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Chapter 5: Rules Judgments

Prev: Chapter 4: Building Scenarios

A core function of the DM is to be the referee for the rules. This chapter will provide guidance on how to go about doing that, especially when you're not sure yourself how to interpret the rules.

Spirit of the Game

Before getting into the details on how to make various judgment calls when running the game, it's important to understand a bit about the intent of the game and your role as the DM. Above all else, the game is about having fun in a cooperative manner. Triptycho is not a competitive game; as such, the main thing for you to consider is: which ruling will lead to everyone having more fun? If that question has an obvious answer, then you know how to make your ruling.

That said, it's still important to be as fair and impartial as possible. You don't want to get caught making a ruling in one situation that lets one of your players do something a teeny bit against the rules because it's cool, but then prevent another player from doing the same thing later because in that case it would break your scenario design in half and make things boring for everyone else. While facilitating “fun” is certainly your primary goal, that doesn't mean that you always say “yes” to every rule-breaking thing your players come up with.

Because this is something of an artform - and the specific answers change depending on your unique group of players - you have to accept that you're going to make some mistakes. The best thing to do in these situations is to communicate openly and honestly. If you make a ruling that comes back to haunt you in a new situation later, just tell the players that you didn't foresee this and will be making determinations differently moving forward. If you feel it useful or necessary, go ahead and let the player break the scenario in half that second time, and use the results as an example of why you'll be making different decisions in the future. Just make sure you talk about it so your players know what's going on.

Ruling Cards

In practice, most of the actual rules decisions you have to make will revolve around how cards interact with each other. Many cards have unique effects written in their text - effects that can result in murky circumstances when certain cards wind up being played at the same time. For example, what do you do if someone plays an Action with text stating that it automatically hits, but the Reaction played in response has text stating that the attack automatically misses?


In the case of cards contradicting each other, you have two options. The first and simplest option is just to pick the result that most benefits the players. This will prevent players from feeling cheated by questionable circumstances, and bending the odds slightly to benefit the players is rarely a bad thing.

This doesn't work for everyone, however, as some may find that it feels rather artificial, and some players are adept at finding ways to make sure such cases come up often and always in their favor. In these cases, use the following priority rules in order to determine which card or effect wins out:

  1. Assists and Interrupts get priority over Actions, Reactions, and Strategies
  2. Cards or effects that require spending Karma get priority over those that don't
  3. Specific text defeats implied rules
  4. Actions and Reactions played from hand get priority over effects on Gear or on enemy cards
  5. Cards played last get priority over cards played first
  6. If it is still unclear, choose the effect that benefits the players

Let's go back to our previous example and see how this works. Let's assume the player played the Action and one of your Adversaries played the Reaction. If the player's Action required spending a Karma point, then the Action's automatic hit effect takes priority over the Reaction's automatic miss effect because that gives it top priority. This is true even if the automatic hit is implicit (such as due to lacking a Hit entry). Therefore, the attack hits.

Now let's assume no Karma was spent. If the player's Action automatically hits because it lacks a Hit entry, but the Reaction has text that states that the attack automatically misses, then the Reaction wins out. That's because the Reaction's text is explicit on the card while the Action's text is implied through reading the normal rules. Therefore, the attack misses.

What about if the player's Action was played from hand, didn't require spending Karma, and has specific text stating that it automatically hits? Well, if the Adversary's Reaction was played from its card, then the player's Action wins out because cards from hand get priority over effects written on enemy cards. Therefore, the attack hits. But what if the Adversary instead played the Reaction from its hand? In this example the Reaction wins because Reactions are always played after Actions. Therefore, the attack misses.

How do constant effects fit into this? For instance, imagine you've given a player a (completely broken and very ill-advised) piece of Gear that has as an effect that all their attacks automatically hit. You'd treat this as an effect from Gear (see #4) that was played first (see #5).

In the case of two contradicting constant effects, try to pick the specific over the general. For example, a player might be wearing Gear that gives them Fire Resistance 1 as a constant effect, but they enter into a magically warded dungeon that eliminates all player Fire Resistance. In this case the dungeon should be considered more specific than the Gear, so the best ruling is that the player loses the Fire Resistance. After all, how else could these magic wards have any useful effect?

The best case would have the dungeon text specifically state in which circumstances it overrides player Fire Resistance. The text might state that it overrides Gear but not temporary buffs applied within scenarios. In this case you know exactly how to make your rulings. But it's impossible to account for every circumstance, so eventually you'll have to just make a call. Go with what you feel would lead to the most fun, and remember: your rulings are final, but you can always decide to make rulings differently in the future if you dislike how something worked out!


Timing rules are fairly consistent, though there may be times where you have to make a ruling as a result of a contradiction in equivalent plays. In this case, refer to the previous section and rely on those priorities.

