Thursday is GURPSDay – but GenCon 50 messed up my schedule, so I will post as much as I can since Aug 11!

Welcome to the second year of GURPSDay, and here’s the pull for this week.

We’re currently drawing content from 89 blogs. Only 11 more to go until we’re pulling from 100! But we’ll need your help.

How? Two action items: post more, recruit more. It’s really that simple. More posters is more posts, and more interest in GURPS.

Below you can find the blog activity for the last week. There’s a whole lotta awesome GURPS going on. Read all the posts.

Not every blog posts about GURPS every week, but some are ridiculously prolific! The list is randomized, so different bloggers will be highlighted at the top of the post each week.

As always, if you’re interested in having your blog consolidated here, navigate over to The Instructions Page and drop me a line. Take special note of the RSS Settings Fix if you’re on WordPress.
Continue reading “GURPSDay Summary Aug 11 – Aug 21, 2017”

Saturday was packed for me. I was busy from 9am until 10:30pm with good important stuff. Sunday, the last day of the con, was basically open for me – a free day – until the show closed, at which point I was to help tear down the booth.

The Big Day

Well, I awoke realizing that I’d left my battle-mat in the booth. No big, assuming it was there. I beat feet over before, it turned out, that the convention hall opened, which was 9am. So I went over to my gaming room, set up early, then chatted with some of the IGDN members there. I described my grappling system to Sarah at the booth, and another member sat down, and “oohed” and “aahhed” over my book, which was on the table. She opened it up and started avidly reading. I just grabbed a pen, signed it, and made a gift of it to her. If she’s that enthusiastic, she can have one! Continue reading “GenCon: The Big, The Free, and The Teardown”

What happened before

We do the right amount of recon, and discover that homeless are disappearing and being killed from their old haunts beneath the city. We spend some time in a old magically inclined pub and find out that the Conclave is very much out of resources. Nonetheless, we hit the morgue and find that in all likelihood ghouls are coming out of the tunnels to eat and kill.

We prepare for an armed incursion. We have the right background on ghouls, try and optimize our loadouts accordingly (cut, burn, holy water, not guns). It’s time. We’re goin’ on a dungeon crawl in the sewer tunnels. Let’s get it on.

Continue reading “Ceteri Campaign S0E10 – Ghoul on Fire”

Thursday is GURPSDay! I’ve actually got a dedicated GURPSDay post today, but also, I did a lot of musing on shields this week. One of those got picked up by a prominent HEMA instructor, and went big. Well, big for me. But there’s a lot on making shields more interesting. Still: it’s GURPSDay, so let’s get started.

Welcome to the second year of GURPSDay, and here’s the pull for this week.

We’re currently drawing content from 89 blogs. Only 11 more to go until we’re pulling from 100! But we’ll need your help.

How? Two action items: post more, recruit more. It’s really that simple. More posters is more posts, and more interest in GURPS.

Below you can find the blog activity for the last week. There’s a whole lotta awesome GURPS going on. Read all the posts.

Not every blog posts about GURPS every week, but some are ridiculously prolific! The list is randomized, so different bloggers will be highlighted at the top of the post each week.

As always, if you’re interested in having your blog consolidated here, navigate over to The Instructions Page and drop me a line. Take special note of the RSS Settings Fix if you’re on WordPress.
Continue reading “GURPSDay Summary Aug 4 – Aug 10, 2017”

GURPS 4e introduced the combat technique, which in short was a way to buy off a penalty usually associated with an activity. Things like targeting a specific hit location, or buying off a penalty to strike behind you with a kick. There are also non-combat techniques. And some techniques, such as the somewhat-dreaded Arm Lock, could be purchased up from the base skill (Arm Lock defaults to Judo skill at no penalty, and you can buy up to Judo+4, or even Judo +6, for four and seven points respectively).

One thing that they ran in to quickly was pricing. At one point per point of penalty cancelled out, there was a bit of a mathematical ceiling on how many and how good you wanted to buy these up. Since you could get +1 to every thing you did with a combat skill for 4 points at the most, unless you had a very, very focused concept you really didn’t want to go there. Further, if you wanted four techniques, well, it was better to increase them through base skill.

