It isn't OK. I don't mean in the sense of “oh no everything is broken now!”, but in the sense of “yeah, Dungeon World is way less fun, and it will fail to be awesome in ways you wouldn't even know could have been awesome.” That sense of the game being ‘off’ is what Dungeon World feels like when its heart and guts are missing because some core rules aren't being followed.
Put another way, the game fails to live up to its promises when played that way. It can be played that way though — you just get a pale imitation of Dungeon World instead of the real deal.
How to fix it and make Dungeon World sessions gently unfold like a spring flower of awesome
This is something the players are doing, but the fix is super effective and entirely within the GM's control. It's easy to miss, but the rules say literally what the GM must say when the conversation takes this kind of turn, and the GM must say it in order for the GM to be actually following the GM's rules.
Here is it (p. 180):
When a player just says “I hack and slash him” be quick to ask, “so what are you actually doing?” Ask “How?” or “With what?”
It's that simple, but the GM has to be consistent for it to work.
Doing it in practice
Remember that Dungeon World's rules are all based on dictating legal conversation subjects. Weird, I know, but it works and it's important to remember so that the GM can see where and to what the rules apply during a session. This is one of those situation, because the players are attempting to skip steps. It would be like if the player of a 1st-level single-class fighter in D&D 3.5e says that they cast a fireball at the villain and start rolling 10d6. If that D&D 3.5e DM is all like “uh, okay, I guess they die” instead of “what, no, you're not a spellcaster” then D&D 3.5e isn't going to really work properly, right? Same thing here: when players just call out the moves and the GM acquiesces, Dungeon World doesn't work properly.
So in practice, when a player names a move and you say “OK, what does that look like?”, there are a few ways they might respond.
The best case is they pull up short mentally, think for a moment, and then start describing what their character is doing instead of what move the player hopes to trigger. This is awesome and lets the game roll on pretty quickly.
The middling case is where they're confused by the question and you have to elaborate. So you say something like “I mean just that: when you cast a spell, what does that look like for you, Cleric?” and “Well, you're hoping to spout lore, so what does consulting your accumulated knowledge about something look like for the Wizard?”
The key here is that you, the GM, are not allowed to contribute the results of what they do to the conversation yet. You keep asking question, talking about the fictional situation and what they are or would do, possibly resulting in events progressing in-game with no moves triggering yet, until a move (player or GM) is triggered and you have to follow its rules. If the player in question keeps trying to skip ahead and execute a move without triggering it, they're going to keep looking at you for the result and you're going to keep not conversing about the move, 'cause it hasn't triggered yet. Keep bringing it back to asking them to describe what they're doing, and watch for move triggers in the description.
Be prepared for the description to actually trigger a different move, because moves matching the fiction regardless of what move a player wanted to have happen is a powerful and core part of the feedback loop the whole game is designed to create.
The worst situation is where they argue, especially if they pull out a half-baked understanding of the game and claim that Dungeon World lets them do anything and the GM has to go along with it.
You're still the GM, and the world is basically in stasis until the GM converses about it changing, so misguided, arguing players can't really force the game forward without your cooperation. That means: Don't Panic. It's fine, the game is fine, and you just need to chat reasonably with them and rest confident that the game reality will wait patiently for you. There's no rush, so you've got time to correct the misunderstanding without actually getting into a heated argument.
In practice argument is actually unlikely, but it's good to have some ideas for keeping the game from being sucked into the Argument Black Hole. So there are a few ways to handle an argumentative player.
- Get back to game basics. Remind them that to do a move, they have to trigger it, and just saying the name isn't a move trigger. This backs everyone up a step away from playing the game to discussing the rules of the game, which some people might have misunderstood. Then ask them, “So what do you do?” to nudge everyone quickly back into playing mode.
- Switch to another PC. Smile kindly and say “OK, we'll get back to the Fighter in a sec. Ranger, you see [situation summary], what do you do about that?” This keeps the game moving the way it's designed to, and as a bonus gives you a chance for you and another player to demonstrate how it's done.
But all this is a long-winded way of saying that the GM's job when someone just declares a move's name without actually describing their character doing anything is to somehow get someone — anyone — at the table to tell you what they're actually doing in fictional terms. If it's the player who just named the move, that's great, but there's no initiative and you can flip over to someone else who'll help you keep the conversation about the fictional events moving instead of stalled.
Get people saying what they do in game, and only call moves that match after they match the triggers, and Dungeon World will deliver the subtle awesomenesses it promises.