Creating 7-9 results on Defy Danger is the hardest part of GMing DW for me.  I thought I’d write down some of the…

Creating 7-9 results on Defy Danger is the hardest part of GMing DW for me.  I thought I’d write down some of the…

Creating 7-9 results on Defy Danger is the hardest part of GMing DW for me.  I thought I’d write down some of the techniques I use to generate worse outcomes and ugly choices. 

(I don’t really think about hard bargains because I’m honestly not sure how to differentiate between a hard bargain and an ugly choice.)

LOOK AT THE GM MOVES.  To make a worse outcome, look at Defy Danger like this:

6- : GM makes a move

7-9: PC defies danger but GM makes a move.

10+: PC defies danger

Say Omar the Thief is running from the city guard and rolls a 7-9 with the Danger being that he’s caught.  As the GM, I’m going to grant Omar his escape.  But I can also:

Use a monster, danger, or location move — Omar accidentally runs into a vogue of Necrodancers and gets hit by their Fresh Curse move.

Deal damage — Omar sprains his ankle while running.  (this is kind of zzzz)

Use up their resources — Omar had to drop some of his loot in order to get away.

Put them in a spot — Omar escapes pursuit….by hiding in the Rancor pit.

Separate them — Omar gets lost!

WORSE OUTCOMES CAN BE SOFTENED INTO UGLY CHOICES You can turn a worse outcome into a hard bargain by explaining the worse outcome and asking the player to choose between eating the danger or suffering the worse outcome.  I think this softens the move somewhat; you’re collaborating with the player on their fate rather than just imposing it.

PUT SOMEONE ELSE IN THE CROSSHAIRS.  What else is at stake at this very moment in the fiction?  Is another character in a questionable position?  Can they suffer the downside of the 7-9?  

Say Omar has leapt aboard a panicking wooly mammoth and is trying to calm it while Sanguinus the Paladin battles orcs nearby.  The Danger for Omar is that the mammoth will continue rampaging.  The Worse Outcome version is that Omar calms the mammoth, but not before it has bowled over Sanguinus and made his fictional position worse.  

Say Omar is creeping through the quarantine districts, looting the houses of the dead.  The Danger is that he gets the plague.  On a 7-9, Omar doesn’t get the plague … but he becomes a carrier of it, and his friend Bug picks it up some time later.

Say Omar is reading the Canticle of Sog-Yothoth aloud to close the Murder Gate (danger: the gate stays open) while Xeno the Wizard casts their Mirror Image spell to distract some cultists.  The Dark Gate is closed and Omar’s brain isn’t melted … but the flux of freaky energy results in Xeno’s mirror image becoming a permanent, independent, reverse-alignment version of Xeno.

Sometimes I will totally cheat at this and cut away to another character just before a Defy Danger move is rolled so that the situation can develop some more facets before we start messing it up with mixed successes.

CONSIDER STAKES AT EVERY TIME SCALE  I usually categorize stakes as immediate stakes, scene stakes, or campaign stakes.  I group them by asking when the pain from failed stakes will come down.  If it will come down right away, it’s an immediate stake.  If it will come down by the end of the scene, it’s a scene stake.  If it will come down sometime later, it’s a campaign stake.

For example, let’s say that Omar the Thief is jumping from rooftop to rooftop (immediate stakes) trying to escape the guard (scene stake) while also remaining anonymous (campaign stake).  That’s three goals in the single action.  One of these stakes must be the stated Danger of the Defy Danger. 

Let’s say that the Danger is that he falls. The complications of the mixed success can be that he makes the leap and escapes, but he is clearly identified by his pursuers and his anonymity is toast.  Another possibility is that he makes the leaps safely but so does his pursuit and so he has to figure out another tactic to elude them.

Alternatively, say the Danger is that he’s caught.  On a mixed success, he might elude pursuit — by falling and spraining his ankle while the pursuit concentrates on the rooftops.  Or he will escape, but lose his anonymity.

19 thoughts on “Creating 7-9 results on Defy Danger is the hardest part of GMing DW for me.  I thought I’d write down some of the…”

  1. Generally ,the hard bargain is the difference between a 7-9 and the 6-. They have to want to take your bargain, but not without groaning a bit. However, I’ve found that my “hard bargains” tend to be part of an “ugly choice”.

