Author Topic: Monsters - I am confused  (Read 30941 times)

stras

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #15 on: May 15, 2012, 08:13:03 PM »
@JH & skinnyghost: Thanks :) Makin' me feel sheepish here.

@sage: Please by all means.  Everything I write here, I do to try and help make the game better and share whatever insights I've stumbled across by playtesting.  I'd be honored to get a mention on 'the blog' :)

(If you could ... you know ... change the "it's" to "its" that's glaring at me from paragraph 8 before I get laughed at on the internets that would be awesome. >_>)

moleculo

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #16 on: May 16, 2012, 12:14:11 AM »
That description of a dragon in full swing got me a little freaked out. Nice job, stras!! A good reminder something that powerful is more like a force of nature rather than a tree to be chopped and chopped with your sword until it eventually falls over. Yeah, the dragon has 16 hit points. Good luck getting close enough to it to do any damage. And not because it's a well-designed, thoughtfully balanced piece of mechanics. Because it's a f***ing huge pissed-off murder-minded DRAGON.

It's also a great reminder to respect all your antagonists, big and small. Each one deserves a bit of thoughtful narration and sensitivity to its role in the fiction. Bring the wonder back into the game, my friends. It's there, it's always been there and always will be, thank god. It's why most if not all of us fell in love with the hobby to begin with.

noofy

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #17 on: May 17, 2012, 12:21:40 AM »
Stras! Freaking brilliant man, love it! I go away camping for three days (with some DW 'high level' kingdoms at war action on the beach with Sandcastles, Schleich Minis and all manner of shells and rocks, no less - I'll Write up the AP soon...) and was treated to your fine post. So cool, I love dragons, though I your post is  thoroughly inspirational! I will most definately have a dragon turn up in the next session.

 I have so many questions... Was the dragon part of a front? Had the player's encountered it before? Was it laying waste to the town for a reason other than food? Did the fighter survive their horrific injury? Please write more AP's they are very readable and wonderfully evocative, plus they demonstrate the rules with aplomb! Thanks! *thunderous round of applause*

stras

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #18 on: May 17, 2012, 04:18:22 AM »
Thanks for the kind words noofy!

I feel like I'm hijacking azato's thread here but I'll answer your questions briefly. (edit: in usual tl;dr fashion)

The dragon was a specific Danger, and the players had bypassed it before.  

To give you a high level gist...

The wizard player established that only those of noble blood (or illegitimate children) in this nation have wizardry.  Literally a sorcerer came down a few thousand years earlier, said "I'm in charge" and lit on fire folks that disagreed, after which he promptly put all their souls in gems that sit in the crown and advise the current ruler (which is a pretty convincing argument, you must agree).  This is part of the world premise and something we established as part of my 'questions' at the beginning of play.

The nation is now at war.  The players have found out that the enemies are led by the ancient undead Elven Queen and her (undead and elven) six husbands, who were all killed by (surprise!) said aforementioned nation's founder (non-elven husband numero 7) who had stolen their immortality and used it to fuel the magics of humanity.

Ok.  So they discovered that while they can make 'the choppy bits' from the elven sorcerer-king corpses, it just doesn't do much good.  So they spouted some lore, and did some research on the subject, talked to some nobles and found out about a god-killer spear that can shred souls (special quality: killing a person or an undead with this spear prevents them from being magic resurrected or returning/staying undead).  Apparently it was a sign of the favor of a specific god, and last was seen in the hands of one of the Faithful who went to go fight a dragon and never came back.

Ok! Now there's a lot more detail there (dragons playing politics with chosen nations, what the spear is made from, religions and how gods interact in this world in general) but the point is: The spear was in the dragon's lair.  They (smartly) researched how to get in.  Got in.  The Thief nabbed it.  They left.

This was one of those cases where they roll 6- on the roll to filch the spear and nothing happened immediately. I just made a small note that said "The Dragon Notices".  

So looking at the dragon I see "Demand Tribute" as a move and "Act with Disdain".  So he flies over in his dragon rage to teach the nearest town (who MUST have sheltered these thieves) a lesson by breaking their twig-and-pebble boxes, and reminding them who's boss.  And having been directly responsible for this, the PCs felt they had to try and help.  Besides ... provisions!

