So, I wrote this Big Long Post on melee skill levels in GURPS. It got a lot of favorable attention.
We each played 75 point characters, and since there were two PCs and five pre-gens, Michael and I were on the same team. I joined late, at 8:30, and we started almost immediately. My usual GURPS guy is Cadmus, a 313-point Warrior Saint. So I’m used to rather high-point combat.
Michael played a sword-and-shield guy, and so did I. I had a large shield, Shortsword-14, but not Shield Wall training. I also had Shield-14, for Block-13, Parry-13, Dodge-10. All characters were pre-gen’ed by Vaclav.
We faced a javelin-tosser, a strong berserker with a great axe and Reach-2, and a canny two-sword fighter with Sword-16 or so. So it was 2-on-3, starting at the opposite ends of maybe a 30-40 yard wide circular arena.
We scored a narrow victory. Michael’s character and mine were both down to lower than HP/3 by the end of the fight, with me at 4/13 and Michael hanging on to consciousness at 0 HP. The berserker went berserk, and his All-Out Attacking rapidly and inevitably led to his demise. He was the first casualty. The second foe to fall was the two-sworder, whose skill-16 was nearly the death of both Michael and I. I plodded on to the javeliner at Move 2 (halved for being chopped up a lot) and managed to force some sort of cowardice roll where he dropped his spear, and after that, he yielded. Technically, one might call Michael’s character the second casualty, as he got cut up quite a bit and wound up going all defensive, using the axe-wielder’s fallen body as cover for a while.
What were my take-aways?
- I don’t know the 4e rules back-to-front, and you really need to run the game to master the game.
- I stand by my post! Skill-14 to Skill-16 is the beginning of dangerous. My character, with an effective Shortsword-12 due to his large shield, really didn’t have a lot of fun attack options that didn’t leave him totally exposed
- Reach 2 is a great thing to have; Reach 2 and Grip Mastery (Form Mastery?) that lets you change Reach on a weapon instantly is even cooler (the Axe guy had the Reach, but not the mastery).
- Committed Attacks are still your friend, much more so than All-Out Attacks. They still have major drawbacks, but they’re a nice little boost. The Long option is really nice in some cases.
- I brought down – but did not kill or incapacitate – the berserker with a crippling strike to the leg. At only -2, this is really your go-to target at lower skill levels – a cutting attack to the leg. Once it’s crippled (and while Knut the Berserker had DR1 tough skin, that was all the armor anyone had) your foe is basically immobile, and if you can back off a yard or three, he’s out of the fight. A prone foe is still hazardous for a yard or two, though – you can’t just ignore them.
- The vitals are even nastier than I thought, and at only -3, this is Big News. Any injury to the vitals triggers a check for stunning, just like the head. That’s a monster fight-ender, since it invokes Death Spiral mechanics. I’d missed that when I read the rules, and figured that the x3 injury multiplier was enough. But no, even a 1-point injury to the vitals or head (eyes, face, skull) is enough to trigger a stun check
- Don’t bother with a Large Shield at this point value if you don’t have Shield Wall training. That -2 hurt a lot at Skill-10-14.
- Partner tactics can work, but require a bit of pre-discussion.
- We had an interesting rules question (to me): If you start in someone’s side hex, and step to the rear, is that a runaround attack that gives -2, or (the way we played it) do you need to start in the front hex for it to qualify as runaround, and therefore you do get the “can’t defend” hit for stepping from side to rear. I think the text supports that you have to start in a front hex to qualify for runaround, which means letting someone in your side hexes is a bad, bad idea
- Turns out that lower than 1/3 HP does, in fact, lower your Basic Speed. I thought it was just Move and Dodge.
- The javeliner spent a lot of time aiming and throwing javelins at about a -3 or -4 penalty to no good effect, really, at the skill level he was tossing at (I’d guess 14). I think this suggests that better tactics for someone with a missile weapon is probably to run in, throw a hatchet (swing damage!) at short range, then Fast-Draw a weapon and mix it up. I think this squares with my comments on ranged weapon skill levels.
- I’d mis-remembered the rules on Stun. You always take a Do Nothing after you’ve been stunned, and you make your HT roll to recover at the end of your turn. That’s an important bit of trivia, since it guarantees a stun result gives at least one round of Do Nothing to the victim.
- Fallen foes and friends are a pain in the ass when you’re doing tactical combat, and the rules for movement points and facing changes really add up when it comes to tactical mobility.
Vaclav had all this stuff down cold. I don’t think he mis-remembered any rule (maybe once? GURPS has a lot of rules), and he was perfectly willing to make judgement calls when it made sense. He was talking about a campaign that mixed Roma Arcana, Gladiators, and brought in Martial Arts. If I weren’t playing in two games already, I’d sign up instantly. If you get a chance to play in his campaign, you should take it.