The other PCs are making a run for the airship, but the Paladin falls back.

The other PCs are making a run for the airship, but the Paladin falls back.

The other PCs are making a run for the airship, but the Paladin falls back. “I’ll stop in the archway, turn, and face the Usurper’s soldiers. Sword at the ready, they aren’t getting past me.”

Cool! We all agree that she’s Defending. She rolls it, 10+. 3 hold! Sweet.

The four soldiers fan out, size her up. She waits. They rush her! What do you do?

“Give a little ground so they can only come at me two at once, block their blows, cut them down as I’m able!”

How do you resolve this?

(Assume that you talk it out with the Paladin, agree on what’s fair, etc. Also, of course you can Defend yourself. It’s right in the discussion of the Defend move, page 62 )

Option A: The Paladin rolls to Hack & Slash, and we resolve that move. Because she’s fighting, she’s no longer standing in defense and loses her Hold.

Option B: The Paladin rolls to Hack & Slash. It’s a 7-9. The Paladin rolls her damage and cuts one of the soldiers down, but they make an attack against her… let’s say d8+1 damage. The Paladin spends 1 hold to halve the damage, then spends 1 more hold deal damage equal to her level to one of the other attackers (not enough to drop him, but he felt it). The soldiers back off, warry. The Paladin still holds 1. “What do you do?”

Option C: The Paldin spends 1 hold to halve the attack’s damage/effect, so she takes d8+1 damage, halved. She spends 1 more hold to deal her level in damage to one (or maybe both) of the attackers. They’re still up, but maybe back off a little, two of them on her, two behind them. The Paladin still has 1 hold. They renew their attack, what do you do?

34 thoughts on “The other PCs are making a run for the airship, but the Paladin falls back.”

  1. Option C.

    “Defending something means standing nearby and focusing on preventing attacks against that thing or stopping anyone from getting near it. When you’re no longer nearby or you stop devoting your attention to incoming attacks then you lose any hold you might have had.”

    So long as they’re in that nebulous state of actively preventing attacks against what they’re defending, they spend hold instead of trying to roll moves.

    However, I would say it’s 3 hold total: you’re redirecting the attack to yourself, you’re halving the damage, and you’re dealing damage in return.

    Some more writing here: “An attack is any action you can interfere with that has harmful effects. Swords and arrows are attacks, of course, but so are spells, grabs, and charges.

    If the attack doesn’t deal damage then halving it means the attacker gets some of what they want but not all of it. It’s up to you and the GM to work out what that means depending on the circumstances. If you’re defending the Gem Eye of Oro-Uht and an orc tries to grab it from its pedestal then half effect might mean that the gem gets knocked to the floor but the orc doesn’t get his hands on it, yet. Or maybe the orc gets a hold of it but so do you—now you’re both fighting over it, tooth and nail. If you and the GM can’t agree on a halved effect you can’t choose that option.”

  2. Andy Hauge Ah! The intent was meant to be that the guards were directly attacking her, not trying to get past her at the PCs. I’ve edited the scenario slightly to (hopefully) convey that.

    I’m guessing that that doesn’t change your overall answer, but it’d negate the need for the Paladin to spend that 3rd hold, yeah?

  3. Yeah, it would. The SRD I referenced does definitely discuss “use Defend, giving up your attacks, to protect yourself”. You’ve got the right of it, then. The bit that confused me was the fiction of “I’m not letting them get past me.”

  4. Ah, yeah… that was meant to indicate the triggering of the move itself.

    But then the GM’s soft move is the soldiers putting her in a spot to which she holds position (looks to the GM). Then the GM makes a soft move of attacking her.

  5. Option C, seconding what Andy Hauge said.

    Defend is, for the most part, a nicely written move. However, its scenarios like this that make me want another version.

  6. A principle to keep in mind here is to be careful about fractalling moves. A move doesn’t map one-to-one onto a single specific fictional action. You can roll a bunch of attacks into a single Hack and Slash, for instance.

