Yesterday during the latest Castle of Horrors GURPS session I got to experience, first-hand, the exact situation that makes some people run screaming from GURPS – or any game in which your turn is broken down into a very small segment in time.
Almost certainly, +Mark Langsdorf of No School Grognard will throw up a session summary.
Ultimately, though, what happened (so far as I can tell) was this: we set up camp after last session (which I missed) in the middle of the outer courtyard, under one of the castle’s 60′ tall walls. We set a watch and other useful things. The session opened with us getting attacked from the air by a bunch of one-to-two foot tall leprechauns who were rightfully pissed off that we’d stolen their pot of gold.
They attacked us with fire. Alchemists fire. After achieving near-perfect surprise.
The session basically went like this:
- A period of time where it was all we could do to not die in flames
- A (short) period of time where things were basically even, as they were nearly out of fire and spells/charms, but not entirely
- A period of time where, for whatever reason, the tiny flying guys decided to attack our half-troll (ogre? something huge and nasty with thick skin) and could not do anything of value at all, meanwhile we were assured that nearly any hit was a fatality with us firing 7d6 firearms or shotguns loaded with buckshot at them.
- At some point, the GM noted that the tide had turned, and it was just a matter of ammo expenditure to mop up the numerous but weak remaining foes. This is the third or fourth (third, I think) fight that has been ended this way.
However, and here was the problem, this manifested itself as my character, in the span of two hours, doing roughly the following:
- Wake up and shout an alarm
- Get set on fire
- Roll on the ground and burn
- Roll on the ground and burn
- Roll on the ground and burn a little, and make a DX roll to put flames out (successfully)
- Aim (it took about 90 minutes to this point)
, one of the players, offered up that games with fast turns (like GURPS) can really be done well if you’re just whipping through options, calling them out, rapid fire.
This is exactly true. I’ve also never, not once, seen it happen. I bet +Peter V. Dell’Orto
could pull it off, since he runs a pretty bare-bones DF game. But mostly, there’s a LOT of tactical chatter, option selection, and it takes players and the GM alike a while to resolve each turn. In fact, it seems to take as long to resolve each turn in this game as any other game I play. Mostly inlcuding D&D5, but the tendency for that game to default to “I hit the bad guy twice with my sword” for a lot of the group means that the game with the longer turns (in seconds of game time) tends to play pretty fast.
You can’t even complain that we were going that slowly in the GURPS combat above. There are five players and the GM, who was controlling at least seven adversaries (three flying bombers and four on the wall, I think). At fifteen minutes per cycle around the room, that’s about two minutes per player. Since we have some strict rules about chat and cross-talk and open mics, and a lot of what we’re doing we have to type into MapTool, that’s not awful.
Nonetheless, to spend fifteen minutes so I can stop, drop, and roll again (it takes three Ready maneuvers and a DX roll to extinguish oneself) is frustrating. It can easily be seen even among the patient as a player might suggest that in one second he can pull out a fire extinguisher while rolling out of the back of a tent while aiming his gun at a bad guy. The GM would then say (rightfully) “pick one.”
OK, I exaggerate a bit for effect, but if you wait fifteen minutes for your turn, you want to accomplish something.
I need to think more about this for my own games. A five or ten second clock on decision and resolution might be a way to go here. Having a queue or dual-pane thing going where you can pre-script your action during downtime might be another way to go. Because honestly, the “time dilation” effect where how much you want to do on your turn depends on how long you have to wait for your turn has been cropping up quite a bit, and not just in GURPS.
How have other people dealt with this when it comes up?