Here they come!

Here they come!

Here they come! The swarm of orcs smashes into the front rank of soldiers, snarling and snapping. The line buckles, but holds… for now! You can tell that they won’t last long under this ferocious pressure. What do you do?

The Fighter hoists her shield readies her sword. “If you’ve got any clever ideas, Ranger, now would be a good time!” I’m staying alert, ready for an attack if one of them makes it through the lines or something. Defend? I got an 8, so… 1 hold.

The Ranger hops up onto one of the battlements and scans the approaching forces, assessing the situation and looking for any edge he can get. Rolls Discern Realities and gets a 10+. “What should I be on the lookout for?” A little to your left, there’s a spot in the line where your forces are really having a hard time with it. It could give way any moment. “Ugh… who or what is really in control here?” You spot a big old one-eyed orc, maybe like two ranks back, right near where the line is about to collapse. There’s sort of space all around him, and he’s urging the orcs on… he’s clearly a lieutenant or war-priest or something. “Okay… what here is useful or valuable to me?” Um… honestly? Your bow and arrows. You take that one-eyed priest out, and it’s going to change the course of this battle. What do you do?

“I’ve got a shot?” asks the Ranger. You’ll have to roll Volley, but yeah, you can try? “He’s not surprised?” No, he’s in the middle of a battle… he’s got his one eye all sorts of peeled for danger. “Okay, I’ll draw, take aim… fire! Volley… whew! A 7. I guess I’ll move to get the shot, placing myself in a danger as you describe it.”

Okay, so… you’ve got to hop and weave closer to the front line, then jump up onto one of those huge stones the siege engines tossed earlier. Roll your damage!

The Fighter interjects… “I’m staying close to the Ranger as he does this, so I can protect her!” Cool.

Ranger nails it and rolls 8 damage! The one-eyed orc goes down! But for the danger, I say that as he takes the shot, the weak point in the line breaks and a swarm of orcs rush through,. Three of them are rushing right at you in your obvious spot, what do you do?

The Fighter is like “oh no they don’t! I spend my 1 hold and jump in front of the Ranger and redirect the attack to myself. I’m hacking and hewing left and right at those orcs!”

Okay, cool… but how do we resolve that in game?

Option A The Fighter’s just Hacking & Slashing. The fact that she had 1 hold from Defend doesn’t really even matter, because she was fictionally positioned to do intercept the orcs anyhow. (But she loses the 1 hold because she’s not defending anymore.)

Option B The Fighter is Hacking & Slashing, but the 1 hold she spent means that those orcs are fixed on her and the Ranger is definitely in the clear.

Option C The Fighter doesn’t actually need to spend the hold. She’s Hacking & Slashing the orcs, but keeps that 1 hold because she’s still defending him. If she rolls a miss on the H&S and I have the orcs rush past her, then she might spend that 1 hold to intercept them. But on a 7-9 (or a 10+ if she exposes herself), she could use that 1 hold to half the damage or effects of the orcs’ counterattack.

Option D The Fighter intercepts the orcs and she’s got their attantion, but she suffers the orc’s attack in full. In this case, let’s say is damage (d6+2, 1 piercing & messy, +2 extra damage for the three orcs attacker her.

20 thoughts on “Here they come!”

  1. Some things to consider before/as/after you answer…

    If your answer was anything other than A… what would you have done if the Fighter wasn’t holding 1 from Defend, but still declared that they jumped in?

    If your answer was anything other than D… what if the Fighter had 3 hold instead of 1 hold? Would that have made D look like a better choice?

    If your answer is B… what if the Fighter had 3 hold instead of 1 hold? Could they have spent the extra hold to deal (extra) damage on the attacker? To halve the effects of the attack?

    If your answer is C… what if the Fighter rolls a 10+ on H&S and doesn’t expose herself to attack… does she still have that hold? If she’s still fighting when the spotlight comes back to her, could she H&S again (describing a defensive fight) and still spend the hold?

    (Edit to add): If your answer is D… If the Fighter didn’t already hold 1 from Defend, would you have them roll Defend now? What benefit does the Fighter gain for having rolled Defend earlier (risking a miss), before you made your soft move against the Ranger?

