I’ve been published nine times in GURPS Fourth Edition. One major work (Technical Grappling) and eight articles in Pyramid. 

Having just reviewed Pyramid #3/70, I thought I’d go back and revisit my old stuff, using the same format, and applying the same scale. Granted, I could be pretty biased – but that’s what blogs are for.

A decent article with enough background to get the point that inspires a few ideas, that can be dropped into a reasonably popular genre with little fuss, and doesn’t leave you scratching your head wondering what the author was talking about would rate about 5/10 on the scale presented here. Anything more than that, in the range of 6-8, is going to likely please its target audience very much. Something that’s in the 8-9 scale will delight it’s target audience, and be a fun, entertaining, illuminating read for everyone else. I’ve never given a 10 yet.

So, here we go:

GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling

Summary: A replacement for the current grappling rules in GURPS+Sean Punch wrote a very kind blurb when it was published. You can find many blog entries about it in these pages, of course. Ultimately, TG replaces the current Contest-based grappling rules with the attack-defense-effect roll paradigm dominant in every other aspect of GURPS combat. The effect is called Control Points, and they have the result of lowering the ST and DX of your foe. There are other things you can do with them, such as spend them, leveraging (see what I did there) a loss in overall restraint for a one-time effect.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: Recall that a score of 0 means “didn’t get in the way,” and doesn’t represent a bad score. I’m actually going to ding myself here a bit. The rules are dense and technical, and there are nearly fifty pages of them. It’s a book that could have benefited a lot from more examples and a few test fights. -1 point.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: TG can be used to vastly amp up the coolness factor of grappling in combat. In real games, such as those run by +Peter V. Dell’Orto+Christopher R. Rice, and +Jake Bernstein it has been used to great dramatic and mechanical effect. The errata’d bite rules provide a nice way of getting critters to grapple well, and once you wrap your head around the basic concepts, things become pretty natural to describe in terms of control points. 4 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: It is possible to drop this in to an existing game, and that has been done. However, it’s much more useful if you start character creation with it and then use it from the get-go. Once you twig to the way to go, your games will be more fun. 3 points.

Overall: 6/10. It’s a shame I can’t give myself more credit here, but I think that wordcount concerns rendered this one a bit over-dense. While I did amplify a lot over time, on the blog and a bit in Pyramid #3/61, the book does take a bit to incorporate into games. This is also because it re-uses a lot from the Basic Set and GURPS Martial Arts, which is good . . . but replaces some as well, and with so much out there, not all of the interactions are crystal clear. The basic mechanic of control points and spending them is extremely worthwhile, though – and can be ported to other games, even.

Would I use it? Well, yeah! I of course use it, or a simplified version of it, in all games I play these days. The underlying mechanic is, as I noted, just better than the one it replaces.

By Default (Pyramid #3/65)

Summary: Replacing the standard STAT-X defaulting mechanism with STAT/2 basis instead. This makes it harder to become good at everything simply by buying up DX or IQ, effectively costing 40 points per +1 to skill instead of 20. 

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: Recall that a score of 0 means “didn’t get in the way,” and doesn’t represent a bad score. The writing is clear and doesn’t get in the way. Sufficient examples are provided to get the point. 0 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: A solid exploration of what the current STAT-X rules do, and what the STAT/2 rules do and don’t do instead. The benefits and pitfalls are explored well. 3 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: This is not a drop-in article. The concepts may or may not be good, but they will completely rewrite an existing character’s capabilities, often for the worse if character points are concentrated in stats rather than skills, like many Dungeon Fantasy characters.  I’m gong to say that the “drop-in” utility of this is basically a 0, 1 point at best if you’re starting out a campaign. The good news is Eric Smith whipped up a GCA file do do this for you, so I’ll give the benefit of the doubt here and give it the higher score. 1 point.

Overall: 4/10. Not a strong article overall, especially relative to others. However, for those that (a) use GCA (see the file above), (b) are starting a campaign, and (c) think that stats are too dominant in GURPS as written . . . the concepts here may well be quite compelling. A niche article.

Would I use it? Probably not. I had the opportunity to decide to use this in my Alien Menace game, and decided against it. Every rule in GURPS is written with the existing stat/skill structure as the background. This is an edition-level change, and maybe not even one for the better (doubling the cost of DX and IQ might get the same thing done, and more cheaply, for example).

Takedown Sequences (Pyramid #3/61)

Summary: I did a content-based review on my blog previously, but not using the ratings format I came up with when I decided to do more Pyramid reviews. Pyramid #3/61: The Way of the Warrior is the issue accompanying two Martial Arts-related PDF releases. My own Technical Grappling, and David Moore’s GURPS Martial Arts: Yrth Fighting Styles. Takedown Sequences is a how-to guide for translating real-world grappling moves and positions into the lingo of Technical Grappling. The article spends some time on positioning (fundamental to grappling), and then gives a set of “first roll this, then that” type sequences for things like moving from a clinch to a takedown, or executing a classic arm bar. The emphasis on this article is on offensive moves.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: Recall that a score of 0 means “didn’t get in the way,” and doesn’t represent a bad score. The writing is clear and doesn’t get in the way. Sufficient examples are provided to get the point. 0 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: For non-grapplers, the article talks about why you do certain things; for grapplers it talks about how. The moves are discussed in game-mechanical details with explanations on what’s happening in the real world. It’s a good “how-to” background on TG concepts and making them work in game. 3 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: The drop-in utility of this is high. Nothing needs to be changed, and if you’re already using TG (the target audience for this), you figure out what you want to do, and then follow the steps. Two optional rules (Positioning Move and Destabilizing Strike) are provided as well. 4 points.

Overall: 7/10. If you want to do grappling with TG and are a bit fuzzy on how, this is a good article. If you want to emulate particular real-world moves using TG, this has several key explanations on what’s going on. While not quite as detailed as +Mook Wilson‘s combat examples, it’s a good reference for those wishing to use TG in a game. 

Would I use it? Yes. That’s a little misleading, in that if you already know the sequence of pulling off moves in TG, you probably don’t need some of the article. The process of going through the sequences is illustrative, though, and will help get you into the TG mindset.

Coming to Grips with Realism (Pyramid #3/61)

Summary: These are the Technical Grappling Designer’s Notes; it’s also the first (and only, thus far) time I have two articles in one issue. The article talks about common tropes about grappling and how they’re right and wrong. It explains the overall mission of the book – “can we hew to the core GURPS rules and mechanics while providing a more variable effect roll for grappling,” and explains the origin and function of the core concept of TG (Control Points). It also calls out what’s new, expanded, and clarified when using TG over the RAW grappling rules. Finally, it provides some alternate rules and outtakes from the original manuscript. It also contains two grappling-centric critical hit/miss tables for use with TG.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: More casually written than most of my articles, I think the conversational tone works for a Designer’s Notes article. I think it’s a good read, personally. 1 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: How the book was written, why, and what feel it’s supposed to invoke. The guts “behind the curtain” on some of the rules and concepts. 4 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: The drop-in utility of this is mostly absent by design, though there are a few rules nuggets in there to use if you like. 1 point.

Overall: 6/10. This article is nice for those wanting to understand the motivation and inspiration behind a book that is mechanically dense. If you will use TG, you don’t have to read this, but it might be fun.

Would I use it? Barely applicable. Most of the article doesn’t involve “use.”

Dodge This! (Pyramid #3/57)

Summary: This article takes a comprehensive look at the GURPS Dodge mechanic, and breaks down what’s happening, why, and when you get to roll or use Dodge in the first place. While it’s directly applicable to gun combat first and foremost, extensions to unifying the parry, block, and dodge rules for all weapons are also provided.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: The article hits on out-of-game and in-game viewpoints for each concept presented. 1 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: Even if I do say so myself, this is a very strong article in this category – maybe my best. It takes a long-extant issue with the perception of how GURPS rules work and addresses it from many angles. It looks at non-problems as well as issues that aren’t rules issues but are suspension-of-disbelief issues. 4 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: Several different ways to address both game-mechanics and suspension of disbelief are presented. They involve more die rolls but low bookkeeping. Mechanical methods are presented to extend rules to cover all weapons, not just guns. 4 points.

