Probabilities of the Aid move in Dungeon World

In Dungeon World (and in some other games powered by the apocalypse), a character can make a roll that, if successful, allows them to give aid to someone else’s roll. Because I mess with this move fairly substantially in Fourth World, I’ve had to analyze the probability of the Aid move and figured I’d share the results here.

Like all powered by the apocalypse (PbtA) games, Dungeon World relies on rolling 2d6, adding them up, and adding an additional modifier (typically from -1 to +3, based on a stat or something similar). On such a roll, six or below is a failure (allowing the gamemaster, who does not otherwise “get a turn”, to do something), between seven and nine is partial success (where the fun part of the game usually is) and ten or more is a full success. What happens on partial and full success depends on why the roll was made. Some rolls even have a higher level of success if you roll a 12 or more. These rolls are part of “moves” that get triggered when something happens in the fiction of the game.

The Aid or Interfere move in Dungeon World says this:

When you help or hinder someone, roll+bond with them. On a 10+, they take +1 or -2 to their roll, your choice. On a 7−9, they still get a modifier, but you also expose yourself to danger, retribution, or cost.

So, imagine you are in a game, and something is going on and you think “is it worth it to try to help out, or will I just make things worse?” How do you answer this question?

First, can you make things worse? Well, it is possible for you to fail when you Aid, and for the person you are helping to also fail. In this case, technically, the GM can now make a move of their own for each failure, where had you not tried to aid at all, the GM would have only made one. While it is not unheard of for a GM move to improve the character’s situation, this tends to be the exception. So, yes, your attempt to Aid can make things worse.

Plain Rolls

To figure out how often, lets look at a basic interaction of two 2d6 rolls without any modifiers. Let’s imagine that, for some reason, the only way to do something is to succeed on two 2d6 rolls in a row. Because each roll is an opportunity to fail, this is harder than just succeeding on one roll. The outcomes for each roll combine like so, with the number in each cell being the percentage chance of a particular combination of results:

Second 2d6 Roll
6− 7−9 10+
First
2d6
Roll
6− 17.3 17.4 6.9
7−9 17.4 17.3 6.9
10+ 7.0 6.9 2.8

So, this 3×3 table indicates that both rolls fail about nine times more often then both fully succeed. The odds of one of the rolls failing are greater than the odds of getting any kind of success (partial or full) on both. (Note that, throughout this post, percentages are rounded to the nearest tenth of a percent, so the percentages in a matrix like this may not add up to a 100%.)

But, rolls in PbtA games have bonuses added to them. Suppose the first roll gets between a +0 and +3 bonus, while the second is modified from -1 to +3. The following table shows how this pans out:

Second 2d6 Roll
-1 +0 +1 +2 +3
6− 7−9 10+ 6− 7−9 10+ 6− 7−9 10+ 6− 7−9 10+ 6− 7−9 10+
First
2d6
Roll
+0 6− 24.2 13.9 3.5 17.3 17.4 6.9 11.5 18.5 11.6 7.0 17.3 17.3 3.5 13.9 24.4
7−9 24.2 13.9 3.5 17.4 17.3 6.9 11.6 18.5 11.6 7.0 17.3 17.4 3.5 13.9 24.3
10+ 9.7 5.6 1.4 7.0 6.9 2.8 4.6 7.4 4.6 2.8 7.0 6.9 1.4 5.6 9.7
+1 6− 16.2 9.2 2.3 11.5 11.6 4.6 7.7 12.3 7.7 4.6 11.6 11.5 2.3 9.3 16.2
7−9 25.9 14.8 3.7 18.5 18.5 7.4 12.4 19.7 12.3 7.4 18.5 18.5 3.7 14.9 26.0
10+ 16.2 9.3 2.3 11.6 11.6 4.6 7.7 12.3 7.7 4.6 11.6 11.6 2.3 9.3 16.2
+2 6− 9.7 5.6 1.4 7.0 6.9 2.8 4.6 7.5 4.6 2.7 6.9 6.9 1.4 5.6 9.7
7−9 24.3 13.9 3.5 17.3 17.4 6.9 11.6 18.5 11.6 7.0 17.4 17.4 3.5 13.9 24.3
10+ 24.3 13.9 3.5 17.4 17.4 7.0 11.6 18.5 11.6 6.9 17.4 17.3 3.5 13.9 24.3
+3 6− 4.8 2.8 0.7 3.5 3.5 1.4 2.3 3.7 2.3 1.4 3.5 3.5 0.7 2.7 4.8
7−9 19.5 11.1 2.8 13.9 13.9 5.6 9.3 14.8 9.2 5.5 13.9 13.9 2.8 11.2 19.4
10+ 34.1 19.4 4.9 24.3 24.3 9.7 16.3 25.9 16.2 9.7 24.3 24.3 4.9 19.4 34.1

Clearly having bonuses helps avoid double failure. Just each roll getting a +1 cuts the chance of double failure in half. If both rolls have +2 bonuses, the chance of both rolls succeeding are nearly three in four.

