July 28, 2014

Condition-based grappling in GURPS

Grappling in Pathfinder and D&D5 is what you might call "condition-based." If you hit with the appropriate attack, you're "grappled," and wackiness can ensue.

I even speculated about how you might take the conditions already present in the D&D Basic Rules and give more flavor to grappling in that game.

I'd love to expand on that as a module, too.

But that's not why I'm here.

Over on the GURPS Forums, the poster mr beer put up a thread about sample fights, to learn the rules and get some practice. His third fight featured a grappler as a protagonist.

He's using RAW rather than Technical Grappling, and one of the bits that can be confusing is what happens when you just grapple a limb, leaving the body free.

The "grappled" condition also exists in GURPS, and being grappled gives you -4 to DX, and you can't use grappled limbs . . . but you can still defend. It's a bit odd, though Martial Arts does clarify a bunch of the odd cases on p. 122.

Still, it occurred to me today that you could probably take the very, very raw barebones of Technical Grappling - the idea of Control Points, and get really simple, using a partial conditional system that takes advantage of the CP mechanic, but without lots of detailed bookkeeping.

Grappling Conditions

I'm going to posit three conditions:

Contact: You've grabbed your foe in a minor way. This allows proceeding with any follow-on technique (like arm locks and whatnot) that require a grapple. He is at -2 to DX with grabbed body parts, and -1 to active defenses (all of them, including Doddge). You and your foe may move between close combat and 1 hex without worrying about breaking the contact (see the image to the right). Contact does not preclude attacks or defenses; it just makes them a bit harder.

Grappled: You have secured your foe significantly. Body parts that are grappled are at -4 to DX. If your torso is grappled, you are -2 to all active defenses. If only one limbis grappled, you are at -1 to defend with un-grappled body parts. If two limbs are grappled, or a limb and the torso or head, you suffer full penalties. You and your foe are locked in Close Combat. Your or you foe may attempt to move, but your foe's weight is treated as encumbrance [1]. Grappled limbs may not be used to attack with, nor may they parry strikes.

Restrained: While not "pinned and helpless, as in the usual rules, your foe is at -8 to DX and half ST with all grappled body parts. No attacks or parries are possible with grappled limbs, as above. You are at -4 to all active defenses. You may not move (even a step), and retreats are impossible. If the only grappled body part is a limb, defenses are at -2 for ungrappled parts.

Condition Thresholds

You'll need to know how many Control Points you can dish out. Look up your effective ST for grappling on the thrust column of the damage table on p. B16. When you grapple and hit (and your foe fails to defend), roll for CP.

You have made Contact if you score fewer than 20% of your foe's ST.

You have grappled your foe if you accumulate more than 20% of your foe's ST, but less than his ST.

You have Restrained your foe if you accumulate ST or more Control Points.

You may attack more than once, accumulating CP. Don't bother to keep track of them by location, but do note grappled body parts.

Breaking Free

Attack the grapple, removing CP. If you get it to less than zero, you've broken contact.

Parting Shot

This is a rough-cut. I'm sure there could be refinements, but there has to be a fun middle ground between breaking out the full-on rules from Technical Grappling, and the pretty sparse grappled/not-grappled state that is GURPS current status (well, there's pinned, but that's so final that I tend to ignore it. It's also the result of a Regular Contest, which makes it pretty darn unlikely).

July 27, 2014

Every now and then . . .

Very short post.

Just re-read my alternate aim rules.

They're good. I really don't think I'd change anything, and most of my "yeah, but . . . " thoughts as I did re-read were included in the text shortly thereafter.

Of course, they might not be to everyone's taste, but I like the way they came together.

July 25, 2014

Committing to Dual-Weapon Attack

A follow-up to my GURPS-Day post from yesterday.

One concept that came up after the comment threads was whether a DWA is really an All-Out Attack (Double) and should just be left that way.

I don't think so; after all, the picture in that post is me training dual-weapon use, and getting in a strike with each hand and also parrying is explicitly what we do, and it can happen pretty fast. That's one of the reasons to use such light, balanced weapons (could be sticks, too; often is with escrima, and I have to imagine it could be knives or even machetes for something a lot nastier than a bamboo shortsword).

Still, there might be some merit to simply treating attacking with both hands like that as a dedicated variant of Committed Attack.

Committed Attack (Multi-Limbed Attack)

This variation on Committed Attack (Martial Arts, p. 99-100) allows the fighter to strike once with every limb, either simultaneously or in sequence. This type of strike is taught in any style that teaches two-weapon fighting.

Make one attack per limb, unarmed, with a ready melee weapon, or a one-handed ranged weapon like a pistol. If you've got tons of arms, you can group them. A six-limbed creature could make three multi-limbed attacks with a bow or slingshot or rifle, each of which requires two hands.

Each attack is at -4; this is not per limb, but a general penalty per group of attacks. You may target any hit locations on one foe that you wish with each attack, so long as it is in reach.

It can and often is combined with Rapid Strike. Each subsequent group of attacks is at an additional -6 to hit. So launching four strikes with a pair of escrima sticks would be at -10 each.

Abilities like Weapon Master or Trained By a Master that halve Rapid Strike penalties do not halve the -4. If you were doing the same four strikes with WM or TBaM, they'd each be at -7.

