Question:  Some people have wondered about the utility of a weapon tag like “Messy”, which has no tangible in-game…

Question:  Some people have wondered about the utility of a weapon tag like “Messy”, which has no tangible in-game…

Question:  Some people have wondered about the utility of a weapon tag like “Messy”, which has no tangible in-game effect.  If given a choice between it and, say, Piercing 2 or +1 damage, why choose it?

Solution:  “Messy” weapons allow the attacker to reroll any natural 1 on their damage die.  Keep rolling until something other than a 1 is rolled. 

What do you think? 

55 thoughts on “Question:  Some people have wondered about the utility of a weapon tag like “Messy”, which has no tangible in-game…”

  1. I would personally pick a messy or forceful weapon over a piercing one any day of the week. When my hammer-wielding fighter hits something, she may not deal as much damage, but she shatters spears, sends foes flying, and otherwise causes chaos wherever necessary. A mechanical description would just be putting a damper on my imagination.

  2. If messy has no effect then you’re missing out on some really neat parts of DW. That’s cool; the game still works just fine, but there’s some depth there that you can look forward to exploring later.

  3. What everyone else said. My fighter had a Messy Forceful axe and limbs were constantly been lobbed off. Fiction First with Messy is some extremely brutal fun. Just remember it goes both ways if a Monster has a Messy attack =)

  4. A couple points:  Having a mechanical effect doesn’t prevent someone from describing a cool scene, so it’s not a choice of mechanics OR description.

    Just because your weapon doesn’t have messy or forceful doesn’t prevent a player from describing vicious wounds, broken ribs, etc.  If a player with an non-messy weapon hit for 9 or 10 points of damage and wanted to narrate the blow that way, it’s fine with me.

  5. I had an assassin vine (messy tag) bite off the fingers of a bard PC. It had a splinter-filled maw.

    “OH MY GOD! Can I reattach them with magical healing??

    “Yes, but you must sing a song that would take a whole day to complete. “

    Messy is awesome for GMs too!

  6. Scott Alvarado

     But why can’t you do the same thing with a non-messy attack too?  I tailor the description to the amount of damage inflicted, messy or not.

  7. While technically, having a mechanical benefit does not prevent having additional, fictional benefits, in this case I would find it easy to just let the fiction slip and only use the “mechanics”. Having fiction-only keywords is important in a game like DW where the fiction drives the mechanics, not the other way around.

  8. Tom Miskey Maybe I’m remembering wrong, but I think it had the chance of hitting extra targets within range. Like if you threw a grenade with Messy, it would hit say half the targets in the area, MCs call.

    Something like that. Others could explain it better, I’m sure.

  9. Tom Miskey If you’ve got a broken rib, you probably need a Defy Danger to swing your weapon.  If you’re missing a leg, it doesn’t matter how many HP you have, you are screaming in pain on the ground and bleeding to death.  If you’ve got a compound fractured arm, that shield is useless.  The mechanics follow the fiction.

  10. Colter Hanna  Ok, but weapons can have enhancements like “hooks and spikes”, “serrated edges”, and “sharp”, so shouldn’t they get to use similar fictions for their attacks?  “The serrated edges on my massive axe take several of his fingers off”, for instance.  And it has the added mechanical benefit of +1 damage on every hit too.

  11. I don’t think there is any better effect than messy. Give a measly Wizard with a messy weapon and what happens? Out come the eyes. Pluck off a few fingers of that club wielding giant. Lance that boil on the back of the troll. See how suddenly anyone with a messy weapon becomes awesome? That, my friends, is mechanical advantage in the game.

  12. Tom Miskey more power to you! Use them as inspiration or not at all! Whatever works in your game. The tags are reminders to me. I have a lot to manage keeping the fiction straight.

  13. Michael Brewer , that doesn’t follow the fiction, unless you’re playing a much different genre than I’m playing.  Let’s give that Wizard a Defy Danger to just wield the thing.  That messy weapon could be dangerous to an untrained wielder.

