Thursday, February 13, 2020

Defying Danger, the RPG

Here's a thing I made, as a bit of a distraction from working on Stonetop. It's a light-weight RPG, in the vein of World of Dungeons.

click for current version

 The highlights:

  • There's only one "basic" move, Defying Danger. The usual 10+, 7-9, 6- framework. 
  • No stats (like, no STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, CHA).  Instead, you choose 2-3 ways of Defying Danger where you roll 3d6 and keep the best 2 dice. Any other time, you roll straight 2d6.  
  • Each class has an additional move, that indicates a thing they're generally better at.
    • warrior gets Hack & Slash
    • rogue gets Manipulate
    • The wizard can Get Answers 
  • Each class has a spendable resource (Mettle, Cunning, or Power) that lets them boost rolls or do cool stuff. Wizards, in particular, use this to cast spells. 
  • PCs don't have HP, per se. Harm is closer to Apocalypse World, but the players have a little more control over how, exactly, they get messed up.  
  • Gear is very similar to the system in Homebrew World, but even more simplified. 
As of this posting, Defying Danger is a completely un-playtested game. I don't know if any of this actually works!  It's basically an idea that spawned from a conversation on the DW Discord--an idea that got lodged in my brain and now, a week later, here's a game. Enjoy!

If you play this, please let me know how it goes. In the comments below, over in the DW Discord, or at jack underscore blackfoot at yahoo.

EDIT to add


  1. This is really great! The difference between "A warrior", "A rogue" and "THE wizard" made me chuckle. Does the piercing damage done by "Dying" go through Mettle and Cunning? I imagine Cunning wouldn't be as beneficial as Mettle though (unless you had weird drugs??)

    1. Piercing ignores armor, but the player can still use other means (including Mettle or Cunning) to mitigate it.

      So when someone's dying and you inflict 1 harm (piercing) on them, they could spend Mettle or Cunning to negate it. Or they could choose to loose their footing or be temporarily stunned instead of marking something. But every one of those is basically an invitation to the GM to make another move and further crank up the tension.

  2. Just loved this! Is it ok if I translate it to portuguese?

  3. This is lovely! There are some great innovations and simplifications here.

    One question: with non-warriors having no Hack & Slash move, how would you handle situations where a rogue faces an enemy directly in melee? Do they trigger the warrior's move but just roll 2 dice, or something else?

    1. I think you just have the rogue roll to Inflict Harm in a Fair Fight, then the rogue rolls to Suffer Harm based on the opposition.

    2. Rogue: "I creep up on the gnoll and stab it in the back."

      GM: "That sure sounds like Defying Danger to me. The goal being that you get close enough to stab him, the potential cost being that he notices you. Yeah?"

      Rogue: "Sure. I'm being stealthy, so 3 dice. Eh, an 8. I guess I get close enough to stab him but he notices me. What happens next?"

      GM: "Yeah, you're like right up on him, knife out, and *snap*, a twig breaks. He snarls, twists, and sees you, what do you do?"

      Rogue: "I'm committed, stabby stabby."

      GM: "Sounds like Defying Danger again. You stand to stab him, but you risk him hurting you back. Either way, he's going to be making noise."

      Rogue: "Hm... oh, hey. I spend 1 Cunning and act before he can react. Do I still need to Defy Danger?"

      GM: "Huh, no. Inflict harm! He sees it coming but I think you've got an advantage, so take the middle die."

      ... or more simply...

      GM: "The gnolls rush into camp, laughing and snarling. Rogue, one of them comes at you, stabbing down with its spear like this. What do you do?"

      Rogue: "Crap... he's rushing me? I'll dodge to my left and knife him in the side as staggers past."

      GM: "Cool. Sounds like Defying Danger. You stand to stab him, but you risk getting hurt yourself. You still do it?"

      Rogue: "Yeah. I'm trying to dodge and avoid harm, right? So 3 dice?"

      GM: "I dunno... if your main goal was trying to avoid him or get clear, then yeah. But if your goal is to stab him and you risk getting hurt in the process, then I'm not sure that counts. What do you think?"

      Rogue: "Huh. Yeah, yeah. That's solid. 2 dice it is! A 7."

      GM: "So do you stab him? Or avoid getting hurt?"

      Rogue: "If I stab him, this would count as a fair fight, right? So I'd be taking the worst damage die?"

      GM: "Yup! And if you avoid harm, you'll still be in melee with him. What do you pick?"

      Rogue: "Oh, how about this? I'll dodge to the side, like I said, but then I'll spend 1 Cunning and disappear when no one's looking. Does that work?"

      GM: "Huh, sure. I guess everyone else is tied up in their own skirmish. Speaking of which, Warrior..."

    3. I.e. fighting someone is almost always going to be doing something chancy while danger looms, so if you're a Rogue or Wizard, it's just Defying Danger.

  4. I'm gonna test this with a small group of players who haven't touched PbtA games before and I'm thinking of recording the session. Would you be interested in the recording or a write-up of how it went or something like that?

    1. Sure! I don't know how much energy I'll be putting into this game anytime soon, but it'd be good to know what worked and what didn't. If you write up notes, here or email is fine. jack underscore blackfoot at yahoo. Thanks!

