Successfully got two hours of raw video last night with +Steven Marsh , +Sean Punch , +David Pulver , J. Edward Tremlett, +Andy Vetromile, +Christopher Rice , and +Matt Riggsby for my Pyramid Panel interview for Gaming Ballistic. Did a bunch of editing last night, and the first draft is ready to be processed and transcribed.

Hangouts on Air worked just like I hoped it would, capturing all the video streams, showing the participants in the lower part of the screen, and allowing me to control who was in the main screen. We had some rough audio/video here and there, but not awful. Hopefully it’ll appear on my blog in a week or two!

It’s going to be a big file, over 800MB of video. This time, I know better and will make audio-only and (hopefully) text available at the same time, so those who want to watch can watch, listeners can listen, and readers can read.
Stay tuned. Hopefully this one will be as popular as my first, or more so: The interview with GURPS Line Editor Sean Punch (Video here, audio here, and text transcript here). 

+Peter V. Dell’Orto asked me to run him through a fight with Technical Grappling, and we spent a while on Friday night going through one.

You can read Peter’s take on this match up over at Dungeon Fantastic.

Actually, we spent nearly an hour yakkin’ it up, since he’s a great guy to talk to and we have a very large number of overlapping hobbies. Anyway . . .

So, we ran through a fight between  João Dias and a nameless mook with ST 13, DX 11, Knife-12, and Brawling-12. 

Dias won, of course  . . . but that knife was really annoying. A few armed parries caused some damage to Dias, and I walked away with some great take-aways that I’ll probably expand upon later.

  • Like I say in the book, you need to exploit Posture and Position . . . and position is the new thing. Everyone more or less knows about posture – it’s right there in the Basic Set, but the options for Position are new, and should be minded. You really, really want to work into your foe’s side and rear arcs where possible.
  • Rule Zero matters. Always. When Peter rolled our thug over on to his face after throwing him down, technically, his grounded arm wasn’t grappled, right? Yeah, bullcrap. It’s pinned on the ground, and couldn’t be used to break free, and I ruled accordingly. Be sensible. If a grappler accepts the -6 penalty to acquire the foe’s rear arc in an interesting way, reward it.
  • We didn’t even use the weight advantage rules, but when we considered the impact, it meant that the move Dias used to control our thug would have been devastatingly effective, and validated the choice to remove the “Pin” from grappling in GURPS. It’s just not needed.
  • Peter’s ultimate choice was to grapple the thug’s knife arm (for 5 CP), and then follow up by more-or-less kneeling on his neck with the other leg (a 4 CP grapple with one leg). Combined with rolling him over, keeping him prone, and the (notional) weight advantage, this pinned him very effectively
  • The rules for referred control reinforcing through multiple holds work great once you get through the calculation. I need to work on a better description for that, and can think of a neat way to implement a little helper in Excel that will streamline this immensely. It can be done in your head, but why would you?
  • If you have different grappling skills (say, Wrestling and Judo) you will have different Trained ST with each, based on your relative skill level with each. So choose carefully what you’ll do. Control Points, once earned, are generic, so using (say) a superior Trained ST with Wrestling to gain CP and then using Judo to do a throw, spending those CP, and following up with Wrestling for a Takedown or (perhaps surprisingly) an Arm Lock is pretty key.
  • Dias stacked up a dominating positional and control point advantage over the thug. He was “pinned,” but he could still eke out an attempt to break free using an All-Out Telegraphic Attack for +8 to skill. That’s the go-to option when you’re trapped under something skillfull, strong, and/or heavy. In effect, you’ll likely be crit-fishing for a “multiplies CP by X” result . . . and again, this is likely correct.

The Most Important Point

Lastly: the most important points you will spend when creating a ground fighter who is interested in takedowns, throws, and lockouts is going to be buying off the Ground Fighting penalties for posture. The -4 to attacks, -3 to defenses you take by being prone is absolutely crippling at moderate point totals, and buying it off to where you are minimally impacted (even going so far as to buy Technique Mastery to totally buy off all penalties) is really crucial.

The relative disparity in “knows Ground Fighting” and “doesn’t know Ground Fighting” is really dominating in fights that go to the ground – this is true in realty as well. It’s not that a guy can’t get stuff done on the ground: He can. But he’ll have to make extensive use of All-Out Attack (Determined) and/or Telegraphic Attack to do it.

Parting Shot


Still quite pleased with the emergent behavior coming out of the rules, and Technical Grappling is a good addition to GURPS. (Everyone go buy it! I want to do more for SJG, and nothing says “let him write more” than good sales.). There are a few places where we can make it even easier, and I’ll get right on that.

I did a practice run with some selfless volunteers last night using Hangouts On Air.

Overall, I was pleased enough that I’ll use it for my upcoming video panel discussion this weekend.

I do have some questions, though, and if there are users out there with more experience at this than I have who can answer, that would very much help me.

* Is there a way to restart a broadcast once you stop? Once I clicked “End Broadcast” to stop recording, it seems the only way to restart and capture another “segment” is to go into the open screen, re-invite everyone (and ensure they’re off the previous call), and start all over again.

* Is there a way to NOT broadcast this to the entire planet? I guess I don’t mind, but I’d really like to capture the video, edit it on my own, and then release it into the wild.