  14. I don’t know, a wizard lacking training is basically the reason the weapon would deal 1d4 damage, right? I say just make him roll hack&slash and make the “difficult to wield” part a gm move for low rolls.

    I don’t have much experience yet with the messy tag as a player, but as a GM I want to see my dragon deal messy damage. “Oh sure, it only deals 6 damage, but the claw rips through the barbarian’s arm, and as you howl in pain you realize that what was once your arm is now a useless shlab of meat. You don’t think you can wield your heavy axe properly with just one hand, to say nothing of the pain. What do you do?”

    Exciting. :D

  15. Matthew Gagan  I guess I’m still not getting it, though.  If someone hits for 10 damage with a non-messy weapon and describes it as shattering a thigh, do you allow that?  If you do, then how is that any different from a messy weapon hitting for 10 damage and shattering the thigh?  Do you allow a 1 or 2 damage hit from a messy weapon to shatter bones?  Everything people are saying about “messy” I do for any weapon that causes a big hit, messy or not, so messy has no additional effect.  Do you guys routinely tell players their big 10 point hit can’t do what they are describing because it isn’t “messy”?

  16. Tom Miskey the difference is the messy tag makes each and every hit messy, you may either be giving the messy tag to everyone on high damage or really not using the messy tag as it was written. It is a okay to make big hits have the messy tag, it’s your groups fiction. The perk of the messy tag, is it influences the fiction rather than being a flat mechanical advantage like serrated or hooks and spikes. The bonus from those tags is a way to described a slightly more effective weapons design rather than brute destruction

  17. Messy means the weapon is always doing gnarly wounds. Even a one or two point from a messy weapon is going to leave rough and ragged injuries. Messy weapons deal complicating damage.

  18. Yeah, even 1 damage with a messy weapon would leave its mark. It’s not “weapons without the messy tag can never be messy” and is instead “weapons with the messy tag are always messy.”

    But I do agree with René López Villamar , it doesn’t always have to be a loss of limb. 1 damage can be a nasty cut that doesn’t hamper you too much, but maybe you should have that wound looked at after combat because it might fester (not saying it will). Or maybe a healed wound from a messy weapon leaves a scar on your arm. It doesn’t really make you ugly or anything, but your arm just doesn’t feel right anymore.

    In the end I think it’s a tag that’s very subjective. One group would think messy is the best thing ever, while another would think it’s next to useless. And you know what I think? I think that’s alright.

  19. Yeah, I took “messy” as describing the state of the wound, not the amount of damage. For instance, getting a finger neatly sliced off by a sharpened and fine-tuned Ginsu is probably a lot less gorey as having it ripped off by a dull and rusty shiv.

  20. Others seem to have this well-covered.  All you really have to do is think about the fictional impact of something that has done “damage in a particularly destructive way, ripping people and things apart.”  I can’t think of much worse than that.

    Monsters with messy wounds aren’t going to be chasing anyone down, they might be missing limbs or have a punctured lung, etc. I would have no problem sometimes indicating that they are out of the fight if they’re low on hit points or aren’t particularly bloodthirsty.

    Cave Rats, Ghouls, Suhaugin and the like? They are going to render horrible wounds that may take longer to heal and are almost always going to be accompanied by debilities. What else would a messy wound be like?

  21. Thank you Tom Miskey  for posting this question. And everyone else for explaining your take on this topic. It was super useful to me!

  22. This thread is awesome.

    My thoughts: My experience is that most people take the messy and forceful tags for their fighters, because it is one of the ways the fighter becomes different from the paladin, in a way.

    I had a player “defy danger by powering through” up a staircase, knocking demons of so e could get past. He just flat-sided them with his axe. Sure, he dealt no damage, the forceful quality was the justification of slamming three demons off a staircase.

    As for the messy tag, my experience is that the fighter make a lot of one-shot kills anyway, so more often than not, it’s a matter of “how broken” the bodies are, when they are left behind.

    For those rare moments when they don’t die in the first blow, taking off a hand, breaking a thigh bone, smashing a knee asunder is awesome! It doesn’t have a mechanical effect, but the “my character is freakin’ awesome”-feel is so easy to create with the messy tag.