  7. I wonder what happens next. She still has one hold, and they are still hacking at her. I suppose she can choose between spending her hold for halving damage, and rolling to get more holds and do more than that.

    The general question behind this is: what triggers or not the ability to roll for more holds ? That is the most confusing part of the defend move, because it has an asynchronous reward.

    As long as the PC has holds left, he can interrupt the conversation for defending whatever he said he was defending, I suppose, but what happens if he has no more and needs some ? For example, he defends 3 guys. The three of them would take damage.

    Is he unable to defend when he has no more holds, till the three of them have had their roll resolved ?

    Or does he get to choose between rolling for more, and risk a 6-, or not being able to try to defend anymore ?

    I tend to think the second is the good answer, because the system is « balanced by itself » by rolls allways having consequences, and there should be no (technical) limit to the number of rolls a player gets between rolls made by other players

  8. Paladin’s in danger of them getting past her not just for her friends but because they might surround her and attack from all sides. “Not letting them past me!” doesn’t just protect her friends, it protects herself as well even if she didn’t voice the intent for it prior to the roll, having the friends get to safe ground and possibly aid her retreat (future defy danger roll).

  9. I don’t think that the action triggers an hack & slash move.

    As the paladin is not actively trying to attack the soldiers but wants only to delay them or stop them from passing. I would use a Defy danger roll based on STR or CON. If his purpose is to kill the attackers then the action is H&S, losing the holds BUT, as the fictional positioning is important, I would not allow the soldiers to surround him as he’s “defending” the archway.

  10. I think this really depends on what the player means by their last comment ‘cut them down as I am able’. If your player is thinking this is a scene where the camera zooms in, cinematically, ala 300 Sparta style, then I’d say its H&S. If it’s more of the player wanting to hold the line, shields up, gritting teeth, boots skittering a line in the dirt, then I’d roll Defense and not let anyone past at all and then work to see what the rolls mean.

  11. Andrew Huffaker but she already has rolled Defend! She’s got 3 Defense!

    But I take your point… if she/the group are leaning more on the “cut them down” part, roll Hack & Slash. If she’s leaning more toward just holding them off… spend hold from Defend.

    Let’s say it’s the former, though: does she keep her hold from Defend, and spend it in response to the Hack & Slash?

  12. Jeremy Strandberg I would say something like ‘You can become more aggressive, but you’ll lose your holds because it looks like you are no longer holding your ground, you are changing tactics’.

  13. Andrew Huffaker… i’m guessing that’s probably how this would go for a lot of folks who are voting C, too.

    “So, Paladin… are you like actively attacking them? If so, you’ll roll Hack and Slash but you’ll lose your hold from Defend. If you want to use that hold, you’ll have to let them attack and spend it in respond. Which do you choose?”

    Does that sound about right the “C” crowd?

  14. Halving damage and giving out her level in Damage, sure, but the important things is that she actually holds the archway and purchases time for her companions! (to presumably prepare for the airship to leave).

    Maybe one more roll will make the escape smooth, depending on what the Paladin does. I can se her Defy Danger with CHA, CON or STR, or even Hack’n’Slash or maybe her I am the Law! ability? I’d off course let her use her one last hold from Defend, but I’m not sure I’d like to just roll another Defend.

  15. Instinctively I’d chose C, although the (totally mechanical) problem I have with this situation is if she chose not to Defend and just stated she’d stop, turn and try to cut them down, she’d deal damage without a counter-attack(or deal +1d6) (thus probably killing one of them). Then, once resolved, I’d probably make a soft move (since no 6- rolled here) which would probably be resolved with a Defy Danger. On a 7+, she wouldn’t have received any damage.

    The Defend move here is subpar as you’d be only doing minimal damage (half your lvl or whatever variant you’re using which is usually less than full damage), and still receiving half the effect of the attack. I find hard to swallow the fact that in effect, you’d take less damage (or no damage at all) by NOT defending.