Standard Aid

What does this mean for the Aid move? Based on the move text above, not only are bonuses in play, but the result of the Aid move alters the success of the test being aided by adding one to the roll, which makes success on the test more likely. This pans out like so:

Test Bonus
-1 +0 +1 +2 +3
6− 7−9 10+ 6− 7−9 10+ 6− 7−9 10+ 6− 7−9 10+ 6− 7−9 10+
Aid
Bonus
+0 6− 24.2 13.9 3.5 17.3 17.4 6.9 11.5 18.5 11.6 7.0 17.3 17.3 3.5 13.9 24.4
7−9 17.3 17.3 7.0 11.6 18.5 11.6 7.0 17.3 17.4 3.5 13.9 24.3 1.2 10.4 30.1
10+ 6.9 7.0 2.8 4.6 7.4 4.6 2.8 6.9 6.9 1.4 5.6 9.7 0.5 4.2 12.0
+1 6− 16.2 9.2 2.3 11.5 11.6 4.6 7.7 12.3 7.7 4.6 11.6 11.5 2.3 9.3 16.2
7−9 18.5 18.5 7.4 12.3 19.8 12.4 7.4 18.5 18.5 3.7 14.8 25.9 1.2 11.2 32.1
10+ 11.6 11.7 4.7 7.8 12.3 7.7 4.7 11.6 11.5 2.3 9.3 16.2 0.8 6.9 20.0
+2 6− 9.7 5.6 1.4 7.0 6.9 2.8 4.6 7.5 4.6 2.7 6.9 6.9 1.4 5.6 9.7
7−9 17.3 17.4 7.0 11.5 18.5 11.6 7.0 17.4 17.4 3.5 13.9 24.3 1.2 10.4 30.1
10+ 17.3 17.4 7.0 11.6 18.6 11.6 6.9 17.4 17.3 3.5 13.9 24.3 1.2 10.4 30.1
+3 6− 4.8 2.8 0.7 3.5 3.5 1.4 2.3 3.7 2.3 1.4 3.5 3.5 0.7 2.7 4.8
7−9 13.9 13.9 5.6 9.2 14.8 9.2 5.6 13.9 13.9 2.8 11.1 19.5 0.9 8.4 24.1
10+ 24.3 24.3 9.7 16.2 25.9 16.3 9.8 24.3 24.4 4.9 19.5 34.0 1.6 14.6 42.1

Because the Aid roll gains a bonus based on a bonds and not a stat, high bonuses to this roll are somewhat rare. Often this number of bonds will be zero, and multiple bonds with the same character are pretty rare. So in most cases, you’re looking at the +0 and +1 Aid rows.

Remember how some moves allow a higher level of success on a 12+? Given the effectiveness of high-bonus Aid rolls, a reasonable strategy might be to Aid rolls that have a high chance of success to try to push them up to the 12+ level, when such a thing is possible. To show how that works, the 3×3 matrix in each cell gets expanded into a 4×4 matrix, with the “full success” row and column get split into a 10−11 column and a 12+ column. When you break the results up like this using Aid, you get this:

Test Bonus
-1 +0 +1 +2 +3
6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+
Aid
Bonus
+0 6− 24.2 13.9 3.5 0.0 17.3 17.4 5.8 1.2 11.5 18.5 8.1 3.5 7.0 17.3 10.4 6.9 3.5 13.9 12.8 11.6
7−9 17.3 17.3 5.8 1.2 11.6 18.5 8.1 3.5 7.0 17.3 10.5 7.0 3.5 13.9 12.7 11.6 1.2 10.4 12.8 17.3
10−11 5.8 5.8 1.9 0.4 3.9 6.2 2.7 1.1 2.3 5.8 3.4 2.3 1.2 4.6 4.2 3.9 0.4 3.5 4.2 5.8
12+ 1.2 1.2 0.4 0.1 0.8 1.2 0.5 0.2 0.5 1.2 0.7 0.5 0.2 0.9 0.9 0.8 0.1 0.7 0.9 1.1
+1 6− 16.2 9.2 2.3 0.0 11.5 11.6 3.9 0.8 7.7 12.3 5.4 2.3 4.6 11.6 6.9 4.6 2.3 9.3 8.4 7.8
7−9 18.5 18.5 6.2 1.2 12.3 19.8 8.7 3.7 7.4 18.5 11.1 7.4 3.7 14.8 13.6 12.3 1.2 11.2 13.6 18.5
10−11 8.1 8.1 2.7 0.5 5.4 8.6 3.7 1.6 3.3 8.1 4.8 3.3 1.6 6.5 6.0 5.4 0.5 4.9 5.9 8.1
12+ 3.5 3.5 1.2 0.2 2.3 3.7 1.6 0.7 1.4 3.5 2.1 1.4 0.7 2.8 2.5 2.3 0.2 2.1 2.6 3.5
+2 6− 9.7 5.6 1.4 0.0 7.0 6.9 2.3 0.5 4.6 7.5 3.2 1.4 2.7 6.9 4.2 2.8 1.4 5.6 5.1 4.6
7−9 17.3 17.4 5.8 1.2 11.5 18.5 8.1 3.4 7.0 17.4 10.5 6.9 3.5 13.9 12.7 11.6 1.2 10.4 12.7 17.4
10−11 10.4 10.4 3.5 0.7 7.0 11.2 4.9 2.1 4.2 10.4 6.3 4.2 2.1 8.4 7.6 6.9 0.7 6.3 7.6 10.4
12+ 6.9 7.0 2.4 0.5 4.6 7.4 3.2 1.4 2.8 7.0 4.2 2.8 1.4 5.6 5.1 4.6 0.5 4.1 5.1 7.0
+3 6− 4.8 2.8 0.7 0.0 3.5 3.5 1.1 0.2 2.3 3.7 1.6 0.7 1.4 3.5 2.1 1.4 0.7 2.7 2.5 2.3
7−9 13.9 13.9 4.6 0.9 9.2 14.8 6.5 2.8 5.6 13.9 8.3 5.6 2.8 11.1 10.2 9.3 0.9 8.4 10.2 13.9
10−11 12.7 12.7 4.2 0.8 8.5 13.5 6.0 2.5 5.1 12.7 7.7 5.1 2.6 10.2 9.3 8.4 0.8 7.7 9.3 12.7
12+ 11.6 11.5 3.9 0.8 7.7 12.4 5.4 2.3 4.7 11.6 6.9 4.7 2.3 9.3 8.5 7.7 0.8 6.9 8.5 11.6

