Ptolus Dungeon World

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Revision as of 22:47, 18 December 2014 by imported>Wordman (→‎Specialties)

This page details how we converted some of the basics from the 3.5-based Ptolus to the Dungeon World system. It is colored by having done this to support an existing campaign, switching to Dungeon World after the characters had already reached the upper-mid levels. At these levels, 3.5 tends to be about "you saved the city!", whereas Dungeon World is designed more towards a "you might starve while hiding from the rat men" sort of aesthetic. Ptolus is a bit more high energy and optimistic than the default of Dungeon World. Still, Dungeon World works very nicely in a big urban setting with lots of factions and obligation, but where dungeon crawling is still the focus of play.


We opted to use the alternative character creation system spelled out in Class Warfare, as this allowed creation of characters that more readily matched the PCs from our existing campaign. But, even had we started with new first level characters, we still would have done this. The playbooks in Dungeon World were built with an "old school" feel, and that feel isn't a great match to the more cosmopolitan Ptolus. For characters we converted, we adapted them from 3.5's 20-level system to Dungeon World's 10-level system by cutting their 3.5 levels in half.

Some characters required custom moves or even custom specialties (in Class Warfare terms), some of which are detailed below. Most received one or two faction moves (see below), though most starting characters probably would not.

Ptolus contains many races beyond those in Dungeon World. We just built custom race moves that sounded good, tailored to the characters.

Special Moves

The basic moves remain as is, as do most of the special moves from the book. While in Ptolus, some additional special moves are available.

Outstanding Warrants

The trigger for this special move changes to "when you return to a neighborhood or establishment in which you have caused trouble before".

Talk to the Press

When you conduct an interview with the press, say what you are trying to accomplish with the interview and roll+CHA. On a 12+, the resulting article conveys what you intended to convey. On a 10+, the article mostly matches what you wanted, but choose one. On a 7-9, the article is close to what you wanted, but you choose one and the GM chooses one.

  • The story slants heavily toward the paper's bias.
  • You are significantly misquoted.
  • The author embellishes details far beyond reality.
  • You are also made to appear to be supporting or opposing something not actually covered in the interview.

Cast From a Wand

When you release a spell from a wand, roll+DEX. Take -2 if you lack spell casting ability. Take +1 if the spell is from your schools, spheres or repertoire, or you are otherwise familiar with casting it. Take -1 if the level of the spell equals your level. Take -2 if the level of the spell exceeds your level. On a 10+, the spell is cast. On a 7-9, the spell is cast, but choose one:

  • The wand cannot be used again for a day.
  • The spell generates feedback. You take 1d6 damage.
  • You draw unwelcome attention or put yourself in a spot. The GM will tell you how.

On a miss, the wand likely loses its magic, becoming a glorified stick.

Copy a Spell

When you copy a spell in a school you know from one spellbook into your own, roll+INT. On a 10+, the spell is copied perfectly. On a 7-9, the spell is copied, but the GM chooses one:

  • You stumble over a booby-trap in the original. You gain a random debility.
  • You introduce a flaw into your copy, which you will not notice until you first cast the spell (at which point, you can correct the book). Take -3 forward to casting this spell.
  • You run out of room in your spellbook, and must carry an additional book to hold this spell.
  • The spell vanishes from the original spellbook.
  • The act of copying the spell causes it to go off, affecting a random target.

On a miss, the original spellbook suffers some kind of calamity, ruining its contents.

Activate Chaositech

When you activate a chaositech device, roll+nothing. On a 10+, the device works and you take +2 forward using the device. On a 7-9, the device works, but choose one. On a 3-6, the device doesn't work, and the GM chooses one. On a 2-, the device may seriously malfunction, you might gain a mutation, become vulnerable to the influence of chaos, or some other malady, the GM will tell you which.

  • Afterwords, the device is drained of power.
  • Roll 1d6. On a 1-2, the device overloads, melts down, or explodes, dealing 1d10 damage to you.
  • Roll 1d6. On a 1-3, you gain a random debility.

Faction Moves

While Ptolus, as written, contains factions and politics and such, it still remains largely about dungeon-delving, with the factions probably influencing the hows and whys of such exploration. And, while you could set a game entirely about political intrigue in Ptolus, that game wouldn't be Dungeon World, which is significantly more focused on dungeon-delving than politics. Even importing more political tech from other Powered-by-Apocalypse games (such as replacing Bonds with Strings from Monsterhearts) strays too far. So, how to mine the rich factions and politics of the setting in a way that plays to Dungeon World's strengths? We went with adding "faction moves" to the game.

If you get involved with some faction within the city, the GM may decide to represent your membership in or associate with that faction with a faction move reflecting the advantages and costs of dealing with that faction. The term "faction" casts an intentionally wide net, and might represent a particular guild, noble house, political affiliation, neighbourhood, organisation, society, or even race. Generally, faction moves involve a roll that exchanges possible obligation or other cost for assistance, information, matériel, bonuses or some other advantage. Most such moves will be tailored to the character. Some might be available to any character willing to pay membership dues (see Delver's Guildsman, below). Joining some factions (e.g. the Inverted Pyramid) may be so involved that doing so opens up a new specialisation rather than supplying faction moves.

Delver's Guildsman

When you research an expedition under the city in the Delver's Guild maproom, roll+INT. On a 10+, hold 3. On a 7-9, hold 2, but other guildsmen get wind of your expedition. On a miss, hold 1, but some of the information you find will turn out to be dangerously misleading (the GM will tell you when). Spend hold while on the expedition to choose one of the following:

  • Take +1 to spout lore, discern realities or undertake a perilous journey.
  • Recognize a landmark when lost.
  • Find a guild waystation.


