Monday, July 30, 2018

Homebrew World

Homebrew World is the working title for my mini-hack of Dungeon World, optimized for one-shots and short-term campaigns.

Playbooks from my first time running this
You can find the most current print version right here:

Current print version

And here's the version for online play, using Google Sheets:

Current online version

So what's different?
  • Most +1/-1 modifiers are replaced with advantage/disadvantage (roll an extra die, discard the lowest/highest).
  • Parley is completely different; it’s as much an info-gathering move as it is a “convince them” move. Also: works on PCs.
  • Aid and Interfere are rewritten as well. Aid is now “grant advantage but with risk” and Interfere is its own thing.
  • Less dramatic rewrites of Hack and Slash, Defend, and Defy Danger
  • Expendables (rations, bandages, etc.) are condensed into “Supplies.” Adventuring gear is now a combo of undefined "load" and expending Supplies. Ammo is tracked as a "status" on weapons/equipment. Shields give a bonus to Defend.
  • Most “Special” moves are gone. Undertake a Perilous Journey is replaced with Venture Forth. I’ve included a couple of my favorite custom moves for speeding up play.
  • There are only 3 debilities, and each affects two stats. But they’re easier to clear.
  • XP and leveling are different, because this is meant for one-shots or short-term play. You get XP on a miss or when you Make Camp (instead of at end of session). An advance costs only 5 XP. You can burn XP to give yourself a +1 on a roll you just made.
  • No more “big number” on stats, just the modifier. Likewise, HP is now a set number per class.
  • “Race” is just part of your look. But everyone has a choice of Backgrounds, which replace the “race” moves and that give you a series of bond-like questions to use during intros.
  • Drives instead of Alignments; same mechanic but less baggage.
  • Many changes (some small, some big) within the classes themselves. 
    • There are two versions of the Fighter: one that's all skill and steel and guts, and the other (the Wielder) that's all about their special weapon. 

If I was going to be in charge of DW 2.0, this is a lot of what it would look like. 

Homebrew World was largely inspired by Yochai Gal's One Shot World (which you should totally look at, too; it's free, closer to "core" DW, and the materials he includes for GM support are great.)  It also owes a debt to Peter J, whose Dungeon World Quick Start Pack (no longer available) first got me thinking about this sort of thing.

If you have questions about Homebrew World, let me know in the comments, via Google Hangouts, or by email (jack underscore blackfoot at the yahoo company).  Likewise, if you play Homebrew World, I'd love to hear about it!


  1. someone who usually ends up playing a smashy-smashy fighter-style character in RPGs, I appreciate that one of the name options for the fighter is Hob <3

    Super cool! If I can't find an extant group to squeeze into I might try to use this as a gateway drug to form one.

  2. This is amazing! I love your work. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  3. This is amazing.
    It fixes so many small nags I have about DW

    1. Glad you like it! Let me know if you play it, or if you have any questions for feedback.

    2. What's your recommended player count? (min and max)

    3. TL;DR: recommended for 3-4; can work with 2 or 5; not recommended for 6+.

      Detailed answer:
      3 players seems to be the perfect number. That's enough players to form interesting triangles, and enough different points of view to get some really unexpected, creative angles on things. But it's a small enough group that you can spin up quickly and easily manage the spotlight, keeping everyone involved. I find I can get a lot of plot covered quickly with 3 players.

      4 players works well, but it's more work and moves less quickly.

      2 players would be my minimum, and I think it would work fine with the right players and GM. Even then, you'll find that the Background questions work poorly with 2 players... asking "Which of you put this job together" when there's only 1 other player doesn't work. You'd have to change the discussion to be more like "which of these questions makes the most sense?"

      As for maximum: I think it'd be the same as standard Dungeon World: it starts to strain with 5 players, and gets downright hard to manage with 6 but a skilled GM can do it. 7+ is really, really hard and the game will suffer for it even if you manage to pull it off.

  4. This looks great! I've used One Shot World twice now to great success with newbies at Cons. I'll try your version next since I love your rewording of some of the basic moves like Defend.

