Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dungeon World - Classes and Niche Protection

Dungeon World Ranger by Emily DeLisle
I've really been taken by the concept in Dungeon World that every Class is unique. Each class can only be taken once by the players, and this simple rule is pretty much at the core of a game design theory known as "niche protection". Niche protection is good game design because it makes every player character brings something cool and uniquely valuable to the party. It means you don't have redundancies  in the party and competition over who gets to pick the lock or discern the arcane scriblings painted in blood on the wall of the lich's lair. Someone's got to do it, but not just anyone can. That's niche protection!

When it comes to building a new class for Dungeon World, I believe niche protection is probably the number one important thing to consider. You have to ask yourself - does this class have its own niche? Can it do something the other classes can't do? Not "can it do something in a different way from how another class does it?" You have to look at the core of what a class does and what a class knows. If neither of these things are unique, you have to consider another question: "Which existing class does my new class replace?"

As I mentioned in my last Dungeon World post, I'm very interested in writing some custom classes, but before I begin, I've been really coming to grips about the idea of niche protection, and I think I've come to a realization that, while classes can be added on to the 8 classes in the core book (Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Thief, and Wizard), for example the Warlock and Barbarian, I'm really interested in creating a whole new range of core classes, specifically for a Lord of the Rings/Middle Earth hack.

I feel I'd much rather just have wide open design space when it comes to building classes that might be in the middle of two other classes. For example the Dunadan class would be a solid mix of Fighter and Ranger. The Noldor Prince class doesn't have a strong connection to any of the core classes, but might actually look a lot like the Paladin in play.

While it gives me more freedom to create what I like, it also gives me the freedom to remove all that wouldn't work in Middle Earth. The Wizard class of course by name describes Gandalf and Saruman, but the class powers of the Wizard don't work in the setting. It's much simpler to change it to the Istari class or simply remove Wizard altogether. I'm really looking forward to taking the basic concept of each class being unique to the next step. There really only may be a small handful of Noldor Princes in all of Middle Earth (Glorfindel, Elrond, Elladan, Elrohir, and Gildor really), and the player character is among the small handful left. The Dunedain are scattered and few in the North, and a member of the Grey Company would be truly badass to play.

So that's the plan for now! I want to come up with maybe 6 to 8 "core" Middle Earth classes for Dungeon World and go from there. We'll see what happens!

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