When using Hack & Slash, should a +precise weapon require a wielder to roll +DEX, or should they allow the option to…

When using Hack & Slash, should a +precise weapon require a wielder to roll +DEX, or should they allow the option to…

When using Hack & Slash, should a +precise weapon require a wielder to roll +DEX, or should they allow the option to roll +DEX or +STR?

48 thoughts on “When using Hack & Slash, should a +precise weapon require a wielder to roll +DEX, or should they allow the option to…”

  1. In my game tonight, the priest handed off his sword (which is a +precise weapon) to the barbarian, as they were trying to kill a spectre and this was the only thing that was able to harm it. I let the Barbarian roll H&S using +STR even though it was a precise weapon – it seemed like it was optional to me. Anybody else’s thoughts on this?

  2. just because a weapon is precise, it doesn’t mean you cant use brute force in order to wield it. take for example, a rapier. You could find a weak spot in the opponents armor and and attack a small point, but plunging it into the opponents throat would be just as effective

  3. I think the book was s pretty clear too

    Precise: It rewards careful strikes. You use DEX to hack and slash with this weapon, not STR.

  4. Tags’ specific wording indicates you always roll +Dex, but I’d follow the fiction. If the barbarian is hacking and hewing, not using it precisely, cool. Roll +STR. But also be ready to take their stuff away. snap

  5. Jacob Leavens​ hitting the throat still requires a deft and dextrous strike… +DEX.

    You cannot take a rapier and slash with it like you do with a sword to cut across their body and through their armour. You have to stick them with the pointy end, which requires more aim but less force given you hit the right place.

  6. Jacob Leavens

    Except that for both of those things, you’d roll +DEX precisely because it’s a rapier.

    If the character was trying to bludgeon someone with the rapier, that’d be different, but precisely because it’s a rapier, that would be an ineffective way to do damage.

  7. To be honest, I’m not really concerned with what the “correct” rules are, more just in what other peoples thoughts. I have since noticed that the tag descriptions in the appendix doesn’t match the one in the equipment chapter, so one of them is probably just an artifact of an early draft.

    Any drawback to letting it happen?

  8. For reference:


    Precise (equipment): You can use Dex instead of Str when using

    this weapon.


    Precise: It rewards careful strikes. You use DEX to hack and slash

    with this weapon, not STR.

  9. As others said (and I know sometimes this is a cop out answer), go with the fiction and what makes sense for the weapon and the use in question. Rapiers are sturdyish, so you could use one to bludgeon someone rather than use it dextrously, but it would be performing at sub-optimal usage.

  10. I’d would say you have to use dex, that’s how I play it. If it becomes optional the tag becomes meaningless and next thing the druid is rolling with a great sword using dex or the barb is shooting a long bow using strength.

  11. I would allow it based on the weapon, but I was thinking the same thing as Jeremy Strandberg  — that 7-9 can be a beyatch when using a precise weapon as an axe.

  12. 1. Precise = +DEX

    2. That said, it can depend on the details of the weapon in your game. E.g. a rapier is always precise +DEX, but a heavier sabre may be precise +DEX in one character’s hands and +STR in another.

    Finding more about the weapon (e.g. “Describe your weapon and why it’s ‘precise’ in your hands.”) before it’s handed over should make it clear what options the other character has when using it.

  13. As a rule use Dex, but what I do is take the main stat for any basic move as a standard unless it’s really better served with a different type of roll. If someone is trying to pinpoint a weak spot in an enemy and describes their move like that then I’d make an exception and maybe use Wis instead. the same with a precise weapon, if they describe an attack in such a way to emphasise only force and stabbing instead of anything else, rolling Str might be more relevant. Fiction first, after all.

  14. Fiction first does not mean “ignore mechanics of you feel like it”. You look at the fiction. Then you look at the rules and what the rules say will inform the fiction.

    If you ignore the mechanic’s input on the fiction you lose out.

  15. Maybe I was being a bit broad there, but if they make me go, “holy crap, that’s totally against type but I guess it works” then I’ll go for it. Running up a giant and jamming the fencing foil into its eye right up to the hilt might not be Dex. It might for the running, depending on where the failure point or the emphasis of the action would be.

    Maybe I’m just a bit lax. I’m not saying ignore the rules, just treat them as precedent (so in this case Dex would be that) and make exceptions where absolutely necessary.