  5. Love the changes to Parley especially! I have a few questions though:
    What do you think about adding the options of AW Read a Person to the discern realities list? Like "What is you character really feeling?" That kind of thing.
    Also, Advantage shakes out to about a +2 bonus, I think. Does the Aid move not make a lot of tasks too easy? And when does the GM award advantage outside of the aid move?
    Again, great stuff!

    1. Hi Rotwichtel, glad you like it!

      I've never found much general need for the Read a Person questions above and beyond the Discern Realities questions. A lot of Read a Person questions map easily to the Discern Realities ones ("Are you lying?" >> "What isn't what it appears to be?") and the others usually *can* fall under the other questions if you think about why you want to know. "What is your character really feeling?" Well, why are you asking? Are you looking for an angle to get leverage over them? Ask, "what is useful or valuable to me?" Do you suspect that they're hiding something? "What isn't what it appears to be?" Do you suspect that they're about to lose their temper or do something stupid? "What is about to happen?" Etc.

      For the stuff that *doesn't* map easily, I think a combination of being generous with the truth ("he's clearly distraught, keeps wringing his hands and staring at nothing, rocking back and forth") and using the Parley move to reveal what's required handles a lot of it.

      I don't think it'd break the game at all if you added those questions back in. It'd undercut the Paladin's "Windows to the Soul" advanced move, but you could replace the first two questions with something else. The biggest worry I'd have is that the Discern Realities list becomes too long to quickly parse in play.

    2. Re: advantage. It's between a +2 and +1.5 bonus, depending on your starting modifier. It's closer to +2 when you start with +0, but it gets less pronounced as your base modifier grows. (The change in an average result is +1.46, but what you care about is how it changes the distribution of of 6-/7-9/10+ results, compared to a +1 or +2 bonus. And that's... not straightforward to calculate.)

      Anyhow... yeah, it's a big difference and it *can* make some moves feel very easy or safe. The only times I've found that to feel wonky is with some of the more exploratory moves. Like, Aiding someone when they Discern Realities to search a room is a pretty solid bet, because with advantage, your odds of a 7+ are really good and there's not a lot of inherent risk that you're sharing.

      But while that feels a little off-putting at first ("they're getting away with something!"), in my experience, it just tends to push the adventure forward more quickly. Like, yeah, they get a 7+. Cool, they can ask their question and get an answer and that opens a new path for the adventure.

      It's similar with Aid on Spout Lore and Parley. A high probably of success on a Spout Lore means it's more likely that I'll need to flesh out the world, give them a new option, or give them information to help choose which option to take. None of these are *bad*. And with the revised Parley, it's not that they're necessarily going to steamroll an NPC into doing what they want just because they're playing good cop/bad cop... it's more likely that I'll have to *reveal how they could get the NPC to go along with them*. They still have to act on that, and the answer isn't always easy or something they want to do.

      So, a lot of words to say "hasn't really been a problem, and in fact, easy access to advantage via Aid often helps move the adventure forward."

      In action scenes, the PCs are often all tied up with doing their own things, so it becomes much less likely that they'll choose to Aid each other. Even when they do, the consequences of a 7-9 are usually much more significant, so getting involved has more of a bite to it.

      As for "when does the GM award advantage outside of the aid move?" Generally, they don't! Like in standard DW, the GM isn't usually handing out +1 or -1 modifiers to players' rolls. Same thing here. PC moves (like Discern Realities or the Thief's "Move Silently, Hide in Shadows" move) might grant advantage, but it's not really the GM's job to hand it out. Usually, if I find myself thinking "I'll give them advantage," I stop and think about whether the move is actually being triggered or if they just "do the thing." And if the move *is* being triggered, I'm more likely to adjust the range of outcomes than I am to just toss the PCs a numerical advantage. E.g. if the Fighter has a spear and attacks the goblin who has a rusty knife, that might just be deal damage. Or if I think that it *is* H&S, I'd just tone-down the goblin's counter-attack on a 7-9 from a hard move to a soft move... something like "he gets inside your reach and rears back to stab you in the leg, what do you do?" Adjusting the fictional positioning is usually more rewarding than playing with the numbers.

