I’m having trouble running creatures with reach attacks.

I’m having trouble running creatures with reach attacks.

I’m having trouble running creatures with reach attacks. How would you handle a character that is up against, say, a goblin with a long spinning chain?

Is it defy danger to see if you get inside the goblins wheelhouse without getting slashed AND THEN roll H&S?

Can your player just take the hit and run in to H&S? If so, what if they roll 7-9?

Once the player gets past the chain (regardless of how), do you just let them deal their dmg dice since the goblin’s range is reach and isn’t very effective for upclose fighting?


Let me know how you generally deal with this kind of scene.

11 thoughts on “I’m having trouble running creatures with reach attacks.”

  1. “he’s got this chain swinging around, and you’re not gonna be able to get inside safely”

    “Yeah? Fuck it it’s a chain, I’m just gonna get hit by it and grab it”

    “It’s pretty long. It’ll hurt, but it’ll also wrap around you and tangle you up, if you want to do it.”

    “Hell yeah I do. I’m just gonna hold onto the chain so Klurg can rush in and kill him”

    “Cool, well you step in and the chain wraps around you. Take 4 damage and you’ll need to Defy Danger with CON to hold on to it. Klurg, you’re rushing in?”


    “Shit, I rolled a 4 on my Defy Danger!”

    “Oh man, you lose hold of the chain, and it comes whipping around, taking Klurg’s feet out from under him”


    “So the stupid goblin is back whipping the chain around and keeping you at bay. He’s wise to you grabbing it and he’s flicking it around wildly so you can’t grab it easily. Klurg, you can’t stand up or you’ll get wailed on. What do you guys do?”

  2. Yes yes and yes.

    Though, I might allow the goblin some form of attack close range. Even if it’s just a grapple. But maybe he doesn’t have any means of fighting at close range. That’s possible too

  3. Guess it also depends how expert the goblin is with the chain. It might look impressive but be pretty ineffectual: it might be more likely to hurt itself than others! In this case the reach tag just adds to the flavour of your descriptions.

  4. Mostly what Aaron Griffin said, but depending on the foe I’d probably still call for a H&S. This goblin isn’t defenseless, even inside his reach. But on a 7-9 (or 10+ w/extra damage) I’d make the enemy’s attack a soft move rather than a hard one. “You duck under his whirling chain and gut him, sure, but as you do he’s like choking up and trying to deflect the strike. And he does, not enough to stop your blow but enough that the chain is all wrapped around your blade and his wrists and your sword is basically tied to a dead goblin and here come his buddies what do you do?”

  5. Reach can be tricky to adjudicate, and the best options would vary greatly on the fictional positioning.

    My first consideration is that if the player doesn’t have Reach, and their opponent does, they won’t be in a fictional position to trigger Hack-and-Slash until they get past that reach. If they want to simply dash in and trigger H&S, i’d let them know that if they simply run through reach, they WILL take an attack, BEFORE triggering H&S. That means if they get through reach to trigger H&S and then roll a 7-9, or miss entirely, they will take the first attack for passing reach, and a second attack resulting from H&S.

    But getting through reach simply because they charged in doesn’t guarantee that they’ll be in a position to trigger H&S after a single attack. If they charge in heedlessly, it’s on them – look at what tags the attack has. It will likely do damage; i could also see a chain entangling the PC’s limb, threatening to pull them from their feet.

    “Alright, you’ve charged into the chain’s reach. Its weight smashes into you, leaving bruises, and as the goblin pulls to tighten it, barbed hooks tear into your arm. Take 1d6 damage, and he dances back and tries to topple you over. What do you do?” If they ignore this and press the H&S, hard move again – they get pulled off balance and collapse to the ground. Perhaps no damage; maybe being knocked prone is enough, with a little more blood loss as the barbs bite deeper, but no loss of HP, because that’s less interesting than being taught about hubris!

    The goblin has used his weapon well – he uses its benefit to stay at reach. The PC would be well advised to respond to the threat you presented, instead of underestimating the goblin. If they keep ignoring the goblin’s Reach, perhaps cut the spotlight elsewhere for a moment, or speak briefly about the mechanics at play.

    Alternatively, if the narrative fits into the GM Principles and Agenda, perhaps the PC can simply take an attack and close in immediately. Perhaps the goblin isn’t well trained to maintain Reach distance. Or the PC was able to back the goblin up against a wall with no room for escape, and simply has to bear the brunt of that first attack while closing.

    Here’s the catch – when the PCs have reach, you have to be their fan, too. If the goblins with short swords charge the PC, the PC gets to take advantage of their reach too. They can likely cut down the first few goblins, and decide whether they want to try to keep reach (perhaps a Defy Danger, while inflicting damage?), or want to Defend their location to hold the goblins back and keep reach, or perhaps they’re fine inflicting damage and letting the goblins in. Perhaps the goblins take some hits and retreat to outside of reach, afraid.

    Regardless, for the moment, the PC isn’t triggering H&S, because the goblin short swords don’t yet pose a threat. The PCs get full benefit of Reach, just as the Monsters do.

    Once a combatant closes in on someone with reach, look to the fiction.

    Can the chain be used to strangle, tie up limbs, or simply flail away at a nearby opponent?

    Can the haft of a long spear be used to bludgeon or trip an opponent standing within reach?

    Do they carry a dagger for just this occasion?

    As long as both combatants continue to pose a means to attack each other, H&S might be triggered, and i generally wouldn’t allow automatic damage without extenuating circumstances. And attacks don’t only, or always, inflict damage. Maybe i can’t swing the chain enough to hurt you, but i can use it to trap your weapon or a limb, and eventually hogtie you. If you’re attacking me and i’m trying to respond like this, H&S would be triggered, but you wouldn’t take damage on a miss or a 7-9; i’d simply bind you up or disarm you.

  6. Andrew Fish I think you raise an interesting point that I failed to think about. If the players want to charge in, my Goblin Chainflailer gets to make an attack. That attack may be ‘keep enemies at bay with a whirling dervish’. I might implement small damage, but the crux is that the GM doesn’t just deal damage and then let the player into the goblins wheelhouse. That’s not interesting.

    Great advice as always on the rest of your reply, especially the lesson I’m hubris! Hahaha

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