One of the things I really like about this is how races have been incorporated into look.

One of the things I really like about this is how races have been incorporated into look.

One of the things I really like about this is how races have been incorporated into look. I think it’s the correct amount of prompting to indicate that race is something the player should care about but is also flexible.

My favorite innovation about this is that you pick an advanced move during character creation. I love the way this opens up character building options and makes starting characters both more varied and more focused. I’d actually like to see this expanded upon, maybe some classes could have fewer starting moves and more starting advanced move choices.

However, these two things together got me thinking–what’s the point of Background moves? I know they’re a replacement for race moves but, beyond that what purpose do they serve? Why should they be set aside instead of included as a starting move with options, or just included in the advanced moves as potential choices? Some of the backgrounds are mutually exclusive (an argument for them being set aside) but most aren’t.

I think background moves also miss something that the best racial moves can bring too. Although most of the racial moves aren’t like this there’s a few like Dwarf Cleric, Dwarf Fighter, or Human Druid, which really add a lot of flavor to what it is to be a particular race/class combination. Of course it’s really hard to come up with a move for every race/class combination that’s that good, most are pretty boring.

I have not had a chance to pick up the recently released Xanathar’s Guide to Everything yet but the reviews mention that there are a lot of class specific backstory tools like superstitions and tattoos for Barbarians or temptations and a nemesis for Paladins. This sounds very interesting and I’m wondering if something like this could make a better background than just some moves that you have to pick from.


10 thoughts on “One of the things I really like about this is how races have been incorporated into look.”

  1. Part of the reason we removed racial moves in favor of backstory is because they inherently limit the fiction – something PbTA games are supposedly against. If it only says Elf/Dwarf/Human, well than that’s what 99% of players will pick as their races!

    However, I agree that sometimes this is an imperfect solution.

    Setting them aside entirely in favor of the “pick any advanced move” is actually a great way to mitigate the problem altogether, but it does lose the extra benefit that comes with your backstory. How is including backstory options as you suggest any different, than Backgrounds/Races though?

    Great points all around, thanks for this post!

  2. One thing I’ve been toying with (both within WoA and standard DW) is creating a mechanic around worldbuilding, where each player is allowed to assign extra abilities from a pool, which in turn also add to the world/larger narrative. Something like: “Nemerva, you’re a Barbarian, from the desert yeah? What sorts of special knacks did you pick up from your long life of desert-dwelling? When did you last use this knack, and how does it relate to where you ended up today?”

    Nemerva would then pick from a list of “desert-themed” or “survival-themed” boons. Let’s say she picks, “Sand-speaker” – it reads:

    “Long ago, you discovered that Sandstorms aren’t as dangerous as you were led to believe. In fact, the movement and sound created by these storms sound to you as are a sort of music, and listening to their songs has always brought you comfort. When you Make Camp in the desert, you will always heal your maximum HP. In addition, take +1 Forward when you act as Trailblazer while undertaking a Perilous Journey.”

    Sort of like that, but with questions designed to worldbuild.

  3. What I was suggesting is that backstories don’t necessarily have to manifest themselves as a move. Although that’s a bit of a fakeout because in PBtA everything is a move. Drives/Alignments are just moves that say “When you do a thing at the end of session mark an XP”.

    Mechanically, the design space of DW is pretty tight. Moves can of course do anything, but there aren’t a lot of resources that you can turn dials on to reward the players in different ways. I almost want a different subsystem in place (like bonds is a subsystem) for backstories. Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution to offer, but the worldbuilding idea you suggest is I think along the lines of what I’m talking about.

  4. Heritage moves from Dark Heart of the Dreamer would be a good fit for a highly customizable backstory.

    As for Background moves themselves, I think they do serve a role as giving you a choice of three differently defined niches that give greater specificity and style to each class. It depends on your design goal.

  5. Very interesting. I’m not sure where I stand in this. On one side, I do love that my race grants me a unique move that sets me apart but I also dislike that it limits somehow character concept (I ran a one-shot and one player wanted to play a gnome bard, but it was not in the choices so he chose something else).

    I think that background moves makes more sense that racial moves, but I concur that some of them are a bit bland. One of the mantra of [placeholder name – WOA] is :

    Moves which are static bonuses (such as the infamous “+1 to X”) have been trimmed down significantly […]. These bonuses were often considered plain and uninspiring, and have been either replaced or tweaked to provide greater depth.

    Yet, a lot of Background moves are plain and uninspiring +1 to something.

  6. You are absolutely right, Addramyr Palinor, and that’s why backgrounds will be looked at in future releases. I have an optional ruleset (mentioned above) that I’m working on that will tie-in with worldbuilding and character generation, hopefully we can whittle that down to more interesting choices for players to start with regardless of whether they use the supplement or not.

  7. Yeah, I really like the idea of having a “master” list of short moves and having the player answer to 2-3 questions during character creation that will veer him to select a move that fits.

  8. I never quite got on board with the many players who say the racial moves are limiting (as in, each playbook only lets you play as a handful of races), because while I totally understand what they mean and why they feel that way, I have two contentions:

    First, what they most often get replaced with (backgrounds) aren’t terribly different than racial moves, either mechanically or fictionally, a lot of the time, and what they might improve often feels only marginal, and often at the cost of a bit of flavor. In fantasy these races really are (usually) quite distinct, so it always felt a bit odd to relegate race to something exactly as important to the overall game as haircut or general appearance.

    And this is part of Second, which is that there’s nothing stopping you from choosing another race and making up a racial move even in regular DW — sure, you’re no longer following the rules as written, you’ve made a change, but if everybody at table is fine with it, what’s it matter?

    Here especially, with so many places where the option for coming up with a move of your own have been added, I don’t see why having racial moves with the caveat “Or write a race and move of your own” wouldn’t work. You need to discuss it with the GM and the table either way.

  9. I run drop in games twice a month. Usually with players new to DW. 9 times out of 10, they will choose a specific race because it is written down on their playbook. As a GM, this boring to me. Having a list of races not tied to specific backgrounds, with race-neutral backgrounds might allow more free-form play.

    FWIW, I’m working on a total overhaul of the current race/backgrounds/worldbuilding portion of DW (partly inspired by Perilous Wilds) that will probably be separate from WoA, but small bits may find their way in, I hope!

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