  6. You say it's optimized for one shots or short campaign play. What would you do differently for a longer campaign?

    1. Hi Steve!

      The biggest issues you run into are:
      * advancement is too quick for ongoing play, and you run out of standard advances pretty quickly
      * the core rules don't have a good way to handle accumulation of wealth or gear, and that starts to play havoc with the gear & inventory system
      * some of the moves (especially Background moves) don't make a lot of sense without an extended bit of downtime between them, during which the PCs could replenish their resources.

      With that said, I've been running an ongoing weekly campaign using HBW since March, and wrote about how I handled it here:

      Happy to answer questions!

    2. Gotcha, the advancement part was what I was thinking would get sticky. From the reddit post, I like the idea of 5+ current # of advancements. Definitely gives me a path if my upcoming one shot becomes more than that.


  7. That's a great piece of work, thank you. I'll be starting a mini-campaign next Monday with the Homebrew World.

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  9. Fantastic hack! I love you work! I did notie a small typo—the Bard's move Heart Strings reads " swells in YOU audience's heart."
    I have to ask, would you be willing to share an editable version of the file used to make this? I'd love to try adapting some other playbooks to your hack.

    1. Thanks for the typo report! I'm *pretty* sure that I've got that fixed in my in-progress file, but updates to this game have been on the backburner so I can focus on Stonetop.

      You can find editable playbook templates here. It'll be easiest if you have access to InDesign; I've also included .eps files that you can theoretically edit with Scribus, but I've got no idea whether that's actually practical.

      If you make some new playbooks, please share! I'd love to see them.

  10. I kind of miss the Immolator playbook. Do you have any plans to adapt it in the near future? The official implementation is certainly flawed, but the idea is good, and there are solid hacks going around.

    1. No really. I'll be honest, the Immolator never *really* caught my fancy. By all means, though, feel free to make an adaptation. I've posted a link to playbook templates above. If you make something, let me know and I'll consider adding it in a future update.

    2. Thank you, I'll let you know if I manage to get anything done.

  11. Hi! I was wondering if you could help me understand the intent behind the Wielder's Accursed background move. How do you envision it playing out at the table? When it came up during our session it felt like it forced both the GM and players' hands, as well as the fiction in odd ways that we were quite sure how to handle. The 7-9 result especially felt like it called for a very specific situation to work as worded, while the trigger of the move (unsheathing the weapon) is broad enough that I'm assuming it will be rolled quite often.

    1. We just finished a 35-session-long campaign with an Accursed Wielder, so I've got plenty of specifics to share!

      The idea is actually just a twist on the Through Death's Eyes move (link below), but the player actually has *more* control over the trigger (drawing the weapon instead of just going into battle), but making it a bit more bloody.

      So, the upshot of the move is that it grants the player some narrative control on a 7+. They get to make sure that someone they want to die is gonna die (on a 10+) *or* they name a pair of characters and one dies/one lives... which might seem totally not-cool, but it actually still gives the player a lot of certainty. If they name (e.g.) Bad NPC #1 and Good NPC #2, and then they focus on killing Bad NPC #1, they've basically ensured the survival of Good NPC #2.

      In practice, though, it really was NOT a tactical boon for the player... it was mostly downside, a constraint that they had to work around. The player never complained--he saw what he was signing up for and embraced it--but that move did NOT help in the vast majority of cases. It *did* add a lot of flavor and texture to the game, though. If nothing else, the Wielder was almost always cautious about when and where he actually drew the accursed ax.

