On the one hand, we have a situation where the frantic pace of blows given and received strikes some as unreasonable for certain situations. It doesn’t properly match some one-on-one combats, and even when it does, one has to invoke pretty extreme rules (like The Last Gasp) to force people to back off after a few seconds.
So, thoughts about combat openings and ‘closures’ came into play, with a neat way of generating these online developed by +Christian Blouin. Still, that has the potential to not just slow down combat, but to make play drag.
Is there any way to basically be able to rip around the table, and down the NPC action sheet (should one exist) and if you have six players and ten NPCs (for example), you can resolve all sixteen potential actions in only a few moments, with no real perceived penalty to fun by saying “Evaluate!” each turn?
Why do I even care? One of the features, I think, of the current GURPS battlefield (discussed here) is that it can be relatively immobile. A few seconds of time between blows means that friends and neighbors can reposition to be mutually supportive, that building up a spell doesn’t feel like a drag, etc.
But with the default (and likely proper) thing in most combats being “do something violent and effective” more often than not, I’m not sure if it’s really reconcilable with the current rules.
So, what would I feel like I need – or, as I continually remind my 3yo, needs are for survival, wants are for everything else – so what would I want in order to get this done?
1. I would want something like Christian’s combat openings application.
Ideally, I’d have an app that when you hit “go” it gives you a list of openings (one or two) and closures (one to four) for the target. These would exist whether or not the attacker uses some sort of mechanic to see them.
I’d want the app to highlight, say, in green the body parts that are more open, and red the ones that are more denied, so that a player (or the GM) can immediately assimilate that information without studying a wall of detailed text.
I’d probably love to have a built in list of combatants, that could be placed and cycled through in initiative order. Drop-down or click-boxes would allow certain options to be set, such as maneuver selection and maybe an optional focused defense selection.
I’d want the ability to designate a “victim” or defender and maybe associate it with the attacker, but perhaps that’s not critical.
2. I’d probably rework certain rules
With respect to the focused defense option, I can see instead of the usual “fencing weapons get +3 to retreat, but regular gets only +1” thing, that you be able to select a “defensive stance” option that gives the extra +2 to defenses, and have that be available and stack with maneuver selection.
You might not even be able to attack if someone retreats out of weapon range, which would force a lot of “two-step” committed attacks be required to close the distance. that feels right to me. By and large, backing off like that is very effective, if tiring, and the primary reasons you don’t do it is when you can’t. That the reason they have rings for matches – and why being in a press of battle is so scary. You can’t back up.
What it means
If you can choose a focused defensive stance, a high/low guard (not mentioned yet, but it’s a logical extension, and GURPS Martial Arts: Gladiators already has a focused defense option in there), and go all-out on the defensive, you can probably make it really hard to land a random GURPS attack without huge amounts of deceptive attack, or exploiting an opening. You’d need to do a lot more Evaluates and Feints (or Setup Attacks) in order to force a hole in your foes defenses. The opening that eventually appears would be a rare and hopefully fun thing.
Downsides are potentially legion. You’d want to ensure that each person can be resolved in only a few seconds. Going once around the table every three minutes or so wouldn’t be awful (ten seconds per person), and would ensure that people stay engaged.
But if there’s a lot more jockeying for position, some of the emergent behavior would be very interesting. Archers and spellcasters that have to take a few seconds to reload would be more compelling. Gang tactics to force holes in defenses or pin a foe down, preventing him from just scampering away, would be much more important. Overall mobility would increase, as with more time between effective action, I think people (or teams of people) would feel they can reposition and move around without missing the fun.
But I think that you’d really, really want to use that application to drive it. Otherwise, too many rolls, too many lookups, and too much non-decision time.
I think it’d be fun to try a game like this, with properly integrated tools. It would definitely have to be playtested though!