Overall: 9/10. Honestly, this may be my strongest article to date. It takes an issue that comes up in games (it first reared it’s ugly head for me when playing in a session GM’d by +Jeromy French where so much laser fire was dodged that people were willing to just quit) and knocks it down in several ways. The solutions presented are not complicated and present a balance between additional rolls and no bookkeeping. 

Would I use it? Yes. I wrote it to solve issues that happened for me, at my own table. I think it’s a good way to solve those issues, and I’ve gotten good feedback from other people that they work quite well. If you do gun combat, or even more, lasers, you’ll want to pick this one up.

Delayed Gratification (Pyramid #3/52)

Summary: The article provides an alternative to the Feint mechanic in the form of a delayed deceptive attack called a Setup Attack. Sean described the article as such:

GURPS offers many ways to lower your opponents’ defenses: Deceptive Attack, Feint, and so on. But if you want Delayed Gratification, try the Setup Attack. Based on realistic fighting techniques, this new combat option gives you a way to launch an offensive that may cost your opponent his Hit Points and his defenses.”

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: The article take a simple concept and hits it from many angles, trying to anticipate most questions. While it’s not lyrical prose, I think this one qualifies as very well executed. 2 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: The strength of this article is really in the exploration of the various rules. If you’ve been unsatisfied with Feints in your games, this might twig to why, and provide thoughts as to how partners can fight well together, and drive some more satisfying behavior into fights, because even a “feint” will be potentially dangerous to the foe. 3 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: This one you can drop in to an existing game, as-is, and not even ditch the current Feint rules (though you may want to). 4 points.

Overall: 9/10. Those who have used Setup Attacks in their games report that they’re quite satisfactory, and a preferred mechanic over the Feint. I find the same thing, and the article explores this in many ways, from many angles. While honestly I think Dodge This is better, it’s solving a different problem. 

Would I use it? Yes. These replace the Feint in my games where melee matters, full stop.

The Last Gasp (Pyramid #3/44)

Summary: The Last Gasp presents two different ways to deal with fatigue in GURPS. The first is to simply make recovering from fatigue last longer, with more severe (and gradual) consequences. The second introduces the concept of Action Points, a complimentary set of rules designed around short-term fatigue, lost and regained on the scale of seconds. In effect, these are two related articles that can be used together, but need not be.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: The Last Gasp is another article that’s mechanically intensive. While well executed, there’s a lot to digest. 0 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: The exploration of fatigue points and how to make their use and recovery more dramatic is good but not earth-shattering. The action points mechanic is (even as the author) inspired and radically changes the dynamics of a fight, often for the better. The SJG Forum poster Mailanka used AP extensively in his martial arts campaign called Cherry Blossom Rain, and found it added lulls and flurries to combats organically (a design goal). The concepts here radically change how fatigue impact the game, making it both more important and more dramatic. 4 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: This one is “two articles in one,” and the rules for longterm fatigue can be dropped in to an existing game as-is, with few changes. A few new die rolls, and a new appreciation for spending FP. Spell casters will not be pleased; though, if the mana reserve drains FP, since casting a spell in combat will be pretty debilitating. The Action Point rules have less drop-in utility, since they will change how each character fights, and also require bookkeeping from turn to turn. Physical tokens help this a lot, but AP are mechanically intensive and for the GM, who might be tracking a horde of creatures, potentially painful (a handy quick-resolution table is provided in the article, so this isn’t a problem in play). 3 points.

Overall: 7/10. The alternate rules for long-term fatigue make spending down your FP painful each time you do it. The Action Points rules radically impact fight dynamics. It’s a really variant approach that can have high payoff handled well – but it doesn’t suit all genres and all games. 

Would I use it? Sometimes. The complexity burden of AP has to coexist with other rules, and as such can be the straw that broke the camel’s back for games that use a lot of house rules. In Alien Menace, I chose not to use them, since they wouldn’t impact games with gunplay much, and the punitive costs for movement (which I’ve reworked on this blog) exacerbate what I call the ‘immobile battlefield’ problem.

 Armor Revisited (Pyramid #3/34)

Summary: An exploration of the various penetration and injury mechanics used in GURPS, with suggestions for how to tweak them out in various ways. This contains the “official” published version of Armor as Dice.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: The concepts involved are explained thoroughly and help give greater understanding of the underlying mechanics. Makes the subject more approachable. 1 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: I’m going to quote Jeffro +Jeffro Johnson here: 

This is a fascinating article.  On the one hand, it is a concise set of designer’s notes that explains the foundational premise of the GURPS firearms rules.  On the other… it provides two additional dials that can be applied the the weapons and armor stats in the game.  As a bonus, these are explained in such a way that it is clear when and why to do things in the alternate way.  A big part of running a game depends on being able to visualize what is happening before the players begin to interact with it.  This article explains what the core combat rules actually mean in such a way that a GM that understands this can better improvise his rulings on the fly.  This is surprisingly interesting given the technical nature of the ideas. 

Based on feedback like this, I give myself: 4 points.
Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: Any of the concepts here can be dropped into an existing game, in some cases making it better, in other cases no change. Only in fantasy and low-tech games with lots of melee combat and hand weapons do the principles suffer a bit – oh, wait. That’s the most popular genre. Oops. 3 points.

Overall: 8/10. Short but informative, this presents a good behind the curtain style exploration of how to approach penetration and injury in GURPS. A worthy read for those interested in the subject.

Would I use it? Yes. Armor as Dice appears in all my firearms-heavy games, and the rule is a good option even in lower tech stuff.

The Deadly Spring (Pyramid #3/33)

Summary: A nearly-ridiculously mathematically intensive treatment of bows and similar muscle-powered ranged weapons in GURPS. It’s primarily a design system for bows and arrows, but includes about a dozen worked examples. The new system puts arrow penetration on a scale more resembling that of firearms.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: The bulk of the article is nearly a physics paper, which would normally qualify for -2 points . . . but it also ships with a set of spreadsheets (one generic one, and one more for each sample weapon) that take all of the math out of it for the user. I’m going to call that a wash . 0 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: Even if I do say so myself, this is probably the most thorough treatment of bows in a roleplaying game, ever. The article of The Defense Acadmy Warbow trials even gave me a smile and nod in private communication. 4 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: This is about as far from drop-in as it can get, save for the examples. Even if you do use the spreadsheet, you need to be prepared for an iterative process that does require an understanding of how bows work, and what tweaks are required to bring a bow into the realm of “actually works.” Still, with the spreadsheet and examples, it’s not a total loss. 1 points.

Overall: 5/10. Definitive and comprehensive, but without a doubt the crunchiest article to ever appear in Pyramid. If you like the subject, and can handle the math, you’ll rate this more like a 6-7/10 but for most people, it’s something that has a few nuggets to make it interesting, but overall you might just skip it.

Would I use it? Yes. The math doesn’t scare me, the spreadsheet is functional, and in any game that’s not super-powered, it puts a lot more believability into games, especially when co-existing with guns. However, in genres like Dungeon Fantasy or supers, where larger-than-life is the rule and Imperial Stormtroopers can be riddled with Ewok arrows, you should drop this like a hot rock. Drama is more important there.

Parting Shot

So, those are all of my contributions to GURPS Fourth Edition so far. At least in writing. If you’d like to take issue or comment on any of my self-biased scoring, please do!

Beyond my own written and published boosts to Fourth Edition, I’ve got a bunch of playtest credits, including Lead Playtest for +Hans-Christian Vortisch and Shawn Fisher’s High-Tech and Hans’ Tactical Shooting. The Tactics rules called out in Sean’s Ten for Ten article was a playtest suggestion of mine!

Forthcoming, +Peter V. Dell’Orto and I have collaborated on two articles currently in a bit of limbo, but both dealing with fighting, and both suitable and directed at Dungeon Fantasy. Three more submitted articles are in +Steven Marsh‘s capable hands for mechanical treatments of various topics. Plus some other projects I can’t talk about yet or are still in the discussion-with-collaborators stages.

