Help me out.

Help me out.

Help me out. I think Stun damage has been discussed before. How do you all read and apply this chunk of rules text (DW p24)? “Stun damage is non-lethal damage. A PC who takes stun damage is defying danger to do anything at all, the danger being “you’re stunned.””

I’m interested in focusing on that part, but if the rest of the paragraph helps you, here it is:

This lasts as long as makes sense in the fiction—you’re stunned until you can get a chance to clear your head or x whatever stunned you. A GM character that takes stun damage doesn’t count it against their HP but will act accordingly, staggering around for a few seconds, fumbling blindly, etc.

64 thoughts on “Help me out.”

  1. “You’re stunned. What do you do?”

    “Well that orc is still coming after me right? He’s not going to stop just because he bashed my head with his shield?”

    “You’re dimly aware, in your swimming mind, that yeah, there’s probably a follow-up hatchet coming your way — if the room would just stop spinning so you could see it coming.”

    “Yeah, I’m hunkering down, shield up, and praying.”

    “Sounds like you’re trying to Defend; I need you to defy danger first.”

    “Defy Danger? Why’s that?”

    “Your ears are ringing, your vision is swimming, your nose is bloodied if not broken, and your skull is just on fire with all this overload — you’ve got to focus, right yourself, and hunker down to do what you wanna do, and all before the hatchet blows land.”

    “Ah, okay, fair — Defy Danger it is. Plus DEX for speed?”

    “Go for it.”

    Variations on that ^ basically. Compare and contrast to, say, the party ranger interrupting to snipe the attacking orc and take out the threat. Suddenly, the PC has a breather and is described as stooping down to breathe in and out and shake the sound from their ears. With a small moment of peace the PC is tip top and can act without Defying Danger from the Stun damage.

  2. Here’s my interpretation, in example:

    Monster has like numbing spittle (d6, stun, close) and spits at the Fighter. Fighter takes 3 dmg and thus us “stunned”. Fighter can:

    – Charge the thing to try to kill it, but has to DD+Con first. If she fails, maybe her legs crumple under her and she can’t get up – what do you do?

    – But maybe she succeeds, and she gets in close to H&S, rolls a 5. GM makes a move and says, perhaps, the numbing spittle takes her down, nearly catatonic. She can’t move, and someone will need to help. She’s at the thing’s feet and it look hungry! Wizard, what do you do?

    – Perhaps instead of charging, Fighter says “I duck behind a rock and try to wipe this stuff off”. GM decides there’s nothing interesting to defy here, so he just says “sure, you can do that but it’ll take a bit, and you’ll leave your friends in the lurch, you ok with that?”

    – Maybe the GM decides it WOULD be interesting. “Defy Danger to actually get behind that rock… oh you failed, lol you make it behind the rock and land flat on your face unable to move! No one knows you’re there!”

  3. Yup yup yup. But that makes stun SUPER powerful. If a monster with stun damage hits me for 1, I now have to make two rolls to do something. And it keeps happening every time I try to act. Whew. I feel like if a character passes the first Defy Danger roll, I wouldn’t make them do it again. (It’s funny how seldom this comes up a the table. I think, like 3.x grappling, I’ve been avoiding it or just using the fiction to go around it. Mostly I use a debility instead. So you would be at -1 to Defend rather than having to Defy Danger to even attempt a Defend.)

  4. Interesting… I disagree w/ Alfred Rudzki ‘s “trying to Defend” call. I see very little point in using the Defend move to “defend yourself”, as the options it gives are often useless, it’s defying danger (but that’s another discussion…). However, that leads to the following situation: (say, starting from a 7-9 on H&S or worse, DD). “The orc stuns you with a shield bash… and is coming at you for another hit” “OK, H&S seems too risky, I think I’m Defying Danger again here (maybe just trying to get away?)”. Now, the rules for handling stun damage state that the PC has to DD just to act at all — but DD is the action they’re trying to accomplish, and making them roll 2 DD in a row seems icky and not-at-all in the spirit of DW/PbtA.