  16. Dylan Knight, though I think this also speaks to you Charlie Etheridge-Nunn, I didn’t vote because of the binary choice.

    I want to preface this potentially power-hungry-sounding comment with an acknowledgement of the dialogue between the players and the MC during DW sessions, but, like many RPGs, the MC makes the final call and the players have to accept it.

    That being said, I don’t think saying you ALWAYS roll DEX with a precise weapon makes sense, since the fiction won’t always support it (using the guard on a rapier as a blunt instrument to knock someone out isn’t really dextrous to my mind). However, I don’t think it should be up to the wielder to choose. The wielder describes the action, the MC chooses the mechanics.

  17. Jacob Leavens keeping within the story, a barbarian trying to use his strength with something like a rapier is more likely to break the weapon. I’ve played other games where melee weapons had a str cap on damage for that same reason.

  18. Ari Black punching someone with the guarded hilt of your Raiper is using your Fist as a weapon and the guard as a help. That goes with STR. That is not really attacking with the weapon itself.

    Also, why do you say “The MC/GM chooses the mechanic”? 

  19. I voted for always use DEX. However, I agree with the people saying that you can use STR in specific circumstances. If the players can justify it well, they should be rewarded for it.

  20. Dex always, I think. Precise weapons aren’t built to be used like longswords and axes. A rapier’s likely to be ineffective or break if you try to slash someone with it.

  21. Tim Franzke, to be fair, the book is sometimes… wonky. For example, bond limit, which everyone seems to use, is never mentioned in the book, and yet, Word of God has stated that there is a bond limit equal to your default bonds. On top of that, the only official resource (that I’m aware of) that actually references the bond limit is the Immolator, which was a later addition.

    Not to mention the aforementioned discrepancy between the two precise tag descriptions. And the fact that there’s a 6-10 Fighter Move that’s completely useless considering how most people play DW.

  22. If an Elven fighter used their racial move to be able to wield hammers as though they had the precise tag (even though they don’t) and he handed off his hammer to a team mate, sure that’d be fine, roll +STR.

    Other wise I’d say follow the fiction. Is it a dainty little rapier, probably not. If it’s a saber, scimitar, katana or even a simple dagger I’d allow because I think a case could really be made either way in how you wield them, also fan of the players and all that.

  23. Tim: telling the player that what they’re doing isn’t triggering the precise tag isn’t “ignoring mechanics if you feel like it,” it’s giving them an opportunity that fits their class and/or telling them the costs/consequences. GM moves, informed by principles like be a fan of the characters and begin and end with the fiction.

  24. Follow the fiction, let the fiction feed into the mechanics, and then the results affect the fiction. In the fiction, are you using careful strikes, with a weapon that is made to do well with careful strikes? Roll +DEX. Are you hacking away, or using a weapon that’s not precise? Roll +STR. If you’re playing a fighter that’s using a precise weapon with direct hacking force, and choose to roll +DEX instead, you’re letting the mechanics lead the fiction, rather than leading with the fiction.

  25. On the other hand: 

    “When you attack with your weapon in a way that requirese finesse and pinpoint accuracy, you may roll DEX instead of STR for Hack&Slash” is a valid custom move you can add to your game. 

    (or “When you just smash someone with your fragile weapon, you may….”) 

    However springing that in the middle of the campaign feels weird to me. This is a hack to the core of how the game works in a way. I wouldn’t be confortable with this suddenly appearing without any former talk to the players about it. 

  26. I’m inclined to say nearly always +DEX. The RAW is pretty clear on this, I think (assuming the version in the text takes precedent over the appendix version). I’m not really inclined to start letting people roll whatever they want for any given move: even if the Fighter describes how hard they’re pulling back on their bowstring, that’s still just Vollying with +DEX. No matter how many calculations they do, the Wizard can never H&S with +INT. I think any real attack with a rapier is going to require some amount of finesse–adding force won’t help you, since a well-placed attack will pierce flesh anyway, and a poorly-placed one won’t get through armor or hit a moving target. (Hasn’t anyone here seen Firefly?)

    Now, a custom move would work great here, if you wanted to allow a +STR attack with a precise weapon. It wouldn’t be the same as a regular old H&S. Something like, “When you put all your force behind an attack with a weapon made for finesse, roll+STR. On a 10+, deal damage. On a 7-9, choose 1: *You miss your attack entirely. *Your attack lands, but the weapon shatters. Deal your damage.”

