I just got what I don't like about Hack & Slash.

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I just got what I don't like about Hack & Slash.
« on: May 18, 2012, 07:12:55 AM »
The following: 100% my opinion and analysis. Not saying "Hack & Slash" sucks per se. Just trying to figure out and express why I never liked it.

Familiar with the dice and cloud stuff on anyway? It's just a fancy way to say "you have the fiction we're talking about, you have the material stuff you play with, and rule go from the fiction, trigger some rules, and the result of the rules should inform the players as directly and interestingly as possible what happens next in the fiction".

So. Taking something by force in AW:
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When you take something by force, roll +hard.
On a hit, choose options. On a 10+, choose 3. On a 7–9, choose 2:
• you take definite hold of it
• you suffer little harm
• you inflict terrible harm
• you impress, dismay or frighten your enemy

Notice how the results you choose might inform you about "dice" stuff, but all of them will tell you something significant about the fiction? Like "you suffer little harm" means that a) in the real world, you notch -1harm than you should on your counter but and it is super important, b) in the fiction, it shows. Like NPCs would say things like "damn, he went against three guys and he wasn't harmed that much, and those guys were totally dismayed after that!" It's written from the point of view of the character.

And on a miss, of course, what happens is a MC move, which are 100% fictional, 100% "cloud stuff" (and sometimes will trigger more "dice" stuff but that's consequential).

Going Aggro is even more cloud stuff.

Now, look at Hack & Slash :
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When you attack an enemy in melee, roll+Str. On a 10+ you deal your damage to the enemy and avoid their attack. At your option, you may choose to do +1d6 damage but expose yourself to the enemy's attack. On a 7–9, you deal your damage to the enemy and the enemy makes an attack against you.

The only good thing you can get is "you deal damage to the enemy", which is like mostly "dice" stuff, with a little side-dish of "cloud" (yay, my attack connect!), and frankly a little boring compared to stuff like "take definite hold" or "impress or dismay your opponent". Your 10+ option benefit is pure "dice" stuff and say nothing about the fiction. Only the accumulation of damage will come back to the cloud when the enemy hits 0 HP.

All the pure "cloud" stuff is 100% bad, against the character (the enemy attack, or the hard move on a 6-). You might say that "avoid their attack" is cloud stuff, but isn't it just another way to say "nothing (important) happens" ?

Volley is evocative with a lot of cloud stuff. Ditto Defend. Hack & Slash ? Not enough cloud stuff for me.

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noofy

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Re: I just got what I don't like about Hack & Slash.
« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2012, 08:27:00 AM »
True Greg, but I think its how you narratively interpret deal damage, I think you can make it as cloudy as you like :)

I agree that harm is a big deal in AW, and for a while in the early playtests of Apoc D&D I ran with a Health 'hourglass' instead of HP for all the bean-counting hits and 'the last unneccessary escalation'.

However, I've since reinterpreted HP as less a measure of 'Damage' as it is a narrative buffer, a measure of how often I can fuck-up before I make the death move sort of counter. In the main, you suffer harm when you miss or near hit. So conversly the ability to deal damage is just as narratively satisfying as taking definitive hold or inflicting terrible harm, because its me narratively ablating my antagonists ability to influence the story. Its about narrative control.

And just as monsters can make an attack move aganist the PCs, I've encouraged custom moves for the players within Hack and Slash too. So on a 10+, and especially on a 12+ I'll generally offer the players a choice, very much with consequences. They can either deal damage as listed or perhaps dismember the poor unfortunate, spraying gore all about, or knock them stone cold unconscious, or hurl them back into other foes, armour shattered from the blow, or discover the chink that is the Dragon's achilles heel....


Heck, I even encourage them to author that stuff in instead of dealing straight damage., I mean goodness, they rolled a 10+ Y'know?! This has become the generator of some awesome fictional 'cloudy' gems in our games: Tonk's wizard staff, when he uses it to simply blugeon unfortunates on the head, tends to send them a mite crazy on a 10+ on Hack and Slash, rather than dealing HP of damage, it gives them the sillies instead, whilst Brancino's daggers always seem to slice testicles off his opponents, leaving them hale, but bleeding and ineffectual as swordsmen, since they have lost their will to fight...

Make damage what you will, with HP being the default 'measure' of ablative resolve.

Re: I just got what I don't like about Hack & Slash.
« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2012, 09:09:41 AM »
I agree 100% with that, but look. The other moves provide some cues about how I'm supposed to make it cloudy. H&S doesn't, at least not when it's good for the player.

PCs don't have attack moves (ie cloudy cues) like the monsters do when they H&S. They just have their damage die. The game just let us down at this point, saying "it's up to you to make it real, pal!"

And that's more or less the only move that does that. All the other moves provide cloudy cues. I want cloudy cues. That's why I like those games Powered by the Apocalypse. They provide cloudy cues! They don't let me down!

They provide interesting, straighforward things to say about the fiction when I roll the dice! That's exactly why they rock!

And DW does to! Except with Hack&Slash. All H&S says to me is "you hit and deal damage, pal, whatever that means beside rolling your damage die! Up to you to make it cloudy, I'm out of here!"

