The Cutting Edge – stuff that didn’t make it

This started life as a for-Pyramid article. Some of it (the parts not in this post) still are. This stuff below . . . I could never make work well enough that I thought it would work for general consumption. So here it is. It’s “unfinished,” so details have not been fully worked out.

Still Sharp
At some point, a weapon’s striking surface, if sufficiently long
and narrow, will inflict cutting damage instead of crushing (a long, sharp
striking surface) or piercing or impaling (a penetrating, pointed striking
surface). Cutting attacks gain a 50% bonus to injury, using the wounding
multipliers on p. B379.
Melee Weapon quality (p. B274) increases base damage, so if a blunt metal sword blank is wielded by a ST 13
user, it would do 2d cr. If it is then laboriously worked into a very fine sharp blade (of the same
weight and length), it would end up doing 2d+2 cut, and has effectively gained
roughly 90% in ability to wound unarmored folk. It has also picked up a 30%
increase in penetration of armor. If we look at the increase from 2d cr to 2d+2
cut in terms of increases measured per die rolled, we have picked up +2 per 2d in armor penetration ability, and
nearly +7 per 2d in ability to wound!
The level of armor penetration improvement seen for very fine
blades – +2 per 2d – is plausible in
real-world weapons. It’s not a bad estimate (28% improvement in penetration)
for steels relative to each other, but
is probably inaccurate for a high-quality sword swung against equally well-crafted armor: both would have
been hardened appropriate to their function.
As the weapon quality modifiers (and the existence of Dwarven
Whetstones, Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers, p. 25) suggest, there are
degrees of “sharp” in GURPS. Often the “sharper” the edge,
the less robust it will be to staying sharp
­and un-chipped, especially in a situation where the blade meets hard
resistance or is swung with great force. Sharpness doesn’t always translate
well to punching through solid obstacles, either. A cheap soft blade can be
made quite sharp (for one blow at least), while even a hard one might be
brittle and shatter – the narrow edge is a great place for cracks to form and
propagate. To find a blade that is hard, sharp, and robust? That would truly be
a weapon from the sagas!
Let’s go build some.

No Cutting Maces!The sharpness rules are only meant to apply to weapons that GURPS
gives the cutting damage type. It is not meant to give an opening to take a
flanged crushing instrument like a mace and turn it into some sort of “cutting
mace.” That sort of weapon is an axe for all intents and purposes; multiple
blades are more likely to impart a (0.5) armor divisor than to improve cutting
damage! The GM should feel free to veto such suggestions with extreme prejudice
. . . unless he decides that style trumps reality, and such a thing – even with the (0.5) armor divisor – is too
cool not to use! In that case, multiple blades should give +1 damage and a
(0.5) armor divisor, with cost and weight being left intentionally vague. Pass
me my bad axe-chuks, please (the more mundane sword-chuks can of course be
found in GURPS Martial Arts, p. 223)!

Cuts Like a Knife
Instead of the cutting modifier giving a flat +50% to behind-armor
injury, it will be treated as a continuum, from +1 to +10 for every two dice of base damage (or per every 7
points, if adding up force-multipliers such as Weapon Master, All-Out or
Committed Attacks, and basic adds to damage from weaponry). Treat the
“standard” good edge you get on most GURPS weapons as +4 per 2d. It will prove more convenient to
convert adds to dice where practicable: Vryce the Mighty, with ST 19, Weapon
Master, and a two-handed axe, would do 3d+10 cut damage using the normal rules,
but using the +4 per 2d suggestion, this should be expressed as 5d+3 cut
The cutting bonuses described below only apply to injury, once the effects of armor
(including tough hide – anything with DR) are applied.
In play, the behind-armor cutting injury multiplier is applied after calculating the effects of DR. There are several ways to effect this:

Why Per 2d Damage?Giving the cutting damage increase a resolution per 2d of damage may seem odd. Damage
bonuses in GURPS, such as those for Weapon Master or Karate, are per die, not per 2d. Per die bonuses
are quick, easy, and avoid rounding issues. So why bother?

The 50% bonus usually given to cutting weapons is either
+1.75 per die, or +3.5 per 2d – and
allowing a slight difference from +3 per
and +4 per 2d has a certain
appeal in games were the more common cutting weapons are swung weapons, and normal people can often rack up 2d or more
damage, allowing them to take advantage of such.

The variable wounding modifier calls for new notation: cut (+5/2d) is used to describe a
cutting weapon that inflicts +5 damage for every 2d of impact. If the weapon
has odd damage dice, such as 3d+1, you do
get partial credit! The modifier of +5/2d would give +5 for every 2d of
damage, and +1 for that last odd die: 3d+1 cut (+5/2d) adds +7 for cutting,
turning into 3d+8, or 5d+1 if converting adds to dice

Armor as Dice: Presented
in Armor Revisited (Pyramid
#3/34: Alternate GURPS II),
expressing DR as dice allows subtracting dice of armor from dice of damage, and then
applying the per 2d cut bonus in a
straightforward fashion. So 3d cut (+4/2d) vs. 1d+1 armor (about DR 4-5) would
put 2d-1 through armor, and the cutting modifier would increase injury by +4 to
2d+3. To ease conversion, consult the Armor
as Dice Table
at the end of the article.
Percentage Increase: This
method allows following the normal “roll damage, subtract DR, apply modifiers” pathway.
The 3d attack might do 11 points of damage; applied to DR 4 mail would leave 8
points remaining. Consulting the Percentage
Increase Table
(p. 00), the cutting modifier of +4 per 2d converts to +60% and results in 4 extra injury, for a total
of 12. This is obviously easiest if you are using a calculator or computerized
game aid, such as a virtual tabletop or gaming app.
Percentage Increase Table
The table below may speed calculation, and the numbers have been
rounded for convenience.