    Regardless of your answer: Let’s imagine that you described the danger from the Ranger’s 7-9 Volley (the line giving way, the orcs rushing through, three of them heading toward the Ranger), and then you immediately shifted the spotlight to the Fighter. “You see them rushing at the Ranger, what do you do?” Would that change your answer at all?


    [I MEAN IT]


    I chose D because it is the obvious narrative direction. The fighter already said she was Defending, waiting for the orcs to break through, and then moved to specifically protect the ranger, maintaining Defend. The Ranger made their shot right when the line broke, but that has no bearing on the fact that the line broke. Then you resolve all of the pre-declared actions that were going to take place:

    >The fighter, standing at the ready to defend her comrade, does just that: Spends 1 hold to defend her comrade, leaving the ranger free from attacks (assuming any were coming their way as described in your comment above or otherwise).

    >Then, seeing as the wave continues to press on (fictional description of her running out of hold) chooses to turn on the offensive, then initiating H&S.

    Now, here’s why I didn’t choose the other 3 options, and an answer to your alternate situations described above:

    A: The fighter already declared they were defending the ranger if and when the line broke, plus they stated how they were spending their hold and it makes sense with the fiction. Therefore, hold is spent and attack is redirected.

    B: This option is basically D except it doesn’t follow the rules. The Defend option chosen is “Redirect an attack to yourself”, not “Prevent the attack from happening”. Therefore, the attack that would have been meant for the ranger (We’re assuming there was one. The fighter said she stopped it so there had to have been an attack to stop) is now dealt to her.

    C: You could totally say “Well, you’re the first person they get to in the backlines, so they were going to attack you first anyway” or the like, and it might make sense, but it feels a little less… heroic, don’t you think? Besides, that hold needs to be spent; otherwise, the orcs totally could have been rushing for the first threat they could see, the ranger, and to merely H&S on their way by wouldn’t have made a difference in their target.

    What if fighter isn’t Defending: See my response as to why C isn’t a good choice. If she’s not defending, then all she’s doing is thinning the horde, not directly protecting her ally.

    What if fighter had 3 hold (I know, you only wanted people who –don’t— think D is right to answer, but hear me out)-: In this instance, the hold from Defend basically creates another battle line that consists only of the fighter. When Defend runs out, the line breaks. However, in this instance, I would argue that maintaining the “line” takes concentration that would otherwise be used by attacking; that is to say, either continue Holding or start attacking and let ranger get attacked.

    What if spotlight changed: I think this just firmly plants the answer as D. Now all of the agency is on the fighter, and you have already established that there is an attack being made against the ranger that the fighter needs to stop. Hold will be spent, but then it’s more on the fighter to continue defending, either by Interfering with an orc’s attack, or retreating to defend the high ground, etc.

    I know this was a long answer, but I hope it explains my reasonings pretty well. If anyone disagrees or wants to add something, I’m totally down for discussing.

  3. Jim Morris Only changes her epigraph to “She died saving my life”. Remaining HP should not have any effect on how the GM plays, unless it’s “The orcs are incensed at the sight and smell of your blood being spilled, and they revel in your pain, redoubling their efforts”

  4. These are fun, but the more complicated the case, the more I’d ask the players. What do they want, precisely, what would they like, what does their character do, how and why ? (I know this isn’t the point here.)

  5. Mark Weis (or anyone else):

    For D: why does the Fighter take damage/suffer the orcs’ attack? The GM made a soft move at the Ranger and asked the Ranger what do you do? The Fighter then spent hold to make herself the target of that move. But it was still a soft move.

    D basically says “you can interrupt a soft move made against another character/place, but it’s giving the GM a golden opportunity.”

    Why do I need to spend hold/risk a roll to do that?

  6. I think it all hangs on the Fighter saying they were following and sticking close to the Ranger. Because they did that, when the GM says “three orcs are coming at you [Ranger]” the Fighter can say, “Well they are coming at me as well, so I attack them!” No hold spent on Defend, option C.

    If the Fighter hadn’t said that specifically, the I think the Fighter would have to spend the Hold to get into position to then H&S, Option B.

