Seed: Fourth World 1.5

LogoI never intended for this “drift” of Dungeon World to the setting of Earthdawn to take so much of my attention, but here we are with yet another iteration.

Version 1.5 exists because I wanted to explore questions of: if you make the rules of the Perilous Wilds required, what does that force you to do to the playbooks and the rest of the game? How does it allow you to change the game?

This already drifts away from standard Dungeon World farther than earlier versions, but that wasn’t quite sufficient. Passions needed some love. I also blame Jeremy Strandberg for some other changes made in the version. He has been working on his own variations of Dungeon World: the one-shot focused Homebrew World and “hearth fantasy” take on the game called Stonetop. Over the last year or so, he’s been noodling publicly on G+ about changes he has been making, and Fourth World has benefited tremendously from the resulting discussion. Not least of which: this version totally steals his versions of the Defense and Parley moves. So thanks, Jeremy!

Version History

Version Release Date Concept
0.5 2 Sep 2014 Alpha/proof of concept.
0.8 8 Seb 2014 Original public beta. First PDF layout.
0.9 1 Nov 2014 Integration of Mounted Combat. Airships
1.0 12 Feb 2015 Tinkering. Only released privately.
1.1 20 Feb 2015 Tinkering. Only released privately.
1.2 15 Mar 2015 First public “official” release.
1.3 20 Feb 2015 Replace bonds with flags, and collateral changes.
1.4 7 May 2017 Creation of steps. Changing playbooks to take advantage of changes to aid and hack & slash. Large playbook overhaul, particularly culling of vast majority of “take +1” stuff.
1.4 23 Feb 2018 Move to a 6×9 layout, using the same text.
1.5 today Passions. Integration of Perilous Wilds. Changes to Defend and Parley.

Changes in 1.5

Significant changes in this version include:

  • Passions mechanics made more abstract and interactive. Instead of working like alignment moves, now function more like icons from 13th Age, giving the GM a currency to spend to pull Passions into the narrative. XP gain no longer about hitting that “alignment” move, but examining how you measure up against the ideals you claim to follow.
  • Replaced overland travel moves with those from Perilous Wilds. Playbooks, particularly the Scout, changed to match.
  • Embraced the followers concept from Perilous Wilds (also written by Jermey Strandberg). Turns out this can replace more than just hirelings. Several weird one-off subsystems in Dungeon World replaced with unified follower mechanics, including summoning spells, mounts, companion animals and so on.
  • Replaced Defend (as mentioned above). It now gives a named type of hold called “readiness”. Various parts of the playbooks were added or changed to use readiness in various ways.
  • Replaced Parley (as mentioned above) with a version easier to use at the table.
  • Spellcasting changed to add a type of hold called “focus”, which can be spent to counter some of the mathematical brutality of requiring multiple tests for a single spell. Each casting discipline also gets a trick for doing something with focus.
  • Added examples of how spellcasting is intended to work in game and clarifications about what else you can do while weaving.
  • Removed discipline details from the main book. Everyone just looks at the playbooks anyway. In their place are advice sections to the GM about getting the most out of each discipline, with questions specific to each one.
  • Added a similar section advising on what player choice of species might signal, and how it can inform other parts of the game.
  • Leveraging the hack & slash rephrasing from prior versions, each discipline now adds a choice to the 10+ list, allowing each one to fight a tiny bit differently.
  • Added lots of examples of follower beasts and spirits.
  • Added some obsessions.
  • Added some monsters.
  • Playbooks are now generated from XML data, allowing new styles of playbooks to be constructed from a single data set. This uses XSL and FOP, based around my Corax data standard for RPG data. (I may make this standard more complete, open, and documented in the coming year. Maybe not.)
  • Most disciplines streamlined a little, reducing the number of moves slightly.
  • Was very temped to eliminate XP, but instead just give some advice on how to do so if you should want to.
  • General reorganization of book, changing chapters around.

The Future

In the short term, there may be future 1.5.x versions, to fix typos and such. There will probably be some additional playbook formats (starting with an A4 version of the minimal format).

Long term, this will definitely be the last in the 1.x series. If there is a 2.0, it won’t be based on Dungeon World. I think I’ve pushed the drift as far as it can go without breaking, and have already broke it a little. If a future PbtA version is in the cards, it will be much closer to Apocalypse World 2. There’s also a chance it wouldn’t be PbtA at all.

If you want to pick this seed up and plant it somewhere else, let me know. With the demise of G+ screwing up roleplaying, I’ll be harder to find. If you are on the Federation (diaspora, Friendica, etc.) or the Fediverse (Mastodon, Friendica, etc.) you can follow me at here. If not, but you are interested in trying a distributed social network that isn’t controlled by corporations, join one (such as an rpg-friendly Mastodon or Diaspora node).


  • fourth-world-1.5.pdf (8.7MB): rulebook.
  • fourth-world-crib-1.5.pdf (1.3MB): several page summary of the basic and special moves, spellcasting, etc.
  • fourth-world-build-ref-1.5.pdf (186KB): an experimental kit to build-your-own reference pages. Each “page” in this document is a one-sixth six page. If you have a PDF viewer capable of doing “6-up” printing and can specify arbitrary page ranges, you can do both of those things to select six of the pages in this document to print on a single piece of paper as a reference. Pages include: forms for tracking Passions, followers, steadings and so on; obessions; relics; basics, like lines or a dot grid; basic moves; etc.
  • fourth-world-playbooks-1.5-legal.pdf (8.7MB): single page playbooks, using US Legal (8.5″ x 14″) paper. Style is similar to prior versions, somewhat following the font aesthetics of third edition.
  • Minimal playbooks, with a style vaguely similar to Brennan Reece’s “minimal” style playbooks. Intended to be printed double-sided, then folded in half:
  • (forthcoming): the InDesign and other sources used to build all this stuff.

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.