Dungeon World

I'm having a heck of a time challenging a party of 3 adventurers in Dungeon World. They can defeat any monster in the book with minimal effort. The cleric can heal any number of wounds using a Rote and expending zero resources. They are now 6th-7th level, and there is absolutely no challenge in the game. There has really been no threat of death throughout the campaign, with one character making the "cheat death" move (or whatever it's called). And he succeeded.
Am I just missing something?
 
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SoftDutch

Villager
If you have not already I would suggest checking out the classic 16HP dragon write up. The TLDR is that you have to make the encounters challenging with the fiction. The tags help, and the rules support this approach.
 

JeffB

Hero
HARDER MOVES.

Encounter balance in DW happens in game and is variable.

Here's something I posted over at the Trollbridge a couple years ago or so for someone who was new to DW and having the same issue- similar to advice from 16HP dragon. Also the DW Guide is a must-read. In the immortal words of Yoda, "you must unlearn what you have learned"

DW GUIDE (direct PDF link)


Me said:
I've beefed up foes with bigger stats and it it works. But the thing I have found makes the monsters tougher, is making "harder moves" across the board for the deadlier monsters like Dragons. You have to get out of the blow by blow/round by round mentality of combat like so many other rpgs.

GM "Your fighter hack and slashes the dragon, and (gets a 9) success with a cost. You deal your damage and your greatsword slides between a scale and imbeds deep, in fact you are having a hard time removing it.. the dragon howls in pain, he lifts into the air..what do you do? Hold on or let him take your ancestors enchanted" weapon?

"Uh...oh boy...I'm holding on..?"

GM "Ok, he flies high into the air, a few hundred feet and notices you, he starts shaking and making violent moves to throw you off! What do you do?"

"I'm holding on and trying to push the sword in deeper so it doesn't come out"

GM- "OK, defy danger using Strength"

ROLLS a 6....failure...

Now here I could say, the dragon was swooping down as the fighter falls...and maybe make up some stuff about plunging through some thatched roofs which helps break the fall..and then still deal a hefty amount of damage...

Or..maybe he doesn't fall..maybe he does plunge it deeper...further enraged, the dragon swoops down burning half the town down killing many including somebody important (which will change the plot so far, completely), or smashing/landing on another character , or maybe picking that character up in it's claws and flying off with both of them.

DW is like making an improvised action movie, and that takes getting used to.
 

JeffB

Hero
If you have not already I would suggest checking out the classic 16HP dragon write up. The TLDR is that you have to make the encounters challenging with the fiction. The tags help, and the rules support this approach.

This is so true- The "messy"tag for example, doesn't mean you get splattered with blood, it means you get messed up...broken bones, flesh shredded....you are on the ground and the Hag is coming back to rend you with it's filthy black claws dripping with poisonous ichor , you can't raise your sword arm due to the amount of pain.. (and right then is when I leave the fighter hanging and ask another player what his character is doing)

no rounds, no initiative...no action economy...etc...

HP are secondary to tags/fiction.
 

SoftDutch

Villager
This is so true- The "messy"tag for example, doesn't mean you get splattered with blood, it means you get messed up...broken bones, flesh shredded...
One of my players lost an arm to the messy tag. For the rest of the campaign it affected them in fiction, no stat changes whatsoever. The players were much more cautious of giant snakes from then on :sneaky:
 
The characters are at such a high level and so min/maxed that they cannot fail a Hack and Slash. And they usually do bonus damage. They can defy almost any danger.
So the rule is that I can just - anytime I hit (with a messy attack) - lop off limbs? destroy armor?
That's going to be hard change to drop on the players in the middle of a campaign.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
The characters are at such a high level and so min/maxed that they cannot fail a Hack and Slash. And they usually do bonus damage. They can defy almost any danger.
So the rule is that I can just - anytime I hit (with a messy attack) - lop off limbs? destroy armor?
That's going to be hard change to drop on the players in the middle of a campaign.
Well, you've painted yourself into a corner, largely, I think, because you've missed some key things about how differently DW plays from more traditional games. If you're unable to implement changes because it's too late, not sure that any advice will be helpful.

