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

Reviewing my own work. How terribly narcissistic.

Dodge This ( +Douglas Cole )

This article tries to break down some alternate rules for dodging projectiles of all speeds. It’s organized in three sections, and includes one large box on why rules such as these might not be a good idea for inclusion in the Basic Set, and ends with some tables summarizing some of the suggestions for penalties, modifiers, and die rolls given in the article.

Keen Eyes and Fast Reflexes

Saw that one coming . . .

This section spends about a page on perception rolls. No, really. The basic rules hang a lot on the question of whether or not you are aware of a foe, because tucked right in the definition of Active Defense is the prohibition of using one against an attack you can’t perceive in some way.

The sub-sections includes a bit on GURPS’ default assumptions about perception rolls and awareness, and then provides some suggestions for GMs that want to have a die roll determine whether a foe is currently being tracked. Lots of penalties, arcs of vision, and it touches on Danger Sense and Enhanced Tracking, two Advantages that can help with Perception checks.

All of them end the same way: lacking other options, you can defend against that which you’re aware of. If you’re not, you can’t.

Bob and Weave

A very short section containing an optional rule. If post-hit defending breaks your SoDoM (Sense-of-Disbelief-o-Meter), then you’re given a variant: Move and Attack (Evasive), which allows you to dodge like a funky monkey, giving penalties to be hit, but taking penalties to your own actions as well.

Active Defenses

The last section gives details on using these options with incoming projectiles. First, seeing an incoming ranged threat, notionally from a thrown car (I should have worked that in for supers) or a hurled axe all the way down to rifle bullets. This is basically a determination of the size modifier of the threat, and if you can resolve it, a Perception roll based on size and movement.

From there, you can try and stop it, but a method of penalizing defenses based on projectile speed is given for those who feel that fast attacks should be harder to parry, block, or dodge. The rules are rationalized in the case for using objects or shields as cover, as well as a short discussion of how they work with spells. Also lists the penalty for dodging lasers. For whenever that comes up.

Finally, for those who know and love Tactical Shooting, which also has some harsh rules for the dodging of bullets, a few words are spent on how to mesh this article with those rules.

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

Eidetic Memory: Brock-Avery Guns (David Pulver)

Eidetic Memory is a monthly column written by +David Pulver . It’s usually filled with interesting stuff. This month is no exception.

Something like it really existed

Ultimately, this article is hard to review, since basically it contains four pages of juicy details, history, and hints at plot seeds wrapped around maybe five or six guns.

Brock-Avery Guns is a fictional corporation designed as a patron or supplier. Since the article covers the company’s history from about 1717 to the present, which makes it suitable from everything from the American Revolution to dealing with insurgents in Afghanistan (or really covert stuff in our own borders, if you’re a fan of +Sean Punch‘s covert ops campaign).

Chinese .45 ACP Broomhandle!

Each firearm is given its place in history, some really fun design notes as to how and why it was made, plus some great stories, always hinting at the supernatural or just plain weird, on how it was used.

The weapons include a .50 Flintlock “Cemetary Gun,” a belt-fed .380 ACP small machinegun, two different .45ACP pistols based on a Mauser C96 “broomhandle” design, a monster .30-06 battle rifle, and an over-under pistol firing .380ACP in one barrel . . . and a gyrojet rocket in the other!

Pretty cool. Go read it.

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

The Devil’s Chariot is basically ‘everything you could ever want to know about the Mi-24V “Hind” helicopter. I mean everything. The article is divided into five sections.

I have to call out one bit in particular in the introduction. Hans uses a quote from the Bible to introduce the article, a long one from Revelations 9:7-10. It is totally creepy how well the quote can apply to helicopter gunships:

And the shapes of the locusts were like unto horses prepared unto battle; and on their heads were as it were crowns like gold, and their faces were as the faces of men. And they had hair as the hair of women, and their teeth were as the teeth of lions. And they had breastplates, as it were breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was as the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle. And they had tails like unto scorpions, and there were stings in their tails: and their power was to hurt men five months.

So after a short introduction on what may well be, as he says, “The world’s most famous helicopter,” he gets right to it.

MIL Mi-24V “Hind-E” (Russia, 1976-1986)

This is the introductory section. The vehicle is described in real-world terms, broadly. It covers some nicknames, as well as the production and usage history, including the Mi-35 export version. It then gives a brief rundown of who uses them, and in some cases how many were purchased and remain functioning. You definitely get a flavor for who bought them, and also that you’d better be prepared to spend significant maintenance effort on them – 75% of Uganda’s purchased rotorcraft are out of service!