* Hangouts “Lower Third.” It works great for me, but occasionally not for others. Does it always work if you use Chrome? Are there extensions or applications that interfere with it? Will it work with any browser? Having the name and affiliation of each speaker on the screen as they talk is a great help to understanding.

* For moderation purposes . . .is there a good way, or any way, to “recognize” a speaker so that everyone knows who “has the ball,” so to speak? Would be quite useful since there will be as many as eight people potentially chatting at once!

Can’t wait to see how this works out, and I hope it’s at least as good as the interview I did with +Sean Punch. But feeling a little nervous at the number of things that could go wrong that don’t involve the moderator acting like an ass.

In +Christian Blouin‘s campaign they’re using Technical Grappling (which is now over 250 sales!) and this seems to lead to more attempts to do grappling-related things. I consider this a win.

One thing that came up during play was Drolf, +Justin Aquino‘s character whom I was driving for the day, was going to run by an orc, dumping him onto the ground as he did.

We debated between Hook and Sweep very briefly, but were all inclined to sweep. Still, I’ve been thinking about sweeps vs. takedowns (in TG, Force Posture Change) a bit.

Let’s step on to the Grappling Mat for some guidance:

Sweep

Skill-3, Wrestling at -4 was added as a “new basic attack.”

You roll to hit with Sweep, and if successful, you roll a Quick Contest Sweep or Trained ST vs his own Trained ST, DX, Acrobatics, or best grappling skill.

If you hit, he fails to defend, and you win the contest, he falls prone. You can’t change your posture to get bonuses.

The rules are the same if you start from a grapple, but you still can’t leverage posture changes. A grapple isn’t required, though, and if you sweep someone from a grapple, the assumption is you may not retain CP (p. 19 in the Takedown Table).

Force Posture Change/Takedown

A takedown in this manner requires a grapple. It’s also a contest that is basically even up: both parties’ Trained ST, DX, or best unarmed grappling skill. However, you take penalties based on what you want to do to them, and what you do.

Throw him prone, but stay standing yourself? You’re at -4, similar to a Sweep with Wrestling. Go all the way down with him, going prone yourself? You’re even-up.

You can maintain CP during this move unless you run into impossible positions (p. 11).

Parting Shot


This isn’t profound, but it drives tactics and intent. You do FPC when you want to retain a grapple, doubly so if you don’t mind (or actively wish) to drop with him.

You do a sweep when you want to remain standing, and want to put your foe on the ground without grappling him first.

If you have high Trained ST as your forte, you’ll roll against that in both contests, so you’d only do FPC if you really want to (a) retain CP or (b) change posture with your foe. By the way, the easiest way to retain CP while remaining standing is to ensure you have a grapple of a limb – this is commonly taught in my HRD class, and you can maintain that grapple from standing or (more likely) a crouch position.

Sweeps are really sweet when moving through a target, or if you really need that mobility. The fact that they default from weapon skill at -3 also means for warriors that have sky-high melee weapon skills (and maybe ST) but not a lot of unarmed grappling oomph they can put a guy on the ground at a decent clip. A DF character with ST 14 and (say) Melee Weapon at 20 will Sweep at 17 and have a Trained ST of 15 which isn’t too shabby.

I never regret talking to +Peter V. Dell’Orto. Today were were chatting over Skype, and in a few short moments, a few things he said triggered a flow of ideas that will result in me revamping a long-pending Pyramid article. The article covers three topics. Well, maybe four. Has to do with weapons, using them and misusing them.

I’ve got the core of an idea, but the implementation required too many “well, this is necessary complexity. Trust me!” moments. Peter’s been on me for this for a bit now, and while the rules as written do work, something’s always nagging me that they could work better.

Now, I think, borrowing from a few other concepts already in the article, they will.


I’d say you can’t put a value on that, but you can: about $250. Maybe less once I strip out all of the truly unnecessary stuff out of the article. But in the end, it will provide a level of simplicity relative to what’s there now that will make the article much, much more likely to be actually used in play.

The moral of the story here is simple: Find a constructive critic who will help you pare your work down to bare, pure elements. Find a principle or three, and stick to them.

Three that I’ve learned from Peter?

1. The Rule of Awesome. Live by it.
2. Make sure it works in play. Correlary: If it’s not a problem in an actual game, fuggeddabouddit.
3. Extra die rolls must perish in flames

The third one might be suspended in certain circumstances, such as when you can write a MapTools macro to take a few easy inputs and resolve many rolls automatically. But even so, the dice are there to facilitate the story and to keep things uncertain and risky. Stock option theory tells you that the value of a choice which is absolutely certain is zero. Same thing with dramatic storytelling, and why when (say) +George R R Martin kills off main characters in Book 1, it makes you sit up and take notice. All of a sudden your choices are far more important.

Anyway, I got a page of short notes and a real sense of how the new section is going to turn out. If nothing else, I have to wonder if I need to excise that new bit, plus one more rule, and just send it in. The other bits can wait.

Movement in GURPS combat is incredibly generous. Every turn, you may begin from a standing stop, travel in one second (or a part of it) up to your Move, which may be 4-7 yards, and wind up perfectly still and balanced, ready to either not move, continue your pace, turn, accelerate to attack speed, or whatever.

