I’m running my first session of Dungeon World in about 28 minutes. Good times shall be had by all.

I’m running my first session of Dungeon World in about 28 minutes. Good times shall be had by all.

I’m running my first session of Dungeon World in about 28 minutes. Good times shall be had by all.

One question: I’ve read through the Dungeon World Guide a few times and noticed it does not always track the RAW from the Dungeon World rulebook (e.g., how to handle damage from multiple monsters attacking a single PC). The Guide describes a PC fighting off multiple opponents and suggests the PC could Hack & Slash against one of the monsters and possibly Defy Danger against the others. I’m confused as to why one would use Defy Danger instead of Defend in that sort of circumstance. Any insight would be appreciated.

6 thoughts on “I’m running my first session of Dungeon World in about 28 minutes. Good times shall be had by all.”

  1. Defend is when you know there’s bad stuff coming and you take up a primarily defensive posture to deal with it (“When you stand in defense”). Dodging blows while you’re trying to stab somebody doesn’t really match that trigger.

    Also, contentious stance that contradicts RAW on my part, but I’m of the opinion that you shouldn’t trigger Defend when protecting yourself, only when protecting somebody or something else. The “redirect the attack to yourself” choice doesn’t make sense otherwise, among other concerns.

  2. You’re right, that triggering H&S and using it to resolve a PC fighting multiple foes is considerably more mechanically favorable than H&S vs. one and Defy Danger vs. the other. And way more favorable than H&S vs. one and the GM ruling “the others are just gonna punk on you, take 1d6+4 damage.”

    The thing is, it’s up to the players (including the GM) to decide what’s appropriate and plausible according to the fiction and the shared vision of the group, and to call for rolls together. This isn’t a simple thing! But in practice, I find it happens pretty naturally, as long as you’re actually talking to each other about it.

    One of the best tools the GM has for this kind of thing is tell the requirements or consequences and ask. In my opinion, you should always do that before you take advantage of a golden opportunity. The other key tool is ask them what that looks like.


    Fighter: “I charge in, yo, chopping down gnolls left and right! Hack and slash?”

    GM: “Well, there’s like 6 of them. Which one are you attacking?” < conversation, clarifying the fiction and expectations >

    Fighter: “Really? I can only attack one dude? That’s kinda lame. I thought I was like the Fighter.” < more conversation and expectations >

    GM: “Well, yeah, I guess. Well, what does it look like, this chopping down?” < being a fan, and then clarifying the fiction >

    Fighter: “So I’ll like bring my ax down on the first one, right? And as I cleave through him I’ll use the momentum to spin and kick the next one, and bring the ax up and BAM… basically just wading in like a tide of iron and blood!” < player describing how their character could feasibly H&S the whole group >

    GM: “Okay! But just so you know, if they get a counter attack in, it’s gonna be bad. Like d8+6 bad and they’re probably gonna like drag your ass down. You do it?” < telling the consequences and asking >

    Fighter: “Oh yeah!” “Yes! 7 damage! And I take d6+4 back?” “Well that’s not bad, only 2 damage after armor!” < mechanical resolution of move >

    GM: “Yeah, sure, it’s like you described… you totally cleave the first one, and kick that second one back, and head chop the third, but then the next three just dogpile on you with tooth and claw and bear you to the ground. You only take a couple scratches but they’ve got you pinned!” <_begin and end with the fiction, then the GM making a soft move, put them in a spot_> “Cleric! You see this happen! The fighter just killed two of the gnolls, sent a third sprawling with a kick, and then got piled on. They’re gonna start ripping him apart, what do you do?” < shifting spotlight >

    Cleric: “Oh dear. I guess I’ll rush in and start knocking them off of the fighter. Hack and Slash?”

    GM: “Well, maybe? Are you trying to, like, kill them? Or just knock them off the fighter? And what does this look like?” < clarifying intent and fiction >

    Cleric: “Oh, well, I don’t see there being much difference. I’m running up and clubbing them with my mace. Not really being too precise about it. Just thumping any gnoll skulls I can get at!”

    GM: “Okay, cool,that’ll be Hack and Slash.”

    Fighter: “Really? Doesn’t he just deal damage? They’re already kinda engaged with me?” < conversation about the game rules and the fictional state >

    GM: “Eh, they’re all ganging up on you, but it’s not like they’re unaware of other threats. Any one of them could easily turn its attention on the cleric as he approaches. Plus, there’s the you kicked and sent sprawling… he’s still a threat, even if momentarily out of it. This is definitely an attack ‘in melee’. Hack and Slash it is.” < clarifying the fiction, a little bit of telling the cleric the consequences >

    Cleric: . “Crap. Maybe not, huh? At least I mark XP…”

    GM: “Oof. Yeah, you move in to start whacking the gnoll-pile, and as you raise your mace to start thumping, the other gnoll, the one that the fighter kicked, it just comes outta nowhere and tackles you and starts raking and biting. Take 1d8 damage.” < uses gnoll monster move, strike at a moment of weakness >

    Cleric: “Oof, 5 damage, less 1 for armor. And this thing’s got me on the ground?”

    GM: “Yup, like the others are doing to the Fighter, but just one of them. Speaking of the Fighter…” < shifting focus > “there’s this flurry of snarling teeth and raking claws and your arm with your ax is pinned down and the other hand is like off over here keeping the one at bay from snapping it’s jaws on your throat, what do you do?” < showing signs of an approaching threat >

    Fighter: “I’ll, like, heavy the one that’s snapping at my throat, smashing his head into the one that’s got my ax-arm pinned, and kick the other one in the crotch! Hack and slash?”