The Mi-24V in Detail

When Hans says detail, he means detail.

The first bit covers the construction and armoring of the airframe, again in real-world terms, making it amenable to SWAG conversion to other systems that can base armor protection off of type and thickness of material. It briefly touches on the helicopter’s reputation for unvulnerability (the famous scene from the original Red Dawn where it shrugs off an RPG hit comes to mind)  and where that may have originated, and where it’s wrong.

Engine, payload, fuel system, electronics. Crew compartment and flight systems. GURPS skills required to successfully operate the craft. Gunsights. And a detailed and specific Hit Location Table with location penalties to hit each place, with footnotes talking about details and DR of each location. It’s well done, and I think all vehicles should have one.

In case you want to bring friends, Hans describes the layout and capacity of the cargo/passenger area, you can bring either four or eight friends along.

Hans has a penchant for weapon statistics and details, and this article proves no exception. He probably lists every single possible armament for the craft. Though the carrying capacity is surprisingly limited, mostly by engine power, the hardpoint rating for each mount is given. Then he details all the weapon loads used for the craft.

Mi-24V Armament

Without going into too many details, any new weapons are given the usual treatment. The write-ups include wonderful details such as design quirks (you can only fire ten bursts of any size with the main 12.7mm machinegun!) in addition to usual ammo load and usage notes.

The vehicle statline is provided on p. 20, along with the detailed armament table summarizing nine different weapons that can be mounted to the vehicle.

Using the Mi-24V

The article finishes up with some notes on use. First, how to get one in the first place, by nefarious or not-so-nefarious means. Hard to approach but easy to steal, seems like. Notes on how they’re used with the rules in GURPS Action 2 for chases and attacks are provided.

The article touches very briefly on operational employment (in pairs or trios) and covers why. A text box notes what movies you can see the Mi-24 (or mocked up ones) in action.

The last few paragraphs cover in meticulous detail every single thing found on the pilots or in the cabin of one of these aircraft. Right down to insect repellant and water purification tablets.

Parting Shot

Hard to say anything other than “it’s that complete.” If you are looking for a scary adversary or a worthy prize – but not something as sophisticated and expensive as say the AH-64D – you’ll find it here. The article is encyclopedic in scope and tone, but I’d be hard pressed to find anything missing.

In his Melee Academy post for July, +Peter V. Dell’Orto touches on enfilade fire, that is, shooting through a whole bunch of targets. GURPS can get a little wonky (or a lot wonky) when you apply rules that are pretty much built around point fire from one single source (usually a PC with a gun) against another point target (the designated NPC victim, most often).

He comments that it would be an interesting post to look at how GURPS does this in various ways, and see about what the best one would be for each. This is going to assume at least two shots, but may be many shots, since some high tech weapons can have RoF in the range of 60-100, that is, 3,600 to 6,000 bullets per minute. Even your bog-standard assault rifle types can have RoF 10-13, and rapid-cycling automatics firing pistol cartridges (like the MAC-11) can hit RoF 20.

Current Rules Options: Point Targets

GURPS has a couple ways of dealing with point targets – three that I can think of offhand. Let’s see what they are – or seem to be (more on that later).

Direct Fire

The simplest and best covered, and easiest to rationalize. Roll your skill, adjusted for many, many things (range, rate of fire, target location, aiming bonuses, target size, movement penalties, etc). If you succeed by 0, you hit once. For every margin of success equal to the gun’s Rcl, you hit with one more shot. Most non-sci-fi weapons have at least Rcl 2, so to hit with many bullets, you need to have a very high skill.

This reasonably accurately represents that most times, firing lots and lots of bullets at a target is not really done to hit lots and lots of times, but rather to increase the chances of hitting a few times.

For most situations, the point fire rules work just fine. Any bullets that miss are supposed to default to the Hitting the Wrong Target rules on pp. B389-390.

What happens when you miss?

Well, actually, that’s a darn good question. The rules for Hitting the Wrong Target and Overshooting and Stray Shots (p. B390) really seem to be tailored very much to arrows and such. One shot at a time. The Wrong Target rules make it very much seem like “which unlucky soul between you and your target got hit,” but since certainly you could miss high, the line of fire likely extends past him as well (how far?). The Overshooting rule refers to the projectile pretty consistently, and neither are really written with a mind to the assumption that in all likelihood, more shots miss than hit even on a successful attack.

So perhaps neither of these is really a great idea for guns and rapid fire. In fact, right now, I’m leaning towards “these don’t apply.”