  7. Hans Messersmith Well, the Orcs are coming at the ranger specifically, but the fighter interposes herself by spending that hold. (unless that’s what you’re saying, i’m somewhat confused as to your point)

    Jeremy Strandberg I suppose you have a point, and that the move was only a soft move; no axes were being swung or arrows let loose, so the fighter doesn’t necessarily need to take damage. However, I believe that the soft move is a soft move up until something is done about it, at which point the soft move is changed depending on what is done. In this case, it was only a soft move, a threat, until the target was in range. When the fighter steps in, their new target is now within range, and they suddenly can swing their axes and let loose their arrows. However, I could also see the argument that all the fighter did was interpose herself, and that allowed her to enter melee combat with them, as otherwise they might have let her go while chasing their primary goal- the ranger.

  8. Rob Brennan Personally, I think Defend is one of the most fictionally-rich moves, and I’m always looking for places to trigger it. It holds a special place in my heart alongside Defy Danger with WIS.

  9. Mark Weis what I mean is that the Fighter is right there, standing next to the Ranger. Any move against the Ranger is also a move against the Fighter, because of how the Fighter has positioned themselves. The GM can’t say “they are only going for the Ranger” when the two characters are literally standing next to each other. That’s why I think this is the important detail.

  10. I think it’s important here that the orcs breaking through is a soft move. In my mind, when that happens, the GM turns to the fighter and asks “what do you do” (the ranger just had an action, and the fighter is fictionally positioned for this threat).

    The fighter then just holds her ground and does the H&S on the attacking orcs. She may spend her hold as she sees fit, either to reduce damage, or (should one of the orcs break off to hit the ranger) to redirect attacks.

  11. The soft move that the GM made wasn’t an attack on the Ranger, so could not have triggered the spending of Defend hold to “redirect an attack”. In the moment, however, I would have allowed the Fighter to spend that hold to so something like “command the attention of the orc swarm”, and, thus, keep them off the Ranger (sort of like drawing aggro in an MMORPG). Lacking that spent hold, the FIghter would have engaged some of the orcs, but some would have continued on to everyone else, Ranger included.

    So, I would have effectively made the answer B, even though it requires bending the letter of the rules. Intent-wise, I think it’s a reasonable thing to do at the table.

    So, I guess what I’m saying is that Defend needs to have an additional choice. (Or maybe the Fighter should have a way to make defend have that choice.)

  12. I haven’t changed it for Fourth World, but I might have to now! Slightly tricky in that case, though, as the Warrior already has moves specifically to draw attention of the enemy, implying that other disciplines can’t (or, rather, would need to Defy Danger to do so).

    One thing to look at might be an item at the end of the list of what you can spend defend hold on that gives a limited spurt of narrative control, like:

    • narrate something that happens in the thick of battle that tends to draw danger away from others and toward you. If the GM agrees, it happens.

  13. I’m leaning towards this:


    When you commit yourself to defense (of yourself or others), roll +CON: on a 10+, hold 3 Defense; on a 7-9, hold 1 Defense.

    When you or your ward are attacked, you may spend Defense 1-for-1 to choose an option from the list below.

    • Suffer the attack’s effects/damage instead of your ward

    • Halve the attack’s effect or damage

    • Draw all attention from your ward to yourself

    • Strike back at the attacker (deal damage, with disadvantage)

    The first bullet (hopefully) would it make it clear that it’s meant to be in response to a hard move and actual specific consequences.

    The third bullet replaces the “open the attacker to an ally, they get +1 forward against them.” It does what +Lester Ward is suggesting by giving a “hold aggro” option that may or may not be useful or necessary, fiction dependent. While it loses the mechanical benefit, I’ve rarely seen someone use that option on Defend unless they had “hold to burn,” and fictionally, drawing all attention to yourself gives your ward all sorts of fictional opportunity to act.

    Fourth bullet is something I’ve been doing for Defend for a long time… dealing damage equal to your level makes the option very weak at the lowest levels and ridiculously good at higher levels; I think this makes it more even. I also think the wording (“Strike back at the attacker”) helps clarify the fiction a bit, reminding you that this is in response to an attack in the first place.