This represents something of a reality, but it also means that two fighters can tend to be fairly similar, and folks have produced a few different alternate pricing mechanisms. Things like

  • A point in a technique gives you a +2 bonus
  • A point in a technique actually buys off the entire allowed penalty (if you can usually buy something from -4 to no penalty, a point in the technique buys it to max value).
  • Treating techniques as Perks, with a fairly involved pricing scheme.

Some of these just push the problem around a bit: the 1 point gives +2 (or potentially +1 to two things) means that instead of four techniques being unwise, it’s now eight. Of course, that’s a lot of techniques.

Still, what I was wondering about is if there’s a “thou shalt not nerf existing characters” way to approach differentiation of martial artists using the technique system.

There might be. Continue reading “Martial Arts Techniques – Focused Training”

What happened before

After the big showdown at the subway station, we found ourselves at least temporarily free from persecution by the sidhe, specifically the Children of the Storm. Having defeated them sufficiently in mostly-honorable combat, we managed to extricate ourselves from that. That left us headed for a bit of a time-skip, and we pick up the action in July 1999, having spent the better part of two and a half years (28 months) growing from teens to adults. All of us are independent, and either in college, or using our talents to begin to start make it on our own.

We’re about to exit tutorial mode…

Continue reading “The Chronicles of Ceteri: Ep9 – Ghoul Recon”

Recently I’ve been on a bit of a shield kick.

One-on-one with Shields: Upsetting the conventional wisdom shows a video by Roland Warzecha of Dimicator, and how he’s using a heater shield much like he uses a buckler. While he owns the fact that he’s an expert in sword-and-buckler play based on the I.33 manual, he’s pretty firm about the style and method carrying over, at least in dueling.

Viking Shield Fighting in GURPS looked a bit about the style that I’m being instructed in, and how to represent that in GURPS. I do talk a bit about using the shield, and using it to Feint and Beat (ST-based Feint), as well as mentioning modeling this as a grapple. I’m still persuaded that the give and take of grappling is the best model for this kind of thing.

Finally, I looked at the shields themselves quite a bit in Vikings, Shields, and Game Rules. That one had some mechanics, but a lot of it was covering some of the truths and myths about shields, their construction, and some overall notes on game rules.

For this post, I’m not going to claim this is exhaustive, well thought out, playtested, or conclusive.

What’s the Point of Points in Shield?

By and large, a lot (not all, but a lot) of the benefits of lugging around a medium shield accrue from the defense bonus. That gives you +2 (for medium) to all active defenses: Block, of course, and Parry and Dodge.

Block is nice, though – unless you buy Parry Missile Weapons, it’s one of the better defenses against ranged weapons. But by and large, putting 8 points into a weapon skill gets you at least +2 to hit, +1 to Parry, and +2 to anything that uses a Quick Contest of weapon, such as making feints with the weapon, and resisting all feints (the clarification/expansion is you resist feints with your best melee skill, armed or unarmed).

Now, don’t get me wrong: Buying up shield gets you these things as well: +2 to strike with the shield, +1 to Block, and (especially with the clarification from p. 100 of GURPS Martial Arts) also gives you +2 to make shield feints, and +2 to resist all feints.

Blocks are more penalized for doing repeatedly, though: -5 rather than -4 for Parry. You also have a deep incentive to buy up weapon skill: penalties to attacks are legion: deceptive attacks can soak up all sorts of high skill. Bad footing. Location penalties can get steep: chinks in armor or the eyes or eyeslits. Darkness penalties. One can probably rationalize something like up to Weapon Skill of about 36 or so if you wan to have a 50-50 chance of stabbing someone in the eye in a dark cave while giving the bad guy -5 to Parry, Block, or Dodge with a Deceptive attack.

And of course, once you have a single defense that high (Weapon Parry), it’s hard to figure out why you also want Shield of equal power. Heck, my current modern-day Paladin-to-be has Broadsword-23 with his special sword, giving him Parry-15 with just the sword, Parry-17 with a DB +2 shield, but only Shield-14, which gives Block-13 with the shield. So mostly I parry.

This is pretty much exactly the opposite to how Roland used his heater shield and how I use my viking shield, where you purposefully and actively either use the shield to keep distance and set range, or purposefully use it to deny lines, shut down attacks, and otherwise get this huge piece of mobile-but-fragile cover in the other guy’s face.