OK, so I attack his hex! HA!

It’s sometimes funny how this blog works (or doesn’t. Your call.), since I’d never really stared at that rule before. Of course you can attack the hex someone’s in at +4, right?


Well, I don’t think so. Not for many weapons – only those that can engage in plunging fire, or as the Box on p. 414 makes clear, you “lobbed it in a high arc.” I’m not convinced that the +4 is due to the size of the hex, either. I think it’s the fact that it ain’t moving. That rule also says that attacking an area is for area-effect and explosive attacks – and area effect seems to have a pretty precise definition, and ‘firing lots of bullets at lots of hexes’ doesn’t really seem to apply.

So what about attacking a hex? It’s the very definition of a one-yard target, with the +2 bonus for blob, box, or sphere. So a hex is, well, SM+0 and attacked at neither a penalty or a bonus for size. Again, pretty sure that +4 is for immobility, not dimension.

Thing is, if you miss the hex, you’re supposed to use the scatter rules. Scatter for a hail of bullets? Actually, that’s not a bad concept in general. Let’s hold on to that for later.

How does any of this apply to Peter’s original question about what rules to use when attacking lots of guys in an area? Well, it doesn’t.

Not yet.

Current Rules Options: Dispersed or Area Targets

OK, so if the previous discussion hit shooting that guy over there, what about shooting at that whole bunch of guys with the torches, pitchforks, and thermal detonators?

Looks like you sort of have two options.

Spraying Fire (p. B409)

Within a 30-degree arc, you may choose to spread fire among as many targets as you like. Thing is, you waste a bunch of shots going from target to target, which is fine. However, you get to choose how many bullets of those not wasted you can sling at each one. Yow. That’s cool under fire, all right. You make a separate attack roll against each target at the effective RoF you dedicated. You can only do this if you have RoF 5 or higher.

Suppression Fire (p. B409)

The other way provided to attack an area is to mark out a two-yard-wide area, and shoot at it. You can fire up to your weapon’s full RoF, and you can attack basically a two-yard-wide swath from you to your target with a fairly low hit rate: 6 + the RoF bonus of your weapon. For every extra RoF 5, you may add another two-yard zone as long as you fire at least 5 bullets into each zone.


The point target rules work quite well, but a lot of the other stuff (even for point targets) squeak around the edges a bit. I think the existing concepts can be combined and recombined usefully here.

Missing and Point Fire

The Stray Shots and Wrong Target rules should probably be rationalized a bit. Maybe if you miss against a point target, you roll the same 1d6 for Scatter. 1 means you missed high (over the target); 4 means you missed low (short), 3/5 mean you were short and right/left, while 2/6 are long and right/left.

I’ll leave how much the attack missed by for another time. That can get ugly if done wrong.

Still, that would allow a GM to adjudicate where the line of fire went.

Suppression Fire

These are actually some of my favorite rules, and I think that they should be used more broadly. Any time you fire at a target, bullets that don’t hit your intended target create a cone of fire/suppressed zone that is hazardous to cross. If you enter that zone before the shooter’s next turn, you take suppression fire.

Spraying Fire

Yucky yucky. Too much fine control over bullets. To pull that off, use Ranged Rapid Strike, not the rules here. Then it makes more sense to choose between targets and allocate bullets. What I would do instead is something like picking a line of hexes N hexes wide, dividing the bullets evenly between them, and looking up the RoF bonus per equivalent hex. Look up the length of the line on the Size and Speed/Range Table and roll against 8 + the Range penalty + RoF bonuses (so a line 10 yards wide will roll vs a 4 + RoF bonus).

If you miss, and there are targets behind the ones you’re shooting at, extend the cone of fire, and re-calculate at the new range, and roll again.

Example: You are spraying fire into a cone which is five yards wide at your target location with a gun with an impressive RoF 60. That’s 12 shots for a +2 RoF bonus in each hex, against a base roll of 6. So for each target in this zone, you’re rolling vs. an 8-. If there is another target at twice the distance you’re shooting at, the width of the line doubles, and you now roll against a base of 4, but you’re now only putting 6 bullets into each hex, so your RoF bonus drops as well, and at this range, the spray fire bonus is only +1, so now you’re at 5-. Too much farther and you’re just missing or crit fishing.

You might be able to apply this to a mass of people as well. Figure out the width you’re dividing your fire, and if that width changes much going to the back of your formation. Figure out the general odds of each rank, roll appropriately. Work your way backwards. Either that, or just divide the total bullets by the total number of targets, and most likely you don’t get any RoF bonuses. Just roll based on line width for each target. +Sean Punch notes that the targets are actively moving around within their hex to a resolution or mesh size of more or less +/-1 hex at all times, so if in the die rolling that follows, you find that the guy in the back got plugged but the guys up front didn’t, well, them’s the breaks.

