The Bard and the Wizard and the Fighter are making a break for it, trying to escape the dungeon as a horde of draugr…

The Bard and the Wizard and the Fighter are making a break for it, trying to escape the dungeon as a horde of draugr…

The Bard and the Wizard and the Fighter are making a break for it, trying to escape the dungeon as a horde of draugr (7 HP each, 2 armor) try to stop them! The Wizard was closest to the door and gets away, but as the Bard goes for it one of the draugr moves to intercept.

The Bard tries to dodge past and Defies Danger with DEX, gets a miss, and the draugr’s hand flashes out and grabs the Bard by the throat and starts squeezing (the Bard takes d6+1 damage).

The Fighter comes running up behind the Bard and is like “I swing my messy, forceful hammer at the druagr, like an uppercut, sending this thing flying.” Hack and Slash, yo!

The Fighter rolls a 10+, chooses to evade the enemy’s attack, and (cue sad trombone music) rolls a 2 for damage. Soaked by the draugr’s armor. No damage done.

You’re the GM: what do you do?

Option A: “So you smash into it and goes flying back, but it’s almost immediately back on it’s feet and and about to charge. Bard, you’re gasping for air, Fighter there are more coming from behind you, what do you two do?”

Option B: “You smash into it and it just staggers back half a step, doesn’t even loosen its grip on the Bard. But it turns and looks at you with those dead eyes, Fighter, and raises its ax overhead, what do you do?”

50 thoughts on “The Bard and the Wizard and the Fighter are making a break for it, trying to escape the dungeon as a horde of draugr…”

  1. I am of the opinion that the tags don’t stop mattering with a bad damage roll. Hell, frame it was the draugr letting go of the bard and rolling with the hit instead.

    that said, i could see the argument from the other way. theres not one “right” way to play the game , IMHO.

  2. josh savoie (and anyone else):

    What if the Fighter had swung his long sword (no special tags) at the draugr’s arm, saying “I’m hacking that thing’s arm off!”

    Same roll results: 10+, 2 damage, soaked by armor.

    Is the arm cut off? Is the Bard free?

  3. The arm that’s strangling the bard? That’s either a defend, or a defy danger. The main thing I get there is that, even though they’re using violence, they’re trying to free the bard.

    Once the move isn’t H&S, it’s simple. 10+ gives them what they want. Maybe it even loses the hand, barely matters to a draugr, he’ll just try to kill you with his exposed arm bone.

  4. I would have used it as defy danger to free the bard, but only after checking with the fighter what his intent is – what are you wanting to do more hurt the evil thingy or free the bard. That would solve a lot of the problem – my vote would change depending on intent. It moves the game to what the players want to do and the gm moves to reacting to players – just my two cents

  5. Some good discussion here. Let’s see. The Fighter was doing H&S and rolled a 10. He succeeds and does damage. The tags, as I see it still apply even though there was no HP damage after the armor soaked it up. So I choose A. I mean, the Bard already suffered for his miss, and the Fighter didn’t miss. So doing a hard move on the Bard (further damage) would, I think, be overstepping. (What fail is that Do Damage in response to? The failure to do any HP damage? Nah. Nobody rolled a 6- a second time to trigger another hard move.)

  6. Jeremy Strandberg in the case of the sword, I’d narrate it as a narrow miss as the draugr recoils its arm with unholy speed. No damage but the Bard is freed. You gotta give him SOMETHING for the 10. But the Fighter would also have drawn the draugr‘s ire: with that same unholy speed it lunges at you, rotten fingernails raking—what do you do?!

  7. Marshall Brengle I think the end result is about the same, but I would definitely not say the fighter “missed.” You could describe the strike as relatively ineffective, but I feel like a 10 in DW, especially for a defined move like H&S, is sacrosanct. It is a solid hit, not a miss. The “something” he gets for the 10 is the chance to do damage. If he had added the d6 and opened himself up, maybe he would have broken that armor. LOL.

  8. Lot of good things already said, here. I only add that from the final descriptions (the two choices) I don’t feel the “soft move” coming from the GM (that instead I read into the two poll “buttons”). About that, probably it isn’t time for a soft move: PCs still have “time” for a move each, before to turn at the undeads actions again.

  9. Hammer case, H&S – like Ray Otus, it’s the Forceful that swings it for me here.

    Sword case, H&S – no special effect. No grounds for it under the rules for the move.

    Sword case, Defy Danger (you hurt the bard instead) – Bard is free on 7+ but taking Fighter’s damage on a 9-.

