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In a game of Dungeon World, how do you handle different difficulties at the same task?

A few examples:

  • climbing a wall with easier handholds vs. climbing a smoother wall
  • pushing a heavy cabinet out of the way vs. pushing it while enemies are pushing back
  • lifting a heavy beam with debris on it vs. lifting the beam after the debris has been removed

Each of these examples gets at the players' approach to the problem. They have a difficult (not impossible) task in front of them. If they deal with something else, the task becomes easier. So it would be really helpful to have some way of adjusting the difficulty of a task to reflect this.

In other roleplaying games, I'd just (as the GM) change the target difficulty, or give some bonus/negative to the die roll. What's the Dungeon World way of handling this?


There's another question about how to pile on more problems before you can even try the underlying task. I'm not looking to just pile on more stuff, I'm looking to make the underlying task possible, but more difficult.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is still a duplicate. Just because half of the accepted answer is about one method (piling on difficulties) doesn't mean that that's what the question is about. The question is about how to represent difficulty in Dungeon World, and there are lots of answers there that explain the ways that is done in DW and why, which the answers here are just repeating. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 17 '16 at 0:57
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In Dungeon World you can model different task difficulty by dealing progressively stiffer consequences for failure.

Examples:

  • "climbing a wall with easier handholds"

    failure could mean it just takes longer than expected or convenient.

  • "vs. climbing a smoother wall"

    failure could mean falling a significant distance, dealing damage.

  • "pushing a heavy cabinet out of the way"

    if there's no pressing urgency, or consequence of failure, and it's something the character could realistically be expected to accomplish, then it's suggested to not even roll and just narrate the success.

  • "vs. pushing it while enemies are pushing back"

    Here we have a classic case of Defy Danger!

  • "lifting a heavy beam with debris on it"

    the debris falls on you, trapping you in place.

  • "vs. lifting the beam after the debris has been removed"

    again, if there's no urgency (danger), and the PC could realistically accomplish the task, no roll is required and just narrate a success.

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If it's easy enough for them to do it they just do. In all those examples, the easy version I would never ask for a roll.

In general: if there is no significant consequence of a failure then it's not worth rolling for.

Applied to Dungeon World though, if it doesn't trigger a move, then it's also not worth rolling for. I'm thinking that only #1 and #2 trigger the Defy Danger move, but #3 not so much. I'm newish to Dungeon World though.

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