I want to share this very useful post from Something Awful forum user Lemon Curdistan. It elegantly clarifies the Dungeon World Druid Shapeshifting power:
The Druid Shapeshifter FAQ
This short FAQ covers the intricacies of the Druid’s Shapeshifter move, as it’s a topic that comes up often.
Dungeon World, page 105 posted:
When you call upon the spirits to change your shape, roll+Wis. * On a 10+ hold 3. * On a 7–9 hold 2. * On a miss hold 1 in addition to whatever the GM says.
You may take on the physical form of any species whose essence you have studied or who lives in your land: you and your possessions meld into a perfect copy of the species’ form. You have any innate abilities and weaknesses of the form: claws, wings, gills, breathing water instead of air. You still use your normal stats but some moves may be harder to trigger—a housecat will find it hard to do battle with an ogre. The GM will also tell you one or more moves associated with your new form. Spend 1 hold to make that move. Once you’re out of hold, you return to your natural form. At any time, you may spend all your hold and revert to your natural form.
Do I need to roll do to things while Shapeshifted?
There are three types of actions you can accomplish when you’re Shapeshifted (versus two normally):
- Do any action that would normally require a roll, as long as your new form would make it reasonable for you to do so. For example, if you Shapeshift into a sparrow, you won’t be able to Hack & Slash – you simply can’t hurt most enemies.
- Do any action that doesn’t require you to roll, as long as your new form would make it reasonable for you to do so. You still can’t do your damage to a surprised enemy as a sparrow, but you can fly around as well as you can walk in human form.
- Spend some of your hold to trigger one of your new form’s monster moves without rolling. You do whatever the move says you do – if you turn into a giant snake with a “gobble them whole” move and you spend hold to trigger that move, you gobble someone or something whole. It just happens.
What constitutes a “move” in this case?
Unfortunately, the terminology used here is confusing, so let me make an attempt to make things a bit less ambiguous.
When Shapeshifter talks about spending hold to trigger a move, it’s not actually talking about Defy Danger or Hack & Slash. Instead, it’s talking about your creature form’s monster moves (we’ll call these MMs from now on).
If you take a look at the monster list in the rulebook, you’ll see a format like this one:
The MMs Shapeshifter refers to are those two lines at the end of the monster’s profile. If you turned into a Black Pudding, you’d have access to those two MMs. You could spend 1 hold to trigger any one of them and it would just happen, no rolling needed.
So can’t I just have a monster move that lets me dodge or attack without rolling?
Generally, no, unless it makes sense in the fiction.
Shapeshifting won’t let you automatically Hack & Slash or Defy Danger without a roll. What it might do is give you a MM that lets you automatically attack in certain situations. Does it make sense for something like a panther to be able to effortlessly dodge a trained warrior’s sword? Not really, so that would require a Defy Danger roll – if you were turning into a blink dog or something small and hard to hit, though, sure. Similarly, being a python might let you swallow enemies as a move (and thus without rolling), so you could attack that way instead of Hack & Slashing.
Does this mean the GM can never introduce complications or force me to roll for anything when I make a monster move, since they always happen without a roll?
Not at all! The “without rolling” in this case is for doing exactly what the animal move says. It doesn’t suddenly cancel out every other roll that might happen in the process; you might still need to Defy Danger if the fiction dictates that you would need to do so in the course of performing the action described by your monster move, but if you spend hold on “slam them into a hard surface” then an enemy is getting slammed into a hard surface no matter what.
The GM isn’t allowed to make a consequence of the failed Defy Danger roll “the enemy isn’t slammed into a hard surface,” but they can still do any other move in response (reveal an unwelcome truth, show signs of an approaching danger, use up their resources, etc.).
What makes a good monster move?
A monster move is not just anything that a creature can do, it’s something that is special or unique to that type of creature. Every animal can attack you; attacking is not a monster move, it’s just a thing the Druid can do in that animal form by rolling just as they would normally. If you want to make animal moves for the Druid, remember this: what thing can this animal do that few or no others can?
Flying isn’t a monster move, but “outpace any land-based creature” on a cheetah would be a MM. Attacking isn’t a MM, but “poison them with your stinger” is a MM that a scorpion would get. Seeing things isn’t a MM, but “see dangers way before they can see you” would be a MM for an eagle. Also, remember that Shapeshifting gives you all the inherent abilities of your new form
Since the book doesn’t actually contain monster entries for mundane animals, here are a few I could think of:
- Bat them aside with your paws
- Crush them beneath your weight
- Gore them with your tusks
Cat (or rat, ferret, etc.)
- Move about soundlessly
- Squeeze through a tight space
- Drag them below the waves
- Release ink to mask your movements
Dog (or wolf)
- Track their scent
- Howl loudly to alert others
Eagle (or other bird of prey)
- Spot danger way before it can spot you
- Swoop down before they realise it and carry them off in your claws
Gazelle (or additional move for a cheetah)
- Outrun nearly any land-based creature
- Slam them into a hard surface
- Crush them beneath your weight
- Carry a passenger swiftly across many miles
- Tunnel around a problem
- Swing from tree to tree
- Howl loudly to alert others
- Drag a great burden many miles
- Poison them with your stinger
- Skitter about below-foot, avoiding notice
Sparrow (or other small bird)
- Escape danger by flying out of the way
Tiger (or other big cat)
- Stalk them silently
- Strike, then disappear back into the underbrush