I suppose that this question has already been asked a 1,000 time and I will start by offering my apologies for…

I suppose that this question has already been asked a 1,000 time and I will start by offering my apologies for…

I suppose that this question has already been asked a 1,000 time and I will start by offering my apologies for asking it for the 1,001 time but I really would like someone to explain me what was the intent behind not modifying the probability of a move’s outcomes based on the move’s difficulty?

As it stands, a lowly goblin has as much % chance of hitting a PC than a mighty dragon. The consequences of both moves are not the same obviously but their probability of actually happening are.

What was the game designers trying to achieve here.

47 thoughts on “I suppose that this question has already been asked a 1,000 time and I will start by offering my apologies for…”

  1. Well. All moves are basically roll 2D6+Modifier based on your ability score. Nowehere does it states “modify” the roll based on the difficulty of the task attempted.

    I an hack & slash move your chances of scoring a critical hit (10+) are basically the same whether you are facing a goblin or a dragon (which I kind of understand). But the said dragon and said goblin have exactly the same chances of inflicting damage to you (if you end-up rolling less than 6). Shouldn’t a dragon be capable of hitting you more often than a goblin?

  2. I do not think the above happened by mistake. I simply want to understand what was the philosophy behind the decision not to take into account difficulty levels like in many other rpg

  3. Well but can you “just” roll Hack&Slash against a Dragon? Can you “engange a Dragon in melee” with your normal sword?

    That dragon with the mithril-like scales? 

    How easy is it to engage a Goblin in melee? 

    The question is, do you trigger a move? How easy is it to trigger a move? 

    And when the character says he does something but he does not trigger a move, then he is looking at you to figure out what happens.

    And then you (*HAVE TO*) make a move as a GM. Maybe you use up their ressources or tell them the requirements and ask. 

    Fighting a Goblin and fighting a dragon is mighty different, as it should be. 

    Check out this (famous) example 


  4. moves are not skill checks and their intent is not to reproduce stats on what’s likely about to come, the chance of failure or whatnot. What happens and what could ever happen it’s up to the group to decide following the game’s atmosphere and tone. On a 7-9 hack’n’slash, the goblin might damage you, disarm you, cut off your right hand, or even just attempt to attack you. On a 6-, you might still tear apart the goblin, because the gm’s hard move might not be about you losing that exchange in the fight. It would be nonsense to apply a modifier reflecting difficulties, because they have nothing to do with the roll itself.

    Th greater danger posed by a dragon it’s not even reflected by its higher damage or hp, it’s all about the gm’s moves. Where a goblin has “charge in disorganized masses” a dragon could very well have a move like “burn everything to the ground”.

    The player’s moves’ intent is to drive the story forward (well that’s also the gm’s moves’ intent). When you roll, what you get are three general outcomes that tell you where the story goes in that specific moment. I already wrote this example: climbing a difficult wall could be an automatic action if there’s no danger posed; and if you’re actually defying some danger, on a 6- you could easily climb the wall in a glance, but the hard move comes from an orc on top of the building that smashes his club on your head as soon as you arrive.

  5. Julien Dumas , questions are a huge part of DW, so don’t apologize for asking them 🙂

    Two things:

    1. Dragons and Goblins (anything the GM depicts) NEVER roll. What that means is that they don’t deal with probability at all. 

    2. The probability needs to be within a certain range for a roll to even be allowed (by a player). If something is downright impossible, a roll is not used. If something is downright easy, also no roll. A roll is used when something lands in that magical area of “Challenging”.

    The reason, the game designers don’t focus on probability is because this game is not meant to replicate great physics (which is boring), but instead it generates/encourages great stories.

    Hope that helps.

  6. @ Robert Neaves. No it’s the reverse. I understand why it should be a 10+ no matter what you hit. You basically landed a lucky blow. What I do not understand is why the 7-9 result against a dragon is not replaced by a 8-9 or a 9 results meaning you have a greater chance of missing your move entirely.

  7. Julien Dumas: “But the said dragon and said goblin have exactly the same chances of inflicting damage to you (if you end-up rolling less than 6).” 