I mean, you say that the PCs can't fail hack and slash rolls (seems really odd) and have no fear while defying danger, I'd say something has gone very, very badly off the rails.
 
I mean, you say that the PCs can't fail hack and slash rolls (seems really odd) and have no fear while defying danger, I'd say something has gone very, very badly off the rails.
They have some hellacious bonuses to hack and slash. Both of the warrior-types have +3 to hit from Strength. So I guess it's technically possible to fail, just incredibly unlikely. Same thing with defy danger on anything Strength based, which most of the times they are able to justify how they are using Strength to avoid the danger. Their armor rating is high enough that most monsters pose little threat, especially if they have one defending that can reduce the damage to the other target. Meanwhile the cleric is throwing resource-free heals to any paltry amount of damage that does get through.
I'm not sure how it has gotten off the rails. Because at this point, I'm wondering if Dungeon World is just impossibly easy - or maybe I've done something really wrong - maybe by assuming that it was easy to run and rules lite and not trying to find dastardly combos or something?
 

chrisshorb

Everything's Fine
For some reason, my post got split off into its own thread all by its lonesome over here. Not that it was any great shakes. Just strange it ended up in it's own thread.

Anyway, your characters should be hitting 7-9 on a regular basis (they have to roll <7 around 41-42% of the time, right?). There should be some hard choices, or bad stuff happening to them, in addition to their successes.

You can also give them challenges where if strength is used, that's not going to end well. You can also have them encounter some creatures that stand far back and only hit them with ranged weapons.

If they are getting attacked by a horde, for every creature above 1 that is attacking, it does +1 damage. It's on page 22 of the rule book.

Make what they need/want be a situation where they have to talk there way to it, not fight.
 
how do you handle success with a cost? In a hack & slash, or defy danger?
With hack and slash the danger is that the monster does its listed damage.
Defy danger depends on the situation. For example trying to get away from a rock slide might mean no damage, but your foot is caught in debris so you'll have to take a turn to free yourself, being potentially exposed to the same collopase the next turn.
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
They have some hellacious bonuses to hack and slash. Both of the warrior-types have +3 to hit from Strength. So I guess it's technically possible to fail, just incredibly unlikely. Same thing with defy danger on anything Strength based, which most of the times they are able to justify how they are using Strength to avoid the danger. Their armor rating is high enough that most monsters pose little threat, especially if they have one defending that can reduce the damage to the other target. Meanwhile the cleric is throwing resource-free heals to any paltry amount of damage that does get through.
I'm not sure how it has gotten off the rails. Because at this point, I'm wondering if Dungeon World is just impossibly easy - or maybe I've done something really wrong - maybe by assuming that it was easy to run and rules lite and not trying to find dastardly combos or something?
You done something wrong. It appears you've run it like D&D where you put monsters in a dungeon and play is about defeating the monsters. Your players have made decisions in level up that reflect how you're running the game. That this has been to bump STR 3 points to 18 and bump Armor moves tells me that you predominantly presented straight up combats and they've made rational choices.

DW is about complicating play because rolls are weighted to result in partial successes, ie success with cost or complication. This means that, to run it, you have to bring constant pressure on the PCs throughout -- always frame situations in which there's something bad just about to happen and what do they do about it. You then use the result to constantly drive to new fictional framings that keep that pressure up. And, you mix it up -- you don't always go right at the PC's main strengths. You can't use map out an adventure and expect DW to play like D&D does. It'll let you down, pretty much exactly like this. There are a number of good play videos on Dungeon World, I'd suggest you try them out.

