How to subdue someone? (AKA not killing!)

How to subdue someone? (AKA not killing!)

How to subdue someone? (AKA not killing!)

Still Playing “Plague of Storms” and the Players messing with the Dwarfs in Riverwatch Hold.

Now they are able to learn an move called:


When you subdue someone you would prefer to kill,…”

How would you handle the subdue thing?

5 thoughts on “How to subdue someone? (AKA not killing!)”

  1. Subduing is generally understood to mean bringing someone or something under control, right? But how exactly they are brought under control is totally situational: maybe they’re forcible restrained and bound, maybe something they value is threatened with destruction unless they submit, maybe they’re argued into submission.

    The specific way in which the PC triggers the move should dictate how you handle it in play, so it could be anything from Defy Danger with STR (forcible restraint) to a multi-stage effort that involves finding out who the target’s loved ones are, establishing a means to threaten them, and presenting the case to the target (which might trigger Parley, or just be RP’d to completion).

    From that snippet you posted, though, I would guess the most likely application will be in a fight, when the target is on the ropes and the PC has the option to end it, but chooses not to.

  2. I am a fan of the characters. If their intent during hack n slash is to subdue the foe, than when the foe’s Hit Points hit 0, the foe is subdued… even if it means at the very last blow that decision is made. How often have I read Tarzan or Conan turning the blade flat, or throwing a punch to the jaw, in order to KO the foe and be able to interrogate in the next scene? Fiction is the key. If it fits the Fiction, why not? No need to come up with more add-on mechanics to confuse the issue.

    Now, Defy Danger is a way to go too. Foe is crazy, thrashing around, not really hurting people, but isn’t going to be subdued easily… yes, then that feels like Defy Danger to me.

  3. I wouldn’t require a special move for it all.

    If they describe an attack that would legitimately subdue a foe without killing them (e.g. the thief says “I clock him in the back of the head with the hilt of my rapier”) I’d let them roll damage (and/or Backstab) normally. But if they reduce the target’s HP to 0, the foe is unconscious instead of dead/dying.

    Same thing could work on a Hack & Slash, though depending on the circumstances, I might ask the PC to Defy Danger first because they have to get inside someone’s guard/avoid their lethal attack/etc. in order to land the subduing blow.

    And on a miss, maybe they still hit, but it’s lethal damage.

  4. 1st edition Tunnels & Trolls in 1975 offered the assumption that most or many monsters want to live, and would “beg for their gruesome lives” if their situation got dire.

    After decades of video games in which the enemy sprites fight until they explode—and role-playing that chases that model—it might be easy to forget that and have all your monsters fight to the death every time. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

    There are many ways that the heroes might take the initiative to subdue their enemies, like Jason, Storn, and Jeremy said. But you might also notice plenty of times when the monsters would submit rather than face certain death.

    An honorable warrior might throw down her weapon and offer her neck to a worthy adversary. “You have won. Please, end it quickly.” Will they kill her, or spare her? Cowardly lackeys might beg for mercy, and make promises, and make the heroes wonder if they can trust them. What will they do?

    These cases can all be handled perfectly by your GM moves, without further system mechanics.

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