The hagr (12 feet tall, long-limbed, rolls of fat and muscle, one eye bulging with hate and fury) just took out the…

The hagr (12 feet tall, long-limbed, rolls of fat and muscle, one eye bulging with hate and fury) just took out the…

The hagr (12 feet tall, long-limbed, rolls of fat and muscle, one eye bulging with hate and fury) just took out the Ranger with that tree it was using as a club. It turns that hate-filled eye on the Heavy and the Blessed (who’s dispelling the unholy fog that kept them from coming to the Ranger’s aid).

The hagr flings the tree at them. The Heavy dives and drags the Blessed to the ground, nailing the Defy Danger with DEX and the tree goes smashing overhead. But they hear the hagr bellow and come stomping towards them.

Still on the ground, the Blessed reaches into his sacred pouch and calls on nature’s fury. The forest erupts, ensnaring the hagr with vines and roots and earth, just a few feet away from them. It’s held for the moment, but it’s already tearing free.

The Heavy rolls to his feet, loads his crossbow, and fires. He’s close, and the thing’s restrained, but it’s ripping free and terrifying and this is anything but a sure thing. He rolls Volley. Gets a miss. Oh dear.

The hagr breaks free, swats the crossbow from the Heavy’s hands, and snatches the Heavy by the wrist, hoisting him up and clearly about to use him as a club to smash the Blessed.

I ask them both what they do. The Blessed says he’s rolling to the side and trying to get away. The Heavy is like “I draw my long knife with free hand and stab it in the wrist, the one that’s holding me, so that it drops me.”

Okay, cool! Seems like the Heavy’s move should resolve before the Blessed’s, but how do we resolve it?

(If it matters: the hagr has like 19 HP, 2 armor, and reach; the Heavy deals d10 damage, hand range, no relevant damage-boosting moves.)

Option A The Heavy is attacking the hagr, and the hagr can fight back, so this is Hack & Slash. On a 7+, the hagr drops the Heavy no matter how much damage is dealt; if the Heavy is exposed to attack, it’s something like the hagr booting him with a forceful kick.

Option B Hack and Slash, but on a 7+, the Heavy’s damage roll determines whether the hagr drops the Heavy, and that in turn determines what the hagr’s attack looks like. If the Heavy deals decent damage, the Hagr drops him and then maybe kicks him away. If the Heavy deals only a little damage, the hagr holds tight and maybe uses the Heavy as a club, the Blessed Defying Danger to get out of the way.

Option C The Heavy is trying to get free more than anything, so this is Defy Danger (STR or DEX or even INT). On a 10+, yeah, the Heavy stabs the hagr and cuts himself free, dealing damage cuz the hagr got knifed in the wrist. On a 7-9, we’ve got any number of worse outcomes, hard bargains, or ugly choices to choose from.

Option D As option C, but the 10+ just means the Heavy gets free without dealing damage, but maybe seizing the initiative or giving the Blessed a chance to act.

49 thoughts on “The hagr (12 feet tall, long-limbed, rolls of fat and muscle, one eye bulging with hate and fury) just took out the…”

  1. My reflex while in-game (so not while I can actually think about it) would have probably been to say “roll H&S” on 7+ you get free and apply normal rules of H&S. But with a bit of thinking, I feel like the DD deal damage on 10+ feels lot more interesting and proper to the situation.

    I wouldn’t want to be the GM who says: “What are you trying to accomplish? Hurt it or get free, pick one”. In the narrative, it’s clear that it’s kind of both, but only 1 move should trigger.

    I feel like it should trigger DD more than H&S as per the trigger but it makes sense in the fiction that stabbing the monster to get free has definitely a chance to hurt it.

  2. I think people look at Hack & Slash too restrictively. On a 7-9, a Hack & Slash is nearly indistinguishable from a Defy Danger, except that damage is dealt, likely both ways. There’s no reason why a 7-9 H&S can’t offer a hard choice or put someone in a spot.

