I had a player who wanted to defy danger with STR to block an attack with his dual weapons.

I had a player who wanted to defy danger with STR to block an attack with his dual weapons.

I had a player who wanted to defy danger with STR to block an attack with his dual weapons. I ruled that that wouldn’t work, because I didn’t see that as the way that STR defy danger worked. Was I wrong?

40 thoughts on “I had a player who wanted to defy danger with STR to block an attack with his dual weapons.”

  1. Sounds like it was probably CON to me. Even if it’s an action that requires physical strength, if you’re “enduring” it’s probably CON. But there’s also just the Defend move.

    More importantly: it sounds like your player is trying to twist the fiction around to get better rolls and advantages. You should encourage them to focus on fictional actions without worrying about the move being triggered or the roll they’ll have to make.

  2. So my question is, how do I balance the game around this ability, which makes it so he has basically an instant defy danger in most anything, making most enemies pointless? Do I just let him run wild?

  3. Defy Danger shouldn’t really be making enemies pointless on its own, though I’m not familiar with the class. He should still have to Hack & Slash or Volley most of the time.

  4. Doesn’t sound like he was “powering through” anything, so I think Bruce Linck is right that it’s DD+CON.

    I don’t really think that blocking a single attack is the same as “standing in defense of a person,” so Defend wouldn’t trigger. It’s pretty clearly intended for focused defense over a period of time, not just knocking aside a blow here and there in the course of a back-and-forth melee. The given choices don’t fit the fiction here anyway: if an attack is blocked, it’s blocked, not halved or redirected (from him to himself?).

    I don’t know that class either, so I’m not sure why letting someone Defy Danger would be an issue. If it is, it’s probably a poorly written class.

  5. Justus Goldstein-Shirley Yeah, my bad. You’re right that Defend is more focused defense over time. Defending just yourself is an option with that move, though, even if it does make that option less sensible.

    Peter Knoch  There are plenty of times it would trigger. If a character was to try and charge through a group of enemies to get past them, or if they were ensnared and had to quickly rip through their bindings, or as the book says, if they attempted a huge leap over an obstacle. If they’re taking the simplest, brute force solution to a problem, it’s probably STR.

  6. Wynand Louw, if a sword’s coming at him, he can’t H&S without taking damage first, no? 10+ there is a successful attack without opening up the possibility for counterattack, not dodge an incoming attack and then attack, by my reading. He’d still have to DD first if he wants to avoid damage.

  7. Ah, I see now Peter Knoch. THe few times I’ve had players Defy Danger with STR is when they’re doing things like holding up a falling pillar or trying to topple a statue onto a bad guy. Getting your weapons into position to block an attack sounds like DD with DEX to me, since you’re relying on speed.

    If the Slayer had already locked weapons with his foe and was trying to bear them to the ground, that sounds more like DD with STR to me.

    Also, I agree with Justus Goldstein-Shirley about the character having to deal with the sword coming at their head before H&S ing back.

  8. Justus Goldstein-Shirley​

    When the sword comes at you the most common move is Hack and Slash. In DW one roll represents one to as many blows as you want it to represent, so H&S may include a block with a shield, a parry, riposte, slash, stab and dodge all in one roll. It really depends on how much you are willing to invest in the fiction. One needs to get away from the D20 paradigm where characters stand in line to take turns to stab at each other.

    Taking damage on a 7-9 depends on the GM’s decision. So if a player has a good fictional reason not to take damage as GM I would probably not deal damage. But you are right, DD is safer if you dont want to take damage.

  9. Wynand Louw The book has an example where a character has to Defy Danger before they can Hack and Slash because they’re already about to get hit. If the guy’s only about to start swinging his sword at you, then sure, Hack & Slash.

  10. Yeah, I’m gonna disagree with you there Wynand Louw. In my book, if the GM has narrated a sword blow heading towards the character and the player doesn’t do anything about it, that’s a golden opportunity to deal damage. An answer of “I stab the foe!”, which would trigger a H&S move, doesn’t address the imminent harm the character is about to take.

    If the player answered with something along the lines of “I nimbly roll under the attack and plant my sword in the foe’s guts!” I’d call for a DD move, probably with DEX, and one of the rewards would be the character dealing damage.