  5. Oh, wait. Is that what the text means. If you fail the Defy Danger you are Stunned (-1 INT). So after you roll the DD once it’s over one way or the other?

  6. Charles Gatz Yeah. The last half of that. WTF. Defy Danger so you can Defy Danger? Nah. I feel like if some form of damage has the stun tag, it should impart the Stunned debility on a successful hit. If you then try to do something for which it matters, you would roll at -1 for the bees buzzing in your head. I don’t know what happens if you are hit a second time with stun damage. It probably doesn’t stack, so you would just get knocked out?

  7. I know I’m rambling a little here, but it’s so … it feels so “off”. There is no similar mechanic for the other debilities. You don’t have to Defy Danger to not be Scarred (or rather you might, but it’s not specifically called out in the text). Same for Confused (which sounds more like Stun damage to me than Stunned does – “Ears ringing. Vision blurred”). Note that Sick is the result of failing Defy Danger against Poison. So I think there could be some symmetry. It (the Stun text) just needs to be phrased better and maybe go in with Debilities.

  8. I think it’s similar to the Messy tag. It IS super powerful. If the player gives the monster a chance to make a move and the monster stuns them, they’re pretty useless unless they can snap out of it or get some help. It can be just as shocking as when an arm goes flying off. It’s one more way to fill their lives with danger.

    Ultimately, I think it’s an opportunity for the players to “save” each other.

    “Now Magglor is stumbling around while the Shrieker-ghoul moves in with a poisoned knife. Lanna, what do you do?”

  9. Ray Otus I don’t think it’s related to the debility at all. It just shares a name with it. Maybe I’m wrong but I suspect the defy danger thing is just a way for the GM to “help” a character that isn’t getting any help and needs a way to act.

  10. Ha. Well, the Stun damage text says the danger is “your’e stunned.” If they aren’t related it’s a very poor choice of wording on the part of the authors. Also, the effects sure sound like the same thing, so if they are separate mechanics then they solved the same problem twice, two different ways.

    Aside from that, I like some of the takes on this, even (maybe especially) those that don’t line up with my thought that it’s just a debility like other forms of non-lethal damage. I’m going to wait to hear Jeremy Strandberg’s thoughts because I’m betting he has put in a lot of time exercising his gray cells on this.

  11. FYI, based on a search of the PDF core book and playsheets, not a single monster has Stun damage. It’s not an option for a Fighter’s weapon. It is only listed in the core book where I noted and as a tag for a weapon to do stun instead of normal damage. Other than that, it has no supporting text. It feels like an aborted rule to me.

  12. Ray Otus That may be but I still think it works as a tag. I have a couple similar tags I’m floating for SB6. They mostly work as reminders to the GM that they can use their move to showcase THIS particular feature of the monster. Rather than list the same move on a bunch of monsters, I made a tag that most of them can share.

  13. Alfred Rudzki In your example, how did you get stunned (first line). Does it just happen when an attack with the stun tag lands? Just asking. I’ve decided I’m talking and not listening. I’m spending more time now analyzing the scenarios you and Aaron Griffin put up. I thought I read them before but I may have failed my INT test.

  14. Aaron Griffin, the stun tag says “When you attack with it, it does stun damage instead of normal damage.” So that doesn’t really always make sense (the tag description) does it? I mean in the first example it was a shield bash, that’s gonna cause real damage (too).

  15. Ray Otus I get what you’re saying, but I think it might be too… specific, maybe? If something does fire damage, or falling damage, it’s not separate – it’s just a reduction in hit points like getting hit with a sword.

    I’ve always played it as doing regular old damage like anything else and IF it actually does harm, it stuns you as per the rest of this discussion. No one has ever died from stun harm, but if they did, I’d just call them “out of action” until tended to.