You can take these result percentages and subtract the result percentages from the corresponding results of just two rolls to see what sort of a difference Aid is making, compared to just making two rolls:

Test Bonus
-1 +0 +1 +2 +3
6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+
Aid
Bonus
+0 6−                                        
7−9 -6.9 +3.4 +2.3 +1.2 -5.8 +1.1 +2.3 +2.3 -4.6 -1.2 +2.3 +3.5 -3.5 -3.4 +2.3 +4.6 -2.3 -3.5   +5.8
10−11 -2.3 +1.1 +0.8 +0.4 -1.9 +0.4 +0.8 +0.8 -1.5 -0.4 +0.7 +1.2 -1.2 -1.2 +0.8 +1.5 -0.8 -1.2   +1.9
12+ -0.5 +0.2 +0.2 +0.1 -0.4 +0.1 +0.1 +0.1 -0.3 -0.1 +0.2 +0.2 -0.2 -0.2 +0.2 +0.3 -0.2 -0.2   +0.4
+1 6−                                        
7−9 -7.4 +3.7 +2.5 +1.2 -6.2 +1.3 +2.5 +2.5 -5.0 -1.2 +2.5 +3.7 -3.7 -3.7 +2.5 +4.9 -2.5 -3.7   +6.2
10−11 -3.3 +1.6 +1.1 +0.5 -2.7 +0.6 +1.1 +1.1 -2.2 -0.5 +1.0 +1.6 -1.6 -1.7 +1.1 +2.2 -1.1 -1.6   +2.7
12+ -1.4 +0.7 +0.5 +0.2 -1.1 +0.2 +0.5 +0.5 -0.9 -0.2 +0.5 +0.7 -0.7 -0.7 +0.5 +0.9 -0.5 -0.7   +1.2
+2 6−                                        
7−9 -6.9 +3.5 +2.3 +1.2 -5.7 +1.1 +2.3 +2.3 -4.6 -1.1 +2.3 +3.5 -3.5 -3.5 +2.3 +4.6 -2.3 -3.5   +5.8
10−11 -4.2 +2.1 +1.4 +0.7 -3.5 +0.7 +1.4 +1.4 -2.8 -0.7 +1.4 +2.1 -2.1 -2.1 +1.4 +2.8 -1.4 -2.1   +3.5
12+ -2.8 +1.4 +1.0 +0.5 -2.3 +0.4 +0.9 +0.9 -1.9 -0.5 +0.9 +1.4 -1.4 -1.4 +0.9 +1.8 -0.9 -1.4   +2.3
+3 6−                                        
7−9 -5.6 +2.8 +1.8 +0.9 -4.6 +1.0 +1.8 +1.9 -3.7 -0.9 +1.8 +2.8 -2.8 -2.8 +1.8 +3.7 -1.8 -2.8 +0.1 +4.6
10−11 -5.1 +2.6 +1.7 +0.8 -4.2 +0.8 +1.7 +1.7 -3.4 -0.9 +1.7 +2.6 -2.6 -2.5 +1.7 +3.4 -1.7 -2.5   +4.2
12+ -4.6 +2.3 +1.5 +0.8 -3.9 +0.8 +1.6 +1.5 -3.1 -0.8 +1.5 +2.3 -2.3 -2.3 +1.6 +3.1 -1.6 -2.3   +3.9

