Defy Danger as a Stealth Move

Defy Danger as a Stealth Move

Defy Danger as a Stealth Move

It’s a bit late for #ThiefWeek , but I wanted to post my thoughts on why I like Defy Danger as a choice for stealth moves. I still like the various custom moves out there (including my own), but the fact is that most of what is required of such a move can be easily handled by Defy Danger.

I’m an advocate of divorcing stealth from Dexterity, so DD’s use of different stats for different situations is perfect for me!

When we think of stealth as an action, we’re usually thinking of a thief hiding in shadows, avoiding guards, remaining almost invisible as they sneak around… and for those scenarios DEX is likely the right choice. But stealth isn’t just sneaking around – stealth is about secrecy. At the core of it, the character is trying to get something done while remaining unnoticed.

Actions like trying to blend in with a crowd, acting like you belong there – that seems more like a +CHA move to me. Or what if your stealth depends on not dropping that heavy (and loud) bag of loot? Wouldn’t the endurance required in that action suggest +CON?

Ugly Choices, Worse Outcomes, and Hard Bargains can cover a lot of interesting stealth-appropriate complications, such as: 

• The Guard still hinders your progress; or he lingers, or you didn’t make it all the way to the gate, etc. (Worse Outcome)

• You can move unnoticed, but you’ll fail to cover your tracks; someone’s going to know you were there sooner or later. (Hard Bargain)

• You’ll have to drop something important and leave it behind to remain unnoticed. (Ugly Choice)


I’ll try to post some specific (and fun) examples in the comments later!

14 thoughts on “Defy Danger as a Stealth Move”

  1. The fighter sitting quietly in a door frame trying to hold his breath can finally have a chance at being stealthy when he Defies Danger with his CON! Love this concept.

  2. I love this. It’s simple, and opens up options for everyone, which is great. I’m still new to DW (only run a few games so far) so these are the kinds of things that are blowing me away – how something that seems to simple (at glance) can offer so much more. Great stuff.

  3. Defy Danger can really stretch the justification muscles, especially when you’ve got a good stat you want to use in a weird situation.

    GM: The Owlbear lurches through the brush, trying to catch your scent, what do you do?”

    Avon: My dex is shit, I’ll never be able to hide, only, wait!  Owlbears have a blind spot, juuuuust behind their shoulders.  I want to hide there, standing perfectly still, moving only to remain in the spot.

    GM: Okay, smarty-pants, roll + INT.

  4. I like doing examples.

    GM: Wizard, you are standing in a narrow hallway and you hear a guard coming towards you. You have a little bit of time, what do you do?

    Player: I climb up the wall placing my hands and feet against the wall on either side.

    GM: Nice, DD + STR (Uh oh, I rolled a 7.) You scramble up the wall, and the guard pulls out a cigarette directly underneath you! What do you do?

    Player: I gotta wait it out!

    GM: DD+Con (A 7 again?!) You have secure footing but the smell of the smoke is itching at your throat. What do you do?

    Player: I quickly grab some Hemenas Root (known for its ability to calm the nerves and the senses) out of my pocket and place it in my mouth.

    GM: Awesome, roll DD+Int (10 baby!) The guard throws his cigarette on the ground and blows out the last of his smoke as he hears footsteps down the hall and he quickly walks away down the hall.

    Players: Sweet, I drop to the ground, grab the cigarette and lean against the wall as I finish it up. I savor the sweet smell of success.


    “Stealth” checks= 3

    Custom moves = 0

    Dex rolls= 0

    Awesome players = 1


  5. Totes +Adam Koebel!

    Multiple rolls adds to the tension, I think. Sometimes I fall into the trap of asking for rolls until they roll a 10+ or a 6-, but if you can avoid that trap then multiple rolls can be a very useful tool.

  6. Matt Smith  All you need to do is remember that the moves happen from the fiction as it evolves but you don’t want to take away from what the character has achieved.  Splitting a single stealth mission into a bunch of separate rolls can make all the rolls that aren’t failures feel like they weren’t of consequence. 

    The thing about Defy Danger – when you get a 10+ you did it – the Danger isn’t dangerous to you, right now.  You’ve defied it.  On a 7-9, the Danger is still defied, but you might have something else to deal with.

    Be clear with players about why they’re rolling.  If the Danger is “the guard will spot you” and they get a 7+ then that Danger shouldn’t be valid anymore.

  7. 10+ you succeeded, good job, next thing.

    7-9 you succeeded, good job, it might cost you something extra, next thing

    6- you failed, dummy! this thing gets worse or changes.

    It really depends on how specific you were about the Danger to begin with.  Make that clear and the players will feel like the rolls count for something, you know?

  8. GM: “With the orcish bruiser hot on your trail, you burst through the doors and into the light of day. Your eyes adjust and you see that you’ve ran right into the midday market rush; there’s people everywhere!”

    Dumbledalf: “Oh sweet! I’m going to try and lose that stupid thug in this crowd. I’ll pull up my cloak, and rather than run I’ll try to walk alongside a group in the crowd, make it look like I belong here.”

    GM: “Sounds like a +CHA Defy Danger to me, roll it!”

    Dumbledalf: “Hmmm, I guess I’m not so convincing – I got an 8.”

    GM: “Let’s say that you’ve fooled the Orc – he can’t tell you apart from the rabble. However, the family you’ve sidled up next to looks at you quizzically – they know something’s afoot.”

    Dumbledalf: “Fiddlesticks! I press my finger to my lips in a ‘shhh’ motion, and hope they don’t call out for the guards.”

  9. Matt Smith

    Very true! But not only do multiple rolls add to the tension, but multiple rolls can be used to turn a single action into a more elaborate “scene”. I use this technique at least once per night/per player to shine the spotlight on something they’re doing that is cool, interesting or maybe improved the game. Naturally, the fiction needs to support the rolls, but doing that is often the fun part of the game as GM, to slow time down and get a bit more in depth with descriptions and possible complications.

  10. Locash: “Before that troll bounty hunter notices what I’m up to, I want to pull the lever that’ll open the trapdoor he’s standing under; and hopefully dump all those angry bees on his head!”

    Dumbledalf: “Ooh! Good idea, I’ll provide a distraction – despite my self-preservation instincts, I’ll start throwing insults at the troll to draw his attention.”

    GM: “Hah! Okay Dumbledalf, roll to Aid Locash, who then needs to give me a +DEX Defy Danger roll!”

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