Defy Danger revisions, scenarios, and POLLS!


Let’s imagine a version of Dungeon World in which Defy Danger’s was written as follows:

When you take a big risk or push yourself in the face of adversity, set the stakes and roll…
…+STR to employ brute force, power, might
…+DEX to act with speed, agility, or finesse
…+INT to use expertise, quick wits, cunning
…+WIS to apply willpower or sharp senses
…+CON to endure or hold steady
…+CHA to use charm, subterfuge, social grace
On a 10+, you do it as well as one could hope; on a 7-9, you can do it but the GM will offer a limited success, a cost, or a consequence (and maybe a choice between them, or a chance to back down).

Based on this wording of the move, would the following scenarios trigger Defy Danger? Answer the polls! (Did you know we can have polls???)

Scenario One: Pickpockets!
The PCs are in Shadizar the Wicked (a cesspool of a city if ever there was one). The halfling Fighter spotted Valieos, that dog, but Valieos spotted him back and bolted. The Fighter ran off after him, leaving the Bard and the Thief a-blinking in the seedy tavern. We resolve the Fighter’s pursuit with a custom move, but the dice aren’t in his favor and I choose to separate them. I switch back to the Bard and Thief and tell them that the Fighter’s just gone and doesn’t appear to be coming back anytime soon, so what do you do?

They leave the tavern and go check the street, bumping into a pair of red-robed cultists (the cultists give each other knowing looks, but leave without otherwise interacting with the PCs). They study the situation, trigger Discern Realities with a 7-9, and ask “What happened here recently.” I say that it looks like the Fighter and Valieos ran off to the north, towards the Maul–there’s a merchant picking themselves up off the cobbles, knocked down by the chase.

They help the merchant and the Bard chats him up. I show signs of an approaching threat (or maybe I’m offering an opportunity that fit’s a class’s abilities, whatever). “Thief, while the Bard is talking to the merchant, a slim figure jostles you from behind and you just know they’re trying to lift your purse. What do you do?”

“I spin and grab the pickpocket’s wrist before they can get away.”

Is this Defying Danger?

  • Yes, the Thief is taking a big risk
  • Yes, the Thief is pushing himself in the face of adversity
  • No, not Defying Danger

0 voters

Scenario Two: Uninvited Guests
The next morning in Shadizar, our Bard wakes up next to his lover-for-the-evening. He’s groggy and naked except for the sheet. His gear is on the other side of his companion’s small, rented room.

I show signs of an approaching threat and tell him that he hears creaking on the floorboards outside the room, and hushed whispers. What do you do?

“I start reaching for my rapier and cock my head, trying to figure out how many there are, what they’re about to do, etc.” We agree it’s Discerning Realities, but he biffs the roll, and I put him in a spot. Before he even gets out of the bed, two red-robed cultists kick in the door and rush him, cudgels held high, what do you do?

“I whip the bed sheets at them!”

Is this Defying Danger?

  • Yes, the Bard is taking a big risk
  • Yes, the Bard is pushing himself in the face of adversity
  • No, not Defying Danger

0 voters

Scenario Three: I Dodge!
The Bard whips the bed sheets and manages to entangle one of the cultists. “The other one rushes past him and swings the cudgel down at your head, what do you do?”

“Crap, I duck and roll to the side, trying to get out of the way!”

Is the Bard Defying Danger?

  • Yes, the Bard is taking a big risk
  • Yes, the Bard is pushing himself in the face of adversity
  • No, not Defying Danger

0 voters

Scenario Four: Presenting the Plan
A totally different town, totally different PCs, totally different classes (Stonetop, if you’re interested).

The town’s cistern (protected by ancient Maker-magic that purifies the water) has been violated by unknown saboteurs! The wards on the cistern have been broken and the water poisoned. A number of townsfolk have fallen ill; some have died. The PCs still don’t know who the saboteur is, but this a small, isolated town and there’s every reason to be believe they’re still around.

