A group of players (two or more) decide who is going to be "it", often using a counting-out game such as eeny, meeny, miny, moe. The player selected to be "it" then chases the others, attempting to get close enough to "tag" one of them (touching them with a hand) while the others try to escape. A tag makes the tagged player "it". In some variations, the previous "it" is no longer "it" and the game can continue indefinitely, while in others, both players remain "it" and the game ends when all players have become "it".
There are many variants which modify the rules for team play, or place restrictions on tagged players' behavior. A simple variation makes tag an elimination game, so those tagged drop out of play. Some variants have a rule preventing a player from tagging the person who has just tagged them (known as "no tag-backs", "no returns", or "can't tag your master").
Base and truce terms
Players may be safe from being tagged under certain circumstances: if they are within a pre-determined area, off the ground, or when touching a particular structure. Traditional variants are Wood tag, Iron tag, and Stone tag, when a player is safe when touching the named material. This safe zone has been called a "gool", "ghoul", or "Dell", probably a corruption of "goal". The term "gool" was first recorded in print in Massachusetts in the 1870s, and is common in the northern states of the US. Variants include gould, goul, and ghoul, and alternatives include base and home.In the United Kingdom, the base is frequently known as "den". In much of Canada and parts of the northern United States, the state or home base of being immune from tagging is known as "times" or "T."
Players may also make themselves safe from being tagged by the use of a truce term. When playing the game tag, some may cross fingers as to let others know that they, the player, cannot be it. Yet, this rule may only come into play if the crossing of fingers is shown, if the fingers are not shown to the person that is it, then the crossing does not count.