25 thoughts on “Are there situational bonuses in Dungeon World?”

  1. Nope. *World doesn’t use the idea of situational bonuses. The idea is that success isn’t based on the difficulty of the task at hand, but at how good you are at performing said task.

  2. Apocalypse World gives the option of giving a +1, +2, or -1 situational bonus. I think it’s in the very back, in an appendix. It is highly discouraged.

    I’d suggest you play without them. I’ve run many, many dozen sessions of Dungeon World and haven’t missed it at all. Also, those 6- rolls really propel the story forward, and are necessary for character advancement.

  3. When you’re looking at a situation in DW and you’re thinking “should I give a situational bonus?” Look really closely at why you want to give one… And then quickly do a mental check of the move about to be triggered…

    There’s a very real chance that the “situational bonus” is actually fictional positioning that will avoid a roll. Not always, but sometimes.

  4. Also, if an action would trigger a move but has no real chance of failure in the fiction (i.e., stabbing someone who doesn’t know you’re there and you’ve got time to pick where you want to stab him), then don’t roll. The appropriate action just happens.

  5. I look at it this way: Dungeon World has three difficulty levels:

    Impossible: Your action dosn’t trigger a move because there is no way to succeed. The gap is too wide to jump etc.

    Uncertain: Trigger a move and make the roll.

    Sure Thing: there is no need to roll you just succeed.

    Every action your players take needs to fall into one of these difficulty levels. Impossible and Sure Thing are just handled without rolling any dice.

  6. Konrad Zielinski occasionally, even a Sure Thing requires a Defy Danger to qualify yourself for making it happen.

    For example, stabbing someone in the back might require you Defy the Danger of their noticing you. 

    Or Hacking and Slashing a fire-wreathed demon might require Defying the Danger of her aura of flames, first.

  7. Adam Koebel  We seem to have a difference of opinion on what sure thing means. If it requires a roll, then it was not a sure thing. 

    In the stabbing example I would expect that most people would kind of notice being stabbed (assuming the stab didn’t kill them).

    When to tack on a defy danger to a hack and slash is a separate question. The DW Guide has an extensive discussion on this one.

  8. Well, first of all, the division of sure thing / not sure thing isn’t actually part of the game, just a framework for discussing in shorthand when a move is triggered.  I mean, the only rule is “when you perform the action that triggers the move, you make the move.”

    So in the example of being stabbed, to be allowed to just straight up stab someone, there has to be no chance for you to trigger a move. Either you’re not in melee with them / they can’t defend themself (because if they could, that would mean you’re Hacking and Slashing). If you want to just cut their throat, you have to look at whether there’s a chance of you failing. Often, you’ll come up against something that enables or disabled that action, first. If they can’t stop you or don’t see it coming, then you can just have what you want.  Hence Defy Danger.

    I’m just saying that the “sure thing” can sometimes come after a Defy Danger roll. You’ll never have to roll damage on a helpless or unaware foe, but you might have to make sure they stay unaware until you’re in range.

    GM: The guard has his back to you and the raucous singing from the courtyard seems to have his attention.

    PC: I sneak up on him, and stick him with my knife!

    GM: Well, he is a sentry.  You’re acting despite some immediate danger, here – there’s a chance he’ll hear you.  Roll + DEX.  

    PC: I do it!  10+

    GM: Excellent.  You shove your knife into his back and he dies with a surprised look on his face and a gurgle of blood on his lips.

  9. Adam Koebel

     As the player I would have questions that call. The fiction just established that the sentry is not doing his job (listening to the singing instead of guarding) so why are you making me roll?

  10. Konrad Zielinski the point being illustrated there is that the guard is distracted but not totally helpless or blind or anything.  If the player had described himself donning his invisibility cloak or drinking a potion of stealth or something, sure, the dude is a corpse.

    At any rate, the point here is that the point of Defy Danger is to overcome those kinds of obstacles, enabling the non-roll.

    If the player had failed, it would end up being a hack-and-slash to attack the guard instead of merely dealing damage or straight up murdering him.

  11. It’s weird to watch a dude on the internet argue game rules with the dude who wrote the game. The internet never ceases to amaze. 🙂

    But also, one of the things I enjoy about DW, at least as I understand it, (Please don’t hurt me Adam!) is that rather than using situational bonuses, DW kind of pushes that granularity to the GM moves.  In a traditional d20 game, you, as the GM might want to award a situational bonus for a good plan, or a description that sounds extra plausible. However, in DW, this situational bonus becomes unnecessary. Instead of altering the upcoming die roll, the great description or planning should alter the fiction and thus, the GMs upcoming move, making it softer or harder depending on what the situational bonus would have been.

  12. It’s a conversation, right? So what my table might decide feels right for the fiction might not be identical to anyone else’s. The thing is that more than any game I’ve played, DW mechanisms don’t exist in a vacuum. They need the fictional space to function.

  13. Adam Koebel

    Yes. And I would add, that figuring out (together) what feels right for the fiction at your/my particular table is actually the sweet gooey center of the entire game.

  14. Mike Beacom the choice of when or when-not to trigger moves contributes a lot to the general tone of the game.  Usually, for high-cinema action games, the threshold tends to be a lot higher.  For gritty low-fantasy, it’s more granular.

  15. I’ve occasionally had the GM say, “why did I even have you roll for that, I didn’t think about what would happen if you failed” (with a sad disappointed look on their face)… and that seems like maybe a situation when they should have made it a “sure thing” to keep everything moving in an exciting amusing direction. 

  16. Eva Schiffer the GM doesn’t necessarily get to decide whether the roll happens or not.  If you’re engaged in melee that’s a hack and slash, there’s no debate or fiat allowed.

    Now, when things get murkier, you bring it up at the table.  You ask “does this sound like a Defy Danger to you folks?” and let it come out that way.  Shared fictional space and all.

  17. Adam Koebel, yes, I understand the general rules for deciding when a move is called for. I was trying to bring up a specific circumstance where a move might be possible, but not actually appropriate (and the GM could suggest that to the table, and see if they agree). 

  18. I suppose I should say that the most recent example I can think of was on a parley roll for something very simple outside combat where the character’s leverage was kind of overwhelming and the NPC had little reason to avoid doing what they asked.

  19. Eva Schiffer oh, definitely. Parley implies friction – that they might not give you what you want.  If that’s not there, it’s not leverage anymore, so you can just say “They say yes okay”.  The GM is allowed to backtrack.  If you roll and fail, you can all still agree that the move never needed to happen.  Rewinding is okay if everyone agrees it makes sense.

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