    In my opinion, H&S is for when you’re attacking a foe in melee combat. That can cover as many or as few sword strokes as necessary to keep things interesting. I didn’t see anything in Justus Goldstein-Shirley’s answer that made it sound like they were “waiting to take turns”. They’re just pointing out that the character is going in for the attack without first addressing the imminent harm they are about to suffer.

  11. Wynand Louw The trigger for H&S is “when you attack an enemy in melee.” It can be multiple blows, and you can even stretch it to be against multiple enemies, but it is fundamentally an attack. If the player’s response to “he swings his sword at your head” is “I stab him,” then yeah, that’s H&S, but he’ll take damage first, since he didn’t deal with the incoming attack. If his answer is “I dodge away, then stab him right back,” that’s dealing with an imminent threat by getting out of the way, so he rolls DD+DEX, and only after that is he attacking an enemy, so he can roll H&S at that point. If it’s “I hold up my shield, letting him hammer at it uselessly, then stab at his exposed legs,” then he’s dealing with the imminent threat by enduring, so he rolls DD+CON first, and then H&S for his attack.

    Your method is specifically not engaging with the fiction, or else not actually looking to see which moves the fiction triggers. It ignores the fact that there’s a sword inches from their neck that they have to deal with before they can attack. It’s more difficult to block an incoming attack and counterattack than it is to just make a straightforward attack, so it requires more rolls. A player can’t say they “run through the army, chopping off everyone’s heads” with one H&S roll. Once they’re to the point of making an attack, it can fictionally be a back-and-forth, with both parties trading blows, dodging, blocking, lunging, parrying, and so forth until one of them gets the upper hand, as described by the H&S roll, but you can’t do that until they’re on equal footing (i.e. no one has a sword at their neck).

    Dynamic combat has nothing to do with this. Moves are triggered by specific events in the fiction whether you’re standing in a line and attacking in turns or leaping all over the place and whacking three guys in a row with the candelabra you picked up after your sword got knocked away.

  12. Wynand Louw

    not true, cause he would have rolled the effect for H&S, but suffered the effects of ignoring a move that GM is making, opening himself to a Hard Move.

  13. Seems I have been vetoed! 🙂

    But I still maintain that to H&S at somebody who stabs at you with a sword is a valid move. In my defense: Ask any fencer if parry and riposte are two separate actions or one.

  14. It definately is a valid response Wynand Louw​. I’m not saying it never does or never could happen. I’m just saying that attacking a foe (triggering H&S) rather than parrying or dodging when the threat of imminent danger has already been established means the character will take that damage.

  15. Wynand Louw

    I would say:

    Yes it is… Parry (DD+DEX) and Riposte (H&S)


    It’s a custom move that allows you to DD+DEX with the option of dealing your Damage on a 10+

  16. I’m totally with Wynand Louw on this. Counterattacking totally triggers H&S in my book. The only time I’d consider that “giving me a golden opportunity” is if they completely ignore the attack in describing their counter. And then, I’m going to tell them the consequences and ask.

    GM: “The hobgoblin is lunging at you, sword coming at your head like yah! What do you do?”  

    Player:  “I swat the thrust aside with my parrying dagger and step in, smashing his face with my sword pommel.”

    GM: “Coll, roll H&S.”


    GM: “The hobgoblin is lunging at you, sword coming at your head like yah! What do you do?”  

    Player:  “I swing my maul overhead and smash it down on his head, howling with rage!”  

    GM: “Okay, cool, but there’s no way you’re going to do that before the sword blow connects. You wanna just take the hit so you can smash him?”

  17. Jeremy Strandberg

    which means as long as a player says I swat away his blow… before anything else, that none of your monsters will ever attack one of your players.

  18. Why does the dagger parry allow the character to avoid damage, yet swinging the maul does not Jeremy Strandberg​​? Is it because the maul is slow where the dagger is not? That still seems rather unfair to me. Shouldn’t the character getting their dagger around in time be left up to the dice?

    Also Chris S​ raises a very good point.

  19. Chris “HyveMynd” Stone-Bush, now I’m confused . . .

    If a player is being attacked in melee and they choose to fight back, I generally default to Hack and Slash. I don’t call for them Defy Danger first. It never occured to me they may need to. I just assumed, perhaps incorrectly, that hack and slash not only included the exchanging of blows, but defending oneself from said blows.

