When a PC is using Hack and Slash (or Volley for that matter) against a group of enemies, do you spread the damage…

When a PC is using Hack and Slash (or Volley for that matter) against a group of enemies, do you spread the damage…

When a PC is using Hack and Slash (or Volley for that matter) against a group of enemies, do you spread the damage the PC does around? Or do you apply the full damage to each enemy? If you spread it around, how does armor apply?


PC is facing down five bandits, each with 1 armor and 3 hp. The PC rolls 10 damage. Does the PC…

* Kill one bandit with 10 damage

* Do 10/5 = 2 damage to each bandit, with armor meaning each takes 1.

* Do four damage each to two bandits, killing them, and the extra two to another bandit, so that he takes one damage after armor.

* Do 10 damage to each of the five, killing them all?

* Do 10 damage each to some reasonable subset of them, killing some of them (GM’s discretion)

* Something else?

For reference, on page 58 it says “If the action that triggers the move could reasonably hurt multiple targets roll once and apply damage to each target (they each get their armor).”

20 thoughts on “When a PC is using Hack and Slash (or Volley for that matter) against a group of enemies, do you spread the damage…”

  1. Roll once, apply that full value to all targets. Each target takes that 10 damage. And I do the same for any instance of damage against multiple targets, even though that’s just specified for Hack and Slash.

    Note that the PC is also taking damage from all those sources, so d6 + 4.

  2. * Do four damage each to two bandits, killing them, and the extra two to another bandit, so that he takes one damage after armor.

    That’s what I would do, assuming the player doesn’t show more specific intentions.

  3. I like to keep the rolls down. So spreading the damage is what I’ve been doing, if someone rolls an awesome amount of damage (fan of the PCs, right?). I would modify for armor. So 4 pts and two are down and the 3rd is probably hurt and just wants to leave the area of whirlwind of death that the player character is putting out.

  4. I could even see knocking off just 1 damage for armor and letting them kill 3 bandits with the remaining 9 damage.

    I have used each of OP’s suggestions in different contexts depending on the tone of the game, heroes, and specific battle.

  5. Under normal circumstances? Nope. You nail the one guy and the others pile on you. Chalk it up to me being in more than a few fights: getting ganged up on SUCKS, no matter how good you are.

    But on the other hand I’m also a massive Berserk fan, so if the Fighter in question has a big ol’ Messy weapon I’d definitely let him cleave the hell out of them. So the first one dies with 6 pts of damage left over for the next one (10 damage, -1 Armor, -3 Hp), who also bites it. The last one gets grazed by the blade, loses 1 hp and probably needs a new pair of pants after seeing his two friends get bisected.

  6. Hans Messersmith Yes, on a 7-9, or as part of a GM move. They’re specifically putting themselves into a situation where they’re in greater danger.

  7. I do both. Whatever fits the fiction.

    I generally spread the damage between the individual foes. But if the player rolled high, like two sixes, or if it just fits the fiction at the time, I’ll apply it to all the foes in the group.

  8. I’d roll once and apply the same damage to each target hit–that’s how I read it. But that doesn’t mean they hit all five. Follow the fiction. Are all five within range? Does the PC describe how they manage to hit all five? In my experience, PC’s rarely try to hit multiple targets at the same time, but if they have described an action that could “reasonably hurt multiple targets” then let them do so. And as others mentioned, they also risk taking multiple attacks for the attempt. And remember, attacks aren’t always damage, they can also be moves, so maybe 3 bandits slash at the PC with their dirks (1d6+2 damage), but the 4th takes the hit and uses the bandit move “steal something” to snatch an item off the player in the kerfuffle–one that they’ll sorely miss. High risk, high reward.

  9. If the player describes engaging multiple monsters at once, I just let them have at it, and apply full damage to all the monsters hit. It’s what Peter Jackson would have done!

    For volley, however, they only get to hit multiple enemies for mechanical move if they have that Ranger advanced move.

  10. I can’t remember… does DW have the area tag? If it does, then I would rule that only area weapons could affect the whole group of mooks. Having carry-over damage is cool, too. Long story short, I’d go with whatever best served the fiction.

