The Hack and Slash move says:  “On a 7–9, you deal your damage to the enemy and the enemy makes an attack against…

The Hack and Slash move says:  “On a 7–9, you deal your damage to the enemy and the enemy makes an attack against…

The Hack and Slash move says:  “On a 7–9, you deal your damage to the enemy and the enemy makes an attack against you.”  As written, that allows the GM to offer a choice like “you do your damage.  The monster attacks back;  you can either take the damage or be shouldered aside and the monster will have a clear shot at the wizard” . . . but not “you can do your damage, but if you do, you’ll be out of position and the monster will have a clear shot at the wizard.  Do you want to?”  That is, on a 7-9, the rules say the character has definitely hit the monster for full normal damage.  Any hard bargain the GM can offer as part of the monster’s counterattack happens separately from that.

On the on hand, it seems like a bad idea to offer bargains as partial successes that could result in nothing happening.  So having something definitely happen is a good thing.  On the other hand, having characters be so likely to deal damage every time they roll makes it hard to keep monsters alive long enough to be interesting.  How do you all handle this?

18 thoughts on “The Hack and Slash move says:  “On a 7–9, you deal your damage to the enemy and the enemy makes an attack against…”

  1. When it comes to actually dealing damage, yeah, monsters die fast. Keep in mind that monsters are arrows: they fly at the players en mass and who cares if some miss? Basically, don’t worry about keeping monsters alive. You can always make more.

    The reason the player gets something on a 7–9 is that it’s a partial success. Basically, the 7–9 hack and slash result is player hit + GM move. Making it just a GM move would make it effectively a miss.

    You could make a 7–9 result that was still a hit, just with a compromise. Maybe something like “deal half your damage” or “the GM will give you an advantage, take +1 forward when leveraging it.”

  2. What kind of “one action”s do you have in mind?  I’d love to see some examples.

    My strong impression is that DW relies almost entirely on GM skill to make monsters scary — the stats alone are not going to do it, if you don’t play them right.  In D&D, I could just give the bad guy a zillion hit points and a great AC, and count on that monster being a challenge, even if it’s a slog to kill.  DW really doesn’t seem to want me to do it that way, so I’d love to see more examples of monsters made dangerous.

  3. Depends on the monster really.

    In the last session a giant hound crushed the fighter’s shield with it’s jaws on a 7-9 result. That was interesting.

    The same giant hound also did like d12+5 damage on a 7-9 result. That was interesting too!

  4. Monsters may also not be that easy to hack and slash—remember that a move only triggers when the fiction says so. Attacking an ancient dragon encrusted with gems with your plain ol’ sword might not be hack and slash—no chance to harm the thing.

    As far as monsters being scary in general: look at their moves. Take, for example, the troll. It has a move “hurl something or someone.” Something like this might happen:

    Player: “Aw crap, 6 on my spout lore”

    GM: “As you wrack your brain you lose track of the troll for a second and the next thing you know you’re yanked off your feet. It gives you a quick swing, like a shotput, and you go flying into the wall over here (points at map). That’s where the flames are, right…”

    In general monsters are scary because they lead to moves. And, importantly, they give a reason to make moves. Remember that the GM makes a move on a golden opportunity. If you don’t do anything about that troll, well, it’s going to do what it does best…

  5. Whew, yeah, d12 monsters are in one-hit-kill range if the players aren’t careful. Even d10 or d8 monsters are immediate threats. d6 tends to be a bit more of a slow burn, “oh crap I’m down to 6 HP, these things just keep coming.”

  6. Sure.

    I’ve also got a lot of use out of the rule that you get to make a move any time the players ignore a threat. For example:

    Three lizardmen were threatening our Fighter with spears. She decides that she’s going to smash the one in the middle with her hammer. She rolls an 11 and clobbers the dude into a fine paste.

    HOWEVER, she didn’t do anything about the two other lizardmen, so she’s TOTALLY getting stabbed by one of the guys on her flanks!

  7. Just to expand on that, I also often use moves to put people into dangerous situations that they can’t ignore.

    Once the Ranger was fighting some sea ghouls and a 7-9 result meant that one of the ghouls in the rigging choked him with a prehensile tongue.

    He didn’t take any damage, but he sure would have if he hadn’t changed his focus to escaping that choke hold!

    Forcing your players onto the defensive is a great way of making the monsters seem scary without dealing hit point damage. Also, the more they have to Defy Danger instead of Hack and Slash, the longer your monsters will last!

  8. Okay, so “show signs of doom” is a go-to move on making monsters interesting and scary before the PCs even get there.

    For example, a dragon turtle. It’s really big, so the players might come across a muddy track as wide as a building with dead kobolds trampled into the mud. No signs of a fight, like whatever left the track just kept walking.

    Now, before hack and slash is even an option, before they’ve seen the thing, it’s memorable.

    Now, they follow the track, and find the dragon turtle. It’s track shows it’s headed towards town, so they want to dissuade it—after all, town is where they get the rations and gear they need to adventure into this swamp.

    The ground shakes as they get into position in it’s path. They look at me to see what happens, so I make a soft move, using a monster move: “move forward implacably.” I say “it might have seen you, maybe, but it definitely doesn’t care. It’s like a steamroller the size of a house and it’s coming right at you, what do you do?”

    They’ll maybe spring into action and say they stab it or something, and I’ll ask “how?” They’ll need to think carefully about how to get in close enough to this biological steamroller to attack it without being crushed. Maybe the ranger climbs a tree and swings onto it’s back. Now, based on the fiction, I might have something living there, since that seems awesome, but let’s skip that. The ranger makes it to the back of the turtle’s head (with some defy danger to stay on as it start bucking and bashing into trees). I’d probably call this hack and slash, as the turtle can still fight back (by bashing the ranger into things), but it might just be dealing damage. Even if the ranger can then kill it in one blow (which isn’t possible in this case, but bear with me) it’s still been a memorable interesting fight.

    I’d also say that DW gives a lot of tools to make that happen. Everything in that example is by-the-book DW, with GM moves, fictional triggers, etc. A great GM may do it better, but I think DW gives the GM tools such that this isn’t a special case.

  9. Well, occasionally I’d be talking about a monster move (“Entangle someone with their whiplike tongue” was a monster move.) but I do use “Put them in a spot” a lot if the monster doesn’t have something evocative and appropriate.

  10. Deep dark secret: all monster moves are just specific instances on the general GM moves. That is still very much “put them in a spot” just with a particular manner and spot written in (which makes it easy to use).

  11. Thanks, guys.  Sometimes I look at these moves and I get that there’s a ton of stuff possible, but actually making it happen in a game — it’s kind of like looking at a guitar and having someone tell you “just use the ‘pluck a string’ move — you can do anything with that.”  Concrete examples help a lot.  (I can’t be the only one with these questions!  I mean, I’ve heard reviews of the game saying things like “seems promising, but I never felt like my PC was in any danger.”)

  12. A 7-9 roll is where the DM gets to up the stakes. Sure, the player gets to deal some damage or break a kobolds knee or punch out a guard, but now the GM gets to follow her principles and make the world more dangerous and exciting! A collapsing ceiling, the city watch alerted by the sound of combat, the kobolds extended family showing up for a Sunday Ross and who are these jerks smashing our geromy’s kneecap?

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