Last content post I alluded to a situation where as many as six characters (4 players and 2 NPCs) were advancing cautiously in anticipation of encountering bad guys. This got tedious doing it player by player, turn by turn. On the other hand, you never really did know when the bad guys might pop out, so doing things in Combat Time seems right.

It’s slow, though, from a player’s perspective. And I don’t think it has to be. I’m going to try something different, and the current game setup should be pretty conducive to it.

But first, a word on movement speed to set the stage.

Combat Sprinting

GURPS movement is fast. Oh, it doesn’t seem fast, because you only move a few yards at a time, and in a spread-out fight, it can take a subjective forever to get from skirmish area to skirmish area.

Even so, the ability for GURPS PCs to cover distance in combat is pretty impressive. A typical person with -1 or -2 Move due to encumbrance is “only” moving 3-4 yards per second. A crawl! Except that’s 6-8mph, which is a decent jogging pace, and you can start, move, and stop perfectly balanced in one second.

For heroic PCs, they probably have a base Move in the 6-8 range, and good ST. I’d expect Move 5-7 is the norm even counting encumbrance for the PCs in my game right now, and that’s 4-6 minute miles.

Turn-Based Overwatch Movement (XCOM)

So PCs can haul ass in GURPS if they choose . . . but mostly that’s too fast for a real-world advance. I can maintain a brisk walk of up to about 4mph (only move 2), and above about 4.5-5mph I have to break into a trot. Basically I think you can probably go up to about 40% of your Move without the disruption of actually jogging or running, at which point shooting is pretty much spray-and-pray.

So here’s what I’m going to propose. During XCOM style movement, the clock ticks for five seconds, and this allows the following:

  • Movement up to your full encumbered Move
  • One of Evaluate, Aim, or Ready (1 second worth)
  • Wait

You may also stay in place and do a few different Long Actions

  • Reload (if it can be done in four seconds; this is about right for a non-rushed “pop mag, grab another, insert, re-ready).
  • Long Evaluate – Claim an appropriate bonus for taking extra time to look for stuff
  • Both of these are assumed to be 4 seconds, and end with a Wait . . .
  • If you’re feeling crazed, you may also take a long action of Only Movement. You get 5xMove and it takes the full five seconds, and you do NOT get a Wait. You’re exposed. “Like a nerve.” This includes the impact of a sprint bonus, and is one second of regular move, three seconds of sprinting, and one second of Move/2 for deceleration to a standstill.

The breakdown here is more or less three seconds of Move/3, and some looking around over your sights for a bit or getting something out of an easily accessible place on your LBE. The long actions allow some people to hang back and look around, or do a reload without the risk of a Fast-Draw, etc.

Turn Based

In the X-COM: Enemy Unknown game, first the team goes, and then the Aliens move. If you have “Overwatch” set (the X-COM equivalent of a Wait) you can attack. Most players will want to end in this state unless they don’t have to.

Each turn is based on your side. Any Waits terminate when it’s your side’s turn.

As soon as anyone’s Wait is triggered, Combat Time starts at the 1-second scale, starting at whoever’s Wait is triggered, and then cycling through. Waits from previous turns are preserved – if a Sectoid gets to go before you and walks into your Wait, that’s good for you, bad for him.

Parting Shot

The point of this one is to basically allow everyone to move their tokens simultaneously by up to their Move, but not play “let’s screw the players” by having them walk into an ambush that they should have seen.

This makes time go by at reasonable rates, but without assuming that everyone’s moving around like Usain Bolt, fully armed and crackin’ to shoot some Greys.

Hopefully it’ll compress that intermediate stage where no active enemies are in sight, but caution is warranted. It also creates a nice delineation between “Players’ Turn” and “Now GM Does Bad Guy Stuff.”

The list above is deliberately restrictive. It also doesn’t play to any individual character’s strong suit or abilities. The list should remain short for sanity’s sake, but has plenty of room for customization. I’d have no real issue with each player coming up with their own list of their favorite actions, so long as they break down neatly into (say) two categories, and can be fit into five seconds without any risk of failure.