  5. WOW! This is perfect, Jeremy! Thank you. We're playing Veil 2020 (a pbtA game) next week, and that will be the first contact with the pbtA design philosophy for most of my players. But we're all coming from a freeform rpg background, so I don't foresee any problems ;)

    YOUR game will be next, and I'm looking forward to playing it. This is how I envision Dungeon World to be like. Thank you!

  6. Hi Jeremy,

    I have playtested your game, and noticed that the probability of partial success and miss are identical, when only use 2d6. That made my players a little frustrated.

    I'm planing to change the default values to balance it a little more: 5-: miss; 6-8: partial; 9+: success.

    With these chances, 2d6 will match the standard probability of DW when roll with +1, and the chances with full success will be slight lower than DW+3 modifier.

    On top of that, I'm making slight changes to other concepts. I really like the idea, thank you so much!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, and thanks for leaving feedback.

      When you say that the players were frustrated at the probabilities... do you think that expected their characters to be more baseline competent?

      Did you find that started maneuvering to avoid Defying Danger unless it was in one of their "strong" areas? Because that's the intent: PCs should be rather wary of Defying Danger in their weak areas.

      If you change the target numbers (so that effectively everyone gets a +1 bonus to each roll), you'll find that they're *extremely* competent in their "roll 3 dice, take the 2 best" areas. Like, 1-in-20 chance of rolling a miss.


    2. Hi Jeremy,

      The majority Defied Danger rolls were a miss (the probability tends to that). So, it was basically lots of fail, and some partial success when they used their specialities. The players are very familiar with DW and other PBTA games, and they felt it was more "difficult" than usual.

      I agree with you that they will be extremely competent in their best areas; most likely, in may game, the majority of rolls were Defy Danger causing lots of "miss" results instead of the partial success bracket, which I find more interesting to push the story forward.

      I haven't tested the new target numbers, but once I do, I will let know the feedback.


  7. I loved the game, especially the damage system!

  8. This is excellent!, Can I translate this in spanish? Obviusly with your corresponding credits.

    1. Definitely! If you do, please let me know at jack_blackfoot at yahoo, and I'll post a link to the translation here!

  9. Over on Reddit/r/DungeonWorld, /u/FreakyFridayDVD asked this very good question:

    "In the rules, the 'Defy Danger' move says: On a 10+, you get what you were after and avoid the cost. On a 7-9, you get what you were after -or-you avoid the cost (your choice), ask the GM what happens next. On a 6-, mark XP and prepare for the worst.

    I'm a bit confused as to what happens on a 7-9 when the player wants to avoid the costs. Does this mean she can cancel the entire move, or does the GM have to come up with an alternative cost?"

    I've got a very long reply there, complete with 3 examples and how they might resolve. Check it out here:


    1. If someone Defies Danger, gets a 7-9, and chooses to avoid the cost (but not get what they're after), we've just finished step 3 (resolved their action), and now we repeat. Establish the situation (if it isn’t clear already). Provoke action and/or increase tension. Ask what they do.

      Maybe some examples would help?


      The incognito Princess (PC) just bought an urchin a loaf of bread, and a few minutes later she sees some thugs shake the kid down for his much-needed meal. This will not stand. The Princess grabs a bucket of slop and douses the thugs with it!

      We decide that, no, this isn’t Defy Danger (it isn't really chancy). They're just drenched in filth! She’s got their attention, though! I provoke action and increase tension by having everyone on the street--including the urchin and the two thugs--turn and stare at her. The filth-covered thugs have a look of shock, slowly turning to rage. "What do you do?"

      The Princess sternly reprimands the thugs for stealing food from a starving child. Nice! When she's done, we agree that, yes, there is definitely danger looming (angry thugs) and what she's doing is chancy. She stands to gain "the urchin getting away clean with the bread" and risks a cost of "they decide to take it out on you."

      On a 10+, the thugs are cowed. Folks nearby back up the princess and toss refuse at them, call them names. The thugs skedaddle, and the urchin gives the Princess a smile and runs off home to share the bread with his family. Hooray! The scene is probably over, though maybe I provoke action/increase tension and have a bystander thank the Princess and says something about how people are so scared and beaten down around here, ever since... (insert new plot detail here).

      On a 7-9, if she chooses to get what she's after, then the urchin slips away while the thugs are focused on the Princess but the thugs have had it and intend to teach this girl a lesson! I describe how they both snarl and one of them is like "Why you little..." and goes to grab her cloak, while the other one moves to the side to keep pen her in, "What do you do?"

      On a 7-9, if she chooses to avoid the cost, that means the thugs don't decide to take it out on the Princess, but also that the urchin doesn't get away clean. The Princess already roleplayed her impassioned scolding, and doused them in slop, so it doesn't feel right to have her just back down and not do that. Instead, we say that the urchin takes advantage of the distraction to kick one thug in the shin and make a run for it. The thugs then tear after him. (In my mind, the urchin intentionally did that, to draw attention off of the nice lady.)