The Seeker (a PC) has studied the ancient Maker-runes and figured out how to repair them: it’ll take a few hours and some expensive ingredients, but they’ve got those.

The Blessed (another PC, well-known as the Seeker’s mentor) has a move that lets him “mark a boundary” with magical writing that will either repel someone or trap someone. (The move doesn’t require a roll until the wards are actually tested.) They decide that the Blessed will set one of wards around the well itself, to repel “Stonetop’s enemies,” but they’ll also mark a boundary around the inside of the cistern-building, to trap “Stonetop’s enemies.”

The Seeker goes to the town council, with the backing of the Marshal (another PC, who runs the militia). They announce that the Seeker has figured out how to repair the Maker-wards, and that he plans to do so with the Blessed’s help. The Marshal says she’ll post a guard outside the cistern while they work, to ensure the saboteur doesn’t strike again. That’s their story. They distinctly do NOT mention that the Blessed will actually be laying down additional magical wards to repel and trap Stonetop’s enemies.

The Marshal does most of the talking to the town council, but the Seeker is there as well. Is anyone Defying Danger?

  • Yes, the Marshal and/or Seeker are taking a big risk
  • Yes, the Marshal and/or Seeker are pushing themselves in the face of adversity
  • No, neither of them is Defying Danger

0 voters

Scenario Five: Repairing the Cistern
The council agrees to the plan. Heck, they suggest throwing a big festival to celebrate the cistern being restored! No one asks any questions or seems suspicious about the Blessed helping the Seeker with the runes. Word spreads that the PCs are going to repair the cistern and purify the water.

The next day, they enact the plan: the Seeker and the Blessed go into the cistern-building and start carving/painting runes all over. The Marshal’s loyal crew are standing guard outside.

The cistern is a squat, enclosed stone building from the time of the Makers, with one entrance and a circular well inside the building.

The saboteurs, who originally poisoned the well and ruined its wards, are still at large. You, the GM, know that the saboteurs are actually a small conspiracy of families who are under the influence of a hostile faerie living in the woods, with long-standing beef against the town. The PCs don’t know this, though.

Are the Seeker and the Blessed Defying Danger?

  • Yes, they’re taking a big risk
  • Yes, they’re pushing themselves in the face of adversity
  • No, not Defying Danger

0 voters

Scenario Six: At the Cistern
The Seeker gets the cistern’s wards repaired, and the Blessed lays their magical trap, and no one seems to be the wiser. The next day, there’s a celebration! Everyone in town is invited/encouraged to come drink from the cistern. They cook a bunch of meat, pass out whisky, etc.

While the Seeker and the Blessed were working, the Marshal and the Fox investigated. Various clues have pointed them to one couple. They go to went to interrogate their suspects.

They find the couple at home, decidedly not attending the celebration and acting strange and apathetic. The Marshal pressures them to attend, inviting them to come meet the mysterious new stranger who showed up yesterday, having killed the monster who abducted the couple’s child. There’s a Parley, and the wife agrees to come (the husband not so much, but he wasn’t a chief suspect for reasons).

The Marshal, the Fox, and the suspect arrive at the celebration and get in line to go into the cistern and have that drink of water. (Remember, the cistern building is warded to trap “Stonetop’s enemies.”) But the mysterious stranger is at the celebration, in a drum circle, and when he sees the suspect he gets murder in his eyes! He stands up and makes to looks like he’s about to come kill the suspect right then and there, but the Fox makes eye contact, gives a stern look, and shakes her head.

There’s a roll (let’s call it Parley… the mysterious stranger has made it clear he’s here to help the Fox, and respects her greatly, so her approval is all the leverage she needs). She nails the roll, gets a 10+, so the stranger stops in his tracks.

But! The stranger is a big guy, he just interrupted the drum circle, and he’s still staring at the suspect. So the Marshal calmly steps between the suspect and the stranger, chatting the suspect up and gently guiding her towards the cistern’s entrance.

Is the Marshal Defying Danger?

