I got a Steam chat from someone with whom I regular interact over that channel. He was wondering out loud if Dungeon Grappling includes rules for kicking.

My first response was “that’s just an unarmed strike; DnD doesn’t do that level of specificity.” Fine, if unsatisfying.

Then he noted that what he really wanted to get a feel for, having been playing through Storm King’s Thunder, is why not have rules for a Storm Giant knocking a halfling across the battlefield like a ping-pong ball?

Ah! Well, yes. Dungeon Grappling does have rules for Flinging and Shoving, where you grapple someone and then you can use the rules to shove or fling them a certain distance.

Incidental Projectile

That got me thinking, though. There are of course rules for this in DnD, but not for incidental contact. You have to deliberately decide to shove your foe, which Dungeon Grappling extends to flinging.

But hrm and hrrrm, this is where game design rears its head. For whatever reason, the designers decided to make shoving a different mechanic than striking. One is a contest of Strength, the other a damage roll. There are reasons for this, of course, and those reasons are at the very least defensible.

But there’s a cost to this. An Ancient Red Dragon’s tail swipe does 2d8+10 damage from a Gargantuan creature. So 12-26 points. for a creature that might be the size and mass of a house. I’ve seen some pretty large imaginings of these guys, but even without, the basic size for a Gargantuan creature is 20′ x 20′ (or larger). So the size of a small two-car garage or so.

It would be interesting to relate size and damage to knockback power, though, so it’d be possible to have the Cave Troll knocking hobbits about.

This would mean finding a scale of damage that maps well to knockback, and a sensible mapping of such. Continue reading “The Kick is GOOD! (Casual knockback in DnD games)”

Welcome to another installment of Melee Academy! Today’s topic is “Opening Moves.”

Here are some other posts by other participants

Instead of a super-detailed, broad-brush essay on possibilities, I’m going to get specific and talk about my superhero from the Aeon campaign.

The Commander is a fun character to play. He’s got a fully fleshed out background and a fairly well-varied power set.

And yet, he’s a generalist. He’s got a bit of TK – enough for things like 5d double-knockback crushing attacks with no wounding, a TK shield, and a few other things. He’s got a lot of points in Wildcard skills, the five key ones being Fist!, Blade!, Shooter!, Ten-Hut!, and SEAL!.

Plus he has a combat suit and he’s a super-soldier, so he’s got very good stats, including ST 28 and ridiculous Will and Perception.

So for equipment, he has a battlesuit, which is really more like a soldier-enhancing skinsuit than a true battlesuit. It’s got a sensor suite which is mostly non-functional, it provides DR20 everywhere, and enhances my ST and telekinetic abilities by a tetch. He’s also got guns. He uses a REC7 carbine and a FN Five-seveN pistol, because I like both calibers.

His job, in the words of Tony Stark, is “Call it, Captain!”

That is, he’s the guy who rolls vs. Tactics-20 as combat opens, and usually has enough re-rolls to hand out (thanks to Leadership-18 or even Leadership-20 thanks to SEAL! and Ten-Hut! being complimentary skills) to tip things our way.

So his opening move is basically a Tactics roll.

Still, one thing he’s found himself doing up until last game is to open combat by taking his rifle, and using his Extra Attack to Aim and Shoot in the same turn (this is a staple of combat using my On Target alternate rules, and makes for cinematically great gunmen). He did this vs. a few different foes in the last two games.

The thing is, in no case has he actually injured anyone with his rifle firing normal ammunition. In more than one case, the bullet was either stopped by magic or powers, or outright dodged by people with way too much jink in their junk. In a few other cases, the bullets ping off of armor or force fields.

But in every case, it revealed quite a lot about our foes – it was (as much as I hate to use the word) literally reconnaissance by fire. The dodge-masters reveal themselves when a single shot of 6d pi damage comes their way (I aim for the leg. Honest.). The armored guys just stand there and take it. The powered guys will do everything from an aggressive power block/parry (melting the bullets out of the air with a flame blast or something) to plucking the bullets out of the air like freakin’ Neo.

Again: that tells us how we have to fight them. And how fragile they are.

Parting Shot

I’m tempted to use this more deliberately; bring a magazine of pistol ammo (because if they just wind up being a normal human criminal in spandex, it’s less lethal) with a variety of bullet types in it. A regular bullet, maybe a low-penetration version to test for speed, a rubber/plastic to check for ability to affect metal (we fought a ferrokinetic last game). That sort of thing. Heck, an under-barrel shotgun loaded with special birdshot might be useful here too. 

The point isn’t to kill or even injure the bad guys. It’s to make them tip their hand. After that, the team can assess what’s going on and try and deal with it. We almost lost a PC last game to a super-speedster that could succeed a Dodge roll by 5-10 even when rolling a 16 on 3d6. We got lucky, in the end, but a way to see how amazing this guy was at dodging would have driven our tactics.

Some games the bad guys will be obvious, or at least tactics and threat levels will be accessible through common knowledge. Everyone knows Orcs are strong and stupid. Goblins are weaker, but quick and prone to multiple attacks and gang tactics. Feral Kobolds are weak but employ pack grappling tactics backed up with knives. Lots of knives. 

But if you don’t have time to work that out in advance, or you meet a monster with which you’re not familiar – getting some way to assess capabilities is a good idea.

Over on the SJG Forums, user Railstar replied to a thread announcing last Thursday’s topic. It’s a valuable contribution to the discussion, so I reproduce it here:

Disarms and Reach

For GURPS at least, the Reach on Disarms is one reason to use it – because you can disarm someone from the combined Reach of both your weapons. This makes it very useful when approaching polearms, or as part of teamwork against an outnumbered opponent, or with long-weapon tactics. Simply stand out of striking distance constantly disarming until you either disarm or unready their weapon, whereupon that is the opportunity for your allies to rush in.

This can work in formation combat where spearmen with long spears stand 5-6 yards away and try to rake at each other’s spears before daring advance into stabbing distance, or in a duel with longswords where you can attempt to disarm from 4 yards away. The key advantage is you can do a disarm without being close enough for your opponent to hit.

Even an unsuccessful disarm can still be tactically useful if it provokes the enemy to rush in at you – Committed Attack, All-Out Attack or Move & Attack all lower defences, creating a window of vulnerability that you and your comrades can exploit. Meanwhile, the disarm does not require you to lower your defences at all, therefore you can still use Retreat and/or Cross Parry and/or Defensive Grip to make sure your defence against their rush is still good.

The disarm penalty is prohibitive when already in striking distance of your opponent; the penalty is simply too large compared to aiming for them, and so you put yourself at a disadvantage. The more reliable tactic to disarm when close is grapple (armed grapple?) and then opposed ST checks to attempt to pry the weapon from their hands. Even that is risky, best done from surprise where you ambush someone who has a weapon while you have none, but preferable to trying to fist-fight the sword-armed guy.

Actually, attacking someone’s hand is typically easier than attempting a disarm – and that has the advantage of making sure they stay disarmed. Similarly, for an unarmed option you might find that after grabbing their arm Arm Lock will be just as effective or more so than the opposed ST checks… unless you can’t afford to get bogged down grappling them. But if you’re outnumbered while unarmed by guys with weapons, you probably should have avoided this fight.

There is another benefit to disarms in GURPS; there is no DB from shields against them, so if you’re fighting against a large shield you can use this to minimise the effect of their high defences. This can be important psychologically if your opponent likes to rely on DB 2-3, as a further encouragement to push them into a rash advance.

