What in the world is up with stun damage?

What in the world is up with stun damage?

What in the world is up with stun damage? I understand the general idea – it’s non lethal damage, you deal it with things like fists, nets, or whips. But how does it work?

Let’s say I’m using a net to try to tangle up an opponent. It’s a reach weapon, and doesn’t have precise, so I’d assume it’s a Hack and Slash roll.

That mostly makes sense, but assuming I hit, what happens then? Are they just tangled up there and then, no more questions asked? Does it deal stun damage – and if so, if I later hit them with a normal weapon, does the stun damage count agaisnt their HP? Do I need to do their entire HP in stun damage to entangle them?

Thanks for the help!

14 thoughts on “What in the world is up with stun damage?”

  1. Two things: Stun and your net example.


    The rules for stun seem to be written from the standpoint of a PC being stunned. At least, it says “A PC who takes stun damage is defying danger…”. And since NPCs never make rolls it seems like they’d never have to Defy Danger.

    I don’t know if there’s a canonical ruling on this, but if I were running this I’d try to match the effect to whatever the PCs are trying to do, fictionally. Are they trying to knock out an opponent rather than kill it? Maybe they need to reduce it’s HP to 0 and have it tagged with Stun. Are they trying to disorient an opponent by stunning it? Maybe they get +1 ongoing vs targets that have been Stunned.

    Entangling in a Net

    Here I wouldn’t even use Stun. The way you’ve worded the example, they’re not trying to stun an opponent, they’re trying to entangle it. I also wouldn’t use Hack and Slash for this. I’d make this a Defy Danger with one of Str, Dex or Con, depending on the fictional situation. Then, if they succeed, tailor some effect to whatever they were trying to achieve, similar to above.

    One thing to keep in mind: from a broader system design perspective, you want to avoid the situation where Stun (or Entangle) are trumps that take an enemy out of combat more easily/reliably/better than Hack and Slash. If Stun/Entangle are the optimal strategy you’ll likely end up with PCs that just try to Stun/Entangle everything all the time.

  2. If you want to codify it as moves:

    When you roll 10+ on hack and slash with weapon with the stun tag, the target is stunned.

    When a target is stunned, take +1 forward against it. The stunned target cannot do damage to you on your next roll against it.

  3. Joseph Lopez I feel you. The game text is rather unclear about stun damage. There’s the one paragraph on page 22:

    Stun Damage

    Stun damage is non-lethal damage. A PC who takes stun damage is defying danger to do anything at all, the danger being “you’re stunned.” This lasts as long as makes sense in the fiction—you’re stunned until you can get a chance to clear your head or fix whatever stunned you. A GM character that takes stun damage doesn’t count it against their HP but will act accordingly, staggering around for a few seconds, fumbling blindly, etc.

    Then there’s the weapon tag on page 323:

    Stun: When you attack with it, it does stun damage instead of normal damage.

    And then… nothing. No monsters that deal stun damage. No steps in the monster questionnaire that add stun to a monster. No weapons or spells or moves that invoke the stun tag. So we don’t have any “official” examples to look to. (Interestingly, we’ve got the maggot-squid monster with a move “paralyze with a touch” but no stun damage. And we’ve got the bard’s Metal Hurlant, which sure seems like it should stun someone but does 1d10 damage and deafens instead.)

    Now… I think the add-on effects of stun damage are pretty clear: a PC has to DD to do anything, and monsters will act accordingly for a few seconds (which might not seem like much, but it’s a pretty huge impact on the fiction and the conversation that makes the game move). And NPCs, at least, don’t lose HP. (It’s not clear what happens to PCs who take stun damage.)

    But we have no idea what constitutes stun damage. Fisticuffs? Sand thrown in your eyes? Having your shirt pulled over your head? I dunno. We don’t have any examples to work with.

    We’re told that “Stun damage is non-lethal damage.” Does that mean that any non-lethal damage is stun damage? I doubt it, since page 21 tells the GM how to assign damage dice to random sources of harm, and something that “threatens bruises and scrapes at worst” does a d4 damage. Nothing about stun.

    So, it seems like the intent of “stun damage” is:

    – it’s something special, like a non-lethal electrical jolt or a thunderclap, or maybe a maneuver like throwing sand in the eyes or dropping a sheet over someone

    – it’s NOT just fisticuffs; those either do real damage or no damage, dependent on the fiction

    – it doesn’t reduce HP (explicitly against NPCs, implicitly against PCs)

    – it’s effects are mostly fictional (you’re stunned); PCs can defy danger against it if they want to act; GMs just roll it into their description and GM moves

    Appeal to authority: Sage LaTorra or Adam Koebel, either of you care to chime in?

  4. It’s pretty simple: stun damage means they’re stunned. They behave like someone stunned: dazed, confused, maybe swaying a little. Guard probably drops too.

    If something does stun damage, the creature taking stunned damage acts stunned, in the fiction, details up to the GM.

    Fists deal stun damage (unless established otherwise). Someone who gets punched looks like a boxer who just took a big hit.

    Nets probably deal no damage. They just tangle the target up.

  5. Sage LaTorra why would fists deal stun damage?  Why would they be more likely to make someone go “staggering around for a few seconds” than, say, a maul? Or a mace? or a hammer?

  6. Stun damage is in lieu of normal damage. A mace or a maul or whatever might have those effects too, but they’ll more importantly also leave you bleeding and broken. (Some fists might be able to do that, too.)

    In all things, follow the fiction. If something would leave someone staggered, portray that. If it would leave them injured, portray that (and part of portraying it is marking off HP).

  7. Yeah if someone is stunned in one of my games; They’d be dazed or put into a hard spot with disadvantage, attempting to attack or defy danger wouldn’t have ideal bonus modifiers; especially if you just got hit by  a Morning star; if that didn’t knock you on your bottom then there should be some form of non-damage result that hindered you, due to being smashed with tremendous force and receiving said tag. Either that player can’t react at ALL for a few moments or he will need Aid from an ally or just a few moments to recover; which could result in lethal damage being dealt, or being knocked unconscious if you or your enemy doesn’t intend to kill. 

  8. I like the stun as a alternative to the death move- i.e; Fists/weapons still do damage, but once you reach 0HP- you can opt to stun the target instead. This makes it easier to fit into the system, and keeps stun from being a trump card.(Although some may argue it is easier to heal bruises than being stabbed, but that is a different discussion) Some weapons make sense to do this- like fists, maces or huge morning stars, but some may require more finesse (i.e difficult rolls) like swords, spears, etc.

    Stun can also be a hard move in an appropriate situation (Hit by large object in head, Spells, ec)

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