  2. I find it useful to clarify what the 7–9 options could mean because they didn’t inspire me until I understood them. Like, I’d look at them when I had to say something and I’d be like “Let’s see hard bargain, ugly choice, worse outcome… ummm, what’s the difference… shit, what am I choosing between here… yeah, I’ll just make something up…”

    This is how I think of them.

    Hard bargain: Pay this cost or don’t defy the danger.

    Ugly choice: Defy the danger but pay this or the other cost.

    Worse outcome:This is the cost of defying the danger. Pay it.

    So yeah, a hard bargain is a kind of an ugly choice where the choice is pushed earlier; avoid paying the cost by dropping the whole thing. You just walk away from the whole deal, so to speak.

    Whereas with ugly choice, at least how I parse it, you’re committed, knee deep; your choice is with which cost you’re willing to pay. And you will pay a cost because it’s too late, you’re already committed to defying the danger.

    And worse outcome, there’s no choice. Defying danger hurts. Suck it up, princess.

  3. One of my favorite 7-9 Defy Danger’s occured after a Thief had failed to find a crooked guard in a new town. He rolled a miss, but rather than a boring “you can’t find one” he found a likely guard. But when he asked him if he was willing to make a deal, the guard replied (because of the 6-) “I ain’t crooked! In fact, if you don’t hand over whatever you’ve got in that knapsack o’ yours, I’m gonna tell the Baron you was trying to bribe me!” Rather than show the contents of his backpack, which included the Baron’s diadem and some magical items, he tried to bolt, but rolled 7-9. The guard grabbed hold of his belt. Thinking quickly, he could cut his belt and dash, but he’d lose his coinpurse, which would admittedly help slow down any pursuit.

  4. John Zo Great stuff! I particularly like the plague example with the carrier… that’s interesting. I’ve got an example similar to what you described with the mammoth. Long story short, the players have this captive prisoner hedge mage who summoned a horde of skeletons to attack the inn they’re at. 3 of the 6 PCs are holed up inside the inn. Skeleton archer fires a flaming arrow through the open doorway inside. The bard rolls out of the way to avoid it. Now, he rolled a 9, but got some aid so it brought it up to a 10. But had it remained a 7-9, the outcome (the hard bargain) would have been something like: Choose one: 1) You jump out of the way, but you drop your lute and the flaming arrows hits it and starts burning it quickly OR 2) You jump out of the way, but the flaming arrow hits the flammable, liquor bottles behind the counter, lighting the place up. In that situation, the bard would have had to pretty much choose: loose your instrument or endanger the rest of your party.

  5. If you have a charachter defy danger in order to use another move, how would you treat a 7-9 on the first roll (defying the danger)?

    Let’s say we have previousely established that the witch can fire necromantic bolt.

    Gm: the witch is out of your reach and she is chanting something in a loud voice. She is Drawing something in the air with her left hand. She is going to cast the bolt on you, what do you do?

    Warrior: I want to run toward her, and cut her hand loose.

    Gm: you have to make it fast, or she hit you with the spell before you reach her.

    (The player rolls a 7-9 on defying danger)

    What do you usually do in those cases?

  6. Lenny Pacelli–

    One worse outcome: defy the danger, but don’t get the desired setup:  “She screeches and backs away from you as you charge her.  Her concentration is ruined and her spell doesn’t go off, but you’ll have to chase her some more to get in striking range.”

    Another worse outcome: defy the danger, but only partially.  “She just barely gets the spell off as your reach her.  Take half damage.”

    But I think to really make this more interesting you have to look at the wider picture of what’s happening in the room and in the scene and in the campaign, and think about what moves you can roll into.

    Worse outcome: “You leap at the witch and get in her face before she can cast her necro-spell.”  use a monster move.  “But when you do, you meet her Evil Eye gaze.”

    Hard bargain: “At the last second, warrior, you realize that if you leap at the witch you will lose your Defense hold on the wizard.  Do you still want to do it?  Yes?” show signs of an impending threat.  “Wizard, the goblins who were previously afraid of the warrior are unafraid now and are surrounding you!”

    edit: I missed the bit about “defy danger in order to use another move” when I first wrote this.  I wrote it as if the danger being defied was the witch’s spellcasting ability.  I would probably play this so that the Defy Danger covered both moving into position and cutting off the hand.  I want to be sparing with the moves I trigger because repeated 7-9 results can be exhausting.  Here are two options for that approach:

    Worse outcome: defy the stated danger, but immediately replace it with a new one.  “You hack her hand off.” put them in a spot. “It leaps through the air and grabs your throat.  Its unholy grip crushes your chainmail coif into your neck.  What do you do?