This maneuver does not negate the effects of striking or defending with the off-hand; buy Off-Hand Weapon Training or Ambidexterity to mitigate.

Aiming Ranged Weapons: Pick one. The rest are un-aimed unless you have appropriate advantages like multi-targeting or whatever.

Option: If you want those first strikes to be more accurate, but they get worse the more you do, make them grouped: the first two are -4/-4, the second -10/-10, the third (!) -16/-16, or -4, -7, and -10 with the right advantage (WM or TBaM as appropriate).

Movement: Step.

Active Defense: The attacker is at -2 to all defenses, but may only make one-handed parries. If you are launching flurries of Multi-Limbed Attacks using Rapid Strike, each additional group imposes an extra -3 to Parry.

Example: You wish to strike a foe four times, twice with each of your limbs. You attack at -10 per strike, parry starting at -5, and block (unlikely to have a shield) and dodge at -2. If you have to parry twice before your next turn, that -4 per additional parry stacks, making your first parry -4 and the second -8.

Parting Shot

Not exactly where I started yesterday, but this one might mirror better my experience training with two weapons. You can hit very fast, and getting in four strikes in one second alternating is not beyond reason. A base Parry of -5 to do that doesn't seem too far wrong, and eating a skill penalty of -10 on each attack meas that do to it you'll likely have to throw telegraphic attacks, meaning you're still doing it at -6 each, and they're +2 to defend against (but hey, four attacks eats up your foe's parries quickly as well).

It might wind up being a simpler option than the usual DWA box, too. It feels like a better trade-off of attack and defensive ability, and stacks and combines with Rapid Strike in a way that enables, rather than forbids, player actions.

July 24, 2014

Dual-Weapon Attack and Rapid Strike

I'll just start by assuming the conclusion: Dual-Weapon Attack should die.

I'm not saying it doesn't serve a purpose, but I think Dual-Weapon Attack should be relegated to a special case of Rapid Strike, rather than a separate thing.

What you say?

Let's look at DWA vs Rapid Strike, and see what gives.

First something I'd really forgotten, which assaults my initial premise right away: DWA is an optional rule to begin with, found tucked into a box on p. B417. Except for one obscure edge case involving throwing lots of shuriken at someone, you may not Rapid Strike on the same maneuver in which you DWA.

But again, what does DWA do?
  • It allows two attacks with a single Attack maneuver instead of an All-Out Attack (Double). This allows the attacker to retain defenses, a big deal.
  • It requires the use of both hands, using two different weapons or fists.
  • Each attack is at a base -4 to hit, but your off-hand penalties (if you have them) stack, making the usual attack -4 in the primary hand, and -8 in the off hand! 
  • DWA can explicitly be used with unarmed or armed melee weapons . . . or with a pistol.
  • You can buy it up as a technique to the point that your -4 is at no penalty. You need ambidexterity or off-hand weapon training to deal with the other -4.
  • The foe defends at -1 if both attacks are at one target.
  • You may attack more than one target, but for melee attacks they must be adjacent.
  • Weapon Master or Trained by a Master don't halve penalties for this attack.
So for 10 points or less (5 for the technique, 5 more for Ambidexterity or OHWT, though Ambidexterity has been fiddled with for point cost) you can offset 100% of that -4/-8 penalty. Including shooting at two targets with two pistols, apparently.

What about Rapid Strike?

Found on p. 370, the Rapid Strike is rather simpler.
  • It's an attack option, so can be added to any style of maneuver.
  • The off-hand weapon penalty presumably still applies if you use that second weapon, but you don't have to; you may strike with one ready weapon twice, presuming it remains ready after a strike.
  • Allows two attacks, each at -6 (and presumably off-hand Rapid Strikes are at -10)
  • There is a Ranged Rapid Strike option in Tactical Shooting, which restricts targets to be within 30 degrees of each other; melee attacks suffer no such restriction.
  • There are no restrictions on weapon type for Rapid Strike
  • There are no penalties for the foe to defend against these attacks
  • Weapon Master and Trained by a Master halve the Rapid Strike penalty to -3.
Why Eliminate DWA?

Basically, other than one special case involving fist loads of thrown weapons held in two hands, having only one mechanical pathway to achieving more than one attack per Attack Maneuver is probably better. It allows all of the rules to refer to one place, and eliminates cases where the temptation is to use both (which is disallowed).

That being said, what it means is that Rapid Strike will collect cruft. The "I attack the same target with two attacks simultaneously" move is both legit and realistic, commonly trained. That means that collections of modifiers will be required, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Rapid Strike is already effectively a Technique (the penalties can even be bought off in the case of Combinations), and treated some of the other options either as modifiers and/or excerpts from the Technique Design System.

Redefine, not Eliminate

One might just look at DWA and say "what's different?"
  • You get +2 to hit relative to Rapid Strike when all is said and done
  • Must use both hands, unarmed or with a one-handed weapon in each hand
  • The foe takes -1 to defend - that's all defenses!
  • If attacking two foes, they must be adjacent.
  • You must use two different hands or weapons.
Which of these is worth anything in TDS? The -1 to all defenses is worth -4 (-2 for the first defense, -1 each for the other two). Must use two different weapons feels like it's worth +1, and attacking two foes to be adjacent feels like limited target selection for another +1. Also, the -1 to defenses only applies vs attacking one target, not two; let's arbitrarily break the TDS and say that reduces the value of the defense penalty by half to -2. Not getting the weapon master bonus seems like either a great benefit to get it, or a significant drawback if you don't. 