Parting Shot

GURPS is a game, not a ballistics simulation (my best efforts to the contrary notwithstanding!) and so there will likely be nothing short of such a simulation that will give plausible results for launching a hail of bullets downrange more or less skillfully. Not within the time constraints imposed by your friends revolting and beating you about the head with the hardcover GURPS rules while pelting you with d4s.

So the best you can hope for is something that gets you in the ballpark. My own preference would be to try and find a ruleset where you effectively either do point fire, even for suppession, or spray fire, with the attendant drops in per-target hit chance. The Wrong Target/Stray Shots rules can be directed either using a scatter mechanic (shooting low/left means that you can’t overshoot past the target, overshooting might mean that the first threatened zone is hundreds of yards away, etc.) or as they are now, but utilizing the suppression rules to pick your shots.

I don’t want to have “I want to use the Wrong Target rules, instead of suppression” be a viable choice.

So, did I answer Peter’s question? I fear not, but it was fun to noodle on this GURPS-Day!

GM: +Nathan Joy
Players: +Mark Langsdorf , +Theodore Briggs , +Emily Smirle , and me.

After we found the cleft in the wall from last game, we decided that we needed to just walk into trouble. So we followed the pathway up, whereupon Cadmus, still under the influence of being Pharasmically drunk or something, bumps into a wall, revealing a secret passage.

We follow that pathway until another surface, which clearly had to be a secret door as well. We found it, and saw a spiraling slide down into a large pit, 60′ below us.

I had a point unspent, and so I asked if I could spend it on Acrobatics, and slide around the spiral ramp on my shield. +Nathan Joy said yes. I made it most of the way around, slammed into a wall (1d-3 to my pride), then made it around the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, the more sane of us used the gear we brought: pitons and 700-lb. test rope, to scale down into the pit.

Each little cloud is an air spirit. Crap.

We saw lots of bones, lots of runes with the symbol of Sihhud, Demon Lord of blizzards and the frozen dead. We knew it was a trap, expected a trap, and a trap it was. The old guy (Tunuak), five or six hunters, and at least twelve air spirits popped up. Game on.

First valid action was +Mark Langsdorf ‘s Mystic Knight Shiba launching an exploding shrapnel arrow at one of the bad guys, which did about 2 points of damage to a whole bunch of air spirits (max), killed one hunter with three shrapnel hits and 26 cut damage. Cadmus slices at the torso of one, does 12 cut, and he seems fine, coming back to a guard stance.

Hmm. Cadmus smells demon on this one. The vertical eye slits do give it away. That probably means they’re amenable to Smite. 2d burn goes a long way, and if the air spirits are demony as well, that works.

For the bad guys first action, Tunuak casts a nasty fog spell, which obscures our vision past 2 yards. Icky.

Then, lots of spirits attack, with blows that go right through our parries, striking for 1d+3 (2) pi damage (we can read this right off of MapTool, which is a bit metagame. Still.) Staver eats 9 pi damage, while Cadmus takes only 1 HP through his DR 11 armor. That (2) works both ways.

Staver steps up and quick-shoots two arrows at some air spirit that must be visible to him. He hits with both despite the shock penalties. Both arrows are torn from their path by gale-force winds. Thumvar flies around to thee dge of the altar of bones at the bottom of the map. Shiba takes a swipe at a diffuse spirit, hitting but hey, diffuse. This brings him in visible range of Cadmus, who does a General Prayer to Pharasma for some assistance, but apparently the fates are not kind today. He does step close to Shiba, so they can go back-to-back.

We get attacked a lot by wind spirits, and Staver goes unconscious. Shiba takes a minor hit as well. Thumvar then tosses alchemists fire on the Evil Altar of Bones, which will burn merrily at 1d per second for a while. Cadmus, being reduced to pretty much mundane attacks, tries a shield bash and crit fails, spending a destiny point to not suck.

As the flames consume the altar, the spirits all flail around, flames licking all over them. Perhaps things are looking a bit less grim?

Maybe, maybe not. Our sorcerous friend disappears again (he used Body of Air last time, too), while a few of the hunters step up and attack our flanks – unsuccessfully thanks to shieldwork. The difficult terrain makes retreating impossible, though, so using retreats to reposition is not viable.

