Increasing Dodge through skill

There’s a pretty interesting thread over on the forums where someone was asking a bunch of questions about Martial Arts and Technical Grappling. So +Peter V. Dell’Orto and I are both happy.

But one point the author makes is that if you take two fighters, one ridiculously skilled and the other not-so-much, that as awesome as their parries get, their ability to make a non-contact avoidance move never goes up. 

Partly, this is my fault, in that in TG I clarified, and +Sean Punch either agreed or let stand, that if you want to avoid a blow and totally avoid all sorts of contact, you must dodge. In fact, we clarified the hell out of it in Technical Grappling, p. 22

Dodge (see pp. B374-375)

A successful dodge means the attack failed to connect at all.
Dodging is the only way to create a “clean” miss without contact,
important if you want to avoid effects transmitted by
touch, such as some spells, electrical attacks, or cooties.

With that, though, you get the situation that bugs the original poster:

. . . all other things being equal (Say DX 12, HT 12, BS 6, Dodge 9), both Boxers in the above example can dodge the punches from a JKD Guy (Karate-14) at the same exact chance for success:

Boxing-11 guy dodges on a 9 or lower (12 or lower on a retreat)
Boxing-20 guy dodges on a 9 or lower (12 or lower on a retreat)

 So DX 12 is 40 points, HT 12 is 20. Boxing 11 is DX-1, for 1 point. Boxing-20 is DX+8, for 32 points.

Just Buy Enhanced Dodge

There is, of course, Enhanced Dodge, for 15 points per +1. Exchanging some of that extra Boxing skill for dodge would get you (say) Dodge-10 and Boxing-16. Still not too shabby, and a good, balanced fighter.

You might be able to push it, though, and say that your training only gives enhanced Dodge versus melee attacks to the head and torso – the legal attacks in boxing. Bows and arrow, bullets, Muay Thai kicks to the legs? Nuh-uh. 

Maybe that’s 8 per level instead of 15, which would mean that for a very specific set of attacks, you get +2 Dodge instead of +1 for 16 points. Now you’re Boxing-16 and Dodge-11, Dodge-14 with a retreat.

That’s not bad.

Trained . . . Dodge?

Getting a bonus to dodge due to combat skill isn’t crazy talk. A precision eye for reach and distance is one of the trained skills of boxing. 

Hey, did I hear Trained Something?

Let’s see. By the usual Trained ST progression, you get +5 to your ST if you have a skill of DX+10. That will usually cost around 40 points, which is good for +5 to Dodge using my limitations above, but about +2 if you buy enhanced Dodge straight-up. 

Maybe you wind up halving the Trained progression, drop fractions, and adding it to the Melee-only Dodge above, or quartering it for all dodge. So you need to get to DX+7 in Boxing (as an example) and you can pick up +2 to Melee-only Dodge, and (or?) +1 to all Dodge. That’s a maximum of 15 or 16 points of benefit there, which isn’t overpowering.

Non-Contact Parry

Perhaps the simplest way to do this would be to just assume or declare that no, Dodge is not the only way to do a non-contact Parry. Some possibilities would be:

  • If you make your Parry by 3 or more (the equivalent of a fancy retreat), then you have avoided contact on the blow. You still take no damage on a successful parry, but if your foe is throwing Deathtouch or something, you need to either be that good, or back up, or both.
  • All-Out Defense (Non-Contact Parry). If you go full-defensive, you don’t get the +2, but your parries qualify as not making contact this exchange.
  • Telegraphic Defense – again, your parries don’t count as making contact if successful, but your next attack is at -4 due to how much movement you’re putting into your stance. This one’s pretty weak, I admit.

Parting Shot

Well, for one, I’m trying to get back into actual GURPS content posts now that VR is winding down. 

But it struck me that the poster on the thread had a legit point, and telling a player what is basically “hey, for every point you spend in Boxing, reserve a point for Enhanced Dodge” might not be well received . . . even if it’s accurate. 

