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.

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.

Seed: Bladechapel battlemap

Bladechapel is the headquarters of a knightly order dedicated to fighting evil threats from other planes in Monte Cook’s urban setting, Ptolus. Since no detailed plans of this fictional building seem to exist, and I wanted to confront my players with devils and demons ransacking the place during a zombie plague (long story), I set about making maps of my own. While I have progressed reasonably far, I’m to the point where I likely won’t be updating it any further. The map is functional, but not what I’d call “done”. As such, I’m releasing what I’ve got as a DivNull seed.


When it comes to maps, I prefer using vector tools like Illustrator over raster tools like Photoshop. This makes me a bit of the odd man out when it comes to making battlemaps, which is largely a raster pastime, but one of the reasons I wanted to make this map in the first place is to see how far I could push the vector tools. I posted progress notes for this map to a gaming cartography forum, if you are interested in more step-by-step stuff. My take aways from this project are:

  • One big goal was to learn how to use Illustrator’s mesh tool. Mission accomplished there. It is powerful and capable of doing things you can’t do any other way, but a bit clunky. I didn’t get really great at using this tool, but I least I understand what I’m doing now.
  • Live tracing seamless textures can build decent fill brushes that give objects more depth. (Vector maps are often very flat and blocky.)
  • Really decent textured fill brushes push Illustrator CS5 to the breaking point. On more than one occasion, I used up all the memory that Illustrator’s 32-bit limit could handle, causing it to die a horrible death. This transformed the project from learning about vector mapping to tiptoeing around the limitations of the software I was using, and is a big contributor to my not finishing the map. The newer 64-bit version might not have this problem.
  • Illustrator has the ability to print by tiling the output across multiple pages in an easy to understand way, but doesn’t extend this functionality to exporting PDFs. If you want to export to a multi-page PDF, you have to create individual artboards, and overlap them manually. The artboard tool makes this possible, but could be easier (allowing selection of multiple boards and editing, say, the X position of all of them at once would be very helpful, for example). I didn’t know any of this before starting this project, so learning it has been useful.
  • I also mostly just ran out of time. My desire to run a game using this map, and the pace of the game itself, overshadowed the need to do the map “right”.

I wound up with maps of five different “floors” of the building, in the end. They are big, as battlemaps go (roughly 50 squares by 60 squares, at an inch per square). Maps are available in two different formats. The PNG files contain the whole floor as a single image, at 150 pixels per inch. The PDFs divide the map onto pages of legal sized paper (the largest paper that the majority of home printers can handle), with a bit of content overlap. Note that all of these files are huge. You might want to look at the bladechapel-key.pdf file first. It gives a decent overview of the building layout and such.

Sources for this map are a bit tricky. I’m not going to post them, because the Illustrator sources are gigantic (the ground floor is over a gigabyte); however, if you are really want to play with them, drop me a comment to this post and we’ll figure something out.

Many of the objects on these maps (tables, chairs, etc.) are bitmaps intended for use with Dundjinni, and credit for them goes to their creators. Likewise, the name “Bladechapel”, “Knights of the Pale” and other aspects of this map are ©2006-2007 Monte J. Cook, used with permission. The textures originated from Seamless Pixels. Everything else should be considered released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License:

Creative Commons License

DivNull Seeds

With the new year comes reflection and resolution. This post is a bit of both. For most of my adult life, I’ve had a tendency to start new projects, but never finish them. This begins to weigh on me, as more and more unfinished stuff accumulates. Last year, however, I realized something about the way I work, and it is going to change what I release on this blog a little bit.

Often, what excites me about a project isn’t the final product, but what I’m learning when I do it. When the learning stops, so does the whole point in doing the project in the first place. Knowing this, I’m going to start suppressing the urge to “finish” some projects before releasing them. Rather than have them sit, untouched, on my to do list forever, I’m just going to throw them out there, as is, and check them off the to-do list. I’ll be referring to projects that follow this process as “seeds”: not really done, but someone could pick them up if they want to. I’m assuming that most of these seeds will just sit there, which is fine. But, on the off chance that they provide some use to someone, I’m going to post them anyway.

I’ll try to say a bit about what I was trying to do, and what I learned with each seed I publish.

So far, here are the published DivNull seeds.