  16. Yeah Aaron Griffin that sounds about like how it plays out at my table. (Though stunning rarely comes up.) I should probably confess here and say that what I’m doing is trying to edit the DW text down into a nice, clean, consistent, minimally-formatted, baseline text that I can print for myself in hardback. So it’s not a matter of making it work at the table, I can do that. It’s a matter of what the text intends, does it need fixed, and how should it be fixed. I’m tring to monkey with the text as little as possible. (Other than cutting redundancy and lots of unnecessary flavor rambling.) As stated I don’t think the stun rules (tag or stun damage) make sense and I don’t think the authors could explain it either. I think it’s just something that got thrown in, changed, and then they lost sight of it in the numerous edits. The tag definitely doesn’t make sense because it is very clear. A weapon with the stun tag, say a club, would NOT cause normal damage. So it’s a very specific kind of stun.

  17. Ray Otus I’ve come to the same basic conclusion that you have: it’s a weird rule that was ported over from Apocalypse World and then mostly orphaned.

    The fact that the Stunned debility shares a name (and some of the description) with the stun tag is, IMO, an accident.

    If unarmed attacks deal stun damage as a matter of course, then they are in many ways more effective than normal “lethal” attacks, at least against PCs. If an unarmed brawler deals stun damage, they are potentially taking the PC out of the action (or at least making them Defy Danger) but (RAW) not doing any HP damage. By contrast, if that brawler draws a shiv and starts stabbing you, they are doing HP damage and probably not taking you out of the action of forcing you to Defy Danger. Let’s say that brawler is part of a horde of brawlers (d6 damage). Against an average PC with 18 HP, that 1d6 damage from the shiv is a lot less scary than the “Defy Danger to anything” of the punch.

    Unless, of course, you also make people Defy Danger to do anything after they get stabbed or cut or whatever. But I really, really doubt that you do. And even if you did… does your armor help against the unarmed (stun) attack? Normally the damage roll would tell us, but according to the stun rules, there’s no HP damage, so… no armor roll? It just… doesn’t fit.

    (more to come)

  18. Now, if we treated stun as a tag like messy or forceful, something that’s added to the damage die instead of replacing it, I think it becomes more palatable. As with messy or forceful, you’d likely modulate it based on the fiction and the damage rolls involved and how hard of a move you felt entitled to make.

    Like, an assassin vine doing 3 messy damage on a 7-9… it leaves you with this horrible bleeding puncture wounds all up and down your limbs, and maybe the PCs have to spend an extra set of bandages to patch that shit up, right? But a dragon doing 12 messy forceful damage with its huge bite after you rolled a miss to Defend… say goodbye to your arm.

    Same thing could work here… you deal 3 stun damage with your mace, but the orc champion has 3 armor… well, you don’t deal damage but you do boink it in the head and it staggers back for a second and you’ve got a moment’s opportunity, what do you do? 10 stun forceful damage against the PC, from the treant’s massive sweeping limbs? Well, Ovid, you just saw Hawke go flying and land in a heap, what do you do?

    But I don’t think you really need that. I don’t feel the need, at least. Almost any attack that would be forceful would also get stun, and this feels like something you can just modulate with fiction and interpreting the rolls anyway.

    Alternately, the stun tag could mean that an attack deals non-lethal damage, still depleting HP but not actually wounding/maiming/killing the target. A creature dropped to 0 HP with stun damage is unconscious or stunned, not dead or dying.

    But again, I don’t think you need that as a tag. The number of weapons that would use that in DW are tiny: maybe a sap, maybe some magical weapon. Most of the time, that would be handled fictionally by things like “I basket punch him in the back of the head” or “I put him in sleeper hold and choke him out.”

    And when monsters deal that sort of damage to PCs, there’s usually gonna be a monster move that indicates it (e.g. the maggot-squid’s paralyze with a touch move, or moves like “beat them into submission” or “knock their lights out”). Or you could just use a GM move like “separate them” or “put them in a spot”.

    So… a lot of words to say:

    * I’d basically ignore the rules for stun damage and the stun tag

    * If PCs describe subduing someone through violence, deal HP damage normally but 0 HP = KO/stun instead of dead/dying.

    * When monsters try to subdue PCs with violence, that’s just a GM move

  19. Now, to kinda-sorta actually answer your initial question: let’s suppose that there’s a monster with a paralyzing/stunning attack. The maggot-squid works great!

