A thread on the forums made me break out Excel again so I can look at the “optimum” one-one-one level of deceptive attack for all combinations of DA and defense level.

The answer is darn complicated, turns out.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

This is the example Cadmus faces when he’s got his Righteous Fury on and is swinging with Axe/Mace-24. You can see that how much Deceptive Attack he throws – after accounting for lots of other choices like targeting foe’s important bits – depends hugely on his enemy’s skill level. Note that the formatting lies a bit – if your net skill is better than 16 and your foe sucks, by all means drop it to 16. You have nothing to lose.

That “go to 16” plan looks good (within 5% of the best choice, or itself the best choice) up to the point where my foe is sporting a defense roll of about 16 or more. Of course, that’s a shield, a retreat, and Dodge-11 (+2 shield and +3 retreating dodge) or Parry-13 (+3 for a medium shield and a +1 retreat). That’s Skill-20 for my foe, so he’s a real champ – Cadmus’ level.

Point is, “how much do I DA” is actually a non-trivial question in many cases. Well, not for the case of skill 14 or less, for which the answer is simple: don’t do it.

Note that I included my spreadsheet for download if you want to poke.

Very interesting Twitter thingy.

Munchkin Apocalypse: Judge Dredd is going to be a thing.

The money quote from +Phil Reed in the the tweet above is:

Now you have me wondering if there would be enough demand to make GURPS Judge Dredd worth considering .

GURPS doesn’t get too much licencing love anymore, though there are exceptions.

Dredd would be interesting. It plays to a lot of GURPS’ strengths, and if given the “self-contained game” treatment, where rules could be stated in ways to suit the genre, it is right in the middle of GURPS’ sweet spot. All those ammo types?


Once again, my creativity is roused somewhat by a thread on the forums. This one’s on snakes and grappling.

One might imagine that I have something to say on this, being the GURPS grappling guy. One would be right.

The Raw Way (mostly)

If you have a snake that attacks by constriction, you have a snake that wants to make grappling attacks. While RAW I believe can be construed to allow a torso-based grapple if you have Constriction Attack and Double Jointed (see Martial Arts, p. 116), I would smack such legalisms on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.

The snake first bites to grapple. This is a grappling attack with the mouth. You have to look for it, but a bit is a one-handed grapple (MA, p. 115 in the box for Teeth). You attack at full location penalties. If your foe fails to defend, you have him by the mouth with the equivalent of one hand. You also do thrust-1 damage. The foe is, technically, “grappled” at this point, and at -4 to DX . . . but the one-handed nature of the attack makes it easier to break free.

The next chance you get, you can follow up with the body grapple, and this one is at full ST, considered a two-handed grapple. I don’t know offhand if real snakes let go with the mouth once they have constricted the prey, but in any case, I’d just treat the snake as having its full ST.

Once that grapple occurs, the snake will apply his Constriction Attack, using the Bear Hug technique (MA, p. 117) to crush the foe to death. If the foe is too large to simply crush, the snake will suffocate if it can.

Seems to me that many snakes will actually buy a Combination (MA, p. 80) to bite and grapple with the torso as a bought-off Rapid Strike. I’ve seen video of ball pythons doing their thing, and that “bite and wrap it up” thing is fast.

Technical Grappling

There’s actually an entry on p. 44 for Constrictor Snakes. Bite to grapple and do thr-1 Control Points (1d-1 for the python in the Basic Set). Follow up with another grapple (using the snake’s inherent Wrestling skill, which is not bad) using the body, but Constriction Attack does double the usual CP for that creature’s ST. Since a python is ST 13, that’s 2d CP, which will get even a reasonably strong adventurer in trouble in a few seconds.

Once enough CP are accumulated, the snake will begin the process of spending them to crush the victim, then re-acquiring them through a grapple, then spending them for more crushing.

This is not the most elegant mechanic, though it does the trick. +Peter V. Dell’Orto and I did come up with a better one. Hopefully one day it will see daylight.

Condition-Based TG

I introduced a quick-and-dirty alternate for using Control Points but not bringing in all of TG late in July called Condition-based grappling, which took a concept that could have been done better in the DnD Basic Rules (5e) and did in GURPS what I thought could have been done (and maybe will be or has been in the PHB and DMG; we’ll see when they come out) in that system.

In any case, it’s easy. Roll for the bite. Assess CP. As soon as you can, roll for more CP by attacking with the torso. When you have your foe Restrained, start crushing.

Parting Shot

The condition-based grappling could use some expansion for stuff that’s not just holding on and applying penalties. The Control Point mechanic can be leveraged in a few easy ways to execute various grappling techniques without the detailed tracking that the full system has.

But all in all, snakes and other grappling monsters – such as something with, say, ST 21 tentacles with gripping mouths on them! – can and should be terrifying in GURPS. Right now they can be somewhat meh.