    Also changed the trigger(s) a little, but that’s more about personal preference. Biggest difference is removing the “place or thing” clause, but I’m not 100% sold on that.

    Oh, and +Lester Ward… if you still want a Warrior (or whatever) to have a “pull aggro” move… “When you hold Defense (from the Defend move), you can always draw all attention from your ward to yourself, without spending Defense on it.”

    (edit for formatting)

  14. B

    I’d definitely have the Fighter spend its hold as she “redirects attacks to herself”. In the fiction, these orcs were going for the Ranger. The Defend move here is your “right” to affect the narrative.

    If the Fighter didn’t describe how she’s hacking at them, I’d asked her to roll Defy Danger against the orcs attacks. Makes sense to me as that’s what I’d have asked the Ranger if the Fighter didn’t intervene.

    Since she’s clearly attacking, makes sense to make her roll H&S instead of DD. Seems mechanically sound. You either deal damage at a high risk of getting hit (on a 9-) or you focus on not getting hit (DD) and have more change not to (on a 7+).

    EDIT: I still believe that adding a “Drive or hold them back” choice option to Defend would make more sense here.

    The Fighter in this situation isn’t really deflecting attacks against himself, the orcs weren’t attacking the Ranger yet. Holding them back would mean they can’t even get to him, which, to me, makes more sense in this situation and in the fiction.

  15. B.

    The Fighter stayed within the fiction and announced the intention to keep the RAnger safe. If he didn’t, I might ask him if he wanted to, or even let him halve the incoming damage, but when the line breaks – the line breaks. If the Fighter spends the hold, there won’t even be a throwing axe/spear leveled at the Ranger. 😉

    Sure! more hold is better – and being crafty at defending is a vital skill in any battlefield/sport field, and the ability to halve the incoming damage would be nice. Since there’s a Hack and Slash rolled, I wouldn’t allow for dealing Defend-damage, but an extra hold could halve the damage once more or maybe redirect the thrown axe/spear to the Fighter.

    EDIT: As the Fighter runs towards the orks and engage in H&S he can use a hold to secure that no-one comes through to the Ranger (this time around), but the hold would be spent. Depending on fictional positioning and explanations (shield?) I might let him halve the incoming damage as well, but the Defend has run it’s course!


    I’ve always explained that in Apocalypse World and Dungeon World you WANT the answer to 2 questions, but the third is fun (for the MC/GM or table), but 1question leaves you wanting just a little bit.

    In fact, if someone helps someone Discern Realities, I often have them ask one of the questions (when they get 3).

  16. C: The GM’s move, triggered by the ranger’s 7-9 Volley, was to state that the orcs broke through the line and that three ran toward the ranger. The GM then asked, “What do you do?” This placed the ranger in danger, as per the ranger’s choice. There was no actual attack to intercept. So no hold needed to be spent. It’s just a Hack and Slash for the fighter since the fighter stated he was staying close to the ranger. The narrative put him there for the question, “What do you do?” And since the fighter’s reason for sticking to the ranger was to protect him, the 1 hold for Defend is still available to him, should the ranger actually take an attack. Assuming it remains plausible in the narrative if and when that attack comes, of course.

    Had one or more of the orcs who broke through actually thrown an axe or spear, then yes, I would have required the fighter to spend that hold and take the damage. If the fighter had 3 hold, I wouldn’t have let him spend any hold to deal damage since he wasn’t in range. Nor would I have let him spend it to half the damage since he himself wasn’t the target of his Defend. He would still hold 2 Defend to be used as long as he continued to protect the ranger.

    If the fighter rolls a 10+ on Hack and Slash, then he’s simply doing a good job of holding them off. Unless the fighter states something that would imply he’s no longer protecting the ranger, he should be able to retain the 1 hold for Defend as long as he continues to protect the ranger while attempting to cut down the orcs as they draw near.

  17. B: But the spending of the Hold means that the Ranger is, fiction unchanged, untouchable at this point.

    That’s what distinguishes this from the Fighter just doing H+S but without a Defend Hold: if it was this latter case, a follow up soft move would naturally be ‘Ranger, the fighter’s got the attention of a couple but one of the orcs is circling around and eyeing you.’

    The Hold buys the Ranger space to do what they want.

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