So disarm can be very useful before closing, with room to back off, in combination with long weapon tactics. The key thing not to do is stand within stabbing distance while you do it.

Technically, even with Reach 1 weapons you could use this tactic to an extent. If you Retreat from their attack, rather than stepping forward into range to strike back, you could disarm and take another step back.

Disarms can also be a viable counter against polearms, not just using them. If our side has Reach 2 greatswords and their opponents have Reach 5 pikes, the greatswords can still attempt a disarm from Reach 7. Defensive Attack or Defensive Grip can be used to have a good Parry while still presenting a threat that the enemy has to react to, namely the threat of losing their weapons. Once the enemy with polearms step forward to attack, then unless there are supporting ranks behind them that can give the fighter with the shorter weapon an opportunity to rush in safely and move past the reach of the polearms.

Essentially, Disarms can extend your Reach and that opens up a lot of tactical flexibility.

This is a guest post by Kalzazz on the GURPS Forums. He heeded my call to arms, and contributed this post on Disarming in GURPS. I have done some minor editing for formatting and flow, but that’s all.


This is one of those things. Yes, GURPS has rules for disarming, but I can’t offhand recall, in 15 years of playing (and DMing!) GURPS, ever actually seeing it happen.

I had to actually go and look said rules up. First, I notice that the technique can be increased above the skill, so that seems groovy, since it can always be fun to have a specialist (I next noticed no styles in MA actually had Technique Mastery for it though, I think it sounds like a valid one to me).

Then I noticed said disarming is mostly just to offset the penalties involved, less groovy:

  • You have a penalty based on size of the weapon (-5 for handguns and daggers to -3 for polearms and rifles), then a -2 if your not using a fencing weapon. 
  • The foe can defend as usual. 
  • Then they can match DX or ST based skill (against your DX or ST based skill) to keep the weapon even after you hit. (Guns however just flat DX or ST). 
  • If you are using a jitte/sai class weapon, you get +2 to the former roll 

So . . . . why wouldn’t I have seen this?

  • As a DM, I admit a certain dislike of ‘gimmicky’ rules and having enemies use ‘gimmicky’ techniques, so I tend to favor enemies that go right up next to the PCs and ‘swing for the HP’, so disarms are something I don’t really think about. 
  • If you disarm a foe . . . you still have a living conscious foe, who might well just draw another weapon and hit you with it instead. In order to pull off a disarm you needed a successful attack and a failed defense, so you could have done damage instead. 
  • The disarming rules are simple, but they aren’t something I have fully internalized either . . . also there are a few questions like ‘Lifting or Striking ST for the checks?’ 
  • Now that I have once again looked at the rules for disarms, I do remember being annoyed that defending against disarms with a gun involved straight up DX or ST (or the retain weapon technique, which goes up to stat + 5). 

Now, most of my “wouldn’t this be cool” daydreams involve “Evil McEvil tries to steal Heroman’s gun, but using his Weapon Retention skills, Heroman turns the tables and shoots Evil McEvil!” 

I have sat through and participated in enough weapon retention classes that ended with ‘and then you stun the aggressor and retreat to a safe distance to maintain control of the situation’, and the ideal way indicated to stun the aggressor is to shoot them with the weapon which you have put your good Weapons Retention skills to use to retain . . . 

Even if Heroman has maxed his Weapons Retention at Stat + 5, he is still in major trouble keeping his weapon against a true epic villain (and its not very heroic of Heroman if he prevails in the face of a garden variety mook).

What is the role of Disarming?

So then . . . . why would I want to disarm someone? 
(some of these are suggested by GURPS Forum user starslayer).

Murder is not acceptable. Murder is usually not acceptable, the drawback of disarming leaving a living foe is actually not so much a drawback when killing your foes is considered antisocial behavior. Or perhaps your foes are mind controlled or confused folks who are not actually foes!   If the enemies are likely to fail morale checks and want to disengage if you disarm them then this is a major plus. (this is suggested by starslayer).

Enemies have weapons that are awesome, and disarming is easier than killing. If your foe has some nifty weapon you would prefer not to be hit with, then you want your foe not to hit you with it. Usually this is done by hitting them until they die, however, it is easy to imagine scenarios where this is not the case. 

Nova from the cancelled Starcraft Ghost

Consider this excellent picture by Greg Horn. First off, we notice that hitting her in the face with a non fencing weapon has the same penalty as trying to hit the rifle to start the process with a non fencing weapon.

Even so, let us assume she has a helmet and that her armor is not power armor. In that case, trying to disarm the weapon (which is a big cool looking rifle, which we can assume falls safely under the things we would not like to be hit with category), requires an attack roll at -5 with our non-fencing weapon. She can defend against the attack – but holding a rifle her defense is likely dodge, and with a big rifle and armor, likely encumbered dodge. 

If we hit, we roll a quick contest of our skill vs her DX or ST (whichever is better, +2 if she holds her rifle with both hands which she likely would in a fight, or up to +5 if she has Retain Weapon). If we are skillful, we are highly likely to succeed!

On a normal attack, if we do not have a lot of ST, we would have a hard time cracking her armor, so she would likely still have her rifle on her next go and want to shoot us. So in this case, disarm was a good idea (if we can get in range of course . . . . Gun Fu has rules for disarms with guns, which might be even MORE useful!).

The foe is armed with a missile weapon. Due to the fact that missile weapons don’t get to use their skill in defending against disarms, they definitely are a good target for it. However, since Disarm is by default melee, this raises a bit of an issue of getting to melee. The old Western movie trick of shooting guns out of hands definitely has merit! 

Also notice in GURPS that a sidearm often has mediocre damage, especially against armor, but if you shoot the pistol out of someones hand, if they do not have a spare gun, they either need to close to melee (time consuming if at range) or go pick their gun back up (also time consuming). During which time you can shoot some more. 

Of course, many gun wielders (and archers) may often have extra Lifting ST for wielding bigger better weapons and lugging ammo and armor.

You have high skill and low (or irrelevant) damage. Pixie Swashbucklers could find this very useful! Disarming allows you to use DX based skill for both rolls! 

I admit this seems an edge case, as usually people who want to have high skill with a weapon also desire to have the ability to hit like a truck.

Or when facing foes ‘Only able to be harmed by Foozle’, and you are not the one with Foozle (hopefully one of your friends has Foozle).

Because it could be cool. Being cool is always a valid reason, and a DM could certainly grant a bonus to an intimidate check. Since disarming can often be harder than ‘hit them till they cease functioning’, I would totally go with that. And it is much easier to use social skills on people after you disarm them than after you kill them.

As a DM, it could be fun to spice things up! Believe it or not, I do not actually try to kill my players (or their characters) too much: I try to give them fun fights. 

Enemies using something off the wall like trying to disarm them could be cool. Also seeing their favorite sword being disarmed from them would in many cases be scarier than just taking the HP loss. Some players like giving their characters a veritable arsenal, so disarming them just gives them a chance to show off with a new weapon. As a DM I think I should try this out.

Settings where magic/psi is tied to objects. This one immediately calls to mind Harry Potter, where wands were extremely important, and lo and behold: Expelliarmus was a thing (the disarming spell).

Fire Emblem is another setting where mages use items to fling magic (though they usually carry backups, but in a serious fight you could do well to take out your foes favorite tome).

Winning the battle of public opinion is critical. In full 4 color supers/full gritty supers (where (suggested by starslayer), this can be a thing. I have been watching the old He-Man cartoon, and he seems kind of like a Super, and he definitely is a major disarm fan. 