I think that TG really shines for such critters. That ST 21 bite will do 2d CP right off the bat, and that tentacle with Constriction Attack will accumulate 4d CP with every attack (and it may well AoA(Double) for 8d CP each turn; an average of 28 CP per second), which is enough to hit the max CP threshold for most creatures. With the right skills, that is a huge amount of crushing damage every turn.

Anyway, the rules are a bit scattered for both RAW and TG; you have to look through three books (or at least two, Campaigns and Martial Arts, with the third being Characters) even in RAW.

Maybe something to add to +Mook Wilson‘s handy new GM Guide. Or volume 2 . . .

A while back, I posited that pretty good results can be obtained by assuming that the Vision bonus for “in plain sight,” that is, +10, applies fairly generically. Certainly it’s a good starting point to see what you can see.

But what constitutes a basic roll? A Vision+10 roll for Joe Average will spot something man-sized on a non-obscuring foreground and background about 50% of the time at 100yds.

But how long does that take? Is it one second? Ten? A split glance?

Further, Stealth, Camouflage, and other skills, plus natural concealment will impact the roll

This type of thing is likely to come up in Alien Menace, among other things, so I’d best think about it systematically.

What’s the base time for a Vision Roll?

I’m going to assume that the base chance to notice something means you’re taking a pretty good look. So an Evaluate maneuver.

A very common use of Per rolls is in combat, though – what you might call “instant” use, which is -10. OK, that works out fairly well. Makes it a flat Per vs. Whatever roll – you get the “in plain sight” bonus of +10, but your’e also at -10 for the quick glance. Circular, in that it’s artificially getting back to “make a Per roll,” but there’s utility there as well.

But what constitutes a normal good look? I’m going to assume that a standard look around for something is about five seconds long. This produces the chart on the right, with a 5s look-see hitting Vision+10 (the “in plain sight” bonus) and spending up to about 2 minutes will give a +5, while the -1 per 10% provides a smooth ride down to a flat Vision (perception) roll.

OK, great. that takes care of typical searches. Taking 2 minutes for a normal person to look at his front 180 degrees will pick up a man-sized object at 100yds 95% of the time.

Parting Shot

This was going to be a much larger post – and still might be – that tried to wrap in Stealth, Camouflage, Shadowing, and general terrain features.

But that sounds an awful lot like something I can submit to Pyramid, and frankly, it’s a lot of work. There are a lot of “just roll a Quick Contest of . . . ” that lead to issues of sneaking up right next to people, or never being able to, and punishing default use of Stealth (DX-5) more than just not being sneaky.

It’s worth doing, though, since sneakin’ up on people, and being detected by sight, smell, and hearing, is a classic fantasy trope. So is the difference between seeing something, and knowing what it is. Batman, for example, is often spotted by virtue of dark motion against a dark background. He’s technically failed a Stealth roll (often deliberately) but made a Camouflage and Intimidation roll.

So yeah . . . there’s more here than I want to cover without a lot of thought.

This is in response to a quite interesting thread on Reverse Missiles. Like many things that occur at the intersection of magic and technology of any sort, there can be many answers depending on the metaphysics of how it is all supposed to work.

Reverse Missiles 101

The key bits are

  • There is one hit roll – whatever you roll to hit your foe, you roll to hit yourself instead
  • The “game effect” is that of a bounced shot, bounced “straight back,” in fact.

Hit Roll

In a way, this is the easiest. Make the calculations to hit your foe, and like the old “I’m rubber you’re glue” game, whatever you shoot comes back to you.

The game mechanics are straight-forward. Roll to hit, and if you succeed, you have potentially hit yourself. More on implicatinos later.

Bounce Back

This is where the trouble might start. The projectile or spell energy flies from the shooter to the target, and bounces back. This innocuous statement can carry some implications that might make things more complicated.

Mechanics vs. Metaphysics

This is one of those things where you really need to decide what’s going on, and then make the rules interpretations loudly and publicly. 

It can’t be a true bounce or reflection – the trajectory would be all wrong. So there’s a magic adjustment that happens to direct i on its way.  Cool enough.

What about range? Is there a magical energy boost that restores velocity? So that the projectile hits with whatever energy it would have? GM call, but I think the answer is “yes.” It simplifies the mechanics, and as long as you’re adding energy to redirect a projectile, you might as well get back up to launch velocity too.

Hit location? Easy – whatever your intent for the target happens to you.

Basically, the game mechanics are designed to allow the GM to act like Nelson when you attack your target. It basically says “don’t give the player a clue that he’s firing into a magical field of “stop hitting yourself!”


So that takes care of the hitting. What about active defenses? 