While it would be possible to create Ptolus as a steading, the city is so large that it would have nearly every tag. In addition, since nearly all play in a Ptolus game happens within the city, steading moves don't work as well if you are always inside one (moves often trigger upon entering a steading). Instead, treat each district of the city as it is own steading. When you do this, tags for defenses have to change meaning a little. While the city can easily call on 3,500+ soldiers for defense (not to mention the Commissar's guns), it is more likely to matter in a game what level of law enforcement can be expected. In the steadings that follow, consider the defense tag to measure the presence and effectiveness of the city watch against crime and unrest.

Similarly, the prosperity tag changes to reflect the standard of living and economic class of the residents, rather than the commerce-centric definitions given in the book. For example, the noble district is given the rich tag, even though almost no commerce or labor happens in that district. The Ptolus book should tell you everything you want to know about commerce within a given district.

Lastly, you can pretty much assume the history and personage tags for all of these districts. They will not be listed.

The Docks

poor, steady, guard, exotic (slaves)

Dockmaster's Tower

When you pay a suitable bribe to the dockmaster, roll+CHA. On a 10+, the dockmaster cooperates fully, then forgets all about it. On a 7-9, the dockmaster cooperates fully, but later sells information about your activity to interested parties.

Guildsman District

poor, shrinking, watch, guild (all varieties), craft (metalwork), resource (most raw materials), trade (North Market, South Market), religion (Iron God)

guilds? foundry? midden heaps?


middle, steady, guard, safe, exotic (magic items), resource (fish)

delver's square


dirt, exodus, militia, lawless, power (death, infernal)

Noble's Quarter

rich, steady, garrison, safe, divine (Lothian), exotic (luxury goods), power (political), power (divine)

castle shard holy palace

North Market

moderate, steady, guard, trade (outside farms), resource (food), market



weathly, steady, garrison, power (Imperial, arcane, celestial), safe, guild (martial), arcane

shade tower

Rivergate District

moderate, growing, guard, safe, exotic (drugs)


South Market

moderate, growing, guard, safe, market, resource (commodities, craftwork), exotic (bloodsports, books, spices, perfume)


Tent CIty

low, growing, none, lawless

Temple District

moderate, growing, guard, religion (most)


The Spire

Given that nearly all play in a Ptolus game happens within the rich, growing, legion, safe, religion (Church of Lothian, others), exotic (technology, magic items, slaves, drugs), oath (Empire of Tarsis), trade (every steading nearby, most major cities), market, history, arcane, divine, guild (all varieties), craft (metalwork), power (political, divine)

Like all settlements in Dungeon World, Ptolus is a steading, an extremely large and prosperous one. Most locations in the city make available at least one custom move. Some examples:

when you worship at the...

when you enter the Necropolis at night...

when you use the observatory...

and so on.


The following are some additional specialties for use with the Class Warfare character creation concept. Most of these exist to better match some d20 or Pathfinder concepts.


Alchemists mix strange reagents to alter their forms and blow stuff up. This specialty is a loose approximation of the parts of Pathfinder's alchemist class that ever saw play at our table.


Dragon Heir

The blood of a dragon courses through the veins of a dragon heir, gifting the character with innate magical ability and some of the traits of their sire. We added this to handle Pathfinder's draconic sorcerer bloodline, but breaking it into a specialty makes more open ended than just for sorcerers.


A hierophant forms the basis of characters who can cast both arcane and divine magic. These are a type of Vancian caster that can use spheres of influence as well as schools of magic, though limited to casting spells below their own level.

Inverted Pyramid

Knight of the Pale

Spontaneous Caster

A spontaneous caster connects to magic on an intimate, personal level, naturally manifesting spell-casting ability. This specialty exists to match d20-style sorcerers and other spontaneous casters, casting a more limited selection of spells, more often.



horde, small, stealthy, cautious, intelligent, organized
Sword (close, d6 damage), 3 HP, 1 Armor

The government offers a bounty on these degenerate, conniving, repulsive rats that walk upright and use tools. They eat almost anything organic but, though ferocious when cornered, are cowardly otherwise and avoid fights in which they lack a clear upper hand. Ratmen revere disease but fear light and dislike fire. Instinct: to scavenge

  • Bum rush
  • Disappear into the garbage
  • Spread disease and filth

Albino Ratmen

solitary, stealthy, cautious, intelligent, organized
Pistol (near, d10 damage), 12 HP, 2 armor

Albino ratmen always lead their groups (though not all ratmen leaders are albino), blessed with both greater intelligence and ambition. Favored among their own kind, they also carry the best gear. Instinct: to revel in the misery of others

  • Stir the nest to fight
  • Infect with a bite
  • Use other ratmen as shields


solitary, large, intelligent, organized
Greatsword (close, reach, d10+1 damage), 14 HP, 3 armor

Albino ratmen always lead their groups (though not all ratmen leaders are albino), blessed with both greater intelligence and ambition. Favored among their own kind, they also carry the best gear. Instinct: to ruin

  • Rip something apart
  • Infect with a bite
  • Defend the nest


group, intelligent, magical
Battleaxe (close, d8 damage), 12 HP, 3 armor

As creations of the Galchutt, rhodintor are not true demons, though they are every bit as devious and brutal. Instinct: to further the goals of chaos

  • Electrocute
  • Dispel magic
  • Operate chaositech