Let's table that; 

That leaves us even-up.

Can we Unify?
Form Blazing Rules!

Maybe: I think I see a way.

  • Each extra attack: -6
  • Forgo Weapon Master halving of multiple attack penalties: +2
  • Defense penalty: -1 to defend, but only if you attack twice on one target: -2
  • Must Attack adjacent targets if attacking two different targets: +1
  • Must use two different hands or weapons: +1

The condition on Weapon Master is problematic, and I'm going to have to invoke Rule Zero to prevent abuse. Here's why:

Rapid Strike is just an extra attack at -6. Easy enough.

DWA is an extra attack (-6), doesn't get penalties halved for WM (up to +4), is -1 to defend if you attack the same target, but no help if you don't (down to -6), the conditional on adjacent targets and two different hands both apply. so final is -4, just like DWA is now. 

OK, so why not do a rapid strike, but forgo WM halving of penalties . . . especially if you don't have WM, as most characters don't? So an unconditional New Rapid Strike is -4 per attack, without all those pesky conditions. And since I don't have WM, I won't miss it. If I ever pick it up, each extra attack is -3 instead of -4. 

Unless, of course, that +2 only applies once. So if you do two attacks, it's -4, but three attacks is -10, four is -16 without WM, but -3, -6, and -9 with it. 

That might not be so bad. If you go that way, maybe you don't have to invoke Rule Zero, and say that only GM-created and/or GM-approved combinations are OK, to prevent the "disadvantage that's not a disadvantage is worth no points" equivalent.

I'm also really tempted to give an additional penalty for changing hit locations: something like -2 for purposefully targeting two locations on the same target, and something like -6 per 60 degrees if you're attacking with the same weapon twice. Now, though, you're getting to a place where there are enough options to more than overload GMs and players.

Parting Shot

Taejoon Lee: These foes are not adjacent
This started as just an exercise to try and unify DWA and Rapid Strike with the purpose of eliminating special case rules by ditching the highly specialized Rapid Strike. It's possible, but painful, to do it. The choices allow you to create things like a split kick, where you can attack any two targets in your front hexes (they don't have to be adjacent), forgo WM halving of penalties, with two different feet, for Skill-3 (toss in the jump and you fall if you fail the attack for Skill-2 if you like). 

I'm not entirely sold on my idea; it's possible to break this out, but I'm sure there are plenty of edge cases missed if you do. 

July 22, 2014

Three Takes on Sleep (DnD/S&W, GURPS, Night's Black Agents)

+Tim Shorts over at Gothridge Manor just wrote two pieces on the Sleep spell. 

It called my attention to something that I didn't pay much mind to, since I play a boring old fighter. Or young fighter. Whatever.

Tim's character Minister has used sleep to good effect before, but I didn't really realize how darn powerful it is. Rather than just start tweaking from the get-go (I'll get to that later), I thought I might first look at how such a power is handled in the two games I actively play, and one I'd love to play a game in.

D&D (5e) and Swords and Wizardry

These two really aren't that different. In S&W, you can impact a certain number of hit dice of critters. 1 at 4 HD (4 HD total), 1d6 at 3 HD (about 10 HD total), 2d6 at 2 HD (14 HD total), and 2d8 at 1 HD (9 HD total). 

For DnD 5th edition, casting this at first level you roll 5d8, and you can put that many HP of creatures asleep. Since the monster HD is a d8, by and large you'll, on the average put 5 critters to sleep, or 5 HD.

Comparing the two, I think that the D&D version is clearly easier to adjudicate. You start from weakest to strongest, and put to sleep creatures until you run out of HP, and if your pool of HP don't cover the next critter on the list, you're done.

For S&W, the spell is a bit odd, and clearly the best way to throw it is against 2-3 HD creatures. And if you have a group of mixed foes . . . huh. Not sure. I think a better way would be to roll (say) either 3d6 or 2d8 (likely 2d8) and you can put to sleep that many HD of creatures, and steal a page from D&D5 and start from the weakest.

Because, wow . . . no saving throw. If you're impacted by the spell, you're just o-u-t out, and snoozing for a minute (D&D) or an hour (S&W). Against PCs of low-ish level, this is bad, bad news. 1d6 creatures at 3HD (3rd level)? A good roll can snooze half the party. 

Darn good reason to have at least one elf or something in the party!


Now, there are a few different versions of magic spells in GURPS, so we'll hit two of them. 

GURPS Magic - Standard Skill-based system
The basic Sleep spell costs 4 fatigue points (a normal human starts with 10, but casters will maximize this; I expect 15-20 to be more usual, plus mana stones, and discounts for high skill). You have to roll to cast it, but that's probably not a big deal unless your subject is fairly close. A caster worth his salt will likely have high IQ and as much Magery as they can eat. Still, range penalties are -1 per yard of distance, and the subject can resist if he wins a Contest of Skills, often based on HT, against the spellcaster's skill (subject to the rule of 16). 