    I had another fighter that wielded a very sharp spear instead, and he didn’t have the messy tag. While he was a furious melee opponent, he didn’t leave behind crippled bodies or broken arms. He left neatly pierced bodies, sometimes with a slit throat from a wide swing (reach is wonderful as well).

    The messy tag isn’t about raw power, it’s about brutality. If your fighter has a messy weapon, enemies should fear him/her terribly. Seeing your friends cut asunder is horrifying.

  23. If you have a +Messy weapon, I think it’s on /you/ to describe what your goal is BEFORE attacking with it. Are you trying to hack off a limb so it can’t swing its sword at you or chase you down? Are you trying to slash its eyes open so it can’t see your thief move around behind it? Are you trying to shred its armor so it’s easier for the ranger to hit? THEN you roll. If you’re trying to figure out what Messy means after the roll, you’ve started off on the wrong (severed) foot in my opinion. You should know before you roll. It’s not about the gore – it’s about what you gain by that gore.

  24. Because the fiction is mechanically important, anything that has an effect in the fiction has a tangible in-game effect. Messy really doesn’t need any changes (except arguably a nerf).

  25. Michael Walsh Messy (moreso than forceful)  could use a few community examples of its use as a player weapon tags across the spectrum from low-key to gonzo.  I have to wonder that Sage LaTorra or Adam Koebel must have a couple to share to give us a grounded spot from which we can work.

    A similar desire of mine would be some good examples of conflict with monsters with serious move mojo, such as the basilisk, in terms of introduction, and escalation, and the eventual wailing and gnashing of teeth.

    And maybe a pony.

  26. Maybe a more difficult tag to apply in the game is “two-handed”. Why my weapon is two-handed, it weights like a 1handed sword, does the same damage, but I can’t use a shield… 

  27. Andrea Parducci It’s a matter of balance, not weight. Everyone can swing a greatsword one-handed. A claymore for example only weigh 2.2 to 2.8 kgs. Not exactly a feat of legend… The problem is the length of the blade and the momentum it creates.

  28. Tim Franzke I am indeed familiar with the 16 hp dragon example, which is great, but I’m looking for some examples that fall somewhere between goblins and godzilla. The BoredAndSorcery Black Pudding report was also great, but it focused more on the fiction flow and less on the concrete thoughts that the GM used to connect the monster moves to the fiction.  If you’ve got any good examples to share that’d be great!

  29. Tim Franzke About the thing “It’s also probarbly easier to hit 2 people with a big 2hander then with a sword”, sure it is. However I’d like some “fiction driven” rule to help balancing the things. Example: in Apocalypse World some type of attack does Area damage. That area damage is not strictly quantified, but now I know some attack can hit lot of enemies, while “normal” ones usually cannot.

    In AW I know that “messy” can hit or miss some of the targets you want to hit. How many? How the master chooose? I answer “following the roll, following the fiction”, so I’m True with my mastering.

    But if I have no “rules”, no “clues” about 2handed weapons, I have difficult time to choose “what is True”, then even my players groan ’cause they don’t see the advantages to use that extra hand on the same weapon.

    PS: about the “16HP Dragon”. Nice example, I liked it. However, if a couple of players had made an attack (without failing the roll, of course 😀 ), maybe that Dragon would have ended less frightful.

  30. Are the game physics that allow you to hide behind a two-handed sword the same that make a chainmail bikini effective armor? That would explain a lot.

  31. It really depends on what your game runs on. Is it narrated by Stan Lee or George R R Martin or Square Enix? That determines what works in your game and what doesn’t.

    The game supports all of those playstyles.

  32. Just to add another thing, and for “ruining your plans” ;D , I have to ask: that Messy tag is so powerful, so gruesome, and Barbarian class has it as default (Musclebound starting move), then why he should take an extra move to make almost the same thing (“Smash” move)? You could reply “for taking a position”, but it’s quite difficult to defend a zone when – with Messy – I can eradicate your legs…

Comments are closed.