“Worldbreaker” is not a term I came up with. I got it from the At-Will D&D blog. If someone from the blog would prefer I not use the term, I will change it.
What is a Worldbreaker?
A Worldbreaker is a monster or creature that is so powerful, that they, often literally, break the world around them. Much of the time, they shape the world around them without even doing anything, since their power is felt through their mere presence. The most powerful dragons fall into this category, as well as creatures such as Cthulhu. Demon kings and elemental ‘gods’ can often fit the profile too. Also, Worldbreakers often seem unstoppable, able to shake off some of the most potent of effects.
Much of what is in this article is inspired by the Worldbreaker concept from the At-Will blog. The rest of it is largely inspired by Dungeons & Dragons’ new Legendary monster design, which can be found on page 6 (and example Adult Red Dragon on page 8) of the new DM Basic Rules download. The page numbers may change as the Basic Rules documents change over time.
The At-Will’s Worldbreaker concept was conceived in the days of 4E D&D, where it was an amazing idea that kept “boss” fights more interesting. Up until that point, those types of fights usually became a dull grind. The main idea was that, at a certain point or multiple points, the area would undergo a major change in the monster’s favor, since it would unleash its power over the entire battlefield. For example, an ice dragon would freeze everything in the area and start up a nasty blizzard. Then the PCs have to deal with that for a while. Usually, it ended after several turns, but it could happen again after a while, too.
The Legendary monster design for the newest edition of D&D seems to have gotten a tiny bit of inspiration from Worldbreakers, but it might not. They have Legendary Actions, which help it keep up with the number of turns that PCs get, but those don’t really feed into this concept so much as the Lair Actions. Most Legendary creatures have lairs that they reside in which are so tainted by the monster for so long that it seems to fight on the monster’s behalf. An example of this is a fire dragon’s lair erupting magma at characters. There’s also the Regional Effects, which are effects that stretch out to a huge region around the beast’s lair, such as water sources within a mile of the fire dragon lair are unnaturally warm and are tainted by sulfur.
I don’t think I have room to do a full narrative explanation as well as a mechanical explanation of what I’m proposing in one post, so in this post, I’ll just present the narrative explanation, since that’s actually more important anyway; you can do the mechanics however you want. What I present in my next article, mechanics-wise, is just a suggested way to do it.
So, the basic idea of how a Worldbreaker in Fate will work is that something triggers the creature’s desperation. It suddenly realizes that if it keeps fighting “fair”, it might not come out on top. So, in its desperation, it does something amazingly powerful. All of the monster’s enemies (and often its allies, if it has any) nearby are hit by this massive surge. They can try to avoid it, but there’s nothing that can be done to stop it.
Whatever this surge did, it has now transformed the entire fight. The monster has likely shaken off whatever effects there were on it, and the monster itself may have transformed into a more dangerous form, or it may have destroyed the entire battlefield, making it difficult for its enemies to get around (and, usually, the Worldbreaker is so big that debris means very little to it). But the area isn’t just difficult; it’s dangerous. This could be because there are sharp bits everywhere, or it could be because geysers of lava are now randomly spewing forth, or even because it has opened portals for minions to come gushing out of to attack the PCs.
No matter what happened, the fight is completely changed. There are more things to be dealt with, and the bad guy is harder than ever to take down. Almost everything that was done up to that point is meaningless as the fight is essentially started over in the bad guy’s favor. Now is the time to see what the characters are really made of.
Until Next Time
What do you think? Does it sound like a good starting point for building some crazy mechanics around? Is there anything you didn’t like? Is there anything you thought was missing? Let me know.
In my next article, we’ll go over a lot of the mechanics of getting this to work. Then, in the third article, I’ll give you a sample Worldbreaker monster for Fate.