So more mechanically.  The campaign is 'Seven Rings for Seven Kings'.  The Adventure front is 'The Heartseeker Spear'.  The Dragon was just a Danger.

The fighter DID survive.  She had to defy danger (the danger being paralasys from pain) to run away, and once to hold onto her life (this is truly dangerous!) till the party found her. We had a very classic scene where the party had to hold her down while the priest could say the prayers over her side, her single eye rolling in the socket while her hand was crushing the tiny hand of the halfling thief who was trying to comfort her.  

So the next day, they look at the ruin that is her right side, and they're sitting around.  Hungry. And start trying to figure out what to do.  And they start talking options.

So right now the fighter is deciding between going to the Valley where the Veil is Thin and letting the wizard Ritual up a necromanced arm, but she's not comfortable with taking bits of living people to do so (one of my requirements).  Her second option is to seek the dwarven king and their Runesmiths, as they have once or twice in history forged golden limbs for champions that have served the Dwarven nation, but they're not sure they could convince them to do this.  The third option (and this showcases how flexible and awesome this system is) is for her to pledge to a god as their champion on this plane.  She can multiclass the paladin 'Quest' ability, and bear an arm made of holy power as the 'mark of divine authority' but only while questing for them.

Alternately she might just rock the 'Sanzen' look (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tange_Sazen) till the spear is used.

Make the world fantastic and fill their life with wonder and adventure right? Next game, we play to find out what they decide ^_^
« Last Edit: May 17, 2012, 07:11:04 AM by stras »

noofy

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #19 on: May 17, 2012, 05:14:03 AM »
YES! That is gold! How this doesn't help Azato with his query on monsters being more than a bunch of HP and Armour? Its a wonderful real game expose of what the system is intended to do. Thanks mate, I do enjoy these AP so very much.

@Azato ~ Does that help? Stras has taken a monster, turned into a danger on his front prep and used its moves to inspire the fiction far more than its total HP or Armour...  Moves maketh the monster. Brilliant Dungeon World Game Mastery.

John Harper

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #20 on: May 17, 2012, 07:10:18 AM »
Wow, yeah, amazing stuff. I vote for the necro-arm!

azato

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #21 on: May 17, 2012, 04:38:58 PM »
Quote
@Azato ~ Does that help?

It does help...tremendously. I get the narrartive part and a few of the other nice tidbits. The HP still doesnt' make sense. One on hand it is a very concrete number...but yet still that seems very abritrary when comparing monsters and is treated  in a "the number doesn't matter that much" way. But even so, I feel I am on better footing and do appriciate the time of all who put for their thoughts.

I am working on the adventure and I plan to post it in a couple days to have people tear it apart an offer suggestions.


Regarding what I do to keep monsters from being just a block of stats:

I keep them rather uncommon. I have not run a high fantasy campaign in decades. Dungeon World has lured me back into trying some of the stuff I have left behind. While I will have more fantasy elements than I normally like, it will probably be toned down than what most people run.

The last sword and sworcery game I ran, the only magical creature they came across was a leucrotta. They never got to fight it but it would show up a couple times and speak with them...harassing, tempting and belittling. They feared and hated it.

ambayard

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #22 on: May 17, 2012, 07:51:31 PM »
This thread is great.

Azato: I share your confusion about Monster HP. It seems like a lot of the -- truly fantastic -- advice you're getting is in the vein of "make the fiction your priority, and don't let the numbers on the page limit you." And, that's great . . .

But, that may still leave you (and me) wondering what the point of the numbers are in the first place . . . If the fiction is the priority, why do we care how many HP the dragon has left? After all, the players don't actually see the monster HP number or the armor number, so if they have no idea how many HP the monster has left, why is it important for the GM to keep track? How does it affect the story? 

I don't know if this is controversial, but personally, I don't think Monster HP is all that important in Dungeon World. When a fighter swings his magic sword and takes a chunk out of a dragon, you could just as well jot down a note that says "dragon is wounded" and let that note inform your GM moves -- for me, if I track monster HP at all, it's just a shorthand for doing exactly that.