If it works, the single victim drops for 8 hours of normal sleep. If awakened, they're stunned for a bit until they snap out of it.

The more apt comparison, of course, is mass sleep. That has a base cost of 3, minimum radius 2 yards. . . so 6 FP for 2-yard raddius, 9 FP for 3 yards, etc. Everything else is basically the same as Sleep, though by rules-as-written you need to already know Sleep and have IQ 13 or higher - and Sleep has a "prerequisite chain" as well.

This is clearly depowered compared to D&D and S&W. You have to first make a skill roll to cast the spell, and even you have to win that Quick Contest to overcome the subject's resistance. That being said, spells get high enough for few enough points in many cases (due to lots of IQ and Magery) that the Rule of 16 exists for that purpose. Only on a critical success is it a freebie.
Thanks to the comments for pointing out some errors with my assumptions

Ritual Path Magic
Another system that is gaining in popularity, and is a highly interesting alternative to the standard skill-based system, is Ritual Path Magic. This system uses a framework based on Powers, and is considerably more flexible, but requires a lot of GM and player participation, and no small amount of oversight, and a GM willing to say "no." 

Still, +Christopher R. Rice has a substantial amount of mastery with the system, and he created for me three versions of an RPM sleep spell.

  • Spell Effects: Greater Destroy Mind.
  • Inherent Modifiers: Affliction, Sleep.
  • Greater Effects: 1 (×3).
This spell causes the target (who must be within 30 yards) to fall asleepfor the next 12 hours if he fails to resist.
Typical Casting: Greater Destroy Mind (5) + Affliction, Sleep (30) +Duration, 12 hours (6) + Range, 30 yards (7) + Subject Weight, 300 lbs. (3).153 energy (51×3).
Mass Sleep
  • Spell Effects: Greater Destroy Mind.
  • Inherent Modifiers: Affliction, Sleep + Area of Effect.
  • Greater Effects: 1 (×3).
This spell causes multiple targets in a 10-yard area (who must be within 30yards of the caster) to fall asleep for the next 12 hours if they fail toresist the ritual
This Casting: Greater Destroy Mind (5) + Affliction, Sleep (30) + Area OfEffect, 10 yards, excluding up to 4 subjects (10) + Duration, 12 hours (6) +Range, 30 yards (7) + Subject Weight, 300 lbs. (3). 183 energy (61×3).

Sleeping Curse
  • Spell Effects: Greater Destroy Mind.
  • Inherent Modifiers: Affliction, Coma + Extra Energy.
  • Greater Effects: 1 (×3).
This spell (a favorite of wicked godmothers and evil faeries) causes thesubject to enter a coma (p. B429) which lasts until the spell is broken orthe subject is kissed by their true love (commonly a prince).
This Casting: Greater Destroy Mind (5) + Affliction, Coma (50) + Duration,Until subject is kissed by their true love (24) + Extra Energy, +61 energy(61) + Range, 30 yards (7) + Subject Weight, 300 lbs. (3). 450 energy(150×3).

Looking at the three, each is cast by rolling against the Path skill in question, and resisted by the better of Will or HT (but still a Resistance roll, I believe - the same Quick Contest). The energy gathering phase can take many seconds, and is often done offstage, using a charm or some sort of suspended spell when it comes time for casting it. For that purpose, if you think "spell slots," you're not too far wrong, though significant differences exist.

An important modification to RPM is that by spending more energy - sometimes considerably more - you can hit the victim(s) with penalties to that HT or Will roll beyond the Quick Contest. So if you want to drop your average HT/Will 12 adventurer to 6- even before you roll against your skill, you're probably looking at about 100 extra energy. That's quite a bit, but it's doable . . . and that might just bring you into the level of a 1st level D&D Magic User!

Night's Black Agents

I actually have no idea if NBA has a sleep sleep spell in it. Yep, p. 132, send to sleep. A vampire can put a single target to sleep by spending at least 2 Aberrence points, adding that to a die roll (1d6+2 or more). That roll must be 5 or higher ("more than 4") for the attack to occur. If it does occur, the victim must make a Stability check of equal or higher to the original attack roll. Against normals, well, they're probably just out light lights. Against the Night's Black Agents, which start with Stabilty 4 and may go to 12 or higher, they might have a good chance of resisting. PCs probably don't have a snowball's chance in hell of putting a vamp to sleep. 

Parting Shot

Wow. I didn't really have much of an appreciation for how awesome the sleep spell is in D&D. Especially compared to the hit-and-miss nature of most GURPS spells. 

The typical 1st level Wizard can probably count on a DC for his spells of about 13 - 8 +2 for his saving throw proficiency and likely +2 or +3 for intelligence; I'll assume 13. A foe will likely get some sort of bonus to his save roll, likely again about +1 (for 1 HD) to +3, which means he's got about a 50% chance to resist. If one wanted to make the 1st level Sleep spell just a bit less automatically nasty, double the dice rolled for HP or HD impacted, but allow a Saving Throw against the effects of the spell. 

That has its own possibilities, for tweakage, but as it stands . . . Sleep? 


