Technical Applications – Fightin’ with Peter

+Peter V. Dell’Orto asked me to run him through a fight with Technical Grappling, and we spent a while on Friday night going through one.

You can read Peter’s take on this match up over at Dungeon Fantastic.

Actually, we spent nearly an hour yakkin’ it up, since he’s a great guy to talk to and we have a very large number of overlapping hobbies. Anyway . . .

So, we ran through a fight between  João Dias and a nameless mook with ST 13, DX 11, Knife-12, and Brawling-12. 

Dias won, of course  . . . but that knife was really annoying. A few armed parries caused some damage to Dias, and I walked away with some great take-aways that I’ll probably expand upon later.

  • Like I say in the book, you need to exploit Posture and Position . . . and position is the new thing. Everyone more or less knows about posture – it’s right there in the Basic Set, but the options for Position are new, and should be minded. You really, really want to work into your foe’s side and rear arcs where possible.
  • Rule Zero matters. Always. When Peter rolled our thug over on to his face after throwing him down, technically, his grounded arm wasn’t grappled, right? Yeah, bullcrap. It’s pinned on the ground, and couldn’t be used to break free, and I ruled accordingly. Be sensible. If a grappler accepts the -6 penalty to acquire the foe’s rear arc in an interesting way, reward it.
  • We didn’t even use the weight advantage rules, but when we considered the impact, it meant that the move Dias used to control our thug would have been devastatingly effective, and validated the choice to remove the “Pin” from grappling in GURPS. It’s just not needed.
  • Peter’s ultimate choice was to grapple the thug’s knife arm (for 5 CP), and then follow up by more-or-less kneeling on his neck with the other leg (a 4 CP grapple with one leg). Combined with rolling him over, keeping him prone, and the (notional) weight advantage, this pinned him very effectively
  • The rules for referred control reinforcing through multiple holds work great once you get through the calculation. I need to work on a better description for that, and can think of a neat way to implement a little helper in Excel that will streamline this immensely. It can be done in your head, but why would you?
  • If you have different grappling skills (say, Wrestling and Judo) you will have different Trained ST with each, based on your relative skill level with each. So choose carefully what you’ll do. Control Points, once earned, are generic, so using (say) a superior Trained ST with Wrestling to gain CP and then using Judo to do a throw, spending those CP, and following up with Wrestling for a Takedown or (perhaps surprisingly) an Arm Lock is pretty key.
  • Dias stacked up a dominating positional and control point advantage over the thug. He was “pinned,” but he could still eke out an attempt to break free using an All-Out Telegraphic Attack for +8 to skill. That’s the go-to option when you’re trapped under something skillfull, strong, and/or heavy. In effect, you’ll likely be crit-fishing for a “multiplies CP by X” result . . . and again, this is likely correct.

The Most Important Point

Lastly: the most important points you will spend when creating a ground fighter who is interested in takedowns, throws, and lockouts is going to be buying off the Ground Fighting penalties for posture. The -4 to attacks, -3 to defenses you take by being prone is absolutely crippling at moderate point totals, and buying it off to where you are minimally impacted (even going so far as to buy Technique Mastery to totally buy off all penalties) is really crucial.

The relative disparity in “knows Ground Fighting” and “doesn’t know Ground Fighting” is really dominating in fights that go to the ground – this is true in realty as well. It’s not that a guy can’t get stuff done on the ground: He can. But he’ll have to make extensive use of All-Out Attack (Determined) and/or Telegraphic Attack to do it.

Parting Shot


Still quite pleased with the emergent behavior coming out of the rules, and Technical Grappling is a good addition to GURPS. (Everyone go buy it! I want to do more for SJG, and nothing says “let him write more” than good sales.). There are a few places where we can make it even easier, and I’ll get right on that.

5 thoughts on “Technical Applications – Fightin’ with Peter

  1. I didn't think you could use Telegraphic Attack for crit-fishing, since TA explicitly doesn't change the odds of a critical success. If your effective skill goes from 14 to 18 with TA, you only crit on a 4 or less. Did that change in TG?

    1. No, it didn't change. The penalties due to massive control can get large enough that the odds of breaking free even with +8 are low, and you'll be facing enough CP against you that you really need a critical to amplify the CP removed and prevent an incredibly dominant hands-free parry.

      Effectively, though not described as such, the character is "pinned" in the normal GURPS sense, and while he can try something every turn, including AoA/Telegraphic with Mighty Blow, he's mostly hosed.

    2. IOW, the +4 for Telegraphic doesn't improve your chances for a critical, just for a success at all, and you're still hoping for criticals because a regular success isn't likely to cut it. The +4 improves your chances for a regular success (you'll need it), and reduces your chances of a critical failure, too (you'll need that, too.) Don't forget, too, that a 3 or 4 is always a critical hit, so if your skill is so low that a +4 from Telegraphic puts you up to a 3 so you can roll, and then you roll a 3, it's a critical. Nothing in the TA description precludes that or invalidates that.

      Had Dias's opponent made his rolls and reduced control points, Dias could just spend his turns racking up more control points. Like in real grappling, a strongly dominant position pushes the opponent into a "death spiral" – you can't stay where you are, you are unlikely to escape, and attempts to escape largely lead to increased penalties.

  2. Would it have made any difference if instead of a knife the foe had a more impressive weapon, such as say a Thrusting Broadsword or a AKM? (with say Broadsword 11 or Guns (Rifle) 12?)

    Would armor have helped the thug any?

    1. Yes. AKM? Dias dies before he gets close enough, and if somehow he managed to start close enough, his tactics would solely be aimed at getting close enough to Parry the guy, no matter what the cost.

      The broadsword? Maybe. Probably would have turned that nasty but ignorable knife cut from an armed parry into a cripple and changed the whole fight. Again, tactics might have differed for Dias.

      Armor for the thug – I dunno. Largely, no. All of the moves Dias used on the thug were grabs for control, where armor isn't going to help any. The only attack move was an Arm Lock, which is a joint manipulation. Had he been wearing so much armor that the only way was to knife him through the eyeslits, Dias's tactics on the ground would have been that pin, followed by taking his knife away to use against him. It would have been longer, but no less ugly.

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