  27. I want to go back to Tim Franzke’s suggestion of a custom move. I feel this whole debate may stem from the Hack & Slash move being poorly designed by favouring +STR. Why couldn’t we replace it with something like…


    When you are in close-fighting and…

    …attack with brute force, roll+STR

    …attack with finesse and pinpoint accuracy, roll+DEX

    (insert the result spread from Hack & Slash here)

    Then, instead of having a +precise tag, we have a +fragile tag which reads something like “This weapon was designed for careful strategic use, not main force. Using it roughly make break it.” Which would allow the fiction to drive the use stat used and give MCs the chance to apply soft/hard moves to the weapon based on the situation.

  28. Because by having it key of STR you reward people for putting points into it. If you can use your best star on nearly all your moves then why have so many stats in the first place? It’s a good choice.

  29. The Barbarian adds forceful and messy to anything they wield as a weapon, because their approach to weaponizing things is forceful and messy.

    If someone picks up a rapier and wants to use +STR, i’d totally let them if they can explain how they’re using it differently than a dexterous character might..  However, they are not using the rapier the way it was designed.  It may not take the abuse, and the blade may snap.  But they totally get to try.

  30. The whole point of precise is an act of precision, it takes only a small touch in the right place to ace the right opponent, strength has little if anything to do with it

  31. The question is whether “Precise” means the item can ONLY be used precisely.

    In my game, someone can pick up a rapier and smack people with it as if it were a long, slender length of non-precise steel, similar to a stick, which incidentally could be swung with STR.

  32. That sort of avoids the question though. You aren’t really using a rapier if you aren’t sticking them with the pointy end; you’re just whacking them with a thin metal rod. If you have a “messy” sword, but you hold it by the sheath and whack people with the pommel, it won’t be messy because you aren’t really using the weapon; you’re improvising a weapon that happens to use parts of a real weapon. (Same with “jabbing” with a forceful club, or throwing a “close” sword at someone, or any other instance of using a weapon in an intentionally incorrect way.) Similarly, using a rapier like a stick won’t involve any of the rapier tags at all; they’ll involve the tags appropriate to a thin metal stick. And that would almost certainly not trigger H&S regardless.

  33. Justus Goldstein-Shirley Why couldn’t you trigger H&S whacking someone with a metal stick?

    If some frothing barbarian comes running at you wielding a rapier like a broad sword, would you really just stand there, confident they can’t hurt you until they act in accordance with the weapon’s intended design?

    Quite frankly, if a player wants to do it, and it is reasonable, i will accommodate them.  Arguing about rules is the least fun way to play Dungeon World….

  34. I mean, if a Barbarian wants to beat up some scrawny nerd, I’d just let him do it, rapier or no. If he’s trying to actually fight a prepared foe with any sort of defensive capabilities (like, say, metal armor), the flat of a rapier blade isn’t going to do anything. That’s not arguing rules; that’s basic fiction. The “and it’s reasonable” is a pretty key part of your last paragraph.

    I agree rules lawyering is obnoxious. That’s why I don’t let players haggle for extra pluses here and there through questionable rules interpretations.

    My point is: tags indicate how a weapon works if it’s being used the way it was designed. If you use an X like a Y, then the X tags are irrelevant. You can’t expect a bow to have the “Far” tag if you’re hitting someone over the head with it. A dueling rapier won’t have 1 piercing if you just whack someone with the crossguard. And, similarly, it only has the precise tag if you’re sticking them with the pokey end, not if you’re beating them about the head with the side of the blade. IF something has the precise tag (e.g. a rapier being used point-first) then the wielder must roll H&S +DEX, as per the rules. Strength won’t come into play in that case at all. If it doesn’t have the precise tag (e.g. a stick, or a stick whose pointy end is being ignored) then the wielder must roll H&S +STR.

    If a player says they hit someone with a stick, and that actually has a reasonable fictional chance of hurting their foe, they roll H&S +STR. If they say they stab someone with a rapier, they roll H&S +DEX, since it’s precise. If they say they use the rapier as a stick, they’re not really attacking with a precise rapier; they’re attacking with an imprecise rapier-shaped stick, so they would roll H&S +STR if they manage to trigger it that way. (But I would be pretty skeptical that a player doing that was just trying to get a better bonus to their roll.)

