While we were playtesting the Action Point rules for The Last Gasp, we ran through a boxing match. Or rather, one of my playtesters ran through a boxing match.

The AP rules worked well, encouraging fighters to take standing 8-counts, lots of recovery actions, and generally making it take longer to fight. All well and good.

Still, the reality of it is that in a match of fifteen three-minute rounds, that is, a whopping 2,700 turns in GURPS, two combatants of moderate ST and fitness (say, ST 13 with Boxing at DX+2, even with boxing gloves (see GURPS Martial Arts, p. 233) will be rolling 1d-1 cr on every hit, with the +2 per die damage you get from Boxing canceling out the -2 you get from your gloves. In short, three or four successful punches and your other guy is flirting with kissing the mat.

But wait, you say. These guys are throwing a lot of defensive attacks, which means that the above guy is probably only rolling 1d-3 cr instead of 1d-1 cr. OK, so? You’re still looking at 2,700 turns, with Boxing-14 you’re looking at a 90% chance to hit, and about a 75% chance to parry (assuming a retreating parry, defensive attack, no Combat Reflexes). Let’s say one hit in four does damage, and you only do damage half the time (1d-3). So one turn in eight you take 1-3 points of damage. You’re still looking at being KO’ed in the first round of the fight nearly always. If you stick with it, you’ll probably die by round two or three.

Now, not to make light of the punishment a real boxer can dish out – these guys hit hard – but boxing just isn’t that deadly. I think what’s missing is a chance for a fighter to brace him or herself against even as successful hit.

Roll with it, baby

Fortunately, GURPS provides one way of doing this, but it’s a cinematic technique: Roll with Blow, (Martial Arts, p. 87). Roll skill-2, and you can cut the damage in half . . . but you double knockback. This only works on crushing attacks, which is fine with me.

What I’d propose playing around with is a way to actually eliminate the injury of a crushing blow with a HT-based roll. But how?

Straight-up HT roll


One way to do it would be to make a HT roll whenever you’re hit with crushing damage, and your margin of success reduces the injury. Not the shock or knockback or the need to roll for Knockout and Stun if you get hit in the head, but the injury would be reduced.

Um, say what? So you get hit with a mace and a HT 14 guy effectively gets DR 4? No way, right?

Yes, right. I’d definitely use the damage inflicted as a penalty to the HT roll; not full damage, though. Maybe half damage.

I might even double penalties if you get slammed with a Parry 0U weapon like a mace – but let’s hold off on that for now.

DR subtracts right from damage, so no need to double-count that.

Let’s take that same ST 12, DX 12, Skill-14 combatant.

Wearing Boxing Gloves: He hits for 1d-3 on a defensive attack. His doppleganger foe will roll at no more than -1 to HT, and often soak a point of injury.

Barehanded and Regular Attack: Now he’s 1d+1, which means his foe rolls at up to -3 to HT. Most often, he will not soak injury.

With a Light Club: A baton does sw crushing, in this case a straight-up 1d+2, which is up to -4. A barehanded boxer isn’t much less dangerous thanks to the generous damage bonus from Boxing!

Mace: Now you’re facing 1d+5, looking at up to a roll vs HT-5 to soak damage, so even your HT 14 guys will mostly just take the full amount if they get lucky.

Treat as a Parry


Another way to make that roll would be to make it based off of something like 3+HT/2, which mitigates the impact of high HT a bit. Our HT 12 guy would only be rolling vs. a 9 usually, meaning he’ll only avoid injury by getting lucky. At HT 16, you’re looking at an 11, so on the average, that’s worth about DR 1 against a boxer’s defensive attack as above. Against that guy with a mace, that -5 penalty means at HT 16 you’re rolling against a 6-, meaning that 90% of the time you take full damage.

Only applies to fists and padded weapons


One way to make the advantage of using weapons that are harder than the surface you’re striking plain is to basically only apply this mitigation roll to fists and feet. So facing weapons, you take full damage, no roll allowed (which has the beneficial effect of not slowing down or altering weapon combats).