Is this realistic? Well, Usain Bolt in his first second of one of his world record sprints managed to cover about 40% of his assumed Move, which was calculated as his max velocity during that race divided by 1.2, to account for his sprint bonus. So even the best sprinter on the freakin’ planet should probably be limited to Move/2 for acceleration in realistic games.

Also, that kind of stop/start is tiring. You can easily exhaust yourself vibrating all over a sparring arena at the equivalent of a healthy jog (Move 4 is about 8mph, or an 7.5 minute mile; Move 6 is a 5 minute mile pace even without a sprint bonus!).

Anyway, so The Last Gasp has costs for movement that are, in a word, punishing. To do a run-around attack as described in the Basic Set can cost something like 8-9AP due to all of the movement and sharp turns, plus the attack itself.

So despite the emergent behavior that fights slow down a bit to allow people to recover their wind, the fact of the matter is there’s a huge disincentive for a character to stir from his starting spot at the beginning of combat.

There are two versions of the movement costs presented in the article, though the wording is (shame on me) not entirely clear. One version is that you pay for every step, at a cost of something like 1 yard for free, and 1 AP for each additional 20% of your Move. Or something like that. The other version is that you pay for acceleration, but further maintenance of that velocity is free. So you still can encounter the phenomenon of “activation energy,” where players won’t want to make the AP spend to get going.

So despite the Lulls and Flurries that are an observed emergent behavior of the Action Point rules, the battlefield might not be as mobile as you’d like.

Keep it Simple, Keep it Safe

So, what to do? Well, one suggestion on the forums was to make a “movement only” AP regeneration pool. That’s certainly one way to go, and probably adds the right level of points to the character sheet for those who have reduced movement costs. But if we try and keep it simple, I’d do something like this:

AP Costs

  • Acceleration up to Move/2 is similar in concept to an Attack. It costs 1 AP. You still get your first step for free, and beyond that, any acceleration up to Move/2 costs that single point.
  • Acceleration up to Move is like an All-Out Attack, and costs 2 AP. Again, you get the first step for free.
  • Acceleration from full Move to Sprint speed costs 1 AP.
  • Deceleration from movement other than a step costs 1 AP if you were moving up to your full Move, and 2 AP to stop dead from a sprint. That should probably involve a DX and/or HT roll to see if you can do this without injury. You may decelerate at up to 20% of your Move per second for free; sort of an anti-step.
  • Facing changes can either be entirely free, or cost 1 AP for 2-3 facing changes in a move action, or 2 AP for 4+ changes within a move.

AP Maintenance Costs

Moving about is still tiring, but one way to deal with this is that at the beginning of each turn, if you’re moving more than one step at a time and wish to maintain that speed, make a HT roll. Succeed and the AP cost of your movement goes down by 1; succeed by 5+ and the AP cost of your movement goes down by 2. On a critical failure, you slow down by (say) 20% of your move, while on a critical success, you need not spend any AP to continue your speed next turn.

Another way to go, which is more in line with some of my original thoughts many moons ago, would be that you roll HT (or Running) every turn for sprinting, while at lower speeds, you roll every N turns (and I’d probably try and invoke the Speed/Range progression here somehow).

Parting Shot

To create a mobile battlefield, there needs to be a lack of disincentives to move. If you can easily translate from place to place with limited AP spend, but actual fighting is AP intensive and creates incentives to pause, evaluate, and generally chill out, then you have created a situation where players and NPCs can come to each others aid, and repositioning doesn’t simply deliver an exhausted combatant to be ground to dust.

The current movement rules don’t help create that mobile battlefield, and may even be too restrictive even in a realistic mode. Flat-out lowering the AP costs for movement should go a long way to encourage people to fight for position as well as strength of arms.

The other thing that changing AP cost avoids that requiring something like AP Recovery advantage does not is that it can be dropped into existing games with existing characters. You don’t need some expensive (and some of the AP recovery rates are very expensive, on the order of a hundred points or more) advantage to be suddenly tacked on to your character. You just change the costs and go.

That being said, if one were looking for a switch, to allow differentiation between “can move about the battlefield like a ferret on crack” and “everyone else,” I’d probably tack on something equivalent in point cost to Trained by a Master. At 30 points, that’s like getting a 2/3 discount on recovering 5-10 AP per second for use only in movement. So if you’re looking for a design toggle:

New Advantage: Ferret on Crack

30 points
This advantage lets you alter the AP costs for movement to a lower value, as described above. In games where the GM has decided that the AP costs above are just right for realistic characters too, perhaps this halves AP costs (round up), so that it only costs 1 AP to move anything beyond your step, and gives +5 to HT when rolling to avoid AP loss when maintaining speed.

Will it work in play?

No idea! Lowering AP costs for movement seems like a good step in general to enable a more mobile battlefield, and keeping AP costs to the 1 AP for effort and 2 AP for strong effort theme in the original article makes a lot of sense.

With special guest star +Peter V. Dell’Orto

Amazing what you find on your computer. Your work computer no less. This file was dated from 2002.

I’m not sure the Quad ST idea will really have legs. Too mathematically intense, perhaps.