GURPS Fourth Edition was, and remains, my go-to game. That doesn’t mean I don’t play others! I have enjoyed the heck out of Swords and Wizardry with +Erik Tenkar as GM, and the new DnD 5th Edition impresses me enough to want to play it. I’d love to play in a Night’s Black Agents game with a competent GM to try it out; after talking to +Kenneth Hite I think I’d be a much better player for the GUMSHOE system than in the past. Actually, what I really want to do is take that book and do a GURPS supplement treatment for it, a conversion. I think it would fill a void for high-action but not-superhero monster stuff that’s more Action! and less Monster Hunters or even +S. John RossBlack Ops, still one of my favorite third edition supplements.

Oh, and I’m interviewing Steve Jackson himself tomorrow for the Firing Squad. Look for that in a couple of weeks.

Due to copious lack of time, I’m not going to do a strict review with one post per article, like I prefer to do. I am, however, going to hit each one with my usual method: rating in three categories that boil down to quality writing, quality ideas, and drop-in utility with minimal prep.

Destination Abydos (by +David Pulver)

Summary: David takes his Abydos work and extends it to include Dungeon Fantasy, Zombies, and Mass Combat.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: Recall that a score of 0 means “didn’t get in the way,” and doesn’t represent a bad score. This article worked for me. It is terse where it needs to be, evocative where it can. 1 point.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: The article presents a bit of a smorgasbord (huh. spelled that right first try) of awesome. How to blend Dungeon Fantasy at any point level with Abydos, which of course is rife with opportunities for dungeons. It’s a freakin’ city of the undead, after all. Plus: undead pirates. I mean, really. One could stop there. But he didn’t. Between mass combat, dungeons, horror, and zombies, each comes with enough meat to hang ideas off of. 4 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: I would have preferred to see some of the ideas in translating these concepts from Banestorm to Abydos to Dungeon Fantasy fleshed out (see what I did there?) with actual lenses or templates, but that’s probably an article in and of itself. That being said, you get some campaign seeds and page after page of necromantic support for Mass Combat. 2 points.

Overall: 7/10. This article was long on inspiration and had a lot of “yes, I could make a campaign arc out of this” moments. The Mass Combat support is a bit lost on me – that’s not how I roll – but for those that do, and I’ve heard plenty of good stories about blending Mass Combat with epic campaigns, with the PCs as leaders and heroes, this article is well aimed..If you deeply love mass combat, then the drop-in utility rating is more like 3 or 4, which puts this article at a score of 8 or 9 – basically a must-have.

Would I use it? Yes. Banestorm is a vibrant setting and fun to play in, when I’ve done so. This article takes a great location full of imagery and possibility – Abydos – and takes it even farther with the extensive support provided by the DF line, the Zombies hardback, and the Mass Combat abstract battle system. Some of the adventure seeds either written or suggested will make for good gaming.

Ten for Ten (by +Sean Punch )

Summary: Sean takes ten ideas from supplements he wrote or collaborated on that he wishes had made it into the GURPS Basic Set, Fourth Edition, back in 2004. There are ten more that he gives honorable mention (nine in one box, plus multiplicative multipliers).

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: Sean’s writing style has always worked for me. These are basically rule excerpts, so mostly “workmanlike” in that they just quote or summarize the relevant rules. However, the color commentary at the end of each really makes each one more understandable as to why each rule works for Sean. 1 point.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: Each rule nugget – and maybe even more so the honorable mentions, might inspire how to run a game differently. If you like rules (as I do), this will provide both a “buyer’s guide” for future supplements, or a “check this out” index. So the power of this one will range from about 2-4, depending. 3 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: Well, yeah. This is nothing but drop-in rules. It’s pure utility at it’s finest, and each rule is complete enough by itself to use at the table. 4 points.

Overall: 8/10. It’s interesting to imagine what the Basic Set would be with free rein not only to include the best ideas Sean wrote, but the best core ideas from any source – e23 or Pyramid. Even as presented, there’s plenty here to chew on.

Would I use it? Yes. In many cases, I already do. Other Kinds of Points and Tactics are the two big winners from the main list. Alternate Benefits, Imbuements, Technique Design, and Everyman skills get used from the back-up list. Heck, I wrote a whole article expanding on Restricted Dodge Against Firearms (Dodge This!).

Gaming in the Ancien Regime (by William H. Stoddard)

Summary: Bill Stoddard provides a worked example of how to use Social Engineering in a swashbucklers campaign.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: This was remarkably interesting. Bill writes history very well, and his interspersion of rules and historical context was very well executed. I did not expect to enjoy reading this article, but I did, from the get-go. 2 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]:This is a how-to guide for structuring a campaign in a structured, bureaucratic swashbuckling society. An historical one, but with a bit of filing off of serial numbers, it could fit in many places. The detailed division of political rank, status, administrative, and religoius rank show how complicated and interesting such structures can be. As noted, it’s a worked example, and a thorough one at that. 3 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: Obviously this is only drop-in with a utility of 4 if you’re running this exact campaign, or one very much like it. Still, it gives several flavors of rank structures, a good guideline for cost of living in such a regime, and some nice interaction of the different pieces. Still, it’s very specific, and so is probably a 2 or 3. It makes up a drop-in campaign by itself, but in general, it won’t be that much utility unless you can squeeze it in. Over in “Odds and Ends,” (p. 37) he also presents Paris of roughly 1720 in the City Stats format. 2 points.

Overall: 7/10. A nice history lesson as well as the worked example nestled within, the article is a fun read.

Would I use it? No. No fault of the author’s, but this isn’t where I like to game. Social Engineering, though, and the worked example this article provides, would be used in my games in appropriate places, so my demurring from this is one of “specific campaign,” not “general distaste.”

Into the Wilderness (by +Matt Riggsby)

Summary: Matt leverages the recently published DF16: Wilderness Adventures to make his own Mirror of the Fire Demon even better.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: Matt’s writing sucked me in, and had me reading each word eagerly. 2 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]:. This amplifies an existing (and in a way, the existing) DF adventure. It is a partial worked example of any sort of desert/wilderness travel, so can be mined lightly for ideas here. 2 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: DFA1: MotFD is a drop-in adventure. This takes that drop-in and makes it better, directly and with no modifiction. The “random desert crap that can hurt you” table (not his title) is portable anywhere. Plus: DF Cold-Weather loadouts in a box-text. 4 points.

Overall: 8/10. While somewhat specialized, it scratches several itches. It’s adventure support. It uses Wilderness concepts. It shows how to blend the journey in with the destination to make adventuring more fun. It’s in the Dungeon Genre, too, which makes it more broadly applicable, since fantasy is still the #1 go-to for gaming.

Would I use it? Yes. I’d run Mirror if I were running that sort of campaign, and I’d definitely take his advice on how to make the wilderness part of it more challenging and fun.

Elemental Xia Champions vs. the Shenguai (by Jason ” +Rev. Pee Kitty ” Levine)

Summary: Jason combines Monster Hunters with Chinese Elemental Powers, providing a template, some powers, and several monsters.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: This is a very crunchy article, dominated by a character template (which always make my eyes bleed) and several power and monster stat blocks. The accompanying text is well done, and very informative. 1 point.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]:. If you’re doing a Monster Hunters game, this provides some nice ideas that in all likelihood will keep the players guessing, and therefore afraid. One of the monsters is particularly nasty that way. If you’re a player, the article provides a go-to template and lots of suggestions for elemental powers in the appropriate theme. 3 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: This entire thing is a drop-in to any MH campaign from start to finish, which makes it a solid 2 or 3 (it’s still pretty specific). Even in a non-MH campaign, it has suggestions that allow you to amp up to much higher power levels the concepts in Chinese Elemental Magic. 3 points.

Overall: 7/10. Again with “somewhat specialized,” this one is tailor made for a less-popular genre, but well done and instantly useful for players and GMs alike.

Would I use it? Yes. Monster Hunters is one of my favorite genres as a player, and I’d welcome this Xia champion into a game I was running or playing. The included monsters – the Shenguai in particular – are very nasty and definitely not your usual vampire, werewolf, or orc.