July 18, 2014

S&W Castle of the Mad Archmage: Comedy of Errors

We started off looking for potions. Didn't see any. Went down the stairs this time, then wandered down a slope. Kicking in a door gave us another hallway, but the other direction led to four giant scorpions. Killing them netted over 2,047 gp, and four pieces of jewelry (250 gp each, for 1,000).

Continuing on, Peter cleverly finds a pit trap by falling into it. Shortly thereafter, we get totally ganked by a bunch of giant apes. Mirado hits one for tiny damage, then two apes rock Rul's world for 19 HP total, bringing him down to 18 HP. That's the most damage that's been inflicted by anyone in one shot since we started. Ouch.

Minister of the God of Quantum 1's casts some sort of illusion spell, making it seem like the floor opens up beneath the apes. Three of them freak out, the other doesn't.

Rul gets a critical hit on the ape that's not flailing around in terror, doing 15 HP of damage. Take that, bite boy. He goes down, and Rul's cleave does 10 HP on another one, but not dead. We finish up the apes, and Rul gets hit again in the meantime, bringing him down to 10 of 37 HP.

An extra healing potion and two Cure Light Wounds spells later, Rul's back to 36, which is nice, but significantly depleted.

We kick down another door, and find a makeshift evil shrine. Minister manages to make a Quantum 20 save roll, and we decide we've got a shrine to Mephistopheles. Bad smelling evil incense? We decide we're in Colorado.

Mirado sneakily prances up to the door on the other side of the room in his nancy-boy Boots of Elvenkind, and listens carefully. There's definitely noise and chanting. Maybe only one voice.

"I think we should interrupt his chanting with an arrow in the back of his head." We like that plan. We quietly open the door, then rush through. The door itself was not stuck, we throw themselves through the door. Mirado burst through the door, Rul comes up and looses an arrow into his back, which hits.

He's shrieking in Hobgoblin, and we lose initiative. Mirado, flying through the door, lands at the feet of the shaman . . . his muscles stiffen for a half-second, then loosen as he makes his saving throw. Rul has him eat another arrow, but he's still up, having absorbed 15 HP thus far. Minister whiffs with his magic dagger. Mirado drops him. Rul guards the hallway, while Mirado and Minister loot the room.

He's got a well-made morningstar, and a small hidden chest with 112 platinum pieces. 

We send Ogre-boy with his quiet shoes up ahead; and we see stairs up. Lots more stairs around here, all going up. We come to a door, which, and an opening to the north where we see light from a fire and hear hobgoblin voices.

We toss the severed hobgoblin shaman head into the big room, then retreat to a defensible position. The GM hits us with an "are you sure?" moment. He's probably just messing with us.

The room is huge. At least 40x40. With passageways. And a porticullis, and . . . finally we get told that the Very Large Room is guarded by five hobgoblin soldiers, and a dozen women, children, and other more passive soldiers. This is like hobgoblin Grand Central Station or something. YMHA or something.

The hobgoblins are armed with swords and composite bows; no slouches. And we smell apes too, but don't see them. We decide to leave the area. Only three of us, and a hard fight with uncertain reward. We spike the door shut and find hopefully greener pastures.

We head down alternate corridors until we find a bunch of doors. We don't do much subtle, so we kick down the door. Even though it's slightly ajar. Lots of scrolls in here - Minister is completely interested. He opens a scroll, and a D&D Dire Bookworm, which eats magical scrolls and spellbooks, is in the scroll case. Lots of destroyed scrolls; a Detect Magic spell finds no magical scrolls, but the morningstar detects as magical. It's a +1 Morningstar, so 2d4+1. Better than his mace.

We kick down yet another door, and find nearly a dozen or so lizard men. Rul greets them with an arrow and our battle-cry, which we decide is Par-laaaaayyy!! which we, as uneducated folks, figure means "wer'e going to kick your ass."

Minister tries out his new flail, and rolls a natural 20.

Guess it's a keeper.

11 HP of damage later, we kill one, and Minster scores a cleave. Doesn't drop him. So we killed one on the surprise round. Mirado wades in and attacks the one I hit with an arrow. Kills two, wounds another. Rul hits, does 10 HP, and he's still up. Tough.

The various lizard men use their longswords on us. Seven attacks on the three of us later, they all miss. They win initiative the next round, hitting Mirado for 7 HP total.

Our turn. Mirado kills one, wounds one, which Rul kills. Minister misses again. He must have used up his 20 on his first attack. We figure the morningstar's empty.

We win initative again. Mirado kills one, misses. Rul hits but doesn't finish him, but Minister does, and does 5 HP on his cleave.

At this point a door opens up and two large lizard-men come out with tridents. Followed by a lizard man in plate armor.

"Treasure!" shouts Mirado.

Minister is hit by one of them for 5 HP; he's down to 9 HP.

The skrugs turn to attack, and miss. The enemies are intelligent; the king attacks Mirado, in plate dual-wielding a magic sword and an ogre head.

They whiff. Badly.

Our turn. Peter nails and kills a wounded scrub. He cleaves through to the Captain, but only does 4 HP of damage.Rul hits but doesn't kill a scrub. Minister hits his hard, but he's still up.