(Heave…HO!)2
Quadratic Strength for GURPS
by Douglas Hampton Cole and Peter V. Dell'Orto
 
     There has been a long-running debate over how to handle lifting and strength in GURPS for a long time.  The original GURPS 3ed rules, which were that you could lift a certain multiple of your ST depending on how many hands were used, and how braced you were, had the benefit of simplicity.  You can pick up up to 25 times your strength if you lift with both hands.  Extra effort rules allowed you to lift more than this:  for each -1 to the success roll (made against ST), you could bump your lift up by 10%.  
     However, even with this methodology, it can sometimes be a bit difficult in GURPS to whip out an NFL lineman or pro-wrestler type…or even someone who spends quite a bit of time in the weight room.  While they're not found in every household in greater Woebegon, we probably know personally at least a few people who can fairly casually bench press well over 300lbs, and these people are not professional athletes.  This makes figuring things out a bit problematic.  If you declare that this lift is using the "extra effort" rules, how is it they whip out sets of ten?  If you declare that's a two handed lift, that's about ST12!  Implying that Joe Average can bench press about 250. Suddenly I feel the need to go to the gym.
     The difficulty is simply traced--real world lift ability varies by more than a factor of two from "average" to "upper limits of human potential," which is what strength scores of 20-25 are supposed to represent.  Linear ST (where lift is a multiple of the ST stat) doesn't quite have the range to cover human variation.
     One of the more popular alterations to how lifting ability is calculated in GURPS is to calculate lift based on the square of the ST score.  Referred to as "Quadratic ST" or "Quad ST," it has the advantage of being a bit more grounded in real-world physics, but more importantly expands the range of lift that "normal" humans can hoist.  Instead of ST20 lifting twice as much as ST10, your budding bodybuilder can lift four times as much (twice the stat yields four times the lift).
 
Lift Basis and Real World Lifting
 
     All the calculations of lift ability, and also encumbrance (the two primary bits that are derived from the ST score that would change using Quad ST) are currently based on the ST score directly.  To move to Quad ST, it will be useful to define a number that replaces ST in all the lift calculations, called "Lift Basis," equal to ST x ST / 10.  By itself, this small change allows much more diversity at the extremes of ST scores, while keeping the "average" character much the same as they always were. 
    Now that you've done that, how much can you actually lift?  The basic would indicate that "one handed lift" is six times Lift Basis, and "two handed lift" is 25 times Lift Basis.  While those are good generic descriptions, they don't necessarily connect well to what people might do in a weight room--it might be fun to be able to tell your fellow players "my character can easily curl over a hundred pounds…in one hand!"
   So how much can a character lift?  Here are some guidelines, based on 
 ***
     

> 1. The Quad ST formula and “lift basis” methodology

Okay, cool. The “Designer’s Notes” on why 6xST for one handed lift and 25xST for two-handed lift imply Benching X or Squatting Y would be very useful.

> 2. Extra effort rules and options (base off of HT, ST, DX; what
> happens when you fail)

Fine with me. Naturally, I like HT.

> I’d also like to incorporate your suggestion that Extra Effort be limited in most circumstances to a relatively small amount, but include the “scale” for super-heroic lifting – which fits in as well for Conan as for Superman.

An explicit mention that EE in the article can be substituted in Linear ST games would be nice – just takes a sentence, and I’m pretty sure it works there. I’m using it now, and it is working fine.

> 3. Some simple examples of real-world weightlifting records 4. Equipment used to set those records and what it does to the HT roll (I”m assuming HT because I like it best)

Yeah, me too. I’ve been swayed away from ST, and I was never really convinced on DX (too many lifters are big, blocky guys who couldn’t outlumber a slug but could pick up a house…). I also like the effect having one roll determine both success and possible injury, which is another pointer towards HT.
We should do this the same way I suggested last time this came up – you be the primary author, so you get the final word on what goes in or not. It works better if someone can end things with “I like it this way so it stays.” Since you’ve done most of the work, it’s only fair that you get to yea/nay parts of it.

***


Welcome to the August installment of Melee Academy, which as always is a fine way to celebrate the fact that Thursday is GURPS-Day.

Today’s topic was inspired by a pretty long forum thread on using reach weapons, and the impact of the Wait maneuver providing what seemed to be a sure-fire way of closing to combat range with a Reach 1 weapon. We’ll assume for the same of simplicity that Fighter 1 has a Reach 1 weapon, a broadsword, axe, or something similar, and Fighter 2 is wielding a Reach 2 weapon, usually conceived as a spear (with a thrusting mode only for imp damage, a tip slash for a small amount of cutting damage, or using the butt to smash). However, it could just as easily be a naginata (sw cut) or dueling halberd (many effective modes) or other polearm, which could conceivably have swing or thrust modes that do impaling, cutting, or crushing damage.

Still, the principles here probably can be said to apply to any reach discrepancy, whether it be our Reach 1 vs. Reach 2 (or likely 1,2) example above, but could also apply to a punch (Reach C) vs kick (Reach C,1) fight.

But before we get into that, what are the sources of reach advantage?

Size: Larger creatures may well have larger reach, or be able to (as +Mark Langsdorf notes in his own entry on shield walls) simply negate a reach advantage by walking over it.