    This is wrong. The consequences of rolling a miss are not “you take damage,” it’s “the GM makes a hard move against you.” A hard move can be many things, and it’s up to the GM to choose a move that works with the established fiction.

    Some creatures (like dragons) also probably don’t need to rely on players rolling a miss to deal damage.

  8. Matt Smith: no one is making that assumption. People are (rightfully) making the assumption that he’s read DW, because otherwise the question makes no sense. Everything that’s been mentioned so far is written in the rulebook. 🙂

  9. The reason is because this game mechanics are not intended to be a simulation of in-game physics. They are narrative resolution mechanics that determine broad outcomes that are then molded to the context (though some moves are very specific).

    It’s a game where you don’t have to game the GM to get a lower DC or a handwave on a roll by appealing to logic, reason, physics, “roleplaying,” or whatever that GM’s biases are. When you trigger a move, you roll it, period, and the target number for unfettered success (10+) is always the same. There’s no gaming the GM for bonuses or lower DCs.

    Compare that to a game like D&D where all I have to do is figure out the DM’s kinks and play to that to get auto-success, trivial DCs, or other benefits. (Saying that, I do love D&D, but that’s how a lot of DMs run it. Not me though.)

  10. Julien Dumas Okay, but I assumed that if you’re questioning 7-9, that 10+ was also in question. Either way, I agree with most of the other responses. It’s a representation of your luck in that action, and not directly relatable to the combat superiority of a given enemy. 

  11. It’s not about stimulating a realistic event, the way you might in a wargame. Instead, it’s more like simulating how often does something interesting happen when the protagonist takes action in a story.

  12. Thank you for all the responses. They are all incredibly useful.


     I have indeed not Gmed or played DW yet but I really want to. I also carry a very long baggage of D&D and I must admit that sometime I have trouble getting my head around some of the concepts of DW… but I am slowly getting there.


    It is now much clearer. Instead of logical outcomes, I should rather ask myself “where do I want to bring the story next”. If I get it correctly, I should envisage the roll more as a branching point in the narrative arc than a traditional skill check.


    I have additional questions:


    Do you make clear to your players what those branches are before rolling? (i.e. “You can indeed try to climb the castle wall and get to the top of the tower and save precious time but let me warn you that the path looks treacherous and a fall from such a height could prove harmful if not fatal. Do you still want to do it?”) I tend to do that a lot in D&D because I think it is fair on the players to know what risks they are taking. Personally, I hate when a GM pulls a “oh! by the way… I had forgotten to tell you that this and that are happening”. Do you think I should drop it for DW?


    Also, do you establish a kind of balance between a 10+ and a 6-? I understand that on a 10+ the narration is player driven. If a player decides something very favorable to his character (i.e. “I one-shot Smaug the dragon with the arrow bequeathed by my father”) does this mean that the hard move I get to make as a GM will be equally hard (“Agreed but if you miss Smaug the dragon and his five tons lands smack on top of you”).


    In short, how do you control your players and avoid turning the game into a Monty Hall?

  13. Julien Dumas 

     “I understand that on a 10+ the narration is player driven. If a player decides something very favorable to his character”

    That’s not actually true. The GM is responsible for all the narration that isn’t directly what a player character says or does.

    PC: I swing my sword at the orc, with both hands tight on the grip.

    GM: Roll Hack and Slash.

    PC: I got a 10, I do 8 damage.

    GM: Your sword cleaves the orc’s head from his neck.  Splat!  His body falls to the ground and you notice that gang of goblins has snuck close while you were fighting.  What do you do?

  14. Julien Dumas: you don’t “control your players.” Read the GM agenda and principles: “Be a fan of the characters.” You’re there to make sure their PCs get to do cool stuff, not to limit them! (Of course, cool stuff means triumphing against adversity, so it’s your job to provide as much as is necessary for them to look cool.)