Peter's rolling badly, so we lose initiative again. The two scrubs, two lieutentants, and the captain. Two misses on Rul, Minister gets hit twice for 11 HP total, putting him down. Ouch.

The captain hits Mirado, and knocks him for 11 HP. Not too shabby.

Rul kills his scrub and lightly wounds the lieutenant facing him. We win initiative this time. and Mirado hits his guy for 7 HP, Rul hits his for 8 HP. We're down two captain, two lieutenants, and one scrub. The scrub and lieutenant treat the captain - Mirado fight as a single combat. They pile on Rul, hitting for 8 HP. Not too bad.

Mirado is still dueling the chief, and misses AC 18. Rul hits a scrub, downing him. He needs a 16 to hit the two lieutenants threatening him, and misses.  Rul takes one point of damage from the two foes.

We continue to roll well for initiative, and attack first again. Peter hits the chief for 6 hp, killing him. Rul kills one and finishes off his foes.

We heal up Minister. The chief's longsword is magical (+1, +2 vs mammals). The captain's room has 5,617 sp and 2,166 gp, and a bundle of 14 gems, at about 120 gp per gem (1680 gp).

We decide we have about one reasonable encounter left in us.

We decide discretion is the better part of valor. We depart.

Total haul is 8,014 gp worth of cash and jewels, a magical longsword, and a magical morningstart. Not

Exploration and combat is 4,270 XP, 2,680 for the gold.

So Rul's at 27, 658 XP total, still 4,342 shy of 6th level. Minister levels up (yay) in Cleric. So now he's 4th/4th in Cleric and MU, each. Yay, hit points. And spells.

July 17, 2014

Guest Blogger: JakeB takes three articles for a test drive

Thursday is GURPS-Day, and today Gaming Ballistic welcomes a guest poster, +Jake Bernstein

It's not often that you get direct feedback from someone using something you've written. Mailanka gave it over on the SJG Forums when he decided to use The Last Gasp in a super-detailed samurai campaign, and +Peter V. Dell'Orto has mentioned a few times that he's using a version of Technical Grappling in his Felltower campaign.

Well, Jake turned this to 11, and is using three of my pieces in his campaign. TG, Dodge This, and a draft of an article that sprung from an old idea I had on making Aim an attack roll.

One thing I've learned over time, though, is that there's zero substitute, when it comes to writing rules, for not just playing them, but having someone else play them without you. Is your writing clear? Are the rules ambiguous, or direct? Do they miss common in-play test cases? Do they hit edge cases too soon, or at all? 

You can answer all of those through thought experiments. But you'll get the answers wrong. If you play it, you'll learn something. If you let someone else run it, you'll learn even more.

The new article hasn't been published yet, so some of the features have been kept vague, including the title!

Without further ado:


Hello everyone!  A special thanks to Doug for letting me use Gaming Ballistic for what may amount to a glorified play report, but since it involves several sets of rules written by Mr. Cole, I suppose this makes some sense.  I don’t have a blog, but I post on the SJ Games forums as apoc527.  I also play in Doug’s Alien Menace campaign as Dr. Samuel McKay, a combat-ready scientist in the tradition of Colonel Sam Carter from SG-1. 


I have been running GURPS 4th Edition since about December 2011.  My group tends to run in ~4-6 month “rotations” so I can’t take credit for the full time, but I have run an XCOM/Fallout hybrid post-apoc campaign (TL7-9), a THS campaign, a Banestorm campaign, and now my current game, a conversion of the Star*Drive Campaign Setting, which is about TL10^.  I also played and ran in quite a few GURPS 3rd Edition games, but suffered some major burnout and left the GURPS scene for quite a few years. 

My Campaign

GURPS Star*Drive: 2525 is my fourth full-length GURPS campaign.  It’s somewhere in between gritty cyberpunk-in-space and space opera, uses approximately TL10^ technology, includes psionics, and has a mostly human-dominated Stellar Ring with some aliens interspersed.  The campaign theme is bounty hunting. 

Testing Douglas H. Cole Rules

Doug would probably be the first to admit that he writes a lot of rules.  I happen to like most of his articles, and he was kind enough to include me in the playtest of an upcoming article about the Aim maneuver.  Since I certainly don’t want to spoil much about that article, I will say only this: the new aiming rules are about convergence of the melee and ranged combat options and about making the Aim action into something other than a skipped turn. 

I am also using TechnicalGrappling, and Dodge This!.  Fortunately, Star*Drive doesn’t have many bows, so The Deadly Spring was right out (for which my group shall be eternally grateful). 

Note: The grunt work on The Deadly Spring is usually on the prep work and design side. It should mostly not impact play much. 