Weapon: The easiest way to get a longer reach is (obviously) to pick up a long weapon. Spears, polearms, some longer swords, two-handed axes and flails, and the ever popular staff all have at least Reach 2, and some are even Reach 2,3. Some pikes can be Reach 6, but those are not exactly practical adventurer-level gear.

Maneuvers: There are a few different ways of picking up an extra hex of Reach above and beyond the natural one for your weapon of choice.

All-Out Attack (Long) gives you a flat-out extra yard of reach, at the low-low cost of all ability to defend. The possibly suicidal nature of All-Out Anything has been discussed before!

Committed Attack is an interesting one, since it allows an extra step, which can explicitly be used to step into range, and then step out (called in the text ‘attack and fly out’). The trick to watch for here is that your defensive option are quite limited. To quote the text:

The attacker cannot parry with the hand(s) he used to attack, block if he attacked with his shield or cloak, or dodge if he kicked. He can use any other defense, but at -2. He cannot retreat.

So when doing this, you really need to be a bit careful, since if you declare Committed Attack and then press into someone’s Wait, you have precluded, by maneuver selection, a retreat.

This does not add extra reach, but might make it easier to leverage a reach advantage. +Peter V. Dell’Orto talks to this in his own discussion of how to keep a reach advantage.

Wait, Wait!

Many interesting but frequently futile discussions arise when conducting thought experiments that feature two fighters on an infinite featureless plain. In our case the forum thread pointed out that if Reach 2 decides to be aggressive and attacks into Reach 1’s Wait by closing to a two-yard distance (optimum striking range for his pole weapon), Reach 1 can have his Wait trigger on Reach 2’s step, which means he can step instantly to a 1-yard distance, and attack Reach 2 first, seemingly bypassing Reach 2’s spear. Just like magic.

As Peter points out, and as +Sean Punch noted in two replies, this is somewhat reflective of the spearman being aggressive. He’s not taking the right steps that can guarantee him the first shot – largely using the Wait himself.

Who’s waiting for Godot?

For the consideration of reach, there are really four situations that can be dealt with here, looking at two combatants, flat featureless terrain. So, with that:

Both Waiting


This one can be not terribly interesting, in a way. Both fighters are effectively immobile, unless one or both of the house-rule Step-and-Wait, or even Wait-and-Step are available. This can last a long time- effectively forever, unless some external factor pushes the decision. The Step-and-Wait / Wait-and-Step might trigger cascading waits (Martial Arts, p. 108).

Now, the Cascading Waits situation is interesting, because it largely means the more skilled fighter wins, with Reach breaking ties according to A Matter of Inches (Martial Arts, p. 110, in the box).

But there really isn’t – and frankly, I don’t think there should be – a way for the spearman to enter into a Wait (meaning it triggers) and automatically defeat the Waiting guy.

The Wait-and Step is an interesting option, basically invoking Cascading Waits any time the entering character wants. That’s cheesy, so perhaps you shoud treat that as sort of a Committed Wait, where you take -2 in the Contest to see whose Wait triggers first, and/or suffer some of the penalties associated with a Committed Attack.

Reach 2 is Waiting


Nightmare for Reach 1, and this is the way most people figure this should work anyway. The guy with the long weapon Waits until Reach 1 steps to three yards away, then Reach 2 steps and attacks. This is a nice place to use “attack and fly out,” since it puts you back to 3 hexes distance, and Reach 1 has already used his step – he may have even retreated back to Reach 4! He’s going to have to do something desperate to get inside of you – possibly a Move and Attack (max skill capped at 9) or if allowed, Heroic Charge, which still must deal with the spearman’s Wait, but if he lives, can close the distance perhaps to strike.

Reach 1 is Waiting


This is the case that bugs people where Reach 2 guy has a hard time stepping into attack range (2 hexes) without triggering Reach 1’s wait. Of course, Reach 2 gets to defend, so proper investment in Grip Mastery and/or Form Mastery, to allow claiming that +2 to Parry for using a spear like a staff helps a lot. You can use All-Out Attack (Long) to jab at your foe from a distance that he can’t reach, but it sets you up, if you fail, to receive a pretty ugly Heroic Charge or even just a Committed Attack with two steps, which will close from Reach 3 to Reach 1 to split your skull.

Neither is Waiting


Well, you don’t have to worry about triggering a Wait, so Reach 2 will want to use Attack and Fly Out a lot, to step to Reach 2, attack, and then back off to Reach 3. That forces Reach 1 to also use a Committed Attack (two steps) or All-Out Attack (Long) himself, if he doesn’t resort to Heroic Charge or the skill-capped Move and Attack. All-Out Attack will also close the distance up to half move, but we’ve already discussed why that’s a bad idea.

For the Reach 1 guy, if he’s not entering into a Wait, he’s still going to need a way to deal with moving through the threatened area, which really is the multiple-step options above, Committed Attack being the go-to here.

Bring Friends


The infinite featureless plain with only two combatants on it? Yeah, that doesn’t happen much. The reason why some of the Wait strategies make a lot more sense in a more real environment is that all of these individual combatants are really worried about the random arrow from the small cluster of orcs downrange, or the other skirmisher running around trying to flank them. Once that wait is triggered, for example, the guy can act . . . but what if he runs into another spearman who is also Waiting, with a longer weapon, protecting his brother? Alternating who Waits and who advances might be one way of dealing with the Reach 1 guy with the uncanny ability to bypass the spear tip.