    The rules say that the enemy makes an attack against you. That doesn’t mean that all it can do is deal damage or hit you, it means that it can use any of its monster moves, some of which should be vague enough to allow putting people in a spot, giving them hard choices, and the like. If my monster can smash through walls, then while holding the Heavy it can smash through a wall, then take damage from the Heavy, dropping him, but now the Heavy and Blessed are separated (yes I realize there are no walls in this example, I’m just making a point). It serves the same purpose as a DD, but damage is figured into it.

  3. It depends on how the beast is going to respond to the hurt/damage (fiction) … If it doesn’t stop and still attacks the other player, then it was a deal damage; If it reacts and decides to focus on the heavy, totally H&S.

  4. Preach Ron Shier! Your second sentence, BTW, represents how most people treat it, right? And then you go on to point out that it really opens you up to any monster move, not just Deal Damage. In fact, Deal Damage is one of the least interesting things you can do, fictionally.

    I’ll also point out that Defy Danger is kind of a default/vanilla move. I try to keep from using it too much. I noticed the last time I ran DW (this Monday) that I called for a LOT of Defy Danger moves and I felt like it was a bit weak. I should have either just said “that happens” more or teased the fiction into a more interesting spot first or used a different kind of GM move when triggering “moves that follow.”

  5. Jeff Wood I’m confused. How can the monster’s response (after the roll) affect which move (before the roll) is triggered? Meaning, the monster’s reaction to the fighter’s move can’t be the thing that determines whether it is Defy Danger or H&S. That has to be determined by what the fighter described and the fictional situation beforehand. Maybe I am misreading you; if so, my bad.

  6. To answer your original question, Ray Otus, I’ve started working on the “basic moves” chapter for Stonetop and when I got to Hack and Slash, I realized I could really explain how to resolve the move. Like, I can resolve the move, no problem. But the specific text of the H&S move is remarkably silent on the fiction surrounding the exchange.

    So, I’m working a few different things out in my head, and trying to expand my thinking about the game as I do.

    The big questions I’ve been trying to explore are:

    How do we determine who “goes” next after a Hack & Slash?

    When an attack in melee is more than just an attempt to murder, when there are other tactical objectives, how do we determine whether those objective are achieved? (because the H&S text only ever tells us that you deal damage, which is a mechanical process easily divorced from fiction, and is silent on the “success” of the attack itself)

    Where is the line between Hack & Slash, Defend, and Defy Danger?

    I don’t have answers for these thing, and I don’t think that are necessarily right answers. But I do feel like the text of Hack and Slash could do a little more to help us out here, and that’s ultimately what I’m groping towards.

  7. Oh, and I figure that if I’m going to pick the community’s brain, that…

    1) polls capture the opinions of a larger number of people than discussion, because not that many people have the time, interest, or confidence to wade into these discussions

    2) the edge cases always come down to “interrogate the fiction” so I’m trying to provide enough fictional context for people to work with

    3) if I’m gonna ask people to read all that, I should try to make interesting, yeah?

  8. I am not saying it is Ray Otus … I am saying that the MC will know if he plans to keep the beast focused on the blessed or not, regardless of whether or not the heavy actually damages it, that’s where I would put my decision on which roll to ask the player to perform.

  9. Jeff Wood Yeah, but IMO that’s backwards. It’s saying what’s in the GM’s head determines the move not the player’s description of their character’s action. Style difference I guess. Also depends on who’s move it is.

  10. Defy Danger feels like weaksauce if it’s the primary thing you’re doing. I want to use it either as a cost to attempt an action (if you want to attack the dragon, you’ll have to DD your way past the terror first), or to take a non-mechanical action (yes, you can certainly try to raise the drawbridge, but the archers are showering you with arrows, DD please).

    The way the Heavy phrased it, it sounds like an attack first and foremost, so H&S it is.

  11. Jeremy Strandberg, I think to answer “Who goes next after a H&S?” my answer would be to 1. Follow the fiction and 2. Where do you as GM feel the spotlight should go?