  • Series of actions that end in a Wait
  • Series of actions that don’t end in a Wait

People with Fast-Draw or other “instantly cool” abilities will be a little bit stiffed by this; that can either be worked around, perhaps. Maybe treat them like Combinations, where if your intended action (say, a F-D-based speed reload followed by running like hell down the hallway) fails, your entire action stops right there. You neither reload or move. You’ve been stymied.

We’ll see how it works. I hope it speeds things up without notably impacting Combat Time. If not, tweakage will occur.

I can already see some things people might want to do (the sniper says in place while the team moves . . . what’s the benefit there? Probably a bonus to Per rolls for sweeping the area), but overall, I think it’ll split the difference between “move freely on the map!” and “OK, your turn. Now your turn. Now my turn, and a few more. Now your turn . . .”

11 thoughts on “Cautious Advance

  1. I'm curious to see how it plays out.

    Personally, I'd just make everyone take the Teamwork perk, and then allow them to move simultaneously in formation or in a given spread. If they spot something that triggers a Wait, it goes off and you go to 1 second turns. If they trigger a Wait (Bob steps into a Waiting guy's Opportunity Fire hex) it goes off right then and there and then they finish normally. People without the teamwork perk have to move individually, which sucks to GM but nicely makes coordinated movement as practically impossible as it should be without training as a team.

    1. Might work, and we can try it. I've had a lot of postiive feelies about some of Nate's "OK, everyone move freely on the map," in many cases, but that can also lead to one person being out of position if they're not actively driving their guy in an Real-Time-Strategy way. It can also lead to craziness where a player moves his token too far and Nate has to "blow the whistle."

      What I might do is have people with the Teamwork perk be allowed to adjust their positions. "Move anywhere in your range" and then an adjustment based on relative position. Without it, you just move.

      The real trick, I think, is that it gives each person (and each side) the benefit of a bit more complicated action, with in-game penalties for moving through a combat zone at a 4-minute mile.

    2. I suppose. My version is really just "set a marching order, and a movement rate, and halt everyone and roll initiative or effects of Waits when it matters." I can see how "move freely is a problem in a VTT.

      I'm just not seeing the benefits of the 5 second turn vs. the "move in formation until combat happens, then go by 1 second turns normally" approach. I'm willing to try it in play, though, I'm just saying at first glance it seems to be abstracting what you can do in return for something you can do without the change. No one really cares if you say "except in combat time, you aren't chugging along at full speed." We're all doing steps and Waits, anyway, and overwatch is our standard approach.

      But I also played a lot of XCOM: Apocalypse, which had a pause-able real-time combat mode I used exclusively.

  2. I've noticed that a lot of games seem to find a sweet spot of abstraction vs. detail in the 4-6 second turn area. Working up an Alternate GURPS using that sort of turn length generally might be an interesting exercise. There's a bunch of things that would have to be done to make it work, though (especially with firearms), so maybe it would be too much for a Pyramid article, and I can't see it being given its own supplement.

  3. I think I was trying to address this when I introduced the Color Codes into GURPS Tactical Shooting. The idea was that Condition Red is combat mindset and combat time, but Condition Orange allowed a lot of maneuvers but without using turns. This makes "turn time" a game mechanical representation of what the slow-down of time in combat actually feels like (more-or-less).

  4. Hi Douglas. I just read your post due to exposure at the Forums. Nice. One thing that I thought about based upon your comment above…

    To go from normal walking speed to full sprint in one turn costs 1 fatigue (as in extra effort), otherwise, normal people move into speed at say, 1/2 full move the first turn, full speed the second turn, and sprint speed the third turn.

    To go to a full stop in one second from a run? Dex+2-speed. Someone running at speed 6 would be rolling against DX-4. Someone running at speed 3 would roll at DX-1. Failed Dex roll means you overshoot your stopping point by 1 hex. Failed by more than 3, means character is off balance as well. Failed by 5 or more means character falls down. GMs could assess broken ground penalties or even the classic "slipperly slope" by adjusting the DX roll.

    Also – just how "perceptive" is a person while they run flat out? Wouldn't they get the equivalent of "Tunnel vision"? Why not make it that they can only perceive things within their "one hexside arc, at a penalty equal to 1/2 speed? Just tossing out ideas. 🙂


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