Seems fair to say that if you were allowed an active defense based on your actions on your turn (maneuver selection), you’d be allowed one if you’re attacking yourself.

But there’s a trick. Certainly, you may usually dodge or block ranged attacks (and with a one-handed weapon, it’s possible to have a shield-and-pistol thing going on), and with Parry Missile Weapons, you might be able to break that one out. So what’s the trick?

Awareness is key

As always, the caveat to any sort of active defense is spelled out in the Basic Set,  specifically on p. B374:

You also get no active defense if you’re unaware of the attack. Examples of situations in which no active defense is possible include a stab in the back from a “friend,” a surprise sniper’s shot, and a totally unexpected booby trap.

The reverse missiles spell would seem to qualify in many cases for the “unexpected booby trap” codecil. If the attacker is unaware that magic even exists, then he’s going to be unprepared to react against it.

In a way, this is why the “Aimed and Sighted shooting is an All-Out Attack” rule from GURPS Tactical Shooting is annoying (to the players) but important. It tells all involved that you are not expecting counterfire.

So, if you are aware that such magic exists, and you take an option that allows an active defense, then you get to use yours. I’ve had this conversation at least once with +Sean Punch and for a long while we made a joke about it in GURPS Technical Grappling, that taking “Attack” instead of All-Out or Committed Attack assumes that the fighter believes that the referee or the fans of a sporting event might pull out MP5s and suddenly start shooting into the ring. I included the One Foe option in Technical Grappling for that exact reason.

I don’t like that plan

One tends to assume that if you’re shooting or loosing an arrow at a foe, you’re not expecting it to come back at you. And if you are shooting, then you’re not doing the kind of evasive maneuvering that grants you a dodge.

To that i say: yes you are. If you didn’t take Committed or All-Out Attack, you are doing that kind of movement. That’s what such options are designed to preclude.

If, however, that just bugs you, well, there’s a handy article (Dodge This, from Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay) that spends four pages giving you options, including painful modifiers to see a projectile coming so that you can dodge, parry, or block it.

Parting Shot

So, ultimately the answer to the question of “can you Dodge reverse missiles” is probably simply “yes.” If you didn’t choose a maneuver that precludes a defense, and if you are aware at all that such a spell exists, you are presumed to be ready for such.

If you don’t like that plan, there are options, but I think the intent is that you have to spend a “holy crap!” moment dodging, and that the line of fire from your notional victim to yourself is now threatened behind you!

Remember what happens next?

+Christian Blouin pens at least a GURPS 303 article on using social reactions and influence against PCs. Any time you’re “compelling” the characters to act a certain way, you need to be somewhat cautious, but still, it can be done, and often is an important part of a majorly fun plotline

Consternation about “player agency” only applies if the player feels she’s been denied agency. If, as I did once with a game of mine, which was a totally “this is a railroad adventure” prequel session to set up the main campaign, I pulled a player aside before a session and said “you’re going to hit the climax here; at one point, you’re going to get hit by a big magic user with a staff. At that point, your character’s soul will be plucked out and imprisoned Elsewhere; a demon mage will inhabit your body. At that point, are you willing to just unload on your fellow PCs? It’s dramatically appropriate to kill them all.”

Why yes, hes he was more than willing to have such an awesome end to the adventure. I didn’t force the role on him, he accepted it gladly. But his goals were changed.

Anyway, Christian writes some great stuff here, and it’s worth checking out in full:

GURPS Social Academy: PCs as targets of Influence Checks

After the discussion on how to kill someone dead in GURPS with firearms (which really does devolve to shoot ’em a lot in places that matter, more or less like real life), a few commenters noted that “dead in one turn” isn’t really where it’s at. +Peter V. Dell’Orto has noted before that dying, in GURPS, is surprisingly hard to do, and really, the point that a fight is won is when the enemy is either incapacitated or cowed, not annihilated.

So, what is that point? Well, it’s a failed HT roll for consciousness, for the first. And that can start to happen as soon as you have zero or fewer HP left (p. B380). Hmm. That’s not a lot, especially since you get a lot of help on your way there.

I’m going to assume a slightly above-average foe of 12 HP instead of Joe Average with 10 HP.

Instant Gratification/Incapacitation

Let’s start with the obvious, and a good follow-up to the death post: what if you get shot in the vitals or skull?

Vitals: This one’s a straight-up x3 injury multiplier, bullet size and other factors notwithstanding. Any projectile that does at least 4 points of basic damage (about 1d or 1d+1) will qualify for a one-shot ticket to a HT roll. 2d+2 gets you there even on a minimum roll . . . and that’s a bog-standard 9mm pistol.