My recollection of Smallville: Superman doesn’t lose his skills when affected by Kryptonite, just his Strength, so he could well try to disarm Kryptonite away from someone even when he can’t hit like a truck.

Disarming Thoughts

So there you have it, thoughts on Disarming by a moderately experienced GURPS DM / player who would never in a million years have thought about writing about Disarming (or thought about writing about GURPS period), but really does enjoy discussing blog posts with authors such as Douglas Cole in the GURPS forum. 

So when the gauntlet is thrown, I decided “why not take a shot at it?” Hopefully these will help spur some thoughts.

The Disarm mechanic is dead simple, so there is no reason there not to use it, and I think could well add some fun to the game when used . . . . but does seem to take some mental contortions to figure out when it should be used. 

 I would love to see more topics on such things in the future, especially Setup Attacks, as I really would like to see more discussion of them and when/if they should be used!

Also I think no post about disarming should be complete without mentioning it is often a cool thing for Samurai to do, and Samurai are cool, and Doug likes Samurai and GURPS, so hopefully mention will come up!

Welcome to another session of Melee Academy. This cross-blog event is open to all who want to write about the topic chosen, in any system. If you have something to say, write it, send me a note, and I’ll add it to the list.

Today’s Entries

Melee Academy: Disarms in Four Systems

Taking your foe’s weapons away is taught in many real-world martial arts styles. It’s presumed – correctly – that a disarmed foe is simply much less dangerous than an armed one.

In my experience, though, disarms are rarely used in RPGs. Sure, there may be mechanics for them, but for whatever reason, they’re just not done.

Why Disarm?

The first question, regardless of the game, is why disarm a foe?

  • Reduce their threat to you. This may seem obvious, but it also might not be that way, depending on the game system. If the majority of a foe’s threat comes from weapons, taking those weapons away can make a big difference in the outcome. Examples where this is probably true include D&D, where the base unarmed damage is only 1 point (plus STR bonuses). A game where it may or may not be true is Fate, where the “disarmed” temporary Aspect may or may not really impact the outcome (Thor is going to be impressive with or without Mjolnir). 
  • Reduce their defenses against your attacks. Obviously, this only matters in games where weapons play a role in defense. If taking their weapons away means that their limbs are no longer effective for defending against your attacks, this can also be decisive.
  • Impress them/Intimidate them. Sometimes you can disarm someone just to rub their nose in the fact that you can. If the goal is not to kill or injure them, but to influence someone else’s behavior, or if you need them alive, casually taking weapons away is a good way to force a gut check.
  • Killing is bad: In the classic murder-hobo mode, foes are largely for killin’. So are innkeepers, animals, the town guard, orcs, half-orcs, someone in a fair fight, or was going to start a fair fight, or if there was a woman involved. (Thanks, Jayne). But in many less constructed environments, or where the town guard are all Level 15 Champion Fighters, random death and destruction might not be the best plan. Taking lethal instruments away from all parties can keep repercussions to a minimum.
  • Change the terms of the fight. This wraps up many aspects of the above, but if a foe is a weapon fighter that hasn’t invested in other skills, taking their weapon away – if you can – will change the fight, perhaps dramatically. A gunslinger that forgot or chose not to invest in fisticuffs will be a very different threat (or none at all) once that pistol or rifle is safely on the ground or in the chandelier. A weapon fighter who suddenly finds themselves weaponless, grappled, and on the ground might just give up. You might rather fight with Weapon B than Weapon A (due to your skills) but can’t (due to his weapons) – you like the knife but he has a morning star and dagger. 

So there are lots of reasons why you might notionally like to take a weapon away from a foe. But does the game enable it? It is too difficult, too time consuming? A bad idea all around? Or a instant “I win” button?

Let’s take a gander at a few games and see.

Dungeons and Dragons, Fifth Edition

In DnD5, disarming is an optional rule consigned to one paragraph in the DMG. The short-short version is you make a melee attack, and your foe rolls a contest of Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics). If you win, you disarm them. You can gain disadvantage on your roll if your foe’s got a two-handed weapon on the defense, and size matters – the target has advantage if larger, disadvantage if smaller.

For humans, then, you’ll be rolling 1d20 + STR bonus (or DEX with a Finesse weapon) + Proficiency bonus against the best of 1d20 + STR or DEX bonus + Proficiency if you have such with Athletics or Acrobatics. Plus Proficiency again if you have Expertise in one or both of those skills.

So pretty much even-up in terms of allowable bonuses. Two fighters of equal level and stats (or if pitting STR vs DEX, but with similar bonuses) will likely claim the same primary attribute bonus and get to add proficiency. Watch out for Bards and Rogues (double proficiency) with expertise in Acrobatics or Athletics. But if you can find a foe without the ability to add proficiency to his defense, you will probably pick up a 10-30% advantage in a disarm attempt.

Is it worth it? In D&D5, probably, if your foe relies on weapons. It eats up one attack, carries no inherent downside. Unarmed damage (assuming you’ve removed their only weapon) is 1 point plus the STR bonus, so if your STR 16 Orc with a battleaxe did 1d8+3 (4-11, average 7.5) on a hit, he now does 4. Given that fighting in D&D is often a mutually ablative war of attrition, this very much throws the odds in your favor. Throw them prone, and they’ll hit you less, too.

Impressing them depends on the feel of the game, but might give advantage on an Intimidation attempt with GM agreement. No real ability to alter defenses (because it’s all about your Armor Class). So really, disarming in D&D gives you more chances to hit him and reduce his HP than you’d have otherwise. It won’t work vs. creatures that can’t be disarmed, of course – that’s not system dependent, it’s just obvious.


Taking a foe’s weapon away in GURPS can potentially be a big deal. It can be a “swingy” game, where one hit can alter the tone and outcome of a fight. I wrote about it in more detail in a prior Academy: Unarmed vs. Knife – Technical Disarms

Removing the foe’s weapon matters most when your foe is really counting on the bonuses it gives. A long stick allows swing damage, where unarmed tends to be thrust. Swords and knives can give the cutting and impaling injury modifiers to wounds. Firearms can be particularly dangerous, because nearly all of them in modern games can threaten to hit you three times or more, with injury per shot in excess of 2d, sometimes a lot more (a modern battle rifle may well be 7d for three shots, and it only takes one to kill you). On the other hand, if your ST 30 ogre punches for 3d-1 and kicks for 3d, having a stick in his hand for 3d or 3d+1 doesn’t matter much . . . though 5d+3 cut for a swung broadsword (if not more) is certainly scarier than 3d cr, both can take Joe Average out of the fight in one blow. The second is more likely to kill him outright, of course.

On the defense, this is mostly an issue with melee weapons. But it’s a real issue, because if the fighter is depending on a weapon parry afforded by high skill, removing the weapon usually forces the contest to a secondary choice . . . or Dodge, which you never run out of in most games.

Modern GURPS games are more likely to feature the “killing is bad” outlook, and taking a lethal weapon from the foe and then subduing them (both probably best accomplished with Judo or Wrestling) is a good way to keep the law looking the other way.

Mechanically, there are a few ways to go using the Basic Set.

  • You can grab the arm or hand and force them to drop it by winning a regular contest of Strength
  • You can grab the weapon itself, and take it from your foe by winning a regular contest of Strength
  • You can strike at a weapon to knock it away by first striking his weapon, and then winning a Quick Contest of ST or DX-based weapon skills.
  • You can put him in an arm lock, and do enough damage to cripple the arm or hand; at that point, he’ll drop anything in it.

