When in doubt, use Defy Danger

When in doubt, use Defy Danger

When in doubt, use Defy Danger 

Wether this is a good practice or not has come up a few times in this community and has been discussed before. The book definetly mentions that as a possibility. 

I’d like to offer the following alternative

When in doubt, make a quick custom move 

There are moments when our game brain tells us “man, there should be a move rolled right now” but none of the moves really fit. When you feel like that, why not make up a quick custom move for it? This has 2 major upsides I think.

1. You can roll even though none of the basic moves are really triggered in the fiction.

2. If you fail to come up with interesting 7-9 results for the action you see that a roll right now wouldn’t make much sense. This saves you the trouble of rolling Defy Danger and then stumbling on the 7-9 result (maybe one of the toughest decisions you have as a GM in Dungeon World). 


You have to come up with a move on the fly. This should however get better the more you practice it. 

The other options for such a situation are of course

* Make a GM move (that might still apply when you can’t come up with a custom move right there)

* Roll Defy Danger 

What do you think? 

10 thoughts on “When in doubt, use Defy Danger”

  1. Oh yeah I make custom moves all the time. My big rule is that I have to decide what the results will be before the roll is made. Otherwise if I tell them to roll and then try to determine the results I get caught up on just what they rolled and tend to skew the results.

    And yes it a gets better with practice. I can usually whip one up in a minute but when I first started doing it, i would take a few more, but it was worth it.

    Defy danger definitely works for those “oh shit” moments but when you player wants to defile the altar of Tiamat, a custom move would definitely be the way to go.

  2. I feel like, especially in Dungeon World, custom Moves are totally underused.  Both in this context and in the long-form, prep/Front aspect.

    The Apocalypse World Basics are so much more poetic, and vague, and easily shifted to interpretations that fit the moment.  But DW is a lot more Trigger Happy (ha!) which means, yeah, you gotta fill in the gaps.

    I think DD does a great job of filling in those gaps, but, as a player and GM, i’d love to see more ‘composed on the fly’ Moves.  Because i think that just sings to the synergy of your group.

    Heck, i’d like to see a Basic Move that is triggered by “When you don’t see a Move that fits the fictional positioning…” and goes on to explain how to make a quick Move for that circumstance.

  3. In a cool game I am in, we try to come up with an answer to the Question “What could possible go wrong?” or “What’s the worst result you can achieve?” before rolling the Catch-All Move. 

    This procedure sound just like what you are suggesting to do and works fine for us 😉 

  4. And i just want to second what Delos Adamski said – it works way, way better if you define the Move Results before the bones are thrown.

  5. You know what I’d like to see along with this advice, as part of the GM’s sheet/screen perhaps? Skeletons for custom moves you make on the fly, to remind you of a few different basic move structures you can use when writing your custom move. A few things like:

    When you ____, roll +____. On a 7-9, hold 1. On a 10+, hold 3. Spend your hold to do any of the following, 1 for 1.




    When you ____, roll +____. On a 7-9, pick 1. On a 10+, pick 2.




    When you ____, roll +_______. On a 10+, you _____. On a 7-9, you ______, but _______.

    When you _____, you ______.

    And probably a couple more that I can’t think of off the top of my head (hence the need for them!). Hopefully this should help cut down on a bit of the game-slowing that on-the-fly move writing can do (one advantage I will claim that Defy Danger has).

  6. Another thing I find that helps is to let the player choose what goes wrong, instead of what goes right. Makes it easy to dm. That’s why I don’t like bend bars lift gates. I know what helpful things happened but then I need to look at the list to see what could have gone wrong.

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