It may be the Powered by the Apocalypse games aren't for you. That's fine, it's a pretty different style from D&D, and not everyone's cup of tea. You have to make a big paradigm shift to grok it and get it to play well. If/when you do, it is a pretty easy system to run rules-wise, but it can be hard to adjust to the different expectations the game has of the GM and even the players (who have more responsibility to the system than in trad games). I'm not sure you made an informed selection of DW, here.
 

chrisshorb

Everything's Fine
Also layer in your GM moves. Beyond just doing damage.
Separate them (Cleric is captured by the gnoll elite guard; other fighter gets swept up in the tide of battle into another room)
Use up their resources (their torches get soaked by all the blood)
Downside to their Class/Race/Equipment (Cleric's God demands sacrifice of some sort from their domain)
Put them in a Spot (So, you can kill this creature, but they'll fall off the cliff and take the awesome magic item with them; or you can kill them but they will also stab you with the poisoned dagger - you'll probably die; but your mates will get the item)
 

Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
With hack and slash the danger is that the monster does its listed damage.
Defy danger depends on the situation. For example trying to get away from a rock slide might mean no damage, but your foot is caught in debris so you'll have to take a turn to free yourself, being potentially exposed to the same collopase the next turn.
Okay, on the rock slide example, that's a pretty soft move on your part, one I wouldn't go for. Instead, I'd introduce the possibility of a rock slide in the scene framing by describing the scene as one prone to having a rock slide (rotted timbers holding up a bounder ceiling, or a loose slope of scree, etc.). Then, when the rock slide is triggered (likely because they've rolled under a 10 for something else they're doing in the scene), I'd hit them with the rock slide. I'd describe that as a rumbling and small pebbles bouncing down, with the heroes just seeing the larger rocks break free. Then, it's onto them to tell me what they do. If they say, "I Defy Danger!" I'd ask what that looks like, as it sets up what's at stake. Maybe Bob the Fighter says they'll try to dodge the bolders as they fall, a pretty danger defying attempt. Then, we'll test that with a roll. On a 7-9, I'd have that player buried up to the waist in the rockslide, but okay otherwise. That's when the monster shows up, the one who's burrowing caused the rock slide (or whatever). This makes that partial success matter -- it's a significant complication, not a trivial one where they have a momentary trouble.

DW is all about snowballing danger. It's built to get worse for the PCs through play. But, if you don't push, if you go for softer moves, that doesn't happen. PCs in DW are TOUGH. Play accordingly.

However, at this point in your game, it may be too late to shift the paradigm so thoroughly. Might be better to restart, if you're interesting in giving DW another chance. I don't see a good recovery path in your current game.
 
I've actually done a lot of Roleplaying/Mysteries with this group: they were doing urban exploration in the City of Brass for a few months. But when it comes to blows, they've been unstoppable. Now that they're in a more traditional dungeon setting (an abandoned dwarven subterranean city), there's nothing left to challenge them. I've had liches, dragons, swarms of orcs, powerful undead.
The book doesn't seem to know what it wants to do. It tries to suggest playing it in the style of classic fantasy, heroic games (like D&D) but the system doesn't seem built for it.
I like to think I made an informed decision - or at least as good as I could have at the time - based on the wishes of my players. Something very rules lite that can have satisfying sessions in 2 hours of play, which can be played by voice only and no maps or minis (since it's a voice chat game over distance), keeping with a traditional fantasy feel.
Implementing the GM moves seems a little weird. Like the barbarian rolled snake eyes on a single attack roll, so now I get to separate the whole party? Like that doesn't seem to fit the fiction at all.
 

JeffB

Hero
With hack and slash the danger is that the monster does its listed damage.
Defy danger depends on the situation. For example trying to get away from a rock slide might mean no damage, but your foot is caught in debris so you'll have to take a turn to free yourself, being potentially exposed to the same collopase the next turn.
Since the fighters can pretty much ignore most damage- stop dealing damage. Look at my example above when the fighter got success with a cost. Do something that puts them- or someone else in danger. Mess with their resources, utilize the terrain to cause an issue. Use Monsters with abilities that Strength can't help- mind Flayers, Magic Users, Medusa, etc.

If you want to throw them up against hack and slash opponents like an an Ettin- on a 7-9 let them do their damage and then have the monster grab the NPC /another character and walk over to throw them off the cliff or another character, or throw's the Fighter into a wall and now they have a debility from a concussion. Or have the Ettin pick the PC up and start pulling him apart like a wishbone- No fighter is as strong as an ettin-- now the Fighter has to talk his way out of it with one of the Ettin's heads.