Actually, to a HT roll every second. As shown in my post on The Price of Fitness, though, it can take a while, depending on HT, for this to matter enough for the law of averages to catch up to you. Many GURPS combats might only take five or ten turns to resolve, since there’s so little incentive to chill out for a few seconds. But by and large, foes in the HT 10-12 range (effective; if you’ve got Hard to Subdue, Fit, or Very Fit, you get bonuses here) can expect to drop KO in four or fewer turns. More problematic are the HT 13+ types, since at HT 14 and higher, odds are your foe is up for 10+ turns.

The other piece of goodness here is the Knockdown and Stunning roll at -5 on suffering more than HP/2 injury to your vitals, which for our case is 7HP or more, and that’s 3 HP of basic damage to the vitals. It’s hard to not do that much damage, and this KD&S roll, in the event it’s failed by 5+, still causes unconsciousness lasting at least 15 minutes.

Skull: In addition to the usual nifty multiplier for the skull injury of x4, there’s the added benefit that any blow can trigger a KD&S HT roll, and a major wound renders this roll at -10 to the skull or eye. This is going to challenge even the most hardy (high HT) foes.

The skull’s DR 2 means that to get that major wound, you need to still hit for 1d+1 (again, not hard), and 2d+2 will always do it. 3 HP through the skull’s DR puts you in KO territory, and that’s 1d+2 as well. The fact that nearly any wound to the skull will trigger a major wound HT roll at -10 means that even uber-guy at HT 14 is going to be stunned unless he crits, and will go unconscious about 2/3 of the time (he has to roll 9 or less to avoid being KO’d, and 4 or less to avoid being stunned).

Once he’s stunned, he’ll be up in a jiffy if he’s got high HT, but at least you’ve bought yourself some time, either to Aim at his fallen form, or to shift targets, buying you some respite.

Torso: The most frequently shot-at target because it’s the easiest to hit, and range penalties stack up faster in GURPS than any other type. The thresholds are harder to achieve because of the multipliers:

Major Wound (7 HP or more)
14 hits of basic damage from a pi- projectile (4d average)
7 hits of basic damage from pi (2d)
5 hits of basic damage from pi+ (1d+2 pi+)
4 hits from pi++ (1d+1)

Basically, to force a knockdown and stun check, roll average damage with any field-capable pistol. Heck, even the .380 ACP on p. B278 does 2d pi, and any .40 or .45 will pretty much do you fine, as will any 9x19mm. Avoid .22LR and the .38 caliber stuff – but you knew that.

If you’re firing something with pi-, you’ll need higher velocity, lots of rapid fire, or good aim.

Negative HP to force KO checks (12 HP or more)
24 hits of basic damage from a pi- projectile (7d average)
12 hits of basic damage from pi (3d+2)
8 hits of basic damage from pi+ (2d+1 pi+)
6 hits from pi++ (2d-1 pi++)

A single shot from most 9mm pistols or SMGs won’t get you there. Most .40 or .45 SMGs will, however. Any carbine at decent range will do it, but long range shots with assault rifles (which turn to pi- when the velocity drops below about 600m/s) will not.

That all being said, if you have a problem foe that Just Won’t Go Down from that 1 HT roll per second, well, you’re going to have to shoot him a few times. It’s exactly this sort of situation that makes people invoke Mook rules, where bad guys automatically go down after hitting HP 0.


This will only be a big deal on the scale of minutes, even if using fairly harsh house rules. 15 HP of damage to the vitals (or really, 5 HP, x3 for vitals) is something like a HT roll at -3 every minute. Unlike real life, where blood loss is a real thing that incapacitates people, in GURPS it just ain’t all that.

Fear and Panic

Tactical Shooting is a great book for many reasons, but one of them is that it has some really fun rules for fright checks. If you suffer a hit or even a near miss (miss by 2 or less), the GM can require a fright check from the victim, which might stun him, or at least force him to immediately seek cover. This is something to look for, adding up the appropriate modifiers on p. 34 of that book, and worrying about it if the Will rolls are going to be made at (say) 16 or less. If with all modifiers, the foe’s Will is 17 or higher, I’d only make a roll in special circumstances.

This fear of being shot, or seeing friends and loved ones being injured, is responsible for a lot of the tremendously poor performance under pressure relative to that on the range.

Parting Shot

It’s way, way easier to render someone ineffective in firearm combat than it is to kill ’em out right.

GMs should take note, though, that if they stack up HT, Hard to Subdue, Fit/Very Fit on their bad guys, they only have themselves to blame if their foes stay up like a Horror Movie villain.

+Peter V. Dell’Orto discussed how much damage is required to kill in GURPS hand to hand combat the other day. In it, he notes:

Yeah, it’s true. Gunfire can push you to -5xHP so easily I decided it wasn’t even worth discussing. But a post about different pistols and rifles and kills might be worth doing for Doug. Even a “mere” 2d+2 pistol is only a couple of vitals shots from automatic death.