Our attention is directed toward the dice, and the dice don't drag us back to the fiction. I have no need to provide any detail about the fiction for this move to work. I can go "I roll 10 and do 6 damage" without the game breaking, very unlike the other moves, where I have to provide details for them to work, or they bring me back to the fiction when they're done, or both.

How about :
When you engage a foe in melee, rolll +STR. By default, you deal your damage and your enemy succesfully attacks you. On a 7-9 choose 1 option, on 10+ choose 2.
-you deal extra damage (+1d6)
-you completely avoid your enemy's attack
-you knock down, disarm or overpower your enemy
-you end up where you wanted to be


See what I mean? See the difference?

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P2

  • 53
Re: I just got what I don't like about Hack & Slash.
« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2012, 10:33:20 AM »
How about :
When you engage a foe in melee, rolll +STR. By default, you deal your damage and your enemy succesfully attacks you. On a 7-9 choose 1 option, on 10+ choose 2.
-you deal extra damage (+1d6)
-you completely avoid your enemy's attack
-you knock down, disarm or overpower your enemy
-you end up where you wanted to be


See what I mean? See the difference?

I really like it Gregpogor!

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Jeremy

  • 134
Re: I just got what I don't like about Hack & Slash.
« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2012, 03:14:02 PM »
I've noticed the same thing. The result is purely mechanical, and doesn't force you to go back to the fiction.

The "evolution of a move" in the Beta partially explains how it got there: the fiction required to trigger the move didn't always jibe with the possible outcomes (like dividing your damage among nearby foes).  But I think that paring down the move to its current state leaves it a little flat.  Related: the current 7-9 result only allows for an enemy's attack. It doesn't allow for any of the other things that come from the chaos of desperately trying to kill someone.

So, here's another way you could make it more "cloudy" and also introduce more varied results.

When you engage a foe in melee, roll +STR. On a 10+, pick one. Or pick two and let the GM pick one from the 7-9 list.
- you deal your damage (invoking your weapon's tags, if any)
- you drive your opponent back or draw them in
- you knock down, disarm, or overpower your enemy
- you improve your position or situation
On a 7-9, pick one from the 10+ list but the GM will also pick one:
- your enemy connects with an attack (dealing damage)
- your enemy uses one of it's moves or tags
- your weapon gets stuck or slips from your hand
- you lose something: your bearings, your footing, an advantage
- you cause collateral damage
- you trigger a new Danger


Bonus fighter move:
Masterful Warrior: when you hack & slash, on a 12+, pick two from the 10+ list.

Re: I just got what I don't like about Hack & Slash.
« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2012, 03:25:27 PM »
You guys make some compelling arguments. I hadn't thought about it before. Now that you mention it, there is something about the way H&S works that I think makes (especially people with a strong background in D&D) believe it to be your standard attack roll when I think of "moves" as something very different from that mechanic.

Re: I just got what I don't like about Hack & Slash.
« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2012, 05:04:17 PM »
PCs don't have attack moves (ie cloudy cues) like the monsters do when they H&S. They just have their damage die. The game just let us down at this point, saying "it's up to you to make it real, pal!"

This isn't strictly true. PCs have several "cloudy cues" (man, that's a weird phrase) when it comes to their attacks.

First and foremost, is Class. The Thief attacks differently than the Fighter who attacks differently than the Ranger, etc. etc.

Second, the weapon. We bother to detail the weapons the PCs are wielding, even though they don't affect the damage much, and this is why. The weapon you wield establishes the fictional details of your attack.

Combine Class + Weapon, and you have the "attack moves" of the PCs.

Finally, beware of the tendency to treat Hack & Slash as the catch-all fighting move of the game. (As iserith said) it isn't! It has a very specific fictional trigger. It's the move you make when you are trading blows in a melee. If you want to knock down, disarm, or overpower the enemy, you aren't making this move. If you want to position yourself, you aren't making this move.

I sometimes see people treating H&S like DW's "standard attack roll" and that's a mistake. if you do that, then yeah, you probably will want to modify it to do other stuff and have a broader range of outcomes. But my advice is to leave it alone and don't treat it like a default fighting move at all.

Re: I just got what I don't like about Hack & Slash.
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2012, 05:54:53 PM »
This is a good analysis Greg: the move itself doesn't necessarily drag you back into the fiction.

If this was a different game, even a different fantasy game, I'd agree with a re-write. But for me this is an emulation of (old-school) D&D by design and in practice. It may not be "a default fighting move" and you can treat "deal damage" differently. But sometimes you just want to actually "hack and slash" something. So I see what you are saying, but my experience in play is that the move fits the fiction perfectly for when we've used it and it *feels* right for D&D to us (whatever the hell that means).

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noofy

  • 777
Re: I just got what I don't like about Hack & Slash.
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2012, 05:57:20 PM »
I think John swayed me quite strongly when he posted about the limited (but focused!) nature of Seize by Force for AW. I think H&S follows the same thought line. Defy Danger is the catch-all and go-to move for my group.

As John alludes, the weapon (on in this case its tags) are rather substantive cloudy cues. I mean the Wizard only deals d4 damage when he wades into melee, but if he wields a two handed orcish battleaxe and is successful in a H&S he is also going to be messy and forceful in his dealing of said damage.