Horde Ninja (by +Peter V. Dell’Orto )

Summary: Peter manages to canonize the Law of Conservation of Ninjitsu, and provides a nice treatment of ninja as monsters/foes.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: Full disclosure: I collaborate with Peter whenever I can on projects and we play together. One of the reasons is that he’s a very entertaining writer, while still being terse and conveying information well. This very short article is no exception. “Ninja are either singular bosses, worthy of respect and fear, or they’re like these guys.” 2 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: How to use ninja is one thing, but the “Peeking Under the Hood” box is a key to taking any fodder-level monster (say, any template or lens from DF15: Henchmen) and making them into a credible threat. Beyond that, these guys are ninja, exactly what’s on the tin. 2 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: High utility in a particular genre, mostly for the point above: though the Horde Ninja is the treatment here, the Mass Mage could easily be next on the list. And the Law of Conservation of Ninjitsu (“The Last Ninja”) is just fun. 3 points.

Overall: 7/10. Third time’s the charm with “somewhat specialized,” and for the third time this review I point out that the real oomph of this short article is in extrapolation to other critters.

Would I use it? Yes. I mean: Ninja. Of course I’d use them..

Revisiting High-Tech (by +Hans-Christian Vortisch )

Summary: Hans proposes two new rules for dealing with machine pistols and shotgun rounds that he’d perhaps have adopted if he could revisit GURPS High-Tech.

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: The text itself is straight-forward, and gets its point across. I’d have preferred a table of some common values, but the examples provided are OK. It did leave me wanting a bit more, though – perhaps typical for a short, technical piece of only a page in length. 0 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: A brief introduction to why the rules he’s picking on deserve it, and some good context for machine pistols. The shotguns piece explains the current issue with shotshell. 2 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: The drop-in utility of the machine pistols section is high, since it’s basically a stats tweak. The shotgun rounds section . . . well, my own version is also 850 words (about a page), and I of course prefer it. Still, the solution provided does rein in the problem he throws out there, so it puts points on the board there. 2 points.

Overall: 4/10. The article took aim at a minor quibble (Rcl on machine pistols) and a mathematical oddity resulting from how pellets are treated in the original book. That’s not a lot to work with, and unfortunately it shows here. My bias to more complex treatments might be showing here, though; Drop-in utility could be higher than I rate it, but not 4 points, so overall this is a 4-5.

Would I use it? Meh. The stat adjustment to Rcl is more an errata than a true update. I’ll use my own shotgun rules fix, but for those that don’t want it, it’s a good fix. Hans is right: 1d-5(0.2) pi- is annoying, and his fix is better than the existing rule.

Random Thought Table (by +Steven Marsh )
Summary: Steven notes how rules can enable inspiration, and shows how campaign or story ideas can spring from rules, to complement the usual opposite trope (that rules enable story).

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: Well written, light, and fun. 1 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: The entire piece is a worked example of inspiration and “ah ha!” The article is quite frankly about epiphany in campaign and story design. Also look up “A Peek Behind the Curtain” (p. 37) to see how Steven took the rules and turned them into campaigns. 4 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utility [0 to 4 points]: These ideas are cool, but they’re seeds, and do-it-yourself by nature. 1 point.

Overall: 6/10. It’s a good premise. How do you take an interesting rule or notion and build from it, with eight examples, each with an associated campaign idea.

Would I use it? Not necessarily any of the ones presented here, but that’s not the real point. Any interesting rule that strikes your fancy can start up a campaign seed.

This is a very strong issue, and contains fun follow-up work from prolific and high-quality authors, who have written some of GURPS’ more enduring works. Worth picking up!

Over on the SJG Forums, a poster going by Varyon dropped in and threw down some concepts for how to do an actual Feint out of a setup.

One of the conceits of the setup attack is that, well, it’s the same as a Deceptive Attack, but defers the bonus to a later time. There are some details that make this not suck, but it basically is a real attack, that requires a real defense, or you get stabbed or slash. It also has the benefit that it does eat up a parry, it enables retreats by the defender for positioning (allowing one of the natural consequences of being Feinted – backing the heck up) and a bunch of other stuff.

Honestly, Setup Attacks (Pyramid #3/52) might be my most instantly usable work.

Still, the Setup is pretty cool. Take two Sword-16 fighters (quite good for low fantasy, borderline not-so-good for Dungeon Fantasy). Our aggressor can strike with a -2 setup, and achieve a possible hit 75% of the time on his Setup Attack. This turn, assuming no DB or Combat Reflexes, but yes on a retreat, the defender is looking at Parry of 3 + 16/2 + 1 or 12.

On the average, then, the defender will make his roll by 2, enough to both parry (you get that by simply rolling under), and negate the setup. So pretty even. If the attacker manages to score – he does full damage, and his setup attack will still have the desired effect next turn (including shock penalties, which don’t impact defenses, and stun, which does).

Against an inferior foe, say Sword-12, our Skill-16 aggressor will be facing Parry-10, which will block the setup attack but leave him at -2 the next turn. Cool – working as advertised. Our Hero is driving him back with his setups (defender retreats) and eking out a -2 on his next attacks, which he can leverage however he likes (Telegraphic for +4 to hit, to a good target, while at a net -0 to defend has got to look tempting.)

Regular Feint

Looking at a pure Feint, the even-skill match is still a net of no bonus (so no change), but the attacker has no chance to strike his foe, and he can’t use a Feint to reposition his opponent, as the Feint doesn’t provoke a defense. The Feint against the lower skill guy is a bit stronger – attacker will, on the average, win by 4, a bigger deal.

On the low-skill side, Feinting a superior opponent is a waste of time. He’ll have to outroll his foe by 4, and the odds of his margin being larger than his foe’s is about one chance in seven. Not great.

The setup attack, he’s attacking at 10 (the best he can do) vs a Parry of 12 if his foe chooses to retreat. Well, still not great. 50% chance to make the attack at all, and his foe will negate it completely 83% of the time. Net of about 1 in 12 – so it’s actually worse in this case to try the setup without any bonuses to skill.

Setups as Feints

The Setup Mechanic takes advantage that everyone that knows how to play GURPS already knows the rules to attack and defend, more or less. Feints have odd edge cases in people’s minds, as you can (say) Feint with a weapon that usually becomes unready without unreadying it (pump-fake?).

The question Varyon asked was “how can you throw a setup that has no other purpose but to draw off your foe’s guard?”

He had an answer in the thread; I came up with a variation where you could accept bonuses to hit for reducing damage: up to +6 for throwing an attack that even if it hits, will do nothing; you’re pulling the blow.

Parting Shot

One thing I’ll notice having had more sleep and some thought about it is that the way I give the numbers, you can get a +6 to hit. I’m trying to think of a melee option that allows this – All-Out Telegraphic Attack springs to mind, or Committed Telegraphic Attack for +8 and +6, respectively.

But they come with rather spectacular downsides in terms of your ability to defend, and your opponent’s ability to defend against you. A setup with +6 to hit gives no downsides you don’t want (your foe doesn’t know you don’t care about damage) and has a significant potential upside.

So I’m revising my thought on this. Instead of +2 per -1 per die damage, scale it up so that the maximum bonus is +4.

  • -1 per die damage gives +1 to skill
  • -2 per die damage gives +2 to skill
  • No damage on a success gives +4 to skill.

That’s a bit more symmetric with All-Out and Committed attacks, and since Setup Attacks stack with other maneuvers and options, won’t allow you to do a Committed Telegraphic Zero-Damage Setup for +12 to hit (it’s “only” +10). Telegraphic Attacks, though, really just increase the chances of putting your blade where you want (rolling a potentially successful attack), because the +4 bonus is offset completely by the +2 to defend.

That’s a nice bit of happenstance there, but it works for me. “I’m obviously stabbing you in the face!” puts the blade where you want it, and doesn’t really impact the outcome in your favor – other than making them burn a defense, which might be very desirable if you have multiple attacks per turn, or are setting up a friend’s attack!

All considered, allowing bonuses to skill for pulling your blow is a nice thought; we’ll have to playtest it and see if it breaks anything.

