[RPG] How do “monsters” attack if the PCs don’t engage in combat first


I'm not a total newbie to DW, and have played 'solo' DW with my partner for at least two years. We both have a number of level 3 characters who we run through GM-less scenarios we generate from various GM emulators and in the spirit of DW explore the world and find out what is happening.

A few days ago, we had visitors and took them through some scenarios. They immediately raised a point we had never considered:
How do "monsters" attack if the PCs don't engage in combat first?

  • Do they simply deal damage?

  • Do the PCs defend?

  • Do they use their attack moves (via the GM or in our case via our
    adherence to the fiction) and make a hack and slash move, or again do
    they simply deal damage?

I appreciate this is maybe a simplistic question, but, we have never really thought about it before.

Surely there is some mechanism outside the fiction that governs their method of determining whether an attack move on their part is successful?

Best Answer

Begin and End With The Fiction

No-one on either side of the table really "makes moves". The moves come from what happens in the fiction, more specifically, from what the players have their characters do in response to that fiction.

From the SRD Gamemastering chapter, Principles section (emphasis mine):

Make a move that follows. When you make a move what you’re actually doing is taking an element of the fiction and bringing it to bear against the characters. Your move should always follow from the fiction. They help you focus on one aspect of the current situation and do something interesting with it. What’s going on? What move makes sense here?

For example, The GM lays out a situation, "A bunch of troglogroths¹ approach you. They look aggressive. What do you do?"

The moves result from what the players do next. This could be "do nothing and look at the GM to see what happens next," which would probably lead to the troglogroths initiating combat (because nothing in the fiction says they can't).

¹ Thank you @edgerunner. I have no idea what a troglogroth is but its a cool name and I'm using it a lot from now on. :-)