Arrows and Impaling WeaponsThe impaling damage type has a very large behind-armor
multiplier in GURPS, equivalent to +7 per
using the scale used in this article. Arrows are usually impaling, but
many bladed weapons, including spears, knives, and some swords, have a
thrusting mode that inflicts impaling damage.
If one sharpens a blade to inflict a larger cut multiplier
with a swing, what happens to thrust as you sharpen the edges and points?
Options include:
 Nothing: The
impaling damage type is explained as reflecting the weapon’s ability to reach
deeply into the body to reliably strike the creamy fruit center. As such, it
matches best when targeting body parts with location-based injury multipliers
such as vitals (¥3) or skull (¥4) than as an enhanced wounding multiplier.
Leave impaling as-is, then doubling damage on an impaling hit to most locations,
and receiving the increased wound multipliers if you target and hit the skull
or vitals.

Bleed Like Crazy: An
impaling weapon with super-sharp edges won’t make a bigger hole (though it
might go a little bit deeper into flesh), but what clean cuts really do is bleed. Instead of a flat penalty of -1
to HT for every 5 HP (p. B420), consult the Nasty

Size Matters: The
variable wound multipliers could also be used not as a proxy for sharpness, but
as a representation of the cross-section of the wound. Normal war arrows might
be imp (+7/2d), but a broad-bladed spear might well be imp (+10/2d) or more. A
bodkin arrow, which in GURPS provides an armor divisor but
represents a hardened arrowhead on a 0.4-0.5” diameter shaft, might then do 1d
(2) imp (+3/2d) – less injurious than the standard arrow doing 1d imp (+7/2d),
but much better penetration, and consistent with the wound multipliers of
bullets with a similar diameter.

Nasty Bleeding Table
Using this table, a fairly blunt impaling weapon rated at
only +2 per 2d sharpness would
inflict a -1 penalty to HT when checking for bleeding per 7 HP of injury taken.
At +8 through +10 per 2d, the penalty
is -1 per every 2 HP of injury! 

Armor Penetration

Fine and very fine weapons get a boost to basic
damage, which also has the effect of increasing armor penetration. Some games feature
weapons with an armor divisor of (2), or perhaps even more in high-magic,
high-technology, or super-powered campaigns.
Using per-die style armor reduction instead of divisors allows
for finer gradations in armor reduction. Armor piercing capabilities will be
represented as a DR reduction per die (or per
); an AP rating of -3 per 2d
would be equivalent to a (1.75) armor divisor, while -1 per 2d would be roughly (1.2). Ratings of -1 to -4 DR per 2d are fairly realistic; -1 or -2 DR per
might represent hardened, high quality steel facing mild or poor metal
armor, while -3 and -4 DR per 2d can
be seen with high-tech alloys like tungsten carbide or depleted uranium. Or
The practical upper limit for treating armor piercing ratings using
per-die subtraction is probably -5 DR per
of armor, the equivalent of an armor divisor of (3.5). A value of -6 per 2d would be a (7), and -7 per 2d is basically “ignores armor,” so
applying the usual GURPS divisors of (5), (10), and (100) once you go past -5 per 2d point is probably best for ease
of play and extendibility.
Converting DR to dice
using the Armor as Dice Table allows
the per die subtractions to be applied directly to armor. Alternately, apply
the partial armor divisors as a percentage reduction in DR. See the Hardening Craft Table (p. 00) for guidelines
on converting per 2d penetration
ratings into armor divisors (and vice versa).
Example: Striking DR 8
plate (2d+1) with a magic crossbow bolt rated at 1d+5 imp with an AP rating of
-3 DR per 2d would apply the rating
to the 2d+1 of the armor, resulting
in a reduction of DR by 3, for a net DR of 2d-2. Doing the math, (1d+5)-(2d-2)
is 7-1d imp – expressed a bit oddly for GURPS damage, but resulting in 1-6
points of penetration. Using the equivalent armor divisor of (1.75), you’d face
1d+5 penetration with DR 8/1.75, rounded up to DR 5, for 1d penetration . . .
exactly the same result!
Consult the Hardening Craft
(p. 00) for guidelines on the cost of purchasing higher levels of
increased armor divisor for bladed weapons.
Hardening Defenses
The inverse principle can be applied to armor. “Hard” armor would
reduce the penetration of incoming cutting, piercing, or impaling projectiles,
increasing the protection against that blow. The hardness rating can be
positive (+2 DR per 2d damage)
representing well-made, hardened armor, or even negative (-1 DR per 2d damage), representing materials
or construction that are weak vs. certain damage types. When AP rated damage
meets hardness-rated armor, simply add the modifiers. Thus, a hard sword or
arrowhead rated at -2 DR per 2d that
encountered a similarly hardened scale harness rated at +2 DR per 2d vs. cut/imp would cancel each
other out, and face each other on equal footing. This would also allow more
detail if using the optional rule for Blunt
Trauma and Edged Weapons
(GURPS Low Tech, p. 102).

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