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Jeremy

  • 134
Re: I just got what I don't like about Hack & Slash.
« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2012, 01:17:26 PM »
Finally, beware of the tendency to treat Hack & Slash as the catch-all fighting move of the game. (As iserith said) it isn't! It has a very specific fictional trigger. It's the move you make when you are trading blows in a melee. If you want to knock down, disarm, or overpower the enemy, you aren't making this move. If you want to position yourself, you aren't making this move.

I sometimes see people treating H&S like DW's "standard attack roll" and that's a mistake. if you do that, then yeah, you probably will want to modify it to do other stuff and have a broader range of outcomes. But my advice is to leave it alone and don't treat it like a default fighting move at all.

The very specific fictional trigger is "when you attack an enemy in melee."  It's not, as written, "when you trade blows in a melee."  You can attack someone without them attacking you back. You can physically assault someone with an intent other than wounding or killing them. 

I think John swayed me quite strongly when he posted about the limited (but focused!) nature of Seize by Force for AW. I think H&S follows the same thought line. Defy Danger is the catch-all and go-to move for my group.

So are you saying that you'd use Defy Danger to try and disarm someone in melee? Or to knock down an enemy with a shield bash?  I can certainly see using that move to resolve those actions--the outcomes on DD are perfect. But the trigger for either of those feels a lot more like H&S.


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Example:
"The masked bandit circles you, rapier drawn and pointed at your throat. What do you do?"
"Um, I'll slap his blade away with my own, then slash down at his exposed wrist so he drops the rapier."
That feels a lot more like "attack an enemy in melee" than "act despite an imminent threat."  Maybe it's both: I might need to Defy Danger to open his guard, but that slash at his wrist (if I can make it) is definitely an attack in melee.  And as written, the only thing I'm guaranteed on a 7+ Hack & Slash is a damage roll.  Does he drop the rapier or not?  Dunno. Following principles & agenda, it probably does. But the move doesn't answer that question.

Quote
Example:
"Ovid, the orc's towering over you as lie there on your butt with your ears still ringing. He raises his club up in both hands. He's about to bring it down on your head.  What do you do?"
Fighter's player: "Oh, screw that!  I charge the orc with my shield, Captain America-style.  I'm gonna send him flying."
Am I attacking the orc in melee, or acting despite an imminent threat?  It sure feels like an attack to me.  And if I hit with hack & slash, all I get is damage.  Send him flying?  Yeah, sure, probably.  But that's not cooked into the resolution of the move at all.  (Maybe this could be interpreted as Defend? But it still feels much more like an attack than "standing in defense.")

As John alludes, the weapon (on in this case its tags) are rather substantive cloudy cues. I mean the Wizard only deals d4 damage when he wades into melee, but if he wields a two handed orcish battleaxe and is successful in a H&S he is also going to be messy and forceful in his dealing of said damage.

They're "cloudy cues" that you can apply, if you remember and/or if you are diligent about description. But unlike every other move, H&S doesn't require you to go back to a fictional resolution. You could easily forget to describe the forceful or messy effects of the weapon, much like folks report forgetting to roll the Harm move in AW (or used to forget to roll Saving Throw in DW).  Or, heck, if I'm a fighter with a huge, vicious weapon, I might just get tired of describing the carnage.

Ultimately, two points:
  • If H&S is only meant for trading blows in melee with the intent to wound, then it's trigger needs to be worded more specifically (and I'd argue that we need an additional move for more one-sided attacks).
  • If H&S really is meant for any sort of credible attack against a dangerous target at hand-to-hand range, then I think it needs more possible outcomes and outcomes that are fictionally grounded (that is, not just "you do your damage.")

Re: I just got what I don't like about Hack & Slash.
« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2012, 04:00:44 PM »
Good points, Jeremy. Food for thought.

Maybe the trigger should be "When you fight an enemy in melee."

There is a move for one-sided attacks, though. It's a GM move: "Inflict harm as established."

Re: I just got what I don't like about Hack & Slash.
« Reply #11 on: May 19, 2012, 05:07:40 PM »
I wonder how much of this is based on one's definition of melee. Because there's the plain English version of the word and the one with a ton of subjective gaming connotations.

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noofy

  • 777
Re: I just got what I don't like about Hack & Slash.
« Reply #12 on: May 19, 2012, 05:57:06 PM »
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Or, heck, if I'm a fighter with a huge, vicious weapon, I might just get tired of describing the carnage.

Then what? H&S just becomes I hit and roll damage? I agree that the fictional cues inherent in the moves establish grounds for the move, but the narrative iteration is always down to the players.

HP were retained to give the mash-up credence as a D&D trope. You need a fictional means to author this mechanical measure. H&S does just that. Simply because it doesn't have the same depth of fictional cues doesn't make it problematic. Just more open to interpretation.

For our group its liberating! Its like NOT having a list of questions on Discern Realities - if we can embed our combative (melee) actions within the story as established without being a dick, then fiction first always.

Nice dissemination Jeremy, very thought invoking post mate.