  16. Addramyr Palinor but the people would get past her even on a 10+ h&s, with the defend she’s stopping all of the attackers where she wants them and chooses to engage them with a h&s after she uses up the holds. If one or more of them then decides to go past her after that, she can roll defend again and do the same thing, or if she thinks she’s given enough time to the other characters, defy danger to see if she’s faster than the attackers.

  17. Addramyr Palinor I believe the difference which makes the Defend move superior is that success buys time for the Paladins friends to do other stuff (like readying the airship).

    A hack’n’slash migh do more damage, and even completely eradicate the danger, but as a GM I might still threathen the party members who left through the Archway, and on a miss, for sure!

  18. Emir Pasanovic nothing in the GM’s moves indicate that the soldiers are trying to get past the Paladin. They’re rushing her. So at the moment, she’s defending herself and maybe her tactically advantageous position in the archway.

    The only way that the moves (either H&S or Defend) account for the soldiers pushing her out of her position and surrounding her is if we interpret that as their “attack.” In which case Addramyr Palinor’s point still stands: a H&S 10+ would potentially avoid it entirely, and spending 1 hold from Defend would “halve” it (maybe one of them gets past).

  19. Michael Esperum I’d argue that the Paladin turning back to face down the soldiers in a choke point is what buys time for her allies, regardless of what move gets triggered.

    The soldiers now have a capable warrior standing before them, brandishing a weapon. Unless they have some alien psychology or very specific motivation to do otherwise, they’re going to deal with the Paladin first. No player move required… that’s just treating the fiction with respect, no?

  20. Emir Pasanovic Well, as per the move, there’s nothing that enforces this though. Nowhere does Defend says that you can prevent access or passage. The fiction tells you that. So can a warrior that flays his weapon around in such a way that nobody can pass without getting chopped.

  21. Jeremy Strandberg how would she h&s against all four of them, though? Successful h&s does whatever it does to the target, but the real danger of people getting past her (to surround her from all sides, or get to her friends, which is the assumption of the usurpers pursuing them in the first place?) is still there even if she succeeds. It’s all happening quickly and while she h&s the one guy, the other three can now deal damage at the same time and if she doesn’t defy danger, she’ll get the highest of 3dwhatever+3 instead of halved with a defend. Option C still makes the most sense in my mind however you put it.

  22. Addramyr Palinor right, but outside of the narrative, she’s defending against 4dwhatever damage (or however many can get to her in the archway), right? So, without that defend, she’ll receive the full brunt of the damage whatever she does, h&s succeeds or not, that’s what’s triggering the defend.

  23. I guess the choice that alleviate this issue would be B but as Emir Pasanovic said it, option C is still the one that makes most sense in my mind, at least on how I’d instinctively resolve the issue at the table.

    Plus option B creates a precedent that if you’re able to H&S even while Defending, why wouldn’t ALWAYS Defend, gain some holds, then rush into the fray?

  24. Emir Pasanovic Hmm I guess so.

    Technically, you’re making a soft move : “The 4 usurpers rushes toward you, what do you do?”. While it’s fair to say that saying you cut them down doesn’t really count as responding to the immediate threat (they are giving you a golden opportunity), I feel like it would be a cheap move from the GM. Chopping off their head would be a good way to avoid them from hitting you.

  25. Emir Pasanovic “how would she H&S against all four of them, though?”

    Depends entirely on your play culture, fictional assessment of the Paladin and the soldiers, etc.

    Like, if these were just mooks, and the Paladin was well established as a warrior badass, I’d have no problem with something like “I give ground into the archway, so that they only come two-at-once, and when they do I snap their blades aside and chop them down!”

    She’s fictionally positioned herself to face only two of them. She’s given us a description that would involve attacking multiple foes (the two that approach). The fiction is established that, yeah, Paladin’s a badass, so this is plausible. Cool, H&S. Apply her damage to both (either rolling once and applying to both, as in RAW, or rolling separately for each, or rolling just once and letting excess damage “roll over” from one to the other… however your group handles it).