    First, we need to establish how the maggot-squid is getting off it’s attack. Let’s say that the PC attacked it, rolled a H&S and got a 7-9. Or it attacks the PC, the PC dodges, and gets a 7-9 to Defy Danger with DEX.

    On either of those results, I’m going to go fairly light with their paralyze with a touch move. I’m also going to decide how that works or what it feels like… I decide that their tentacles are like electric eels! So they do damage and paralyze! But the paralysis is short-term, usually. So…

    “As you stab it/dodge away from it, one of it’s tentacles grazes your arm and it’s like ZOLT your arm goes numb and tingly and you hear a clatter as your sword hits the ground. Take a d6 damage. You still up?

    Okay, cool… it’s like your arm is asleep, all pins and needles and clumsy and here the damn thing comes again, what do you do?”

    On a miss, go harder: “You make your move, but the thing’s too fast, you get like three or four tentacles around your arm and ZZZZAAPPP your whole world goes white! Take a d6 damage. Now, Ovid, you just saw this thing grab onto Hawke and he like froze up and just dropped, but you’ve two more of them crawling through the muck at you, what do you do?”

    Ovid’s a clever boy and casts invisibility and gets a 7-9 and now he’s in a spot and he’s surrounded by thee of them blindly flailing about, and we jump back to Hawke who’s like paralyzed by a gods-damned maggot-squid.

    “Okay, Hawke, you start to come to, and everthing is numb and you think maybe you were just taking a nap at home but then you realize your ears are buzzing and you can’t really move like all your limbs are asleep, but over the buzzing in your ears you hear this… squelching? And you finally get your eyes and your head to turn a little and HOLY SHIT THERE’S A SQUID MAGGOT CHEWING ON YOUR ARM. Take another d6 damage… and it’s just like nom-nom-nom what do you do?”

    And Hawke’s player is like “can I shake it off my arm?” and I’m like “well, you can really feel your limbs… how do you do that?” And he’d be like “I sorta freak out and just like roll with my whole body, hoping to fling thing off of me.” “Sounds like you’re powering through! That’ll be a Defy Danger with STR!” (Or they calmly will their arm to act, using WIS. Or they claim that they spent years practicing the ancient art of demon wrestling and this is the sort of thing they were trained to endure, so use CON, or whatever.)

    On a 10+, they regain their control of their limbs, everything’s still a little tingly but they’re otherwise okay and free to act. Maybe I remember this, and on a subsequent GM move I weave it back it in… “Oh, yeah, you try to dance past it and get to Ovid but your leg’s still a bit numb and you go down in a tumble, the thing scurries towards you, what do you do?” But mostly, I assume they’ve gotten over it.

    On a 7-9, I either let them fling the squid-maggot off their arm but their arm is still hanging limp and paralyzed for now, or they sit their in paralyzed horror as the thing chews (another d6 damage!) and the pain finally breaks through the paralysis, you’re free to do move, what do you do?

    On a miss… damage, and more stunning (I think), and probably jump back to Ovid and see if he can help Hawke out, and if he can’t eventually jump back to Hawke and maybe raise the stakes some… like another squirms towards you or the one on your arm starts squirming towards your face, that sort of thing.

  20. Thoughts a-brewing on the debilities thing. Short version of my theory: debilities get used in 2 ways:

    1) As a mechanical effect added to fictional conditions (e.g. you got your arm busted/torn up… you can’t use it and also Weakened). In which case, the stat penalty is an afterthought and healing is fiction-oriented

    2) As a mechanical consequence of a move (e.g. the Paladin’s Bloody Aegis), in which case the fictional consequences are largely tacked-on and the debility likely lasts until you use the Recover move.

    And two groups might experience debilities entirely differently, depending on what playbooks they’ve got or what optional rules they’re using. #2 isn’t going to be a lot more common among folks who, say, have a Paladin with Bloody Aegis.

