DUNGEON WORLD: Advice for helping players act out alignments?

So I’m running a sporadic game of Dungeon World, after converting over from a d&d campaign (that I made myself). my players are warming up to the system & are slowly coming away from their videogame-influenced metagaming, but I think they still need a push to get them excited about roleplaying.

Alignments and bonds are good for this of course, so I’ve been trying to figure out things I could insert into the scenarios that could get players thinking about their alignments. “free someone from literal or figurative bonds” and “spur others to significant and unplanned decisive action” seem to write themselves, but I’m having trouble figuring out how to allow our druid to “destroy a symbol of civilization” in an interesting & meaningful way?

Our thief has also chosen a bit of a safe (imo) alignment with “avoid detection or infiltrate a location”, especially as she’s someone who unconsciously drifts towards metagame thinking & away from roleplaying. However, she’s really keen on multiclassing as an Immolator & I’ve thought up a whole narrative hook for how that could happen, involving a foreign religion etc. As I’ve kind of based said religion on Zoroastrianism, I was thinking her “teacher” might make her swear an oath of truth, so she must never deceive with words & I figured this could make for an interesting new alignment. She tends to enjoy playing stealthy thief types in everything, and I thought this might be an interesting thing for her character to deal with or rationalise, maybe even working out some kind of penalty system related to immolator abilities for direct lies? But I also don’t want to hamper her enjoyment of the game at the same time, so I’m having trouble figuring out if this is a good idea, or if I should just give her an alignment from the immolator sheet.

Any thoughts & suggestions on this or the aforementioned druid alignment would be much appreciated! Also feel free to post any alignment/bond stuff you might be having trouble with yourself!

I don’t remember specifically about alignment, but “The Dungeon World Guide” helped me to wrap my brain around *W engine. After D&D and similar games, it is quite different.

I think “Put someone in a spot” GM move is your friend here. Well, all GM moves are your friends. Look which ones can be useful to push players into a situation where they would need to do something related to their alignment.

Let’s say there is a flood threatening a village, and to stop the flow of a river, druid can topple a mill tower (“a symbol of civilization”), but after that people would starve. It is about alignment but also a choice. Or something like that.


What I tend to do is give them ample opportunity or hit their existing alignment. If they don’t do anything with it I ask them if they want to change it. Should they choose to change it they can pick one that fits from another playbook, choose one from the book (there’s a list of options for each alignment), or we work together to write an unique one.

The big thing about making alignments work is keeping them somewhat vague and open, so the player always has chances to do something with it. Also keep in mind that they’re intended to be a carrot, not a stick, so don’t penalize your players for not doing anything with them, as they’re already losing out on that sweet, sweet extra XP.

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Ask your players questions. Your druid picked “topple a symbol of civilization” for a reason. Why? The world “topple” is pretty broad, so it just seems like you need clarification on what they read when they chose that alignment. They could have wanted to do something as big as usurp a king, or something as little as free the horses stabled in a nearby village. They can end up doing both those things, eventually, but it helps to know what their intentions were initially, because that defines both the world and the character. If they want to usurp a king are they a secret member of a revolutionary group? If they just want to free some horses are they a forest dwelling hermit who detests the walls civilization puts around domestic creatures?

Same goes for your Thief. If your Thief is interested in multi-classing that means they’re probably interested in breaking from their common play style, so you need to ask them why. Ask them what they see in the Immolator class, or what they think being The Immolator might mean in the context of your world. Most importantly ask them why their character would want to become an Immolator and how that would change them. What interested them when they read that class description might be different from your ideas, but I think what the player wants is more important than that. You can still twist what being an Immolator means and work in your ideas for revoking powers and angry gods, but allow the player to create the base for that good twist. It’ll be more surprising.

So I guess my advice is ask a lot of questions, and let your players tell you why they picked something before you decide the nuances.

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yeah, you might be right about the carrot/stick thing there, losing out on xp would mean losing out on levelling up & getting more immolator moves after all! I guess I wanted to portray like, an angry deity revoking powers type of thing?

What you could do is revoke powers (to some extend) on a 6-, and return them when they do something in line with the alignment. That way you still give them a big push to do stuff (they failed their move, after all) without stressing things too much.

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I’ve personally felt that alignments in DW has always been a bit…weird? I think is the best way of saying it kindly. So outside of my true advice of just saying “Toss out the alignments and just have the players come up with actionable beliefs that you can play off of”. When I’ve looked at alignments in DW, I’ve used those more as flags as to what the player is interested in. So for example:

“Destroy a symbol of civilization”: Could be as grand as literally destroying a monument that a city had built or burning down a building to something as figurative as convincing a local mayor to not move forward with a building project. I’ve found that players who wanted to play this alignment type specifically, are looking into the struggle of nature vs. civilization. So play into that, one good resource is the novel Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson. The novel looked at the battle between chaos and law (i.e. nature vs civilization).

About your Thief that wants to be an Immolator, it’s an interesting idea. One thing that came to mind was the idea of light and dark. A thief always wants to be in the dark, yet immolators are always in the light (due to their flames). One particular thing I’ve always thought about is that a thief is good at lying in all senses, whether it’s a lie they tell or a lie about where they actually are. You could in theory make a bit of a trade off for your thief if they wanna take immolator powers. They will have to break stealth if they want to control flame…

Overall, have fun and remember that DW and Powered by the Apocalypse systems are meant to be tinkered with. So tinker around with them and see what you come up with. Have fun!

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wow, thanks, this is all super interesting and a lot to think about! I hadn’t thought about that alignment as nature v civilization, but that definitely seems like the most interesting angle to work!
And I spoke to my thief yesterday & told her my ideas to let her think about them, and I think we may just end up going with the chaotic “spread a dangerous new idea”, but the stealth tradeoff is def something I’ll be thinking about!

Also yeah, I kinda agree on alignments, I’ve never gelled with them at all in stuff like d&d, but it’s because DW mostly presents them as actionable beliefs that I actually started to come around, so i think they’re cool when used as that!