This weekend ComiCon came to Minneapolis, so my whole family went.


The costumes, of course, were great. Day 1 I just wore my Gaming Ballistic sweatshirt over a Superman T-shirt, since my daughter was dressed as supergirl (since Supergirl is often portrayed as blonde, she kills this one). I had one guy take her picture, and then say that I needed to be dressed as SuperDad. I pulled up my sweatshirt. He was satisfied. 

Also, talkging to Adam Baldwin (!!), his associate did notice the GB logo, and we talked AR builds. 

Brief interludes with Sean Astin and Nathan Fillion, but nothing like my two conversations with Adam Baldwin, who as I mentioned was a super-nice guy.

Day 2 I decided to stick an old friend down my shirt, and of course this got more comments and “Can I take your picture?!” moments than when my daughter, on day 3, insisted I go full Batman. 

S: Dad, today’s Wonder Woman day. Who are you going to dress up as?
D: Well, I was going to dress up as Dad.
S: No. You’re going as Superman.
D: I don’t have a Superman costume.
S: Then Batman. Get your batman T-shirt, a pair of black pants, and your cape and boots.
D: I guess I’m going as Batman.

Short stack had a great time too, and on day 3, dressed as Wonder Woman, two very kind teen agers asked her for her autograph. She’s four, but wrote WONDR WOMAN * (with a little star!) by sounding out the words, so there you go.

The food was terrible.

On the last day, I made it into a panel discussion with former Lois and Clark star Dean Cain, and I asked him a question about how he felt “filling the tights” and taking on the identity of an American icon. Maybe the American hero. His answer was good – he identified personally with those qualities, and the scripts he was given oozed the right stuff.

Oh, and since I was dressed as batman, he quipped, “Uh-oh. A question for superman from the dark knight.” I replied “Yes, we have a long and complicated history.” Crowd enjoyed it.

But then he mentioned the most recent movie – and he hit something I’d have loved to ask a follow-up question on, which I hit in my review: “Is all I could think about watching the most recent movie was all of the people who probably died in the destroyed buildings in metropolis.”

YES. Precisely. That, even more than him stealing stuff early in the movie, left me the most uncomfortable. Not sure Kal-El could have chosen the battleground differently – he went where the giant death machine was, and where his foes were – but still. I have to imagine Dean or Christopher would have taken the fight to somewhere less inhabited.

Anyway, a good time.


This weekend I achieved closure on a few writing projects. Two Pyramid articles, both inspired by my Alien Menace campaign. The two together would be about six Pyramid pages total if published. Was good to cross them off the list, though.

The game was cancelled this weekend, though. One player was sick, another just kinda thrashed after a hard week. I was thinking I’d be at ComiCon (turns out I was back in time). So we’ll play again mid-May. I did get all the game prep done, so I can instead work on other things or plan ahead for the next mission.

I learned a lot from the first one about the size of the challenges, too. To do a one-session, four hour game, you probably want the maps smaller in physical area than the one I laid down. But keeping that moving is another story, and another post.

I have one more article in my “must finish soon” pile, and then I can start a new set of projects.

Parting Shot: Pictures

My parting shot for this one is pictures from the event. 

Pyramid has a wish list. A bunch of issues that give guidance as to what to write. It’s fun, and there’s often some really novel stuff on there.

But I think it would benefit from a few changes.

Line Support

GURPS has some pretty cool lines going on that people actually play. Support for that should always be encouraged. I’d suggest opening up certain topics as “you may always submit an article for . . .” issues.

What would I first throw down?

  • Dungeon Fantasy
  • Monster Hunters
  • Action!
  • Banestorm
  • Spaceships
  • Infinite Worlds
  • Transhuman Space

Now, I don’t like Infinite Worlds much, and Transhuman Space has (in my opinion) an approachability problem. But . . . they’re officially supported GURPS sub-lines, and SJG should always stand ready to accept dedicated support along that front.

The flip side of this is that some of thee concepts, such as Infinite Worlds and Transhuman Space, mightn’t sell that well. So there’d need to be some editorial pruning to account for certain things not being salable . . . but I rather strongly suspect you would fill ten issues of DF before you got to one full issue of Infinite Worlds or Transhuman Space anyway. Maybe a self-correcting problem.

Rules Support

There’s also a whole bunch of really good rules-oriented books out there that can probably always have articles thrown at them. In no particular order:

  • Martial Arts and derived works. In my own PDF library, Tactical Shooting is a martial arts book. 
  • Magic, Thaumatology, and derived works (including Ritual Path Magic)
  • Social Engineering
  • Powers, including Divine Favor, Supers, and other things that build off the powers framework
  • Alternate GURPS
Alternate GURPS – purposeful modifications to established rules – might not belong. That’s not really rules support so much as rules extension. 

Oddball Stuff

There are issues and concepts that are cool but obscure or, for whatever reason, unpopular. I think Wild West would fit here, and though I love it dearly, Gunplay and Military Sci-Fi are not directly supported by a full line (maybe Transhuman Space counts). This could also include Alternate Dungeons – which is specifically deviations from full line support in tune with the original DF mission. But to me, this is where the current Wish List shines. Identifying things GURPS can do that are out of the mainstream, but still entirely cool.

Parting Shot

GURPS is hard enough to write for – lots of material to peruse, the monster style guide – without an author having to check the wish list and note that “gee, I’d love to write a Dungeon Fantasy themed article, but it’s not on the list right now.” Dungeon Fantasy is, from what I understand, the most vibrant and best-selling individual line. You should feed success to the greatest extent possible. Monsters and foes for DF? Bring ’em on. Mini-scenarios and maps and pre-gen encounters? Booyah, love it. 

I can easily see the authorial juices being properly encouraged by “you may always submit articles for these things; we are also looking for special submission for these other things that change on a rotating basis.”

This isn’t entirely theory. I’ve heard discussions that end with “well, the Wish List doesn’t call out room for that cool idea. So you’d better shelve it and find another one.” That’s fine if you’re way off in la-la land, but if your cool idea supports very popular settings or rules, I think it’s in GURPS’ interest to have it be fair game.

I’m riffing a bit off of +Christopher R. Rice and +Antoni Ten Monrós chatting about their own article, Team Up, in this month’s issue, Pyramid #3/65: Alternate GURPS III.

I’ll be reviewing the entire thing sometime soon, after the Blog Carnival finishes up and I get all the stuff done for it (mostly two more interviews; three if I can get the Battlegrounds guy to return my notes!).

My article in this issue is short and conceptual.

A Long Time Ago, In a Faraway Game

The concept for half-stat came to me in roughly 1997 or so. I wanted to play a game that was more or less “The FBI In Space,” which had a lot of influence from Babylon 5. It was called the Earth Federation campaign, and it was set on a space station.

It ran for a bit while I was in grad school. I didn’t like how in 3rd Edition, things were so very stat dominated, and at the time, GURPS Character Builder had this nifty little “optimize” button that pushed points around to maximize the stats you had while keeping your skills at or higher than they’d be otherwise. Nifty.

But it made for very, very stat-heavy characters, and it really made it hard to make a focused character given the point level. So I thought “what if Stats were less valuable?”

I actually started a thread on this in January 2005.

Half-Stat as Freedom

I’m not saying it was a hugely breakthrough concept. I wanted there to be still room for differentiation between characters, and for even someone with (say) DX or IQ 18 (and thus average skills defaulting to 13) to be more challenged. The half-stat concept put that same guy defaulting to Skill-9, which is still a 37% chance of success in combat conditions and high stress.

In short, it made it fairly believable (to me), while not changing much else. Well, except ruining character creation software for our use.

it also allowed easy double-defaulting, so you could default from a default. Even if you started at 20, your double-default was only 5.

Help Arrives for GCA

After the article was published, I asked for some help on the GCA forums, and got it. Eric B Smith whipped up a half-stat GDF file, and it works. I’d try some templates first, and see what happens.

Parting Shot

As I noted in the article, and +Steven Marsh called out in a box on the last page (ish) of the magazine, I did use this for at least two campaigns. It provides niche protection, but buying up from the new (lower) defaults has the side-effect of pushing overall skills down by a few points. You have to spend, and spend heavily to be a jack-of-all-trades using half-stat.