    Also: I agree with a few of the comments that the names of the debilities are problematic: being “Stunned” for an entire 2-3 days or “Scarred” for only 2-3 days is weird.

  21. Hey. FYI, to Logan Howard and Alfred Rudzki and Aaron Griffin and Charles Gatz and anyone else I missed – while I agree with Jeremy Strandberg about the importance of the Stun text in the core rules and what should be done about it, that doesn’t mean I disagree with you all. As I read what you have written it sounds to me like you are all “doing it right.” Which means you have all found fun (often similar) ways of dealing with Stun damage in the fiction. And because fiction always leads in Dungeon World, the “house ruling” for most things is painfully obvious. A thing does what it seems like it should do! I was worried about the academic side of things because of my project.

  22. It was a particularly interesting conversation because of the tags I’m thinking about adding to SB6.


    Simmering – (Weapon tag) Attacks made by the Jinn often result in extra-planar burns. Until they are fully healed, wounds from Jinn strikes can potentially continue to damage the victim or even temporarily paralyze them with searing pain. When the GM gets a move, they may take advantage of the Simmering tag to roll light damage or make the character suffer and lose fictional advantages.

  23. That is SWEET Logan Howard. It kind of reminds me of FATE Aspects (which tags often do), but it’s better. It’s very clear how you might take advantage of this “bomb” you have planted on a character and when you would be allowed to do it. By bomb I just mean a thing with a delayed fuse.

  24. Logan Howard I think you’re onto the right path. One thing I don’t like about how many games handle tag-esque mechanics is that, if there isn’t enough mechanical guidance it just feels like fluff or a huge mental chore for the GM. If it’s too heavy on mechanics, it feel like the GM must follow rules in a box.

    Logan, your Shimmer description is in that sweetspot of elegance of flavor and ease of implementation. I look forward to SB.

  25. For the same reason I don’t like weapon tags much in DW (see the other recent thread about that topic) I am also not a big fan of tags for monsters. It seems…tagged on. At least for weapons, it is kinda useful as it tells players what their weapons can do or might be used for.

    TL;DR version: In my opinion, the only use for monster tags is for you to kinda remember what the monster you had in mind was intended to be able to do. If during play that wasn’t made obsolete, that is. You apply the tags in the fiction where it makes sense, and in a manner that makes sense based on what you established about the specific monster, and the manner in which the stun is applied. Fiction first.

    Longer version:

    What are tags really meant to do? This holds for the stun tag, but also for many others (including messy, piercing, etc).

    Do we need help to remember what monsters can do, or tags as justification to do it? Maybe, but the fiction should tell us what the monster is doing and what outcomes follows from that.

    And if it has a tag, does it apply to anything the monster does? Again, what is the monster doing?

    Let’s take a random example, let’s say you are fighting a giant scorpion of some sort:

    Its great if that giant scorpion has a stinger that can inject a stunning poison that can take down an elephant. but if he’s attacking you with its claws, trampling your or smashing you around with its stinger, that’s not going to matter.

    And if he does sting you, but doesn’t hit you hard enough to pierce your armor? How the hell is he going to stun you with its poison then?

    And if he does major damage to you with a sting right in the chest…. Maybe that overload of his poison is enough to paralyze your then and there for the remainder of the fight or hell, even kill you on the spot by stopping your heart. Yet if he stings you in the leg, you may be stuck on the ground but still able to crawl/fight/shoot/cast a bit.

    Now let’s say he’s trying to trample you. That sounds like something that could leave you stunned as well, but for entirely different reasons and with a different fiction attached to it. I imagine a PC getting hit on the head and being knocked out / defenseless for a moment.

    Swinging with his tail could be a forceful attack, knocking you across the room.

    Crunching you with its claws might simply ignore your armor and make you unable to move if he gets a really good grip.

    The stinger itself is probably going to pierce at least some types of armor. And while the poison will stun you, the stinger itself will probably hurt quite a bit as well all by itself.

    So this scorpion could easily be justified as having several tags: Stunning, piercing, forceful… but not everything should ‘ triggers’ on every attack if you go with the fiction. Especially not the stun. But if it does, boy, you could be in some serious trouble.

