Thrust, Parry, Step . . . pressing your opponent in GURPS

This post has a temporal shift. The link that inspired the post happened a month ago. Then I returned to it. Interesting what a month brings . . .

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There’s a reason I follow Jeffro’s blog, since his post here crystallized something I’ve been toying with for a while.

In GURPS, if you’re attacked, you may defend. It’s one of the things I love about the system, and that I dislike about D&D and it’s kin: no real active defensive tactics. Oh sure, I think you can fight defensively and get a bonus to AC in exchange for a penalty to hit/damage rolls (if you can’t, you should, so there) . . . but it’s not core to fighting like it is in GURPS.

Anyway, Jeffro points out that two older games (see his post) which were inspired by Steve Jackson’s The Fantasy Trip (which helped inspire GURPS) have some interesting rules:

In Legends you lose your attack on your next round if you parry. In Heroes, if you parry, you can’t move if you defend. All use the “you get to choose an active defense” mechanic.

Ponder, though, what GURPS allows in active defenses and maneuver selection in light of the restrictions above.

*** As Larry Niven would say: Discontinuity ***

In GURPS, you are allowed any Active Defense if you take a Move action. So while hoofing along at Joe Average’s Move 5 (10mph, or a 6-minute mile), you can dodge a sword slash, parry a thrust, or block a thrown Duck of Doom at full skill.

I’d go on, but work has utterly sucked the creative fun out of me since last week.

I also recently played a Gladiators game with +Vaclav Tofl , and found that at lower skill levels (10-12 effective skill), the choice between fighting offensively (Committed Attack and Attack) and backing the hell up (Defensive Attack or All-Out Defense) is pretty stark. At high point levels, you can fight like a cinematic hero.

So what started out as a rant that was going to end with “we really need some sort of mechanic that allows you to press an opponent, and if you defend, you may not attack, since that’s the way most fights work” ended with some actual play experience that told me that at skill levels below 12-14, this is what you do to survive anyway.

At higher skill levels, you probably have enough points to not go full defensive. But if Cadmus (my 313-point Warrior Saint) attacks his doppleganger twin, he’ll be going at (say) Committed Attack with Axe-21 against his own Parry-15 (16 with a retreat). The Committed Attack can be a DA for -6 to skill (net Axe-15 and -3 to defend) vs Parry-12. That’s still darn good, mostly due to Cadmus’ +3 DB large shield.

Without it (as with my gladiator experience) he’s Parry-12, or Parry-9 after the deceptive attack. He’ll only defend one time in 3 (37% – OK, two times in five) in this situation. So in essence, his shield takes him from “better fight defensively” to “you’ve got such good cover that you can attack with relative impunity against a 300-point adversary.”

To Peter’s point: “Does it work in actual play?

My “problem” is a non-problem. Rats. Perfectly good high horse ruined.

2 thoughts on “Thrust, Parry, Step . . . pressing your opponent in GURPS

  1. Every time the existing rules in GURPS lead to emergent behavior that mimics what we expect from real life (or from cinematic fights with those switches turned on), I come to love the system even more.

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