Theory : Dungeon World is (in Ron Edwardsian terminology as I understand it) a Story Now (Narrativist) game wrapped in the trappings of a Step On Up (Gamist) game.
It gives the impression of a system in which players compete mechanically against each other and GM/MC created challenges as everything the players do is portrayed as a subset of given “Moves” based on “Stats”. Some Moves are universal, some are character / playbook specific, implying a “I will prove my choices for character development are better than yours” sub-game. Because of the way the moves interact, however, direct inter-party conflict is curtailed (or brief and decisive, depending on MC fiat / “home-rules”) leaving said sub-game largely without decisive victory conditions, since the party is typically working together. Outside of player-vs-player competition, the characters struggle to mechanically overcome the situations in which they find themselves. The examples in the core book largely reference dungeon delving, confrontations with guards, and high-magic, high-hostility situations…. which is to say, situations in which the players find themselves in direct confrontation with monsters / villains. They contest such by seeking preferable conditions for the struggle, and by using their character’s chosen moves along with the core ones.
The GM/MC, on the other hand, has rules and moves of a vastly different nature. What they envision happens. They complicate matters as a consequence of the luck of the players with hard and soft moves, but the specifics of the moves are mostly not matters of specified mechanics. They do, however, affect the availability or effectiveness of the moves of the characters.
(Example : On a miss from a fighter ‘s Hack and Slash against a troll while fighting on a narrow bridge, the MC decides they lose their footing and fall into the river thirty feet below. They COULD have had the fighter disarmed, or dealt direct damage, or have even complicated matters for another character. On a successful H&S roll, however, the player would have dealt their class damage in a manner that only changes the fictional environment if/as the GM/MC determines. Regardless, now in the river the Fighter no longer has access to the Hack and Slash move. He would have had such if the GM/MC had chosen one of the almost infinite options available that wouldn’t remove the character from the immediate area of the troll. In this situation, could the Fighter fling his sword up to the bridge with a Volley roll? I don’t know [Vincent Baker’s voice in my head says’Say yes or roll’]… you’d have to ask the MC.) The mandate for the MC to describe what happens WITHOUT mentioning the move (s)he used also puts them in the position of being able to BS consequences not directly tied to the core-book’s move list.
Attentive players will quickly begin controlling combat or social situations through fictional positioning, not requiring rolls… or requiring rolls besides those related to combat or conversational dominance, with potential consequences different from failure in the combat/social situation. This opens up new options for the GM/MC to provide complications to the character’s lives, but it also makes the adventures more involved than mechanically proving the characters superior to their opposition.
So you end up with a play style in which players provide the MC/GM with more opportunities to complicate the matters they find engaging by dictating fictional circumstances requiring more rolls, thus requiring more GM/MC moves that force the situation into new and unplanned directions. Railroading becomes very, very difficult. Matters the players don’t care about get resolved quickly, for the good or ill of the characters and/or the world they inhabit. As a consequence, the story of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it becomes more pressing in the minds of the group than stat-wrangling.
And let’s be honest, 99% of the time you could put a Fighter or a Wizard into the same situation and they’d have roughly equal chances of succeeding in their player’s goals. And even if they can’t, because experience is earned by failure sub-death failure is rewarded! The playbook mechanics are a means to an end – development of involving, evolving, open-ended-until-closed-by-the-players stories.
Objections? Comments? Obvious logical inconsistencies?