    Time to come up with a good strategy to handle this monster!

  26. Gerke Bouma solid!

    IMO, the whole tags/qualities/moves system for monsters is important for exactly three reasons:

    1) To give yourself permission or constraint, allowing you disclaim a bit of decision making at the table. E.g. if I give my undead elven warlord the messy tag on her attacks and a move that says “Counter all but the most inspired of attacks” as a move, then I’ve given myself permission to shut PC attacks down and make some hard-ass moves. “Yeah, you swing at her, but don’t roll Hack & Slash… it’s like trying to cut snow. She’s just not there, and her blade is flashing at your throat, you’ve but a mere moment to react and your sword is out of position, what do you do?”

    (Similarly, statting up a monsters HP, Armor, and Damage gives you both permission and constraint, and a prompt for playing to see what happens.)

    2) To communicate your vision of the monster to others. This is really only important if you’re sharing.

    3) To serve as a reminder to yourself when you introduce the monster in play. Basically the same as #2, but with an audience of Future You.

    I am often playing fast and loose with moves & tags, especially for a monster I make in play. If I can picture it in my mind, all I want is HP/Armor/Damage and I’m good to go.

  27. Gerke Bouma In your example I would expect only the stinger “weapon” to have the Stun tag. Other types of attacks wouldn’t trigger a stun unless the GM had some fictional reason for it. I mostly agree with your thinking here. I DO feel that weapon tags make a lot of sense because they short-hand the information in a way that helps identify how to use the monster or weapon.

    Using your example, I would expect my players to know what scorpion tales are all about and I would describe a creature that is trying to bring its tail into play (monsters know how to use their natural weapons after all). If the characters didn’t specifically avoid that tail and the monster was given an “attack”, I would definitely cause the character who was struck to start convulsing. My mom was stung by a scorpion once so I would certainly let the player know how excruciating the experience is. If another character wasn’t around to heal them or get them to safety, I would probably make them struggle to act (good old Defy Danger).

    Of course Jeremy Strandberg answered with a more thoughtful response before I could post this!

  28. Gerke Bouma I can see where you’re coming from with weapon tags for players gear. Since, as a GM, I’m not looking directly at the weapon stats, I’d have to constantly ask the player ‘which tags does your legacy sword have again?’

    For monsters though, I agree with +The Strandman. Its just about mental shortcuts and keeping myself within a confines. To his rule #1, it also keeps the buffer between my decisions as a GM and ‘fairness’ in check. I can point to the paper and say that ‘That’s what it says the monsters moves are, my hands are tied…😂’

  29. Andrew Huffaker I think there really is a place for that. Dungeon World can get deadly, or super dangerous, in a hurry and it helps to have a little “mechanical” support if the players feel like you’re being too mean. On the other hand, if you’re getting that response, it might be time to examine how much fun they’re having and bend things a little for the sake of the game.

  30. Logan Howard I went back and reread my post. Let me say it from the other way, it came out wrong. I meant to say that having tags and move descriptions on the sheet keeps you fair on both ends. I can’t have a mouse rip your arm off with a flying move because I have to still stay within the confines of player expectations. The GM rules forbid me, unless there is a reason. On that same token, harder/more dangerous monsters need to be presented as harder monsters and their moves reflect that.

    Cordova once spoke about this very thing when he had a owlbear rip someone’s arm off on a 7-9 roll. The player was of course pretty miffed, but I think Cordova kept it canonical.

    For the record, I’m not promoting abusing the tags and moves to be a Dungeon Bastard. There are different systems for that, I guess.

  31. Logan Howard thanks! I musta misread your post before.

    Going back to Ray Otus​, I had a situation just last Tuesday wherein a monster with stun went to fictional stun someone. I had to think for a second to see if I wanted him to also deal damage. I feel you should deal damage if it brunt damage that causes stun, ie. In my game a troll hit someone with a tree trunk. I Didn’t have it deal damage, but stun instead and the player looked at me like I was nuts.