Regular Contests tend to be time consuming. You have to succeed in your ST roll, while your foe must fail his. This will only be practical if you vastly outclass your foe in ST. You also need to be skilled enough to seize your foe, which given penalties for such of -2 to -4, typically, may be rate limiting.

Knocking a Weapon Away (the third option) favors high skill again, but the foe gets their best of ST or DX and weapon skill. The Disarming technique can help an attacker; Retain Weapon helps the defender.

Arm Lock is one of the better bets here, as you can raise Arm Lock to Wrestling or Judo +4, and the defense is a parry (often low). From there, you are again contesting Arm Lock or ST vs your foe’s ST or HT in order to do damage equal to margin of victory.

All of these, of course, might take multiple seconds (Knocking a Weapon Away does not), and the foe tends to be a threat to you during all of them. Many players just opt to smash the opponent hard in the face instead.

Technical Grappling

My book, GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling adds the option to disarm a foe by causing pain instead of crippling damage. The arm lock requirements are still there, but it’s a bit easier to force the HT roll that makes them drop stuff. You must be willing to deal with Control Points, of course.

David Pulver Weighs In
An important issue in any “disarm” attack rule is not just the ease of making the disarm but the ease of _recovering_ from it. 

Example: if the game mechanics give two equal fighters a 50% chance of succeeding with a disarm to knock a weapon away, but allow a disarmed fighter to pick up their dropped weapon 100% of the time with a single action (or worse, a free or move action), then disarming is a bad tactic. 

If the disarm rules, however, cause a weapon to fly some distance away, or the rules for retrieving a dropped weapon mean (for instance) that a fighter must take multiple actions, or put himself at risk (kneel, lose his defense, whatever) to recover that dropped weapon, a disarm is viable. 

Likewise, a disarm may be viable parrying with a weapon is important in the rules (as it is in GURPS) and by disarming a foe you reduce his defense and can either follow up while it is reduced, or an ally can. 

GURPS generally makes disarming viable because its second-by-second time scale, separate active defenses, and posture rules all mean  fighter is at risk if he takes time to recover a dropped weapon. 

Some other game systems, like D&D, may not have this same vulnerability, relegating disarms to special cases (“I disarm the foe’s magic sword, and my friend, next in combat sequencing, picks up that sword for himself!”) 

Night’s Black Agents

As always, Night’s Black Agents is about on-screen awesome, rather than pure skill levels. To disarm a foe, you make an attack against their weapon, which is at an additional difficulty, usually +3, which makes the required difficulty 7 on a 1d6.

That target means that in order to succeed, the player will have to spend from their general point pool. This can be by Shooting a weapon out of their hand, using Weapons to make a disarm, or with Hand-to-Hand to twist it out. 

You’ll need to spend enough points to buy the success you want, though if you roll a natural 6 on 1d6 you will often succeed regardless of opposition. Conditionally, if you shoot it, you disarm them but the weapon is damaged. If you use weapons, you automatically disarm them if your weapon is heavier (and it still works if you roll a 6 with a lighter weapon). With Hand-to-Hand, again you take it with no fuss and no muss if you roll a 6, otherwise, you have to win a contest – basically, the Hand-to-Hand contest allows a grapple, but you still have to win another contest to take possession of the weapon.

The requirement to spend so many points means that a disarm is a moment of high drama and spotlight time, since the typical points in an important combat skill for a fightin’-focused agent is likely at least 8, possibly higher, such as 12. But that means that a certain disarm might well run you your entire pool at one go. You’ve used up your camera time, bub.

Fate Core

As one would imagine, disarming in Fate Core will be Creating an Advantage. If you succeed, you get to create an Aspect to invoke, while if you Succeed with Style, you get to invoke it twice.

For this one, however, as a stunt, I would probably create a removable aspect that denied the weapon to the other party, or negated his own weapon if that was an aspect.

As an example, if you Disarm Inigo Montoya, who has the Aspect “Sword of the Six-Fingered Man,” then until Inigo succeeds on an Overcome, with active opposition from his foes, he cannot reclaim, and thus invoke, that Aspect.

For a more mundane effect, or as an add-on, if you are using Weapon Ratings, then the extra +3 you get for the effect for a sword (as an example) is no longer available. 

Parting Shot

If someone’s shooting at you, GURPS generally has you shoot them back. Likewise with weapon vs. weapon – it’s usually fairly high percentage to just attack them directly.

Now, if you have mad unarmed combat skills, no weapon, and your foe’s armed . . . well, you can either disarm them or (more intelligently) run the hell away. Or you can, again, punch them in the face, or perhaps do a Sweep, which will put them on the ground for -4 to hit and -3 to defend.

Disarming is thus reserved for very strong creatures with natural weapons (teeth and horns) that also mostly bite to grapple rather than strike.

For PCs, you need to also be willing to spend  few turns on the disarm, in many cases. Players in my experience generally make the calculation that it’s better to incapacitate by striking than muck about with grappling and disarms.

D&D is a bit better. It only burns one turn, and while it still favors the skilled (that’s a feature, not a bug), it’s a good way to pivot the fight to ones favor.

Night’s Black Agents is neither easy nor hard; it is expensive in terms of spotlight time, which is the game’s true currency. This makes a Disarm something you do when you’re feeling like being awesome and the results are worth the high resource use.

Fate Core? It’s one possible interpretation of the Create an Advantage task, just like doing a Judo Throw might be a possible interpretation. Success on a throw might be that the foe gets the Aspect “Flat on your Back!” while succeeding with style might either give two invocations of that same aspect, or perhaps two different ones: Flat on your Back! and Oof! Where’d my Lungs go? The defender might have to Overcome both in order to be back on his feet. With the Disarm, I’d probably tag the foe with the problematic “disarmed!” aspect until he can get the weapon back – if he can at all. 

+Peter V. Dell’Orto has an interesting note today about the challenges of the Retreat defensive option when using mapless combat. It’s worth a read.

I was intrigued by the option of just always giving people the benefit of increased defenses, the +1 for retreating for a parry/block, or the +3 for Dodge (or parry when using Karate, Judo, and Boxing).

Doing this will slow the game down, because there will be fewer hits and more trading of blows. Of course, I wrote The Last Gasp explicitly to slow the game down – or at least encourage pauses between frantic bits of action.

But these blog pages have seen a great deal of dialog on the subject of Evaluate, as well. In particular, the GURPS 301: Evaluate segment of Melee Academy.

Rereading my own work, I really like the idea of boosting basic “I’m standing there” defenses so that that “whoever attacks first is likely to win” flavor is diminished. In fact, one of the concepts that has been floating around for a bit is “Fully Enabled Defense,” which has you roll against full skill (or really, Skill-4) for defenses. One potential downside about that (which as Tbone notes is also present in every other contest or test of skill in GURPS other than those rolled vs half-skill, like parries) is that above Skill-14, defenses go up fast. 

Which brings me back to Evaluate. If you have naturally high defenses just by standing there, then some sort of Evaluate mechanic will be required before you start swinging.

In my suggestion to make effect rolls for Evaluate you’d want to double them (use swing instead of thrust) if using FEND type full defenses.

In any case, I think the base concept of increasing defenses at least for the first blow in a fight makes some sense, and for mapless combat, higher defenses also make sense since the players and foes will always take care to optimize their actions, and there’s little that’s obvious to stop them. 

Leveraging Tactics to back someone into a wall or on to difficult terrain would make a good alternate play here, too.

In any case, I like effect rolls, and I like the concept that you can start with higher defenses, but also with more opportunities to lower those defenses.

