A few bits by John Harper on Damage in World of Dungeons and Dungeon World
If it’s a fight, I deal damage on 6- and trade blows on 7-9. It’s not my problem that they only have 3 hp. Don’t think about “challenges.” Don’t make your opponents limp punching bags. Follow through on the fiction (the fiction being super-deadly dungeon delving).
If dealing damage is boring, you’re doing it wrong.
(Definitely use Last Breath if you want a bit less death. That’s much better than toning down damage or making wussy monsters who don’t usually deal damage. But death is part of a classic dungeon crawl game. “Everyone make your first character” I always say when we start.)
Sage LaTorra adds:
HP is, partially, a timer on how long you can fight. Death or Last Breath is what happens when that timer runs out.
Messing with HP or damage messed with the tempo, which may not be what you want to do. It makes fights longer or shorter.
Back to John Harper
I just usually deal HP damage, too (if it’s a fight). You can’t deal damage without saying what happens, anyway — which usually means escalating the situation and placing them in greater danger. You don’t ever just say, “You take 3 damage” (obviously) and when you say, “The Ogre grabs you by the leg and hurls you across the room,” I find it weird to not also say, “You take 3 damage.”
What I try to avoid as GM (this is my style, not the mandate of the game design) is eyeballing PC hit points and then making moves to be sure I don’t kill them. I find that annoying as a player and it runs counter to the gritty dungeon-delve vibe I try to cultivate. (Blake’s method with the kids is perfect for that group, but not what I want in my game.)
Trading damage (in a back-and-forth fight, remember) on a 7-9 is standard Dungeon World hack and slash.
It sucks, agreed. Which is how the PCs learn that you don’t stand toe to toe and fight things that can kill you. If you attack them some other way, of course, the 7-9 result is different. This isn’t a rule (7-9 means damage!) it’s an application of the general rule, given a set of specific circumstances.
You can read the whole thing here.
Expect me to do a lot more damage going forward.