In past games, I used plenty of physical dangers. Incoming volley of arrows, giant boulder, a huge sword, a horse charge, a fireball... but I have no idea on how to make them roll anything else than Defy Danger with Dex or Str. Since most of them don't have much Dex, I'd like to make them use their mental stat and be like, "Finally, I can roll with my Wis."

I just have no idea how to describe an imminent danger that would threaten their minds.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you really NEED to have these ? I mean, most of the time for mental "actions" this is probably the domain of another move entirely... Though I have this one that comes to mind : You know the Gap is an illusion, but to successfully walk across, you must put all your Will into it. Defy danger with Wis. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nigralbus
    May 7, 2013 at 16:11

4 Answers 4


It isn't up to you to make your players defy danger with any particular stat. It's up to the players to describe how they defy the danger in a way which plays to their own strengths and by doing so indicate the stat they use:

"The riders charge straight at you, whooping over the thundering hooves. What do you do ?"

  • "I counter-charge with my shield to deflect their blows" - powering through, STR
  • "I make a giant leap to the side as they arrive" - getting out of the way, DEX
  • "I lie under my shield and let them charge over me" - enduring, CON
  • "I know horses spook easily; I whip out my red undergarments to wave at them" - quick thinking, INT
  • "I know horses avoid running people down; If I can stand firm they'll shy away from me" - mental fortitude, WIS
  • "I make the hand signals of the plainsfolk to invoke the courtesy of the lost stranger so they won't attack me" - charm and social grace, CHA

Sure, that's all rather contrived, you might think some of those are rather weak, and they won't be able to come up with every type of response to every circumstance - no-one escapes a giant boulder with charm and social grace. And you'll probably need to tell your players other approaches are possible. But the problem's theirs, not yours.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes! This! This is exactly how to think of it. And that's actually a pretty good set of examples. Not all are great plans (and unless the fiction has previously been established that these are good solutions, some might not even give you a Defy Danger roll and will just result in the DM getting a "golden opportunity" to make a hard move), but they're acceptable ways of answering the question "What do you do?" that demonstrate how it's on the players to answer in a way that brings in other stats. \$\endgroup\$ May 8, 2013 at 16:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "But the problem's theirs, not yours." (and for a great answer!) \$\endgroup\$
    – Chuck Dee
    May 8, 2013 at 21:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ — So that giant boulder is coming straight at you. What do you do? — I scream and plead for help, one of the gallant knights running around should be able to rescue someone in distress. (So maybe you can escape a giant boulder with charm and social grace if the conditions are right) \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Jul 22, 2017 at 5:49

In my most recent game, players

  • defied danger with WIS to avoid a fear effect,
  • defied danger with INT or WIS (their choice) to hack and slash while blinded, and
  • defied danger with INT to attempt to communicate to an intelligent but borderline hostile creature without a language in common.

These weren't all "mental dangers" so much as dangers that could be mitigated by intelligent or willful action.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This, yes. Situation first, move second in response to the situation and the character's approach to the situation. \$\endgroup\$ May 7, 2013 at 20:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Isn't it always their choice? \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Jul 22, 2017 at 5:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @edgerunner Their choice of approach, sure. I wanted them to keep their options open. The first player was using INT, and I didn't want it to look like that was the only way. \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    Jul 22, 2017 at 17:11

Mental situations that could cause stress and be defied:

  • Fear - Some kind of real and otherworldly horror (que Call of Cthulhu)
  • Lack of air, as it runs out the realisation of this can induce panic
  • Screaming/Sonic overwhelming - a cacophony of voices that confuse the mind
  • Vertigo - an otherwise easy jump, but the drop is thousands of feet
  • Dangerous puzzles - the path ahead seems to have some kind of pattern to it through the crocodile infested waters, but which is the safe one?

and so on....


Possible idea (although this will have to remain game-unspecific, as I don't actually know Dungeon World) would be something that compels investigation. Maybe an intricate maze, with a handle that looks moveable and nearby things that look like the outlines of mostly-hidden door(s).

A successful "defy danger" based on Wisdom, Intelligence (or similar) quickly makes the PC realize that manipulating the thing will Do Something Bad (if nothing else, consume a lot of time and maybe make noise). A failed roll gives no warning and the PC(s) can act as they see fit.

[ vague inspiration is the "baroque" method of securing space ships in Iain M. Banks' /Excession/ (IIRC), essentially a fractal shape ranging from "metres" scale to "atoms" scale, all with the possibility of hiding information warfare components, thus making it hard-to-impossible to completely secure a ship before stealing it ]

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    \$\begingroup\$ At a guess I would say because it is not specific to the system being asked about. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wibbs
    May 7, 2013 at 14:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's not how/when Defy Danger triggers. It's not a notice roll, it's a roll made when a danger has been presented and the player has their character accept the risk in order to accomplish a goal. \$\endgroup\$ May 7, 2013 at 14:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ I just like to know why negatives are there. :-) And thanks Dakeyras. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    May 7, 2013 at 18:50
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @Dakeyras It's not like a saving throw where you get to pick the stat. The move is a response to environmental situations, and which stat applies is integrally tied to what the threat is and how a character responds to it – and key, those things are established before you even identify what move is being used, let alone that it is Defy Danger, let alone which stat it uses. Sometimes it's kinda like a saving throw, but as often it isn't, so thinking of it as exactly the same thing as a saving throw will only be confusing. \$\endgroup\$ May 7, 2013 at 20:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Vatine Here's the free version of Dungeon World if you'd like to learn about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – okeefe
    May 7, 2013 at 21:32

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