Setup Attacks are a deliberate opportunity to throw a blow that causes an opening. Treating Evaluate as an attack would allow “seeing what’s open” and then throwing an immediate attack as well at -6 to each while retaining defenses (or you can just Feint and Attack, if you don’t wish to retain defenses, or Feint, and then Attack, if you don’t mind taking two turns).

Based on my work with On Target, I’d probably not make the default of the Evaluate Per-based anymore, or allow DX or Per, which ever is better, for Evaluates. Looking for an opening is such a basic part of fighting that I’m not sure Per would be the right call here. 

Parting Shot

More on this later, perhaps. Suffice to say:

Peter’s comments about higher defenses in general are intriguing

I don’t necessarily care for a reasonably skilled warrior having a 50% chance (ish) to avoid an attack. Skill-12 is Parry-10 with a retreat. AoD, however, pushes this to Parry-12, for 75% effectiveness. That suggests something to me. again more later.

Defenses are on the rapid part of the bell curve in general. They tend to range from 7 to 11 for many characters, so small swings have big results. This probably makes for good games

Evaluate and target searching, either on attack or defense, is underutilized.

I like effect rolls, and I think bringing one into the Evaluate sequence would be a good way to increase the usage of that maneuver – it works very well in play for Aim, and it should have an equal impact for melee.

So I think there’s something here, but the Skill/2 type defense exists for a reason and has survived 30 years of play and playtest. I don’t think that’s just sacred cowishness.

In GURPS, you can pack a lot of action into just a few seconds. But sometimes, you just need even more. While the various attack maneuvers let you strike a blow in the name of science (as an example), sometimes, due to a surfeit of targets or a surplus of awesomeness on your own part, you just want to hit twice.

The rules provide four options to do this (five if you count Altered Time Rate, but that’s two whole turns for 100 points, so I’ll skip that). 

All-Out Attack (Double)

The first method for striking twice is the All-Out Attack option that lets you do exactly that. Of course, like with most All-Out (Whatever), it has it’s time and place, as +Peter V. Dell’Orto ably articulated.

The good thing about this one is that it’s open to everyone. Is all it costs you . . . is your ability to defend. If you hear evil laughter in the background, your ears are not deceiving you.

When is it worth doing?

First, you have to satisfy the criteria for All-Out Attacking, which are referenced in the linked post above. Ah, heck: here they are again (but there’s also more in the post). As noted, Peter wrote this:

Yes, exactly. It’s actually a very, very useful tactic for some situations. In most, forgoing defenses is a bad decision. In others, makes a lot of sense. Off-hand, here are some where it’s a good idea:

  • attacking a foe that can’t reach you.
  • attacking a foe that can’t hurt you
  • attacking a foe that can’t retaliate (unready weapon, for example)
  • attacking from total surprise.
  • attacking when your defenses aren’t good enough to matter anyway.
  • attacking when you’re confident that your extra offense will nullify the chances of being attacked back (or attacked back effectively).
  • attacking when your allies can keep you safe from harm.
  • attacking a foe that can’t really bother with you.

So the question “Why would I ever do this?” is “Sometimes, it’s a good idea.” It’s never been a good idea to do it all the time, but that goes for a lot of maneuvers. It would only be worth getting rid of if it was literally never useful, and other maneuvers filled its niche in a superior way. It’s conditionally useful, and nothing fully replaces it.

 OK, great. So you’ve got the universe’s permission to All-Out Attack – why use Double?

Well, for one, if you’ve a lot of skill and your foe has defenses not boosted by skill, such as high-DB shields, Combat Reflexes, fencing weapons or martial arts skills that give extra-good retreat bonuses on a parry, or with high Dodge but lower skill, you can Feint-and-Attack. This is a great way to smack down defenses to a hittable range in this case.

If a foe might require a lot of individual hits – perhaps because they’re diffuse or something and the best you can do is one HP per blow, this one might be for you.

Also, if you do a whole bunch of damage and are pretty sure you can hit twice, then you’re effectively doubling your damage output. And if you’re playing a DF warrior with Weapon Master or something, swinging a sword for 3d+7 – well, sometimes your foe is just a big bag of HP, and you need to hit him a lot.

Finally, this isn’t the end-all/be-all. You can stack this with some the three other choices below, replacing one of your two attacks from your maneuver with either a DWA or set of Rapid Strikes, and then after that, add however many levels of Extra Attack you have.

When not to do it?

Any time you might need to defend, obviously. You also might need to choose a different AoA option for some reason – Long, Committed, and Strong all have their place.

Extra Attack

Unlike the other options, this one costs points. A lot of points, actually: 25 points per attack. That’s enough to buy +6 to skill even after you are in the 4 points per level progression. The other thing about Extra Attack is that it more or less limits you to one blow per limb. This is mostly clear from p. B53, and made explicit with the Multi-Strike enhancement, from GURPS Martial Arts (p. 44). For 30 points instead of 25, you can hit twice with the same attack, probably your best.

Extra Attack vs Rapid Strike

Extra Attack or even two of them with your best weapon costs 25/30 points for one, and 50/60 for two (if you can only do Extra Attack with one weapon skill, you’re back down to the lower cost). Even focusing on a single extra attack (30 points), you’re looking at giving up +7 to skill, which also brings with it a likely +3 or +4 (if your skill is odd) to Parry, which Extra Attack does not do.

So would you ever spend those points on Extra Attack instead of skill? Not really . . . if you’re a human using one weapon. And if you’re only using one weapon, you’re back down to 25 points, because you buy Multi-Strike at +20% and One-Weapon at -20%. Cancels out.

But if you have four arms, you’ll want a bunch of Extra Attacks, because the basic rules say you can get but one Rapid Strike. Oh, sure, Martial Arts says you can have as many as the GM will permit, at -6 each, but the Basic Set rules say you get to turn a single small-a attack into a Rapid Strike. Extra Attack is good at mitigating that.

If you can use Rapid Strike a lot, and even more so with Weapon Master to halve those Rapid Strike penalties (though that’s not cheap), it’s still probably better to buy skill.

Multiple Skills

The 25-30 points vs +6 to skill thing works if you have one skill. If you have two (Sword and Shield, Grapple and Strike), then getting Extra Attacks starts to look like a good deal, because you have to buy them all up to make the trade-off as straight-forward as presented.

Rapid Strike

I’ve talked about Rapid Strike and Dual-Weapon attack before, first trying to collapse them into one thing, and another recasting DWA as a Committed Attack.

The basic premise of Rapid Strike is that you can accept a -6 to skill (which is a lot) in order to attack twice. You have to be good to do this. The odds of hitting more often striking twice with a -6 vs. once at flat skill only favor two attacks at skill 20+, and probably 22+, because at 20, the -6 gets you to 14, which is a crit on a 3-4, but your higher skill is a crit at 6.

Now, if you have Weapon Master, which halves your RS penalties to -3 each, the transition point is a skill of 17+ where you go ahead and strike twice.

Of course, that’s just for hits. The damage output turns to favor Rapid Strike (on an undefending target) at Skill-16 without WM, and only Skill-12 with it!

How does this work? You have a damage output of 100% on any given successful blow. So your damage per strike is your hit probability times your damage. I use 100% for convenience here. But for RS, it’s the probability you hit once, times the damage output (100%), but you add the odds that you’ll hit twice, and if you do, you add another 100% damage. So basically, the odds you hit at least once, plus the odds you hit both times.