GURPS already gives perhaps too little credit to overall spatial awareness for fighters crossing over disciplines. I could easily see using something like the Trained ST progression to give a skill-based bonus to Dodge, either from your best skill, or perhaps using the skill that’s thrown at you. So boxers dodge punches with their Boxing Trained Dodge, but kicks using Brawling or Karate if they have it. You’d need some sort of weapon skill to get Trained Dodge from a weapon.

But the notion of having so many points dumped into a combat skill floating some of that bonus to Dodge? Not crazed. After all, the damage bonus one gets for Boxing or Karate is up to +2 points per die of damage – the equivalent of about a 60% boost to ST. Getting a defensive benefit either in addition to, or in lieu of, the offensive boost has a certain amount of logic to it. 

4 thoughts on “Increasing Dodge through skill

  1. Everyone gets +3 to a Dodge when they Retreat. Combine that with Sideslip or Slip and you still manage a bonus while not giving ground. Do you think instead that a Dodge Retreat should be +1 normally, but +3 with Boxing and Karate (etc)? That is, Retreating is always +1, except with certain "mobility" skills – making it more in like with how Parries work.

    That would support trained fighters having an edge in managing distance, and not having to rely on Parry variants to perform a "non contact parry". I'm not sure we should seek out a non-contact parry, though, as what you're describing is simply a dodge.

    Time of the hand, body, and foot being what it is, I don't suspect a Dodge should ever be as simple to raise on a normal human as a Parry.


  2. My first thought when looking at the original issue was why not look at making a "boxing dodge" variant of an acrobatic dodge? Or even more generally, a "martial arts dodge" that can be applied whenever your skill and training is directly applied to not being hit? I also do like the idea of Telegraphic Defense in some circumstances–it can simulate rolls or spins away from your opponent that can keep you mobile and much more evasive, but destroy your awareness of where the enemy is or your ability to strike back.

  3. Like I said elsewhere, all things being equal two guys with the same Dodge have the same Dodge. That the guy who bought up Boxing to 20 didn't buy up Dodge just says his hand skills are extremely effective but he isn't any better at Dodging. That a realistic boxer probably would get better at Dodging is while on the way from Boxing-14 to Boxing-20 doesn't matter – the game lets you buy these things separately. It doesn't matter that going from Boxing-14 to Boxing-20 might also go glove-in-glove with Enhanced Parry, Combat Reflexes, more Contacts in the sporting world, more Striking ST, probablys like Bad Back or Wounded from injuries, etc. All of that is separate. Just buy more Dodge on Boxing-20 guy if you prefer that he be a better Dodger vs. everything. Don't mistake the flexibility of the purchase system ("some parts sold separately") for a problem.

    Not only that, but Boxing-20 guy is already harder to deal with than Boxing-14 guy – his Dodge may be the same because you went ahead and made him have the same Dodge, but he makes Defensive Feints better, resists Feints and Beats better, and generally will beat on the example opponent much more effectively than the Boxing-14 guy would. He's defensively and offensively superior in significant ways that are glommed together into Boxing. If he's also better at Dodging, like I said, buy Enhanced Dodge.

    Out of the options you listed, I think the margin of success means that most skilled sword parries, unarmed parries, etc. will be non-contact. That would be very odd – most of the time you parry you don't get touched? Sword fights would look really odd. And if I can non-contact Parry a punch, can I non-contact Parry an arrow? Why not, it's just getting out of the way.

    The AOD option has potential, but again, non-contact armed parries are just odd. I'd tell a player who wanted this just to Dodge.

    Telegraphic Defense – I just don't get it. I get to avoid contact because I make my defense really obvious? It's a parallel that doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Plus, it's useless for Dodge and hardly makes any sense for Block, either.

    Finally, if combat skills are going to come with a Dodge bonus, than baseline Dodge should be lower.

    1. Maybe ditch the 'not 3e PD' +3 modifier from dodge?

      I can see a Boxing dodge bonus requiring style familiarity, or just being effective against Boxing opponents – does a boxer know how to best dodge a sword?

      I'll have to remind myself about Acrobatic Dodge, that sounds like a good option.

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