  10. Building on what +Steven Stewart said, you could make the argument that this is Defy Danger instead of Hack and Slash. I would look at the Fighter’s intention more closely, and perhaps ever get his opinion on what failure would look like that gives even more context of the intention. If the intent is to knock away the draugr, then yes that would be DD (with STR) to me.

  11. Rob Alexander, Peter J, anyone else…

    If the Fighter used a sword to hack the draugr’s arm off and free the Bard, and you resolved it with Defy Danger… on a 10+… I presume the draugr’s arm is chopped off and the Bard is thus freed.

    Does the draugr also take damage?

  12. Ray Otus, Marshall Brengle regarding the draugr dodging away and releasing the Bard… I think it’s legit, especially if some of the draugr’s armor comes from “skill at defense.”

    The H&S move gives you the right to roll your damage, but I’ve often taken that more as the right to execute a concerted attack, and the damage roll represents how well that attack “hits home.” And with no damage net damage, it could be a grazing blow, a deflection with a shield, or even a dodge.

    I don’t think I’d take that approach in this case… I think a draugr is more about ignoring you puny mortal blows than it is about super reflexes. But I think it’s legit.

  13. Also, Ray Otus, on your first comment… what is this in response to?

    So doing a hard move on the Bard (further damage) would, I think, be overstepping. (What fail is that Do Damage in response to? The failure to do any HP damage? Nah. Nobody rolled a 6- a second time to trigger another hard move.)

    There’s no second hard move/further damage in either of the two options.

  14. For this one, I would do things only a little differently. I make it clear to my players that “hit points” are not the same as “damage,” but instead show a character’s endurance, their will to keep fighting.

    For me, this goes both ways and it solves issues like this. 2 damage means that the draugr still has plenty of will to fight, but that doesn’t mean it’s not thrown back or even loses a limb or something.

    So I would narrate, “Your mighty hammer smashes into the draugr’s chest, denting in its armor (or maybe even splitting it depending on how I feel that moment should go), and sends it flying into the air and crashing back into the ground. And you grab your Bard friend, the draugr climbs back to its feet, seemingly unfazed as its kindred catch up.” As always, I include some form of soft move, probably switching to the Bard here. “Bard, you saw the eyes of death just now, and these creatures were unfazed by your friend’s massive blow. They are coming for you, all of them. What do you do?”

    Doing this allows them to feel awesome (being a fan of the players) while also conveying the strength of these monsters and giving the players some fear and drama. Drama is always good in these games.

  15. It’s definitively a Defy Danger + STR, not a H&S, and, with a 10+, that thing is flying away 🙂

    Also, it almost feels like that the Fighter could have defended the Bard from taking damage in that situation. I know it’s DW (and not AW), but you should only do “a move as hard as you want” and ideally it should be a move setting you up for following harder moves. If you want to inflict damage on the Bard and the Fighter, right behind him, would have said “can I defend him?”, I would have said “sure!”

  16. This is just my opinion. If the end result of the Fighter’s move is status quo, the 10 result really didn’t move the fiction. Reactions and all that are window dressing. If the draugr has taken no damage and is still throttling the bard, the 10 had no effect. Worse, it might have occasioned an additional soft move. So that 10 has to do something. You could apply the forceful tag or Daze the draugr from the concussive strike against its armor or whatever, but if I were the player I would feel cheated if the fiction didn’t respond to my 10 somehow.

    I do get the other opinion. That the 10 WAS a success. It allowed the fighter to do damage, but the damage resolved, mathematically, to 0. Life’s tough. I could live with that argument I think, but (as the player) I wouldn’t be very happy about it.

    Finally, it is super important to remember in DW that GMs do not “get a turn.” The world (dangers, monsters, locations, etc.) Move in response to player questions, player rolls and the fiction itself. The rules tell you when you can make a move and what kind.

    “Generally when the players are just looking at you to find out what happens, you make a soft move, otherwise you make a hard move.”

    You always have the option of turning a hard move into a soft move. And a soft move can/often does set up a hard move.

    In addition to when the players look to you, you can make a move when:

    They roll 6-

    The move says to (e.g. H&S indicates you can make a move with a creature in combat with the rolling character)

    The fiction triggers it. (“Make a move that follows.”)

    The best page in the book on this, IMO, is p. 164, “When to make a move.”

    That doesn’t totally clear up this situation, but somehow I feel like steps are getting skipped. The fighter’s 10 clearly doesn’t leave room for the GM to make a move.

    You could say that after the move the player implicitly looks to the GM to see what happened, which opens up a soft move.

    That defends pretty much any of the outcomes sketched out above.

