Some gaming systems leave the effects of called shots up to the GM. Others, code in the damage that is done to a limb, head, or other part of the body that is specifically hit. This can come in to some interesting reactions when you get to the amount of damage that can permanently, or even just semi-permanently, maim or cripple a character.
I've been wondering lately though, which is worse (if one even is?). Do you feel worse about the situation when it is a simple GM ruling that it happens? Or do you feel worse when it is some arbitrary rule in the book?
On the one hand, when it is the GM's call, it is their call. They are actively deciding to maim your character. They have thought in their head, "Oh, Sarah took 45 damage to her left arm. So off it goes!" and seemingly without remorse that without her left arm, than Sarah's two weapon fighter is damn near useless. Granted, the GM could feel constrained by previous rulings, or lots of other things, but that doesn't tend to factor in to the feeling of persecution now does it?
On the other had, if the system has a rule that upon taking X damage to a limb, the limb is permanently crippled/lost, then at least the Gm is blameless. After all, they are just following the rules in the book, right? However, there is still the arbitrariness of it. Few systems count damage to individual limbs, so the threshold could just be crossed accidentally. There are also lots of other factors that can go into making a book ruling feel weird and awkward with the game, which is one of the core reasons that the GM is the final arbitrator of the rules.
So, which would you rather play in? Which makes you feel better about the outcome? As both a player, and as a GM, which game would you rather be in? Or would you rather GM where the system denotes maiming, and play where the GM makes the call - or vice versa?
Sound off in the comments below!