Greetings. I’m wondering: what’s the design philosophy behind how the Defend move deals damage? Making it a flat amount based on level is odd. It means a level 1 fighter using defend does basically no damage, while a 10th level bard would do buckets of damage. It also means the Defend move is the only move that scales with level-at least not without getting advancements.

Very odd. Thoughts?

24 thoughts on “Greetings.”

  1. From a purely mechanical standpoint, I always figured Defend followed the typical AW-based move structure of “better, cheaper, faster – choose two”. You obviously want all three, but you can only have two, so which two do you choose?

    I guess the increasing damage is to make the “deal damage” option more appealing. Encounters don’t scale in DW, but characters are able to handle bigger threats. So I can see (again, mechanically) why an increase in damage might be needed.

    From a fictional standpoint, the fact that all classes do the same amount of damage doesn’t bother me. Nothing says the damage has to come from a weapon, so the Wizard could narrate some minor spell effect harming the attacker.

  2. Does the idea that you are actively defending something make you more dangerous? Perhaps the scaling is a reflection of your increased focus when dealing damage. Perhaps your more likely to see that opening on your opponent or you have better leverage when you strike?

    I hadn’t caught this one yet. That does seem weird that it scales given levels generally make you more competent but not any stronger. You could always just drop the reference to level and have them deal damage if that makes more sense to you.

  3. Oh, I see what you’re saying. Ok. They doesn’t really address the issue of scaling, which is my real question. I’m not bothered by it, I’m just wondering about the logic. I’m plotting a hack that doesn’t use levels, so I’m unsure what to replace this damage with.

  4. Oh, I see what you’re saying. Ok. They doesn’t really address the issue of scaling, which is my real question. I’m not bothered by it, I’m just wondering about the logic. I’m plotting a hack that doesn’t use levels, so I’m unsure what to replace this damage with.

  5. Well, I think that depends on how you envision Defend working. You could use the PC’s Strength modifier, half the class’ damage die (so a d6 would become a 3), or something else.

    The problem with those suggestions is that they encourage only high strength or high damage characters to choose the “deal damage” option. Part of why I like the current wording is everyone has equal incentive to choose the “deal damage” option, as every class does the same amount of damage (ignoring Advanced Moves).

  6. Christopher-well said. I do like the way defending encourages characters to try different tactics. I consider that a mechanical boon. I dont see any thematic link though-its entirely gamey IMO. Sort of like +bond, but thats another conversation.

    Now, I just need to see what I can come up with for my hack. Though I can say defend is basically never used in my circle.

  7. Yeah. Roll +Bond is the weakest part of DW for me, especially considering some other AW hacks. But as you said Andrew Day, that’s a totally different conversation.

    You could simply eliminate the “deal damage” option from the Defend move in your hack. That still leaves three options, which is enough in my opinion. Or you could replace it with something else more in line with what you see defending something meaning in your game.

  8. I wouldn’t remove Deal Damage as an option, simply because the point of DW is to kill monsters. It makes Defend feel like a subpar action since it wouldn’t allow the player to ‘advance’ the game. Additionally, without that option, any player who chooses to defend is now making twice as many rolls as anyone else in combat (one to defend, and then a later roll to deal damage somehow). This makes Defend a highly inferior action that isn’t worth the turn investment on the player’s part.

  9. Eh, I think we’ll disagree about the point of DW being to kill monsters. That’s certainly part of the game, but not the be-all, end-all point. At least not for me.

    Also, while the character who uses Defend is making more rolls (and therefore risking more failures), talking about elements like “turn investment” make is seem like you’re following mechanics rather than the fiction.

    Sometimes the best defense is a good offence, but when there’s a horde of skeletons surrounding you and that fop of a prince whom you’ve sworn to bring home safely, Defend sounds like a pretty good option to me. 😉

  10. And when you can’t deal damage while defending that prince, you’re rolling defend until you eventually fail.

    You’re right — I’m not following fiction first, because this isn’t a conversation at the in-game level. We’re discussing modifying the mechanics of a move, so I’m examining the practical problem with changing the mechanics of a move.

    You can disagree about the game being about fighting all you want, but the fact is that three of the seven basic moves deal damage. If you take away Defend’s ability to do damage, you relegate whoever is Defending the prince to relative non-involvement, and escalating jeopardy as they are unable to clear the stack of monsters gunning for the prince.

    I’m just saying, removing deal damage is a subpar option compared to just removing the move all together. It feels like a suboptimal design choice, and that’s what we’re taking about: design.

  11. Fair enough, Alfred Rudzki. We are talking about mechanics rather than actual play. However, I feel that DW is a game that combines fiction and mechanics in such a way that they are effectively the same thing.

    From my perspective (obviously), harming your enemy as a result of defending against their attack is purely an added bonus. It’s not something that is inherent to the act of defense. The focus of defending something is to prevent harm from happening to that thing. Not to also damage your attacker.

    In the context of DW, if your intent is to harm someone, you attack them (triggering Hack & Slash) as opposed to defending (triggering Defend). They’re different enough actions that the creators of the game felt that they needed to be separate moves.