The Fight

On Monday, July 7, I ran the PCs in this Star*Drive game through their first major battle.  The PCs are an odd group, consisting of a rugged human rifleman and tactician (Aidan Kane), an ex-Voidcorp sesheyan assassin (Gargoyle), a fraal psi-scout/tracker (Sinon), a Thuldan gengineered Chronos-class commando (Seamus), a Starmech pilot/tech (Blake) and an ex-Concord combat medic (Benton).  They were arrayed against a human soldier (Rackham), a human telekinetic grappler (Shenna), a weren brute (Gorblog), and a twitchy t’sa pilot (Yelk).  Additionally, the fight included three bounty hunter NPCs, a group of Solar “space cowboys:” Thaddeus Burns, Liam Walker, and Mese Smorra, all human males. 
Quite the array of bad guys, good guys, and who knows. This will be an interesting test case. Far enough from the "mostly human norm" the articles are written for to stretch the concepts but not so far that anything should really break. The TL10 technology plus the aim and dodge rules might prove interesting - TL10 has some, well, badass technology in it.
At the start of the fight, the PCs thought the bad guys were the space cowboys, who they understood to be bounty hunters who didn’t exactly follow the “code.”  The actual bad guys were a group of mercenaries hired to extract the very person the PCs were trying to capture.  A battle was inevitable.  If you a picture a small airport terminal with three landing pads and associated jetways, you have an idea of where the PCs were.  Now, convert that airport terminal to a spaceport, stick it on a hostile world with a toxic atmosphere and make the jetways into airlocked passages, and it’s even closer to what the PCs faced.  Skipping quite a few details, the PCs went into the terminal area looking for three space cowboys they were convinced were about to ambush them in order to steal the bounty.  Coming out of their own airlocked jetway, the group of mercs (Rackham, Shenna, Gorblog, and Yelk) appeared, still acting as “fellow bounty hunters” and asked if the PCs needed help dealing the “treacherous space cowboys.”  Oh, and they were in full combat gear…nothing too suspicious about that! 

After exploring around the area and failing to locate the space cowboys, Sinon decided to use his Seekersense psi power to locate them.  Turns out they were in the ceiling.  The PCs didn’t have long to ponder this fact, however, as the mercs chose that moment to attack!  The very first hostile act involved Gorblog using a hyperdense weren chuurchkna (basically a dueling halberd) to chop off one of Sinon’s legs.  The fraal dropped, started bleeding, but remained conscious.  Yelk, the dual laser pistol wielding t’sa, fired at Gargoyle, unaimed, and scored 2 hits out of 6, after some Aerobatic dodging (yes, he was flying inside the terminal).  Gargoyle is massively cybered up (21 hp from a base ST of 9), and so kept going.  He readied his laser rifle for a counter attack…

Meanwhile, Rackham tossed a prepared plasma grenade at Blake’s feet, and Shenna used a nasty custom technique she calls “The Nutcracker” to crush Aidan’s “vital organs” (modeled as a TK Crush technique similar to Brain Squeeze but targeting the vulnerable bits of males).  I ruled the PCs were surprised, but given that many had Combat Reflexes, most snapped out of it pretty quickly and got into the fight.  I should note at this point that this was my first GURPS combat GMed since late last year and was my first TL7+ combat since approximately Summer 2013.  So, things didn’t go 100% smoothly, and thinking back, I think I allowed the PCs a round of actions they probably shouldn’t have gotten.  Ah well!

Here’s where we get to Doug’s rules!  Aidan’s turn came up and he has Extra Attack from cyberware.  In the new rules, the Aim maneuver is eliminated and replaced with a series of Aim “attacks” that follow the same All-Out, Committed, Normal progression that melee attacks do.  Using his Extra Attack for a basic Aim action, Aidan was able to, in one second, aim his very large, very powerful rifle at Yelk, who was positioned a rather suboptimal 6 yards away with no cover, and squeeze off a 5-round burst of 11mm ETC rifle death at his Skull.  Aidan’s adjusted skill was something in the 20s and he hit with about 3 bullets, resulting in the immediate, irretrievable, and rather messy end of one Lo’kra Yelk.  Score one for the new rules!

Since Aidan apparently had brass balls and shrugged off her attack (he has a high Will and some anti-psi), she shifted her attention to the flying sesheyan (see here) and used her TK Grab and Wrestling skill to grapple him…Technically!  After, frankly, a fair amount of confusion (I had never used TG before, nor had my players), we realized that we were dealing with an invisible attacker (-4 dodge) and since Gargoyle had no idea what was coming, I didn’t let him use any other defense against her ranged, telekinetic grapple to his right arm.  Needless to say, he failed his Dodge roll and suffered all of 1 CP to that arm.  Her goal was to put him in an Arm Lock, which I read as immediately “disabling” his use of that arm.  
True enough, a locked limb can't be used for any other purpose, with a side order of dear God, that hurts.
In retrospect, she never actually made an Arm Lock check, as I attempted to have her grapple him again to increase her CP total.  It was also, therefore, my mistake that I didn’t allow him to shoot anyone—the 1 CP shouldn’t have impaired him much at all, but I ruled at the moment that his arm was held and he couldn’t use it to fire his rifle. 
Grabbing limbs is an admittedly weird test case for grappling. A 1CP grapple isn't much, and doesn't interfere with much (no ST or DX penalty from such a poor grip). It doesn't take much to throw off an Aim maneuver, though - so not allowing certain things is within the scope of GM judgement. The rules on Concentrate had this in mind, though.
 C’est la vie!  Anyway, the rest of that portion of the fight went like this: Gargoyle tried to Break Free, but Shenna “TK Grab-Wrestle parried” and Gargoyle couldn’t generate any CP to break her grip.  She attempted to improve her TK Grab-Wrestle grip, but this time I ruled that Gargoyle could “feel it” and try a Parry with his own grappling skill, which was successful. 
Totally legit. "Hands-free" Parry would have worked here, and the rules about being able to defend from attacks from the rear arc while grappling are all about feeling your foe, as well.
 He then got sick of this exchange and flew out of her line of sight, which is a situation not covered all that extensively in TG.  I ruled that this broke her TK Grab grip and by this time, she ended up with a back full of flechettes from one of the space cowboys who dropped from the ceiling and turned out to be rather more honorable than the PCs thought. 
How many CP does it take to hold your foe in the air? That's a good question. Probably something like "use your mass-based HP as a guide." So if you have a 175-lb person in your grip, you probably need something like 11 CP to hoist them by main strength if they're unwilling. That seems like a lot, though, so this might need some refining. 
So, that was the TG action…not a whole lot this time, but it sure was interesting using it in the context of TK Grab and flying targets!  I look forward to getting more comfortable with the rules and having some more standard fights where the grapplers are, y’know, actually touching one another! 

