I was GMing and a player was trying to get past a Troll so he did a Defy Danger move with DEX. He rolled an eight so I said, "OK, the Troll misses you, but you don't get by him."

The player said that 7-9 should be mixed success so he should have at least partially gotten by him, or should have been offered a hard bargain like "you get by him, but you take damage, or you stay where you are and take no damage."

I thought I was offering the "worse outcome" option.

How do you treat this?

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    \$\begingroup\$ What did the player announce? What danger did he defy and how? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Jun 1, 2018 at 14:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ as enkryptor already said, questions like these should include more info about the fiction, situation, intent and if possible wording of what was said at the table, so we can provide more accurate examples. \$\endgroup\$
    – iraserd
    Jun 1, 2018 at 15:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ it's really not a worse outcome. "You don't get by him and the troll misses" is basically "exactly nothing at all happens, now what do you do?" \$\endgroup\$
    – Beanluc
    Jun 1, 2018 at 17:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is this a duplicate isn't it? rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/115974 \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Jun 1, 2018 at 22:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras what is the difference? For me, "What is valid for a 'worse outcome'" and "What does it mean to offer a worse outcome" are quite similar. Both ask to describe 'worse outcome' in terms of the Defy Danger move. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Jun 2, 2018 at 13:15

4 Answers 4


The way you handled it does technically fulfill the "worse outcome" choice for the GM.

However, you ended up in the same situation you were in before. Nothing changed. The PC is still on the wrong side of the Troll they wanted to get past, and neither the PC's nor the Troll's state has changed for the better or worse (from what you describe, at least).

Not moving the fiction forward as a result of a Move is deeply against the core spirit of the Dungeon World rules. Actually, with that you just violated (at least!) a point of your GM agenda, and one of your GM principles:

  • Fill the character's lives with adventure
  • Think dangerous

Also, you didn't use any of your Moves from the GM Moves list, which you always do when everyone looks to you to see what happens. Moreover, and I think this is the key point for the answer to your question, they do look at you to see what kind of worse outcome, hard bargain, or ugly choice you will offer them! This means you will make a GM move that represents a worse outcome, hard bargain, or ugly choice, probably a soft move, as it was a partial success, but depending on the circumstances it could already be a hard move.

You could show signs of an approaching threat: "While you try to rush past the Troll, it swings its big club towards you, but you manage to duck below it at the last moment. The club hits the wall right beside you, and a crack now runs form the wall to the ceiling, rocks starting to come loose. It will only be moments before the tunnel collapses and you are lying flat on your stomach. What do you do?"

You could offer an opportunity, with or without cost: "As you sprint towards the Troll to get past it, it smashed down its club right onto you. At the last moment, you take a final leap forward to dodge the blow, but fumble your landing roll and come to a stop on your back, right below the creature's private parts. You have a moment to think about your situation, as the Troll gathers that it must have missed, since there's no red mush on its club. What do you do?

You could put someone in a spot: "You sprint toward the Troll, sliding deftly between its legs to the other side. The troll whirls around in anger looking for you, but instead spots Gareth, the Thief, who was just preparing for a stealth attack from behind. Gareth, as your position is now compromised and you have the full attention of an angry Troll no more than a Troll's arm reach away from you, what do you do?"

You could reveal an unwelcome truth: "As you try to rush past the Troll, you realise it is much more nimble than you though, deftly blocking any path you try to take with its club, swapping it from side to side as needed. This is obviously not your run-of-the mill brainless Troll, and that's only the lowly front guard of this cave full of Trolls! Finally you manage to get past it, but as you turn around you see the Troll has picked up a boulder twice the size of your head, preparing to hurl it your way. What do you do?"

You could, as a hard move that follows from previously established fiction, deal damage: "As you already realised the last time you tried to dodge past a Troll in this cave, these are really nimble and skilled Trolls! Still, you need to get past this one to reach the lever, so you take all your courage and sprint off. You might have expected it, but you didn't see it coming. The Troll realises what you want to do and swaps its club to the other hand, making a swift strike at your back as you sprint past it. The force of the blow hurls you forward a couple dozen ropelengths and you would have felt your spine shattering, were it not for your heavy duty sleeping bag that you packed for this cold climate protecting your back. Take 1d10 damage, ignoring armor, and the Shaky debility, because that blow really shook you up. You are now flat on your stomach within arm's reach of the lever you wanted to reach. What do you do?"

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for mentioning that the result of a move shouldn't be the status quo. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1, 2018 at 16:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ yeah. that's where I messed up. thanks for this. \$\endgroup\$
    – kdubs
    Jun 1, 2018 at 19:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ This doesn't "technically fulfill" the worse outcome requirements: it's in no way a success and a 7-9 is a success. See e.g. rpg.stackexchange.com/a/116006/14848 \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1, 2018 at 22:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @the dark wanderer well DefyDanger tries to do 2 things: accomplish a task and avoid a danger. So just avoiding the danger (here: getting mushed) is still a partial success. But not a suiting one. \$\endgroup\$
    – iraserd
    Jun 2, 2018 at 3:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Great answer, really like the worked examples for GM moves \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Jun 2, 2018 at 8:51

7-9 is the "Yes, but..." result

Rolling 7-9 means a success, but in a way the player didn't fully expect:

On a 7–9, you stumble, hesitate, or flinch: the GM will offer you a worse outcome, hard bargain, or ugly choice.

