Fun with Hack n’ Slash.

Fun with Hack n’ Slash.

Fun with Hack n’ Slash.

The more my players trigger the H&S move, the move comfortable we have become with moving away from the traditional move/action/attack format used by other, more traditional rpgs.

When we first started experimenting with Dungeon World, naturally, we stuck with what we were used to. Our combat scenes were still being played out on almost a turn-by-turn basis. A hack and slash move typically consisted of a single blow by the player couneterd by a single blow by the enemy.

Then some wonky stuff started happening.

Sometimes, especially on a 7-9, the results of the roll didn’t quite jive with the fiction. How could the player land a blow that killed the enemy and yet the enemy still managed to hit and deal damage back, when the fiction would seem to indicate that the player hit first?

Clearly, we were all still thinking in terms of “turns, rounds, and actions” within the rigid boundaries of an entirely different system.

Then we finally came to realization that the Hack & Slash move could be used to resolve the outcome of a “scene” as opposed to an “single action”. In other words, Hack & Slash got us past the whole I-GO-U-GO way of thinking and encouraged us to let the result of the roll guide us in how the battle should be narrated.

No longer did an attack consist of just a swing and a hit or miss, followed up by a counter attack.

Now, an attack might consist of several thrusts, parries, dodges and repositionings, some screaming, maybe a tumble between the legs or a flip over a swing.

It was liberating.

And when everyone at my game-table finally understood and bought into it, Dungeon World became a real game-changer.

Thanks to the minds behind it!

11 thoughts on “Fun with Hack n’ Slash.”

  1. It’s funny what a novel concept this is to veteran RPG players, given that the traditional turn-by-turn representation of combat is nothing at all like real fight. If we were inventing RPGs over again from scratch, without the legacy of D&D hanging over our heads, I think 8 out of 10 people would invent Dungeon World-style combat, rather than D&D-style, because it’s the more naturalistic way to represent combat exchanges.

  2. Damn, I’ve only played DW twice (and love it by the way) and that just flipped my head on end. I love that approach and if I can ever get my group to play again, that is the way to do it right there! Thanks for the share!

  3. It seems to me that every game i’ve played with turn-based rounds has explicitly stated that there is a lot more going on in each round then you state with your allocated “actions”, but then never mechanically supports that idea.  Looking back, those feel like disclaimers to justify setting an arbitrary round-length.  “Well yeah, it doesn’t take you six seconds to swing your sword one time.  You’re totally doing other stuff that we just don’t care to pay attention to….”  Most of what you do is unimportant, roll to see if you hit the baddie once, or if you need to sit quietly and await your next turn.

    Overcoming this was a major hurdle in coming to embrace DW.  Listening to a player and trying to determine when we’ve “hit the limit of a single round” was pretty natural at first.  But at some point, i started listening more to determine when we’ve triggered moves, when we’ve got a golden opportunity to make a GM move, or when the player is directing the spotlight toward another.

    Moves like Hack & Slash definitely make you want to understand the fiction leading up to and through a move better.  All that little minutiae that gets hand-waived in a turn-based game becomes vital when you’re listening for when moves are triggered, you resolve a move, and you have to then translate that result back into the fiction.  And even better – as the GM if i don’t have a clear picture of the scene, i’m encouraged to interrogate the players.  Most of my players are quite happy to turn up the heat on themselves so they can play to find out what happens.

    I’ve also noticed that we no longer pay attention to the “combat encounter” or “non-combat encounter” dichotomy.  We never have turn order, we never have arbitrary limits on how much we can do at once time, and we transition through a scene and trigger moves without regard to “type”.  It lets us go from furious combat to hilarious quip, back into the fray once more, and then some threatening commands without changing pace, or rules.

  4. Yup, looking back, it amazing how the structure of a certain popular rpg’s combat system actually stymied things.

    Move, Attack, Action. Wait and see if you get hit back. Stick to the same rigid formula, don’t even think about being creative or cool. Blah.

    Hack & Slash doesn’t micro-manage things . . . and that encourages people to think in terms of what might be exciting and awesome as opposed to what can be done “within the rules”.

    It took a a few sessions for my players to realize – “Hey, you mean there’s no mathematical/mechanical disadvantage if I just try clock this bandit with my tankard than if I were to stab him with my dagger?”

    Dungeon World, to us anyway, is more about building cool character experiences . . . and less about character-builds.

    You take away the math behind the character and you free the character from becoming dependent on that math. You embrace the persona of your character, not the numbers behind them. It’s so simple, it’s brilliant!

  5. Ari Black, yes sir. I can dig table top skirmish games as well. I really like WW2 squad-level combat in particular.

    But I would agree that when comes to role-playing, I’ll stick to what DW is serving up!

  6. That’s wonderful AJ!

    Are you guys also playing around with using a monster move on a 7-9 too? (rather than just dealing damage) – this can open up a whole slew of narrative potential.

  7. Nathan Roberts, actually, sometimes I just ask the players to narrate what happens on 7-9.

    Once they realize that is 7-9 is either a partial succes or compromised success, it’s amazing what they do to themselves.

    Sometimes I really think they are crueler on themselves than I as their GM would ever be.

  8. Yes this! You know the thing that frustrated me about d&d and what got me clamouring to go back to DW was that it was so focused on fighting and yet none of the fights ive had in that system are as memorable as the fights we have concocted in DW.

    Its not just hack and slash its all the moves that make your fights turn into epic scenes.

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