There is Player HP and Monster HP, but even though the term "HP" is used for both, they are really very different things. Player HP more or less reflects a PC's liklihood of survival, so ultimately, it's another resource that a GM can take away or manipulate in order to put the players in a spot or present them with an ugly choice (Does Bothar enter the burning building KNOWING that he only has 2 HP left? Dun Dun Dun!). Monsters, by contrast, are not making tough choices -- they are there to be challenges for the players, so Monster HP serves a different purpose -- it is really just an easy reference so the GM doesn't forget that the monster got rocked. 

I guess the idea is that if a player rolls a d10 and "does 8 points of damage," then that should mean something. And, there are probably lots and lots of people who would feel cheated if exactly 8 points of damage are not deducted from some fixed HP score. I don't see it that way. I just use damage numbers a guide -- 8 points would be enough to kill a fully armored dude in one hit -- so I react in the fiction accordingly. 16 points = whoa -- that fireball turns the attacking skeletons to black char and singes everyone's eyebrows. Conversely, if you want a dragon to withstand the fighter's best shot even though the book says the dragon only has 16 HP, go ahead, maybe your game's dragon has been working out more than the one from the book . . . :)

Anyway, that's how I think about Monster HP -- I hope this helped. 

sage

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #23 on: May 17, 2012, 08:13:33 PM »
Well, here's why HP is the way it is:

Fundamentally the GM is portraying a fantastic world, which means that things die when they get too hurt. So the most basic thing we could say is "hey, GM, things die when they get too hurt."

From there, though, there needs to be a way to communicate that some things can get hurt more than others. Even between two humans: the trained soldier can nearly lose a limb and keep on fighting, the apprentice baker passes out after a good gut punch. The GM (and the designers) need a way to note differences in how much damage something can take.

There also needs to be a way of communicating how hurt a fantastic beast can be before it dies. I don't know how many sword chops it takes to get to the center of a gelatinous cube off the top of my head.

So now we need some scale, but it can be pretty small. Say one, two, or three hits.

But then we start thinking about weapons and how much they hurt, and magic and falling buildings and all the other things that can hurt someone. We need a way to note that some things hurt more then others, and our small scale doesn't allow for that very well. So now we need a scale just big enough that different weapons can have different effects and different monsters can have different toughness.

Note that all of this is just a way of encoding the fiction in a way the GM and players can use it. None of these numbers are there to balance a fight or anything, they're just a way of saying "dragons are made of stern stuff: it takes this strong a hit to even hurt them, and they can get hurt this much."

Now we're pretty much at HP and damage. (If you want to end up at our exact system there are two more stops on the path: first, you want dealing damage to be unpredictable to some degree, so you use dice. Then, based on the common dice sizes and how you want to use them, you end up with our HP scale of around 3-20.)

There are certainly games where completely fictional harm works, but Dungeon World is not quite that game. If you have a band of goblins do you really want to write down the exact wounds each one has, knowing that they're more then likely fighting to the death anyway? HP is a way of making the tracking of the fiction simple and easy. The tradeoff is some abstraction.



Then there's a whole other line of reasoning: there are multitudes of great D&D monsters and adventures and items and such out there, all of which presume an HP model of some sort. We'd like to be vaguely compatible with those.

azato

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #24 on: May 18, 2012, 02:10:32 AM »
Thanks Sage. I think I am mostly good with the HP thing. I think that if I add couple more tags it would help me for some of the more "epic" monsters.

I just met with the players (we never played together before) and we are all stoked about this game. 

nemomeme

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #25 on: June 16, 2012, 11:15:24 PM »
I've been stating up some legendary "solo" monsters for a DW scenario I am working on, thinking about this topic and about stras' great post some more.

That led me to re-read the "Vector" section of the Technoir RPG.  I won't quote any of it here, but for those of you who own that game it may be worth reading through that section and letting some of those thoughts on doing "logic checks" for what makes sense fictionally color the way you present your fiction as an GM for Dungeon World.  I had some stumbling blocks the four times I ran Technoir but it has some great writing about thinking about game fiction and state changes within that fiction. (Its Transmissions influence the way I prep for DW and other games as well)

I think I understand pretty well how to portray the world in such a way that would make a fight with a dragon substantially different fictionally from a battle with a legendary veteran in magical plate mail even if they both have 16 hit points.

