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.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  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.