So… Ran a game of Dungeon World last night and I ran into 2 distinct situation that I could use some help with. In think they both stem from me not quite understanding the use of “Defy Danger”.

So the party were fighting a tree monster and after a few rounds, one of them decided to bust his lantern on the thing to kill it. This doesn’t quite feel like a hack and slash, nor does it feel like volley. In the end, I went with defy danger with INT. And as a result of a successful roll…. I just said that it killed the monster outright. The monster was the danger and the pc defied it. Is that correct?

Just curious what others would have done in that situation? In retrospect, I probably would have preferred to just do a hack and slash roll, with the fire doing some damage.

Another issue I ran into was drowning…. A pc was getting pulled under water by an unseen assailant. I called for a defy danger, which was failed and resulted in the pc getting pulled underwater further. When the other PC’s tried to help… Should I have used the aid/interfere move to assist the drowning pc or get the helping PC’s to roll a defy danger to save him?

Thanks for any help. My players are LOVING the game, I just want to make sure that the mechanics aren’t breaking down on my end.

11 thoughts on “So.”

  1. I use Defy Danger to have the characters avoid the bad consequences of something they’re doing. So sure, you set the tree on fire, but does it grab you and hold you against its (now burning) trunk while you do it? So I’d have done it with DEX. As for the effect… fire is slow. Give it a damage point each [amount of time you pick], and have them dodge its flaming attacks in the meantime. But overall, I’m of the opinion that if a player finds a perfect solution for a challenge, just give, like you did.

    As for drowning, if you want to avoid keeping them in the status quo after the roll, say: “you can get free, but roll Defy Danger to see if you can do it without bad consequences.” Then others can make rolls to aid. And if they fail, they’re free, but they lost their weapon, or took some damage from drowning, or whatever seems most interesting.

  2. I think I would have retooled the tree, on the fly, as a significantly more dangerous opponent (on fire) with fewer HP.  But it sounds like youse all had fun, so that’s not to be taken as criticism.  I think you still hit the purpose of play.

    As for the drowning – that’s tough.  What did they do, exactly, to help?  I can see anything from a separate defy danger roll, to assigning them a hard choice right from the get-go before/without rolling (failure+aid=costly success, usually), to having them sucked into the situation in their own right.

  3. My go-to custom move for drowning and whatnot:

    When you take a breath and plunge beneath the waves, hold 1 AIR, or 1+CON if you have time to really fill your lungs. 

    Each time you make a move while submerged, spend 1 AIR. If you have no more AIR, mark a debility instead.  If all your debilities are marked, roll your Last Breath now.

    Then make GM moves as normal, like Federico Totti says. And watch them panic.

  4. I agree with what you did with the lantern, it’s a clever plan but if it did not work a very dangerous one so INT to me is fine (besides Defy Danger with INT does not come up very often so it’s a good chance to use it).

    Regarding drowning I’d go for defy danger with CON and certainly Aid is helpful but ask yourself first (and the players) How are you helping exactly? That will give you a hint on how to apply the rules. How is the assailant breathing? What options have the character instead of escaping? How loaded is the character? What’s most exiting and climatic at the moment death or survival? How can you enhance the experience? I say, let the player roll for a discern realities and see what he asks for when trying to find a way to save his life. It’s a death trap but it does not mean it has to be also a dead end for her,

  5. I would have done the exact same thing you did with the fire on the tree. DD vs some appropriate stat — INT works for smart thinking, but DEX too works, and on a 10+ I would have asked the player to describe how he killed the tree monster. Fire is a dangerous thing to be playing with, so 6- and even 7-9 rolls can result in a perilous situation.

    For the drowning, Aid is only effect if the player rolls a 6 or 9 on their Defy Danger break free from being pulled. If that roll comes up, if it another PC(s) is in a position to Aid, I ask for a roll (after a description from the player on what they are doing to help). Otherwise, Aid doesn’t affect the outcome. I describe the hard move I make as a result of the 6- roll on the DD and would really put the character in mortal peril, but leave room for the player and the party to come up with a way to save him. There’s usually a roll for whatever they come up with and if it’s a 6-, then it’s probably Last Breath for the character. Dylan Knight had almost an exact same scenario in a game he was running for me and a couple of friends once.

  6. Ok, Burn the Treant:  I think a lot of the suggestions are good but one thing in your description was, “I just said that it killed the monster outright”  Not much description here, not much action.  Spice it up.  First for Rolls:  Defy Danger is a good one,  You are defying the swinging branches of an animate tree to get close enough to the tree to break a lantern on it, spilling oil and setting it aflame.  So, Defy Danger: Roll+Dex or Roll+Int (for timing, go with player’s Choice).  You need to pay attention to just HOW they say they are doing it.  If they throw it from afar then use Volley, with little chance of the oil getting far enough to coat the tree.  Getting up close and breaking it over the main trunk: Defy Danger.  For Starting Damage, I would allow a roll of the character’s base damage die, maybe do a b[ 1+rounds burning (damage die)] each round.  Give the Tree armor against the fire of 1-2 as it is an intelligent tree and not too keen on fire.  If given a move by a PC failure or the PCs ease up on the pressure of combat, the tree has an opportunity to put itself out.  Maybe, one round of opting for the tree to do damage with b[ 2 dice of damage] to represent the fire having a negative effect.  Remember, that each action sequence or roll or what ever is not an “action” but can be a series of actions in the narrative. A single Hack&Slash roll can be 2 combatants trading blows, parry, dodge, thrust, type of exchange where the actual damage is the lucky hit.  Ham it up with the descriptions.  Give the descriptions life and encourage your players to describe their actions vividly.

    Now for Drowning:  I like the Hold=Air left concept. and adding debilities if no holds.  Defy danger with Roll+Con would be appropriate.  Again, give descriptions of being dragged under by the unknown and if witnessed then the pull under, as of a horror movie.  Or if not witnessed, a sudden, “He’s not there” moment.  Really try to evoke the mystery or horror of the event.  Pull those details out of yourself and your players to make the fiction come alive.  It can be exhausting but when you hear them re-tell the event and describe even more detail than what was actually at the table, it will be worth it.  It LIVES.  The memory is pollished to give added luster and added life.

    Hope it helps.

  7. Regarding the oil & the tree… I think you could resolve the “attack” in any of the ways described (H&S, Volley, or DD with Int)… the 10+/7-9/6- outcomes on them are all similar.

    Personally, regardless of the roll, I would have just had the player roll damage, and possibly narrated it as catching on fire (barring other fictional details; if this was “matchstick treant” or you’d made a big deal of the terrible drought or the players fuel their lanterns with napalm).  

    A successful Defy Danger does not = you kill it.  A successful Defy Danger = you do it, but the effects of what you do are still constrained by the shared fiction.

  8. Yeah, to me (but I’m totaly newb lol) : I’d be tempted to do Hack N Slash and do fire damage that bypass armor kandria webb tag probably. Nasty burns!

    For drowning, well I guess what’s interesting in the fiction for me isn’T if the character drown or not (well, unless this is a very tense moment, or if you’re playing a more hardcore/grim game), it is more : what’s the cost of staying underwater for too long. For me : losing equipment and some HP would do the trick with a simple Defy Danger CON check.

  9. All great responses! Thanks everyone for the help. My dungeon world – fu continues to grow. Gotta say, it’s really cool to have such a supportive community here. 🙂

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