So, rules question I’ve been chewing on.

So, rules question I’ve been chewing on.

So, rules question I’ve been chewing on.

In a game a few months ago, we were fighting a giant.  He’d taken a few arrows from the Ranger and was in pretty bad shape, but he was closing in on the sniper perch, so I had my thief explode out of the underbrush from behind and drive his rapier into the brute’s Achilles tendon, hoping to lame him.

GM ruled it was a Backstab, which given the fiction seemed appropriate.  I rolled, and got a 10+.  I chose Avoid Melee and Deal Damage.  I SHOULD have picked Grant Advantage, because it fit the fiction better, but I picked Deal Damage.  I figured I’d hurt him a bit more, and also, fictionally, he’d be lame.  The GM didn’t quibble with my choice.

In retrospect, it’s not surprising I reduced the giant to 0HP.  By stabbing him in the foot.  The rules explicitly state that when a monster reaches 0HP it dies.  This is obviously very wrong for this situation, and the GM played it as him being incapacitated and surrendering.  Which worked fine.

But I’m wondering how to avoid this in the future, other than not letting HP damage dealing moves trigger unless you’re going for the kill?

24 thoughts on “So, rules question I’ve been chewing on.”

  1. Well, my feeling here is that, based on the rulings you and the GM made, the giant’s death makes sense.

    You choose to deal damage with your attack. Dropping them to 0 HP from intentionally dealing damage should result in death, regardless of how ignoble that death is (such as being stabbed in the back of the foot).

    If your intention is to do something other than deal damage (such as distracting, incapacitating, or laming something) then I would say don’t use a move that is intended to deal damage.

    In this case if I were the GM, I would have probably called for a Defy Danger with either Strength (to get through the giant’s thick skin) Dexterity (to get there quick enough/to hit a moving target), or maybe even Intelligence (to know exactly where to strike the giant).

    Basically, if you’re not intending to kill your opponent, Hack & Slash (or another move that deals damage) is probably not the move you want to use.

  2. That’s what I figured.  But as I understand it, Damage is used in a couple of contradictory ways.  When a monster does damage, it doesn’t necessarily do HP damage, it might ‘only’ knock you off a bridge, or swallow you whole, or rip off your arm, or steal/despoil your gear.  None of those actions necessarily does HP damage (ok, maybe the arm tearing).  Does the same hold true for PCs?

  3. If you feel that the injury to the giant shouldn’t have been lethal, then your thief probably wasn’t stabbing him in the foot. Fiction First; a backstab with bonus damage is triggered when your character attacks with surprise and attempts to mortally wound the foe.

    The solution your GM came up with is fine. You could alternately say that, with the element of surprise, you aimed your stab at his femoral artery, knowing that if you missed the killing blow, you’d still hobble him.

  4. I believe what Michael Atlin is referring to is when a Monster “makes an attack” like in the 7-9 of a hack/slash.

    When a monster makes and attack it doesn’t necessarily have to deal damage, it could grapple you, maim you, kill you, whatever the fiction demands.  But when it deals damage, it should deal damage.

  5. Joshua Heffner Yes. Totally. It’s the order of operatons that seems odd. I describe fiction first, then the move is called for, then I roll, then I select options. It feels too late to add the detail that my thief is opening an artery when I’ve already said it’s the tendon.

    And nether h&s or backstab explicitly include deadly intent. It’s only implied in that they do hp damage and hp damage ultimately kills.

  6. Hmm… I’m going to disagree a bit. If, as you say, HP damage ultimately kills, then to me any move that deals HP damage is you acting with lethal intent.

    Also, if you as a player describe your character’s action and the GM calls for a move that you think doesn’t line up with your intention, it’s your job to tell them. There’s nothing wrong with telling the GM “Hang on a second, that doesn’t sound like what I’m trying to do.” and then discussing things until everyone in on the same page.

  7. It makes total sense to me that stabbing a giant in the foot could kill him. I would say you just nicked an artery, and the massive fluid pressure from a huge biped would do the rest. Or maybe I’m overthinking this?

  8. It’s not order of operations, it’s a conversation. Further, you already changed your fictional intent by going for a grievous injury instead of opening an advantage. The roll presents options to you, which may or may not change how you interpret the fiction.

    Example :

    Thief: “I burst out of the underbrush and slash my rapier at the giant’s Achilles tendon to hobble him.”