    On a 7-9 H&S, assuming that at least three of the soldiers are still standing, the GM could totally choose to make the move “Put them in a spot” as the enemy’s attack, saying how maybe the Paladin cuts one of them down (or wounds them) but another one gets behind her, past her guard, and now she’s flanked. They all start stabbing and advancing as one, what do you do?

    The question, again, becomes: does the Paladin still have hold from Defend? Because if she does, she could halve that “attack.” So maybe not flanked, but hemmed in with her back to the alley wall and three of them ready to stab her… still not good, but better than being surrounded.

  26. Addramyr Palinor “if you’re able to H&S even while Defending, why wouldn’t ALWAYS Defend, gain some holds, then rush into the fray?”


    1) you don’t always have the fictional position to Defend in advance.

    2) Defending involves a roll, and a roll involves risk… you miss that “preemptive” Defend roll, the GM gets to make a hard move right then and there

    3) If you “rush into the fray,” you’re no longer Defending. Defend arguably still applies here because the Paladin is fighting in a defensive stance or position, attacking as the foes approach.

  27. Jeremy Strandberg I agree it’s up to how you describe the narrative and the badassery, but there are advanced moves for that badassery if I remember correctly and if she hasn’t gotten them…

    On the other hand, if she’s defending against the four, those four deal their damage (with the added defend effects), period, that’s what’s triggering the defend in the first place. If it doesn’t make sense that they trigger defend, all four at the same time, but two at a time, then she gets to use up holds for two damage rolls and hack and slash or roll again for defend and whatnot afterwards. She keeps the hold however long she’s defending, though (in this case, she’s actually defending the archway, I guess, or the space under it) and if they giver her an openning to h&s and then attack her somehow, she still has that one hold she didn’t use up.

  28. (Also, Emir Pasanovic, RAW is that multiple foes get the highest single die among them, +1 per extra attacker. Per-kickstarter versions had it as “all the attackers roll, take the highest single result.” And that’s what’s in the DW Guide. But official rules in this case would be the Paladin taking like d8+1 or d8+2 or d8+3, depending on how many soldiers got at her.)

  29. I think I believe standing in the archway and walking slowly backwards with shield raised gives a perfect fictional positioning for decreasing incoming damage and be sparingly effective on the offence, but that she also protect the the archways the Archway on a success.

    I’m guessing I’d even be lenient to let the Paladin not let anyone by, even with a 6- on the first roll; but now things are bad (lot’s of danger, a murderous named villain appears, or one the Usurper’s sorceress-circle arrives and casts a numbing speel).

  30. B: The soldiers are attacking the paladin because she’s preventing them from boarding the ship. They rushed HER. She’s not helpless. She’s just standing in Defense of a position. She stated that she was going to cut them down as she is able. So she’s fighting defensively. The paladin should roll her Hack and Slash when the guards attack and be able to spend hold from Defend as long as she continues to stand in defense of her position.

    It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me otherwise. The fact that she’s defending the ramp just means she has a goal she’s concentrating on. And the effort of that concentration costs her in ways of movement and action. It limits her in the narrative to an extent. The hold she retains is the limit of her efforts to achieve her goal. Looking at it mechanically, it’s give and take. I don’t see the sense in just standing there automatically taking damage while using Defend when you can avoid all damage on a 10+ result using Hack and Slash. Especially when the sum of your efforts to Defend is equal to 1 or 3 hold.

    I know it’s up to interpretation. If you follow the rules as written on page 64 of the rule book, the only place it says that you give up on making attacks is when defending yourself. Quote: “Defending yourself is certainly an option. It amounts to giving up on making attacks and just trying to keep yourself safe.” But in Dungeon World, the narrative (or fiction) comes first.

    I think a better rule for Defend, if it meant that you couldn’t trigger Hack and Slash, would be to get rid of the hold. Then whenever you or the thing you defend is attacked, roll+CON and choose one on 7-9, or two on 10+. And change the option to halve the attack’s damage or effect to avoid it instead.

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