Having run several DW campaigns, convention one shots, and online arcs in the decadish since it came out, plus having watched every game Adam Koebel (the lead designer) has run along all of his Office Hours YouTube videos, and also most of the games he has run online I feel fairly confident saying that if you run it exactly as written in the book, you won't get an optimal play experience from it.I don't think what I've been doing has been antithetical to the rulebook's advice. Specific rulings (like not requiring rolls for the casting of rotes) may have given the characters more power than they would have had otherwise, but that wasn't clearly defined in the rules as far as my players or I could find.
The other major issue I've had - the soft vs. hard moves - isn't really clearly defined in the book either (again, from what I could tell). And even from the advice given in this thread and the linked advice PDF, it's more "as the GM you should just do what you think would enhance the game/make it more interesting."
I think most of us here on ENWorld (which is a pretty D&D/d20 leaning community) would say that you shouldn't assume a GM should just change the parameters of the game rules to up the challenge, i.e.: giving the monsters devastating attacks with no basis (or advice) in the rules, grant them the ability to take additional actions until the party is ready to run away from the fight, etc. If that's the case, why even have a game engine? Why even let the players roll dice?
It is a fiction-first game, which means the narrative leads into the mechanics instead of D&D which often goes the other direction, especially when it comes to combat.
GM Okay, the orcs face you across crumbling bridge arcing over the chasm; half a dozen runts backed up by a lumbering war chief. Roll initiative... they go at 16:
Fighter I go at 21 so I think I'm first. I'm going to use my move action to got up next to this orc, then use my cleave to hit the other one too. Hit, 16 damage each.
GM Those two are dead. Who's up next?
Rogue I'm at 18 so I'm going to move up to flank the war chief, then attack with advantage and my backstab ability...
GM Okay, the orcs face you across crumbling bridge arcing over the chasm; half a dozen runts backed up by a lumbering war chief. What do you do?
Fighter I've got a big axe, so if I charge up at this group can I hit a couple at once with my swing?
GM Sure as long as you Defy Danger first to get there.
Fighter I'm sprinting in full-tilt so with +STR?
Fighter Okay... got an 8.
GM All right, go ahead and roll Hack and Slash.
Fighter What about the 8?
GM It'll come after Hack and Slash.
Fighter Okay. I got another 8. Damage is 11.
GM Okay, both are super dead, but one sticks you with his crude spear first. You take 4+1 for being in a group is 5 damage first... and your axe lodges in the second one's chest solidly.
GM While that was going on, Thief, what were you doing?
Thief I'm going to run around and try to get behind the war chief so I can backstab.
GM Hm... he's a huge, scarred brute and sees your move coming a mile away. You can do that but you'll have to Defy Danger twice - once to avoid getting smacked on the way in, the other to position yourself behind him. Then you can get your backstab in.
Thief What if I want to climb up that pillar, leap off, and drive my knife into his head to kill him in one shot?
GM Cool! Hm... a third Defy Danger to climb the pillar and a fourth to land the blow and you'll kill him instantly.
Also, soft and hard moves are key to making the game work. General rules I follow when running games:
7-9 is usually a soft move, 6- is a hard.
Two soft moves equal a hard move - first is the warning, second manifests the warning and lands the hard move.
"Tough" monsters require at least one move to get close to (defaulting to Defy Danger) and usually a soft move against a PC will give the monster their position back so the player has to use a Defy Danger again to get at them.
If you want to wear them down in ways other than HP, try an occasional hard move of "the attack/spell/acid whatever blasts into you, what item just broke?" or "You come out of the swamp/lake/moat/mound of oozes missing something, what?"
Marking debilities sucks much more than HP loss as a player. My "tough" monsters tend to inflict them regularly as hard moves.
As for Rotes, someone else mentioned it upthread, but you have to roll for them.
I love DW for what it is even if I don't play it much anymore. The only game I could start a campaign of right now with zero warning or prep if five people showed up in my living room as I hit "Post."