Human vs. Human isn’t always the norm

One thing to keep in mind is a comment from one of the other posts. Mike Bernstein wrote:

There’s one major point that I’ve always held onto, as it helps me maintain some of the suspension of disbelief in the fantasy genre, despite my HEMA experience. The very valid points you’ve made come from our world, where humans fight humans… not a fantasy world where your opponent might be drastically smaller, faster, tougher, larger, heavier, possessing thick leathery skin, tentacles, magical shielding, alien anatomy, precognition… so on and so forth. The openings and opportunities are different, even the psychology is different. A well-practiced feint that works on most human opponents is a gamble when you try it on something with the thought process of a bipedal lizard, or bowl of sentient jell-o that has no concept of defense.

So it might be reasonable to say that, while typical rulesets underappreciate the shield in human to human combat, getting +2 AC against something the size of an ogre with a club is a pretty good compromise when by all means something that size might just as easily shatter the bones supporting the shield. To say nothing of non-humanoids with anatomical features that could drastically impair shield defense.

I’ve come to believe that the seemingly haphazard, unrealistic use of weapons and armor in the fantasy genre is actually very realistic in a world where literally anything could be around the corner. Adventurers have to have a sort of savvy brawling, adaptable and scrappy kind of mentality, and formal training only helps so much as itäs usually completely irrelevant to your situation. There is no arms race as we know it, evolving and honing our tools and tactics directionally… just infinite influences that make it impossible to decide which direction is technologically “forward”. All those rule abstractions and anachronisms might be the only thing preserving our sanity, compared to trying to capture all of this in one enormous system.

I think this is a very good point, and while I’ll continue to try and deal with the base case of two humans dueling, exploring what happens when a dwarf, ogre, or giant steps into the combat arena, or you get dogpiled by a pack of kobolds, is likely the more important case to worry about in most fantasy games.

Attack to Defend

If you want folks to think “shield shield shield” instead of “sword sword sword,” you need to make using the shield proactive, fun, and valuable.

So what if you could perhaps make a skill roll vs your shield skill, and have that define how much defensive benefit you got? And yes, it would probably count as an attack. But since (a) the shield is meant to be used in the “off hand,” and (b) is frequently but not uniquely targeted at one guy . . . this seems like a perfect opportunity to lessen the burden by allowing this to be part of a Dual-Weapon Attack. After all, a shield is a one-handed melee weapon.

Setup Attacks

So, one way to just make this happen is to use a shield to make a setup attack, from Pyr 3/52, Delayed Gratification. You make the setup attack with your shield, which imposes a penalty to your foe’s defenses. You then follow that up and on your next attack with your weapon you gain the stackable benefit from the setup attack on your next weapon attack. There’s an issue with that, of course, but that’s somewhat resolvable.

Effects of Aggressive Shield Use

So you make a skill roll, and that should enable one or more of the following

  • You’re skillfully using your weapon to cover lines of attack. This makes you harder to hit, assessing a flat-out penalty to the foe’s attack roll
  • You’re actively warding lines and anticipating actions of your foe, perhaps forcing him into preferred lines of attack where you can more easily block. This gives you a bonus to your defense when you use your shield to counter it.
  • You use your shield to open up the foe’s defenses. This is basically akin to the setup attack above, depending on the mechanism used to mark success.
  • You use your shield to hide or cover your own lines of attack or open up the foe. This would provide a bonus to your own hit roll.

So four possibilities. All have utility and all would be fun. Making them the results of an attack-like action gives you a reason to do it.

Making Skill Matter

High skill should give more benefit than less skill, so the result should scale somehow.

How does GURPS usually handle this:

  1. Well, we could use margin of success. Just make a roll and however much you succeed by . . . means something.
  2. We could also use the “risk first, roll second” method that is based on Deceptive Attack. Take a penalty to skill, with each -2 giving either +/-1 to a defense (yours/his), or +/-2 to an attack (again, yours/his). So if you have Shield-18, you might take -4 to skill, and have a 90% chance of making that roll, which gives you, based on the options above, +2 to your defense, -2 to his defenses, +4 to your attack, or -4 to his.
  3. Finally, one could use a “damage roll” mechanic, where a successful skill check allows you to make a “damage roll” (maybe look up skill on the thrust column of the table on p. B16?) that would translate into defense and hit rolls. Probably each point of damage would be one control point, +/-1 to defense, or +/-2 to an attack roll.

