Ptolus Dungeon World

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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.

Rules Adjustments


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.

Bonds work fine for starting campaigns, but are less useful when the characters already know each other. We will likely switch to flags.

Basic Moves

The basic moves remain as is, except Hack and Slash is rephrased.

Special Moves

Most of the special moves from the book. While in Ptolus, some additional special moves are available.


This special move remains the same, but with the addition/clarification that you may adjust a roll with preparation after the roll is made.

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 (use up their resources), 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.

  • Afterwards, 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.


When you cheat at a game of chance, say how you do it and roll. If you do it…

  • …with slight of hand, +DEX
  • …with mental gymnastics (card-counting, etc.), +INT
  • …with charm and wit, +CHA

On a 10+, you control the game's outcome, with no one the wiser. On a 7–9, you control the game's outcome, but slightly rouse suspicions.

Gold Dragonscales

When you play a serious match of gold dragonscales in the presence of spectators, choose your general strategic approach: belligerence, deceit, accommodation, confinement. Unbeknownst to the players, the complexity of the game works magic on the surrounding city. The GM will adjust the city in some way related to your strategy.


Magic items are significantly easier to come by in Ptolus than would be the case in a default Dungeon World setting. Apart from typical healing potions and such, it is suggested that the number of interesting effects from magic items be restricted. In game terms, items can grant a character "gear moves", roughly on par with the a class move. Powerful items might grant more than one. To roughly approximate the scaling importance of magic items from Ptolus run in its original system, a player can call on a number of gear moves equal to their level. They can own more items than this, of course, but on any given day they have to choose the moves they will be able to use from their gear.

Factions & 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, neighborhood, organization, 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. Joining some factions may be so involved that doing so opens up a new specialization rather than supplying faction moves. Some example factions and associated moves:

Delver's Guild

Anyone who willing to pay dues may join the Delver's Guild (Ptolus, pg. 108–110) as an Associate Guildsman or Guildsman. The latter gain the following move:

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.

Inverted Pyramid

Membership in the inverted Pyramid is a path to personal arcane power. As such, it is more appropriately represented by a custom specialty/compendium class (see below). On the other hand, anyone who can gain access to the Inverted Pyramid's library may use this move:

An Unparalleled Collection

When you spout lore about the workings of arcane magic within the library in the Inverted Pyramid, take +3. On a 12+, the GM will also tell you something tangential but of use to an ally that you happen across.

Order of Iron Might

Members of this martial order who stand out from the ranks as particularly reliable, brave or otherwise notable may gain the following move:

Bonds of Iron Might

When you recruit from the Order of the Iron Might, you have a useful reputation and treat any miss as if you had rolled a 7–9 instead. Any recruits you gain have at least loyalty +1 and warrior +2. In addition, you take +2 loyalty forward.

Noble Houses

Faction moves for noble houses work better when tailored to the character and their relationship to their family. Some examples:

Adopted Black Sheep

When you manipulate a family member, roll+INT. On a 10+, choose two. On a 7–9, you choose one and the GM chooses one:

  • Your family gives you coin.
  • You extract a favor from the family.
  • You or one of your family is tarnished in the tabloids.
  • The family extracts a favor from you.

All in the Family

When you discern realities about House Erthuo or its members, take +2 and add the following choices to the list of available questions:

  • If the public knew about this, how would they react?
  • If the press knew about this, how would it be reported?


When you oppose your family's neutral political stance, take +2 forward to parley with a family member.


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. District tags are as follows:

  • The Docks: poor, steady, guard, exotic (slaves)
  • Guildsman District: poor, shrinking, watch, guild (all varieties), craft (metalwork), resource (most raw materials), trade (North Market, South Market), religion (Iron God)
  • Midtown: middle, steady, guard, safe, exotic (magic items), resource (fish)
  • Necropolis: dirt, exodus, militia, lawless, power (death, infernal)
  • Noble's Quarter: rich, steady, garrison, safe, divine (Lothian), exotic (luxury goods), power (political), power (divine)
  • North Market: moderate, steady, guard, trade (outside farms), resource (food), market
  • Oldtown: weathly, steady, garrison, power (Imperial, arcane, celestial), safe, guild (martial), arcane
  • 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)
  • Warrens: dirt, growing, none, lawless, power (organized crime)

Location Moves

Purpose and flavor can be added to various locations by making moves available when in a specific location. Some examples:

Blessing of Engelan

When you abandon concerns about the past and future at the Temple of Engelan, take 1 preparation. If you do not use that preparation by the end of the day, loose all preparation.