Fourth World Aid

In Fourth World, bonds aren’t used, so the Aid move has to change. In version 1.5 (not yet released), the move is also adjusted to have a bit more upside. It makes use of changing the result by a “step”, which means a 6− becomes a 7−9 result, a 7−9 becomes a 10+, etc.. The current text of the move is:

When you help or hinder someone, say how. You may do so either before or after they have rolled, but before the fictional outcome of their action is known. If you do it…

  • …using brute force, roll+STR
  • …with speed, agility, or physical finesse, roll+DEX
  • …with vitality, toughness, or vigor, roll+CON
  • …through emotional manipulation, roll+CHA
  • …through analysis, logic, or book-learning, roll+INT
  • …some other way, roll+WIS

On a 7–9, they take +1 or –2 to their roll, your choice. On a 10+, improve or reduce their result by one step, your choice, and choose one from the following list:

  • you do not expose yourself to danger, retribution, or cost
  • you help someone else: they take +1 forward
  • you help yourself: you take +1 forward
  • you gain a karma point

Using this approach, the exact same die rolls used in the table above turn out like this:

Test Bonus
-1 +0 +1 +2 +3
6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+
Aid
Bonus
+0 6− 24.2 13.9 3.5 0.0 17.3 17.4 5.8 1.2 11.5 18.5 8.1 3.5 7.0 17.3 10.4 6.9 3.5 13.9 12.8 11.6
7−9 17.3 17.3 5.8 1.2 11.6 18.5 8.1 3.5 7.0 17.3 10.5 7.0 3.5 13.9 12.7 11.6 1.2 10.4 12.8 17.3
10−11 0.0 8.1 4.7 1.2 0.0 5.8 5.8 2.3 0.0 3.9 6.1 3.9 0.0 2.3 5.8 5.8 0.0 1.2 4.7 8.1
12+ 0.0 1.6 0.9 0.2 0.0 1.1 1.2 0.5 0.0 0.8 1.2 0.8 0.0 0.5 1.2 1.2 0.0 0.2 0.9 1.6
+1 6− 16.2 9.2 2.3 0.0 11.5 11.6 3.9 0.8 7.7 12.3 5.4 2.3 4.6 11.6 6.9 4.6 2.3 9.3 8.4 7.8
7−9 18.5 18.5 6.2 1.2 12.3 19.8 8.7 3.7 7.4 18.5 11.1 7.4 3.7 14.8 13.6 12.3 1.2 11.2 13.6 18.5
10−11 0.0 11.4 6.5 1.6 0.0 8.1 8.1 3.2 0.0 5.4 8.6 5.4 0.0 3.3 8.2 8.1 0.0 1.6 6.5 11.3
12+ 0.0 4.9 2.8 0.7 0.0 3.5 3.5 1.4 0.0 2.3 3.7 2.3 0.0 1.4 3.5 3.5 0.0 0.7 2.8 4.9
+2 6− 9.7 5.6 1.4 0.0 7.0 6.9 2.3 0.5 4.6 7.5 3.2 1.4 2.7 6.9 4.2 2.8 1.4 5.6 5.1 4.6
7−9 17.3 17.4 5.8 1.2 11.5 18.5 8.1 3.4 7.0 17.4 10.5 6.9 3.5 13.9 12.7 11.6 1.2 10.4 12.7 17.4
10−11 0.0 14.6 8.3 2.1 0.0 10.5 10.5 4.2 0.0 7.0 11.1 7.0 0.0 4.2 10.5 10.4 0.0 2.1 8.3 14.6
12+ 0.0 9.7 5.6 1.4 0.0 6.9 7.0 2.8 0.0 4.6 7.4 4.6 0.0 2.8 6.9 6.9 0.0 1.4 5.5 9.7
+3 6− 4.8 2.8 0.7 0.0 3.5 3.5 1.1 0.2 2.3 3.7 1.6 0.7 1.4 3.5 2.1 1.4 0.7 2.7 2.5 2.3
7−9 13.9 13.9 4.6 0.9 9.2 14.8 6.5 2.8 5.6 13.9 8.3 5.6 2.8 11.1 10.2 9.3 0.9 8.4 10.2 13.9
10−11 0.0 17.9 10.2 2.5 0.0 12.8 12.7 5.1 0.0 8.5 13.6 8.5 0.0 5.1 12.7 12.7 0.0 2.5 10.2 17.8
12+ 0.0 16.2 9.2 2.3 0.0 11.6 11.6 4.7 0.0 7.7 12.3 7.7 0.0 4.6 11.6 11.6 0.0 2.3 9.2 16.2

How does this result compare with the standard rule for Aid? Each cell in the following table shows the result of the corresponding cell of the prior table and subtracts the same cell from the standard Aid table, showing the change in outcome for each cell (for clarity, cells with no change are shown as blank instead of zero). You can see that it only changes things when the Aid roll gets a 10+, as you’d expect from the phrasing of the change. The probability only changes a few percent either way, generally pushing to more success for the test, which was the whole idea of the change. The biggest change comes when helping someone with a penalty, which is definitately what you want from a move to help out allies.