    Ugly choice: “You hack off the hand.”  Reveal an opportunity, with or without cost.  “As it flies through the air, you see that there is an enormous sapphire ring on her thumb — the legendary Ring of the Toad-Djinn that will grant you the power of the Queen of the Sky-Bog!  The hand hits the ground and scuttles away like a spider!  Do you pursue it?  If you do, you will lose all the defense hold you have on the wizard, and the witch might get away.”

  7. John Zo thank you.

    First, I didn’t know if defy to make another move is something you all do. Personally I don’t like it (two rolls, you know) but sometimes it seems that the fiction requires it.

    Another thing, sometimes it’s hard to choose wether if it is defy or just hack’n’ slash, let’s think to the action that triggered the move:

    I rush toward the witch to cut her hand, before she blast me with necromantic magic.

    HS? DD?

    I think it depends on the overall fiction of the specific moment, not just on the action that the player declares. Also on what is the setup of the situation.

    So, at this point I think it is where your suggestion about “the wider picture” comes really useful.

    Well, I haveto think about it a bit!…

  8. I’d probably just do both the move and the attack as DD for the sake of economy. Presumably the witch isn’t a skilled melee fighter and is pretty much at the mercy of a warrior who is close to her, so it’s not a pitched battle / hack & slash type situation.

  9. I think that what confused me were those two examples from the Dungeonworld guide (wich I think it’s an excellent tool, and I enjoyed my self reading it):

    GM: “the goblin archer starts firing at you from across the

    room. What do you do?”

    PC: “I run at him, ducking and weaving, and when I get close

    enough I’ll leap at his head with my warhammer!”

    GM: “Alright, sounds like you’re Defying Danger there, with all

    those arrows. Roll for that first… (PC rolls an 11) …Alright, you

    gracefully flit across the battlefield faster than he can shoot. He

    sees what you’re up to and starts panicking. the arrows stop as

    he drops his bow and pulls out this nasty looking homemade

    dagger just as you step up to him. Roll that Hack&Slash if you

    still want to brawl with him.”


    GM:”the goblin archer starts firing at you from across the

    room. What do you do?”

    PC:”I run straight to him, swinging for his head with my


    GM:”Like, straight at him? Sure, there are arrows everywhere

    and one of them catches you in the shoulder, take 3 damage,

    but you’re on the goblin now and he’s terrified; he wasn’t expecting

    this and is totally off-guard, no time to draw a weapon

    to defend himself. Deal your damage.”

    So in the end, as always, everything come to the game fiction above all, and to our own perception of what is happening.

  10. I find myself falling back on predictable patterns when I’m trying to stay in the moment. A lot of my hard bargains take the form of: Is it bad for you or worse for a party-mate?

    So thanks for the great suggestions!

  11. Vasiliy Shapovalov, you make a fair point. It’s useful to frame ugly choices differently from time to time but you’re paying the same cost either way: don’t choose this good thing or choose this bad thing; they’re both poison.

    For example, a choice between two “good” things,”keep hold of the sword or the jewel” is exactly the same choice as between two “bad” things, “drop the sword or the jewel”. Same choice, different spin.

  12. Yeah, it also depends on how difficult it ought to be. If its not too crazy hard, one roll is sufficient, but fictionally dangerous creatures might require more than one move to handle, because this means more can go wrong, which is appropriate for challenging monsters. Its the same situation as the narratively dangerous and invincible dragon. He’s hard to fight because you have to get around multiple challenges before you can hurt him.

    Ever played Dragon’s Lair arcade game? Can think about it like that a bit. If its an easier scene, you might just have to hit the right direction at the right time to avoid the enemy’s spell and hack their hand off. If its a big challenging lich-king, you might need to avoid his spell and then Hack-n-Slash.

  13. I’ve been toying with the idea of making a custom d12 with icons representing the 12 GM moves so I don’t freeze up trying to choose the best fit…

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