    Now, had I established that the attacker had reach or perhaps some sort of attack that might happen before before the character could effectively engage in melee, then yeah, if he or she ignores it, its a golden opportunity. If they chooese to try and mitigate that attack in some way before engaging in melee, then that could trigger a Defy Danger move of sort.

    I think I agree more with Wynand Louw. H&S against someone who is swinging a sword at you is probabaly a valid move, assuming that you could could in fact engage in melee.

    Here’s an example straight out of the dungeon world guide:

    Here’s a dead-simple example:

    GM:”The Orc swings his club down at you. What do you do?”

    PC:”I knock it aside with my warhammer and smash his skull!” GM:”Sounds like we’re doing some Hack & Slash, roll for it.”

    PC:”I got an 8, that’s a partial success, yeah?”

    GM:”Yeah, you knock the first blow aside, but he’s relentless. You’re both smashing each other and it’s a full-on bloody brawl. We both roll damage for this.”

  20. Peter Knoch going back to your original question:

    1) Interrogate the fiction!  “Oh, you want to defy danger using Str?  What’s that look like?”

    2) Challenge the player if you think they’re full of crap. Give them a chance to revise.  “That sounds a lot more like acting quickly than powering through. If that’s your course of action it’ll be +DEX and not STR.  Is that what you do?”

    3) Don’t worry so much about balance.  Worry about the fiction, and what happens, and what it looks like.  

    Even if their Thirst is always +3, they’re getting a 7-9 result about 33% of the time (and a miss about 8%). Those 7-9s are where the fun is!

    Also, imagine this exchange:  “The ogre’s swinging his club at your head, like slow-motion wrecking ball.  What do you do?”

    “I plant my feet and meet catch his club with my cross swords, like HYAH!”

    “Okay that sounds like you’re defying danger, could be with STR or CON. I could go either way, you choose.”

    “STR it is! Which means I roll THIRST. 10+!”

    “Cool, you catch the club, and it’s like catching boulder as it falls.  You stay up, but the force of it pushes you back across the cobbles, spraying up dust and shards of brick from beneath your feet!  The ogre blinks in surprise, then whips the club back. You feel one of your blades getting tugged along, it’s wedged into the side of the club. You can try to hang onto it or let go, or maybe something else, what do you do?”

    See what happened there?  In order to justify using STR (Thirst), they had to describe an action that gave up the initiative. If they succeeded, the best they could hope for was negating the ogre’s attack. Crossing blades and bracing for impact means that if you succeed, you’ve weather the storm. As the GM, I feel perfectly comfortable in taking the initiative and making a soft move at that point, keeping the player in a reactive position.

    Bottom line: When players try to fictionally position themselves to use their best stats, be a fan.  Tell them what’s required and what the consequences are. Don’t let them just say “I’m super strong, so I defy danger with strength!” Make them justify it. Make them establish fictional details. And then respond with more fictional details. 

  21. In my mind, defy danger is used prior to a hack and slash when the player has no reasonable way to fight back, such as when they are wielding a club and being attacked by a reach weapon or having arrows shot at them. This sort of represents the enemy have multiple opportunities to strike at the player before they can close the distance.

    They may also have abilities that require the player to defy danger before they can strike even if they are within range. A fire elemental might require that you defy danger with constitution to land a melee blow as the air around it can cook flesh. Or maybe the dragon your player has been slashing at suddenly puffs up and breathes a deadly cloud of fire.

    As for parrying blades…I would personally let a player defy danger with whatever stat they use to swing their weapon. After all, a big part of being a badass swordsman is parrying the blades of your enemies. I also allow the use of con in defy danger if the player is wielding a shield.

    But if the player is abusing some mechanic to pass their defy danger rolls consistently, I’d personally just use that as an excuse to turn up the heat. Suddenly they aren’t just being attacked by that swordsman, they are also being attacked by an evil sorcerer firing mystical blasts of necrotic energy, or their mind is assaulted by a psychic war mind, or maybe they are just harried by archers or spear throwers.

    Basically the idea is to not make your player be any less cool than they already are, WITHIN REASON, and let them excel at what their class excel’s at.

  22. For me, this has more to do with how moves, and the game, is structured rather than reality AJ Ferguson​.

    H&S does indeed trigger when a character attacks a foe in melee, and does represent the trading of blows in combat. I’m not disputing that at all. But the important part for me here is what’s happening in the fiction.