Test Bonus
-1 +0 +1 +2 +3
6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+
Aid
Bonus
+0 6−                                        
7−9                                        
10−11 -5.8 +2.3 +2.7 +0.8 -3.9 -0.4 +3.1 +1.2 -2.3 -1.9 +2.7 +1.5 -1.2 -2.3 +1.5 +1.9 -0.4 -2.3 +0.4 +2.3
12+ -1.2 +0.5 +0.5 +0.2 -0.8 -0.1 +0.6 +0.2 -0.5 -0.4 +0.5 +0.3 -0.2 -0.5 +0.3 +0.4 -0.1 -0.5 +0.1 +0.5
+1 6−                                        
7−9                                        
10−11 -8.1 +3.2 +3.8 +1.1 -5.4 -0.5 +4.3 +1.6 -3.3 -2.7 +3.8 +2.2 -1.6 -3.2 +2.2 +2.7 -0.5 -3.2 +0.6 +3.2
12+ -3.5 +1.4 +1.7 +0.5 -2.3 -0.2 +1.9 +0.7 -1.4 -1.1 +1.6 +0.9 -0.7 -1.4 +0.9 +1.2 -0.2 -1.4 +0.2 +1.4
+2 6−                                        
7−9                                        
10−11 -10.4 +4.1 +4.8 +1.4 -7.0 -0.7 +5.6 +2.1 -4.2 -3.4 +4.8 +2.8 -2.1 -4.2 +2.8 +3.5 -0.7 -4.2 +0.7 +4.1
12+ -6.9 +2.8 +3.2 +0.9 -4.6 -0.5 +3.7 +1.4 -2.8 -2.3 +3.3 +1.9 -1.4 -2.8 +1.9 +2.3 -0.5 -2.8 +0.4 +2.8
+3 6−                                        
7−9                                        
10−11 -12.7 +5.1 +5.9 +1.7 -8.5 -0.8 +6.8 +2.5 -5.1 -4.2 +5.9 +3.4 -2.6 -5.1 +3.4 +4.2 -0.8 -5.1 +0.9 +5.1
12+ -11.6 +4.7 +5.4 +1.5 -7.7 -0.8 +6.2 +2.3 -4.7 -3.8 +5.4 +3.0 -2.3 -4.6 +3.1 +3.9 -0.8 -4.6 +0.7 +4.6

Summary

If you only care about the outcome of the test, and how Aid changes the likelihood of the four test outcomes, Aid clearly helps on average. This ignores the drawbacks of failing the Aid roll, though.

Test Bonus
-1 +0 +1 +2 +3
6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+ 6− 7−9 10−11 12+
Without aid 58.6 33.1 8.3 0.0 41.7 41.6 14.0 2.7 27.9 44.2 19.6 8.3 16.4 41.8 24.9 16.8 8.4 33.4 30.7 27.5
Standard Aid +0 49.0 37.9 11.6 1.6 33.7 43.2 17.1 6.0 21.4 42.7 22.7 13.2 11.6 36.9 28.2 23.4 5.1 28.6 30.5 35.8
+1 46.3 39.5 12.2 2.1 31.6 43.7 17.9 6.8 19.8 42.4 23.4 14.5 10.5 36.0 28.9 24.5 4.3 27.2 30.5 38.0
+2 44.1 40.4 13.2 2.3 30.3 43.9 18.6 7.2 18.4 42.2 24.3 15.1 9.8 34.6 29.5 26.1 3.7 26.5 30.6 39.3
+3 43.0 41.1 13.4 2.6 29.1 44.4 18.8 7.7 17.7 41.8 24.6 15.9 9.2 34.2 30.1 26.5 3.3 25.9 30.6 40.2
Fourth World Aid +0 42.0 40.7 14.8 2.5 29.0 42.9 20.7 7.4 18.5 40.5 25.9 15.1 10.2 34.0 30.1 25.7 4.7 25.9 30.9 38.6
+1 34.7 44.0 17.7 3.5 23.9 42.9 24.2 9.1 15.1 38.7 28.6 17.6 8.3 31.1 32.2 28.4 3.6 22.6 31.2 42.6
+2 26.7 47.3 21.3 4.7 18.6 42.9 27.8 10.7 11.4 36.6 32.2 19.8 6.3 27.7 34.2 31.8 2.5 19.5 31.8 46.2
+3 18.9 50.8 24.5 5.8 12.7 42.8 32.0 12.5 7.9 33.9 35.8 22.5 4.1 24.5 36.7 34.7 1.6 16.0 32.4 50.0

Code

All of these numbers came from rolling a million sets of Aid/Test rolls. Some of this was also secretly an attempt to become more familiar with driving HSL color with code. The Python 3.x code used to compute these results and generate the tables can be found here: aidprob.py

200 Word RPG entry: Enslaved Star

I submitted an entry to this years 200 Word RPG Contest, my first. This one weighs in at 197 words, inspired by a sequence in Avengers: Infinity War. It’s basically a round-robin narrative game, but could be played pretty much anywhere.