    1. If the Fighter is thrown down the hallway, then you could easily think of him as being momentarily indisposed, so switch spotlights to the closest character, or character that hasn’t acted in a while. If someone is in immediate danger, you could swing the spotlight to them, however this leads me to point #2 which I actually find to be even more important…

    2. Where do I ‘feel’ the spotlight should go? This is more about drama. Think, “What would be most dramatic right now in the fiction?” Sometimes I like to switch the spotlight away from the character in immediate danger. This gives his allies a chance to save/help him, it adds a cohesive element to the group, and it makes players feel more vulnerable. Think of, “Who could I switch to and add tension to this scene?”

    It’s really difficult to keep tabs on what is dramatic right now, who hasn’t had a turn lately, and who’s in the immediate action, but that’s our job as GM to make that call. It’s the same call made when shooting a movie and deciding, “Who does the camera follow next?” I like to look at action scenes for inspiration. There’s a lot of times where one character is lifted by the giant brute, but then the spotlight switches to the ranger who shoots it, freeing his ally. That’s dramatic! And that’s fun!

    I also find from personal experience that we really do need to have a firm grip on who takes the spotlight. If we say, “Who does what next?” then I find the action and drama stalls, and players become bored. If I call out a specific character, and none know who I will call on next, then everyone stays involved and ready to go. This, too, adds drama and tension.

  12. This is super interesting!

    I’m reading all comments and now I’m not so sure anymore I’d do a DD. Like I said, my reflex while in game would certainly be to go for H&S. DD seems a lot more reactive than active. Here, the character “has initiative”, he’s the one initiating an action.

    Like you said Jeremy Strandberg H&S is very vague about what it actually represents in the fiction. We get it, you’re trying to hurt the other dude while trying not to get hurt yourself. But that’s the thing, I feel like H&S isn’t just that. It would benefit a great lot of being rewritten. And that’s what you’re trying to do, I’m guessing?

  13. Jeff Wood I think I see where you’re coming from.

    Like if, in my mind, the hagr is thinking of the Heavy as a nuisance and it’s real intent is to squash the spellcaster, then it’ll respond differently than if its ire is focused on the Heavy and the Blessed is an unfortunate extra target.

    In the first case, the Heavy’s stab feels more like Defy Danger because what he’s doing is trying to prevent himself from being used as a club. In the latter, it feels more like H&S because they’re focused on hurting each other.

  14. Addramyr Palinor nah, the Heavy definitely does not “have the initiative” in this situation. He’s 100% reacting to the negative situation that I’ve put him in.

    Sure, he came up with a fun, clever, badass plan, one that maybe even turns the tables. But if I’m forcing him to react (which I am) then I’ve got the initiative.

    Related bold claim: the GM pretty much always has the initiative unless:

    1) they cede it to the player(s) by asking “what do you do?” without first making a move

    2) the cede it to the player(s) by making a move like offer an opportunity (which is arguably just the intentional version of 1.

    3) a player is assertive enough to seize the initiative conversationally

  15. Ron Shier regarding who goes next: I’m totally with you, with the caveat that a GM’s aggressiveness in making soft moves and moving the spotlight around is a matter not only of skill but of style, preference, and the needs/wants of their group.

    I thought I had an “aha” moment when tinkering with Hack & Slash, making it look like this:

    When you fight in melee or close quarters, roll +STR: on a 7+, make your attack (deal damage) and suffer the enemy’s attack; on a 10+, also pick 2; on a 7-9, also pick 1 (but not the last one):

    ● Strike hard/fast/well, dealing an extra d6 damage

    ● Seize the initiative or give it to an ally; say what you do or who acts next

    ● (10+ only) evade/counter the enemy’s attack

    The idea being, if you triggered H&S, the “who goes next” question was explicitly resolved by the move and the player’s choices.

    But! That only works if the GM will consistently make a soft a move after every H&S is resolved, and more importantly, it largely takes the spotlight management out of the GM’s hands.

