I ran Dungeon World for the first time in what seems like forever on Saturday and had a great time. I also had some trouble coping with a couple druid abilities. I’d appreciate any thoughts/suggestions:
1. The Shapeshifter ability
Once a druid shifts to an animal form, she has all of the innate abilities of the form. For example, a druid shapeshifted to an eagle can fly. The move also grants the player hold that can be spent to make “special moves” associate with the new form.
The character sheet suggests “escape to the sky” (or something similar) as a special move for bird forms. I’m unclear on why that is a special move given a PC in bird form can fly generally. Is the intent that it takes one hold whenever the PC wants to fly while in bird form? That doesn’t seem right since I doubt we’re going to make a PC blow hold to run when in wolf form. Is the intent that it takes hold for the PC to fly away from a dangerous situation? If so, is success automatic or must the PC defy danger or possibly attempt a custom move created by the GM for escaping to the sky?
2. The Elemental Mastery ability
This one caused much more trouble. The move is extremely broad as written. “When you call on the primal spirits of fire, water, earth or air to perform a task for you, roll+WIS. * On a 10+ choose two. * On a 7-9 choose one. * On a miss, some catastrophe occurs as a result of your calling.
• The effect you desire comes to pass
• You avoid paying nature’s price
• You retain control”
The first time this ability came up, the druid called upon the primal spirit of earth to get the stone dungeon wall around a locked door to move so that the door was broken off its hinges. No problem with that use.
The second time, the party was being attacked by an angry air elemental. The PC called upon the spirit of air to blast the air elemental away. The roll didn’t go as well this time and the PC opted to not retain control. I decided this resulted in gale force winds blowing into the room the party was in. The PC immediately attempted to use elemental mastery to regain control.
I struggled with adjudicating this move in a couple ways.
First, I was uncomfortable with the PC immediately using the ability again to thwart the narrative consequences of his previous roll. In hindsight, I don’t think this was as problematic as it felt at the time. The move has the potential for things to spiral out of control if the PC keeps using it over and over. There ought to be a nice potential reward for taking such risks.
Second, the move seems really, REALLY powerful if used creatively. The PC can attempt to cause pretty much any physical effect imaginable using this move. In the moment, this scared me as a GM. A druid PC could potentially just go to this move when facing any danger at all and cut through challenges like a hot knife through butter. In hindsight, again, I think my problem was pulling my punches on the “paying nature’s price” option. I had a hard time improvising what nature’s price would be in the moment. If it comes up again, I think I would come up with a price that is narratively proportional to what the PC is trying to accomplish.
Let’s say the party is fighting the BBEG and the druid decides to call on the spirit of earth to swallow the monster (e.g., temporarily turn the rock under the monster to mud so the BBEG sinks into the ground). That’s an encounter killer effect. Nature’s price should be similarly killer (I think). Maybe the PC would lapse into a coma for a week. Maybe his left hand turns to stone. Maybe the PC has to go on a quest for an earth elemental lord.
For a relatively minor effect such as lighting a camp fire by calling up the spirit of fire, maybe the PC takes -1 forward the next time she attempts to call on a spirit other than fire.
Prices for moderate effects seem trickier, but I’m feeling a lot more creative now than I was in the middle of the game.
Anyway, I’d appreciate hearing the thoughts of more experienced Dungeon World GMs.