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Having played Dungeon World a handful of times, I love it. I still find the concept of accruing and spending hold a bit confusing. I purchased the pdf version of the game. I found the following text in an online version:

Some Moves…

…Give you “hold.” Hold is currency that allows you to make some choices later on by spending the hold as the move describes. Hold is always saved up for the move that generated it; you can’t spend your hold from defend on trap expert or vice versa, for example

So a fighter accrues 2hold defending the wizard. In what context could he then spend that hold? And how long can he save that hold before spending it?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I fixed that quote for you. It turns out that the people at dungeonworldsrd.com haven't carefully proofed their pages and that quote was garbled because of missing formatting/punctuation. I've used the text from the Dungeon World Gazetteer instead, which matches the book properly. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 5 '15 at 21:15
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Hold only lasts as long as it makes sense for it to last. As a rule, moves that give you hold will tell you exactly how to spend it and when. As soon as the conditions detailed in the move don't apply anymore, the hold can't be spent anyway and is effectively gone.

So, to figure out hold, carefully re-read the move you're getting hold from.

For the Defend move, it only lasts as long as you're actually in a position to use it. As the Defend move says:

As long as you stand in defense, when you or the thing you defend is attacked you may spend hold, 1 for 1, to choose an option

As soon as you're not standing in defense of the person or thing that you're defending (which triggered the move), you can't use the hold anymore, and it's effectively gone.

As another example, if the Thief is studying a dangerous area, their Trap Expert move will automatically trigger. On a hit, that move gives them hold that must be used like so:

Spend your hold as you walk through the area to ask these questions:

If the Thief doesn't ask the questions before leaving, the unspent hold is useless and gone. The only way the hold lasts is while they "walk through the area" and can only be used then.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ To add a situation, what about a Druids Shapeshifter Hold? Is Hold an auto-success to do something? \$\endgroup\$ – Roger May 1 '16 at 16:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Roger Druid shapeshifting is a whole other, very large, kettle of fish. :) It would have to be asked as its own question to answer properly. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 1 '16 at 17:25
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Defend lasts as long as the players chooses to focus on defense/stay near the target they are defending. Holds for Defend can be spent on the Defense move abilities at any time in response to an attack.

Defend When you stand in defense of a person, item, or location under attack, roll+Con. ✴On a 10+, hold 3. ✴On a 7–9, hold 1. As long as you stand in defense, when you or the thing you defend is attacked you may spend hold, 1 for 1, to choose an option:

  • Redirect an attack from the thing you defend to yourself
  • Halve the attack’s effect or damage
  • Open up the attacker to an ally giving that ally +1 forward against the attacker
  • Deal damage to the attacker equal to your level

Defending something means standing nearby and focusing on preventing attacks against that thing or stopping anyone from getting near it. When you’re no longer nearby or you stop devoting your attention to incoming attacks then you lose any hold you might have had.

You can only spend hold when someone makes an attack on you or the thing you’re defending. The choices you can make depend on the attacker and the type of attack. In particular, you can’t deal damage to an attacker who you can’t reach with your weapon.

An attack is any action you can interfere with that has harmful effects. Swords and arrows are attacks, of course, but so are spells, grabs, and charges.

If the attack doesn’t deal damage then halving it means the attacker gets some of what they want but not all of it. It’s up to you and the GM to work out what that means depending on the circumstances. If you’re defending the Gem Eye of Oro-Uht and an orc tries to grab it from its pedestal then half effect might mean that the gem gets knocked to the floor but the orc doesn’t get his hands on it, yet. Or maybe the orc gets a hold of it but so do you—now you’re both fighting over it, tooth and nail. If you and the GM can’t agree on a halved effect you can’t choose that option.

Defending yourself is certainly an option. It amounts to giving up on making attacks and just trying to keep yourself safe.

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