    In that same game, a ranger went to stun the troll by doing a called shot. He rolled 7-9, so he stunned but didn’t deal damage and I also didn’t have him use an arrow. I don’t know if that was right either.

    I’m short, I think that stun as a condition my have been conceptualized more in a fiction like being shocked by an eel, stun spore from a ‘shroom, or sap to the skull. Not so much by something that would normally also cause lethal damage. This makes it hard to narratively support sometimes.

  32. Andrew Huffaker in that last example, you’re also running into a problem that I think Called Shot has: the 7-9 result has you do damage or have the desired effect.

    That kinda flies in the face of the rule that “if something deals damage, it deals damage.” It makes you come up with some rather weirdly precise fictional results to justify “they’re dazed” from a head shot but they didn’t get any closer to death.

    Like, it makes sense from a game mechanic standpoint. But it’s always rubbed me the wrong way.

  33. Jeremy Strandberg right, I had to say that it ricochet off his head like he was wearing a football helmet or something.

    Ive had issues with fiction like that before as well. A player got his eye ripped out, but it didn’t take hp…. Maybe this is just one of those areas were game meets ‘game’ and it’s hard to reconcile.

  34. Note that in the text for monster attacks (under deal damage) it specifically tells you that you can go ahead and deal real damage when using one of the monster’s moves. “Use this damage any time the monster takes direct action to hurt someone, even if they use a method other than their normal attack.” Say the monster had “stunning slap” as a move. You could do whatever you want with that fictionally AND pin a few points of HP loss on the target. (In fact, that is what makes the most sense fictionally.)

  35. Andrew Huffaker Ray Otus sort of already unpacked it for me. Ultimately, it’s up to the GM. The only real guide is the fiction.

    One of the monsters I recently created is really just a huge dude that likes to fight with his bare hands. One of his moves allows him to throw characters over small buildings because that’s exactly the kind of thing that would happen in the source material I borrowed him from. I would expect the character to take damage from the “landing” but the fiction might say otherwise. The group playing could be fans of Assassin’s Creed and there might be a tiny lump of hay to land on. Maybe the GM wants to give the character a defy danger roll to see if they can catch on to that flag pole. The GM can decide if the game is better served by the character getting hurt or just being separated from the group for a bit (or both).

    Fights in Dungeon World are cinematic and exciting exactly BECAUSE the GM is encouraged to think beyond the damage roll. It is often more interesting to use a move to create a complication.

  36. Logan Howard True. To me, monster moves are one of the best techs of the game. Sure, other bestiaries give descriptions of a monster fighting style in blobs of flavor text, but that has no mechanical component. And they list special attacks, but that has no flavor component. (A good GM will add what’s lacking but the system doesn’t help her.) In DW the monster move is usually flavorful ( I love the move for Black Pudding about oozing into your stomach. ) AND it’s mechanical, dice rolls tell you exactly when you can use it.

  37. Ray Otus you make a great point. It has been so long since I started playing DW that I forgot how much of a revelation the monster manual is. Outside of the short paragraph for flavor, the monster will have maybe 3 or so moves and some simple stats. That means that preparing for a session ahead of time doesn’t take 45 minutes just to transcribe monster stats.

    In contrast, Stradh from Ravenloft has 3 pages of moves and stats and location moves and spells that you have to look into a different book and minions that are in ANOTHER book.

    DW is really suitable for making up a monster on the fly as well. I seriously get giddy just thinking about it…. I’ve shared too much.

  38. Logan Howard Jeremy Strandberg I completely agree the tags can serve a clear purpose as a reminder (towards yourself or others). Nothing wrong with that.

    As far as tags giving you ‘permission’ to take certain moves towards your players…. I have some problems with that. Don’t get me wrong, I totally get that line of thought, but only two situations come to mind.

    (Ray Otus please forgive me for derailing your thread here a bit by using messy as an example. It works for stun as well, just not as obvious)

    1) You make a move that results in someone’s arm getting ripped off. Your player is totally OK with it. No need to show him that the tag was part of the monster design.