Reason to Circle

Rather than decide ahead of time, perhaps this successful “Shield Employment Attack” can be reflected by points, that can be used however you’d like at any moment. So I have Shield-16, and with my medium shield I risk a roll vs 10 (-6 to my skill), and if I’m successful, I have 3 points to spend. The +2 to all defenses for having a big-ass plank in the way is inviolate.

So I’ve got my points. Note this doesn’t depend on the other guy, because you can use these points in opposition to each other. I decide to throw an attack and spend 2 of my points to give myself +4 to hit. Oops, my foe is an expert and he had 5 points to spend. He cancels out my 2 points, spends two more to give me -2 to hit and +1 to his own defense; he holds one in reserve.

The Points are Obvious

One possibility here is that how many points you have is obvious. An expert shieldmaiden with Shield-20 might routinely be wandering around with 3 points (rolling vs 14), and that level of defense is obvious to opponents. She’s well protected, and you know that there’s a certain threat to be dealt with here.

Extra Benefits to Evaluate

Or you can not have the points obvious, and is all an opponent knows is the shield is out there. But if they Evaluate, maybe it’s a Contest of Weapon skill, and if you win, you can know how many points of defensive potential your opponent has. Maybe margin of success caps how many points you’re told. So win by 10, and if your opponent is wandering around with 10 or fewer defensive points, you know it. Win by 2, and is all you can see from your evaluation is either she has 0, 1, 2 or “2 or more” defensive points.

Build up defense or Replace

If you can make shield attacks and gather points turn after turn after turn, that could get silly. No, it WILL get silly – even if you can spend points directly to cancel things out, so it’s really only the relative benefits that matter, if in the middle of combat when one guy has 34 points in reserve, the other has 29, and the GM is ready to tear his hair out to make something happen, a third party steps in . . . do the two shield wielders have a potentially 30-point advantage over the new guy? That’s just silly.

So the best bet is that repeated rolls like this can replace your current total, but not add to it. Either that or there’s a solid cap on how many points you can accumulate. Maybe equal to your Block skill or something.

Weapon Wards

This might even be able to be applied to weapons as well. This should be decisively disadvantageous relative to shields, but I can see doing the same sort of thing, with most weapons effectively being DB +0, but a few of them might get DB +1 or DB +2 (a weapon held in defensive grip, or a staff), while others such as knives (-1 to parry) basically come with an effective -2 to skill to get a “point” of defense.

I’m not entirely sure about this, though. It will cost you an attack, so to both ward and strike counts as a rapid strike or something. And obviously you can’t All-Out Attack to ward and attack and then spend points from that to bolster your own defenses or make yourself harder to hit (both defensive uses), but bonuses to hit or openings in their defenses seem legit.

Beat it Down

The analogy of these points to damage is deliberate. Control Points from Technical Grappling should be just as good as these defensive points, allowing huge monsters to grapple the shield and rip the shield away or otherwise just force it out of action. Even if you don’t use TG, you can just attack the shield directly, and not allow defensive points to be spent to counter this (the shield points come from it being in the way, not from being hard to grab) – you can only Block. If successful, roll the usual punch or control point damage, and you can cancel out or overwhelm their feeble shield points. This prevents a ST 8 guy with high Shield and a small board from dominating an angry troll or something. There needs to be a point where I don’t care how skillful your shieldwork is, it’s Just Not Enough (this speaks to Mike’s point in the box above).

Parting Shot

This isn’t a “do this” kind of post. It’s more musing about how to make using the shield a proactive thing, that you want to do, with concrete benefits that are tangible, fun, and useful.

I’m really, really not sure how this interacts with the rest of the system, either. This type of thing impacts Feint, Beat, Evaluate, and might even be superior to both Defensive Attacks and All-Out Defense, which would be problematical, to say the least.