The text of the Enslaved Star is:

Cast
FORGE: A semi-sentient magical neutron star. You have been enslaved, converted to forge weapons for gods. You cannot communicate directly.
SMITH: The disfigured artisan who runs Forge, catering to the whim of the gods. You are lonely and bitter.
HERO: A patheon’s chosen champion. You are glorious and expendable.
THREAT: The dire problem that Hero requires a new weapon to defeat.

Each round, select who plays Forge, Smith, and a new Hero. Players take each role only once. Everyone else is Threat. The game ends after everyone has played Forge.

Hero casually mentions a pantheon of gods, and explains why they are its champion.

Threat decides what threatens the pantheon, and why.

Smith describes who comissioned a new weapon, and what is crafted in response.

Forge describes how it secretly undermines the weapon.

Threat describes how it destroyed d100 percent of the pantheon.

Hero describes how the weapon drove back Threat, but will never again be the same.

Forge describes how Hero lost the weapon and how it went on to further Forge’s agenda.

Smith describes how/why the weapon was eventually destroyed or fell into disuse, and why Forge will never be free.

Prime Spiral preview

LogoA number of years ago, I wrote up some notes on playing in the setting Exalted using the rules of Anima Prime. This snowballed into a long PDF for my gaming group called Exaltation Prime, which I have never released because it is filled with art and IP for which I do not have distribution rights. One of the things I love about Anima Prime, though, is that it uses a Creative Commons license, so I’ve wanted to share the changes and additions I made to build Exaltation Prime in a way that could be legitimately released under the same Creative Commons license.

The result will be Prime Spiral: Extensions and Hacks to Anima Prime. Each chapter will detail a way to hack the rules of Anima Prime, and explain why you may or may not want to do that. It is worth mentioning that, while I’ve been doing all this, Christian Griffen, Anima Prime‘s author, has been releasing his own changes, mostly meant to streamline the game, while the hacks in Prime Spiral mostly serve to make the game more complicated. You’ll need to season to taste.

At the request of Mr. Griffen, I posted a link to the in progress version of Prime Spiral to a G+ thread. I figured I might as well post it here as well:

Prime Spiral noodling.

Fourth World 1.4 relayout

LogoSomeone not as enamored of landscape PDFs asked for a more standard layout for Fourth World, my drift of Dungeon World rules to fit the Earthdawn setting. I was not that keen on doing this, but then got curious about experimenting with 6×9 layouts in InDesign. So, I changed the entire layout of version 1.4 and you can find the result at the link below. As always, the InDesign sources are available for tinkering as well.

I plan on using this new layout style for Fourth World going forward. Which means, yes, I will probably release a 1.5 at some point.

For now, here is the new layout of 1.4:

While on the subject of changing layouts, I should also mention the efforts of Seth Halbeisen, who built letter-sized versions of the playbooks (the originals will legal-sized). If you have hacks of your own, let me know here or on G+.

Seed: Fourth World 1.4

LogoAlmost exactly a year ago, when I published “probably the last revision I’ll do” of this hack of Dungeon World to the Earthdawn setting, I really thought I was done. What changed since was some dissatisfaction with parts of the work and with some of Dungeon World basic moves.

The version presented here (1.4) retains the basic approach to the previous versions, an small evolution rather than a revolution. In building it, though, its becoming more clear than one of the main design goals — to change as little as possible in the Dungeon World rule set to retain compatibility with all of its material — is becoming a hindrance. This is not so much that the tonal changes needed for Earthdawn would benefit from a different type of powered-by-the-apocalypse hack, though there is some of that. Rather, some of the warts in Dungeon World itself are becoming more noticeable, both to me and in the community at large.

As one example, version 1.4 already tinkers with some of the basic moves. As another, when running Fourth World, I would almost certainly use nearly every rule in Lampblack & Brimstone’s Perilous Wilds, particularly its replacement rules for hirelings and undertaking a perilous journey. If a future version of this hack is ever done, it will almost certainly alter the playbooks to assume those rules as a baseline; however, once going down that path, the whole thing might just be better served by a PbtA hack more customized to Earthdawn, so that may never happen.

The significant changes in this version include:

  • You occasionally see Dungeon World moves that improve a 7-9 result to a 10+ result, or vice-versa. I found the phrasing of the Fourth World moves that do this awkward enough that I created a nomenclature for it, called “steps” to make this smoother (see the “On Steps” section).
  • The Aid or Interfere move has been tinkered with again. In the prior version, it had already been altered to use stats instead of bonds. This version makes the 10+ result a bit more interesting.
  • The Hack and Slash move has been rephrased. This looks jarring, but the actual result of the move is the same. The reason for the change is that some of the moves in the playbooks seek to give you additional choices if you elect to take damage on a 10+ (rather than the standard “do extra damage”). The wording of the official Hack and Slash made the phrasing on this type of playbook move clunky. It becomes much easier to build playbook moves like this with the different phrasing of the basic move (plus, I think the phrasing for it matches the phrasing of other Dungeon World moves much better in general).
  • The Relics chapter now has a whole section about how the Spout Lore move can/should be used to interact with the concept of item ranks and discovering information about relics to unlock their power. Moves that reveal information about relics were tweaked to match the information in this section. (Those moves are also much faster in game world time now.)
  • Added some clarification about what casters can do while weaving, and what sort of things can interrupt them.
  • Earlier nitpicking about how many spell matrices you can use at each circle have been eliminated as an unnecessary holdover of pointless Earthdawn crunch. The “total sum of spell circles within matrices” limit remains, and takes care of this well enough organically to the point that other limits won’t be missed.
  • Prior versions sort of ignored the existence of thrown weapons. The main ranged-fighter discipline didn’t have choices for them, for example. This has been addressed. Also, the single “throwing dagger” has been replaced with “throwing knives”, representing an abstract “bundle” of knives with an ammo stat.
  • A lot of the species moves got tweaked to be slightly more interesting (previously a lot of +1 to things).
  • A number of playbook moves called for rolls to gauge the degree of success in situations where failure wasn’t actually interesting or it was not obvious how to handle a miss. Many of these got changed to avoid the roll entirely. There are probably some I missed.
  • General move streamlining in all playbooks, including some additions, removals. Added moves were often adding social moves to playbooks that lacked them. All playbooks also get tools for creating art as standard gear.
  • The Swordmaster got a major overhaul. All the fixation stuff (which came from the DW paladin) has been moved to an Obsession (a “compendium class”). In its place is a move that really takes advantage of the rephrasing of Hack and Slash to give the Swordmaster control of positioning and showmanship.
  • The Thief playbook contained redundant moves. So did the Troubadour playbook, with the bonus that one of them didn’t really work. These moves got sorted out, usually by consolidating then adding some additional stuff.
  • Additional magic items and relics.
  • Additional monsters.
  • Several new obsessions. Tweaks to the Obsession rules.

You can download the lot, including InDesign sources, here:

Seed: Fourth World revisited

LogoWhen I last published this hack of Dungeon World to the Earthdawn setting, I claimed that it was as complete as I intended to make it. Apparently, that was a lie.

This version (1.3) remains much like the previous version, with the following changes:

  • Bonds have been replaced with flags, an idea from Rob Donoghue. This necessitates changing some other things, such as the Aid and End of Session moves. Disciplines now have a “suggested flags” section rather than a bonds section. All references to Dungeon World-style bonds removed and moves that mentioned them changed. (This turns out to solve a problem: version 1.2 also used the word “bond” to refer to weaving a thread into someone or some place. It still means that in 1.3, but is no longer ambiguous.)
  • A lot of people wondered what happened to the idea of karma from Earthdawn. It actually was there in version 1.2, it was just called what Dungeon World calls it: “preparation”. I gave in and switched to calling it karma in this version, even though the term as used in Earthdawn bears little resemblance to what the word actually means. Still, this change should help Earthdawn players who are looking for it. Also, it has always been the intent to make preparation/karma significantly more useful and present than it is in standard Dungeon World (where it is so useless that, I’d wager, most players aren’t even aware it exists), so this change should differentiate it even more.
  • Most of the disciplines were tinkered with a bit. This is particularly true of the air sailor, as that playbook is significantly based on the aid move and, therefore, was previously based on bonds. In general, the number of “plus something to something” moves has been reduced, as have the (already small) number of moves that dictate what happens on a miss. All of the disciplines remain based around two stats, but a few now have a better balance of moves between those two stats than they did before.
  • I took a crack at building character sheets. These are experimental, continuing my dabbling with legal sized paper. (The aspect ratio of legal paper falls between 16:9 and 16:10, the typical aspect ratios of nearly all modern laptops, so landscape legal pages fit very nicely in full screen.) It’s also the largest paper that most home printers in the US can easily support. For those in places where the only aspect ratio for paper you can easily buy is based on the square-root of two (the ISO 216 standard), shrinking these sheets onto A4 is probably your best bet, but probably not entirely satisfying. Each playbook is formatted to fit on a single side of once piece of paper (spell casters also have a separate spell sheet).
  • Debilities now inflict -2 instead of -1. This makes them more…debilitating, and forces them to be taken a bit more seriously. They can often be glossed over, forgotten in standard Dungeon World.
  • A number of rules have been changed or tweaked. Magicians can now get a fifth spell matrix, for example, and move triggered when someone aborts a spellcasting attempt has been added. Swordmasters can no longer become immune to stuff. Fireball is a bit different. Changed a warrior’s “carnage” to “impetus” and altered the way it worked and is explained a bit. Addressed monster tags better. And so on.
  • Some added gear, magic items, mounts, monsters and so on.