Mark lays out all of this and more in his post, where the more friends, the merrier, and he really gets into stacking the deck to the point where the Reach 2 guys are not foolish to All-Out Whatever.

Parting Shot

Having a long weapon can be a real advantage. But it’s sort of the equivalent of a minor attack or defense bonus. It’s not the decisive fight-ending aspect, and one has to be tactically wise in how it’s used in order to keep it in the “win” column. Especially when certain weapons are awkward to use at Reach 1 (long weapons in Close Combat can get tricky, as well), some tactical effort and ideally, help from friends is a good idea. Aggressively closing the distance is not a good way for the spearman to preserve a reach advantage! Further, having a long weapon is no guarantee that a shorter-weapon guy can’t get inside your guard.

The “good” news is that Waits are obvious. So you should never be surprised when you step into range and short-weapon-guy’s Wait gets triggered. You know it’s coming, and you also know that he can close two hexes of Reach or take two steps with the right choice of maneuver. If you approach with a Reach 1,2 weapon to a Waiting foe at that distance, well, you know what you’re getting into.

Another trick here is to make that attack against you that you know he’ll get into something a bit less serious. Employ a Defensive Feint on approach (Martial Arts, p. 101), lower his attack roll, then step into range. His attack is more likely to miss, making your reduced defenses from an Attack and Fly Out less severe. Using a Setup Attack of some sort (Defensive Setup Attack?) might be an interesting option as well, but would require further house rules.

Sorry for the hiatus in the issue review. I was on vacation, and more or less out of contact with computers and stuff. I did get in a major edit of a Pyramid article I’m writing, which was good, but by and large I was unplugged save for my cell phone. And my TF300 tablet. And a laptop. But relatively speaking, I was away from my computer.

Yeah, I’m not buying it either.

Anyway, this brings to a conclusion the full-issue review of Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay. As I said when I started, this issue, from front to back, is on-topic for this blog. Plus, of course, I kinda had an article in it, which means everyone should go buy it. Maybe twice.

Random Thought Table ( +Steven Marsh ): 
Make Each Shot Count


Steven’s weekly endnote to each issue is tied to the theme being presented. He’s not a crunch guy, at least in the RTT, and so he’s often discussing the in-and-out of plot development and story pacing. This RTT is no exception. He talks about the methods for keeping the focus on the guns, and the plot, and the plots about guns.

Be Resourceful

This section takes some time to discuss how to play fast and loose with something that is usually subject to strict resource management constraints. It also turns this on its head, with a question for those of us with little time or patience for bean-counting: If you’ve already decided that you’re not going to track shots, how do you introduce and make fun a section of an adventure where ammo management is the key plot point?

The Section Title So Long I’m Not Even Going To Try


But it’s a good pun. Well, sorta: When a Wound Makes a Guy Lycanthrope Up and Die, That’s Ammo-y. You be the judge.

You’ll see what I did there in a minute.

A very short shout-out to when it’s not the gun, or the amount of ammo or total quantity of dakka in question, but the kind. When your target is a werewolf, or something that Just Won’t Die unless you shoot it with a rocket launcher or something, then the plot revolves not around lots of bullets, but just a few of a special type, at the right moment.  And what’s more, if you don’t use them, perhaps you can keep them around as loot or a life insurance policy. One of the hardest things for some players to do is to use up expendable but non-replaceable items. So make them have to do it, make them want to, but make them also realize that yes, they’re using a precious resource that they might need later on.

Our Greatest Fear . . . A Dusty Corridor

Some guns harder to clean than others

Weapons require cleaning (though some weapons less and some more than others), and focusing on the need for maintenance, and what can happen when it’s not done, is a plot point that has little to do with the usual Acc, Dmg, 1/2D Range, Bulk type of statistic. Ensuring that they go boom when they are so commanded, and realizing that having to take the time and effort to service the firearms carried, is an important part of real-world gun care and feeding, and ensuring that spare moments are actually occupied with this makes sense. Especially if the PC is supposed to be a Tier One operator or something.


Shoot Carefully

I’m shocked, shocked that the quote used wasn’t “Hey, Ryan, be careful what you shoot at. Most things in here don’t react too well to bullets.” – Captain Ramius (Sean Connery), The Hunt for Red October. Perhaps it was too trite. But the helium example? Helium doesn’t combust with anything. Perhaps the goal was irony.

But one way to enact serious gun control is to make it so that every shot that doesn’t go to plan is a serious risk. They did it in Red October, and they did it as well in Aliens, where the standard bullets in the pulse rifles were 10mm explosive-tipped caseless rounds. Under a giant power plant where apparently even a small containment breach would trigger a 40 megaton explosion. In a fusion reactor. Maybe it was the audience’s Willing Suspension of Disbelief that exploded? But I digress.