So the stat-heavy special forces templates aren’t quite so easy to get with Guns (Everything) -22. Even the Black Ops templates would be more moderate.

Not moderate. More moderate.

Would I do this for a hypothetical Fifth Edition? Probably. I like the results.

Will I do this for my upcoming GURPS Alien Menace game? Maybe. I’m letting my players make that call, but I’m not averse to it.

This started life as a for-Pyramid article. Some of it (the parts not in this post) still are. This stuff below . . . I could never make work well enough that I thought it would work for general consumption. So here it is. It’s “unfinished,” so details have not been fully worked out.

Still Sharp
At some point, a weapon’s striking surface, if sufficiently long
and narrow, will inflict cutting damage instead of crushing (a long, sharp
striking surface) or piercing or impaling (a penetrating, pointed striking
surface). Cutting attacks gain a 50% bonus to injury, using the wounding
multipliers on p. B379.
Melee Weapon quality (p. B274) increases base damage, so if a blunt metal sword blank is wielded by a ST 13
user, it would do 2d cr. If it is then laboriously worked into a very fine sharp blade (of the same
weight and length), it would end up doing 2d+2 cut, and has effectively gained
roughly 90% in ability to wound unarmored folk. It has also picked up a 30%
increase in penetration of armor. If we look at the increase from 2d cr to 2d+2
cut in terms of increases measured per die rolled, we have picked up +2 per 2d in armor penetration ability, and
nearly +7 per 2d in ability to wound!
The level of armor penetration improvement seen for very fine
blades – +2 per 2d – is plausible in
real-world weapons. It’s not a bad estimate (28% improvement in penetration)
for steels relative to each other, but
is probably inaccurate for a high-quality sword swung against equally well-crafted armor: both would have
been hardened appropriate to their function.
As the weapon quality modifiers (and the existence of Dwarven
Whetstones, Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers, p. 25) suggest, there are
degrees of “sharp” in GURPS. Often the “sharper” the edge,
the less robust it will be to staying sharp
­and un-chipped, especially in a situation where the blade meets hard
resistance or is swung with great force. Sharpness doesn’t always translate
well to punching through solid obstacles, either. A cheap soft blade can be
made quite sharp (for one blow at least), while even a hard one might be
brittle and shatter – the narrow edge is a great place for cracks to form and
propagate. To find a blade that is hard, sharp, and robust? That would truly be
a weapon from the sagas!
Let’s go build some.

No Cutting Maces!The sharpness rules are only meant to apply to weapons that GURPS
gives the cutting damage type. It is not meant to give an opening to take a
flanged crushing instrument like a mace and turn it into some sort of “cutting
mace.” That sort of weapon is an axe for all intents and purposes; multiple
blades are more likely to impart a (0.5) armor divisor than to improve cutting
damage! The GM should feel free to veto such suggestions with extreme prejudice
. . . unless he decides that style trumps reality, and such a thing – even with the (0.5) armor divisor – is too
cool not to use! In that case, multiple blades should give +1 damage and a
(0.5) armor divisor, with cost and weight being left intentionally vague. Pass
me my bad axe-chuks, please (the more mundane sword-chuks can of course be
found in GURPS Martial Arts, p. 223)!

Cuts Like a Knife
Instead of the cutting modifier giving a flat +50% to behind-armor
injury, it will be treated as a continuum, from +1 to +10 for every two dice of base damage (or per every 7
points, if adding up force-multipliers such as Weapon Master, All-Out or
Committed Attacks, and basic adds to damage from weaponry). Treat the
“standard” good edge you get on most GURPS weapons as +4 per 2d. It will prove more convenient to
convert adds to dice where practicable: Vryce the Mighty, with ST 19, Weapon
Master, and a two-handed axe, would do 3d+10 cut damage using the normal rules,
but using the +4 per 2d suggestion, this should be expressed as 5d+3 cut
The cutting bonuses described below only apply to injury, once the effects of armor
(including tough hide – anything with DR) are applied.
In play, the behind-armor cutting injury multiplier is applied after calculating the effects of DR. There are several ways to effect this:

Why Per 2d Damage?Giving the cutting damage increase a resolution per 2d of damage may seem odd. Damage
bonuses in GURPS, such as those for Weapon Master or Karate, are per die, not per 2d. Per die bonuses
are quick, easy, and avoid rounding issues. So why bother?

The 50% bonus usually given to cutting weapons is either
+1.75 per die, or +3.5 per 2d – and
allowing a slight difference from +3 per
and +4 per 2d has a certain
appeal in games were the more common cutting weapons are swung weapons, and normal people can often rack up 2d or more
damage, allowing them to take advantage of such.

The variable wounding modifier calls for new notation: cut (+5/2d) is used to describe a
cutting weapon that inflicts +5 damage for every 2d of impact. If the weapon
has odd damage dice, such as 3d+1, you do
get partial credit! The modifier of +5/2d would give +5 for every 2d of
damage, and +1 for that last odd die: 3d+1 cut (+5/2d) adds +7 for cutting,
turning into 3d+8, or 5d+1 if converting adds to dice

Armor as Dice: Presented
in Armor Revisited (Pyramid
#3/34: Alternate GURPS II),
expressing DR as dice allows subtracting dice of armor from dice of damage, and then
applying the per 2d cut bonus in a
straightforward fashion. So 3d cut (+4/2d) vs. 1d+1 armor (about DR 4-5) would
put 2d-1 through armor, and the cutting modifier would increase injury by +4 to
2d+3. To ease conversion, consult the Armor
as Dice Table
at the end of the article.
Percentage Increase: This
method allows following the normal “roll damage, subtract DR, apply modifiers” pathway.
The 3d attack might do 11 points of damage; applied to DR 4 mail would leave 8
points remaining. Consulting the Percentage
Increase Table
(p. 00), the cutting modifier of +4 per 2d converts to +60% and results in 4 extra injury, for a total
of 12. This is obviously easiest if you are using a calculator or computerized
game aid, such as a virtual tabletop or gaming app.
Percentage Increase Table
The table below may speed calculation, and the numbers have been
rounded for convenience.

Arrows and Impaling WeaponsThe impaling damage type has a very large behind-armor
multiplier in GURPS, equivalent to +7 per
using the scale used in this article. Arrows are usually impaling, but
many bladed weapons, including spears, knives, and some swords, have a
thrusting mode that inflicts impaling damage.
If one sharpens a blade to inflict a larger cut multiplier
with a swing, what happens to thrust as you sharpen the edges and points?
Options include:
 Nothing: The
impaling damage type is explained as reflecting the weapon’s ability to reach
deeply into the body to reliably strike the creamy fruit center. As such, it
matches best when targeting body parts with location-based injury multipliers
such as vitals (¥3) or skull (¥4) than as an enhanced wounding multiplier.
Leave impaling as-is, then doubling damage on an impaling hit to most locations,
and receiving the increased wound multipliers if you target and hit the skull
or vitals.

Bleed Like Crazy: An
impaling weapon with super-sharp edges won’t make a bigger hole (though it
might go a little bit deeper into flesh), but what clean cuts really do is bleed. Instead of a flat penalty of -1
to HT for every 5 HP (p. B420), consult the Nasty

Size Matters: The
variable wound multipliers could also be used not as a proxy for sharpness, but
as a representation of the cross-section of the wound. Normal war arrows might
be imp (+7/2d), but a broad-bladed spear might well be imp (+10/2d) or more. A
bodkin arrow, which in GURPS provides an armor divisor but
represents a hardened arrowhead on a 0.4-0.5” diameter shaft, might then do 1d
(2) imp (+3/2d) – less injurious than the standard arrow doing 1d imp (+7/2d),
but much better penetration, and consistent with the wound multipliers of
bullets with a similar diameter.

Nasty Bleeding Table
Using this table, a fairly blunt impaling weapon rated at
only +2 per 2d sharpness would
inflict a -1 penalty to HT when checking for bleeding per 7 HP of injury taken.
At +8 through +10 per 2d, the penalty
is -1 per every 2 HP of injury! 