The damage per turn argument can be strong; you’ll hit more often with a single strike but the increased chance of hitting twice really ups the return on your investment. You still need Skill-21 without Weapon Master to make it worthwhile from a damage perspective.

In either case, once you hit a net skill of 16, any surplus skill you might have goes to Deceptive Attacks, which lower your foe’s defenses.

Rapid Strike with ranged weapons probably seems the same as melee, but the often humongous penalties you take for range really put the emphasis on “shoot once, shoot well.” If you’re at 30 yards for a -7 penalty, that basically comes off the top. So your break-even with the -3 (Gunslinger) is Guns-24 (!), while with mundane skills it rockets to a pretty inhuman 27.

Rapid Strike does not come with the baggage of not being able to use the same weapon twice, so you’re good here so long as your weapon doesn’t become unready.

Dual-Weapon Attack

As noted above, I have a thing about Dual-Weapon Attack. Not sure why. It just seems like it serves the same purpose as Rapid Strike but invokes a whole host of special rules.

But no matter. It requires you to use a weapon in each hand, and is -4 per attack. You do get -1 to your foe’s defenses, which helps that blow strike home.

DWA is a good technique if you routinely carry two weapons (or a weapon and shield) that can and maybe should be used independently. DWA allows you to preserve your defenses and is stackable with all the various attack maneuvers, including one of the two of an All-Out Attack (Double).

You’re better off DWA over even a single attack for hit probability at Skill-18, and per-turn damage output at Skill-14, both easy reach of even moderate-point adventurers.

DWA has some nice features for ranged weapons, too, since some special attacks let you DWA with two arrows at once with one draw. Technically it’s twice the mass and should probably be -1 per die to damage, but who cares because Legolas is awesome, right?

Parting Shot

You’ll want to throw multiple attacks when you can, especially in melee. “When you can” will mostly be when you have pretty high skill, or decent-to-high skill plus an advantage like Weapon Master.

The All-Out version is risky, of course. Leaving yourself defenseless is a bad idea unless you know you will be unmolested, or are sporting so much overall DR that you can ignore stuff.

DWA makes a great go-to tactic if you build your guy around that. An edged shield plus a balanced weapon makes for a great combo, but since you really do want both skills at 14-18, you’ll want to ensure you don’t waste points to get there. Alternately, for the two-weapon set, a pair of shortswords lets you dump all the points in one skill.

The high cost of entry of Rapid Strike (-6 per extra shot) means that unless you have points to burn on Weapon Master, you do this when you’re so good nothing else matters. And if you have enough points for WM, you’re awesome anyway.

Finally, Extra Attack. If you’re not using the extended Rapid Strike rules from Martial Arts, this one’s good if you want to exceed the normal maximum for attacks per round (the multi-limbed creature is the go-to example here) or you have many different skills and you want extra attacks with all of them.

Arm Lock as a combat technique has had a long and somewhat storied history in GURPS. As a result of a Forum thread (that I’m not going to link to here; it’s not the point) I went back and looked at commentary and execution on the technique since 4e came out in 2004.

It’s worth looking at – what actually happens in this technique.

Arm Lock in the Raw

So, firstly, I want to note that the use of standing arm locks has a long and well documented history. The pictures to the right are from Fiore, I believe (I really need to get the original works on that one). 

All of them invoke the same basic principles: put the joint in a position where further motion is injurious, and apply leveraged force such that your foe has very limited ability to actually apply his strength, both due to unfavorable angles as well as the position of the muscles and joints being difficult for the locked person to apply significant muscular force. Some of these moves are quite painful as well, though pain can be ignored and doesn’t impact everyone equally.

There are two ways to apply an arm lock in broad strokes – offensively and defensively, and this is reflected in the GURPS rules for applying them. In nearly every case, you first must be in contact, if not control, of some part of your opponent, most often the arm (but a shoulder lock can cut that pretty finely at times).

The broad strokes are basically

  • Make contact with the limb and secure a grip
  • Move either yourself, your foe, or both into the proper position; this can be quite dynamic depending on what both of you do
  • Apply force to the joint. Slow force will usually produce discomfort, then pain, then a break or (more likely) a dislocation. Fast “vibratory” force will break or dislocate the joint pretty instantly. 

There is often movement associated with such locks. This is both for positioning, as in step 2 above, or to get the heck out of the way of a return strike. You can see in the six images to the right that in five of them, the unlocked arm is basically out of play (the bottom left is a maybe/maybe not). The other option is some sort of leg stomp, though the availability of that move will vary widely depending on what both fighters are doing. No guarantees it can be done.

Defensive Standing Arm Locks with the Basic Set and Martial Arts

Some say this is the primary way that this technique is used in GURPS, and I won’t necessarily disagree. The basic pathway here is straight-forward:

  • Parry an incoming blow with Wrestling or Judo (or another skill if you have the right gateways, such as Technique Adaptation) when your foe throws his attack. This happens, obviously, on your foe’s turn.
  • On your own turn, step into close combat and attack using Arm Lock; your foe defends as usual. If you succeed, his arm is trapped and locked. This counts as being grappled.
  • Your foe may try and break free, but you’re at a significant advantage (+4 because he’s locked, and you’re at +5 if you have him with two hands), and every failed attempt nets another penalty.
  • On the turn after that, if you want, you can rock his world. Apply pain or injury, try a throw from a lock, or whatever. This is almost always a Quick Contest, but that may depend on the technique you use. You get ST bonuses for Wrestling and such, but it doesn’t look like the +4 for Arm Lock and +5 for grappling with two hands applies here – that’s only for breaking free. The injury is based on the Quick Contest, with damage equal to margin of victory
  • If your foe is standing, you can also employ the ridiculously nasty Throws from Locks (Martial Arts, p. 118). It’s resolved as a quick contest; win it and do swing crushing, plus damage bonuses for Wrestling if you have them, to the limb. This can include the neck, if you have him in a Head Lock. That damage is swing, x1.5 for hit location. It’s basically like hitting him in the neck with a shortsword in terms of injury, and flexible DR is not effective here. Yowzers.
Instead of injury, you can also apply pain with locks, which will impair him as well as hurt his ability to break free.
The real hell about this “defensive” arm lock is that while it does require a Wrestling or Judo Parry, there’s no additional penalty associated with this. You parry, and the next turn you can slap on that lock maneuver by rolling what is often (if you’re wise) your unarmed grappling skill +4 or +6 (the +6 is for those with GMs that don’t beat you with their +Peter V. Dell’Orto ‘s DMG for asking for Technique Mastery on Arm Lock, and allow it).
So let’s look at how that works, with a focused build:
Mr. Lockenkey: ST 12, DX 12, Judo-14 (DX+2), Arm Lock-18 (DX+6).

For 4 more points and GM permission, pick up Technique Mastery (Arm Lock) [1], Arm Lock-20 [2 more], and Power Grappling, which is so evilly useful I suggested eliminating it in TG.

We’ll put him against an unspecialized but not-sucky fighter.

Mr Dodeca: ST 12, DX 12, Combat Skills-12, HT 12.

Since we’re basing this fight on a defensive Arm Lock, I chose Judo. You’ll see why in minute. 

If he can, Mr. Lockenkey goes first and takes All-Out Defense. Technicall this would count as “Turn Zero,” and I’m granting him the benefit of that move, since that’s the way I’ve actually seen Arm Lock experts (in GURPS) behave.

Mr Dodeca [starts his turn] steps into close combat to punch (punches are Reach C!). He will hit 75% of the time.