Plenty of Shots, Not Much Time

Finally, in a quick text box that is probably barely longer than some of the notes in this mini-review, Steven notes that one way to keep the tension and ignore number of bullets is to focus on having a very, very limited time frame to accomplish a goal. He (correctly) points out that one or two seconds of GURPS combat, enough for everyone to have gone once in the usual “GURPS turns are interleaved and hard to figure out until everything’s over” way, can take a long time to resolve, and thus create much more tension than might be expected.

Parting Shot


While not rules-centric, the overall points are well made. Roleplaying game characters do not very often have that hesitation to start gunfights, seemingly are immune to legal structures, and frequently can – or are even expected to – resolve nearly any situation with violence. Bringing a sense of tension back to this can required emphasizing different aspects of the firearm, not just “how much damage does it do, if you can hit” but also “can you get through the fight with limited resources intact” or even “can you get through the next ten fights with enough resources intact.


Odds and Ends

The final page in the issue points out other places where you can find bullets that are exotic that are already published in GURPS books, including Horror, High-Tech (the original and both Pulp Guns volumes), Monster Hunters, Loadouts: Monster Hunters, Low-Tech, and – oddly enough – Dungeon Fantasy 8: Treasure Tables.
Ballistic’s Report

This issue rocked on toast. Every single article was well written and/or filled with good stuff. It had the first part of what could easily have been a full e23 supplement on the Modern Warfighter. It had everything you could have ever wanted to know about one of the most famous attack helicopters ever. It had a gun company (for use as a patron or supplier) and a historical example of a gun that didn’t hit it’s target marketing-wise, and could break your shoulder and set your ship on fire to boot. It contained a lot of detailed optional rules for those whose willing suspension of disbelief does not extend to dodging bullets. For the supernatural set, it listed some things to blow out of the muzzle that aren’t jacketed lead or mild steel. To wrap it up, the editor points out that firearms are plot devices as much as they are instruments of destruction, and a wise GM will treat them as both.

I’m biased towards such, but this was a great issue, and the title “Gunplay” doesn’t really do justice to the breadth of material it covers. In fact, the only article that really dealt with actual gunplay is my own. The rest are equipment-based or plot-based, and more broadly useful than the issue’s moniker might think!

This is an article-by-article review of Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay. While I don’t usually do this, the subject matter of this issue is just what this blog ordered, and even if one of my own articles is in it, I really think every article, and nearly every word, of this issue is worth reading. So, a series of (hopefully) shortish posts. You can find the installments on Modern Warfighter: Gear here, as well as The Devil’s Chariot, Brock-Avery Guns, Dodge This, and The Nock Volley Gun.

Magic Bullets ( +Christopher Rice )

This is all about how to kill supernatural critters. The article is basically only one section, with a bunch of sub-sections to divide it up by categories. It’s two pages long, an equipment list of a very specialized type. In fact, Chris notes that it was an Appendix Z submission that was padded out a bit to make it long enough to stand on its own, so brevity was in fact, one of the article’s mission statements. Bear that in mind when I note that certain things could have been added: perhaps, perhaps not.
Ultimately, this is a different type of article than the rest, largely because while Ken, +Hans-Christian Vortisch, and Graeme are reporting stats on real-world and verifiable equipment, +David Pulver was inventing a company with a few real-world-based guns to go with it, and I created some mechanics (which only have to feel right), +Christopher Rice is inventing stuff. He’s also playing in my sandbox, as it were – I didn’t call this blog Gaming Ballistic for nothing, and that “Doctorate in GURPS Ballistics” thing in my Steve Jackson Games author bio is only sort of a joke.

So, I’m going to do sort of two reviews. One from a game-able perspective, the other from a total “bring out your nitpicks!” perspective. I should do full disclosure, though: I playtested the article (perhaps peer-review is the better phrase), so if some of these later nits came up only now, that’s my fault for not pointing them out to Chris back then.

The Right Ammunition

Real-world .30-06 wooden training bullets. So they say.



After a brief introduction that basically notes that certain supernatural critters require just the right ammunition type (werewolves and silver, right? Vampires and wood?), the article starts right in. For simplification purposes, it notes that weight will remain unchanged unless otherwise noted, and the big difference will be cost.

Throwing realism aside, this is totally the right call. It might even be the right call in spite of any “realistic” nitpicks (oh, I’ll do that later).

Following the intro, he breaks the bullets down by payload type.

Liquids


Ultimately, he treats these as a type of hollow-point bullet, complete with increased wound channel modifier, armor divisor, and increase of DR for items with DR 0. Each liquid also gets a linked effects, which is explicated in footnotes.

Irradiated Vampire-killers. Accept no substitutes.

There are nine liquids listed, from the el cheapo garlic extract to the downright spendy silver nitrate tear gas.

The only flaw that I think I’d note here is that it would have been useful to have noted which type of creatures each bullet is typically sovereign against. This is a partial gripe: he does note that asafetida is ward against spirits, and some of these are obvious or at least relatively common knowledge. “Wolfsbane” is probably not going to be used against an insane Frog Prince. Or if so, the bullet itself is likely going to do just fine.

Liquids: The Nitpick Version


The real nit here is the assumption that these bullets will have unchanged weight. Nearly every one of the loads is lighter than the copper-jacketed lead it replaces. Hell, silver nitrate has a density of 5.35 g/cc, while jacketed lead pistol bullets will tend to have a density between about 10.0 and 10.8, in my experience.