The key difference is — does the player have any choice or not:

  • hard bargain — "yes you can do it, but you have to do X beforehand" or "you can do it, but it will lead to Y" (the player can choose to pay the price)
  • ugly choice — "yes you did it, now you must choose between X and Y" (the player must choose one of two bad things)
  • worse outcome — "yes you did it, but now you suffer the following consequences" (the easiest option — no choice here, just make a GM move)

The "worse outcome" result is a success with complications, or a partial success — the PC does what he/she wanted to do, but with unexpected (usually bad) consequences, fully dictated by the GM.

There is no "Nothing happened" result in DW

Any Move result — being success, failure, or both — should move the story forward. Here's a quote from Read and Understand Dungeon World:

something happens, something besides just failure. Instead of being a dead end, a player's failure leads to consequences: the situation gets worse or they have to pay a price.

Read the whole document for more details about DW being different from other TRPGs.


Your outcome was invalid

According to the Defy Danger description, a 7-9 will offer a bunch of action results that may or may not require the player to have a choice.

✴On a 10+, you do what you set out to, the threat doesn’t come to bear. ✴On a 7–9, you stumble, hesitate, or flinch: the GM will offer you a worse outcome, hard bargain, or ugly choice.

You defy danger when you do something in the face of impending peril. This may seem like a catch-all. It is! Defy danger is for those times when it seems like you clearly should be rolling but no other move applies.

Here, "worse outcome" is something that is worse than not attempting the action but still succeeding (somehow), such as dropping your backback when jumping over a cliff, or tripping when trying to slide under an enemy, or blowing the bomb on your face while trying to defuse it, but nobody else got hurt (though, if this is a deadly result it should probably be on the player's hand to decide).

He was attempting to get past a troll, and there are many worse outcomes than simply succeeding to get past the troll, he could have been attacked, he could have been grabbed, he could have tripped, he could have lost his weapon. All that while still succeeding.


Respect intent.

Every scenario is different in the fiction, so every scenario is worth talking through.

I think so, anyway, and there's an extra important point to make here.

Anyway, as per over here lemme factor out things along the standard split and see how they apply to your scenario.

But here's your important point: respect intent. Your player wanted to get past the troll and succeeded, partially, so they should be more "past the troll" than they were at the beginning, if it were at all possible. Otherwise you're just making them roll twice for the same thing.

Hard Bargain

A hard bargain means you have something to give up. Rushing a troll on a featureless empty plain doesn't have any advantages to it, necessarily, but you might make use of one if there were some advantages in the scenario, such as preparation:

You absolutely can get by that troll, Sir Justice, but unless you want to get bit you're going to have to toss one of those bottles of alchemist's fire you had ready to burn out the whole troll nest. It'll be a great distraction.

Or the element of surprise (on the dungeon scale, at least):

You skip off the ground and cave wall like a well-pitched stone, Shanksworth, but catch a glimpse of something tied to the troll's belt on your way by. It looks like a watchman's alarm horn but scaled up for the proportional lung power of a troll. Man, if they sound off on that thing this entire mountainside will know something's up. You want to keep going or see if you can lift or disable it?

Or you can create an advantage to offer:

You're not the only one who has to get by, Fletcher. You dance away from a claw-swipe, and suddenly it strikes you that it would be really easy to occupy the troll's attention, if you wanted. So here's one for you: you can get on by, or you can be a distraction while Wizzrobe and his 8 Dex get by instead.

Ugly Choice

Since "get by the troll" is a given, you can make an ugly choice out of the various prices to pay.

You bull right into the troll's chest and keep going, Fightgar, but you've underestimated the reach on those big arms. They can either take a piece out of you, or a piece out of your backpack and you'll lose a random slot of loot. Your pick.


That handful of dust looks like it does the trick, Clericsdottir, and you're scampering on by when one grasping claw swipes blindly at you. Does it grab your mace, or does it grab your shield? And either way, do you let go and keep going?

Assuming there's some other threat already out there, you can also present a choice between the two:

Yeah, the thing about lullabies, Stringfellow, is that there's really no good way to hurry them. You can see the troll relax a little bit, but you can also hear the shouts of the goblins' Super Secret Stringfellow Search and Smash Squad getting closer. So which is it: do you run while you still can and eat a drowsy claw to the face, or do you play this out and give the goblins a chance to catch up to you?

Worse Outcome

But whatever happens you've got this one. As long as there's any daylight between crushing success and abject failure, you can pick a point and run with it.

And you were right to split things up into "you get by the troll" and "the troll doesn't hurt you", but the thing is, your player already decided they wanted to get by the troll. If you're going to make a decision on their behalf, make the decision that agrees with what they were trying to do in the first place.

How much damage is up to you and the circumstances at the time. If it was a pretty narrow dodge to begin with, full damage is probably going to seem alright. If not, you can apply worst of two damage rolls or strike a glancing blow (-1d6 damage).

The only way "you don't get by the troll but it doesn't hurt you" is a worse outcome that respects the player's intent is if you think it's just straight-up impossible to get past the troll in the first place.

You thought there was a gap there, Leafwillow. You honestly did. But somehow the troll was able to close it, and as you scramble back from a stomp you can see why. The earth itself is shifting to answer this troll. Crap.

Okay, so speed isn't going to work. What else have you got?

And that's reveal an unwelcome truth pretty straight-up, but that only works if you've sunk some prep into the idea of trolls who are kin to the earth and can ask it for favors or whatever. Just stopping play to devise something to put in your players' way really isn't going to fly.


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