When a Druid shifts shape, they get a certain amount of Hold with which to carry out actions. An issue came up in the session I ran tonight with exactly what this means.

The player in question was of the opinion that whatever you spend the point of Hold on just happens, without having to make a roll. The situation was that he was this large monitor lizard thing that had a move called 'crunch on stuff' or something similar. What was unclear was whether he still needed to make a Hack and Slash roll to be able to cause the damage with the move, or whether spending the Hold meant he automatically succeeded.

I am wondering whether the issue comes from a poorly defined move on my part, as you could argue that 'crunch on stuff' is simply what Hack and Slash would be whilst in the form of a lizard.

Does spending Hold make you automatically succeed with the move?


3 Answers 3


One of the writers of Dungeon World, Sage Latorra, addressed this in this thread.

A note on shapeshifting in general: taking on a new form is, in a way, saving up successes for particular tasks. The druid makes one roll and, through the clever selection of a form, can turn that into 1 or more successes. The cost of this is the new form: since everything is triggered by the fiction taking on a new form changes what rules engage. That's the fundamental tradeoff of a new form: that form's strengths turn your one roll into more successes, but that form also limits your options.

So it would seem that this move was indeed intended to be used as automatic future successes. The druid could also make a Hack & Slash roll without spending 1 Hold, though.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ "The druid could also make a Hack & Slash roll without spending 1 Hold, though." Not by choice, though. Moves always trigger by the fiction, or not at all. If they crunch on stuff, they spend the hold, done. Only if they "attack in melee" without triggering "crunch on stuff" or some other move, would Hack & Slash trigger. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 12, 2014 at 23:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it an issue that crunch on stuff seems to be a subset of hack and slash? Should I be being more creative with my moves so that doesn't happen? How do I know which of the two moves triggers in this instance, as it could theoretically be either \$\endgroup\$
    – Wibbs
    Mar 12, 2014 at 23:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the more specific of the moves would be the one triggered. In this example, you're not just "attacking in melee" but doing so by "crunching on stuff" so the latter would be triggered. See also SevenSidedDie's comment. \$\endgroup\$
    – Serp C
    Mar 13, 2014 at 18:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Crunching on stuff" implies other details. I'd let the PC break bones (free damage + fiction crippling), or destory armor (reduce AC). That may help distinguish it from Hack and Slash. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 18, 2014 at 22:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I typically word my shapeshifted moves as "When you blah blah, you may spend one hold to etc etc." I'd say, if two moves could trigger, where one is a basic move and the other is an optional move, the player should choose. So my player in bear form mauls an armored target (which triggers his Papa Bear move he can spend hold for, but also could trigger Hack and Slash), he can choose to spend the hold and resolve Papa Bear (which I still have him roll for) or not spend the hold and Hack and Slash normally. Normally for a bear, anyway. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 10, 2014 at 0:04

A shapeshifted Druid has monster moves, but they're not a monster. This can get... complicated.

So when you're a GM and you're making a monster, you write down the monster moves as a list of cool things you want the monster to do. Which is in keeping with your GM moves, which are a list of cool things that can happen to the players.

How the monster moves come into play varies. They can inform you about the sort of threats a monster is likely to pose, to get the PCs to make moves in response to it, or they can come into play in response to a PC choice or poor roll, to be a way that you damage or otherwise impact your PCs.

So thinking about, say, a crocodile as the PCs might face it, the game gives its moves as:

  • Attack an unsuspecting victim
  • Escape into the water
  • Hold something tight in its jaws

And these are all pretty reasonable when talking about the roles for this monster to play in the GM's story. But it becomes a completely different concern when the Druid is a swamp druid or studies the crocodile and changes into one!

  • Escape into the water seems easy enough to apply, assuming the Druid's got access to water.
  • Hold something tight in its jaws is something the Druid can't do, certainly, but how does something get in the Druid's jaws in the first place? A lot of things don't much fancy being in a crocodile's jaws.
  • Attack an unsuspecting victim is something the Druid could do without shapeshifting at all! Any PC can just attack someone unaware and deal their damage.

When the Druid spends hold, they will get their moves to happen, but as a GM, one of your roles is to tell them the requirements or consequences and then ask. So you can tell them the requirements to spend hold on a move in the first place, or the consequences of spending hold and having the move made. Most monster moves can be made suitable for use in Shapeshift with one of these methods.

Shift the Consequences: Moves as Novel Capabilities

So when you're looking at a move like attack an unsuspecting victim that doesn't seem all that different from things PCs can normally do, think about the action itself and what new things it will let a PC do, or at least do without rolling.

In the crocodile's case, it's not so much the attack as it is the unsuspecting. What does a crocodile do to get an unsuspecting victim that can transfer to a new thing for a PC to do? You might say something like:

  • Hide in water, mud, or weeds


  • Cross an uncanny distance to ambush

Of course, you're not writing this down immutably for Internet people to read forever in the featureless white room of theorycrafting, you're sitting down with your player, and you can tell them if a given situation will need crocodile hold to hide or to spring from hiding, as appropriate.

Add Requirements: Moves Need Position

As a GM, you can set your monsters up in any kind of position you need them to be in. But as a PC, getting good position on adversaries often requires making moves. So, how do you reconcile a move that seems a lot like the result of a successful attack? Well, there's the obvious:

  • Hold something tight in its jaws (after a successful Hack and Slash)

but since the croc is an ambusher, maybe consider

  • Hold something tight in its jaws (after dealing damage)

or perhaps

  • Hold something tight in its jaws (when you can safely close to Hand range)

Either way, now things are clear what kind of position a PC has to be in to make the move.


As stated by Serpentine Cougar it makes the druid automatically succed, but it has to be narratively consequent. Don't let the druid do whatever they want, it has to be consequent. The fact they don't have to roll for it means it must be "easy". If he is gonna hack and slash he should do it in human form. Going to animal form means there's some clear advantage or some action they can clearly accomplish.

A druid should fight in his human form. The druid wasn't designed (I think) as a human that transforms into a bear to fight all the time. I think the idea is a human that fights as a human and can transform itself into a bear to: throw enemies into the ground, scare enemies, break things, push things, destroy armor, etc... It's normal for players to want to fight as a bear (cause it's cool and seems really strong) but I don't think that's the idea.

Don't let them transform when the enemy is upon them with weapon raised, or not without defying danger. If they transform they can attack, but get in mind they will have only 3 holds at max. Untransforming in front of an enemy might give you a golden opportunity.

Also, you might make them roll for Defy Danger when they are in their animal form.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This answer misses the mark in some places. 1) Never forget that shifted druids can do "animal things" as naturally as the animal normally could. You spend no hold to do mundane things like fly as a bird or breathe underwater as a fish. Those are just characteristics of the animal. You spend hold when you're doing something fantastic or difficult. 2) A druid should fight however he wants. He uses the same damage die as a human or an animal. 3) They can transform whenever they please. It's their Move to do so. \$\endgroup\$
    – Preston
    Jun 24, 2015 at 22:03

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