Mr. Lockenkey actually hopes Mr. Dodeca does hit, and when he does, he does a Judo Parry, +2 to Parry for the All-Out Defense, and +3 for a retreat, because that’s one of the real benefits of Judo. His Parry is 15, so barring a critical miss, he’s going to successfully parry. He is now at Reach 1.

Mr Lockenkey [starts his turn] having parried Mr Dodeca’s punch, steps back into Close Combat to roll his Arm Lock-18, unpenalized, He chooses to make this attack Deceptive at -2, for -1 to his foe’s defense. 

Mr Dodeca has Parry-9 or Dodge-9. Depending on his skill, he may well elect to retreat, giving him a net (including the -1 for Deceptive Attack) Parry-9 with Wrestling, Sumo Wrestling, or Brawling, or Parry-11 with Boxing, Judo, or Karate. Dodging, he’ll be at Dodge-11.

Mr Lockenkey will capture the arm 2 times in 3 against a fighter that isn’t trained in one of the superior retreating skills, or 1 time in 3 against a foe that dodges or is trained.

If the arm is not parried, they are now in close combat, and Mr Dodeca can just punch, and Mr. Lockenkey’s defenses no longer benefit from the +2 for All-Out Defense, dropping him to Parry-13, still a successful Parry (and thus an opening for an Arm Lock) five times in six.

Let’s assume Mr. Lockenkey successfully captures and locks the arm, using both hands to do so.

Mr Dodeca [starts his second turn] now is in an Arm Lock. He must attempt to break free, using a Quick Contest of ST. He is ST 12. Mr Lockenkey is also ST 12 . . . but gets +5 for grappling with two hands and an additional +4 for having a lock on Mr. Dodeca. This is ST 12 vs. ST 21, and Mr. Dodeca has a 2% chance of breaking free. This is basically hopeless, and should not be attempted.

Mr Dodeca’s only opportunity here is likely to try and punch Lockenkey in the face or body. Per Martial Arts, p. 119, all attacks, not just the ones with the grappled body part, are at -4 when you are grappled. So he’s starting at Skill-8. He may well want to go Committed Telegraphic here, to bring that up to Skill-14, or even All-Out, for Skill-16 – targeting the face to try and force a knockout or stun. The only other option is to either AoA(Double) to attack and break free (but it’ll still be ST 12 vs ST 17). He AoA’s to the face for the attempted stun. 62% chance to hit, less the 50% chance Lockenkey gets for his Judo Parry-10 (no retreat, no All-Out Defense). So about 1 time in 3, Dodeca will hit the face. He will roll 1d-2 for damage, and 1/3 of the time, no damage will result. 2/3 of the time, enough injury will be done to invoke a shock penalty and stun roll, which will (again) only fail 1/3 of the time.

So, let’s see: 62% chance to hit, 50% chance to fail the defense, 66% to roll enough damage to cause a stun check, which fails about 25% of the time. Chance of success: 5%. Still better than the 2% chance of winning that quick contest, though.

Mr. Lockenkey [starts his second turn] is now able to apply injury via a quick contest of Arm Lock vs. ST or HT, which in this case are both 12. On the average, Lockenkey will, on the average do 6 points of damage, which is neither crippling nor a major wound. Success by 7+ will be both.

At that point, Dodeca is at -4 to ST and DX for breaking free in addition to -4 to DX for being grappled. He’s basically toast. Lockenkey will cripple his arm eventually (likely next turn).  

Lockenkey could also have invoked Throws from Locks, which is again Arm Lock-18 vs. Dodeca’s omnipresent 12. Swing damage of 1d+2 will result – actually less damage on the average than the lock., and here Wrestling at DX+2 would increase this to 1d+4, which on the average would cripple the arm.

Offensive Standing Arm Locks

Basically, this is the same thing, but first the aggressor has to grapple the foe. Not grapple the limb, but the foe. It’s perfectly cool to grapple the torso on your first turn, resist his breaking free (he’s at -4 to DX for being grappled, you’re at +5 to ST for grappling with two hands), then use Arm Lock to capture the arm (again, he’s at -4 to DX for being grappled), then injury as usual. It takes an extra turn for the attacker.

Ground Fighting

To do this well, you obviously need the Ground Fighting technique (MA, p. 73) and spend th 5 points required to buy it off completely. You also want Wrestling rather than Judo or Sumo Wrestling in this case. You won’t be doing a ton of retreating, and that ST bonus is sweet sweet goodness.

Here, you grapple your foe (likely on the torso), and perform a takedown, which is skill, ST, or DX vs. your foe’s skill, ST, or DX. In the example above, that’s Judo-14 vs 12, winning about 2/3 of the time. Once you both are on the ground, unless your foe is similarly trained, he attacks at -4 and defends at -3, while you attack at no penalty and defend at -1. Combined with the generic -4 for being grappled, and a downed foe attacks at -7 and defends at -5, which is a whole lot to overcome – even Skill-18/Defense-12 becomes Skill-11, Defense-7.

Parting Shot

This workup obviously doesn’t touch much on Technical Grappling. I’ll save that for another post. The differences are subtle but important, and worth going over in detail.

Ultimately, against a less-skilled foe, especially an unarmed one, the Judo Parry/Arm Lock combination is really, really dangerous. Where it falls down a bit is against weapons. Not a knife or Reach C weapon, since that will follow the pattern above (though only Judo defends at no penalty vs. weapons). The smart Reach 1 fighter (such as with a sword or mace) will keep his distance, likely using a combination of Wait and Committed Attack (Two Steps) to keep the Arm Locker from stepping into close combat to grapple with him and lock him up. Attack from Reach 1 and then step back to Reach 2, and he’ll have to do a Committed Attack (Two Steps) to chase you down. If you take two steps, attack at Reach 1, and back off to reach 3. Now even if he parries you, he can’t close in and lock you up without a pretty hairy move. Plus, of course, successful active defenses against Mr. Lockenkey do damage to his limbs unless he’s smart and wears armor on his arms.

Which he’d better if he want to try this sort of tricksiness in lethal combat.

The other thing that Dodeca and his like can do is bring friends. Note that even in the most advantageous case, Lockenkey is in close combat with Dodeca for at least two turns, inviting indefensible attacks from the rear, or forcing him to use movement or drop hands from his grapple to defend. You can only parry once per limb, so it’s possible to saturate defenses to the point where Lockenkey has to release his kraken or take hits.

So, I made a small error in my original sheet yesterday, but I’ve replaced it with the right math. I also upgraded the sheet to show the relative delta in absolute percentages from any given choice to the best choice for that defender. 

That’s what led me to conclude, basically, that there really is an answer to the question of “what’s the optimum deceptive attack” strategy. There’s one caveat, though, which I’ll throw out in the beginning as a clause.

Provided you don’t know the defensive skill of your foe, the best strategy overall is to Deceptive Attack with “surplus” skill down to a level of 16.

What is “surplus” skill? Well, like mentioned in A Surplus of Awesome, you can hit important stuff, target limbs, Rapid Strike, and other things. Once you’re done that, it’s time for Deceptive Attack.

The Math

My original calculation was 

Hit chance = P(Crit) + (1-P(Crit)) * P(Hit) * P(Fail Defense).

This was a mistake. This does reduce to 

P(Crit) + P(Hit)*P(FailDef) – P(Crit)*P(Hit)*P(FailDefense)

What this should really be is the probability of a crit, plus the probability that a non-critical hit strikes home. That should be [P(Hit) – P(Crit)], since (1-P(Crit)) includes misses as well. 

