I’ve often been frustrated with how damage works in Dungeon World (and D&D/OSR systems as well).

I’ve often been frustrated with how damage works in Dungeon World (and D&D/OSR systems as well).

I’ve often been frustrated with how damage works in Dungeon World (and D&D/OSR systems as well). The mechanic of rolling for success, then rolling separately for damage has never sat right with me. For example, a 12+ roll resulting in just 1 or 2 damage, presenting a mixed metaphor (as well as a let down for the player). I know you can make it work in the fiction; I usually describe the PC knocking the opponent out, or something. Nevertheless, I was interested in seeing how this mechanic, ripped right out of Vagabonds of Dyfed by Ben Dutter, might work in my favorite fantasy RPG.

I’m aware that folks like the way damage rolling works in DW; I’m not super keen on rehashing this argument for the millionth time. What I’d really love is some feedback on the mechanic itself, and whether it’s useful, fair to monsters & PCs, etc.

Thanks for your time & feedback, folks!

32 thoughts on “I’ve often been frustrated with how damage works in Dungeon World (and D&D/OSR systems as well).”

  1. I would much rather have a descriptive damage system simply using a number of hits to take a thing down – combat prowess doesn’t determine how bad a knife wound injures a guy

  2. Aaron Griffin Sure, I’ve looked at numerous such systems in the past year or so. This hack is really more of a thought experiment for me. There are people (like myself) that occasionally enjoy a D&D-like damage & HP metric. I wrote this for those types of players.

  3. What about having “advantage” on damage rolls on 10+? The damage wouldn’t be over the expected maximum, but the player will have a better chance to roll higher.

    By advantage I mean roll twice and use the highest.

  4. Sure combat prowess could impact how badly a knife wounds somebody—if it makes the difference between a throat slash and a nick on the arm.

    In DW, I would sometimes tell players to roll b[2dX] for damage when they rolled a 12+, so I totally get what this house rule is for. In LotFP, I actually made that my house rule for natural 20 attack rolls. (Fighters get b[2dX] on a critical hit, AND if their opponent is alive in a normal sense, the enemy has to Save Vs Poison or drop dead.)

    I don’t have a problem compensating with the fictional positioning, but I agree it is lame when the player rolls a 10+ on roll that lets them deal damage, and then their damage die comes up a 1.

    Tunnels & Trolls gets around this by figuring damage as the difference between the attack rolls of each side. So rolling high, and rolling especially higher than your enemy, always yields damage in proportion to expectations. Risus makes it simpler by making every hit worth 1 level of damage, or 3 if you’re using an inappropriate cliché.

    I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but the “damage bonus plus lower die” rule seems aesthetically disjointed. Maybe it’s my ignorance of Vagabonds of Dyfed, but I’ll look into that.

    Actually, what you have is not too far from the Face Die mechanic from Old School Hack, which I like a lot. Have you looked at that? Like DW, OSH uses 2 dice to resolve some rolls (but like D&D, they are explicitly “to-hit” rolls). One die, however, is a different color—that’s the Face Die. If the Face Die rolls the max value, you hit them in the face and deal an extra level of damage.

    It might work in a Dungeon World-like game—one could simply apply double damage when the off-color die rolls a 6. Since the same roll might result in the PC taking damage, you might say they suffer double damage if the off-color die comes up 1.

    I know you didn’t ask for a revision, I’m just jumping in at the lateral thinking, whether you welcome it or not. 😉

  5. I remember a rpg system which said if you roll a critical hit, don’t roll damage, just apply your maximum weapon damage. So for dungeon world, if your a fighter and you roll 12+, deal 10 damage plus bonuses if any.

  6. Nice idea, but have you thought of just giving every class a fixed damage number instead of a bonus? So a 7-9 would just deal that fixed amount, a 10+ a bonus of +X. Might simplify even further

  7. John at Deep Six Delver I haven’t heard of the Face Die. Interesting! Reminds me of some minimald6 games where you roll a nearly-blank die that has one thunderbolt on one side; if it comes up: boom!

  8. Next time I play DW, I will almost certainly use this. One thing I don’t quite understand: in your “divide by 3” method, I presume you are taking the 8 from 1d8, adding the +1, and dividing that by 3. Are you then adding the +1 bonus again to that value?

  9. Jeffrey Kelly actually I cleaned it up a bit last night to try and make it more clear.

    I also changed it from 3 to 2, to get close to the true damage a monster does.

    You divide the maximum damage roll (1d8 = 8) by 2, round down, then add the bonus (e.g. +1).

    So 1d8+1 = 4.5 (rounded to 4) + 1 = 5. You add that to the lower of the 2d6 rolled by the player for the total damage tally that the monster does.