It’s just when I got to wondering how to make the points in shield matter, I thought of both On Target, which makes Aim an attack, as well as Setup Attacks, which are a natural to allow and encourage with shield use. It also plays with my thoughts on looking at Mutually Exclusive, Comprehensively Exhaustive attack-defense options (that’s an old post), where bonuses to attack and defense can be somewhat interchangeable, and looking for options for each.

I also note that what I think might be the most intuitive (and in many ways, simply echoes the “generate points, spend points” methodology above) way to handle aggressive shield use is to treat it as a grapple, but with a special case of how to break it (move away, with rules on what consists of away).

Looking at aggressive shield use as grappling will be another post.

Thursday is GURPSDay! It’s been a good week, and we even got a new release today: Steampunk Conveyances. This book launches the Vehicles series, which will present ready-to-use thematically grouped, well, vehicles.

Welcome to the second year of GURPSDay, and here’s the pull for this week.

We’re currently drawing content from 89 blogs. Only 11 more to go until we’re pulling from 100! But we’ll need your help.

How? Two action items: post more, recruit more. It’s really that simple. More posters is more posts, and more interest in GURPS.

Below you can find the blog activity for the last week. There’s a whole lotta awesome GURPS going on. Read all the posts.

Not every blog posts about GURPS every week, but some are ridiculously prolific! The list is randomized, so different bloggers will be highlighted at the top of the post each week.

As always, if you’re interested in having your blog consolidated here, navigate over to The Instructions Page and drop me a line. Take special note of the RSS Settings Fix if you’re on WordPress.
Continue reading “GURPSDay Summary Jul 28 – Aug 3, 2017”

For those coming in from Dimicator: welcome, and thanks for visiting! My stats rather firmly reflect a deluge of traffic thanks to Roland’s Facebook share. For those looking for other stuff:

More on shields
My experiences starting to get into viking-style martial arts with Ásfólk:

And welcome to all!

Forget All You Know

Roland Warzecha has done it again.

Sure, he’s a master of sword-and-buckler play, so it’s possible that the style being seen in the Facebook video (with a longer, 20min version available if you’re one of his Patrons, which I am) is playing to his strengths and interests.

It’s also likely and/or possible, as he does note in the video, that formation use and dueling use are somewhere between mildly and spectacularly different.

Still, most RPG fighting is basically dueling. One-on-one or many-on-one fights where the primary goal is not politics by other means, but surivival, food, or loot.

But the very, very active shield use seen in my viking-style fighting, in sword-and-buckler, and now with heater shields is unlike anything I’d seen before, and very, very unlike what the typical RPG is telling you.

Consider: a bucker is going to be 1-1.5kg (2-3 lbs or so); a properly made viking shield of historical thickness is parchment on top of wood that will average maybe 4.5mm thick (7mm near the boss, 2mm near the edges was not uncommon; 1mm edge wrap made the actual edge about 4mm). It will probably be 3-4kg (6-9 lbs, mostly in the 6-7.5 range). The heater shields Roland and his partner are using in that video are on the order of 3kg as well.

What does D&D state for a “medium” shield? Six pounds, or about 3kg. GURPS lists a light medium shield in Low-Tech at 7 lbs, which is likely about right for Viking shields, but lists a heater shield at 13 lbs. For this one, I trust Roland – he physically measured and reproduced a very well-preserved period shield.

So these are lightweight pieces of wood. And they’re definitely more than +2 to AC or +2 Defense Bonus and the ability to Block, rather than just parry.

What I did not appreciate

There are things that I just didn’t appreciate before I started training in viking fighting and associating with folks like Roland.

The shield is always moving. I guess it sort of figured, but mostly it seemed from entertainment media that basically the shield just sits there and you hide behind it. That’s just not how I’ve been trained for it, though of course I haven’t seen, practiced, or read about all styles of shield use.

The shield is the primary weapon. When fighting to not die, as opposed to score points or get in the first hit, your weapon is secondary, and mostly it’s secondary as a defensive line. In GURPS terms, we train to almost always make defensive attacks (Martial Arts, p. 100) and always have the shield and sword arranged so that if the shield fails, the sword is in the way. I suppose that’s still just a Parry roll, but you’d make it at the better of Block or Parry, +DB of the shield and +1 for the Defensive Attack. I use my shield against my opponent every moment of a match/sparring session/training drill. The same doesn’t always hold for the sword.