    2) You make a move that results in someone’s arm getting ripped off. Your player goes ‘ WTF man?!?!?’. Showing him that the tag was part of the monster design probably won’t help much, as he clearly feels cheated one way or another.

    Situation 1 usually results if you made clear up front that the game could be dangerous, gore was part of the deal, and the monster was obvious powerful and ferocious. Situation 2 will likely result if you did NOT do one of these things. That is a GM issue which has nothing to do with the tags.

    Back on topic (sortof):

    In response to Andrew Huffaker and several others with regards to NOT dealing damage on an attack that also stuns… I personally think that the whole point of stun damage is BOTH the stun and the damage. I mean sure I can think of examples where not taking any damage could make sense, but in most cases: if an attack is powerful enough to somehow stun an experienced adventurer, surely it wasn’t very friendly and brought him a bit closer to death?

    In the beforementioned AP section of Discern Realities by Jason Cordova where the PC is hamstrung and has his eye literally exploding, the PC took zero hitpoint damage. I only recently listend to that, and I have to admit to being a bit mystified. Doesn’t that make hitpoints obsolete to begin with?

    If anyone can explain to me the rationale behind that I would be grateful!

  39. Gerke Bouma when I say “give myself permission,” I don’t mean it as a way to justify it to the player. I mean it as a way to say to myself: “I have, prior to the game starting, decided that this is something the monster is capable of and that, to be true to my vision of the monster, it should do stuff like this.”

    Regarding the AP where the PC lost an eye and a hamstring but didn’t take any HP damage… I asked Jason about that (as I totally would have dealt damage). Lessee if I can dig that up… here: – Here's a link to Episode 33 of Discern Realities. In this episode, we go …

    Here’s Jason’s response (in that thread):

    “In the actual game where the sahuagin bit off the character’s arm, I don’t actually recall whether HP damage was done or not (it was ages ago). In the case of Lucero’s eye, I wouldn’t do HP damage because I don’t think there’s a chance the wound would kill him in the middle of the fight. It would hurt like hell, warranting a -1forward or ongoing, but I don’t think it would take a guy like Lucero down.”

    Personally, I’d have dealt HP damage. But I can see where Jason’s coming from.

  40. Jeremy Strandberg Thanks for that, interesting to read! Also glad i’m not the only one who went ‘huh?’ on that session 😛

    Honestly I do have somewhat of an issue with both dealing damage and using messy (or whatever tag) along with it, as it feels you’re actually doing more than one move at the same time (or at least making a VERY hard move).

    Hitpoints in itself is part of the problem there. If you’re not consistent, then your hamstrung-eye-blown-out guy will survive a large battle on full HP while the next day, his friend might die from a few lucky max rolls from a lousy goblin. And even if you ARE consistent with when you deal out damage, that could still happen. That’s where the safety valves come into play that you can use as a GM on too many bad rolls, but still.

    That said, I’ve not really played many games aside from D&D and DW and I don’t know if there is a substitute for HP that really makes sense. I’ve seen some other systems online but those just felt like ‘still hp but with a different name’ to me.

    [For the record, it seems i’ve been bashing several elements of this great game in the past few days. Those are just my pet peeves in a game I otherwise adore! :)]

  41. Gerke Bouma DW has hit points as a way to bridge the gap between PbtA games and D&D. As a hold over, it kind of makes things clunky but it also sort of brings a sense of familiarity and nostalgia.

  42. It’s nice that the DM has the choice and can do what makes sense in the fiction. Also, in many ways narrative damage IS damage. I think we’re caught up in the idea and of HP being the one and only way to demonstrate a character’s wounds. Debilities are harm too. Getting a finger cut off is harm (good luck firing that bow – no more Volley for you). It all boils down to “the DM chooses what kind(s) of damage to deal, whether it involves HP damage not.” Quoted for emphasis, not from the text.

  43. I almost always tack on damage to any harm relating action agaisnt a PC. Even if its a simple “…and take one damage” along with everything else. It furthers the PCs “clock” before they kick the bucket.

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