    GM: “Eh, okay, but I don’t think that’s Hack and Slash. I think you’re Defying Danger with STR, trying to get free of the dogpile. Like, you’re not really attacking here, more like trying to get out of a bad sitch.” < conversation, clarifying what's happening >

    Fighter: “Oh, sure, I guess.” “So I get free?”

    GM: “Yup! It’s like you say, right, but in the process you get raked up pretty bad. Take 1d8+2 damage.” < worse outcome > “Okay, so you manage to roll free of the mess. The one that was snapping at your throat is in a heap with the one that was on your arm, and the third one, that you kicked, it recovers and CHOMPs down on your leg and starts worrying you back and forth, what do you do?” < a cross between put them in a spot (because gnoll chomping on leg) and offer an opportunity (gnoll skull in easy reach) >

    Fighter: “Um, I smash this thing’s head off? Please tell me that’s a Hack and Slash.”

    GM: “Oh yeah!” < that was sort of the point of my last GM move >

    FIghter rolls a 10+: “I’ll take expose myself to attack to get the extra damage. 13! Oh yeah!”

    GM: “Yikes. Okay, you take another d8 damage from the thing nomming on your leg.” “And I guess it doesn’t get through your boots! SPLAT! You slice the thing’s snout clear off, and chunk of its brain-pan. You’re free! Now, Cleric, you’ve got this one gnoll slavering all over you, what do you do about that?”

    < and so on >

  3. Eek! I totally missed your ultimate question: why use Defy Danger instead of Defend? Same basic answer as for why Defy Danger instead of Hack and Slash: because the fiction doesn’t really look like the trigger, and we as a group don’t really think it’s appropriate.

    In general, I’ve found that Defend gets triggered when either I ask the player what they do, and they respond by assuming a defensive position (e.g “I’ll step forward, plant my feet, and raise my shield, waiting for them to come at me!”). (And unlike James Etheridge, I think Defending yourself is totally fine. The detailed description of the move specifically says so.)

    The other time it tiggers is when one player jumps in to prevent harm to an ally. (e.g. “The jewel glows bright and launches a bolt of energy at Ovid! Take 1d10 damage, ignores armor!” “Oh, crap, can I tackle Ovid to the ground and shield him?” “Oh, maybe, yeah… roll Defend!?”). That’s a lot more debatable… you could also go with a Defy Danger with DEX.

    (Interestingly, both a Defy Danger with DEX and a Defend roll on that last example end up with pretty similar results. On a 7-9 with defend, you get to redirect the attack to yourself and take the full hit or halve the damage, which is pretty similar to a hard choice on a Defy Danger 7-9.)

  4. Alternatively, Even when a player rolls a 6 or less you can have them succeed and pull a hard move on them. Sometimes that is totally unexpected or even re-directed. I will point to the example listed to show what I mean.

    GM: Ok, Cleric, you are working on trying to get the fighter free. What does that look like? (Clarifying the situation)

    Cleric: Well, I want to use my mace to distract them and get them off of the Fighter, so am I Defending?

    GM: Ok, no. If you started out prior to the attack but in this case you could do a Defy Danger or a H&S but in this case you are going to Defy Danger as any attack on these rabid creatures may make it so that they turn on you.

    Cleric: Ok, so I don’t want to get hurt but I want the Fighter free to work on eliminating the group. I Defy Danger with Strength then. Rolled a 6, well at least I get the XP.

    GM: Ok, you proceed to wail on the backs of the Attackers, going for soft spots, and manage to get their attention away from the Fighter BUT being careful to dodge back at the first sign of them turning on you. IS this correct?:

    Cleric: Yeah, that sounds right.

    GM: Ok, so you beat on them and half of them turn on you. You narrowly jump back from their reach but loose your balance and fall back. They are not directly on you yet but their buddies on the other side, savage the fighter a bit. He takes 1d8 damage from the pile up but has an avenue of exit from the pile up. (The “failure” result caused the damage to the fighter but provided an out in the fiction. The Cleric “succeeded” in his goal but it cost a hard move, transferred to the fighter in the form of another attack. Now the Cleric is in a difficult spot, being prone. A second consequence of rolling a 6 but softened by not having the bad guys on him immediately)

    GM: Now, Fighter, your Cleric has managed to pull some of the bad guys off of you giving you an opening. What do you do?

    Fighter: Well, since my axe arm is free now, I roll backward out of the way and attack the goblins that are about to get my Cleric. Is that Defend or H&S?

    GM: Well, getting out of the reach is clearly a Defy Danger. Lets see if you can get free first. Roll Defy Danger with Dex.

    Fighter: Ok, I got a 12!

    GM: (on a 10 he would have rolled to his feet just fine, since it is the fighter and sometimes you get something special on a 12) Ok, Execelent, you roll backward, using your momentum to pop up and smack at the goblins that foolishly took their attention away from you. Roll damage.

    Fighter: Got a 9

    GM: (figuring a wild slash that he could split the damage up, that is enough to take out the two opponents on the Cleric, Only 3 HP each left.) Ok, you jump up and slash in an arc and catch the two bad guys by suprise killing them. Now Cleric, the bad guys that the Fighter rolled away from are going to attack the back of the fighter. What do you do?

    Cleric: Cast a spell of holding on them. Cast a Spell roll: is 13.

    GM: Excellent, you manage to hold the 2 bad guys with your spell. Fighter what do you do?

    Fighter: Swing around and kill the 2 that are holding. This should finish all of them off.

    GM: Ok, no roll. your axe just takes them out

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