Challenge accepted, though it’s somewhat meager. Just as a setup, you of course take your first risk of death at -HP, and autodeath at -5xHP, meaning that for a healthy guy, you must suffer 2xHP and 6xHP injury in one shot. I’m going to play a bit here, and take that as 24 HP and 72 HP of injury. And I’m doing that very, very much because that’s the average roll on 7d and 21d; for a max roll, you can’t get there unless you’ve got 4d and 12d. That makes the numbers work out to just a bit of overkill (or just the right amount of kill for a slightly-strong target), but also even numbers of dice.

I’m going to be expressing a lot of things in dice rather than HP.

Edit: Some good comments about “out of the fight” and “dead” not being the same in GURPS. Point profoundly taken, but the question that Peter tossed my way was “how much damage is required to kill.” I took that as “in one turn,” because bleeding is optional and (in my opinion) factored into the decision to not deal with blow-through in the 4e rules. 

One Word About Armor (for now)

Armor gets a one-word mention here: it’s what you have to bypass to hit the creamy center, and it can get pretty high at TL7 and TL8.

Vitals and Brain

The fact that the brain and vitals’ wound multipliers are x3 and x4 regardless of injury type or size (they overwrite bullet size) means that it becomes generic to look at.

Vitals: To threaten death to the vitals, you must bring a weapon to the fight that does at least 1d+1 or 1d+2. To threaten a single death check on an average roll means you need at least 2d+1. Auto-death is from 4d and 7d, respectively.

Brain: It’s even lower for the brain, of course, but you’ve got that pesky DR 2 skull to deal with. That makes the minimum 1d+2 for the brain, and about 2d+1 for an average shot to force a single check. For auto-death, you can’t do that without a minimum of 3d+2, and you won’t do it on average without 5d+3 or 6d-1.

Weapon me: The short version, with some slop in it. You can get by with a .22 LR pistol (Ruger Standard Mk1) to the vitals, but not the brain, due to the skull armor. A single pellet of buckshot is likewise fine if it hits the vitals, but not the skull. To theaten either vitals or skull, you need 2d+1, which is carry-sized (4″ barrel) 9mm like the Glock 19, Walther P99 or PPQ, or a .40 S&W or 9mm subcompact. In short, a 9mm or .40S&W pistol. Note that a .45 ACP will do for the vitals but not the skull, since it’s only 2d or 2d-1.

For auto-death, you’re looking at weapons that can do 4d minimum to 7d on average for the vitals, and 3d+2 to about 6d-1 for the brain. In short, the only SMG that meets these minimum criteria is the H&K MP7. The P90 comes the next-closest, but doesn’t get there. Basically, upgrade to a full-power subcaliber cartridge to have a chance: even the 10.5″ barrel on a 5.56x45mm carbine like the XM177E1 Commando (4d pi) will do it, but to get to auto-death territory, you want something with at least a 6.8x43mm cartridge (6d from a 16″ barrel) all the way up to a battle rifle (7d) in 7.62x51mm.

Shoot a lot: These are all one-shot numbers. If you are firing at an unarmed person and skilled enough to hit a bunch of times, nearly any weapon can do the trick. All SMGs have Rcl 2 from High Tech, so if you can eke out enough skill to absorb the -3 to the vitals and -2 to hit twice, all of a sudden that P90, with 50 shots, looks pretty attractive. Two shots to the vitals with a 4d carbine racks up 12d in injury to an unarmored foe, which is a fast ticket to auto-death at -5xHP as well.


The numbers for the torso are subject to injury modifiers. But you still need 4d to 7d injury to threaten a death check with a single shot to the torso. That is:

Death check thresholds – one shot to torso
8d pi- minimum
4d pi minimum
2d+2 pi+ minimum
2d pi++ minimum

For a handgun, you have to go a bit nuts. A .44M will do it, so will monsters like a Super Redhawk in .454 Casull or the movie-popular Desert Eagle, whose .50AE cartridge cracks the scale at 4d pi+. I’m sure there are others in the overkill department. Interestingly, a full-sized .40S&W such as the H&K USP, the Glock 22, or the Walther PPQ with the 5″ barrel will all hit 2d+2 pi+, so it’s barely possible to threaten a one-shot death check with a service handgun.

Most assault rifles are in the right range here. Most SMGs aren’t. To average a death check, you need 6d-7d or so injury, and so that’s two hits from a pi+ weapon of decent velocity, or two from a pi rifle type. One hit from a battle rifle in .308 or .30-06 will do it too.

Auto-death is either “bring a .50BMG” whose 6dx2 pi+ technically still doesn’t cut it for auto-death to the torso (18d vs 21d), or shoot people a lot. Three rounds to the torso with a battle rifle will do it.