    You don’t warn your players of the consequences of a failure on a specific roll like that, because that will limit what options are available to you – any hard move is valid as a response to a failed roll. What you do want to do is establish the basis for those hard moves in the fiction (this is what’s called making a soft move) – so if someone rolls a partial success on something, you can tell them “you do X, but it looks like the nearby wall is damaged” (or whatever) which sets you up for having them fall off if they fail their roll to climb it. Generally, the fiction surrounding any PC action should be clear enough that they will intuitively understand what potential consequences a failure will mean.

    You should (re)read the GM section, and also flip through the fan-written GM guide, which is linked to from the DW site: http://www.dungeon-world.com/dungeon-world-guide/. The two sources are very clear on how to GM the game!

  15. First, you get notions of “controlling your players” out of your head. You don’t do that in D&D or DW or any RPG. You’re playing a game together.

    Adam nails it not surprisingly, being one of the designers and all. I’d add that it’s perfectly reasonable to include the players’ suggestions and intent when determining outcomes as laid out in the GM section. This is especially helpful when your improv skills fail you and you’re out of ideas. Or when you’re not exactly clear on the player’s intent with a given action and how a move would apply.

    What you don’t want to imagine is that you’re playing with people who are going to “take advantage” of that collaboration in some way. That’s defensive GMing and suggests the players are not acting in good faith. (Why would you play with such players in the first place?)

    I think it’s also reasonable, from time to time, to lay out the stakes of a roll beforehand as you see them and be open to negotiation. This is especially true of Defy Danger in my opinion since it’s the “catch-all” move. What you’re seeking in this case is buy-in so that the player is satisfied with the potential outcomes for hits, weak hits, and misses.

  16. Remember, the GM can flip the control switch over to the players at any time simply by asking and building on the answers.  So in my previous example, it might go this way instead:

    PC: I swing my sword at the orc, with both hands tight on the grip.

    GM: Roll Hack and Slash.

    PC: I got a 10, I do 8 damage.

    GM: What does that look like?

    PC: I’m snarling and spitting and frothing at the mouth with rage, blind to whatever else is going on.

    GM: Awesome – you tear the orc’s head from his shoulders but barely notice, the red haze driving you to find another target. A blurry shape, menacing and armed, appears in your vision.  What do you do?

    PC: I scream and rush at them!

    GM: Okay, Other PC, PC1 is charging you! What are you going to do?!

  17. Julien Dumas this is the full text of the exact rule.

    Ask questions and use the answers

    _Part of playing to find out what happens is explicitly not knowing everything, and being curious. If you don’t know something, or you don’t have an idea, ask the players and use what they say.

    The easiest question to use is “What do you do?” Whenever you make a move, end with “What do you do?” You don’t even have to ask the person you made the move against. Take that chance to shift the focus elsewhere: “Rath’s spell is torn apart with a flick of the mage’s wand. Finnegan, that spell was aiding you. What are you doing now that it’s gone?”

    Basically, the GM can ask as much or as little as they like, starting with the basic “what do you do?” and expanding out to more broad or detailed questions as suits them and their group._

    It’s “ask questions whenever you feel like it”.

  18. The thing about warning them of a danger is in the rules too, check out this GM move:

    Tell them the requirements or consequences and ask

    This move is particularly good when they want something that’s not covered by a move, or they’ve failed a move. They can do it, sure, but they’ll have to pay the price. Or, they can do it, but there will be consequences. Maybe they can swim through the shark-infested moat before being devoured, but they’ll need a distraction. Of course, this is made clear to the characters, not just the players: the sharks are in a starved frenzy, for example.

  19. Julien Dumas The “story” is a byproduct of play. Don’t worry about it. Just play to find out what happens. When you’re done playing and look back at what you did, /that’s/ the story. You definitely don’t want to think about what the story will be about or how it will unfold ahead of time.

    If you mean the DM maintains significant narrative control, each role is defined as Adam described (player and GM), but this can be blurred a bit if your group is comfortable with collaboration like mine is.

  20. Adam Koebel My regulars are at a point now where things just kind of move along on their own. I’m not even sure they need me anymore except to be the guy that says, “Sounds like you’re making a Defy Danger with…”

    My experience with a lot of DW pickup groups is not far off from that once I explain to them the principles of improv before play.

