I have a question regarding tags.

I have a question regarding tags.

I have a question regarding tags.  Mechanically, tags like “precise” and “piercing 2” are fairly simple to manage, but how do you folks deal with tags like “forceful” or “messy”?  How do you determine the extent of what those tags are capable of in a given situation?  If my players are fighting a cave troll, it’s not exactly reasonable to have a single blow from a small weapon cleave off a limb or sever a hand, is it?  Similar with forceful – a single blow from a forceful war mace shouldn’t be capable of knocking down or staggering a very large opponent… should it?  

How do you lot manage these?

7 thoughts on “I have a question regarding tags.”

  1. Since they’re purely narrative, tags like “forceful” and “messy” can engage with the monsters any way that makes sense.

    For example, a hit from an oak club might stagger a man but bounce ineffectually off of a cave troll like a toddler with a wiffle bat, while a blow from a forceful maul might knock a man off his feet and even stagger the troll.

  2. It’s just intuition, really, a decision you need to make yourself. Rather than looking at tags as things that should correspond to particular, reliable effects, think of them as things that need mentioning, honoring in the fiction somehow.

    If your mace is Forceful and you whack a dragon with it, you’re not going to knock the dragon down, but you might buckle one of its legs on a good hit, making it stumble. If the mace is doing this and other weapons aren’t, the tag’s having an effect.

  3. It can be reasonable, but like any hard move you should foreshadow do players can make informed decisions.

    Foreshadow with a warning blow, narrator comment, make it happen to an NPC first, etc. If they’ve already encountered one then you only need to give them some clue it is coming.

    On the tags themselves I don’t think there is any limit. The real limit is whether the players are willing to take the risk.

  4. Ah great question. This came up with a game I ran a while ago. We had a barbarian in the group so all of his attacks were forceful and messy. 

    Scale is important to the fiction. In our game we had a bar fight. The barbarian (we’ll call Joe) was a halfling, that no talk good like you and me, that was not ok being called short. He hit a human with a glass pint. It was a small weapon but it became forceful and messy. So the poor bloke had his knee broken and glass was embedded in his leg, causing lots of bleeding. Mechanically he took 4 damage, but fictionally he was done. He didn’t want to fight anymore.

    Now we move on to a giant or ogre (can’t remember which). Joe charged up to this thing (which is like 6x bigger than him) and connected with his axe. Well it’s forceful and messy, but Joe can’t reach much higher than the giants ankles. So when he hit for 6 damage he took a few toes off, which knocked the giant on his butt from the pain. Just imagine stubbing your toe so hard that you broke the damn thing off. Yeah you’d be on the ground as well. 

    So yes a small thing can knock down a really big thing. Just because it’s big doesn’t mean it has a high pain tolerance. 

    Now if Joe only had the forceful tag when hitting the giant, I would have had him simply break the giants toes.

    So make the messy and forceful be there but just on a scale to the weapon.

    On a side note, sometimes heroes can’t just walk up to something and hurt it. One way to make monsters more dangerous is to force the players to deal with the monsters immense size. Before Joe could hit the giant he needed to defy danger just to get in range of the thing.

    Hope that helps.

  5. Monster 2x the hero’s size, hero wielding a messy weapon… Severing a hand or a hamstring would be totally in bounds (at my table) depending how the attack is described. Or opening gaping wounds that cause it to slowly bleed out. Forceful weapon… dislocate an ankle or a knee cap, hobbling or possibly toppling the beast. 

    Don’t just let them say, “I attack, I roll 11 on my hack n slash, and 8 damage.” You respond with, “Ok you’re gonna get him good with that – how do you do it?” Then follow the fiction to narrate an action packed result.  

    And as always, it depends on the tone you want for your game. Maybe it’s a game of epic Wuxia badassery where you can jump 12 feet in the air and flying scissor takedown a giant, or uppercut an oni 20 feet through a stone wall. Or maybe it’s Shadow of the Colossus style, where you can’t possibly injure the mega-fauna without climbing its back and stabbing its weak point, then you hold on for dear life and hope you survive it’s death throes. Or mix & match those two from session to session. 

    At the risk of being a broken record, there’s no One Right Way. If everyone’s having fun, you’re doing it right. 

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