    Plus, it’s pretty weird to have one single move that dictates “who goes next” when none of the others do.

  16. Patrick Henry Downs sure, but then you’re stilling having to pick between A or B, or pick between C and D.

    Obviously you can (and should) talk it out at the table. But what’s your gut say? What’s your instinct?

    Commit, man!

  17. “Plus, it’s pretty weird to have one single move that dictates “who goes next” when none of the others do.”

    That’s for sure. It you do include an initiative concept it needs to be spread mostly to all moves that are done under pressure (great… now I’ve the song stuck in my head lol)

  18. Jeremy Strandberg based on what the Heavy is saying I’m likely to think Hack & Slash is the best option, but defering to the player’s preference of what stat/move to roll IS my instinct. The Heavy probably has a high STR, but the player might say “I’ll Defy Danger” and roll their DEX or INT.

  19. Jeremy Strandberg this is why putting it into the player’s hands is interesting because if you play the moves as close to as written then H&S will deal damage and get you free on a 10+ and DD will get you free but deal no damage, then it’s up to the player

  20. Jeremy Strandberg I don’t think you should eliminate options.

    7-9 do damage

    10+ as 7-9 plus choose one:

    – Avoid damage

    – Do extra damage

    – Draw enemy focus

    – Perform maneuver

  21. Ron Shields “Who goes next after a H&S?” — I strongly agree with your general position. The GM managing the spotlight dynamically, largely based on intuition with a little explicit but unstructured reasoning, is something I see as central to DW. (Tho offhand I’m not sure how strongly the RAW require or encourage this — I may have developed this idea from other sources). In my experience, this has been something that makes DW stand out strongly from more traditional designs that use an initiative order.

    Jeremy’s idea of letting players choose who goes next, even as one cost option on a success, feels really weird to me.

  22. I voted D, but I don’t like any of the options here.

    B is definitely wrong, RAW, and I think idiomatically/in common practice too. My instinct is that damage value only matters, fictionally, if it drops someone to zero. Anything else feels like you’re hacking in a weird implicit rule on the fly.

    The others… I think they show that there is something wrong with H&S, and maybe something unclear about DD too.

    (Tho it may also be that I’ve adopted a narrow reading of DD that’s neither RAW nor common practice (e.g. it seems weird to me to have a significant fiction-only effect (drops the heavy) and some mechanical damage from the same roll.)

  23. Rob Alexander “Jeremy’s idea of letting players choose who goes next, even as one cost option on a success, feels really weird to me.”

    Yup! There might be something to it if you built it into the whole suite of moves, but even then I think it ties the GM”s hands too much.

    “B is definitely wrong, RAW, and I think idiomatically/in common practice too. My instinct is that damage value only matters, fictionally, if it drops someone to zero. Anything else feels like you’re hacking in a weird implicit rule on the fly.”

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s wrong, but I agree that it’s… unhygenic. Like, I’m totally fine using the damage roll to influence the fictional results of an attack. Like, an Elvish Warrior has 2 armor, one of which is from “skill in defense.” If you get a 7+ to H&S and roll 3 damage (1 after armor), isn’t the fiction going to involve the Elvish Warrior dodging or deflecting your attack somehow?

    With the Heavy & the Hagr, I might use the damage roll to determine how badly the Heavy wounds the hagr’s wrist. On 0-2 damage I’d likely have the hagr recoil as if stung but that’d be it. 2-6ish damage would have it bleeding and howling in pain, probably not using that wrist much for the rest of the fight. 7+ damage, I might very well say that the hand got chopped clean off.

    I’m just making those numbers up, so you’re right, it’s a weird implicit rule. But none of them change the outcome that the Heavy was going for: get it to drop him (and hurt him in the process).

    I think the problem with B, as stated, is that it ties to the success of the action to a arbitrary “gut feel” on how good the damage roll was. What’s your cutoff for the hagr dropping the Heavy? Have you decided that before the roll, or after. That’s what I mean by “unhygenic.” Without establishing your criteria for success up front, it feels kinda gross. (To me!)