      One thing that I think is important: early on (like maybe during introductions), ask the player for details on how the ax's curse *works*. Like, how does it ensure that someone dies? In our case, the wielder said that it preferred to let him just do it naturally, and failing that it, it'd do a little nudge here and there to make the death inevitable. But if really seemed like the doomed person was going to get away, the ax would get direct and possess the wielder, or even animate itself and fly through the air and kill the person. That was pretty much perfect, as it gave me all sorts of leeway to deploy the ax in play. (1/3)

    2. Times it came up:
      The PCs caught up with the NPC who the Barbarian was chasing. Their NPC guide was around somewhere, too. Giant swamp stoats were attacking. The Wielder drew the ax to fight the stoats, got a 7-9, and named the two NPCs on the scene--the guy they were chasing and their guide. The Wielder got a 7-9 to H&S, and suffered the stoat's "blast them with a stupefying spray of musk." Meanwhile, the Barbarian has caught up to the NPC they were chasing and started questioning him (while the Thief and Ranger kept other stoats off his back). We cut back to the Wielder, who’s blinded and retching, stumbling around the battlefield. He Discerns Realities to figure out what’s going on... and misses. He hears something coming towards him out of the grass, thinks it’s a monster, and attacks! It is, of course, their guide.

      (The other NPC lived of course, despite the Ranger putting an arrow into him when the Barbarian realized that he couldn't honorably kill him.)

      Later: they’re exploring with said NPC. They get attacked by crystal constructs. The wielder draws the ax. We decide that if there are 2+ people in the scene, then they must be named. But if there's only 1 NPC, then the second “NPC” can be a monster/construct/etc. If there aren't *any* people when the ax is drawn, no roll. In this case, the wielder got a 7-9. He named the NPC and an arbitrary construct, and focused on killing that construct (successfully, so I made sure not to threaten the NPC).

      Next adventure: the PCs and a posse of NPCs are clearing a keep of demons and the sorcerer who conjured them. They get to the sorcerer, the wielder draws, gets a 7-9, and names the sorcerer and one of the posse members. There's some tension, as the sorcerer escapes the wielder via a portal and runs into the barbarian. He curses the barbarian, and but the barbarian beats him down. The barbarian promises to let him go if he lifts the curse and dismisses the demons (and this barbarian always keeps his word). But the wielder pops out of the portal and kills the sorcerer before he can keep his end of the bargain. They figure out another option to remove the curse and the GTFO because the hole place is collapsing into a hellmouth. They get out, and the wielder asks the thief "hey, what happened to Ferris?" (the NPC who was now fated to live). The thief had left him to die. So I did a little "cutscene," show him bashing the last demon, looking into the hellmouth as the dungeon starts to collapse, sighing, and stomping through it. He's still out there, somewhere in the cosmos.

      Final example: the PCs sneak into a formian hive to extract an NPC. The sneaking goes fine, the sorcerer is eager to get out, and they've even bluffed the formians into leaving. They were gonna get out of there scott-free. But when the soldiers had first approached the PC’s hiding spot, with the NPC in toe, the wielder had drawn his ax and gotten (again) a 7-9. Named the sorcerer (only person on the scene) and one of the two formians. So as the soldiers turned and left and the party started to quietly slink out, I said that the wielder accidentally knocked a pot over with his ax, and it shattered, making noise and drawing the formians' attention. A fight was now imminent. The wielder told the barbarian to get the sorcerer out of there, then charged the soldier he had named (the thief went after the other soldier). They won their fights, thus ensuring that the NPC survived the encounter. (2/3)

    3. So, I think the TL;DR version is:
      1) Establish up front how the accursed weapon goes about ensuring deaths (synchronicity? animating? possession? etc.)
      2) Talk about who or what constitutes "an NPC" and what happens when the wielder draws their weapon when there aren't any NPCs around, or if there's only one.
      3) If they trigger the move, whatever outcome it comes up with, you've now got a mandate to make that happen in the fiction. That means you sometimes get to make an extra-hard move when you'd normally just make a pretty hard move or even a soft move, or it gives you an impetus to add a twist or complication to what would have otherwise been an unmitigated success.
      4) I found that I very really didn't need to stretch things to make the accursed results come true. I just kept "X or Y will die, and other will live" (or "X will die here") in mind, and it was pretty obvious how to work that into my moves.