Final Word on Damage

The moral of the story here is either have a low-damage weapon that you can hit with a lot in one turn, or a much higher one. If you’re looking to drop a foe in one shot, the primary target for an unarmored person is the vitals, not the skull. Skull shots are cool and all but the difference betwen -3 and -7 is two extra hits to the vitals, plus the DR 2 for the skull actually makes it a tougher kill for pistols especially.

More Words About Armor

The torso armor table on High Tech p. 66 hits the key bits that throw the above calculations to the wind a bit. A fragment vest is the equivalent of about 1d+1 right off the top of your weapon, and more serious protection like a a concealable or assault vest is more like 3d+2. That’s before you add trauma plates worth another 7d. If the “dragon skin” concept meets or exceeds manufacturer’s claims (there was some controversy in the past), it’ll soak up about 14-15d (defeating 7.62×51 AP ammo at 2800fps is no joke).

At that point, the torso and especially the vitals become effectively non-viable.

Modern ballistic helmets also grant about 3d+2 (DR 12) to the skull. The Advanced Ballistic Helmet (Pyramid #3/57) is DR 16 (4d+2).

In both of these cases, only a direct hit from an assault or battle rifle, or a powerful SMG with AP ammo will do.

You may even have to shoot at the face, assuming no visor, and hope for that 1 in 6 chance of hitting the skull anyway (optional rule, p. 16 of Tactical Shooting).

With proper armor, the available targets start to get limited. Face, maybe the neck, and limbs.

Parting Shot

In a way, there are no surprises here. Aiming for the vitals is a good idea if you have a defensive weapon (read: decent power handgun) and can end a discussion promptly – but likely not force a target into the -5xHP real of auto-death.

A rifle shot to the vitals will have a good chance of ending an argument at -5xHP in one shot, and hitting the torso multiple times can do that too. But note that with Rcl 2, it’s easier to hit the vitals once at 3x damage in many cases than to hit the torso three times – the vitals are the better bet!
If your opposition starts slathering on advanced body armor, you’re going to have trouble. You’ll need to custom-order some stuff, such as an AR-10 platform in .300 WSM (8d+1 from a 20″ barrel) if you expect to face the kind of DR that a modern trooper can put on his chest. At this point, the goal is likely “keep their heads down until your designated marksman or sniper can take them out.”

This is a guest blog column by Geoffrey Fagan. He doesn’t have a blog himself, but participated regularly in the GURPS Forums under the username GEF.

Part IV: Influence
An Influence Roll takes the place of a Reaction Roll; use one or the other. Why do they use different mechanics? I have no idea. Influence Rolls are based on skill, which enables you to leverage the attributes on which they’re based, but they use the mechanic of a contest (against Will) and compress the range of possible outcomes (either Bad or Good, but never extremely so). Reaction modifiers generally apply to Influence skills, but there are exceptions, and the GM may waive any he wishes.
Intimidation is the Influence Skill based on Will. Since Will is cheap and valuable in its own right, this is a bargain, plus you can get lots of bonuses, for displays of strength, cruelty, larger size, for Hideous or worse Appearance (instead of a penalty!), and a +3 bonus for lying (Fast-Talk roll). Specious Intimidation (lying) can backfire, resulting in a Very Bad, rather than merely Bad, reaction if you fail.
Carousing and Sex Appeal are based on HT. Of the two, Sex Appeal applies in more contexts (but only among half of the population), and it results in a Very Good reaction, instead of merely Good, upon success. However, it’s based upon an implied promise, so you could get a rep as a tease if the promise is never fulfilled.
All other influence skills are based on IQ. Savoir-Faire is the easiest, though context-specific. Streetwise is conceptually Savoir-Faire for the street, but it’s special in that it ignores all the usual reaction modifiers, so if you load up on reaction penalties, be sure to learn this skill! Diplomacy is the hardest Influence Skill to learn, but worth it, because you get a normal Reaction Roll in conjunction with the Influence Roll and take the better result. Effectively, Diplomacy compresses the range of reaction results only on the bad side.
Of course, the GM is free to call for an Influence Roll based on other skills; likely candidates are Administration, Interrogation, Leadership, Merchant, and Teaching. Remember that the differences between these skills have to do with approach, and the context in which each approach is appropriate; any Influence skill can be used toward any goal, be it information, a fair price, or an end to hostility. “Dudley, mind your manners, young man.” “Yeah Dudley, shut up or I’ll pound ya!” Different approaches (that is, different skills) avoid the penalty for repeated attempts; technically, trying Intimidation after Savoir-Faire has failed is not a repeated attempt for Savoir-Faire.
What if you want to leverage a high attribute and the points invested in an Influence skill, but you don’t want to compress the reaction results? Well, GURPS has a general rule for using skills in conjunction: Roll the helper skill first, and modify the primary roll by + or -1 on success or failure (doubled for crit success or failure). There’s no reason why a generic Reaction Roll can’t be the “primary” in this case, effectively turning a reliable Influence skill into another +1 modifier.
Of course, you can use a secondary Influence Skill to assist an Influence Roll. Fast-Talk, whether it represents a glib deception or literal fast talking, leaving the subject no time to think things through, works well with any Influence Skill and especially Intimidation, as noted above. Other good helper skills for Influence rolls include Psychology or any related skill (Body Language, Detect Lie, and Fortune-Telling) to read the subject’s motive, and any skill that can establish rapport (Acting, Current Affairs, Connoisseurship). “Hey, how ‘bout them Giants?”