The alchemist’s fire continues to burn, and one Air Spirit vanishes from the map in front of Cadmus. Not sure if that’s dead or moved, but I’m not sorry either way.

Thumvar attacks the Hunter within reach, pulling one of his trademark Dual-Weapon Attacks, from the flank, also a Deceptive Attack. Bastard manages to block one, parry the other, despite eating -4 in penalteis. Was close, though.

Shiba does a telegraphed rapid strike for two solid hits and destroys an air spirit, and Cadmus invokes smite and goes up like a candle, taking 12 burn and dying.

Our inability to dissipate the fog is proving a real liability. For a DF party, we have some gaping holes we need to fill. This isn’t the first time we’ve been menaced by diffuse types.

Shiba’s turn comes, he casts Purify Air, nullifying the fog next to him, and Cadmus steps next to him, invoking Smite despite that he can’t see anything. He has guessed right, and a Hunter bursts into a pillar of fire and collapses. This formation crap actually works.

There’s an inarticulate scream of rage, a thunderclap, and then hunters drop like flies, collapsing.

Cadmus goes around doing Final Rest on every bone in sight, while Shiba pours major healing potions on Staver one at a time until he recovers. Staver’s down to -4 HP, but it takes both potions and only restores him to 4 HP. Cadmus tries Lay on Hands on the Infernal anyway:

Cadmus: says a prayer for Staver anyway, touching him lightly. Couldn’t hurt, and we’ll see if he’s been good this year

* Staver groggily opens one jaundiced eye to
blink at Shibas worried face.

GM: Staver, you feel a burning sensation.
Cadmus appears to be touching you and murmuring something.
Staver: And then promptly cringes at Cadmus,
Cadmus: “Sorry, sorry! Just thought I’d try
and see if God still hates you. Behave better.”
Staver: “It’s got NOTHING to do with me!”

* Staver swats at Cadmus’s hand.

Shiba: “Your kami is a strange sort,
Cadmus: That’s what they ALL say, you know.
Shiba: Looks around a bit more. “Why is that
altar on fire?”
Staver: “I’ve got second-hand problems, and
nobody consulted me about them.”
Cadmus: “Shiba, you don’t know the half of it,

We search around the pit for a while, but it looks like the sorcerer got away. Staver takes the opportunity to lecture Cadmus a bit (taken from OOC chat):

[9:01:04 PM] Emily Smirle: Staver uses small words “I. Am. Half. De. Mon.”
[9:01:17 PM] Christopher: LOL
[9:01:39 PM] Douglas Cole: “You da man?” “NO. DE-MON.”
[9:01:56 PM] Emily Smirle: “And nobody asked my permission for that first!”
[9:02:19 PM] Emily Smirle: Staver launches into a birds-and-bees discussion for the clearly poorly-educated holy warrior.
[9:02:31 PM] Douglas Cole: Hey, HOLY, not DEAD.
[9:02:45 PM] Douglas Cole: I miss Dawn
[9:02:58 PM] Emily Smirle: “You seem a little fuzzy on the details of what happens next, I’m just saying!”
[9:03:04 PM] crakkerjakk: Kevin will be missed.
[9:03:42 PM] Douglas Cole: OH, I can Lay on Hands and show her the Holy Glory, I can tell you.
[9:04:07 PM] Douglas Cole: Only then do we have our Final Rest.
[9:04:30 PM] Christopher: Many Shubs and Zulls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of a Sloar that day, I can tell you!

Cadmus finishes his exorcism ritual, cleansing the pit of fell influence. Then, looking around at the englyphed walls we find:

There are five panels of pictograms. The first shows black standing stones rising from icy hills. The second shows a cluster of towers glowing with a strange blue light. A third shows a single monolithic tower rising above what appears to be a black lake with white mountain peaks behind it. A fourth depicts a spiraling storm with long arms ending in ice-fanged jaws devouring Erutaki villages, with even longer arms reaching towards forests, crudely drawn castles and cities, and what may be ships at sea. Warriors are shown trying to fight the storm with spears before being engulfed and sealed in tombs of ice.The final panel shows a blue-skinned woman with dark wings and hair wearing a silver crown or circlet. Her had grasps one of the claw-symbols like a scepter, and spiraling streaks of silver and white curl away from it in every direction.

The blue-skinned demon babe is neither Pharasma nor Sihhud. We also find dragon shell fragments at the base of the altar. We have a bit of in-character fun:
Staver: “Is anyone else made uncomfortable by
the idea of mixing demons and dragons?”
Cadmus: Seems like a bad game. D&D?
Shiba: “It seems obscene.”
Staver: “It just seems like a terrible idea.”
Staver: “That too.”