  • Yes, the Marshal is taking a big risk
  • Yes, the Marshal is pushing herself in the face of adversity
  • No, not Defying Danger

0 voters


I’ve missed these!

I’m excited to see the conversation that comes out of this. Nothing much to add at the moment, but I’m looking forward to a deeper dive into Defy Danger.


I assume this is intended to inform a test of a new phrasing of this move for your game. I am not sure if I am a fan of this specific phrasing, but I’m really looking forward to finding out whether the polls indicate it’s working as you intended.


Note on Question 2: At my table, “I whip the bedsheets at them” would be followed up by “… what’s your intent with that?” I answered that it wasn’t Defy Danger, not because it couldn’t be, but it was declaring an action but not an intended outcome for it. Everything else was fine in terms of not requiring follow-up.


“What’s your intent here?”

“Befuddle then, give me a chance to get away or at least get my rapier!”

Does that change your answer?


A-yup. So far it’s mapping about as expected, though not necessarily as desired.

What are you disliking about the phrasing?


Yup, that makes it into Defy Danger because it’s clear what the danger is if he biffs it.


Because he’s taking a big risk? Or pushing himself in the face of adversity?


Um… both? Ah, I am maybe grokking what you’e getting at, is it the difference between Danger you Defy because you deliberately took a risk (Swap the idol for the sandbag) and Danger you Defy because something else snowballed on you (there’s a boulder rolling down the hall towards you)?


What I found hard about this phrasing is:

  • Not clear if “take a big risk” applies to risks that are already baked into the situation. Ex: the priests are probably going to cudgel you anyway, so are you taking a risk by flicking your sheet at them?
  • Not clear what constitutes pushing yourself. Is it doing something difficult? Difficult for anyone or difficult for you? Are we talking about exceeding your usual limitations, or just having to exert your usual abilities?

This led to me choosing “not defying danger” in several situations that I thought really ought to count.


My concerns about the wording are:

  1. “Push yourself in the face of adversity” is so broad that it potentially overlaps with any other existing move in a dangerous situation, like combat moves. (Maybe you’ve rephrased those enough that that’s not an issue, though.)
  2. “Take a big risk” is less specific and concrete than “act despite an imminent threat.” I know that the original version of Defy Danger is not for when I’m focusing wholly on mitigating an imminent threat, but for when I’m doing something else, knowing that the threat could come back to bite me. And “imminent” is really crucial in that original phrasing — in the example of hiding information about the wards, I do think they’re taking some big risks, like alienating people if it comes out what they’re really doing, or not adequately selling the story of their intent with a spy listening. But it’s not an imminent threat, so I’d know not to use the original Defy Danger, and I’m iffy on whether your version counts. And for that reason…
  3. I’m not really sure the name “Defy Danger” actually fits with this move’s text.

I’m very curious how or where you hoped answers would map differently!


Eh, not necessarily even a “hoped,” but… I was kind of hoping for more “not Defying Danger” answer all around. Particularly on the first 3.

I think it might be good for the game if, when the Bard says “I dodge!” we all agree that a move doesn’t trigger, because it’s kind of a boring thing to say. Like, what if, when the Bard says “I dodge out of the way!” we just say “okay” and then make another GM move, either offering an opportunity or putting him in a spot, or otherwise provoking and escalating until the Bard says or does something that would either trigger a different move (like Discern Realities or Hack & Slash), or significantly shift the status quo and momentum (like diving out the window or bumrushing the cultist in an effort to get to his gear, etc.). If “I dodge” wasn’t really considered part of the trigger, then all we’d be left with is GM moves, and that might be desirable.

So what I was kind of hoping was that the more-extreme language in the trigger would would make scenario 1 (the pick pocket) definitely not Defying Danger, and scenarios 2 and 3 have a larger percentage of “not Defying Danger.” But I’m not really surprised to see that they aren’t, if that makes sense.


If that’s your aim, why not delete the move outright?