  11. And I likes me the gritty. Or at the very least I prefer to keep things somewhat grounded so as to make the epicly weird whatthefuckery stand out more.

  12. In principle, I interpret it the same way Joseph Avolio does: roll damage once and apply it equally.

    But in practice, we tend to handle it differently each time, based on the fiction, the characters involved, the descriptions the players give, who the enemy is, etc.

    Like, a musclebound barbarian rushing into a band of disorganized goblins, hacking & hewing, I’d probably have ’em roll damage once. If they rolled high enough to kill 1 of the foes, I’d let ’em drop a few (maybe 2-4 of them) and drive the others back. If they rolled low damage, I might still have 1 of the foes drop dead but have another couple wounded.

    But if the cleric tries wading into that same mass of goblins with his cudgel… I’d more likely to have the damage roll apply to just 1 foe, and maybe let any leftovers roll over to another.

    An ranger or fighter or whatever, lining up a shot and impaling two foes with one arrow/spear? I’d probably have ’em roll damage once; full damage to the first guy and whatever’s left to the second. But if it was, like, some epic leap off the balcony, totally badass slowmo stuff, then probably apply full damage to both.

    Ask yourself what’s happening in the fiction, and what’s plausible, and apply the damage roll however it makes the most sense.

  13. My understanding (and I think the way Adam does it), is that if the PC can reasonably fight multiple foes at once then you sort of treat them as a group. If the PC hits them they roll once and deal their full damage to each enemy. If the PC gets hit they get hit with the strongest enemies damage roll + 1 for every other enemy. Those +1’s can add up quick so it’s high risk high reward. Though the extra damage doesn’t quite make up for being able to hit all of them at once so you end up with a version of the inverse ninja law, where groups are less than the sum of their parts.

    But before you think this might lead to some weird bullshit strategies where you gather all the dragons in the world together before hitting them all, note the term “reasonably”. This is where your characters weapons and fictional positioning are import, as well as the power of the enemies themselves. It’s unlikely that your typical wizard can fight off three ork berserkers with her staff (without magic), but a Fighter with a halberd probably could. Lead with the fiction and all that.

  14. Yeah, if you want to interpret the RAW (I hate this term), then yes, you only apply damage to one of the group’s number. You want to adhere to RAW, of Hack and Slash and weapon tags, then you’ll have to have an “area” tag, or some other tag to that effect.

    But I’ve always played to the fiction, even when I first started DM’ing my first AD&D game. Every edition, as far as I can remember, suggests somewhere that the rules are just a framework, and encourages each DM/group to change things as best suits them.

    If the group are “horde” tagged foes, I will generally allow damage to carry over from one foe to another in a group of foes, as long as the player rolls a 10+. And if a player rolls two natural sixes, I generally apply the damage to all foes within a group that is “close” to the player, and that he can reasonably attack. I don’t generally do this against “group” tagged foes, and hardly ever to “solitary” tagged foes unless it just fits the fiction and makes sense.

    Two of the GM principals, “Be a fan of the players” and “Begin and end with the fiction”, can support these types of consideration in the rules. Not that I need them to.

    Just make it fun for the PC’s. Sometimes you might not want to sweat a bunch of “mook/minion” class creatures, or use up a lot of game time on one of the more trivial fights of the night or the dungeon.

  15. Thanks to you all for your answers. Clearly there is some variation in practice! 🙂

    I think an element of “following the fiction” here that seems to differentiate many of your answers is the aspect of time. How much time is described as part of the initiation and resolution of the Hack and Slash move? To put it a different way, how much does the Hack and Slash move represent a single brief trading of blows (a few seconds), versus a longer period of back and forth melee.

    The more it represents a single short trading of blows, the more that damage to only one opponent makes sense in the absence and an “area” tag or special move. The more it represents a longer period of melee, the more sense doing damage to multiple opponents makes.

    This might vary across a campaign, within a session, even within a single fight, depending on how the GM is “directing” the action and the players are describing what they are doing.

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