    GM: “Ok, you’ve definitely got surprise, roll it as a Backstab”

    Thief: “I got a 10+. I’ll Avoid Melee and Deal Damage”

    GM: “Wait, I thought you were hobbling him, how are you dealing extra damage?”

    Thief: “Maybe I’ve got time to sink my rapier deep into his leg, and I’m jusy slashing through everything in there and opening up an artery too.”

    GM: “Ok, sounds good. Roll damage…. Ok, you all but take his leg off at the knee, he collapses like a ton of bricks and starts bleeding out.”

    Fundamentally, when you chose to deal damage+1d6, you weren’t following the fiction you established; you said as much yourself. And that’s ok, the roll gave you a better option, but the fiction has to change a bit to support your mechanical change. Otherwise, you have a weird disconnect.

    Don’t think of it as your character changing his/her action mid swing in response to a favorable roll; think of it as the roll representing a new choice that your character sees before committing to the course of events. If you slash at an enemy’s breastplate to rend it, but roll a 7-9, your character sees that they can only pull it off if they’re willing to risk getting into melee, and they can decide not to. On a 10+, they’re fast enough to drop the foe’s armor and tumble away in a blink… but that also means they might spot the perfect gap, if they’re willing to spend time lining up the shot.

  9. Personally, my style of GMing is such that in that situation I’d say, “Ok, I assume you’re Creating An Advantage, which other option are you taking?” That prompts the player to establish how they’re getting a benefit above and beyond what they originally asked for, and it makes it clear that something is changing if they say, “No, I’m just Dealing Damage and Avoiding Melee.” 

  10. The Ranger was threatening him, right? Why not have the description of the death move (where you dropped him below 0) be that you crippled him,along him helpless against the Ranger’s next shot, which went straight through his eye socket?

    That way it works with the fiction, you still dealt a grievous wound, brought others into the action (making them awesome, too), and the giant didn’t die by being stabbed in the foot.

  11. Maybe I run a very merciful game, but I always let my players assume some narrative control of the monster when it hits 0 HP. After all, since the PCs are unique in the world, they’re the only ones who reliably visit Death’s Door. 

    If the fiction provides strong evidence to the contrary, such as a messy weapon or a precarious position on the point of death, survival isn’t guaranteed or even likely.

  12. It’s a good question, and has been answered well here. (Has this question been answered before, in the DW guide or something? If it has, I don’t remember seeing it.) 

  13. As a GM I think my method of dealing with it would be fictional. For instance, “You stab the giant’s Achilles and his leg buckles beneath him. He twists, falls backwards and, with a sickening crack, his head strikes a stone. Blood trickles from one ear as his eyes roll back. One last shudder and he ceases to move.”

  14. Definitly more discussion between the GM and players could help, but the GM can always solve it with a bit of narrative flare:

    “You slash through the giant’s foot, but he keeps moving. When he puts his weight on it, his leg collapses, unable to hold his weight. He falls, his head slams hard into a rock cropping up out of the ground, and he moves no more.”

    At least that’s how I always explain non-lethal attack deaths, the injury causes the death in some way, either directly or indirectly.

  15. The giant could have had a detrimental occurrence based on your fortunate roll. Perhaps in trying to zero in on the person in the perch peppering him with arrows, he stumbles in some underbrush, falls to hands and knees, and your rogue swiftly climbs his back, driving your blade into his back/neck/skull, whatever. The favorable roll dictates a fortunate/desired outcome. Narrate the fiction so that makes sense. Surrender is a viable option.

    As much as there’s rules to follow, when you choose to play a narrative game, the rules are really there to guide all parties, get you back on the road when you feel like you’re off it, and try to get everyone feeling useful. The fiction and fun fuel everything in DW. You can bring the DW feel to d20/other but those aren’t narrative driven.

  16. Since when does 0 HP mean you definitely die from the HP dealing wound? You cut the giant’s heel tendon. He falls over, vanquished. If you want to you can walk over and cut his head off without a roll. Or bind him. He is at your mercy. What do you do?

  17. Wynand Louw A monster’s HP is a measure of how much damage it can take before it dies. Just like players, when a monster takes damage it subtracts that amount from its HP. At 0 HP it’s dead, no last breath.

    Page 223

  18. Any interpretation that adds to the story and puts the onus on the players works.  If someone wants 0 hps to mean “that’s when all the little birdies sing” then, by the Gods, so it shall be in their campaign.  

    Just take it back to the players.  Why do the little birdies sing? 

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