This is probably the last revision I’ll do of this hack. Maybe not. Anyway, you can download the lot, including InDesign sources, here:

Seed: Fourth World

LogoSince its creation in 1993, the fantasy world of Earthdawn pushed my buttons. Now, the recent kickstarter to fund the game’s fourth edition has rekindled my enthusiasm for the game. Yet, as eagerly as I backed the kickstarter and long to play in that world again, my interest in going back to those mechanics, even in updated form, approaches zero.

Therefore, this seed, suggesting ways to alter Dungeon World to fit into this rich high-fantasy setting. Like all DivNull Seeds, this one isn’t fully grown. If it plants a fire in your belly to do something with the idea, go for it. But, please, share what you make of it with the rest of us.

This hack sticks to the standard Dungeon World rules as much as it can, but all of the standard playbooks (Fighter, Thief, etc.) have been cut up and reassembled into the fifteen Earthdawn disciplines, adding custom bits to fill in the gaps. Had this work not largely been completed before the release of Class Warfare, the disciplines would probably have been built using those more modular rules instead. I contemplated going back and redoing them all, but by then the disciplines had sort of mutated into their own thing and it didn’t seem worth changing.

If you want to have a go at this hack, here are some possibilities you might try:

  • Actually do use Class Warfare to make the disciplines.
  • Instead of shuffling around existing moves, rebuild each discipline from he ground up, based more strongly on the Earthdawn originals.
  • Expand the hack with conversions of Earthdawn monsters, mounts, ships, relics, etc.
  • Convert more existing Earthdawn adventures to fronts.
  • Expand areas that I glossed over a bit, like horrors, blood magic or astral space.
  • Build obsessions (compendium classes) based around species or nationality or whatever else.
  • Anything else.

As I do not plan to do any of the above myself, I’m making the source files (except the fonts, which I lack the rights to distribute) available as well. Post a comment here if you turn them into anything You can download the lot here:

Update: A more recent version of this document exists here.

Pocket Danger Patrol cards

Danger Patrol CardsI’m looking to play John Harper‘s Danger Patrol (Pocket Edition) with my group, but I really loved the idea from the beta edition of each player selecting two “cards” which fit together to make their character sheet. So, I built a file with cards appropriate to the pocket edition (that is, very trimmed down from the beta versions).

In keeping with the flavor of the pocket edition each card is rendered at index card size (3"×5"), one page per card. You’ll likely need to experiment with settings if you want to print them. You can also print multi-page, or even build custom sheets by selecting to print two pages on one piece of paper, then selecting just the two pages you are mixing together (e.g. to get something like the image shown above, you’d set the pages field to “2,15”).

I built these in like an hour, so they are not the highest quality things I’ve ever done. Like Danger Patrol they are released under the Creative Commons attribution- Noncommercial-share alike 3.0 United states license.

By the way, if you like Danger Patrol, consider backing the author’s Patreon.

Vector demonweb

demonwebFor various important reasons (ok, not really, I just wanted a skin for my new phone) I needed a crisp version of the map in the Queen of the Demonweb Pits, but all I could find were various beaten up, not great resolution scans. So, I built a quick vector based version.

This should scale to any size you like. There wasn’t much in the way of quality control when I made it, so it very likely has errors. Let me know if you find any. I also don’t own the correct weight of Franklin Gothic to exactly replicate the labels of the original. Let me know if you use these files to make something else.

Seed: Goth Gulgamel

Goth Gulgamel IsometricSince the Bundle of Holding is offering a great deal for the Ptolus setting for the next few days, this seems like a good time to post something I’ve been working on, but am not going to do much more with: a revision/hack of one of the dungeons within that setting.

For reasons explained in more detail in the documents below, I was a bit unsatisfied with this location. I was also intrigued by Justin Alexander’s article on “Jaquaying the Dungeon”, a method of using design ideas from the dungeons designed by Jennell Jaquays to make dungeons more interesting. I was also keen on messing with isometric maps in Adobe Illustrator.

As with all DivNull Seeds, this is work isn’t entirely finished, but is in a decent enough state to be used. Feel free to pick up where I left off, but please share the results with everyone. With most seeds, I’ve posted things I’ve learned along the way, but this one, I kept a log of progress on the Cartographer’s Guild which contains most of the stuff I want to remember. That forum thread also lists the goals of this project.

I targeted legal-sized paper for most of these maps, as it is the largest paper most home printers in the US can easily use. I also tried to set up the battlemaps to use as little paper as possible, with locations rendered separately. In play, I would tend to only put the parts of the map the characters could see on the table at any given time.

I also decided to try to make a couple of poster sized maps (the large centerpiece location, for example, is a 24″×36″ poster), and used on-line print services (Vivyx printing in this case) to make hard copies. This worked pretty well, though uploading could be a challenge (had to resort to downsampled PNG files in one case).

The upshot of these last two points is that you might need to experiment to print these things.
The files for this are pretty large, so please download and read the first one before deciding if you want to download the rest. It is a guide that tells you about the location and what I’ve done with the place. If you’d like the Adobe Illustrator and InDesign sources for these documents, drop me a line here and I can get them to you.

Thanks to Monte Cook for allowing me to make use of his intellectual property, yet again.