We speculate a bit as well. Possibly possessed half-dragon, a mama dragon really pissed at having eggs stolen, or having a dragon slave attack those who are not “sufficiently faithful.”
Shiba is pretty sure the blue glowy towers are supposed to represent The Nameless Spires, a set of magical ruins on the north pole that radiate incredible magical energy that no one has ever returned form attempting to explore. And the fanged storm arms represent the morozkos, the killer storms that hit this area in the winter.

Shiba: black standing stones, north pole magical ruins, icy lake on our path, enemy wind spirits, demonic goddess? Oh joy.
Cadmus: You know we need to walk into those magic towers, right? Right?
Shiba: That’s probably a good idea. I meant “bringing up our hostess is a good idea”. Walking into the magical towers that no one ever returned from seems problematic as a plan.
Cadmus: Aw. “No one ever comes back” is clearly a challenge. To us.
GM: 🙂
Cadmus: We’d be cheating Destiny if we didn’t take it on
Shiba: It looks more like “get advice from our hostess”, then “take the caravan to unaimo”, then “find the lonely tower by the lake”, and then? Hopefully kill a behir and teleport to Tian or something.
Cadmus: and then seek out the mystical towers. Gotta be good stuff there if no one ever returns!
Shiba: Uhm.

and we called it there!

Parting Shot
It’s a good thing that Ted set the altar on fire. Otherwise, we would have all likely been “pecked” to death by armor-piercing attacks. 1d+3 isn’t all that much, but when you can only dodge, things can get ugly fast.

This is an article-by-article review of Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay. While I don’t usually do this, the subject matter of this issue is just what this blog ordered, and even if one of my own articles is in it, I really think every article, and nearly every word, of this issue is worth reading. So, a series of (hopefully) shortish posts.

Modern Warfighter: Gear (Kenneth Peters)

This article takes a look at (mostly) man-portable non-weapon equipment lugged around by TL8 soldiers of the lavishly-equipped set.

The article is grouped (by what we know as B-HEADs, or section dividers) into Full Battle Rattle, Uniforms, Body Armor, and New Equipment.

Each section is then given to High-Tech or Ultra-Tech style equipment descriptions. Ken is a military guy, and knows a lot of this equipment from personal experience, I think (his bio has him deployed for OIF/OEF at MARCENT as a Planning Specialist). Each item has not only the relevant details, but some worthy chestnuts on use, abuse, and how the troops look at stuff.

Full Battle Rattle

Clothing, drink, food, identification, light, navigation, and timekeeping make up the section on Basic Gear. Mostly these are references to equipment already listed in GURPS High-Tech. The section on Personal Gear is just that, covering everything from a notebook and space pen to tools, video, and computer equipment. The bits on Special Issue are purpose-built for certain missions and needs, and include B&E tools, biometrics, IED jammers, and signaling, just to pick out a few. While many of these continue the pattern of simply referencing gear in the wildly-complete High-Tech, some reference the new equipment section of this article, so there’s a mix of old and new, but each piece of equipment is given a note on when and why it might be issued.

Finally, there’s a short section on the personalization that soldiers do with their stuff. From quick-pull loops on magazines, to how magazines might have three tracer bullets in a 30-round mag, to gun-cleaning and first-aid kits – it’s got some flavor and usage notes to read.


This gives flavor and composition on the various types of uniforms that troopers might use. From utility uniforms, to infantry utility clothing (largely distinguished by being flame-resistant and much more durable), to semi-formal digs when you need to dress to impress without resorting to formalwear.

Body Armor

Mostly a descriptive section, with references to pre-written (High-Tech) and new equipment introduced in the article. A lot of this is given to useful information about the protection vs. comfort/mobility tradeoff, as well as speculation on whether future typical insurgent/militia types will enjoy the same level of protection as modern Western troops.

Alternate rules for donning armor, fatigue (with a shout-out to The Last Gasp in a box-text on encumbrance, so thanks Ken!), and off-size armor for people of odd sizes and shapes are also covered briefly but effectively.

New Equipment

This bit has thirty new pieces of cool kit. Each gets a full High-Tech-style write up (much more efficient than, say, Gangnam Style). Nifty gear includes anti-sniper bullet detectors, a whole buncha new armor and helmets, a couple of drones and robots, a gaggle of lasers for various purposes, and detection and protection equipment. Clothing, too.