I think the mechanical differences come down mostly to one thing.  (I'm posting this here in a scattered "thinking out loud" mode because I haven't thought through it carefully and because I want to hear from others what some other mechanical differences might be between two such fights)

Assuming the characters even have the capability to vanquish a given foe, I think it comes down mechanically to how often a character has to defy danger in order to get into a fictional position where a damage-dealing move (H&S or other) has the possibility to be made/rolled.  In a play-to-find-out mode I'd be more inclined to have every conflict be theoretically winnable rather than to have decided beforehand, for example, that a given foe can only be harmed by magical weapons and if the characters don't have them then nothing they do is going to shave any of those 16 HP off.  (Wondering whether others agree even with this stance for this game - maybe your prep tells you otherwise and the PCs need to Discern or Lore their way to the solution and come back another day because this fight this day is utter suicide).

If my amount-of-defy-danger assumption is roughly correct, I wonder what cues the game has or wants to be able to translate this to MCs.  Are there tags that convey it?  Or is a name like "Dragon" enough?  As an aside while thinking about tags I'm wondering whether others would translate the messy tag as tacit permission to de-limb PCs as a part of a foe's attack?

After chewing on this and running some more DW, a found myself in a session where two of the players were a little frustrated with a situation where I was indicating H&S was not a viable move in the current circumstance.  They'd been able to use that move in all combats previously and now they were dealing with a foe that was too fast, intelligent and ferocious to be cut down by trying to simply step up to it and hit it with an axe.  I had some ideas about how such a foe might be harmed but 1) The thoughts weren't fully formed/prepped (I didn't expect them to come after this thing after describing what it had done to an armed camp!) and 2) I didn't want to lead them by the nose.

All of this to say that with some players I think I'm going to need to run DW a bit differently than I might prefer.  I don't really want to add hitpoints to monsters, so I'm thinking about some other possibilities and house rules that make "low hitpoint" legendary and scary monsters work better for me.  I'm finding that if a DW party focuses on damage, they can really lay it on starting at 2nd level - there's a big difference between 1st and 2nd level in the amount they can do if they're permitted to go straight to their damaging moves in any given conflict.

More later.  I've rambled enough.

stras

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #26 on: June 17, 2012, 08:39:28 AM »
Good post nemo!  Makes me think about stuff.  A few comments.

I think it's always a good idea to be honest and up-front with your players, and discuss things before you start.  Before every game of DW I run I explain that the game is probably a lot more lethal than they're used to.  Encounters are not necessarily balanced, and that they need to be cautious.  If you don't explain what they're buying into and then they can't harm something, it's very reasonable for a player to be frustrated.  But if they know what they're getting into and complain, I'm not sure what to tell you.

In a play-to-find-out mode I'd be more inclined to have every conflict be theoretically winnable rather than to have decided beforehand, for example, that a given foe can only be harmed by magical weapons and if the characters don't have them then nothing they do is going to shave any of those 16 HP off.  (Wondering whether others agree even with this stance for this game - maybe your prep tells you otherwise and the PCs need to Discern or Lore their way to the solution and come back another day because this fight this day is utter suicide).

I think this is where fictional positioning comes into action.  Lets say you fight a monster that cannot be harmed by non-magical weapons.  Something like a werewolf who heals any cut or wound not made by silver or magic.

The players (who probably don't seriously carry silver copies of every weapon) may not have a way to damage the creature, but they can drown it.  It has to eat - you can also poison its food source.  They could find out that fire may hurt it.  The point here is that the strategy and tactics for defeating the monster may have nothing to do with hacking or slashing, but it doesn't make the encounter necessarily untenable.

And frequently it's exactly a case of leaving and returning.  Or doing something to mitigate monster damage (like lighting the building it's in on fire) to keep it busy while you evacuate the village and buy time to go do research and return with something capable of defeating it.

If my amount-of-defy-danger assumption is roughly correct, I wonder what cues the game has or wants to be able to translate this to MCs.  Are there tags that convey it?  Or is a name like "Dragon" enough?  As an aside while thinking about tags I'm wondering whether others would translate the messy tag as tacit permission to de-limb PCs as a part of a foe's attack?

There's a great fictional blurb next to every creature.  

