“I make a called shot to his nuts” is one of the most potentially troublesome things a player can declare during a session.


Because assuming the game you’re playing doesn’t support doing damage to specific areas (hit points, anyone?), it’s one of two things: a red flag signaling that this player is a spotlight-hogging tool, or just something that he thought sounded cool (I mean, who doesn’t like delivering a swift kick to the nards?).

Let’s look at this from two angles.

Red Flag

When I play in convention games, I run into players who fall into a broad, called-shot-to-the-nuts-related stereotype fairly often: selfish people who want to do things their way without regard for the rest of the table. Dicks, in other words — and the called shot might be the first sign of that.

This presents you with an unpleasant judgment call to make: Is this player a dick? Making that call is beyond the scope of this post, but fortunately it’s a judgment call that you have to make every day — just transplanted into a different situation.

If you have a player in your home group who is a dick, they need to reform or be kicked out. Period. (Life’s too short for this kind of crap.)

If you’re running a convention game, an in-store demo or another event where you don’t get to choose your group, that’s a different story. You can’t just boot out a player for being an asshole at the table — but you also can’t let them ruin everyone else’s fun (yours included).

In that case, you need to establish your authority with a short, blunt response — something like, “I’m sorry, but the game isn’t really set up to handle that. Please do something else instead.” Don’t discuss it, or allow yourself to be sidetracked — if the first statement doesn’t do the trick, repeat it and then just move on.

Something Cool

On the other hand, if the player in question isn’t a dick — equally likely, and doubly so in an established group — then she probably just wants to do something cool. That makes this into a simple rules call on your part, without all the social baggage.

If it sounds like fun, allow the called shot. Assign a penalty to the PC’s attack roll on the fly, and come up with a mechanical penalty for the target if it hits.

I’d also suggest making it clear that this is a one-time thing — it’s scene-appropriate, it sounded fun, but it may not always be an option. Make sure you jot down your one-the-fly rules call, too, so that you can vet it for future use after the session, when you’re not in the middle of a game.

If your gut tells you it’s a bad idea, politely let the player know that her PC can’t do that, but that you’d be happy to discuss a house rule after the game — and offer a cool-sounding alternative for her to consider instead of the called shot.

When in doubt, err on the side of allowing the shot. The litmus test is “Will it make the game more fun?” — and the answer is usually “Yes.”

Have you run into this situation in your own games? Does my stereotype ring true?