  21. Anyway, to drive way back to the original point, the thing that’s most interesting in DW is the characters and how they interact with the world around them, rather than that world in and of itself.  It’s why everything is built the way it is.

    Not having granular point-by-point difficulty modifiers says something about the universe we’re modelling – that the PCs are what matter and that adversity depends purely on what happens to them.  They may not be able to attack a dragon at all, or they may carve through a horde of goblins without ever making a roll simply by merit of their qualities and the description of the players. There’s a lot of leeway in “engage in melee” for example.  If an opponent can’t be engaged, that says something. If they’re too weak to engage the PC, that says something, too.

    It’s the same reason the GM doesn’t take “turns” independent of PC action – their job is to be a fan and set up the world for the PCs to explore and change.

  22. Regarding your concerns about Monty Hall, the difficulty can be adjusted by how aggressive the GM is about their moves. The game is more dangerous for the PCs when the GM makes more hard moves, and easier when the GM makes more soft moves. You should be making moves that follow from the fiction, but there is a lot of freedom there.

    I tend towards the easier side, erring toward “Show signs of an approaching threat” and “Put them on the spot” when I would be fully entitled to “Deal damage,” “Use up their resources,” or use a grisly monster move. If your group prefers a more dangerous world, err toward the opposite.  When a PC fails a Hack and Slash against a horde of cave rats, I might say, “The rats are trying to swarm over you, what do you do?” (“Show signs of an approaching threat” or “Put them in a spot”), while you might just jump straight to “The cave rats swarm over you, biting you all over, take 1d6, 1 piercing” (“Deal damage”).

  23. Homer Thompson that’s really exciting! I think the best part of being a GM is asking those kinds of weird / interesting / revealing questions.  Putting obstacles in the PCs path that teach us something about them.

    I’m always looking for ways to pit Bonds against Alignment or Alignment against Race or Bonds against other Bonds.  The Paladin, for that reason, is usually my favourite PC in any given party – so much potential tension.

  24. Alan De Smet Julien Dumas Something else to consider, too, is that it’s a lot easier to reset a character’s gear / magic / etc in DW than in D&D because in DW there’s the whole “the GM makes a move when you fail” thing paired with the Move “use up their resources”.

    Players learn quickly that today’s Wand of Magic Missiles is tomorrow’s Broken Stick of Doing Nothing. 

  25. Another perspective on difficulty ranges:

    Let’s start with d20, as a common example. For any given character, a specific DC falls into one of three categories: a guaranteed success, a possible success or possible failure, or a guaranteed failure. You figure out what it is by comparing the skill bonus and the DC. If you’ve got Use Rope +4, a DC 5 task is an automatic success, but a DC 26 task is an automatic failure (ignoring the possibility of criticals).

    In DW, you only roll for those things that fall in the middle range. Instead of having the GM set a DC and then figure out where it falls and if there’s a roll to be made, we rely on everyone to judge the fictional world the characters are in and figure out if a move has been triggered (i.e. if the possible result is in the “might succeed, might fail” range).

    The moves are all phrased to help you get there. You can’t defy a danger that is inescapable, and something that you can absolutely avoid isn’t a danger to begin with, so the move only occurs on that middle range. Part of that is that DW deals with a tighter range. The really divergent ends are handled by judging the fiction, not setting a DC. Instead of setting a DC for balancing on a cloud (actual example from a d20 book), that just isn’t on the table unless something in the fictional world makes it seem possible.

  26. Resisting poison is a good example to look at, here.

    In a d20 game, for example, you get poisoned, you have to make a saving throw and depending on the results, we get to find out what happens to you.  You might get a +3 to your roll for a good Constitution bonus, then another handful of plusses from magic items or gear, or maybe you drank some anti-poison potion in advance, and so the bonus ends up being so high that you don’t need to bother rolling, really.