    If the Fighter and an Orc chieftan have just closed within weapon reach of each other and are starting to trade blows, that is H&S for sure.

    If the Orc chieftan had a polearm, then, just like you, I would probably call for the Fighter to make a DD move to get within range. I have established that the Orc chieftan has an advantage over the Fighter, and that the PC will take damage if they simply ignore that polearm and close in.

    How is that different from establishing that a sword is whistling towards the character’s head? To me, it’s not. in both cases the GM had established that there is something the PC will have to deal with before laying into the Orc chieftan.

    So I’m not saying that a PC can’t H&S in response to an attack. I’m not saying that H&S doesn’t cover an exchange of blows in melee combat, some of which are going to be defensive. I’m just saying that if a player ignores an immediate threat to their character, the GM should follow through with threat.

  23. Chris S NOT TRUE!  On a 7-9 on their hack & slash, they either failed to swat the blade aside (or they succeed and the hobgoblin gets another counter attack, whatevs).  On a miss, they fail to block the blow utterly.  Even on a 10+, they might choose to do extra damage and allow that initial strike to connect.

    Chris Stone-Bush yeah, it’s totally a speed. And position. And leverage. Fairness has jack all to do with it, it’s about interpreting the fiction.

    Daggers are quick, great for parrying thrusts of pointing weapons, great for infighting.  Sword pommel to the face: likewise great for infighting and surprising your foe.  

    Mauls are great for smashing rocks or the skulls of slow-moving opponents, or for wheeling around in a crowded melee and smashing whoever happens to be in the way.  

    There are different reasons to carry each, and you fight differently with each one.  It’s only natural that each would be useful in different scenarios and with different tactics, and that the moves should follow the fiction.

  24. This is a great conversation, so i’m going to throw my two cents in.

    I generally soft move – “The enemy attacks you, what do you do?” and if the player responds “I’ll attack them right back!” then it’s a Hack & Slash.

    This is generally what i get from Peter Knoch ‘s initial post – a soft move attack coming in.  Now, in this case, the player didn’t want to attack back, but rather to catch the attack between crossed blades.  Very cool, player!  Tell me, does this take incredible speed (+DEX)?  Do you intercept the blades and then hold them off while you buy time for something else to happen (+CON)?  Or do you catch the attack and throw it to the side, overpowering their initial attack (+STR)?

    If there was a mistake at the table, it was that Peter may not have engaged the player well enough to figure out what was going on in the fiction (in the player’s mind) to properly arbitrate.

    This thread has derailed some from the original question, as folks have taken “the enemy attacks you” and turned it into the imminent danger of “there is a blade pressed against your throat!” – if the enemy has the player’s character at that disadvantage then the vaguely word soft move of “they attack” is insufficient.

    It is useful to think in terms of “Go Aggro” or “Seize by Force” –

    If the enemy is in a  position to Go Aggro, they have the player’s character at some disadvantage whereby they could do damage before the player could trigger a hack & slash.  Anything other than defying danger could result in damage.  This is a very specific condition – the player’s character is in imminent danger, and it behooves the GM to be very clear about that.  Don’t simply warn them of a vague attack, let them know the knife is pressed against their throat already.  (and really, this either should have been preceded by moves getting to that point, or the NPC needs to be just that good).

    If i tell my players “The enemy is attacking you, what do you do?” I am being purposefully vague to indicate something more akin to a “Seize by Force” situation – if the player’s character doesn’t react, they’re going to get hurt.  But they have the ability to defend, defy danger, hack & slash or whatever else they want to try.

    And, finally, i don’t generally tell players “The enemy is attacking you.”  I try to indicate the how of it, to give players something to respond to.  nothing thrills me more as a GM than when a player gives me a good picture of what they are doing in the fiction and excites me with the idea of what they are doing.  I find i get this more and more frequently if i can set them up for cinematic greatness by giving a clear picture of how the enemy is moving against them.

  25. Chris “HyveMynd” Stone-Bush . . . I get what you are saying.

    I just think it all comes down to your narrative as a GM.

    I think there’s a difference between . . .

    “The Orc growls, lunging towards you with a slash of his blade. What do you do?”

    and . . .

    “The Orc’s attack is deadly swift and sudden. With a flash, the blade is almost at your neck before you can lift a shield or counter with your sword. What do you do?”

