I've recently been coming to realize in my Dungeon World game that my barbarian player's AOE taunt mechanic ("What Are You Waiting For?") is somewhat of a disruptive, aggravating move. For people who aren't familiar with it offhand:

What Are You Waiting For? When you cry out a challenge to your enemies, roll+Con. ✴On a 10+ they treat you as the most obvious threat to be dealt with and ignore your companions, take +2 damage ongoing against them. ✴On a 7–9 only a few (the weakest or most foolhardy among them) fall prey to your taunting.

  1. It feels like an MMO mechanic - it jerks away "threat," in a fairly nonsense manner, just because the barbarian is yelling a challenge. Not the guy who was just peppering you with arrows, not the rogue stabbing you in the ribs: his large friend is now the larger concern because he shouted at you.
  2. It's somewhat narratively limiting - unless I want it to just end immediately after someone else performs a threatening action, which feels impotent, it means everyone in the fight is now just trying to kill the barbarian. Which probably wouldn't be quite as much of an issue, except...
  3. It adds to the barbarian's already-ludicrous damage potential. The barbarian in question used his 2nd level move to get Appetite for Destruction and take Merciless from the fighter move set, so with a two-handed sword, anytime he taunts then successfully gets into melee and swings, he's doing 1d10+1d4+3 damage. Assuming it's something he can actually fight, it's probably dead on the floor at this point.

Essentially, either I need to learn better ways to deal with this move and still provide a challenge to my players, or - and the barbarian's player is open to this - I need to find a way to tweak, alter, or replace What Are You Waiting For with something that actually makes sense to me in the context of the game.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Considee this: a Barbarian having 'aggro' from all NPCs in the fight will quickly be dead, as opposed to when attention is split among the PCs. For further emphasis of this downside consider adding in NPCs with Piercing or Magical \$\endgroup\$
    – iraserd
    Sep 3, 2014 at 14:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also consider foes with Forceful: a Barbarian flung to the floor no longer seems so threatening, does it? \$\endgroup\$
    – iraserd
    Sep 3, 2014 at 14:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that "provide a challenge to my players" is not part of the Dungeon World GM's Agenda. That imported assumption can really trip you up with some parts of DW. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 3, 2014 at 15:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Doesn't being a fan of the characters involve challanging them? As a fan of my PCs I want to see them emerge victorious from challenging situations. \$\endgroup\$
    – iraserd
    Sep 3, 2014 at 18:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @iraserd No. Being a fan can involve presenting situations relevant to a character, but that doesn't equal "challenge the PCs." And that's not an Agenda item, it's a Principle for pursuing your Agenda, which doesn't include challenging the players. That is an agenda item from other poplar games, which is why it's easy to mistakenly bring it into DW. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 4, 2014 at 13:44

3 Answers 3


What are you waiting for? is fine, as-is

On a success all enemies focus attacks on the barbarian. If they are a group of similar enemies it's just 1 damage roll with a +1 per enemy beyond the first in that group. The barbarian's +2 damage vs them balances this out. It's a powerful move but it's balanced because if the combat doesn't end in a few turns the barbarian will likely be making a Last Breath move as a result.

It is like an MMO move, that's not a problem

Dungeon World is a high-fantasy game of adventure and exploits, not a gritty realistic simulation of a world. Characters can, and often will, do incredible deeds and their unique powers granted by their class define them. If anyone else other than the barbarian tried this they would have no effect, but the barbarian, this mass of rage and bravado, is capable of pulling all focus onto him. it's not so much that the enemies have had their honor/pride injured and must make an attack as a result, but that the barbarian has effectively managed to make them all believe he is the biggest and baddest threat to them through sheer force of will and physicality. The fact that you only get a few of the dumbest (and probably least threatening) enemies focused on you on a partial success is key to this not being an automatic taunt button like a tank would have in an MMO. It's not going to be a rinse and repeat strategy.

It's not unbalanced

The cleric can also grab some advanced moves to effectively up their damage to above lvl 1 fighter levels as well, it's just part of the game. In taking those damage centric moves, they are not taking moves that give them more abilities or utility throughout other areas of the game.


"they treat you as the most obvious threat"

I think that is the most important part. Don't think about it too mechanically. When the barbarian taunts he becomes the obvious threat.

That doesn't mean everyone has to attack him all the time. If a PC gets in melee with an enemy the enemy should respond. But when that melee is over the enemy should refocus on the barbarian. Same way, archers should focus on the barbarian, but if they are being decimated by a ranger they should try to get cover, and if that's impossible even attack the ranger.

Think about it as in a film. The barbarian starts shouting and he is the focus of all attention. That let's the ranger get into a good position to fire his bow and the thief sneak in the shadows unnoticed, etc...

If there's only one enemy he should focus on the barbarian, but if he is getting attacked in melee by barbarian and paladin the paladin should get attacked now and then too.

It should make some sense narratively.

About the damage potential I can't say

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    \$\begingroup\$ I feel like you're kind of ignoring the "and ignore your companions" bit. \$\endgroup\$
    – Preston
    Jul 1, 2015 at 18:17

Here is a slight rewrite for you that may be more to your tastes:

What Are You Waiting For?

When you cry out a challenge to one of your enemies, roll+Con. ✴On a hit they treat you as the most obvious threat to be dealt with and ignore your companions unless they are under direct threat from them. ✴On a 10+, they are angry and careless, so you also take +2 damage ongoing against them.

There's also some good potential for failure here; where every enemy suddenly decides that the barbarian must be eliminated immediately, and they attack (put someone in a spot), or the barbarian -without thinking- throws the last of his smelly barbarian food on the high elf's face to insult him properly (use up their resources)


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