Sticking it to ’em: Impaling Damage Type in GURPS

This is a bit of a design gripe, though I don’t know if any of my potential solution brainstorms are worth the hassle of doing anything about it. Still, we’re all entitled to a few disgruntled moments over not much, right?

I’m not a big fan of the impaling damage type. There are two benefits to it, as far as I can tell: it’s a precision strike, so along with piercing  and tight-beam burning damage, you can target chinks in armor, the eye, and the vitals. While Martial Arts changes this a bit, expanding it to crushing damage as well. Also, impaling has a x2 damage multiplier to certain areas like the torso (but lower damage to extremities).

The reason I don’t like it is the assumption that you automatically hit something nasty with your small, pointy blade. And it is usually a blade.

I’ve toyed with forcing a certain minimum damage, maybe “more than HP/4” or something, before a larger modifier kicks in. That would make stabbing dinosaurs in the vitals a lot harder, which is a good thing. I’d change the damage type to cutting, mostly, since by and large if you’re being impaled, it’s by an arrowhead, a spear, a sword point, or a pickaxe/warhammer head. But that makes me want to find a way to have, much like piercing, small cutting, cutting, large cutting, and huge cutting, with the same multipliers, perhaps, from piercing types: 0.5 on the low end to x2 on the high.

Dunno; maybe if you do more than HP/4, any size blade is treated as x2; if you also reach the vitals, it’s all treated as x3. Another way to go might be to leave the HP alone, but treat this sort of wound that exceeds HP/4 as bleeding much worse than usual; apply the x2 or x3 multipliers only to bleed rate and frequency.

I get what impaling is trying to do. I don’t even necessarily think it’s a bad goal. I’m not sure my thoughts would make a better game. But there’s something I find inelegant about it.

7 thoughts on “Sticking it to ’em: Impaling Damage Type in GURPS

  1. On a bit of a tangent: Impaling and piercing caused a weird issue in my last game. One PC shot another PC in the legs with arrows to try and injure him, hoping to snap him out of catatonia. He first used a broadhead, doing 1d+4 imp – multiplier was x1. Next, the 3e vets advised him to use a bodkin, because "it does half damage after DR" – but it doesn't, it does large piercing, which is x1 on the entire body. So it was 1d+4 (2) pi, and hurt him a lot more. They weren't happy with my explanation that bodking didn't do "half impaling damage" but rather full piercing damage, which is equally x1 to the limbs. Or that a broadhead to the torso was effectively doing extra damage compared to piercing.

    It's not the first time impaling vs. piercing has caused some oddness. I'm starting to wonder if the split makes as much sense as, say, another option would.

  2. I gotta say that I like the HP/4 idea, it makes sense that you need to get through enough meat before you get to the squishy goodies inside and it'll help keep pocket knives (and arrows that just barely nick you past your armor) from doing unrealistic levels of damage. I'd also add that piercing damage that pierces that far should also get some kinda damage bonus as well…. hmmmm maybe even instead of Impaling being a damage type it should be a damage modifier that effects any kind of damage that reaches deep enough inside a target.

    1. Thanks for the comment!

      The piercing thing is probably a good idea as well. The modifier of x2 for damage that exceeds the HP/4 threshold, and maybe a different set of targets for the Vitals: -2 or so for vitals that requires getting to HP/4 first, but -5 or -8 for "vitals at the surface," if such things even exist.

      Meh, probably too complicated. Hell, the "you have to get past HP/4 to reach the vitals" is a complication.

      Wonder if what you wind up doing is to scale it so that a normal human with 10 HP is "rules as written."

      So you say that you have to exceed HP/4 – 2.5 (rounddown), so you wind up with

      HP Vitals Min
      10 0
      11 0
      12 0
      13 0
      14 1
      15 1
      16 1
      17 1
      18 2
      19 2
      20 2
      30 5
      40 7
      50 10
      70 15
      100 22

      So you have to be a pretty big dude (HP 14) before you really run into this, but large creatures with 50 HP and the average penetration from a 9mm won't reach the vitals. At 70 HP you need 4d+1 to reach it on average, and with 100 HP, you're at 6d+1.

    2. While I do agree as a main rule it might be bit much but as am optional rule listed in a "If ya like more crunch with your bowl of GURPS" side bar I'd think it works, especially with that simplification.

      Course I do like my RPG's extra crunchy so I think I'll stick to using base HP/4 (I say base since I don't let extra HP count for things that deal with "mass" game rules wise.I treat extra HP as meaning the object/character is just harder to injure or damage for it's size) for my house rules.

      Also, to go a bit off topic, I got to say I really dig your work and what you have put out has really help me figure out some of the stuff I needed sorting out for a home brew I'm working on (course I still need to figure out all of Openoffice Calc/Excel's nooks and crannies before I make it a reality)so keep it up man. Your efforts are appreciated.

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