That means that to have a constant weight, they will be quite large. Probably large enough that they won’t feed in an automatic pistol or rifle, and will have to be hand-loaded one at a time. That’s not a bad thing, and in fact, adds to the drama of the moment.

The other thing about these is that unless you’re dealing with a shotgun, a bullet, especially a rifle bullet, is a shockingly small volume. As examples, to pick some common cartridges

Volume of 22mm Samaritan bullets: 12.5ml

40 gr .22 LR: 0.25 ml
230gr .45 ACP: 1.4 ml
147gr 9x19mm: 0.9 ml
180gr 10mm Auto: 1.1 ml
300 gr .50 AE: 2.0 ml (ok, that’s not so common except in the movies)
M855 5.56x45mm: 0.42 ml
7.62x39mm: 0.87 ml
7.62x51mm NATO: 0.98 ml
12G full-bore shotgun slug: 3.5 ml

Now, that volume assumes the entire thing is the projectile. If (say) 50-75% of that volume is liquid payload, there will be very, very little of it.

Now, one thing that does not change here is the base damage. The kinetic energy of the bullet is determined, more or less, by the energy of the powder behind it, and the distance it moves down the barrel. So since caliber and energy don’t change, neither does the GURPS damage. However, the light weight will probably make the ballistic coefficient go lower, which will drop both 1/2D and Max range.

Kate Beckinsale. Just because.

What I’d do as an alternate rule here is say that such funky additives, against the right creature, allow the bullets to work like bullets, maybe with the pi size reduced one step, or even just breaking even. So instead of spirits or supernatural creatures just being irritated at you for shooting them with pesky widdle bullets (how cute!) they will have their usual impact. Hell, even if your .45 ACP does pi- instead of pi+, if the trade-off is “does damage at all” then it’s worth it.

One interesting tidbit, though, is if you can actually make these loaded, lighter bullets, they’ll be fast. A .45 ACP that replaces half its volume of lead core with silver nitrate will only mass 175 grains or so. In GURPS, that’s not worth anything. My calculated 1/2D and Max ranges drop from 290yds to 215yds and 1740 yds to 1470 yds, respectively. A water-filled bullet would be 145 yds and 1190 yds.

Is all that crap worth it?

No. No it is not. It adds book-keeping and math for no real good purpose, while the existing “keep it all the same, charge more, and treat them as hollow-points with extra badness vs. the right critter” makes it a decent choice. The only fault, again, is that these odd loads are the same as JHP bullets (though they cost more) even though they’re very sub-optimized for killing people, rater than supernatural critters. The only real change I’d recommend to Chris’ work is to knock down his bump-up of wound type for regular Joes. Keep the (0.5) armor divisor, but do not increase the wound type against flesh-and-blood. Do whatever you want for the thing it is supposed to be bad for. Increase the wound modifier, add linked effects, etc.

Special Metals


Five alternate metals, with different costs for the bullets. In this case, not bothering with the slight changes in weight-per-shot is totally the right call, and the increase in cost for the inner core of the bullet is quite reasonable. Nothing to gripe about here.

Special Minerals


Some of these are just fun. He notes that the hard part of this is to get the inner core into shape, since you can’t pour it into a mold.

Do you know how hard this is to machine? Do you?

True, true, but most modern bullets’ cores are swaged into the jacket, not poured or cast. Still, that’s a true deep-dive nitpick, and others can probably nitpick my nitpick, noting that cast copper or other solid bullets are exactly that: cast. They are in fact, poured into a mold. So what’s the right call? Keep it simple. This is a game.

As almost the last sentence, he notes that with the right gemstone, you can use these as a mana reserve making it available as a spell arrow.

Explosive fireball bullets? Yes, please!

Wooden


I’m pretty sure that all of this is more-or-less borrowed from the existing rules from either High-Tech or Loadouts: Monster Hunters, both of which would have had good reason to do these. I know we discussed new rules, and we then said: “Waitaminute, these surely have to exist already.” And so they did.

Windham-Pryce. Rogue Demon Hunter.

The footnotes for the wood items (seven of them) follow the advice I have for liquids, making it very, very obvious what the appropriate target of each wood type is.

As a note, I always thought that a shotgun-launched saboted wooden stake would be the best use of modern firearms vs. vampires. A shotgun chambered for a 3.5″ shell could probably fit a 1/2″ diameter, 2.5″ long wooden dowel, which you could bore out and fill with silver or lead to increase the mass, and thus stability. That seems to me a non-trivial anti-vampire projectile.

Plus: shotguns. Coolness delivered by pump-action. Even Wesley says so.

Ballistic’s Report


Despite my nits – and most of those are confined to liquid-filled projectiles – this article is well done, and all about the fun. A lot of supernatural creatures need to have significant resistance against modern firearms to pose a challenge (See Monster Hunters 3: The Enemy, p. 25), and thus conversely need a weakness to make it more interesting. After the right level and success at Hidden Lore or other research, being able to determine that one particular type of material or spell can be speed-delivered at 1500 fps might make a fun climax.

As such, this article delivers. If its not 100% accurate where ballistics are concerned, well, a lecherous werewolf (with guns!) isn’t exactly 100% realistic now, is it?