    I the first example, I’d allow to the player to counter-attack (H&S), no golden opportunity.

    In the second, should he or she counter-attack, I think I have made it clear that doing so would mean exposing oneself to the attack. I’d probably be inclined to say that the Orc and the player just trade damage for damage, no Hack and Slash at all.

    Does that make sense?

  26. AJ Ferguson

    I would argue that there is little difference between the two scenarios that you have raised… but I run a tougher game than most.

    also… they should still roll H&S… they don’t have the enemy at their mercy… so in actually they will go through the effects of H&S AND pay for ignoring the sword at their throat… the best they can hope for is a 10+ and equal exchange of damage…  if they 7-9 they are taking two effects… which could very easily be double damage.

  27. Chris S There is a huge distinction in the scenarios that AJ Ferguson  proposed. One leaves you time to prepare to meet them on equal ground and meet their attack with your own, the second does not.

    How about this:

    Scenario 1:  The enemy is across the field, waving his sword around wildly and trampling wildflowers as he charges toward you.  He pauses periodically to catch his breath, and resumes his charge.  He will eventually get to you, and looks like he intends to swing that sword in your general direction; what do you do?

    Scenario 2:  the enemy has surprised you and was able to stick her sword tip inside your belly button before you noticed her there.  The slightest twitch will eviscerate you.  What do you do?

  28. Chris S, if you don’t see a difference between the two, then that’s on me as the GM. I need to be clearer in my narrative.

    As for hack and slash, I assume (and correct me if I a wrong) that the move includes both the act of attacking and defending . . . it’s melee afterall.

    If two parties just to decide to step up and beat the snot the out of eachother with no attempt to deflect or dodge or parry the other’s blow, I think what you have is just an exhange of damage. The first one to run out of hitpoints, loses.

  29. AJ Ferguson the only concern about a free exchange of damage is that it runs the risk of becoming a sequence of damage rolls, which can become boring.  

    Triggering Hack & Slash helps push the narrative forward.  6- and 7-9 are obvious, but even a 10+ dangles the temptation – do you want to trade a little extra damage to get put in a tough spot?

    If my players catch an NPC in a position where they can just inflict damage, it’s a situation where the NPC cannot immediately respond.   Even then i’ll usually let them choose to trigger Hack & Slash if they want – some players really embrace letting the dice push them into interesting spots.

  30. I’d allow it, but it is worth noting that my DW games lean more towards ‘fantasy wish fulfillment’ than ‘Torchbearer-style survival’. 

    “You stand before them, taking blows with your weapons that would render a lesser man (or possibly giant) numb of arm and mute of agency.  Give me a DD STR.” 

    (6-) “A glancing blow, aimed for your throat, travels the length of your (blade/shaft) and bites through the back of your hand, (tearing DEEPLY and sending it into uncontrollable spasms as it gushes more blood than you’d think a non-arterial wound could [deal damage] / crushing you gauntlet on the back side, crimping the back of your hand and forcing your fingers into a painful rigor-mortis-like extension.  Until you can cut it off or otherwise remove it you’re not doing anything with that hand.)

    (7-9) “The shear force of their onslaught, while unable to get around your defenses, finds you pushed back to the wall.  On the plus side, they can’t flank you anymore, but on the other hand, you’re in no position to help (other character) as they [turn to other character’s player, make soft move]”

    (10+) “The first four blows barely make your weapon(s) shake.  An explosion of force from you during the fifth finds their weapon thrown twenty feet back and (imbedded in the wall, halfway in a stream, under a collapsed bookshelf, on the other side of the now punctured interior wall).  [Turn to the player whose character has the most interest in staying where they’re at – the wizard, or the one guarding the NPC child, or the one Defending their cohort] – you see this, and if you move now you’ll be able to get to them before they can retrieve their weapon.”

    ‘Punish’ bad rolls, keep shifting the focus and situation so it’s never a slugfest.

  31. AJ Ferguson I like your examples — the “blade at your neck” is exactly the situation I’d ask for a Defy Danger in. And also if the character was being attacked with a reach weapon and had to close the gap safely before attacking, as I believe someone else mentioned.

    This is a pretty rare situation, I should note, especially for a normal enemy. A character would have to mess up pretty bad in the first place for an orc to get a blade to his throat before he can retaliate. But once he does, I just don’t think Hack and Slash alone accurately represents the danger he’s in.

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