Also I'll quote:
p. 107 Messy: It does damage in a particularly destructive way, ripping people and things apart.

How would you interpret that?

After chewing on this and running some more DW, a found myself in a session where two of the players were a little frustrated with a situation where I was indicating H&S was not a viable move in the current circumstance.  They'd been able to use that move in all combats previously and now they were dealing with a foe that was too fast, intelligent and ferocious to be cut down by trying to simply step up to it and hit it with an axe.  I had some ideas about how such a foe might be harmed but 1) The thoughts weren't fully formed/prepped (I didn't expect them to come after this thing after describing what it had done to an armed camp!) and 2) I didn't want to lead them by the nose.

I think that you have to get the rhythm of describing the fiction down right away.  I usually try to put together a fight with an H&S block early when I run stuff to explain the whole 'fiction triggers moves' concept.  A lot of people are trained (by every other game) to just say 'attack' and there is nothing that stops that.  Once folks understand that this isn't the flow of the game always, you get less pushback.

All of this to say that with some players I think I'm going to need to run DW a bit differently than I might prefer.  I don't really want to add hitpoints to monsters, so I'm thinking about some other possibilities and house rules that make "low hitpoint" legendary and scary monsters work better for me.  I'm finding that if a DW party focuses on damage, they can really lay it on starting at 2nd level - there's a big difference between 1st and 2nd level in the amount they can do if they're permitted to go straight to their damaging moves in any given conflict.

If you feel you have no other choice, just slap +10 armor on them unless they can bypass it.  Or let them do 12 damage and have the creature heal right up.  It feels like cheating (I'd rather say the blade just bounces off the hide) but it's an ugly systematic solution to essentially something you should probably talk to the players about outside the game.

noofy

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #27 on: June 17, 2012, 09:50:19 AM »
Good post nemo!  Makes me think about stuff.  A few comments.
The point here is that the strategy and tactics for defeating the monster may have nothing to do with hacking or slashing, but it doesn't make the encounter necessarily untenable.

And frequently it's exactly a case of leaving and returning.  Or doing something to mitigate monster damage (like lighting the building it's in on fire) to keep it busy while you evacuate the village and buy time to go do research and return with something capable of defeating it.

Well said Stras :)
This behaviour is enshrined in early D&D play, and is captured wonderfully by DW, which in addition gives us wonderful mechanical support (in the guise of moves other than Hack & Slash and evocative tags) to achieve these fictional, non-combat, conflict resolution aims.

Conversely nemo, If your players want to have lots of glorious combat, and you don't want to mess with HP amounts, then make the battle  hard won fictionally. Have the monsters eat / dismember / murder a few NPCs that the players care about, right in front of them as hard moves. Destroy locations, steal the players stuff, suck their resources (other than HP) dry. When they engage, ask them, up front if they really want to hack and slash with this legendary beastie, I mean if they roll a 7-9 or (heaven forbid) miss... Look what happened to the poor hireling / village / magic object, they could end up just as dismembered / razed / abused.

jshaffstall

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #28 on: June 17, 2012, 01:06:39 PM »
I guess what I mean is that having a tag like "nigh invincible" or "immortal" or a move like "shed skin and regain all health" force the players into that all-too-familiar old-school stance of "well shit, we can't just rush in and bang away at it" because those moves and tags tell the GM that a mere sword or bow just won't trigger Hack and Slash.

That made a few things click for me.  I'd still been subconsciously treating moves as things the players chose to do, rather than rules that kick in when appropriate (even though the rules clearly state that). 

That was enhanced for me by having trouble getting one of my players to say what they were doing, rather than simply calling out moves.

nemomeme

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Re: Monsters - I am confused
« Reply #29 on: June 17, 2012, 06:09:54 PM »
Thanks for the responses so far.

I guess the core of my query is whether, fiction aside, the main thing players can do on offense against a low-hit point legend is a number of actions that defy danger and whether that's how others approach these kind of fights.  Like, the fight is going on and as GM you're thinking, "these guys are getting ripped to shreds but they're not running.  They've got a pretty good idea though and they've successfully defied danger once towards implementing it.  Given the nature of this beast in this environment how many more times should they have to defy danger to beat it?"  I'm not asking for a number - clearly that will vary with the fiction!  I'm asking whether that's the terms you think in and how/if you convey that to the players: "Oh, you're so close!  If you can just do X then you'll have won!"