Armor Penetration

Fine and very fine weapons get a boost to basic
damage, which also has the effect of increasing armor penetration. Some games feature
weapons with an armor divisor of (2), or perhaps even more in high-magic,
high-technology, or super-powered campaigns.
Using per-die style armor reduction instead of divisors allows
for finer gradations in armor reduction. Armor piercing capabilities will be
represented as a DR reduction per die (or per
); an AP rating of -3 per 2d
would be equivalent to a (1.75) armor divisor, while -1 per 2d would be roughly (1.2). Ratings of -1 to -4 DR per 2d are fairly realistic; -1 or -2 DR per
might represent hardened, high quality steel facing mild or poor metal
armor, while -3 and -4 DR per 2d can
be seen with high-tech alloys like tungsten carbide or depleted uranium. Or
The practical upper limit for treating armor piercing ratings using
per-die subtraction is probably -5 DR per
of armor, the equivalent of an armor divisor of (3.5). A value of -6 per 2d would be a (7), and -7 per 2d is basically “ignores armor,” so
applying the usual GURPS divisors of (5), (10), and (100) once you go past -5 per 2d point is probably best for ease
of play and extendibility.
Converting DR to dice
using the Armor as Dice Table allows
the per die subtractions to be applied directly to armor. Alternately, apply
the partial armor divisors as a percentage reduction in DR. See the Hardening Craft Table (p. 00) for guidelines
on converting per 2d penetration
ratings into armor divisors (and vice versa).
Example: Striking DR 8
plate (2d+1) with a magic crossbow bolt rated at 1d+5 imp with an AP rating of
-3 DR per 2d would apply the rating
to the 2d+1 of the armor, resulting
in a reduction of DR by 3, for a net DR of 2d-2. Doing the math, (1d+5)-(2d-2)
is 7-1d imp – expressed a bit oddly for GURPS damage, but resulting in 1-6
points of penetration. Using the equivalent armor divisor of (1.75), you’d face
1d+5 penetration with DR 8/1.75, rounded up to DR 5, for 1d penetration . . .
exactly the same result!
Consult the Hardening Craft
(p. 00) for guidelines on the cost of purchasing higher levels of
increased armor divisor for bladed weapons.
Hardening Defenses
The inverse principle can be applied to armor. “Hard” armor would
reduce the penetration of incoming cutting, piercing, or impaling projectiles,
increasing the protection against that blow. The hardness rating can be
positive (+2 DR per 2d damage)
representing well-made, hardened armor, or even negative (-1 DR per 2d damage), representing materials
or construction that are weak vs. certain damage types. When AP rated damage
meets hardness-rated armor, simply add the modifiers. Thus, a hard sword or
arrowhead rated at -2 DR per 2d that
encountered a similarly hardened scale harness rated at +2 DR per 2d vs. cut/imp would cancel each
other out, and face each other on equal footing. This would also allow more
detail if using the optional rule for Blunt
Trauma and Edged Weapons
(GURPS Low Tech, p. 102).

I promised to do this a while back, and am only now getting to it. I’m now doing Sandbox Friday, where I try and use the d30 Sandbox Adventure Generator to slap down two seeds.

Trigger accusation
Major Goal solve mystery – phenomenon
Obstacle to Goal awaken sleeping NPC
Location cemetary
Location Feature plaza
Phenomena darkness
Villian Goal/Reason loyalty (misplaced)
Artifact/Relic mask
Theme shadow
Key NPC soldier

Behind the Lines, a Dead Man’s Party

With the theme being shadow, the key NPC being a soldier, and the obstacle having to do with slumber, I’m going to go with this episode having one or more of the player characters having to penetrate through the lines of a military encampment to steal a valuable artifact from that forces commanding officer (also a soldier).
That commander, a noble once loyal to the kingdom that commands the services of the PCs, has been tricked or ensorcelled into leading an attack on his former friends. The darkness is a mental darkness, akin to the “Have you seen my mask? Isn’t it pretty? It raises the dead!” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Dead Man’s Party) fame. So long as the commander wears the mask, he can command the loyalty of anyone whom he perceives.
Thus the raid must be done at night. Entering past the guards, and removing the mask. It will continue to hold influence over the troop of soldiers until its powers are broken by exposing it to the breaking dawn in the central plaza of a consecrated cementary – all such have this feature, a staple of the local god of life and death. The plaza features a sundial at the center of an always-circular cemetery. When the shadow of the dial lays on the mask at the breaking of the dawn, it will be destroyed.
The trigger? The once-loyal noble accused a wizard of treachery. A correct accusation that if the PCs can foil the invasion before it overthrows the kingdom, will need to be repaid.
The mask should give some sort of power to the army at large in addition to the power for the wearer to enslave and control others. Maybe it turns them in to Zombies of some stripe. giving a set of traits such as (in GURPS) Unkillable and/or Regeneration, so that this body of troops will pose a real threat that can’t be defeated by normal means.
Head Down with the Writing

This weekend I was almost totally head-down working on that article +Peter V. Dell’Orto keeps mentioning we’re working on (and have reached the 30th revision; it does keep getting better, if you must know), as well as the fourth revision to what is supposed to be a short article relating to an old topic starting from this blog. I like where it’s going, but it needs polish and playtest.
Upcoming, I’ve firmed three interviews, with actual scheduling having occurred and questions being written up, and homework being done. I’m comfortable stating that I’ll be chatting with +Stacy Dellorfano, who runs the ConTessa online gaming convention, +Tim Shorts of Gothridge Manor, and +James Introcaso, and he and I will almost certainly be chatting about D&D Next.

Yesterday’s post on Armor as Dice generated more commentary than any content-related post I’ve had in a while. So booyah, that’s good. Lively discussion and all that.

However, +Jason Packer asked a question that echoed (and contrasted with) another poster’s comment about ensuring that you just subtract armor from damage and, if this is greater than zero, rolling the rest as injury.

Why not roll both?

The answer doesn’t lie in the realm of complexity or avoidance of such. It lies in the realm of observed behavior of real-world stuff.

Ballistic Protection and You

Let’s start with page 2 of Ballistic Resistance of Body Armor: NIJ Standard-0101.06, where the definition of a Level IIA vest is discussed:

2.1 Type IIA (9 mm; .40 S&W) 

Type IIA armor that is new and unworn shall be tested with 9 mm Full Metal Jacketed
Round Nose (FMJ RN) bullets with a specified mass of 8.0 g (124 gr) and a velocity of 373 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1225 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and with .40 S&W Full Metal Jacketed (FMJ) bullets with a specified mass of 11.7 g (180 gr) and a velocity of 352 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1155 ft/s ± 30 ft/s). 

Type IIA armor that has been conditioned shall be tested with 9 mm FMJ RN bullets with a specified mass of 8.0 g (124 gr) and a velocity of 355 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1165 ft/s ± 30 ft/s) and with .40 S&W FMJ bullets with a specified mass of 11.7 g (180 gr) and a velocity of 325 m/s ± 9.1 m/s (1065 ft/s ± 30 ft/s).

OK, from a GURPS standpoint, we’re looking at 124gr 9mm ammo at 373m/s, and 180gr .40S&W at 352 m/s. If you use my bullet model, that’s 10.1 points of penetration for the .40S&W, or 9.1 points for the 9mm – surprisingly to me, the .40S&W is the greater threat.

So based on these criteria, a threat level IIA vest should stop that average damage (that’s how GURPS DR is defined), so let’s call it DR 10. All of this is for a new vest, but the upshot of the “conditioned” vest standards is about a point less, or about DR 9.

Note that threat standards have gone up over time. I believe a Level IIA vest used to be rated more along the lines of .22 LR and lower velocity .38 special, maybe .45ACP . . . but NIJ revised their standards in July 2008. The IIA used to be DR 8 or thereabouts. I’d have to go back on old Forum posts for that one, or just check GURPS Cops, by Lisa Steele.