    Tl;dr: Tags are not optional, but apply whenever the thing they are on is used in the manner it is intended. Using a rapier like a stick means the rapier tags don’t apply; using a rapier like a rapier means they do.

  35. Justus Goldstein-Shirley Ah! I see now what you were getting at. I’d personally argue that H&S doesn’t speak to causing injury just “attacking in melee”. In that sense, the Barbarian attacking an armoured opponent with the flat of a rapier may not have much chance of injuring them but that doesn’t mean they aren’t attacking them in melee. They could well make their armour echo, push them back, trip them up, etc.

  36. I’m not saying this to shut down the debate, because I think it’s generating new and interesting ideas and making people think about how they view the play world, but it seems that there isn’t any clear answer that works for everyone. This just means that we need to take what we discuss here back to our tables and do what we are all probably doing already which is having the dialogue with the players to create a play world that works for our table.

  37. Justus Goldstein-Shirley i agree with just about everything you’re saying, except your reluctance to think being hit with the flat of the rapier is a decent trigger.

    I’ve trained with eskrima sticks, which are essentially short lengths of rattan.  I’ve been hit with a switch off a willow tree, which is a slender whip of supple wood, capable of breaking the skin.  I recall some american kid being sentenced to “caning” in Singapore a decade or two back, and the uproar over how bad such a punishment could be, causing the victim to go into shock.

    If a barbarian gets to swinging a thin length of steel around, it’s gonna get messy.  Especially when you consider the H&S isn’t rolled for each strike, but rather for an exchange, i’ve got no problem giving it messy and forceful, as the barbarian mixes it up flensing flesh off the target with whipcord slashes and then knocking them over with a boot to the chest.  Even in an armored opponent, you just might slash in between armor joints or, as Ari said, cause a cacophony as you smack them about the head and disrupt their commitment to the fight (HP is all about physical damage; mental and morale trauma can come into play).

    I agree the item is no longer used as a rapier, so in addition to losing precise, you would also lose its piercing.  

    My point through this whole thread: a good goal of GMing Dungeon World is to find ways to say “yes” to a player who is trying to do something fantastic.  If they describe using an item in a new way, don’t cling to the idea of what’s “proper” in using that item – let them be creative.  We all remember the impromptu bad-ass moments of our games much more vividly and happily then all the times a GM told us “no”.

    Ari Black – these sorts of discussions are part of the reason online forums can be fruitful.  Nobody in here is trolling, and clearly this is a gathering of people who think well and in depth about the game.  While i agree and disagree with parts of what Justus is saying, all of it is valuable and informative, and i am not resistant to being swayed by a persuasive argument.

    Once we start beating the dead horse, i’ll stop posting.  But Justus is providing a good perspective and the conversation is getting better nuanced, rather than repetitive and unproductive. I’m interested in reading it and sharing my thoughts.

  38. Ari Black, per the rulebook’s description of H&S:

    “Note that an “attack” is some action that a player undertakes that has a chance of causing physical harm to someone else. Attacking a dragon with inch-thick metal scales full of magical energy using a typical sword is like swinging a meat cleaver at a tank: it just isn’t going to cause any harm, so hack and slash doesn’t apply.”

    The potential to cause physical harm is very much part of the definition, but you’re right, that itself can be interpreted broadly. If a player wanted to shock an opponent by ringing his armor like a bell, I’d let him go for it.

    Andrew Fish, fair enough, I’ll happily concede that there are plenty of cases where the flat of a rapier could cause plenty of damage; I wasn’t thinking creatively enough. I would also definitely give the Barbarian forceful and messy when using it that way, since the rules pretty unambiguously state that ANY weapon he uses, even an improvised one, has those tags. And, furthermore, I absolutely agree that, in general, players should get to do whatever cool stuff they describe. So uh. I guess we’re out of things to disagree on here!

    And it also looks like we came to a conclusion to the original question that works for everyone still commenting: tags are not optional, but only apply when the item is being used as intended. Using a rapier as a rapier will always require DEX, but using it as a stick will (probably) require STR.

  39. I think ultimately it depends on the fiction. If someone is taking a rapier and just smashing it into someone’s head, then STR. If they’re skillfully trying to pierce through their target’s armor then DEX. 

Comments are closed.