Salesmen are merchants and probably have Merchant skill, but the art of getting someone to tell you what they want or need, or convincing them that they want or need what you have to sell, and getting them to listen to the pitch is all about Influence. Intimidation is rarely the right approach, but any of the rest work fine; a good salesman probably has Fast-Talk at minimum for the “elevator pitch” and another couple chosen for his market (Savoir-Faire for the luxury boutique, Streetwise for the black market, Sex Appeal for charming his way past the “gatekeeper” receptionist, Carousing for taking the businessman out for a drink).
Interviewing uses Interrogation skill in coercive situations; that could include actual torture, or just keeping a suspect in a locked room drinking coffee with no bathroom breaks. In a non-coercive context, like a journalist getting a story, that’s just a “request for information” Reaction Roll or Influence Roll. Influence Rolls compress the results, so the best the journalist can hope to get is Good, but that’s usually enough for info. A journalist should have a toolkit of multiple approaches.
Anyone who makes his way in the world by the good will of others needs high Reaction Modifiers to get results better than Good on ordinary Reaction Rolls, but with all those modifiers, effective Influence skills are cheap! So pick up a few. Depending on your natural social environment, pick up Carousing, Savoir-Faire, or Streetwise, just to fit in, and you can always use it as a helper for a generic Reaction Roll. 
This overview of social traits is by no means the last word, just my attempt to highlight the value of an aspect of GURPS rules that can be overlooked. For an in-depth treatment, see GURPS Social Engineering. For a light treatment, see GURPS Monster Hunters 2. The latter supplement outlines an abstract approach to gathering clues to track down the monster of the week, but it works just as well for finding buried treasure or a kidnapper’s hideout. Of course, requests for information and their attendant Reaction Rolls are a big part of any investigation. 

This is a guest blog column by Geoffrey Fagan. He doesn’t have a blog himself, but participated regularly in the GURPS Forums under the username GEF.

Part III: Reaction Modifiers
When you can’t do it on your own, you ask for help and roll on the Reaction Table. This is the one time in GURPS, other than damage, when you want to roll high! To understand how this works, understand the table: It’s on page 560 of the Basic Set (Campaigns). You’re looking for at least 10, for 9 means no help, and 6 or less could create a hindrance. Even a 10 means the best you can hope for is directions to the nearest gas station.

13 is a Good reaction. People are pleasant, but that’s it. The merchant still sells at list price, but he gives you service with a smile.

16 is Very Good. Now that merchant actually gives you a discount. The cop lets you off with a warning.

19 is Excellent. Half price. The bandits who ambushed you let you go and apologize. If you ask for help, they help in every way within their power. That bears repeating: Every way within their power.

Now as you may infer from that last entry, Reaction Rolls take modifiers that can push the result above 18 (or below zero). Some of these modifiers are situational, but some are permanent features of your character sheet. If you have a Reaction Modifier of +6 (a Beautiful Appearance), then a quarter of the merchants you meet will sell at half price. If there are 4 merchants in town, the odds are high that at least one of them will.

The general rule for reaction modifiers is that they cost 5 points per level. That’s what Charisma is, a generic reaction modifier, independent of circumstances. You’ve got it – whatever “it” may be. The opposite of Charisma is an Odious Personal Habit, which can be something specific (like excessive vulgarity), but it doesn’t have to be. Your character can be generically creepy just as his opposite number is generically cool.

Appearance and Voice act like Charisma with slight limitations (vision- and hearing-based respectively). With a good voice (or disturbing one), the discount is not evident; that’s because it’s balanced by a modifier to certain skills as well as reaction rolls. In a campaign with alien sapience or fantasy races, Appearance may not provide universal benefit, but it always applies with members of your own species. Past the first positive level, Appearance is half off because it only applies to members of the opposite sex (or who play for the other team). Fashion Sense is a level of Appearance with a transferable benefit, and it comes in a perk-level version (from Power-Ups 2): Looks Good in Uniform. Negative Reaction Modifiers count against the campaign limit for disadvantages, so while it may be interesting to play the Ugly guy with a lovely Voice, you wind up with a net neutral Reaction Modifier but still count 8 points against the limit.

