The best place to start your journey into customizing Dungeon World components is with the moves . Many of the fronts , dangers and other elements of your game will already contain custom moves, so it’s a natural, easy place to start. You might want to create moves to reflect the effects of some particular threat (“When you go alone into the Unhallowed Halls…”). You might create moves to cover something that’s particularly important to your setting (“When you swim in the dark waters…”). As you get more experienced you might create moves to expand a class or create your own class entirely.
Where do moves come from?
You can start a move with the trigger. Some actions will just feel like they should be a move. This is the most common starting point for moves. You’ll see some action coming up and feel like it’s different enough from existing moves that it needs its own rules.
Rarely, you can even start with the mechanics. Sometimes you’ll think of something cool, like a tamed demon whose happiness is a constantly varying stat, and go from there. Be wary of any idea that’s entirely mechanical. Since moves always start and end with the fiction, a mechanical idea is the least important bit of the move.
You can always use a move from another game, too. Dungeon World is just one of a handful of games that use moves and you might be inspired by one of those. It’s often not too difficult to modify an existing move for use in Dungeon World.
Types of Moves
What role the move is fulfilling determines what kind of move you’re creating.
Moves for dealing with the environment or special features you’ve added to Dungeon World are special moves. These moves are usually the GM’s domain, a place to make parts of the world stand out. Since moves are always triggered by the players, most moves like this should be written or printed somewhere everyone can look them over unless the move covers something that the player characters wouldn’t have any idea about.
Moves that reflect some special competency or power, or something the characters do, are usually class moves. If the move is clearly tied to a specific class, add it to that class. If the move is tied to some concept that multiple classes might have access to, like a move only accessible to those that have seen beyond Death’s Black Gates, you can create a compendium class for those moves. A compendium class is like a mini-class, it’s a collection of moves around a fictional theme.
If your move is something the players do but isn’t associated with any specific theme or class it’s probably a basic or special move. If it comes up all the time it’s a basic move, if it comes up more rarely it’s a special move.
Moves made by the players in response to monsters, such as the effects of a disease or pressing on despite a focused blast of wind from an air elemental, are player moves associated with that monster. Player moves associated with a monster are fairly rare, most of the ways a player will interact with a monster are covered by the basic and class moves.
Moves made by monsters against the players aren’t player moves at all. They’re monster moves, simple statements of what the monster does. Trying to make every monster move into a player move will seriously hamper your creativity.
Your Dungeon World is full of fantastic things, right? You’re likely to find that some of those fantastic things deserve or demand custom moves to reflect exactly what they do. Consider this one from Chris Bennet:
- When you open a sewer hatch, roll+STR:
- On a 10+, choose 2.
- On a 7–9 choose 1.
- You avoid being covered in feces and rotting animal entrails from the sewers above.
- You avoid having a gelatinous cube land on you.
- You find a secret back entrance to where the merchant’s daughter is being held.
This move is strong because it is tied strongly to a particular place at a particular time. This move was written by request for Jason Morningstar’s Dungeon World game as the players entered some particularly horrible sewers to find a powerful merchant’s daughter. Two of the options here are very directly tied to that precise situation.
Why would you write this move instead of just using defy danger? You wouldn’t, always. Opening a pressurized sewer hatch is certainly dangerous, you could use defy danger. This move does have the advantage of setting up the choices ahead of time. This is actually a very strong technique: if there’s a particular situation that is likely to cause defy danger, you can write a custom move that describes the tough choice to be made to save yourself some thinking in the moment.
The other strength of moves like this is they call out something as important. By making the trigger “when you open a sewer hatch” instead of “when you act despite an imminent threat” the move calls out that these sewers are always dangerous.
Each class has enough moves to take it through tenth level but that doesn’t mean you can’t add more. Adding moves to a class can demonstrate your idea of Dungeon World. Take this one, for example:
- When you claim a room for your deity, mark every entrance and roll+WIS
- On a 10+, the room is peacebonded: no one can take action to cause physical harm within it.
- On a 7–9, the room is peacebonded, but the show of divine power draws attention.
You can dismiss the peacebond as you see fit.
This move presents a slightly different side of Dungeon World, one that can demand peace (something that usually doesn’t come easily to PCs). This may not be right for every Dungeon World game, but it’s a great way to show how your Dungeon World looks, reflected in the characters.
When adding a move, look carefully at what class it belongs to. Avoid giving a class moves that infringe on another class’s areas of expertise. If the thief can cast spells just as well as the wizard the wizard is likely to feel marginalized. This is why the multiclass moves act as one level lower, so that each class’s niche is somewhat protected.
Be careful with any move that provides the same benefit as an existing move even if the trigger is different. Moves that add to damage, in particular, should be avoided for the most part unless carefully crafted with interesting triggers. The same is true of moves that add to armor. The classes at present have damage and armor increases that reflect the overall danger of Dungeon World. Giving them more can negate potential threats.
- see also Creating Classes