2. Ray Otus Wizard of Earthsea was definitely on my mind for this. Also, strangely, the Runaways comic: how the Staff of One can only perform any given spell once. I really like that narrative limitation, and wanted some way to reflect it. “Sure, turning into a griffon solved this problem, but no griffon shape for you now, not until __”.

  3. Mark Weis yeah, I’m familiar with it and lurk there sometimes. I haven’t jumped in because the medium itself is really jarring to me… it doesn’t seem conducive to long-form, nuanced discussion, which is where I’m most comfortable.

  4. Hmm we never had the druid form moves skip rolls like H&S. For instance, I think I had “crush them in your arms” for a grizzly bear, but still said they had to DD to get close enough. Are you making moves that do damage?

    Also, why not Int on Form of Legend? Seems like you’d have to have some book learning to reason out the forms powers?

  5. Aaron Griffin there were some old conversations with Adam & Sage, maybe back on the Barf Forth forums, where they explicitly indicated that, yeah, when you spent hold there wasn’t a roll and you just did it. Let’s see… here it is!

    apocalypse-world.com – So, The Druid

    INT could work, too, for Form of Legend. But I was thinking more about CON because you were channeling the magic through your form, rather than puzzling out how to use it. It feels like more of a physical thing to me than a mental thing.

  6. I like this.

    We have a DW core Druid in play right now, and I might present this to the player to see if she’d like to switch. She has experienced the drawback of running out of hold while flying in the air as a bird before, and being able to keep the animal form for more than a few beats might appeal to her.

    But since this isn’t the playbook as it was when she chose it, I won’t press her about it.

  7. For what it’s worth. I’ve always played it in a similar manner as Aaron Griffin. I guess we fell into our own ‘hack’ because banked auto success didn’t seem intuitively appropriate. I think we are all in agreement that auto success may not be the right call, even if intended by the creators.

    After some reflection on my past experiences with Druid players, I think I let the use of hold function in a similar manner to how the GM thinks about whether or not a move triggers. However, there is a wider fictional range to evaluate. How much of the range is free, requires a hold, or requires a roll? A few examples:

    1) Humming bird Druid vs Ogre mid club swing – Free humming bird would easily move out of the way.

    2) Wolf Druid vs Ogre mid club swing – Spends a hold to use their leap away quickly move.

    3) Bear Druid vs Huge Ogre mid club swing – Spends a hold to use your stand strong move. This is a huge ogre, you wouldn’t survive in human form, but you can in bear form. However, you’re going to have to roll for it, do you do it?

    Last, when I work with the players to come up with moves I steer clear of any “deal damage” related moves and try and focus them instead on fictional positioning effects only.

    I think with the combination of the two, I’ve found a nice balance with the players and avoided some of the Wisdom stacking issues you noted.

    Very cool ideas here and interested to see how it develops!

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