Other sources of Reaction Modifiers are Status and Social Regard (culture-wide) and Rank (organization-wide), discussed in Part I, and Reputation, which is based on your personal legend and not that of the group to which you belong. If your character has a Reputation for competence in his field, that’s included in the Talent that makes him so capable. While the special effects differ, Reaction Modifiers are mostly fungible for game purposes. Whether people like you because of your looks or title, they still help you.

The degree to which people help depends in part on your roll, but also on their ability, and how much it costs them. Answering questions costs them nothing, so they’ll do that with even a moderately good Reaction Roll. In other words, information wants to be free, so a good Reaction Modifier can be as useful as a Contact.


As the example of Appearance illustrates, Reaction Modifiers can be conditional. Beauty always is, and Reputation usually is. A modifier which affects only some Reaction Rolls is cheap, and as with an Ally-Dependent, a rep which gets you a bonus from some folks and a penalty from others counts its net value against the campaign limit for disadvantages. That brings us to the point of this article. If everyone despises you, that is a crippling disadvantage, and you might as well make a character with HT 7. However, if some people like you and some don’t, that’s cheap overall, yet almost as beneficial as if everyone likes you! You may not be able to get help from just anyone, but you can always get help from someone.

Characters with mixed reaction modifiers are quite believable. Imagine a Triad enforcer in old San Francisco. He’s a member of a minority (Social Stigma) and has a Reputation that gives him a +2 bonus in Chinatown and a like penalty with the cops. Such a rep is a mere perk if he’s recognized half the time. About town, he’s scorned (Reactions -2), but among his own people, he’s respected and feared (Reactions +4 when recognized). He might get thrown out of the fancy stores downtown, but he can always get a good deal nearer the docks.


What Reaction Modifier do you want? A review of the Reaction Roll table suggests some breakpoints:

+7 means that you never experience a Poor reaction in the absence of situational penalties, and that a quarter of the time, you get an Excellent reaction! If this is all from Charisma (35 points), it’s a level of “animal magnetism” bordering on psychic influence. A realistic cap on Charisma might be +3, with which you’d need Beautiful Appearance to make up the difference (net cost 27). In this case, you occasionally suffer a Poor reaction from members of your own gender, and get an Excellent reaction from them only 10% of the time, but generally you experience Very Good reactions, enough to do all your shopping at a discount, get any information you ask for, and talk your way out of any potential conflict. This is a good target for a “face man” character concept. Downgrade Appearance to merely attractive, but add Voice (net cost 29 with Charisma), and you get +6 across the board, and still +5 over a telephone. If you have to save points on this build, replace Charisma with Pitiable, if it works with your concept.

Instead of Appearance, take a Talent at level 4, for minimum cost 35 points with Charisma +3. Now, you get +4 to several skills, and +7 to reactions from the people with whom you deal most often. From others, you rarely experience a Bad reaction, and you get a Good reaction half the time. This is an excellent build for a leader in his field, and if that justifies a couple levels of Rank, which comes with a level of Status, it alleviates the need for one level of Charisma, net cost 40 points. Even for a 100-point character, this is quite affordable, as the Talent makes for impressive skill levels. Since a highly skilled professional can make a lot of money, the concept can extend to Wealthy, providing another level of Status, obviating another level of Charisma, net cost 55. Now that’s a big chunk of points, but it gets you a character with +4 in certain skills, +3 to +8 for reaction rolls, plenty of his own money and access to the resources of an organization. Not bad. Remember that when you have discretion over whom to ask for help, you can choose someone with whom your larger Reaction Modifier applies, in this example preferably someone in your own organization.

+4 means that you never suffer worse than a Poor reaction, so some folks are rude but none are violent. Most of the time, you’ll get a Good reaction, meaning that the people around you are pleasant and you don’t get ripped off, and they answer your questions accurately if not thoroughly. Every once in a while, you’ll meet someone who’ll do everything in his power to help. This is a good level to shoot for with any character, at least on a conditional basis, arguably the best bang for the buck, and you can get it from a single advantage (Appearance, Reputation, Talent). Of course, a fitting Talent may be worth the cost for its skill bonuses alone, but don’t overlook the way its Reaction Modifier can make life easier.

+1 means you’ll never suffer Very Bad reactions, let alone a Disastrous one, and most of the time, you’ll get at least Neutral. If you have 4 points left over, buy Attractive. Conversely, with -1, you’ll still manage a Neutral or better reaction half the time, so it’s not crippling. With -3, you’ll suffer a Poor reaction (or worse) most of the time, and that is crippling if it’s not a conditional penalty. If you’ve reached that point, you may as well pile on more!