Now, a .45 ACP has but 450J or so, compared to the very hot 725J (hotter than a lot of standard 10mm Auto bullets!) contained in the .40S&W spec. A Level IIA vest will stop a .45ACP pretty much always under the test conditions.

But the variability in penetration if you roll damage vs DR 10 is 2-12, so there’s a small but real chance of a .45 ACP defeating this vest. If you take a more reasonable .40S&W at 320m/s (1050fps or just shy of 600J) for 9.1 points of damage, the vest should always defeat it, but 2d+2 vs DR 10 has a reasonable chance of overmatching the vest. A weapon down to 2d-1 is still a legit threat, and it really shouldn’t be.

Thus, the “Armor as Dice” concept, which applies the average damage of a bullet, 2d for a .45 ACP, 2d+1 or 2d+2 pi+ for .40S&W depending on load, 2d+2 pi for 9mm NATO standard to the average DR (in dice) of the bullet. You have to overmatch the armor before a penetration occurs.

You could get similar effects by taking the bullet average damage (7, 9, and 9 respectively) and looking at DR 10 and saying “nope.”

Missing the vest and hitting the armor is usually handled by critical hits (one option is halving DR) or targeting chinks.

In fact, considering critical hits, it might be a good idea to rewrite the table if using Armor as Dice – or at least re-interpret it such that for firearms, any “max damage” results have an armor-reducing effect instead. “Max Normal Damage” and “Double Damage” results should be rescoped for this case as “half DR.” “Triple Normal Damage” would be easy as “1/3 DR or Armor only provided one point of DR per die,” which are mildly equivalent.

Parting Shot

The overall point of armor as dice – originally – was to ensure that the variability of a normal 1d6 or 2d6 distribution didn’t overwhelm plausible verisimilitude by providing the propensity for a teeny bullet like a .380 ACP from overmatching armor or a vest that it would simply never do in real life. The .45ACP, which is a fine man-stopper but being huge and slow is a poor penetrator, is a more credible example of the type of round that is stopped fairly routinely by lower protective armor.

The side effect of this, in play for me, was much simpler calculation of “threat/no threat” decisions in the black ops game I played a while back, where I could pretty much instantly determine how much injury a victim would take with very quick math. 
But the overall question, “why not roll both?” goes in the opposite direction of what expressing dice of DR is supposed to accomplish.
How about Partial Variability

Now, if you want more complexity, either because you do much of this stuff with a computer or you just groove on it, I’d probably look to one of the optional rules in Armor Revisited to fix this. 6d damage would be expressed as 18+1d instead of 6d. DR 18 might instead be something like 10+2d. You could roll both and see what goes through (8-1d injury).
I’m not sure I’d do it that way without a computerized game aid, but it’s certainly doable.

The term “Armor as Dice” was coined somewhere on the GURPS forums to describe a method of treating armor using (oddly enough) dice instead of points of DR. It was a bit of parallel evolution – while I wasn’t the only one to come up with the phrase, I was using it in games as early as October 2004.

I expanded on the concept, which is pretty much what it says on the tin, in my short article “Armor Revisited,” from Pyramid #3/34: Alternate GURPS.

The way I do this in my games featuring guns is that I convert armor to dice of resistance, at 3.5 points per die. Armor gets the benefit of the doubt (that is, a remainder of 1.5 becomes 2) but you have to earn each full die. Meaning that 12pts of damage becomes 3d+1.5 = 3d+2 protection, while 13pts id 3d+3, rather than 4d-1, because that extra die can be very important.

You then just subract armor from firearm damage and roll the remainder. For hard armor, this works great. So a 5d bullet hits a 4d metal plate (that would have been DR 14, or about 5.1mm of RHA steel), and what punches through is 1d of wounding.

To be very clear: you subtract armor dice from damage dice. You don’t roll until after you’ve done this, and that is an injury roll, which is then modified for bullet size, hit location wound modifiers, etc.

For flexible ballistic armor that lacks stuff like shear-thickening fluids in them, the bullet tends to either go right through with hardly any slowdown, or get totally stopped. For this type of armor, a special rule: if the attack average damage is more than the armor DR – higher dice of damage than armor DR dice – you subtract one point of damage per die of armor.

So a 5d bullet hits a 3d+2 (DR 12) flexible armor vest. Damage is not 2d-2 like it would be for hard armor, but 5d-3. Ouch. This is the way kevlar works in reality, and if you look up the NIJ threat levels as presented in GURPS Cops, and convert them to dice, you match reality very well.

This means if you overmatch a flexible vest by even just a little you will overwhelm it and do a lot ofdamage. If you have a 3d-1 bullet (average damage 9.5) vs a 2d+2 kevlar vest (average protection 9), it only gets 2pts of protection (2d is 2pts), and net damage is 3d-3.

Ties go to the armor; or if you can handle a touch of complexity, roll 1d-4 whenever the dice of damage are equal, but the numbers aren’t. So 3d-1 bullet vs a 3d vest becomes (3d-1) – 3d = (1d-4) -1 = 1d-5; roll a 5 and it’s a zero damage breach of the armor; roll a 6 and it’s one point of penetration; roll 1-4 and the armor stops it.

Great, so you should always do this?

Probably not. While this works quite well and improves verisimilitude for bullets (and actually helps speed of play in most instances), for hand-to-hand combat in fantasy realms it doesn’t work so well as described. Firstly, the strength and power of a hand-delivered blow can be quite variable, while the energy delivered by a gunshot is usually within a few percent of the average for each time (at least out of the muzzle).

Hand to Hand

Not only is the damage from a melee blow pretty variable, armor can be variably thick. Not only “can be,” but at least for late-stage plate, nearly always was. That could be leveraged in interesting ways (roll 2d+1 for damage, but armor is 3+1d6!) if you want to do such a thing, but now you’re getting into complexity for the sake of it.


Also, While DR 7 –> 2d makes good sense, values from DR 1 (about 365 microns of RHA steel!) to DR 6 are probably best left as DR values rather than dice.

Ranged Weapons Revisited

Of course, the fact that every bullet leaves the muzzle with roughly the same energy (I’ve heard about 10-15% in energy, which is 5-7% in velocity, and probably even tighter for match-grade ammo), that doesn’t mean all strikes are created equal.
A bullet can hit a thin part of the armor (penetrating more easily, effectively hitting a “chink”). This is best represented by a called shot (“I shoot his armpit!” or “I aim for the side panels of the vest”) where DR is halved at the usual huge penalty (something like -8) or a critical hit that has the same result.
More likely is that the bullet has the right constant amount of energy, but hits at a bad angle. That will effectively lower penetration.

And if you get variable penetration and variable thickness armor, well, you might as well roll damage anyway, right?

Keep it Simple, Keep it Safe

Armor as Dice was created to reduce the penetration variability of weapons – usually guns – that should be 100% stopped by a given piece of armor, but punch through because of the potential 70% higher damage that can be rolled compared to average penetration. Since GURPS armor values are in fact set at average penetration (DR 70 = 2d = 1″ RHA steel), this provides too much oomph to projectiles.

So if you’re going to do this, just subtract armor dice from damage dice, and roll the remainder as injury.

Split the Difference

Again, as in the article, it would be reasonable to make gunshots partly fixed and partly variable, to account for just such things. DR as either numbers or dice would work in that case, since you’re rolling anyway, but dice to dice or numbers to numbers make for faster comparisons.

Parting Shot

I periodically mention that I’m going to start a game here at some point, likely something like a GURPS: X-Com or Monster Hunters style game that will basically be Dungeon Fantasy but with guns. Or maybe swords and guns. Or sword guns.
Yeah, I’ve got to get one of those.
I would definitely be using the Armor as Dice rule for the guns. It really does make things easier for me to track. I would, however, also only use dice for DR7+, while DR1-6 would just be . . . DR 1-6. Hand-to-hand damage would always be rolled as well, providing no change for most melee combats (and by extension, most fantasy games, especially if rescaling damage to better accord with the firearms scale).
I might do that too. Might not. Once you get into 300-400 points of pure awesome, realism goes out the window, and if you’ve got stones big enough to close to hand-to-hand distance with a sword, you deserve the damage boost.