    “I think they show that there is something wrong with H&S, and maybe something unclear about DD too”

    Agree that there’s something off with H&S. I think the biggest problem is that it its text doesn’t account, at all, for whether the player’s attack gets the fictional result they were looking for.

    Based on the answers from the past three of polls (including this one), the general opinion appears to be: on a 10+ your maneuver works as intended, on a 7-9 it mostly works. I think my ultimate solution is basically to just explicitly add that to the move’s text.

    As for DD being unclear… I don’t think it’s unclear. It resolves whether you do what what you set out to do with or without the damage coming to bear. It’s then a judgement call on the fiction as to whether or not that action deals damage. From page 22:

    “Damage is dealt based on the fiction. Moves that deal damage, like hack and slash, are just a special case of this: the move establishes that damage is being dealt in the fiction. Damage can be assigned even when no move is made, if it follows from the fiction.”

    I.e. if you do a thing that would deal damage, you deal damage, even if the move doesn’t explicitly say you deal damage.

  24. Before reading other comments I say 7-9 hack n slash means Heavy hurts Hagr, Hagr does use heavy as club and that is how the Hagr deals his damage. On a miss the heavy’s wrist is broken, too. On a 10+ the Heavy’s player deals his damage and gets narrative control

  25. I think the Hagr’s stats is good to have, but I miss it’s moves. Often the moves will present an answer that makes the players remember fighting them.

    “Do you remember when those bullywogs jumped over you and killed the fighter who was opening the gate?”

    “Do you remember when that goblin stabbed you with a needle and grinned? Man, if you hadn’t aced that Defy Danger+CON you’d be toast with all those goblins in the room.

  26. I do think this fall under the purview of Hack and Slash, but I don’t really like any of your options up there (I may have changed my vote a few times), so here’s my two cents.

    10+, you get your cake and eat it too. The Heavy is free, and they get some narrative control over how they’ve thwarted Hagr.

    7-9. Heavy deals damage. They are presented with a hard choice: free themselves, or protect the Blessed.

    That’s my gut response to this situation.

    As for Jeremy Strandberg ‘s new draft for H&S, I have a lot of thoughts on that front, and I will post them later, when they’re not a complete mess and I muddle through creating a suggested ‘replacement’ that functions similarly.

  27. Michael Esperum this particular hagr’s moves were:

    ¯ Pluck things from the ground, as if weightless

    ¯ Obsessively stack things to exacting standards

    ¯ Fly into a rage when things aren’t just right

    ¯ Work poorly-understood magic

    ¯ Exhale a cloud of quicksilver vapor

    With a special quality of “Evil eye, that makes brave warriors quail to look on it”

  28. Harrison if you’re referring to the version where “You hold the initiative” is one of the choices, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a bad idea.

    I think I’ve finally settled on a revision thing that addresses my concerns; blog post incoming.

  29. I guess that part of the problem with H&S as originally written is that it seems to be written with the assumption that the player triggering the move has only one goal… to damage the opponent.

    In the same way that the monster just doing its damage rather than using one of its other moves is kind of boring though, the player just doing their damage feels kind of lacklustre when the combat is super-cinematic like the examples Jeremy has been posting. More to the point, if the player has a stated goal beyond just damaging their opponent, things get a bit wonky.

    Jeremy Strandberg, you started a great discussion a while back about getting rid of “Inflict Damage” as a GM move, and just using the “damage can happen as a consequence of the fiction” rule to include damage along with other GM moves. Perhaps the same freedom could be given to the players engaging opponents in melee.

    Many of the things a PC might want to do in a combat beyond just doing hit points damage, such as disarming an opponent with a deft flick of their sword, trying to bullrush them back out of a doorway or attempting to wrestle them to the ground, are currently covered by DD. However, it’s not quite a perfect fit. If I swing my sword at the orc, I’m hacking and slashing… if I swing my sword at the orc’s cleaver to try to knock it out of its hands, I’m suddenly defying danger? Sure, you’re acting despite an imminent threat, but then, you’re doing the same when swinging at the orc. You’re rather more in control of the situation while you’re fighting the orc and choosing a moment to disarm it than you would be, say, defying danger to leap out of the path of a giant boulder rolling towards you.

