“Uh-oh! Ranger, you’re surrounded! Three of those mutant goblins appear out of the spray, tittering and chittering and leering at you like you’re dinner. Water splashes all about as the tide comes in. The sea cave is starting to flood. What do you do?”

“I’ll take a defensive stance, spear braced behind me, and clear my head. I’m ready for the them. Defend?” Sure! She rolls, gets a 10+. Holds 3. She’s basically ceded the initiative by Defending, because she’s waiting to see what they do. Looking at the GM to see what happens. Soft move time.

“The one behind you, up on that rock, coils up and pounces, trying to tackle you and probably sink those teeth into your throat. What do you do?”

Which of these is best represents how this should resolve?

Version A: The Ranger spends 2 hold… 1 to halve the mutant goblins attack, another to deal damage back at the attacker. She describes pivoting away from the pouncing mutant and bringing her spear up to block it, then launching a kick into its solar plexus. The Ranger takes maybe 1/2 of d8 damage (let’s say only 3 points in the end) and stumbles but isn’t tackled, while that attacking mutant backs off, injured. The other two goblins, though, launch themselves at the Ranger (who still has 1 hold). “What do you do?”

Version B: The Ranger says that she pivots away from the pouncing mutant, bringing her spear up to block it’s attack and punting it hard in the solar plexus. The Ranger rolls Hack and Slash, gets a 7-9. Deals damage, suffers the enemy’s attack. In this case, I say that the leaping pounce of the goblin tackles her to the ground, raking and biting, for d8 damage, before she manages to kick it off of her (doing damage). She spends 1 hold to halve the effect/damage, from 6 HP down to 3 HP, and manages to keep her footing. She’s also spends another hold to deal her level in damage to the mutant that attacked her; let’s say that’s enough to drop it. The other two goblins, though, launch themselves at the Ranger (who still has 1 hold). “What do you do?”

15 thoughts on ““Uh-oh!”

  1. I chose “Either, but A is better”…

    Don’t have as much time as I did for the previous post, but still going to throw in my .02: The difference between H&S and the “Deal damage” portion of defend (apart from the fact that the latter is almost unusable if you’re level 3 or less) is that Defend is more reactionary–described exactly as you have it–and H&S is more active and offensive. If the ranger hadn’t ceded the initiative, and instead described lancing a goblin through the chest and then throwing it at the one behind them, then that would be a H&S.

    I can concede that occaisionally the two moves intersect (see my response to the previous scenario), but the juxtaposition of the different moves and mechanics creates a jarring, “artificial” combination.

  2. Both, but B is better.

    My reasoning is that the goblin had yet to actual attack and the GM was looking to the player for a response. Had the goblin just taken its opportunity and made the attack out right, then A. However, the player has been given another opportunity to be the aggressor.

    A harder move by the GM would have left the player defending themself.

  3. Either, but B is better: This is similar to the answer I gave in the scenario you put forth about the paladin defending the ramp against the soldiers. The fact that the ranger is defending just means he concentrating on warding off attacks to himself (as opposed to the paladin defending her position in the other scenario). The effort of that concentration costs the ranger 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.

    Again, 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.” This is the reason for the “Either, but” answer, but in Dungeon World, the narrative (or fiction) comes first.

    And again, 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.

  4. There is no choice for “Neither”. As standard defend is written, it doesn’t trigger in this situation, really. You might be able to say that the Ranger is “standing in defense of a location”, which would trigger the defend move, but the goblins aren’t trying to attack the location; they are attacking the Ranger.

    That is, though the Ranger is taking a defensive stance, she’s not really defending anything. The defense move is all about protecting something else, not defensive tactics.

    In this particular case, the Ranger saying she takes up a stance, ready to fight the globins is just narration and “looking to the GM”. The GM makes the soft move, Ranger responds with hack and slash. Defense doesn’t enter into it.

  5. Krynos Pentegarn We’ve often ruled that when you spend 2 Hold on “Half damage”, then you get rid of the full damage. That’s how you can defend and take no damage at all.

    @OP: I’d say it’s neither, because when the ranger says she’s getting ready, she isn’t actually defending anything yet because there’s no attack yet. When the goblins finally attack, she may decide to H&S or Defend or whatever.

  6. Some folks have said that Defend doesn’t trigger because the Ranger isn’t defending anything. She is defending herself as RAW states: “Defending yourself is certainly an option. It amounts to giving up on making attacks and just trying to keep yourself safe.”

    The rules also state “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.”

