Dragon World: New Basic Moves

Finally, something Apocalypse World related to justify the title of this blog!

I recently attended a get-together with the London Indie RPG Meetup Group, a lovely bunch of folks who regularly convene to… well, play indie RPGs, as the name implies.  The setup of the average “indiemeet” is simple: several people show up with games to pitch, everyone else gets to vote on what they want to play in, and people get moved around to make sure all the most exciting games do happen.  (If you’re new, they make sure whichever game you pick definitely runs, so it’s worth toddling along to a meetup if you’re near to/live in London.)

I’ve attended several events as a player, but last time was my first event pitching.  Worried that a boring pitch just wouldn’t get picked up, I went for something as flavourful as I could.  Apocalypse World is an indie staple, as well as a brilliant game in its own right, a profanity-laden post-apocalyptic character drama with violent sex and sexy violence.  But to give it more flair, I decided to pitch a custom setting I’ve been thinking about for some time: Dragon World, a similarly bleak and lawless setting as the Apocalypse World default, but this time the apocalypse is dragons.  Reign of Fire, basically.

To anchor the mechanics in the setting a bit more (and assuming that the standard suite of Apocalypse World moves would be old hat to experienced indie roleplayers), I came up with five new basic moves for all PCs, options any character could choose when taking action in the game.  Playtester feedback is appreciated if anyone wants to try using these!

When do something whilst on fire (has to be basic and feasible), roll +cool.  On a 10+, you stop, drop and roll into action, doing whatever you wanted and extinguishing the flame.  On a 7-9, choose: put out the fire and miss the opportunity to do what you wanted, or do what you wanted and burn (2-harm ap).  On a miss, you drop and burn, screaming.

When you sally forth and charge a dragon head-on, roll +hard.  On a hit, exchange harm, but you inflict terrible harm.  In addition, on a 10+, choose one:

  • You trap the dragon on the ground, preventing it from taking flight.
  • You drive the dragon away, to the skies.
  • This dragon will remember and fear you (choose only if it survives the harm you inflict).
  • Everyone sees you act like a goddamn hero.

On a 7-9, choose one above and one below:

  • You are unseated: knocked down, thrown clear, immobilised.
  • You are disarmed: whatever weapon you inflicted harm with is taken away from you.
  • This dragon has tasted you, and will hunt you (choose only if it survives the harm you inflict).
  • Everyone sees you act like a goddamn fool.

On a miss, the dragon carries you away, in its claws, between its teeth, or inside its gullet.

When you scan the horizon to see what’s coming, roll +sharp.  On a 10+, choose one of the following:

  • The glint of something valuable.
  • The bodies of the fallen: maybe something you can salvage, or something that will provide answers.
  • Survivors: they could need your help.
  • A glimpse of an oncoming danger.

The MC will then tell you what you see, in line with whatever you chose.  On a 7-9, the MC chooses what you see as they see fit.  Either way, you take +1forward if acting on what you saw.  On a miss, you misread the signs.

When you charm a dragon, in a situation where you have its attention and it is not immediately hostile, roll +hot.  On a 10+, the dragon takes an interest – it will not harm you.  In addition, choose one:

  • You are marked as the dragon’s plaything; any other dragons that listen to the one you’ve charmed will not harm you either.
  • You vouch for your friends; anyone else with you will be safe from the dragon’s wrath as well.
  • You strike a bargain; if you work out a way to communicate, and offer some form of payment up front, the dragon will bestow you a favour.
  • You form a sympathetic connection; something you can use to see through their eyes later.

On a 7-9, you have the dragon takes an interest, and you’d better do something clever with it quickly.  On a miss, the dragon takes an interest in you that you’ll wish it hadn’t.

When you see through dragon’s eyes, pick a dragon that you can see or have a sympathetic connection with and roll +weird.  This involves projecting yourself into the body of the dragon – you’re a passenger not a driver, with no control what it does, and your own body is left unoccupied.  However, on a hit, choose options.  On a 10+, choose three.  On a 7-9, choose two:

  • You can see, hear and smell what that dragon sees, hears and smells.
  • You can instinctively understand what that dragon thinks and feels.
  • You remain faintly aware of when your own body will be in danger.
  • You are able to switch back to your own body whenever you like.

On a miss, weirdness ensues.

If I ever ran an actual campaign of this, I’d want to create two whole new player character archetypes: The Valkyrie, for the helicopter pilots who take people up, and The Sky-Knight, for the lunatics that jump out.  That was a bit more work than I was willing to do for a one-off though.  Maybe for a follow-up blog post.

And for those interested, my fears were unwarranted: the game did run, and we had a great time.  Not quite as action packed as expected – the playbooks being used were The Brainer, The Hocus, The Savvyhead and The Angel, which are more inclined towards weird vision quest bollocks then straight-up violence.  Still, at least one PC elected to sally forth whilst wielding a broadsword, so my tastes for heroic fantasy were more than sated.

2 thoughts on “Dragon World: New Basic Moves

  1. Very entertaining! But when calling it ‘Dragon World’ you might want to actually have a look at Ewen Cluney’s Apocalypse World/Dungeon World hack, Dragon World, which he’s been cooking around since late 2011. Between it and Dungeon World I bet you could really have your fill of Swords & Sorcery, AW-style. 🙂


  2. Oh cool, I’d never heard of this! My knowledge of anime is pretty shallow (pretty much just Ghibli, and some psuedo-mainstream stuff like Death Note and Trigun), so the genre’s not something I’m familiar with, but good Apocalypse-hacks are interesting for mechanical reasons if nothing else. I’ll take a look.


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