Actions & Reactions

Actions & Reactions use the following precise sequence to resolve opposed plays:

  1. The Action is played and one or more targets are chosen.
  2. If there are multiple targets, the attacker may choose the order of targeting unless otherwise explicitly stated by an enemy Reaction.
  3. The first target plays a Reaction (if any are available).
  4. Any text that appears above dice entries (including the entire play if there are no entries at all) on both the Action and Reaction apply simultaneously. Only text that explicitly refers to the opposing play is able to affect further entries for this play.
  5. If there is an opposed roll, perform it now.
  6. Entries below any opposed roll entry apply from both plays that take effect (typically one in the case of an opposed roll, both otherwise); Damage and Special entries all apply simultaneously.
  7. If there are additional targets remaining, go to step 3, continuing with the next target.

Consider a Reaction that consists entirely of the following text: “The target suffers -3 Power.” Such a penalty may result in the opposing entity taking a penalty to Damage or being unable to play the Action at all; however, this penalty doesn't affect the Action that has already been played.

Assists & Interrupts

Assists & Interrupts also follow a sequence, though in most cases it's quite simple to resolve:

  1. The necessary Trigger condition happens.
  2. The Assist or Interrupt is played.
  3. Resolve the Effect.

Assists and Interrupts respond to Triggers that must occur in order for the play to be available. As such, the Effect only applies after the triggering effect has applied and cannot undo the effect (unless otherwise stated). If such a play intends to prevent something from happening, the Trigger entry will have text along the lines of “is to perform a roll.” In this case, the Effect fires before the roll takes place (and usually modifies or prevents the triggering roll).

Consider an Interrupt that Triggers on an enemy performing an offensive opposed roll against an ally, with the Effect of reducing the triggering enemy's Power by 2. In this case the Power loss can't affect the opposed roll since it has already happened to trigger the Interrupt. However, it can reduce enemy Damage from the same attack since Damage hasn't yet been rolled.

Things get a bit more complex once multiple Assists and/or Interrupts are played back-to-back. To determine the proper sequence, remember that the Trigger condition must happen before the Assist or Interrupt can be played. So, if an Interrupt is triggered by an Assist being played, then that Interrupt gets resolved before the Assist reaches the “Resolve the Effect” step of the sequence. If the Assist isn't canceled by the Interrupt, resolution then returns to it, and its Effect now happens.

If multiple Assists and Interrupts are played in response to the same condition, they should be resolved in reverse order to when they were played. All such Assists and/or Interrupts must be played before any of their Effects are resolved; once an Effect is resolved, no further plays may be performed from the same triggering event. Entities must be given an opportunity to play Assists and Interrupts if they wish; resolving the Effect cannot be rushed in order to block further plays.

For example, you choose to play an Assist with a Trigger entry of an ally suffering damage. An enemy has an Interrupt with a Trigger entry of an enemy suffering damage. If you play your Assist first, the enemy may then play their Interrupt before your Assist's Effect has resolved. In this case, the Interrupt is then resolved before your Assist because they're resolved in reverse order. If the enemy did nothing before your Effect has resolved, then the damage trigger is no longer available to them, and they cannot play their Interrupt.

Automatic Interrupts are an exception to this; they always fire before any Assists or other Interrupts that trigger from the same condition, and their Effects are always implied to be immediate. However, additional Assists and Interrupts may still be played on the same triggering condition (but not after one of those has reached its Effect step). If multiple Automatic Interrupts trigger from the same event, they should be resolved simultaneously.

Sometimes the Trigger condition might be something that implies the entity can't actually ever play the Assist or Interrupt. For example, a Trigger might fire on the entity being defeated, but defeated entities can't perform any plays at all. In such a case, the Assist or Interrupt may still be played as is clearly intended by its design.


Some cards feature text with the word “immediately” preceding some effect. As stated, such effects happen instantly, violating any other rules of priority or timing. They also cannot be affected by any plays that follow, such as Assists or Interrupts.

In the case of Actions and Reactions, this means that the effect can apply to the current play. Consider our previous Reaction example, but change the text to read the following: “The target immediately suffers -3 Power.” In this case, any penalties from Power apply to the Action the target has already played. If this results in a Damage penalty, it applies. However, this can't result in the Action being “un-played” unless otherwise stated. It's still too late to take that particular step back.

Further, no Assists or Interrupts can trigger off either the Reaction being played or the -3 Power effect being applied.

An Effect on an Assist or Interrupt with “immediately” text fires instantly, but other Assists and Interrupts may still trigger off the same original condition. However, no Assists or Interrupts may trigger from the immediate effect or even from the Assist or Interrupt being played in the first place.

Next: Chapter 6: Other Rules

dm_s_guide_chapter_5.txt · Last modified: 2019/05/30 11:14 by triptycho