So that means

Hit Chance = P(Crit) + [P(Hit)-P(Crit)]* P(FailDefense), or
Hit Chance = P(Crit) + P(Hit)*P(FailDefense) – P(Crit)*P(FailDefense), orHit Chance = P(Crit) * (1-P(FailDefense)) + P(Hit)* P(FailDefense)

So in my formulation, I’m subtracting a smaller number from the total, by the amount of P(Hit) times the last term in the maroon equations. That will be a small reduction for large skill (where P(Hit) is close to 1), but can get significant at low skill. 

In any case, it’s fixed now, so the numbers should be basically right.

Taking Completeness to New Idiotic Heights

So I’m going to start at a skill level of 13 and go up by 2 through skill 23. 

I’m not going to focus on the actual percent chances to hit much, but I’ll give some examples of the charts. 

Skill 14

You can see for Skill 14, there are only really three levels for DA. None, -1 to defend (-2 to Hit), and -2 to defend.

Based on the “pure” answer of what’s the best choice for any given defense, you can see there’s no one best answer. The odds of getting a hit in at all depend on how much skill your defender has.

If you know what that is, of course.

If you’re fighting yourself, let’s say with stats in the 10-12 range, you’re probably looking at a base Dodge of 8 to 9. That could be as low as 6 (due to Committed Attack’s -2 to Defenses) or up to 12 or 13 (Combat Reflexes and a Retreat). Parry will start at about 10, and with a medium shield, Combat Reflexes, and a retreat can be up to 14, but as low as 8. So defenses will be from a low of about 6 to a high of 14 . . . and that’s on one foe. His maneuver choice means his actual effective defense can change turn to turn as well.

Given that, you’re either at full skill or -2 to hit for a 12, but how to choose? 

Let’s look at the relative matrix. I’ve color coded the differences, taken in absolute terms from the optimal choice. Green is less than a 5% difference between the cell in question and the “best” cell for that row, and red is larger than a 20% difference. 

What you see here is a bit differently put. While the very best choice changes a bit, you can see that it can be an actively bad idea to do heavy Deceptive Attack vs. inferior foes. In fact, vs. Joe Average and his Dodge-8 and likely Parry-8 (Weapon skill at DX 10), you are worse off than optimal (which is no DA at all) one time in 4-5 tries.

Shooting down to 12 isn’t a bad choice either here, though again it’s not optimal against very bad or very good foes. 

Still, the surprise here is that if you’re not fighting a total incompetent, you will not be overly penalized in total hit chances by any level of DA that you can throw, but by and large either 14 or 12 are your best choices. 

In fact, the one that’s either the best choice or within 5% of the best choice (making no difference more than 1 time in 20) is no Deceptive Attack at all. 

You can get to this by math, too: take the average deviation of all the potential trials listed. The lowest deviation is no DA for skill 14 and 15. Now, that heavily weights Defense 17+, which is “fishing for critical hits and defensive critical misses” territory, but it does it equally, so I’ll call it indicative.

Skill 21

This skill level is good but not the top you can get to in a starting DF character if you optimize a bit, and not even close to the top if you’re into Monster Hunters or (god forbid) Black Ops. 

You can see from a pure math perspective that which is the “best” strategy changes quite a bit depending on your foe’s skill.

Anything from no DA to the most DA you can throw is viable at some point in the spectrum, and someone with Skill-21 has a base Parry-13, likely with CR, maybe some enhanced defenses as well, perhaps enchanted armor? Parry 17 is not out of the question here, but that’s still not completely in the “crit fishing” range. Still, what about if you don’t know your foe’s defenses?

The situation here becomes cooler, in a way, with regimes of “it’s stupid NOT to Deceptive attack” as well as “you’re DAing too much, silly man.”

DAing down to 15 is either optimal or within 5% of optimal i the largest range of circumstances. Lacking other information, it’s the best option in many cases, and a pretty good option in nearly all cases.

Even the one cell that’s not green is only “not green” by 0.3%. Going down to 13 gets you very little, and only against a select few foes. Choosing 17 against middle-ground foes is actually a poorer choice, but it’s good against those of much less or much more defensive ability.

Now a Bunch of Tables with Few Comments.

Rather than comment on each, I present Skill 16 through Skill 22 counting by 2, then jump to Skill-30. 

0.00% means that’s the best result you can get for that row. 

In all cases, the average result is best to DA down to 16. There are areas where DAing down to other values are locally best, but you have to know your foe’s defenses precisely in order to get this result in many cases. Since even lousy foes can be lower in active defenses by 2 without actively giving them up (Committed Attack, being grappled by RAW, being in several postures, even -3 for lying down, -4 for stunned) and can eke out +3 for retreating Dodge, and with the right mundane advantages and equipment can pretty easily hit +4 to Parry, you’re really dealing with a range of defenses on any given foe that’s around 5-8 wide. So Defense-10 can vary between Defense-6 and Defense-14, though honestly it’s really smaller than that unless you’re dodging, at least on the high end. 

Parting Shot
There are limited ranges where more DA than the 16 global best average answer are appropriate (and by the way, if your net skill happens to be odd, you want 15, not 17). If your foe is sporting a defense value of 7 + half your skill, you maximize your chances by going all the way down to 10. (You of course, give up increased chances of critical hitting, and increase your chances of missing entirely). But in every case, your odds have been increased by . . . 1%. You will take advantage of that extra optimal hit chance one blow in 100.

The sweet spot for DAing down to a skill of 12 is about 4.5+ Skill/2. So for a good warrior of Skill-16, if your foes are in the 12-13 defense range, this is where you want to be. 

Note that in an equal battle . . . this is where your foes will be. Parry starts at 11 with Skill-16, and with a retreat, combat reflexes, or just a medium shield you’re in the “go down to 12” category. So if you’re willing to give up crits and you’re fighting a foe basically as skilled as you are, this is your target. However, this will only make a difference about one time in 16 relative to the critical effects you give up by doing this from Skill-16.

If your foe is half your skill, DA down to 14. But again, you’re looking at this making a difference from between one time in 25 to about one time in 50. 

If your foe’s defenses are equal to your skill, buy down to 16 and no further. You’re crit fishing here, and buying down is actively bad. If your foe’s defenses are even one less than half your skill, again, stay at 16 – the biggest impact to your hit chances here is your own lowering of your base chance to hit. They’re so hopeless that them making a defense roll will be an active surprise.

But as the graphs show, all of this is at the margin. +Peter V. Dell’Orto summarizes some of the benefits and pains of maximizing critical hits and minimizing critical misses in one of his posts on the thread that spawned all these charts. Those can be inflection points in fights, and so they’re more important than raw “did I hit him with this particular blow” might show!

What the heck? Why do all this?

Honestly, my curiosity got piqued. Peter’s been playing DF for years, and literally wrote the book, along with +Sean Punch, on Martial Arts. I’ve heard varying opinions on this issue from lots of people, and even some charts, but nothing quite as comprehensive (or iterative) as I did here. I thought the color coding of marginal benefit was illustrative.
And they key, as always, is knowledge. If you know your foe’s defenses and the only goal is maximum chance of hitting per blow, there probably is a numerically best answer. But a few things did surprise me.
The easy answer to “what to do with skill less than 16” is “nothing.” Swing away, but don’t waste time on DA. Note that’s NET skill. If you have Skill-14, but win a Feint in a duel and then have to attack a superior foe . . . you might well want to DA to 14 or 12 on top of a Committed Attack. 
But Deceptive Attack is what you do when you’re awesome, either permanently or temporarily. 

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.