I hesitated around the dodge thing and didn’t know how to answer. I agree that it’s not all that interesting and the fiction can move on to some other moment that better deserves a roll, but I recognized how commonly dodging out of a telegraphed attack is a Defy Danger roll in traditional Dungeon World. I think some of that ingrained behavior on what the roll is for might be informing some of these answers? I recognize that you’re trying to word it in such a way to reshape how people use the move, but my guess is that that might be where some people’s answers are coming from?

I haven’t thought through the whole move structure of the game incredibly in depth, but I might echo @rabalias question-- if the move seems like it gets called on for less interesting actions that people should just play out fictionally, is it worth just getting rid of the move?

P.S. I always get the vague sense that there’s a lot of fatigue around Dungeon World talk, and especially Defy Danger, but I’m relatively new to the scene, so I apologize if “maybe just get rid of the move” is nothing new XD


You’re about to get your third “Why not just delete the move?” in a row. :slightly_smiling_face: Another way I might ask this, though, is what it might look like when this move IS triggered to your satisfaction.


It is interesting that there is a fair amount of dislike for the move in DW - but it is the only move in WoDu. I feel like that says something…


I love WoDu because it’s just so easy. But while I feel like I get how to use this move in DW, it does annoy me at times because it feels like an extra step I need to deal with, rather than neatly folded into the existing system of moves. I think that’s what worries me about redesigning or rephrasing it such that it might be triggered even more often. It sounds like the intent here is to phrase it such that it triggers even less often, which I appreciate in theory, but it certainly makes me wonder if there’s a way to do it that doesn’t feel like an extra step.


The part about the wording I don’t care for is ‘taking a big risk.’ By the nature of moves, don’t they all require uncertainty of outcome, which is in essence a risk that the character is taking, or you wouldn’t roll? What that means to me is that ALL moves indicate a taking a risk, so what makes this move distinct and interesting from the others? If we go back to one interpretation, Defy Danger was meant to map to Saving Throws in D&D. If that is the basis, it’s not really about risk, but about avoiding something bad happening (e.g., dodging a fireball) in a specific way (e.g., brute force, wits, speed, etc.).

And going down the path you had started, what would move would trigger in these scenarios if not Defy Danger, as you had hinted? Just fiction (e.g., they do it?)? Hack and Slash for the sheet dodge? Beat 'Em at Their Own Game for catching the pickpocket (that’s not a move of course, but the idea behind it feels closer to what would work there, with the trigger being a contest of skill/talent that could parse to STR, DEX, CON, etc. easily; the consequences could be interesting also, flowing from that trigger and name)?


In regards to “why not just rid of the move?”

  1. Part of my self-imposed design constraints for Stonetop and Homebrew World are to leave the general structure of the Basic Moves in place. I’ve fudged that a bit with Aid/Interfere and split them into two moves, but there’s still, like, Aid. And Interfere. So within those constraints, it should stay.

  2. I do think there’s a place for a general “do the difficult/consequential thing” move, particularly in a game that has as much space as DW. Mostly, I’m looking for a way to raise the “threshold” of Defy Danger triggering, moving away from “anything that feels like it should require a roll” to… something more significant.

What I’m leaning towards now is this:

I don’t think this gets me to the point of ruling out “I dodge” from triggering Defy Danger, but I do think it rules out some of the more trivial things. Simply leading with “when the stakes are high” rules out, say, climbing steep slope when there’s no additional, pressing threat, or (in most cases) grabbing a street urchin’s wrist as they try to lift your purse. I think!

Interested if anyone thinks that phrasing would cover more situations than “act despite an imminent threat” or “take a big risk/push yourself in the face of adversity”.


I think this is better! But I am also still unclear on when you WANT it to trigger, versus when you’d grudgingly accept one might call for a roll. A big part of this is, I think, because it lacks the specificity offered by the word “despite.”

To put it another way: It does narrow things a lot to specify stakes. Do you want it to simultaneously broaden things by having it cover any “act” rather than those that are specifically heedless of an imminent threat? (Maybe you do! It’s not a rhetorical question or meant to be a complaint.)