    Perhaps H&S could be expanded slightly…

    When you attack an enemy in melee, describe what you’re trying to do (run them through, disarm them, push them back etc.) and roll+Str. ✴On a 7+, you succeed as best as could be expected (doing your damage if appropriate), but are exposed to their counterattack. ✴ On a 10+, in addition choose one:

    • Evade their counterattack

    • Do 1d6 more damage (on top of or as well as your successful attack).

  30. Heh. Robert Rendell you have almost exactly come to the same place I have.

    I’m working on a blog post to put all these threads together, but here’s where I’ve ended up:


    When you fight in melee or close quarters, roll +STR: on a 10+, your maneuver works as intended (deal damage if appropriate) and pick 1:

    ● Evade, prevent, or counter the enemy’s attack

    ● Strike hard and fast, for 1d6 extra damage, but suffer the enemy’s attack

    On a 7-9, your maneuver works, mostly (deal damage if appropriate) but suffer the enemy’s attack

  31. Jeremy Strandberg words cannot express how chuffed I am that my H&S move is so similar to yours 🙂

    But really, you’ve been thinking aloud to get to this point, so I guess I just managed to follow the dots… kind of like realising and blurting out the punchline of a joke someone is 90% of the way through telling 🙂

  32. Hmm wouldn’t that blur the distinction between h&s and dd a bit much?

    “I’m trying to shield bash the orc to shove it away hopefully make it fall down the cliff”.

    RAW that’d be a dd. The way your move is written it could be both.

  33. Addramyr Palinor IMO, the action you described is already in the blurry space between H&S and Defy Danger. I don’t think this blurs the line any further.

    What it does do, though, is make explicit what everyone who chose A was already doing: allowing the player to get what they intended by initiating an attack.

  34. Jeremy Strandberg I like the idea behind ‘hand off the initiative’ a fair bit, but not the way it’s worded. It doesn’t stay within the fiction. Perhaps Seize the Initiative is the name of a new move, or a new mechanic, but while I can clearly imagine my character attacking expertly or avoiding danger, ‘giving the initiative to an ally’ is comparatively ambiguous, even if it’s explained well within stonetop.

    Makes me think a bit of FATE’s create an advantage , though perhaps that’s not something we want as part of H&S in dungeon world.

    Instead, perhaps, a similar option would be:

    Create an opportunity for someone else to act.

    Expose your enemy to an ally’s attack (move?)

    I can see my character doing these things a bit more clearly than giving initiative to a party member.

    Your revised H&S move looks a lot less messy than what I was working on, but I would love to see the difference in play that a ‘set-up’ portion of the move like passing the initiative would make.

    Perhaps your version of “Aid and Interfere” better fills that niche though. How did you change that one?

  35. Random though : exchange +1 forward to gain initiative? Then add an option to h&s to gain +1 forward?

    That way the. H&S move works even if you’re not using the initiative move.

  36. Addramyr Palinor that would also address another problem raised about the initiative move – that it needs to affect multiple moves, not just H&S.

    If you tied it to +1 forward though, that would integrate it with a bunch of possible moves without touching the text of those moves at all. That would be neat.

    Stonetop uses ‘vantage, but it could work the same.

    The initiative move could be as simple as:

    If you act with haste and decisiveness to seize the initiative, state what you do and make your move with disadvantage (or, if you already had advantage, make your move normally).

  37. I’d back up to the beginning where you said, ” Seems like the Heavy’s move should resolve before the Blessed’s” I’m not so sure about that. Why not try something innovative and have simultaneous actions rolled simultaneously, resolving their outcomes into one integrated response. (There are nine possible outcomes in this case.) In the strict sense of the poll, however, I’d vote for option D.

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