Ballistic’s Report

This is basically somewhere between a really nifty TL8-based expansion to High-Tech, or more accurately, a bit-by-bit publication of a Loadouts book using Pyramid as a vehicle instead of the usual e23 route. Given the slowdown in GURPS througput due to the Big Ass Ogre, this is probably a wise choice!

Content-wise, for games featuring modern Western-style soldiers, or TL8/9 blends so common in Sci-Fi military movies and TV (Aliens comes to mind), this stuff is a valuable extension and expansion for the genre.

Good stuff, and nice work.

Though the title is Melee Academy, being able to do harm at a distance is important in many genres. However, up until the invention of the windlass, cranequin, gunpowder, and fast-discharge supercapacitor, what you’re really doing is finding ways of translating your strength into injury.

Also on Melee Academy, Ranged Edition:

Peter Dell’Orto talks about Hitting the Wrong Target at Dungeon Fantastic
Mark Langsdorf Enters a Room over at No School Grognard
Christopher Rice will be talking Ritual Path Magic at Ravens N’ Pennies

For today’s Melee Academy, I thought I’d do weapon basics using only the GURPS Basic Set and segue a bit into Low-Tech, though I’ll predict that very little of substance, rather than variety, can be done.

A lot of the Melee Academy posts play in the Dungeon Fantasy space – 250 or so points. I’m going to restrict myself to about 150 points with about 40 points in Disadvantages and Quirks (about 25% of the starting total). In fact, I’ll mostly consider something like:

Attributes [120]
ST 13 [30]; DX 12 [40]; IQ 11 [20]; HT 12 [20]
HP 13; Will 12 [5]; Per 12 [5]; FP 12
Basic Lift 34; Damage 1d/2d-1
Basic Speed 6; Basic Move 6; Ground Move 6; Water Move 1

Advantages [35]
Combat Reflexes [15]
Enhanced Dodge (1) [15]
Fit [5]

Disadvantages [-35]; Quirks [-5]

Skills [35]
Axe/Mace (A) DX+1 [2]-12; Bow (A) DX+4 [16]-16; Climbing (A) DX-1 [1] -11; Fast-Draw (Arrow) (E) DX+2* [2]-14; Fast-Talk (A) IQ-1 [1]-10; First Aid/TL3 (Human) (E) IQ+0 [1]-11; Hiking (A) HT+0 [2]- 12; Naturalist (Earth) (H) IQ-2 [1]-9; Observation (A) Per+0 [2]-12; Running (A) HT-1 [1]-11; Stealth (A) DX-1 [1]-11; Swimming (E) HT+0 [1]- 12; Tracking (A) Per+0 [2]- 12; Wrestling (A) DX+0 [2]- 12.

This clearly isn’t the only or the best 150-point ranged weapons guy. In fact, there are lots of things you could choose to do otherwise. But I wanted to give an example with most of the skills GURPS Line Editor and long-time player +Sean Punch and GM recommends as Adventuring Basics. And I wanted sufficient goodness in basic stats to account for things like Per and Will being things you may need to roll against, a decent Move and Encumbrance, and enough ST and DX to be considered a well-rounded party member who has a chance to actually injure foes.  

More on that later. 

Still, you can see that the perhaps archetypical ranged weapon type, the archer, has Bow-16. Given my previous writings on the subject, that’s probably about where you’d want to be.

Of course, lose the +1 to Dodge and you can be Bow-19 and still have three points to spare. You can also ditch Combat Reflexes and Fit in favor of, say, Heroic Archer if your GM allows it. Infinite options, but that awesome Bow skill comes at the cost of being good at anything else. Because drawing out ammo and loading the bow are a combination of Fast-Draw and Bow skills, you’ll want decent levels of both.

And you need that skill, if you’re shooting a bow. Remember, with Bow-16, without aiming you can only hit the vitals 50% of the time with your foe at 7 yards. Almost certainly, then, if you want to hit to anything like distance, you need to compromise your versatility as above, or accept limitations on what you can do. Ranged attacks pile up penalties faster than anything else in GURPS.

Basic Principles of Mail-order Pain

So, you want to hurt people from a distance? That’s smart. Sometimes that “up close and personal” thing gets nasty. Still, you’re going to have to decide a few things.

The first one is, what’s your schtick? Are you a dedicated ranged weapons guy? That means you’re going to need a weapon that fires ammunition, or for which you can carry a sufficient number to make it through a combat and then recover them afterwards.

Are you using ranged weapons as an entry into melee? In that case, you have less to worry about in terms of lather, rinse, repeat, which is good. But that also means you’re going to be blowing your cash on defenses and offenses for melee, so you might not be that good at your weapon.

