Hey all, I am looking for interesting ways to put my players to the test!

Hey all, I am looking for interesting ways to put my players to the test!

Hey all, I am looking for interesting ways to put my players to the test! I have seen the 12HP dragon article and it was a great read. What situations, or obstacles that are not purely Hackity-Slashity, have you used in your games that came out being epic fight scenes?

16 thoughts on “Hey all, I am looking for interesting ways to put my players to the test!”

  1. Just one quick example from my games as I’m pressed for time:

    Stone colossus smashing through a steading. Weak point on head, back and hands, the only means to harm it. STR, DEX & CON rolls to climb it. 1HP per weak point. 😀

  2. An epic fight might emerge between two guys in a room with shivs, a full-blown frontline battle, or facing down a 12 hp dragon. What makes a fight epic is the right combination of setting the stakes, framing the action, and making interesting GM moves.

    I would expand Vicente’s suggestion of size difference to include any kind of marked difference between combatants — size, intelligence, defenses, etc. — and emphasize or exploit those differences. Barbarians are killing machines in a toe-to-to fight, but throw a water elemental at a barbarian and watch what happens. After the Barbarian chops it to pieces and the pieces keep recombining, when she finally decides to eschew the axe and sate her inexhaustible thirst by drinking her enemy, everyone wins. 

    Picture the specific aspects of the situation — gear, surroundings, weather, ambient magical energy, etc. —  and bring them into play as much as possible.

    Get serious about combat in the way that only Dungeon World can — smash their stuff, dent their armor, break their legs and make them feel the pain. Magic and magic items are dangerous things, so show their (dramatically compelling) downsides and let the players fear them. That staff of fireballs just might explode on a 6-, you never know.

    Zoom in to a detailed thrust/parry/feint/block exchange where you can see the sweat drops and smell the blood, then zoom out to an aerial view of the big picture and have the tactician of the group Defy Danger with INT to determine the overall direction of the battle.

    It’s often assumed that the PCs are fearless, but think about who they are and what they’re up against. I don’t care if you’re a hardened adventurer, the first time you see a walking skeleton — much less a balrog — will you turn and run for your life, stand stupefied and paralyzed before it, or swallow your fear and tighten your grip on your weapon? Defy Danger with WIS to find out.

  3. Shoot Out. Engaging good shooters that are at a fortified position isn’t easy. Add in light&shadow stuff to play with and you have a cool scene. 

  4. I have done the falling bit, which was great! The one-shot started with the party falling into the ocean at the edge of a swirling vortex. Someone, thinking they were helping, created a small block of ice in the water.. well, some of the party dodged it and fell into the water. Not everyone though, not everyone.

    Thanks Jason Lutes for that detailed post. Can you go into detail about the bit where you talk about zooming in/out, particularly the zooming out bit. How exactly did you present that to players? I definitely use the tactic of zooming in, such as a foe feinting a weapon and then being within hand range to attack a player that has a close weapon.

    The last few sentences, regarding “Defy Danger with Wis to find out.” That sounds like something of an attribute check, rather than an action activating a move. Is that what you meant by it or was there a different application there?

    I definitely need to affect their gear more though, I do recognize that I don’t target that as much.

  5. Vicente Cartas Espinel I definitely have played with size, that probably being the easiest way, I find, to make something more difficult. The creature had larger than normal claws, so they didn’t break as easily, or at all, from the blow of a normal sword. Love the ideas, so far.

  6. Environment and The Monsters instinct in the moment really helps. I made an epic fight out of some ents because I thought the instinct of the ents was to try to steal the wolves and not fight the adventurers so it was this interesting fight where positioning and trying to catch up to them was called for instead of just straight hacking and slashing.

  7. Damian Jankowski, the zooming out was a moment when I said to the leader of the party something like, “You have the sudden sense that there are more of them, maybe more than you can handle, streaming up out of the ravine on the left and down from the treeline. The rest of the group is [along with half a dozen NPC soldiers]  knee-deep in the throng, they have no idea of the bigger picture. What do you do?” to which he responded, “I start barking orders, drawing on my knowledge of how I’ve seen these things behave in the past, warning them, telling them where they’re coming from, how to best defend themselves, but ordering them to stand fast.”

    We could have gone with CHA to bolster morale or WIS to suss out the enemy, but I suggested INT because he was drawing on his prior knowledge of them. When I narrated the result of his 10+, I described the scene from above, with the enemy breaking on them, dropping in great numbers, and eventually retreating. Then we cut straight to recovery a day later at a nearby outpost, where I had everyone roll monster damage to see how badly they had been scathed, and each player narrated the wounds they had suffered.

    The Defy Danger with WIS example has happened a few times, when a character iss confronted with an unthinkable horror or unprecedented foe. I describe the thing and ask them what they do. Then they have to Defy Danger with WIS in order to even try that thing. My 7-9 in those situations is usually, “You can turn and flee or stand there paralyzed for a moment, which will it be?”

  8. I will never stop saying this: environmental hazards. I personally love destabilising the environment they are in; collapsing the floor or ceiling, starting a riot, blowing stuff up, pouring lava or bees all over everything, or just setting it all on fire. Fire is great cultural collateral for immediate danger, instability, and destabilisation.

    When I create a location or scene, I like to ask what makes it unstable, and how could that instability push at what the characters want. This helps make tense, exciting scenes that the players care about.

    DW classes are built to kill things, they’re very good at it. If you introduce instability and environmental hazards into a scene where there’s fighting, it will reward your players for thinking creatively and give you more dangers to draw upon.

  9. See the NPCs that the players are invested in through crosshairs. Threaten that which they depend and fork into a difficult choice. Make every combat decision between a rock and a hard place. 

    Murder is deadly business.

  10. The one fight my players keep bringing up is when they fought a dire gorilla in a city of towers. That ape was all over the place and when the fight turned south for it, the ape made a great leap and started climbing away. My players were not ok with it getting away so one thing led to another and soon enough the Warlord in the party was holding on to a ledge leading to certain doom, the Fighter is hanging from a rope tied to the Warlord, and the ape is grabbing onto the Fighter. While this is happening the Cleric failed a jump and ended up crashing into a sky taxi, took it, and tried to crash it into this monster. A few thousand gold pieces of damage later the dire ape was dead, a tower was on fire, and the heroes were still holding onto a ledge waiting for someone to come pick them up.

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