The core mechanic of every action in Dungeon World (that requires a roll) is to roll 2d6 and add a bonus. This bonus is generally a character attribute, such as Strength or Dexterity, but sometimes it comes from something else, like the loyalty of a henchman. Since there’s a 2d6 roll involved, the results of the roll are not linear, and the system takes advantage of this by having three categories of success for every roll: 10+ is an unequivocal success, 7-9 is a partial success or success with a complication, and 6- provokes a “GM move.” This mechanic really puts the focus on the player characters, and the GM is given a great deal of flexibility to determine what happens on the 6- and 7-9 results of die rolls.
There are a few things that result from the way this mechanic is structured.
1. The mechanic is simple and fast to execute
2. It gives the GM great flexibility to tell the story and keep the game moving
3. It’s a standard template for all moves of the game, making the game easier to extend through custom actions or “moves” as DW calls them.
4. All rolls have a consequence of failure (6-) meaning that players will rarely train rolls like they would in D&D (all 5 players make perception checks at every door, lore checks at every opportunity, diplomacy checks, etc.)
5. Replaces GM rolls. Basically, if you attack an enemy and roll a 7-9, you hit them and they hit you. If you roll a 6-, they hit you. This doubles the speed of the game since the enemy attack is also built into the player attack.
The rule book is very clear about making sure that these “moves” are all connected with the fiction of the game. A player cannot take a move without having qualified for taking that move through the fiction. Likewise, the player must take the move if their character triggers that move through the fiction. In other words, you cannot Hack and Slash if you don’t have a weapon and you can’t Parley if you have no leverage with which to Parlay.
Just about every action the player mechanically takes outside of the fiction follows the same template. There is a move for taking watch at camp, fast traveling, and even leveling up (although the level up move doesn’t require a 2d6 roll).
What to like about DW Core Mechanic:
- Homogenous throughout the game
- Easy and fast to execute
- Varying levels of success
- Effectively reduces overhead on GM
What not to like about DW Core Mechanic:
- Low range of results means characters improvement cannot be very granular or cover wide range of skill
- Difficult is not really factored into the core mechanic. This is hard to get your head around at first. Essentially, this makes a goblin as “easy” to hit as a demon.