I’ve been thinking about about “engaging” combats and how HP tends to make things feel boring to me (“I attack again.

I’ve been thinking about about “engaging” combats and how HP tends to make things feel boring to me (“I attack again.

I’ve been thinking about about “engaging” combats and how HP tends to make things feel boring to me (“I attack again…”). There was a post here recently about more fictional combat, but it was a bit too complex for my tastes.

So I’m rolling around this idea – just like Moves, any opposition can have a number of Defenses listed. It might simply be something like “sidestep out of the way”, “armor takes the blow”, “deflect with a shield”, or even “snatch an arrow out of the air”. If the players do not address a specific defense in some meaningful way, there would be no Hack and Slash roll, but a Defy Danger.

Mechanically, this does nothing except codify when you get permission to deal damage. It presents clear obstacles for the players to overcome, and gives some written down facts to present in response to Discern Realities rolls.

What do you think?

20 thoughts on “I’ve been thinking about about “engaging” combats and how HP tends to make things feel boring to me (“I attack again.”

  1. Chalice In Chains I had an older beta release somewhere, but don’t own the finished product. Doesn’t it just use AW-style harm?

    I don’t actually want to disrupt the typical damage-armor-hp system built in to DW, as I don’t think my players would like it.

  2. I like the concept, but is it really different from the GM using monster moves defensively? Granted, the majority of them are offensive, but with a little mental twist most could be made to be defensive, or add ones that are thematic.

    As long as players address that move, it can no longer be used.

  3. David Perry You’re entirely right, but I paged through the book and didn’t actually see any defensive moves in there. But here’s how I would differentiate Moves and Defenses:

    * A Move is something active the GM leverages as a response to player failures.

    * A Defense is something passive the GM leverages as a rationale to redirect player successes.

  4. David Perry I think that was just bad phrasing and I wasn’t creative enough to say what I wanted. By “success” I actually meant “action”, but it probably doesn’t involve a roll…

    What I mean to say is that a Defense takes an action and shows why there is no permission to perform the action. You cannot shoot the Kung Fu Master, because he grabs your arrows out of the air. The swashbuckler is far too fast for your strikes and is parrying everything. You can’t stab the man inside the ball of dark energy.

    A Defense is a way to say “you can’t roll for that because of THIS. Deal with it and then you can roll”.

    This is all actually covered in the book(?) or other places when people talk about permission to trigger a move. I just want to spell it out better.

  5. Aaron Griffin, you’ve got the right idea there. That’s definitely how the game is meant to be played, and spelling it out more clearly is exactly the tricky part. I like the direction you’re taking with it.

  6. Alessandro Piroddi to enforce cool narration. If I tell you a swashbuckler is deflecting all your attacks and you say “ok, I try again” well then, nothing new happens.

    Let’s go with my favorite baddie – the kung fu master who bends like a reed in the wind, dodging and deflecting attacks with ease. When a player attacks, I would describe a bit of the back and forth and now allow a roll, saying something like “it doesn’t even seem like your best swing can touch him”. So what do they do? I dunno, probably something cool. Maybe throw a net at the guy, or knock some crates on him. Who knows.

  7. That’s a neat idea. It kind of codifies ‘you can’t hack and slash if you aren’t a credible threat’ by creating a list of things that you must account for in order to be considered a credible threat.

  8. A lot of baddies I write/create have these built into their moves (“Counter any but the most inspired attack”) or special qualities (“insubstantial”), or even tags (terrifying or reach). I tend to think of them as “blocks” that need to be overcome in order to have a chance at making a move.

    I think the biggest problem is that the monster questionnaire doesn’t explicitly call these sorts of moves/traits out or prompt you to add them. If was going to change something, that’s where I’d go.

  9. Jeremy Strandberg Could just be me, but concocting an interesting response from a monster based on tags or single words is a bit hard on the spot. That’s the reason I like the Move-style sentence fragments here rather than the tags.

  10. Ah, sure. That’s not really my problem (fight scenes are my jam), but I can see how it would be. I still think adding prompts and new questions to the questionnaire (and maybe new “slots” for defenses, as you suggest) is the main way to go.

  11. Jeremy Strandberg Agreed. My main complaint is that “moves” tend to skip over reactions or defensive things in combat, and tend to be offensive “rip off a limb” type things.

    I’d probably put it in a new slot mainly to signify the difference of “you need to get around this bit here to do what you want” vs the “if you do what you want poorly, this may happen” reading of moves.

  12. And because it isn’t clear based on my initial wording regarding HP – a traditional non-permission based system will simply increase HP to make tougher guys, while DW implies that the permission to attack them should increase.

  13. When I deal damage to them, I have my players roll the damage dice and then (based on the description of the attack, and the severity of the damage) describe their injury to them. And then ask them what they do.

    There’s a world of difference between taking the brunt of an axe strike on your leather vambrace (1 damage after armor) and “Your leather vambrace is not match for the axe, it cleaves into it and leaves a deep, gushing, wound on your forearm.

    You’re going to need to stop the bleeding; and soon!” (4 damage after armor)

  14. Tried that… I still find rolling the damage awkward.

    You describe your action and it looks epic… You roll the move and score a 10+… Maybe you even have the “messy” tag… You roll damage and… Meh, you barely scratch the enemy :/

    No amount of cool descriptions will take away the feeling of having done all for nothing when you roll minimum damage 😛

  15. Alessandro Piroddi it happens, you can somewhat alleviate the issue by shifting the action over from the damage dealing party (who is doing the awesome thing) to the receiving party (who does something to negate most of the damage).

    If your barbarian takes a mighty leaping strike with his messy and forceful axe, but he rolls a 1 on damage, you can describe how his axe impacts (for example) the enemy’s shield, sending sparks flying and leaving a deep furrow in it’s surface.

    If he rolled really well on his hack and slash, you can also opt to give him an opening if you’re feeling generous:

    “Your swing slams into the orc’s shield with devastating force, sparks fly as you carve a deep groove in it’s surface. The orc staggers backwards, unbalanced by the impact. what do you do?”

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