Can a target of the Paladin ability I Am The Law choose an option that they cannot plausibly succeed at?

I Am the Law allows a Paladin to command a target to do something, and then, if successful, the target must either:

  1. Fight
  2. Flight
  3. Do the thing

When you give an NPC an order based on your divine authority, roll+Cha.

✴ On a 7+, they choose one:

  • Do what you say
  • Back away cautiously, then flee
  • Attack you

✴On a 10+, you also take +1 forward against them.

✴ On a miss, they do as they please and you take -1 forward against them.

What happens if the target is unable to perform one of these options? Do they still attempt the action and fail, or are they unable to select the option in the first place?

As an example, say that the party has taken a prisoner, tying him up with rope and restricting his ability to fight or run away. The Paladin then demands information of them. This target being interrogated would, under their own free will, normally choose the options in the following order: Run Away, Fight, and Talk. Which of these scenarios would occur?

  1. Foe attempts to run, finds that he cannot, and instead just sort of spasms helplessly on the floor in a mental daze.
  2. Foe attempts to run, finds that he cannot, then attempts to fight, finds he can't do that either, and then is finally forced to talk whether he likes it or not.

Personally, short of any RAW, I would probably rule in favor of option #2 just by virtue of it granting more power to the PC ("Be a fan of the characters!") and being more interesting story-wise.


3 Answers 3


I think you could lead with the fiction here. Just because they are constrained from physically attacking or leaving doesn't mean that they can't do one of those things in a different way:

  • Just completely checking out mentally - they become unresponsive or faint.
  • Attacking verbally - they start screaming and ranting at the paladin, calling them every name under the sky. It's not going to cause any damage, but some of those words could be really cutting.
  • Flee magically - we're portraying a fantastic world here and filling the players' lives with adventure. Perhaps this is where we discover that the NPC has access to some kind of magical escape route. Perhaps they have an ability that will allow them to control one of the PCs if they fail a relevant Defy Danger to get them untied.
  • Attack magically, pretty much as above.
  • Attack or escape through allies - they might have friends hidden just out of sight, perhaps they have an animal familiar or the capacity to summon forbidden creatures. Perhaps you are in earshot of the watch.

Another way you might look at it would be that the move states On a 7+, they choose one - if they are not free to choose then you could justifiably argue that the triggering situation for the move hasn't come up.

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ The last part isn't true - a move happens when you meet the trigger; the trigger says nothing about the NPC being allowed to do things. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Apr 5, 2017 at 14:36
  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ Also, from a thematic standpoint, I Am The Law seems like it should get stronger and be more applicable when you hold someone prisoner, rather than get weaker and be less applicable. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Apr 5, 2017 at 15:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 5, 2017 at 18:31

One thing to consider here is the how the Paladin's deity would feel about this person being tied up, as well as what kind of respect the Paladin/deity inspires in the region. The trigger says "When you give an NPC an order based on your divine authority", which suggests the authority is either divinely given (meaning the deity takes a role in deciding whether the Paladin has authority) or is based on respect/fear of the person being ordered for the deity of the Paladin. In the former case, the deity's motives can play a role. In the latter case, a 'non-believer' may disregard the Paladin's divine authority entirely.

So, the question then is whether the Paladin is giving an order based on divine authority when they command a tied-up person. If the above considerations indicate that they are, then follow the fiction; others have suggested creative ways that the less likely options could still apply. If the situation means that the Paladin is lacking divine authority, however, then the move doesn't trigger.

Note that this is a good place to get player input on the range of their abilities. "Does your deity see this as a just method to achieve the right outcome?" If yes, "how does your deity enforce its will; would it force them to speak if they have no other options to escape?" Note that this last bit is a tricky thing, as if your Paladin gives their deity a lot of power, that power can be used against them too, should the moment arise. Maybe the Paladin, on a later miss on I Am The Law, finds himself speaking a truth he wouldn't have otherwise chosen to utter?

I've found this to be a good general guideline when I'm not sure how something should work. If I'm not sure, it means I don't have a good picture of how it works, fictionally. So I try to figure out how it works in the fiction, using the player to help. One that's established, I can follow the fiction to do something that makes sense. Maybe it does mean that I always choose the last option in this case, but maybe not.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, this answer doesn't fit exactly. The question is less about whether or not the move triggers, and more about the effect when it has triggered. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 6, 2017 at 6:11
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @SouthpawHare, I probably highlighted that part of it a bit too strongly; the answer to the question of what effect happens is tied in with the fiction of how the ability works, just like the question of whether it triggers at all. The main point here is that the rules don't define what happens in these boundary cases, but the fiction does. The fact that the move might not trigger at all is just a way to highlight how differing interpretations of the power behind the move can shape how it functions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan Bryant
    Apr 6, 2017 at 12:55

I am almost completely new to DW but I am surprised that the answer is not simply 'they can only do things they can do'. If a Paladin demands information, and the NPC cannot run away or attack (because the fiction has removed those options), then the NPC does the thing. Why would there be any debate about options that are not options? That seems to be adhering to the letter of the rules rather than the spirit. Or am I missing something?


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