    E.g. Fighter Hacks & Slashes. Rolls a 10. Rolls damage. Damage gets negated by armor. In the aftermath, the GM makes a soft move.

    I think the operative question is whether the tags from the weapon apply, even though the damage was negated.

    I mean, of course they apply. But is the effect of a tag mitigated by the scope of the damage? I feel like one might make this argument. I just read something in the book the other day about an effect being larger or smaller based on a larger or smaller numerical result but I can’t find it right now.

    My own stance is built on Be a Fan of the Characters. I want to see that fighter get something palpable for his 10. 🙂

  17. Ray Otus not disagreeing with anything you said.

    The specific question in this situation is “do the tags apply if damage was negated?”

    The broader question is: “does a 10+ on H&S guarantee the player’s tactical objective, even if no damage was actually done?”

    (The even broader question being: “did the Fighter even trigger Hack & Slash, or is this a Defy Danger?” Which is a fair question, but “use Defy Danger for anything other than murder” leaves me very unsatisfied.)

  18. Jeremy Strandberg, I definitely think the tags still have to apply, especially since the damage was negated and the fighter should get something for their 10+. I would want to make it as narratively epic as possible so that Forceful and Messy really count here.

    You gave an example of a sword and wanting to cut off a limb. Genereally, unless a character rolls for a 10+ (and it’s not a boss or epic creature), then I give them that if it makes narrative sense, but definitely not on a 7-9. If, however, the sword has a Messy tag, then they definitely take the arm on a 7+, and possibly even on a 6- but with other consequences (maybe the creature regrows two limbs in its absence.

  19. I am confused. Since the Draugr isn’t engaging the fighter, how does Hack & Slash trigger? I see it as either an attempt to aid the bard, or a defy danger.

    But separately, the fighter wanted to do something and got a 10+… They get what they want (and possibly more) even without actually ticking down HP on the Draugr.


  20. Jeff Wood That’s an interesting point. If Hack & Slash doesn’t trigger, there is no roll. The fighter would just do damage. I guess in this situation the visual is that all of them are collectively engaged in a scrap.

  21. Jeff Wood I don’t think H&S requires that the foe is actively attacking, but that it has the immediate capacity to.

    Though you’re right, and even that is questionable in this case. If draugr are scary fast and tough, then I think H&S might make sense, with the chance that it just slashes back at you with the ax in its right hand. But if we’ve played them up as more slow shambling relentless undead, then yeah, no Hack and Slash.

    If it’s not Hack and Slash, though, I think it’s gotta be Defy Danger (with either forceful hammer or normal sword), the danger being the draugr itself, its supernatural toughness, its grip on the Bard, the other draugr in the dungeon.

  22. Jeremy Strandberg “when you engage in melee combat with”… Every example of when it should and shouldn’t trigger I found followed a “you snuck up on the sleeping giant, you aren’t in melee with them, do your damage. H&S doesn’t trigger.” pattern. They are busy with another situation, they aren’t combating you.

  23. Jeff Wood I’m not sure whether you’re disagree with me.

    I totally agree that “sneaking up on a sleeping giant and stabbing them” isn’t H&S, it’s just dealing damage (or straight-out murder).

    But that’s very different from attacking an alert draugr that’s choking your friend with one hand and has an ax in the other. The draugr might not be actively attacking you, but it could very easily.

  24. Jeff Wood, you make a really good point! If the draugr is focused on the Bard, and not the Fighter, then I think it doesn’t make sense to use Hack & Slash. The fighter either gets to just do what he wants, or it’s a Defy Danger (the danger applying to the Bard in this case if the Fighter rolls low).

    Defend, however, doesn’t make sense to me here. Choosing to deal your damage could fit, but directing its attack at yourself certainly doesn’t. Maybe halving the damage could fit, since you could argue that knocking the creature back with your hammer means that it didn’t get a full choke on the Bard. But these all seem more strange to me. I think Defy Danger or Aid are much better substitutes.

  25. David LaFreniere that’s very much the Gauntlet way, isn’t it? 🙂

    I’m trying to remember from listening to y’all’s actual play… would you have the player roll damage before starting the description?

  26. Still outstanding question that I haven’t seen anyone answer:

    If you resolve this as a Defy Danger (not as Defend, not as Hack & Slash), with the player describing that they are smashing the draugr off of the Bard or that they are chopping its arm off, and the player rolls a 10+…

    does the player deal damage?