    Given the above two passages, it seems like option B is invalid because you can’t use both moves together. My interpretation of the rules is that you can either “give up on making attacks” and use Defend, or perform a Hack & Slash and abort Defend, losing all Hold, since you are “no longer devoting your attention to [preventing] incoming attacks”).

  7. I second that as soon as you H&S, you lose your holds, and hence B is irrelevant.

    If he really doesn’t want to get hit, that looks like a defy danger to me. But the description says « defensive stance » and it means he wants to fight defensively, so I would let him roll Defend and spend holds to divide damage and deal a bit of damage.

    But if we look at it from a narrative point of view, he can’t do that for long. He will soon see that he is putting himself into a dead end of rolling and rolling dice without having the story move forward, loosing HPs without inflicting much damage.

    After his first Defend, I would tell him the probable consequences of continuing and ask. Perhaps he should altogether fight and kill them, or perhaps he should try to find a way out of this mess (discern realities or sprout lore, then defy danger would probably be triggered)

    It seems a better way than forcing him to roll h&s

  8. Quoting from the SRD:

    “Defending yourself is certainly an option. It amounts to giving up on making attacks and just trying to keep yourself safe.”

    You can defend yourself, but you can’t H&S while doing so. As written it’s a terrible idea when you’re facing enemies alone, but if you’re the squishy party member and you just want to stall while your allies deal with the threat, that’s fine.

  9. Defending means buying time. It is very inefficient if there are no allies around and no attempt to look for a way out.

    Showing this to the character, by letting him roll defend (and witness the consequences), is a better way than telling it to the player.

  10. I don’t have a problem letting players H&S while holding defend. As long as what we have established supports this in the fiction. Often, players will unknowingly describe actions that would cause them to give up their hold. In those cases, I tell them the consequences and ask. It’s not RAW, perhaps, but I don’t see any harm in it. They have to risk missing another roll. On top of that, they almost surely give the GM an extra move and lose the initiative. I try and get a sense of what the player is hoping will happen. They might be hoping to see their fighter type weather a series of vicious attacks and then counter attack. As much as possible, I try not to subvert these expectations. Rather, I want to see what happens when we put them in exactly the situation they want.

  11. “They might be hoping to see their fighter type weather a series of vicious attacks and then counter attack. ” – This works perfectly well with RAW. Option 1: The fighter uses one hold to half the damage and weather the attacks, and a second hold to do his level in damage (which is the counterattack). Option 2: The fighter spends 1 hold to weather the atttacks and then does a subsequent H&S move as the counter.

    There is potential to abuse stacking Defend and H&S as it can reduce the negatives of a partial success or failure on an H&S roll.

  12. I don’t like defend, it seems to be a source of numerous problems. In the few dw games I’ve run, it was never used. I much prefer using defy danger, listen to player description and see what happens.

  13. Antti Lusila My group and I very rarely used it the first couple years we played DW. But we’ve been using it to pretty good effect this past year. It just takes getting used to. As we tried it and began to see it in play, we developed an interpretation of the move that works. At least for us.

    We basically look at Defend as something the player is concentrating on while also performing other actions triggered by answering the question, “What do you do?”

    If a fighter states something in the narrative that implies he is defending a ranger who might be standing beside him or behind him, or that he is defending a position like a doorway or narrow corridor, it limits him in the narrative. If he moves or does anything that makes it implausible for him to continue defending his “target”, he loses his hold.

    Just because he’s defending though, doesn’t mean he can’t react to the question “What do you do?” Therefore, a fighter defending a doorway can react to creatures trying to cut him down by attacking them in return as they reach him. So he can Hack and Slash, and still keep and spend his hold from Defend as long as he continues to do so in the


    If the fighter stated something that makes it apparent that he is concentrating solely on defense, then the narrative might trigger Defy Danger instead, and allow him to possibly avoid the attack altogether on a 10+. If he rolls a 7-9 and the GM decides to deal damage, the fighter can spend hold from Defend to halve the damage, deal damage to the attacker, etc.

    If he’s not Defending, or the “target” of his defense isn’t attacked (such as when defending an ally), then it’s just a straight up Hack and Slash or Defy Danger. At least that’s the way we use Defend around our table currently.

  14. Defintely A, but I would probably have the other two goblins attack on the same ‘count’; thus rolling d8+2 damage for their attack and The Ranger deal her level in damage to two of them with expentiture of her last two hold.

    The last one would be part of the “escape the water tide filling the cave”, as scenery or dealing damage before floating away.

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