I'm finding that for some of the people I want to play Dungeon World with it is just not working for them at least in the way I'm implementing it.  If I'm not allowing an "attack roll" then clearly I am being a dick and/or the game is dumb.  I just won't play this game with those people.  Or, more likely, I'll try one more time and it won't go particularly well.  Trouble is, in my circles a lot of the people who "get" Dungeon World have their schedules filled up with things like Fiasco and Montsegur.  My dungeon-delving pals aren't always comfortable with the nu skool AND have also never had any exposure to old skool "fiat" and it can seem harsh to them.

It is really hard for some people to break out of their thinking habits in gaming. I can provide perfectly detailed Lore or Discernment that feels so spoon-fed that I'm cringing at how out-of-fiction meta I've gone, there can be a environmental feature that can solve their dilemma with just the tiniest bit of creative thinking, and they'll still go back to Hack and Slash (and go down swinging).  Besides old dogs and new tricks, I think there's something I'm not doing right/well about how I present the game and its Moves (see other threads on providing/not providing Move sheets).

I hadn't read/recalled the specific text for Messy.  That seems pretty clear.  Though many players don't think things like that happening to NPCs mean it can happen to them.  That brings up then how DMs are planning to handle all the de-limbed adventurers running around given there are 15 monsters in the core rules with the Messy tag.  Most players I know would rather have their characters be dead than de-limbed.  Does a permanent debility cover it or is that not enough probably?  "Sorry, Sir Gwaine, you've been savaged by cave rats.  I'm afraid your adventuring days are through."  :)

There's a custom move at the beginning of the Advanced Fuckery chapter of Apocalypse World that's Called things are tough.  Vincent really runs it down as a move, but I'm thinking of employing something like it for Dungeon World.

Monsters don't have levels and I don't want to have to assign levels to them.  I think that along with no hit point inflation were good design decisions for Dungeon World.  But wanting another lever besides the-amount-of-defy-danger-a-PC-has-to-do-to-get-to-an-effective-attack, I'm thinking of something like this:

a foe like none before: If the GM determines that a monster is more challenging than any the character has ever overcome, the player takes -1 to any roll in opposition to that monster.  Assign a number one or two higher than the character's current level to that monster.  When the character reaches that level, that monster will no longer have the a foe like none before tag.

That's a rough cut.  I would likely play around with a -2 & -1 progression, (as things are tough).  This would do a few things for me.

1) The level progression in DW is pretty flat.  Characters get broader, more flexible and more interesting.  They'll likely have some cool items as they level too.  But there isn't great a difference in power between a 4th level character and a 10th level character relative to most D&D rulesets.  I actually like this a lot.  I'm going to make people start over at first level if and when their characters die and they'll still be able to contribute effectively to the party.  But I can introduce a little more sense of progression with this rule.  That lower level character that is almost as mechanically effective against that 16 hit point dragon as that higher level character?  Things are going to be tougher for him because he's never faced a foe like this before.

2)  For the people who insist on not being so creative with how they approach situations?  I can still let them try.  It's just going to be tougher for them.  "You're first level?  This white dragon has you pissing in your boots.  Try whatever you like, but take -2 ongoing against it."  I don't agree myself with their thinking but to them, "yes but -2" seems a lot less dick-ish than "no, that move on your sheet just doesn't work in this situation (and here's why)."

3) I can introduce terrible foes in a sandbox world early and if the PCs want to go after them they can, even if they can't divine exactly how to handle the thing.  They can face it, discover it is a foe like none before, learn a few things, run away and then try again when they've had more experience and gained a couple levels.  More of that sense of progression thing.  And I can do it without all the level setting micromanagement prep.

I understand this wont' be for everyone.  I am going to try it as another control lever along with amount-of-defy-danger given that hit point flattening sort of takes one lever away.

The Regiment has messed around with some situation levers like its Supressed condition and its Force Parity matrix.  I may look at and think about those some more for a possible application to Dungeon World house rules to give my "16 hit-point dragons" some more mechanical teeth.