    If, in your hack of the system, dealing damage is such an integral part of what defending is, then perhaps there should’t be two separate moves.

  12. We agree on just about everything you’re saying, absolutely. I honestly think that if the amount of damage Defend is dealing is a problem, making it equal to STR or something similar is a good, quick hack. I just wanted to present a mechanical, gameplay argument for why dealing damage is important enough to player-involvement that it shouldn’t be completely removed.

  13. I’m still not really sold on the idea that removing the deal damage choice from Defend is a mechanically bad idea, Alfred Rudzki. Part of that is due to the fact there are no turns in DW. There is nothing stopping a player from triggering Defend, spending their hold for multiple effects, and then immediately narrating a counter attack that triggers Hack & Slash before the enemy attacks again.

    Yes, the player has made two rolls as opposed to one. But a character who Defends first and then counter attacks with a Hack & Slash gets additional benefits that I feel are worth the risk. Doing some small amound of damage as one or part of those additional benefits from defending is fine. But again I don’t feel it’s a crucial part of the action.

  14. I did a one-shot hack a few weeks ago and replaced the damage part of defend with “deal half damage”. Seemed to work out well enough but like I said it was a one-shot.

  15. There is nothing stopping a player from triggering Defend, spending their hold for multiple effects, and then immediately narrating a counter attack that triggers Hack & Slash before the enemy attacks again.

    True, but that narration sounds like exploiting an opening in the opponent’s style, fictionally and that sounds like using your Defend move to deal damage. It sounds like the person defending is getting penalized on counter-attacking from a successful defense, by being told to roll again to trigger hack and slash and maybe get hurt when they just spent all their hold on a really good defend roll.

    Actually, this conversation opens up some ideas for interesting alternatives to scaling counterattack damage (aka the default Defense move). Hold could be spent to, instead of dealing level-based damage, to fictionally “open the enemy to counter attack” and let the GM and players make a judgment call from there.

    Are they so open that you just kill them, no roll? (Certain small, squishy enemies) or do you just get to roll your class damage as normal? (Fighters remain the best at dealing damage when Defending others, even if they’re a lower level than the rest of the party for whatever reason).

    Just thinking out loud.

  16. I like Defend. The point of the basic moves is to be super broad. Anytime you wish to have something more specific, like a nice take on Counter-attack, you’re encouraged to create a custom move.Would adding a specialized Counter Attack move to the basic moves list be a poor idea in this situation? I’ve read all of the posts but I still don’t understand why the damage portion of defend can’t just be removed or halved or be a normal “deal damage” approach. Seems like a really easy fix.

    I agree you could replace deal damage with something like “create an opening” but that seems kind of cheap. It seems like it would encourage a gamist approach where players defend on purpose just so they can get a chance at a nice easy attack.

  17. I started writing out this long thing about how I still fundamentally disagree with you Alfred Rudzki but then I realized something.

    Taking out the “deal damage” effect from the Defend action is a bad idea, simply  because we are having this discussion.

    It’s not really a choice of mechanics. “Defending something” obviously means different things to you and I. Which is exactly why we are arguing here. Taking out the “deal damage” effect invalidates what your idea of “defend” means. Leaving it in however, (while slightly irritating) does not invalidate what my idea of “defend” means. You say “defend” means A, while I say it means B. As written, the Defend move allows both of us to be right. So I acquiesce; taking that effect out is a bad idea.

    Phew. 😉

    To address you questions Marques Jordan, adding a Counter Attack move to the list of Basic Moves changes the game. Basic Moves are fictional actions so common that anyone can do them. What does it say about your setting and your world if everyone can counter attack? If I were making a game like Regime Dibolique, where every PC is a Musketeer well versed in fencing,  then I might make a Counter Attack basic move.

    Also, “create an opening” is already part of the current wording of Defend; it’s the +1 forward. And yes, a player could narrate their character defending something just so they could apply the +1 forward to their next attack. But as Alfred Rudzki points out, the player has to roll twice; one for the Defend and then another for the Hack & Slash. They’re risking two failures, and so getting that reward is not a big deal.

  18. About Defend move. Two options are quite easy to understand and apply in the fiction/game: halve damage (’cause you slightly deflect the enemy’s attack, or you are prepared to endure the hit), and redirect (’cause you interpose between original target and enemy, or you draw enemy’s attention). The option to deal damage, instead…

    Do you permit to deal damage BEFORE it comes the enemy’s attack (so usually the low grade enemy dies before his chance to hit)? Or do you “exchange blows”, so if you have just 1 hold, and you choose to deal damage, then you hit the enemy, while the dying enemy can still hit his original target?

  19. Dealing half damage is probably a nice compromise for my no-level hack.

    The current defense move seems to leave a lot of room to game the system. Since most level 10 characters can do more damage with defense than with hack n’ slash, AND they’ll take less damage in the process, it seems to me that would cause defense to become more and more prevalent as levels go up. Tell me high-level gamers, am I mistaken in my belief?

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