    That is of course the second method for calculating monster damage, the first is more generic but much faster.

    What do you think? Should I make it divide by 3 instead?

  10. I loooove this. a single roll for attack & damage just always clicks in for me.

    Few weeks ago on the WoA page we had a discussion about something like this (here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/108609874216208356341/posts/ApzYB7qkFFy ). Here’s what I suggested then (without actually taking the time to analyze any of the maths involved)


    When you attack an enemy in melee, roll +STR.

    On a 10+, choose 1:

    ■ Pick the biggest number rolled for this check, deal that damage and avoid their attack.

    ■ Add up both numbers rolled for this check, but expose yourself to their attack.

    On a 7-9, pick the biggest number rolled for this check, deal that damage, but the enemy makes an attack against you.

    Playbooks would have fixed bonus damage you would add to any damage you do.


    Here’s a revised version based on what you suggest that I think makes more sense (than my previous version, not more sense than what you came up with, mind you :P)


    When you attack an enemy in melee, roll +STR.

    On a 10+, choose 1:

    ■ Pick the lowest number rolled for this check + your class damage, deal that damage and avoid their attack.

    ■ Add up both numbers rolled for this check + your class damage, but expose yourself to their attack.

    On a 7-9, pick the lowest number rolled for this check + your class damage. Deal that damage, but the enemy makes an attack against you.

  11. Addramyr Palinor yeah I remember that convo. Would this amended version require a class bonus, or use an ability score (like STR) as the bonus?

  12. You could play around with the maths : e.g. by using the highest dice instead of adding both (although I don’t like taking the highest only to expose to an attack as if you rolled 6+6 or 5+5, it wouldn’t make a difference)

  13. Personally, I wouldn’t bother with the “complicated version”. Doesn’t seem to worth the effort plus it makes spontaneous converting existing DW monster harder.

  14. In my notes for more brutal Dungeon World combat, I have an Into The Odd-inspired version of H&S:

    When you attack an enemy in melee, deal your damage +STR (+DEX if you’re using a precise weapon), and the enemy makes an attack against you.

    I’m not confusing “brutal” for your goal, just mentioning it because it also resolves the hit and damage with a single roll.

    I have never tried it, though. I realized that making combat more brutal can be accomplished simply by interpreting the rules as written in a certain light:

    “Dungeon World implies that half your maximum Hit Points represents nothing more than fatigue, minor bruises, or scratches. They may weary you during the battle, but a ration and some rest will usually restore you. If that’s so, then we can conclude that having less than half your maximum HP signifies the beginning of serious injuries.

    “When you take damage greater than half your max HP, you are bleeding.

    “By including the messy tag to denote attacks that are particularly destructive, ripping people and things apart, Dungeon World implies that most attacks are not messy. But Crawl is infamously deadly. In a game of Dungeon World Crawl, any weapon can be used to make messy attacks. When you take damage from a messy attack, you are bleeding.

  15. John at Deep Six Delver we were workshopping something like this in Worlds of Adventure, where reaching half your max HP provided a debility.

    If I recall, Into The Odd has a feature where being injured depletes your STR mod over time, until you’re dead.

  16. Yochai Gal you were mentioning monster being not lethal enough. You could probably only say that when hurt by a monster, use the highest dice + monster damage bonus while PC uses lower dice.

    I think it will make them a bit more deadly.

    Math wise (which I suck totally at), taking the best out of 2 dice gives you an average of 4.47 (let’s say 5). The average of 2d6 drop highest is 2.53 (let’s say 3).



    output [lowest 1 of 2d6] named “2d6 drop highest”

    So a 1d6 monster would do 7 dmg on average instead of 5.

    As I already calculated earlier, the difference in 2 average dmg means that with 0 or 1 Armor and 24 hp you’re down on the 4th hit vs on the 5th. With 2 Armor you’re good for 5 hits vs 7 hits with an average of 5. It’s significant!

    All of this doesn’t account for swingyness, obviously. It’s just mathematical median.


  17. I’m thinking specifically about how the rules discuss H&S triggering:

    “If the enemy isn’t prepared for your attack… then that’s not hack and slash. You just deal your damage or murder them outright”

  18. Jason Shea ah, so a situation where you deal damage, but there is no move (like, coup de grace).

    I suppose you’d just deal your bonus, but you’re right: that seems weak. A minor tweak to the damage move:

    Any time a move tells you to deal damage, take the lower of the two dice rolled for that move and add your damage bonus, as well as any weapon bonus. In the rare instance that you are dealing damage without a roll, simply roll 1d6 and add your bonus to the result.

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