You will not be soaking this damage, tiny man.

Action Points

I’d probably combine the roll that allows you to mitigate action point loss in The Last Gasp with this same roll. The injury avoidance has the penalty of half-damage, and the AP loss reduction is capped at -4, the same as the shock penalty.

Clench Up, Legolas


I think it might be interesting to also try one of the following.

Perhaps allow All-Out Defense to give that +2 to any one defense to also give +2 to flat HT-based rolls, or even +4 to the Parry-like 3+HT/2 roll. So if you go defensive, you might even just be able to clench up and take it.

Another option would be sort of an active defense option: if you forgo a parry or block, and choose to just clench up and take it, you get +1 or +2 to the roll.

Parting Shot


GURPS turns, the lack of a real impetus to Wait or Evaluate in the basic rules, and the generally high nature of even punching damage means that lasting through a full round (again, 180 turns per round!) is virtually impossible.

The perceived problem that this is trying to solve is that boxers and other barehanded fighters just don’t wind up dead or unconscious in the first round of every fight.

Well, no sane person would play through 180 rounds of combat anyway, and this would be a good moment to invoke some sort of “OK, you both took either Wait or Evaluate, so 3d seconds later . . . “

Still, the number of blows that would successfully land means few fights would last long enough for the round-timer to sound. If we don’t change GURPS’ basic damage structure, then mitigating the damage of a successful blow is sort of the only option.

15 thoughts on “Shrug It Off

  1. But why not add DR as a learned advantage to a typical boxer? I'm pretty sure that a boxer can take a lot more than an athlete, who's got his HT thanks to running and jumping and Extra Effort.

    1. That's a pretty good point. Allowing DR (cr injury only, doesn't mitigate shock, knockdown, etc.) of up to HP/4 or HP/4 or maybe even HT+Hard to Subdue divided by the same factor. That would be pretty good, and change fewer rules, and require fewer die rolls.

      Your point about practice and running does speak to another issue, which is that having the roll be a HT-based skill roll (if you use the roll option) might make more sense; looking at Hard to Subdue here as well (in the "resistant to pounding" sense) is probably the wrong way, since Subdual is about HT rolls for KO, knockdown, and stun, rather than injury.

    2. I'm a big fan of this suggestion because it adheres to the KISS principle and changes no rules. What's more, DR (crushing only) is already well established, and can be further modified as we see fit (I.e. Unarmed damage only might be worth -50%). I think this solves much of the problem.

      The other issue with this issue is that it's not all that important in game (this is where I quote Peter's "actual play" rule of thumb for problems) for the reason you already gave–nobody plays out 180 seconds of combat! I know that GURPS measures time in 1 second rounds, but really, a turn is a turn, and that's what actually matters when sitting around a table. Doing so little damage to an opponent that it takes 180 turns to knock them out simply isn't fun or gameable!

    3. While I mostly agree, I do want to differentiate between the GURPS "Knockout" and the boxing one. The boxing knockout is usually a pretty severe form of stunning; GURPS allows defenses here as a sop to PC survival (a good thing), but in reality, the kind of "out cold" result you get at -1xHP isn't what happens in most fights.

      Even the rules I propose and noodle on above do not impact getting hit in the face and suffering stun and knockdown, which will end a boxing match after a few failed HT rolls to wake up from stun and get on your feet. In fact, they encourage the sort of headhunting you see in boxing, since it's really the body blows that become less useful…and I think that's true.

  2. I won't lie, Doug, this is definitely one of those times when I think that there's something to having a separate stat for stunning/consciousness damage as opposed to the one for bodily injury. This issue doesn't come up nearly so much in Hero, even with my brief experience with the latest version, because of the divide between "normal" damage and "killing" damage type attacks.

    I'm not sure where the happy medium between the GURPS 1 second turn and the Hero 1-12 second per turn, by player speed systems, but I suspect there is one.