Light Infantry is always on the move. You’re always trying to keep yourself at shield-to-shield distance, and because of that, and because your one-handed sword or axe basically reaches to the limits of, or maybe a bit past, the shield edge, if you can’t touch it with the edge of your shield, you can’t touch it with your sword, either. And the principle of not-dead and fuhlen says that if you feel or see your foe coming in, you back up, move sideways, or otherwise preserve distance.

The shield is always in the way. Less so for heater shields and bucklers, but the “cone of exclusion” is really impressively large for both. Held in one hand at full extension, even a 12-18″ buckler protects an awful lot of your body by denying angles of attack. More so with a heater, kite, and three-foot-diameter viking shield too. Yes, you absolutely can stab someone in the shin with a lunged spear that goes under the shield – I spent a rather long time in a training class the other week doing exactly that to a fellow student – but that just confirms battlefield finds with lots of leg wounds. Even so: shields are very hard to get around.

The shield and the weapon are one. You use them both, together, all the time. On the attack, the shield forces an opening, grapples for position and superiority (I use the word grapples very deliberately here), and is almost always the lead entry. Once an opening is established and confirmed (by eye, by line, by movement, by experience), the sword or axe leaves its secondary defensive role and assumes the role of man-killer.

RPGs are Weapon-Centric

Not telling anyone something they don’t know here. But most of the rules favor the “I strike!” part of it. Maybe that’s a legacy of wargames (and yes, CHAINMAIL and the rules that influenced Dungeons and Dragons), and safety-first tournament rules. This is true of both armed and unarmed styles. I can point to my former Korean Kumtoogi – the allowed striking surfaces are the top of the head on the face-mask (easily armored), the belly (easily armored), the wrists (easily armored), the throat (easily armored), and the thighs (easily armored, if unique to the Hwa Rang Do style with a patented, I believe, leg piece). If my wife and I are sparring, and she hits me first, and I hit her second, she gets the point, even if I would have killed or injured her as well.

Anyway, point is, you spend your time at the table thinking “how can I do unto the other guy,” not “how am I using my shield offensively this turn, and do I have an opening?”

It might be realistic, but it’s less fun. Hit Points (or Vigor in Dragon Heresy) are mostly designed to model all of that give and take and defensive action anyway.

So we concentrate on weapons, so we can have fun. That might make a poor simulation, but it makes a good fighting game.

Still, it’ll be fun to think about what mods might be needed to turn the balance to shields a bit. These days, if I only have a one-handed sword, and am facing someone with sword-and-shield, that’s a real issue for me. I’m not so sure that’s true in D&D or even GURPS.

In D&D, the shield mostly gets you +2 to AC in Fifth Edition. The Protection fighting style allows imposing disadvantage on an attack roll if the attack isn’t directed at you. Which is interesting, as that means that Protection fighting style says you can use your reaction to impose the rough equivalent of a -5 to hit for someone else, but only a fairly passive +2 to AC for yourself. Well.

In GURPS, weapon and shield skills are usually lop-sided in favor of the weapon, because there’s a lot more you can do with the weapon (deceptive attack, hit location come immediately to mind) than the shield. And even using the shield as a weapon, it does thrust, while even a one-handed sword does swing.

In general, you’d want an option where in either case, choosing to go defensive with the shield makes it impressively hard to get in on the other guy, without necessarily eliminating ALL offensive options.

Hrm. That gives me an idea. (scribble scribble scribble)

I’m not sure I’ll run out and change my own games necessarily. I’m not necessarily recommending you change yours. But I was just struck by how little the dueling-style fight referenced in Roland’s video resembles any RPG combat I’ve ever experienced. Of course, my experience isn’t the entire world, nor is that style of fighting the only one. In particular, full plate harness was quite mobile, insanely well protected, and probably led to very different tactics when sharp/lethal weapons were in hand. Likewise, true formation fighting with heavy infantry – phalanx or legionary fighting – is going to be very different.

But I’ll end where I began: formation fights of heavy infantry don’t come up much in my four to eight person parties. I know some folks get a lot of mileage out of forming a wall of battle, with spearmen striking over the heads of the first rank. I envy those groups with the discipline to pull that off. I do.