On the rock slide, the move should be harder...maybe he doesn't get hurt but the rocks bury someone or something important. Or give him a tough choice, he can take the damage with no armor to help by using his body, or the slide gets worse. Maybe he doesnt take damage but got hit on the head and takes a debility for being stunned

EDIT- Dealing damage is something as a GM I stopped almost immediately as my go-to response.

If you have not, please read that DW Guide I linked to. It's enlightening and IMO required reading.
 
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Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I've actually done a lot of Roleplaying/Mysteries with this group: they were doing urban exploration in the City of Brass for a few months. But when it comes to blows, they've been unstoppable. Now that they're in a more traditional dungeon setting (an abandoned dwarven subterranean city), there's nothing left to challenge them. I've had liches, dragons, swarms of orcs, powerful undead.
The book doesn't seem to know what it wants to do. It tries to suggest playing it in the style of classic fantasy, heroic games (like D&D) but the system doesn't seem built for it.
I like to think I made an informed decision - or at least as good as I could have at the time - based on the wishes of my players. Something very rules lite that can have satisfying sessions in 2 hours of play, which can be played by voice only and no maps or minis (since it's a voice chat game over distance), keeping with a traditional fantasy feel.
Implementing the GM moves seems a little weird. Like the barbarian rolled snake eyes on a single attack roll, so now I get to separate the whole party? Like that doesn't seem to fit the fiction at all.
Your last para here really showcases why DW isn't like D&D at all. It's entirely fiction driven. If the fighter rolls a failure, and you make a DM move because of that, then the fiction of the fighter's move and the outcome are the DM's to craft into making sense. The DM should be picking moves here that can make some sense in the play. This, though, is really why you cannot have normal dungeon maps in DW -- why there has to be blank spaces. That's so that when things like this happen, you have narrative room to add. So, the party is fighting an ogre, and the fighter fails a H&S. You decided to separate the party as your DM move. Cool, the ogre bats the fighter through a wall and down a crevasse in the next room. How did you know there was a room with a crevasse next door? Didn't. It was a blank space until you needed it to be something. Then, it was what you needed to make the fiction work.

DW is really 'play to find out what happens' in the full sense. The DM is playing to find out what happens alongside the players. This means that the game is as much a surprise to the DM as to the players, because it's created in play, not beforehand by the DM. This is a big conceptual hurdle, one that's not easy to make. If it puts you off, don't feel bad, it's not everyone's thing. But, if you play DW otherwise, it's going to disappoint you.
 
Seems like I'm not doing it "wrong" per the advice you're giving (though I've made it only halfway through the advice PDF at this point). I don't have access to the character sheets at the moment to give concrete examples of the power level. But I think it's pretty safe to say that my group (in one way or another) has broken the system.
Have any of you run for this high of levels (7th level and above)?
 

SoftDutch

Villager
Seems like I'm not doing it "wrong" per the advice you're giving (though I've made it only halfway through the advice PDF at this point). I don't have access to the character sheets at the moment to give concrete examples of the power level. But I think it's pretty safe to say that my group (in one way or another) has broken the system.
Have any of you run for this high of levels (7th level and above)?
I have run many campaigns all the way to level 10. I had the same kind of issues you are having at first because I was treating Dungeon World like it was D&D. You're players have not managed to break the game. The danger is only as real as the fiction, its not really about numbers. You say that you have been playing in line with the advice you have been given but also say that you rely primarily on dealing damage for partial successes.. both of these statements cannot be true. Are you truly here to seek advice for your game or are you just venting? If you are here for advice then re-read this thread, its a goldmine and your next DW game will run a lot better. Also fix the cleric issue by making "draw unwanted attention" something bad. It sounds like your cleric is casting and any time they don't roll a 10+ choosing that outcome so that they can continue using their healing spell. If they always choose the same negative consequence then you didn't make it negative enough.
 

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