Blessings of the Lady

When you ask the Lady to watch over you in one of her shrines, for the rest of the day, any time the two dice in your rolls match, add +1d6-1d4 to the roll.

Blessings of Lothian

When you ask Lothian, in a temple dedicated to him, to bless and guide your future endeavors, hold 1. Hold an additional 1 for every 50 coin worth of sacrifice or donation made as part of your prayers (max total hold of five). Spend hold one-for-one to do the following:

  • Deal an additional +1d6 damage when dealing damage to an arcane, undead or demonic foe.
  • Make an object you hold project a warm yellow light that functions as sunlight does for a few minutes.
  • Shake your mind clear of an enchantment from an arcane, undead or demonic source.
  • Take +2 armor forward.

Delver's Square

When you recruit in Delver's Square for a subterranean expedition, take +2. On a 12+, you find ideal candidates. The GM will tell you how many points for skills the hirelings you find have, but you decide how they are distributed. If both you and the hireling are members of the Delver's Guild (which, let's face it, you are) take +1 loyalty forward.

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.

Observatory of the Watcher of the Skies

When you pay homage to the Watcher of the Skies on a clear day and peer through the temple's telescope, you see the future of some person, place, object or institution written in the stars. Roll+WIS. On a 10+, the GM will tell you three things from the list below. On a 7–9, only two. On a miss, the GM will tell you one anyway, but also something else that is not true (though you will have to discover which is which).

  • The identity of the subject of the prophecy.
  • The nature of a danger that threatens the subject or that the subject is part of.
  • What may prevent this danger before it happens.
  • What may avert this danger after it happens.
  • One grim portent, related to the subject, that is yet to occur.
  • One stakes question related to the subject.

Shade Tower

When you discern realities on Ridge Road in Oldtown on a bright, moonlit night, on a hit, in addition to whatever else happens, you locate the shadow of the Shade Tower. You may use this shadow as a "place of power" to make a Ritual move to transport you and allies within the Tower.

Shard Tap

When you cast a spell in proximity of the large crystal shard central to Castle Shard, on a 10+ the spell cannot be countered or dispelled by normal means. On a 7–9, the following choice may be selected instead of your usual choices:

  • The magic of the shard powers the spell, but you draw the attention of the shard and its masters, for better or worse.

The Spire

When you approach within 100 feet of the top of the Spire, roll+DEX. On a 10+ you may choose to flee without being slowly disintegrated. On a 7–9, if you choose to flee, you can do so only after taking 2d6 damage and becoming tainted by the evil of the place. On a miss, whatever else happens, you are slowly disintegrated.


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.


A chaositechnician aims to harness the power of chaositech, at great personal risk.

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 Magus

Characters invited into the Inverted Pyramid and who successfully complete their rites of initiation gain access to the inverted magus specialty.

Knight of the Pale

Characters allowed to join the Knights of the Pale gain access to the pale knight specialty.

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.


(in progress) Some sort of specialty based around magical crafting and this move from Adam Koebel:

Crafting Magic Items

When you engineer a design for a magical item (weapon, armor, artifact, etc) tell the GM what you aim to accomplish. The GM will tell you three or four of the following;

  • You’ll need to disenchant ________ first.
  • You’ll need the aid of __________.
  • You’ll need to find some __________ to use.
  • It’ll take an especially long time to prepare.
  • It’ll be unusually dangerous to craft.
  • You’ll need to craft it someplace special.

When you imbue a crafted item with power spend XP and roll+XP spent. On a 10+ choose two tags to imbue the item with. On a 7-9 choose one and the GM will choose one, too. Available tags are:

  • axiomatic the item is imbued with lawful energy, and gives form to the unformed
  • bane the item is particularly hateful to creatures of a particular race or creed
  • cogent the item is tangible to ghosts, spirits, etc
  • entropic the item has an unstable form and can destabilize matter around it
  • fiery the item burns with a powerful fire that does not harm the wielder
  • galvanic the object is possessed of a powerful electric charge that does not harm the wielder
  • glamoured with a thought from the wielder, this item can take on the form of something else
  • hurled the item gains +thrown, no matter the form it takes
  • icy the object freezes with a cold that does not harm the wielder
  • indestructible the item cannot be destroyed by mortal means
  • profane the item is imbued with energies antithetical to the gods and their works
  • radiant the item emits a brilliant light
  • sacred the item is imbued with divine power, either generally or specifically
  • solicitous the item grants +1 armor
  • tenebrous the item gives off clouds of smoky darkness
  • thunderous when struck, the item emits a blast of sound that does not harm the wielder
  • traumatic wounds inflicted by the item or in its presence cannot be healed by natural means



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