      Oh, and also: make a point of putting NPCs into party or the situation with the PCs. Guides, prisoners to rescue, porters, loyal followers, non-monstrous enemies, etc. And then, be prepared for the wielder to get quite cagey about when and where they draw their weapon. (3/3)

    4. Thank you! These clarifications are both super thorough and incredibly helpful. These are *exactly* the kinds of situations and issues we were scratching our heads about. It does seem like the kind of move that can certainly put a thumb on the scale for setting the tone of a game, and likely requires *all* the players to be on board with it lest there be frustrations. I'm going to discuss things with the players before next session to establish the how and why of the way it manifests, as well as better understanding what the Wielder player is hoping to get out of this background. I think these examples are going to help us a ton in getting a handle on things.

  12. Hi Jeremy, This Friday I'll try for the first time your hack.

    I just want to drop a message of appreciation for your work. Me and my group are going to try for the first time something different from D&D and I found your Dungeon World hack better than the vanilla version.

    I love the backgrounds concept and the way how the inventory is managed.

    May I also ask if you have some links to extra supplement? let's say in case I'd like to take inspiration to expand the amount of background/classes.

    Thank you again!

    1. Hi Antonino, thanks for the comment! I hope you all enjoy the game.

      Regarding extra supplements, I haven't made anything "formal" and I haven't seen anyone publish anything formal, either.

      Razorkiss on the Dungeon World Discord has regularly shared some of her content for Homebrew World-inspired tweaks, though it can be hard to find. And there's a draft Immolator that someone posted on Reddit/r/Dungeonworld (but it was definitely a first draft).

      I've also talked somewhat at length here about expanding the game to longer-term play, and how I've done so these past few months:

  13. I have one more question on tags. Are tags just removed from Homebrew World? I see there are still some tags referenced on Weapon Specialization but I'm not sure how I should approach to them.

    1. I'll clarify my question a bit. I see that a Spear doesn't have any "piercing" tag so I wonder if it's just left to the players to decide or not.

    2. I removed most tags from weapons on Homebrew World, yeah.

      I kept tags like _messy_ and _forceful_ because they have a big impact on the fiction, and tags like _2 piercing_ because they have mechanical impact (ignoring armor). I replaced _precise_ with just describing what it does (H&S with Dex, not Str), because I wanted to eliminate "hidden" mechanics.

      I did drop the range tags because:
      a) Space is very limited, and I wanted to make it all fit
      b) The DW range tags are pretty arbitrary and imprecise anyhow
      c) I feel comfortable with players judging the fiction for themselves.

      Like, do you have a knife against an guard with a shield and spear? If we envision that fiction honestly, it's pretty clear that you have to do something to change the situation before you can launch a viable attack. I don't really need the _hand_ vs. _close_ or _reach_ tags to tell me that.

      (And FYI, standard DW has never put the _piercing_ tag on spears. The _X piercing_ tag indicates that it ignores X armor. It's not like D&D5e, where every weapon is tagged as _piercing_ or _slashing_ or _bludgeoning_. And if DW *did* do that, I still would have dropped those tags, because I trust people to figure out that, yeah, a spear stabs things and an axe slashes through them.)

  14. FYI I'm going to be playing this over Discord soon, and noticed that the free version of Adobe Reader has a 'document signing' feature. It lets you type on and add check marks to the playbook PDFs. It feels like you're writing on a paper playbook with a pen, instead of the using the Google Sheet.

  15. Is it intentional that the Druid has one less stat advance available than the other playbooks?

  16. Is this the most updated version of your work? I want to use this as the skeleton of a homebrew version, where I would add extensive spell lists and maneuvers. But I want a good base for a game that will run smoothly.

    1. It's the most current version available, and I'm unlikely to do any serious changes any time time soon. (I've got a decent-sized list of changes I'd *like* to make, but don't have the bandwidth to implement them anytime in the foreseeable future.)

      If you make something based on/inspired by HBW, please link us to it here in the comments!