  27. Jeremy Strandberg OOOOOOh. I misread Defy Danger as Defend. I would not resolve smashing the draugr as Defy Danger. It would be either Defend or Hack and Slash. But … let’s just say you are using Defy Danger. The answer is, it depends. The book says you can assign damage whether or not it comes from a move, if it makes sense in the fiction. I would have to see how someone interprets it as Defy Danger to decide whether I would assign damage. My gut says not.

  28. Jeremy Strandberg re: “The Gauntlet way” — the structure of the game is Fiction > Mechanics > Fiction. So yes, roll damage and then describe it is what I would typically do. Fiction: I jump in and slug the draugr with my shield! Mechanics: roll Hack and Slash. Roll damage. Fiction: Your shield bashes into the draugr. It barely scratches its hide but it does knock him off his feet.

  29. Jeremy Strandberg I say no, in my games. The warrior’s goal is “set free my friend”, not “kill the undead”, so even if in the fiction he’s “chopping the arm”, the goal is “my friend is free”. The undead still has all his HPs.

  30. Andrea Parducci But the move follows from the fiction. If the fighter said I try to free my friend by cutting the draugr’s arm off, it’s H&S and the arm comes off. If he says I take a swing at the draugr, it’s H&S and the draugr might take damage but the arm probably doesn’t come off unless the messy tag is invoked and the damage is high. If he says I throw myself between them and bash the draugr away with my shield, the roll is Defend and what happens depend on hold spent, but the arm is not coming off.

  31. IOW, DW is not a “stakes” game. You say/describe what your character is doing in the fiction. The GM may ask for clarification and maybe even ask what you hope to accomplish, but that’s just to determine which move (if any) is triggered. If the fighter said, “I want to free my friend,” I would say “ok, describe how you do that!”

  32. Jeremy Strandberg yes, I typically have my players roll hack and slash, make their choice on a 10 plus, roll damage, describe how they damage and use their tags, then I describe how the enemy does damage to them and uses its tags

  33. David LaFreniere agreed. Sometimes damage results though. And it’s more often to the person rolling. E.g. I’m running on a log bridging a chasm and (Defy Danger DEX 6-) fall. When I hit the ground I take some damage. That came from the fiction, not the move. Right? I’m not sure how you could Defy Danger and CAUSE damage, but I’m willing to believe it’s possible. Maybe you are on that log with an enemy so you try to “log roll” to throw him off! (Defy Danger DEX? STR? 10). You do it, the enemy plummets to the ground taking damage! It’s damage from the ground, not the character’s weapons.

  34. Jeremy Strandberg I agree that the Draugr could be doing both, but the fiction as stated so far seemed focused on choking the Bard. The description of the attack from the Fighter didn’t include if he was coming up in front of the Draugr or not. As such, I didn’t consider that ‘in’ combat with the Fighter, and the smashing forceful attack to be from behind and therefore a less defended approach.

  35. I agree with David LaFreniere in that I understand a player taking damage from a failed defy, but defy isnt an attack, but may be followed by one (which may or may not be a H&S)

  36. Not that this is how the rules say it, but I tend to think of H&S like this:

    10+ character deals hard move

    7-9 soft moves all around

    6- character suffers hard move

    Hard moves always feed into the fiction, and may also have mechanical consequences. In this case, the Draugr is going to have a bad time. Now the fighter rolled no damage, and I have trouble squaring together “no damage” and “arm lopped off”, so either the Draugr pulled back rather than lose the arm (seems out of character for an implacable undead), or was forced to.

    Result: something like “you smash the draugr’s arm off the thief’s neck, and hammer it repeatedly, driving it back and spraying hunks of flesh and gore over the room. Now you’ve made it angry, but you’ve got some space to work with, what do you do?”

  37. Jeff Wood yes, I was thinking this doesn’t trigger H&S. As others have suggested I’d ask the player’s intent (free Bard or hurt Druagr) before choosing between Defy Danger or Deal Damage.

  38. I’d had an elven ranger with a first time player get to tumble around in an underground lair and kill ork shaman with ” and his ork Warriors defy Danger+Dex” (his STR was worse). Before the final roll, when he tried to Escape I suggested we Call the “pilot episode” on a cliffhanger, maybe he’d live maybe he’d not.

    My point is that while I love GGG*, but it’s really important to remember the glory. In ApW and BitD, (most games) it’s important to give the players their victories.

    On a side-note, since the thief didn’t use defend, I’d be just as likely to let the ork take on the caster, also to keep up with how I preseted it (cleverish tactician), but going after a bloody and wounded thief is gold as well, especially if the players face shows signs of fear.

    *) Guts and Glory Gaming, I just coined the acronym 😛

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