    In DW, the same stuff is true, for the most part. You get poisoned, you make a roll to resist (Defy Danger) but maybe you don’t have to roll if you can show why poison just isn’t dangerous to you.  When the GM says “There’s deep elf poison coursing through you veins, and you feel you consciousness slipping away, what do you do?” you say “I drink my potion of Counter Poison!” and that’s that.

    It tends to be less granular in DW, but the general narrative – the story that emerges once you’re done all the rolls, is the same.

  27. Sorry for asking so many questions but i find this discussion fascinating. Here is another one: is there anything that limits GM fiat outside the GM’s principles (“be a fan of the characters”)?

  28. Julien Dumas the Agenda, Principles and GM moves create the boundaries (albeit flexible in some places) of the GM’s authority in play.  Fiat isn’t really an issue in DW, because they should be playing according to those elements.  Fiat generally implies the GM is making decisions based on what they, as a person, want, with no rules to govern them.

  29. Julien Dumas a 10+ by definition is that the player succeeds – they get what they were after, they harm their foe without getting hurt, they evade the danger they were defying, etc. Hitting them with a hard move as a result is breaking the rules.

    Now, immediately after… 

    Once the effects of the move are set, the game moves forward: you can go back to making moves and prompting player action.  It all depends on what else is going on.

    If you’ve established that there’s three terrible things to deal with and the PC has dealt with one (and gotten 10+) then don’t take their victory away from them, but show them how the other two things played out while they were being awesome.

    On the macro scale, this is how Fronts work, incidentally.

  30. As a gm who was used to dnd it took me a few sessions to wrap my head around two concepts – defy danger is not a saving throw. It is used only when the character triggers the move… By actively avoiding a danger. You have a burning building and the characters say they wrap themselves up in wet bedrolls and put bandanas over their mouths to avoid the flames and the smoke..that’s a defy danger. Having the entire building collapse on them when the dragon lands on it..isn’t a defy danger, they did not actively try to defy this danger.

    The other concepts is goblins are worse than any dragon. Sure the dragon can burn a city, and devour party members whole. But 20 goblins can strip characters of all their equipment in minutes. Why have them do damage when each goblin can steal or destroy equipment and then call for even more goblins to do the same.

  31. If you’re looking at ways to represent things that are harder, or more dangerous, look at the thing the player is trying to do, and separate the different factors into separate elements they have to deal with.

    So for instance, a dragon. It’s huge and powerful, it’s so heavily armoured that normal weapons will bounce off of most of its scales, its thrashing about, sending debris flying, and its setting stuff on fire with it’s deadly breath. You describe all this to the players, honestly letting them know how lethal this monster is.

    For the player, simply walking up and hitting it with your sword is not an option. They’d get roasted, or smashed, or eaten, or a combination of the three and that would be that!

    One player might ask about the dragon’s vulnerabilities, and you could call for a spout lore. 10+, you may mention that they glimpse a weak spot on top of it’s head where a scale is missing. On a 7-9 you could mention its fondness for riddles. On a miss, you may mention that dragons can’t digest Orc flesh very well, and it gives them the runs.

    Another player wants to run up, climb the Dragon, and imbed his sword not the un armoured spot on its skull. You tell them of the burning debris flying everywhere, the powerful, lashing tail, the beast’s huge head swivelling about on it’s sinuous neck, and the gouts of flame its roaring out.

    Each time you put these threats in front of the player you ask them how they want to avoid or overcome them, and if appropriate, call for a roll.

    After all the running, dodging, leaping, batting aside debris, taking cover from gouts of flame, climbing the dragon, avoiding it’s snapping jaws, holding on for dear life, and finally getting in position, you may not even call for hack&slash. You may just let them plunge their sword into it’s brain and bring it down. Or you may call for one final roll, and let the tension of the whole fight, that monumental struggle hang on that moment as the dice roll…

  32. This exchange should be required reading for all new DW GMs. It really gets the point across about why DW is different and how to exploit that difference for maximum fun.

  33. Julien Dumas Dealing damage to the PCs is only one of the GM moves.  The probability of the goblin/dragon doesn’t lie with the dice but with the GM. There are times when dealing damage feels perfect, but more often it’s the least interesting of the GM moves. 

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