    1. Yeah, the issue here is that there are really very few types of actual injury that aren't potentially lethal. You can't knock someone out with a blow to the head "harmlessly." Knockout is caused by brain trauma, full stop.

      It's just that there's no way currently to mitigate this.

      I wonder if one would want to handle this by not having the "soaked" damage go away, but go into some generic Pain score, representing bruising and stuff that won't kill you, but will certainly make you regret moving around.

    2. I'm no boxing expert – or even a casual fan – but is your assertion here that one could never cause unconsciousness (let's not get into what qualifies as a K.O. in formal fights) from blows to the body, only?

    3. Never? That's too strong. But body blows in boxing are designed to make your foe lose his wind. The padding on the gloves mostly seems to take care of things like broken ribs (but not always!), though I suspect stress and hairline fractures are more common than is thought.

      What I'm mostly saying is that I suspect that at the end of a boxing match, most fighters have suffered a few HP of injury and a lot of bruising and pain.

      Peter, who has done actual full-contact MMA fighting, would have a better perspective on injury. He also sustained several HP worth of injury to his face with a freak blow to his orbital (cheekbone below the eye) at one point, so I'm also not saying that real injury isn't possible. The several deaths of boxers in the ring, and real medical issues like brain trauma and detached retina and whatnot, speak to the sport's violence.

      I'm just saying that blows to the body, which will reduce a foe in maybe five punches to rolling to stay conscious every second, and in five more can start causing death rolls even with boxing gloves on, are probably overpowerful. The DR suggestion (crushing only, doesn't mitigate shock or KO/KD/stun, meets my needs for mitigating this sufficiently.

    4. I like the suggestion of having a "crushing soak" pool to absorb some damage. It reminds me of Palladium's SDC (Structural Damage Capacity)… but despite that, it still seems like an interesting rule. 😉 It could be treated simply as Ablative or Semi-Ablative DR, or something in between where every X damage blocked reduces DR by 1, but it tracks total damage rather than rounding each hit down.

      Oh, side note, does the High HP and Healing rule (B424) apply to Ablative DR of 20+? Or is there some other way to speed up DR recovery time (short of Regeneration, which tends to be grossly overpriced compared to non-Ablative DR)?

    5. Didn't we have a thread a few years back about doing a layer of Ablative HP/DR to represent the being able to take a punch, but still getting tenderized after enough hits.

      Sort of like when you brace while getting slugged by your buds on your birthday or upon putting on rank, the first dozen punches or so are fine, but after that it starts to do real damage and we end up with people with bone and nerve damage and/or arms temporarily crippled for weeks.

    6. I think in the end DR is the right way to go here, with maybe some tweaks to how it ablates (if it does at all), but I'm convinced that buying DR is the right way to handle this at the highest level.

  3. So…crazy thought here, and I want to note that I haven't run numbers on it or anything so feel free to gun it down.

    Why not just give Boxing gloves or any padded weapons an Armor Divisor? (no thought as to how much of one)

    If I'm thinking correctly – that turns a boxing match into a "blunt trauma" contest where you're throwing full power blows and dealing very little actual damage, but expending FP/AP and trying to set up for criticals that will deal enough BT to either cause a knockdown/stun roll. That sound like a Boxing match?

    It "feels" right to me, and of course would only apply to those big "marshmallow" gloves, as well as "Padded" weapons in MA234. Basically, one you put DR ON the weapon itself, you're going to get an Armor Divisor.

    Thoughts?

    1. While I agree that boxing gloves should have an armor multiplier (an armor divisor of 0.5 or even 0.25), that actually doesn't have the effect that you're going for, which is to reduce actual injury.

      I think what you're looking for is some sort of damage reduction, where the impact damage you roll is counted less where injury is concerned.

    2. And work arises to suck up all my attention, I had meant to get back to this…:)
      You're right – I had to track down where my basic error was and I had internalized a house rule that someone had suggested that gave human skin a DR of .5 (rounded down), which mean that the various divisors would scale, rather than being (per BS) 1DR for any fractional divisors (armor multiplier).

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