Sure, it's not "He deals you 5 damage" but "He hits you with his warhammer. You take 5 damage."

But is the "You take 5 damage" part of the fiction, or is it a meta text to keep the mechanics in order?

I believe that 2 situations depend on this distinction:

  1. If the player took severe damage (without being ill etc.), does it render some sort of disability, e.g. "You try to run through the room after losing your leg? Please roll Defy Danger, the danger being passing out due to blood loss."
    So do I need to show a fictional counterpart of the lost HP?
  2. If a player uses his healing potion to heal a lost leg: Does it in fiction restore the leg and in mechanics restore the hp? Or should I demand using 2 Potions: One for the leg, one for the hp?
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Just to point out, nowhere does a healing potion say it restores a lost limb: It restores 10HP or removes a debility (e.g. Sick, Stunned). Something along the lines of The Sterling Hand (P.339) would be needed to restore a limb or some other fictional event which would be able to do such e.g. a divine miracle. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aiken
    Oct 7, 2014 at 10:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ possible duplicate of Should the PCs know the exact stats of monsters they fight? \$\endgroup\$
    – iraserd
    Oct 7, 2014 at 10:11

3 Answers 3


This rules text covers a lot of what you're asking (Harm and Healing, P.21):

Damage is dealt based on the fiction. Moves that deal damage, like hack and slash, are just a special case of this: the move establishes that damage is being dealt in the fiction. Damage can be assigned even when no move is made, if it follows from the fiction.

HP loss is often only part of the effect. If the harm is generalized, like falling into a pit, losing the HP is probably all there is to it. When the harm is specific, like an orc pulling your arm from its socket, HP should be part of the effect but not the entirety of it. The bigger issue is dealing with the newly busted arm: how do you swing a sword or cast a spell? Likewise having your head chopped off is not HP damage, it’s just you being dead.

The separation in your scenario should be clear, in the fiction your opponent has "Hit you with his warhammer" and as a result "you take 5 damage" is damage dealt based on that fiction.

If that warhammer was instead viciously aimed at the character's kneecap, they're not going to be walking for a while, but the injury is probably less directly life-threatening that a blow to the chest, so consider reducing the HP damage. However, that character now has a broken knee, if they try to make a fictional action which this could impede, remind them of that and ask how they cope with their injury, for example:

GM: Okay, this just got ugly, the Orc smashes your knee in with his warhammer. You hear a loud crack as the bone shatters and your leg buckles under you, take 5 damage. What do you do now?

Player: I'm gonna make him pay for that, I make a mighty swing with my greatsword, I'm going to take his damn leg off.

GM: Your leg's completely shot and that sword's heavy, how are you planning on keeping your balance?

Player: I'll just keep my weight on the other leg.

GM: Alright so you're attacking while balancing on one leg, roll to Defy Danger with DEX to not fall flat at his feet.

Player: Seriously? Can't I just roll Hack and Slash?

GM: Nope, you're not engaging him in a melee if you fall flat on your face before you can land a blow.

Player: Alright... *rolls dice* Damn! That's 5...

GM: Ouch, too bad. Your overzealous attack causes your leg to give way completely and you fall flat on your face at the Orc's feet. Grinning maliciously he raises his warhammer above his head to deal the final blow, what do you do?


You may want to read The 16 Hitpoint Dragon.

It's an excellent account of how someone used Dungeon World's rules and highlights that the actual hitpoint numbers might be quite modest, but the fiction can be quite terrifying and have it's own effects.

So, "hit for 5 hitpoints" could be a lot of things, and that depends on the situation that happens in play:

"The warhammer slams into your shoulder and your arm goes numb. You're not sure if it's broken but it's not working this fight!"

"The tiger bites into your calf for 5 hitpoints. You're sort of hop-walking until that gets healed."

"The bandit tackles you and you land hard on your back for 5 hitpoints of damage! It's not serious, although the fact you're prone and he isn't is a problem."

So, if someone's missing a leg, you're probably going to need to do some more magic or have some kind of special method to restore the leg, though a valid thing to consider is what happened to lose a leg, permanently, in the first place - it would definitely be a Hard Move on your part to do that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 Every potential Dungeon World GM should read the 16HP Dragon. Tucker's Kobolds are also a handy guideline for terrifying characters with otherwise unimpressively-statted enemies. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aiken
    Oct 7, 2014 at 15:24

Definitely meta. I'd even say "You are hit with a war hammer, your left knee is smashed. Mark 5 damage." As for the two situations you depict:

  1. in many rulesets lost HP affects gameplay in some additional fiction-related way. if it's a smashed knee, there will be more thrill if it also affects running.

  2. one potion.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Agree with 1, but for different reasons: the GM's Agenda includes Make the world feel real so a smashed knee should affect running. Thrilling the players is not in the Agenda, so the GM isn't allowed to make decisions based on what is or isn't thrilling. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 7, 2014 at 14:47

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