Back to the rest of the battle and the alternate aiming rules.  The ability to Aim and Shoot in one second ended up being decisive.  While Blake was stunned long enough to eat a plasma grenade at 1 yard and get taken out of the fight, Aidan more than made up for his loss.  

Benton never even engaged, choosing instead to drag the badly burned Blake behind cover and start spraying him with something to ease the pain (Blake took 33 burn damage, and after armor, resulted in over 20 injury—ouch).  Seamus and Gorblog engaged in their own little melee dual, with hyperdense traditional weren halberd vs. monosword.  The details of that fight aren’t that important, as Gorblog eventually got shot in the back of the head by Sinon, who took the simple expedient of pointing his rifle at Gorblog’s skull and going full auto at close range (he didn’t bother Aiming) and getting a lucky roll. 

Shenna was more difficult, thanks to cover and her DR 20 PK Shield.  Aidan used his Extra Attack to good effect, Aiming at her and firing in the same turn.  Two of his rounds, aimed at her skull, hit, but both were stopped by a combination of her PK Shield and DR 26 combat helmet.  Aidan then used Quick Reload to swap to APHC rounds…Sinon dragged himself a yard back and propped himself up to Aim at Shenna using a normal Aim action (frankly, the player here wasn’t yet used to the new Aiming options and just chose one he already knew).  His Aim roll succeeded and on his next turn, he let loose a long burst (15 rounds), but only hit with a few, all of which thudded uselessly against a combination of her PK Shield, the wall, and her DR 18 nanoweave suit.   
It's weird how binary this can be. You either splatter your target over the landscape, or go ping!
Rackham eventually got his own rifle ready, but lacking Extra Attack, didn’t bother Aiming and fired at where Aidan had taken cover behind a thin wall.  The -6 penalty for being unable to see your target caused Rackham to barely miss, and Aidan was alerted to possible danger when a dozen rounds burst through the wall right above him.  Aidan poked himself around the corner, made a successful Aim roll thanks to a timely use of Luck (another important concept from the new rules) and hit Rackham once… in the skull…with an APHC round doing 5dx2(2) pi.  Rackham took about 60 injury and fell over and died 90 seconds later due to excessive cranial bleeding.
Only aiming when it is super-safe to do so is what happens in real life. I consider this bit of player judgment a win.
The other space cowboy threats-turned-allies all dropped from the ceiling and helped to varying degrees.  They didn’t aim either, but scored hits against Gorblog and Shenna, which were damaging, but not decisively so due to some pretty heavy body armor.  All this time, I was enforcing Dodge This! Perception rolls before anyone was allowed a Dodge roll.  Shenna failed to see the guy behind her, and he filled her back with an automatic shotgun firing high tech flechettes.  She ended up living and the PCs healed her and turned her into the authorities later on. 

So, that was the whole fight.  It took about 3 hours of face-to-face gaming, but we spent quite a bit of time trying to remember the basic combat rules and then adding in Doug’s various concepts.  I think the next battle will go faster and it should just get easier from there. 

Jake's Parting Shot

My takeaways are that the new rules on aiming have some really great concepts that I think a lot of folks will like—it creates options for ranged attackers that make ranged fights more interesting than the Aim-Attack-Aim-Attack cadence of the Basic Set.  However, allowing Extra Attack to include Aiming was really powerful—I think it makes sense, but just realize that this will create extremely fast, extremely accurate, and therefore extremely lethal fire from anyone gifted with this Trait.  

Dodge This! was fairly easy to use in actual play, as there’s basically zero bookkeeping—it is, however, an extra step to remember to make a Perception roll before allowing a Dodge roll.  

Finally, Technical Grappling is something that will take some getting used to.  You replace the semi-intuitive “Quick Contest” mechanics from the Basic Set with a more consistent, but not necessarily “intuitive” Attack-Defend-Control Point “Damage” paradigm.  It feels odd, at first, to think of grappling as a series of attacks and parries, but I think once we get used to it, it will make a lot of sense—besides, having the very first example of TG usage involve a flying target being grappled by TK Grab probably didn’t help our understanding much! 

I’ll probably write another guest blog post (though hopefully a shorter one!) when I get some more actual play experience with all of these rules.  If you got this far, thanks for reading!