      On a 6-, prepare for the worst, right? One of the thugs growls and backhands the Princess (inflict harm!) and when the urchin tries to intervene the other thug kicks him in the gut and takes the bread. I roll to see how much harm the Princess suffers, she makes her choices, and we go from there.


      Let's assume the Princess got a 7-9 and chose to "get what she was after." The urchin escaped but the thugs are coming at her, one grabbing at her cloak and the other flanking her. "What do you do?" "I swing the empty bucket the guy trying to grab me and then run away!"

      She's not really trying to hurt the thug, just ward him off so that she can escape. It's definitely Defying Danger. She stands to escape! But she risks losing her cloak and being recognized as the Princess!

      On a 10+, both! She hits him in the head with the bucket, turns and runs into the alleys, and they soon lose her or give up looking.

      On a 7-9, if she gets what she's after, then maybe she swings the bucket and he ducks back, but as she turns to run, he grabs the hem of her cloak and it tears off. Everyone sees that, oh wow, that's the Princess! She gets away (maybe because she's the princess; these thugs know better!) but soon the city is abuzz with rumors. Now she needs to get home without her cloak...

      On a 7-9, if she avoids the cost, then--again--the situation has escalated too far for "not doing it" to be an option. She keeps her cloak as she runs for it, but the thugs put up a spirited pursuit and she doesn't know these alleys well enough to lose them. Situation is clear (running through alleys, thugs in pursuit) so I provoke action/increase tension... "You turn a corner and it's a dead end! You can hear them coming, you've got only a few moments, what do you do?"

      6-: They grab her, beat her, take her cloak, and probably take off in horror when they realize who they've just assaulted.

    4. EXAMPLE 3: MAGIC!

      Okay, assume the Princess got a 7-9 to escape and chose avoid the cost. She's just run into a dead-end alley and has mere moments before the thugs find her! "What do you do?"

      "I use my magic!" She spends 1 Power and casts a spell to touch the minds of others and charm them into not being angry with her after all. That’s Defying Danger "to mutate/change with magic," which is one of her 3 strong areas, so she rolls 3 dice and keeps the best 2!

      What does she stand to gain? The spell works and they forget why they were chasing her and wander off. What cost does she risk? I'm cool with letting this scene end, and can't think of anything particularly creative, so I make the cost low: 1 extra Power.

      So on a 10+, boom! She charms them and goes on her way, all for the cost of 1 Power.

      On a 7-9, if she gets what she's after, she charms them, but spends 2 Power total.

      On a 7-9, if she avoids the cost, then ask the player why she's choosing to avoid what I thought was a very "cheap" cost. If she's having second thoughts about spending that much Power, I'd probably say "Okay, you decide not to cast the spell, you can even take back that original 1 Power, but they come around the corner and you're trapped!" And then narrate them insulting her and leering and stalking towards her, what does she do?

      On a 6-, she ends up charming one of them, I think (at the cost of 2 Power) but the other one is like "What the hell dude?" and grabs the Princess by the cloak and makes to punch her face.

    5. Point being:
      If the PC has Defied Danger, they've probably done something. If they chose to avoid the cost but not get what they were after, the situation usually still changes. Even if you interpret that as them "backing down," the flow of play still goes back to the GM to establish the situation and do something provoke action/increase tension before asking "What do you do?"

  10. Wonderful Game! I love how condensed it is. I'm a bit confused by the wording of one section on the GM page:

    Adjust Harm by...
    ...the victim’s armor.
    • +1 per: body armor, shield, helm
    • +1 for thick hide/scales/blubber,
    or +2 for carapace/chitin/plates
    • +1 if lacks vital organs

    Shouldn't these be -1 and -2? This part is describing harm that is negated, correct?

    I was also wondering, how you would handle characters aiding characters? Do the characters helping incur possible risks, as they would in other pbta games? What would the benefit be: an extra die? The next best result?

    1. Found a spelling error under Flow of Play
      "They then establishes the situation" should be "They then establish the situation."

    2. Hi Asimov, sorry for the delayed response.

      Regarding adjustments for armor, yeah, that's kind of backwards isn't it? You're correct, it should be -1/-2 instead of +1/+2.

      Regarding "aid," for a Defy Danger roll I'd adjust "what you stand to gain" and "what you risk" accordingly.

      So if you, say, try to climb a cliff solo, I might say that you stand reach the top, but you risk exhausting yourself and needing to mark "roughed up" 1-3 times.

      But if someone up at the top already throws you a rope, I might first question whether you're even Defying Danger anymore. And if you are, I'd adjust the "what you risk" to be "that it takes a long time".

      I don't know that it'd break the game if you wanted to just let someone's aid add a +1 to the recipient's roll, but I'd always look first to how we can adjust the stakes rather than the numbers.

  11. Ran a session for some friends who’d never played before (3 players, one for each playbook) We had fun, but I noticed that the spendable resource (Mettle, Cunning, or Power) was difficult for me to easily reference. It would be nice to have an umbrella term for this. I also completely missed the mechanics for clearing harm on my GM sheet. Not necessarily a complaint, but I’m surprised it’s not present on the playbooks or anywhere else