Bring the Hurt

There are two basic choices when it comes to ranged weapons. Those that do swing damage, and those that do thrust. From the Basic Set, here are the weapon classes. A typical value for 1/2D range as a multiple of ST is given as well in parentheses.

Thrust-based Ranged Weapons: Bolas (x3), Bows (x15), Crossbows (x20), Harpoons (x1), Knives (x0.5), Shuriken (x0.5), and Spears (x1).

Swing-based Ranged Weapons: Slings (x12 with bullets!), Atlatls (x2), and Axes and Maces (x1).

The blowpipe is the odd man out. It’s damage is fixed. Other oddities include lassos and nets, whose purpose is more grappling than injury.

There are, perhaps oddly, no real trends here. For weapons that use ammo (slings and bows/crossbows) at ST 13 without perks like Strongbow (which you should totally take, along with Arm ST 2, if you can free up 11 points) you’re looking at 1d+1 imp to 195 yards with a regular bow, and 2d pi to 156 yards with a sling.

Of course and again: unless you are taking many seconds to Aim, your practical range limit to the torso for many of these weapons will be less than 100 yards, often much less.

What’s Not Worth It?

For the dedicated ranged guy, where you intend to stay at range, certain things are totally not worth it. Bolas are only cool for the optional grapple. Knives and shuriken are neat tricks, but with paltry damage and range, are for show, not for real. Most of the rest – other than bows, crossbows, slings, and atlatls with darts – are too heavy to consider carrying more than a few of them. Five throwing hatchets weigh 10 lbs., and can only reach to 20 or so yards at 1/2D . . . though you’ll be doing 2d-1 cut  for each, which will punch through DR 4 mail and do 3 injury or more 50% of the time.

What IS Worth it?

And that’s really the trick of it when bows are concerned. If you can afford the $900 it takes to buy a composite bow, you can do 1d+3 imp, which will punch through that DR 4 85% of the time, and on an average hit will do 4-6 injury. You can also target the vitals, which pushes that to 6-9 injury (but you need the skill for it).

The other real runner up is the sling, which ramps up with your ST faster than bows. ST 13 with lead bullets is 2d pi compared to a regular bow’s 1d+2 imp, but ST 19 is a thunderous 3d+2 pi, compared to 2d+1 imp. Against unarmored folks, for average ST and higher, the imp damage type wins. For our test character of ST 13 through ST 15, the sling has a very minor injury advantage over the bow at DR5+ (both top out and do basically nothing at DR 6+).

One interesting thing about a sling: the damage really is ST-based, rather than the ST of the bow. All-Out Attack (Strong) for +1 per die or +2 damage might be available for slings (I’d allow it).

I think these two are a wash, though the availability of multiple arrow types (such as the (2) pi bodkin, as well as cutting arrows) probably edge the general win to the bow. Not by a lot, though.

Now, on the “fire and forget” end, you have some interesting choices, one of which is an atlatl throwing javelins. It hits 1/2D at 26 yds, but even at ST 13 does 2d imp at that range. All the awesomeness of the imp damage type, with the penetration of a .45 ACP. A particularly strong specimen, such as ST 17, is doing 3d imp, which is equivalent to a ST 21 crossbow (though much lower range).

Another interesting choice is the 4-lb. throwing axe. Thrown or swung in-hand, it does sw+2 cut, or 2d+1 cut for ST 13. You probably can’t carry very many, but you can wield one in each hand, chuck one, and continue. Range is less than 15 yards, which likely gives you one hit, then you’re in melee. But that first hit will do 6 injury through DR 4 mail, and probably push the recipient to All-Out Defense his next turn.

+Rob Conley reminds me in the comments section that the classic fire-and-forget tactic is the Really High ST Crossbow. It might take nine years to reload, but at thr+4, a ST 21+ crossbow is nasty. It’ll do 3d or more equivalent impaling damage, and can target the vitals. It’s an Easy skill, which means you can literally hit from 50% farther away right off the bat, and it has a higher Aim stat than any other basic ranged weapon. He calls it the Knight Killer, and he’s right. This is a weapon you give to a whole line of melee-ready friends, fire off one volley, then charge in. But that volley can be incredibly dangerous vs. any creature vulnerable to impaling damage.


Really, you’re going to want to be hiding behind someone here. Ideally a lot of someones, with Shield Wall training and Sacrificial Block. Your own #1 worry is other ranged types for the first instance, and a clear field of running that a Dodge Monkey can exploit to close within your effective range. While DF Heroic Archers can do melee combat with their bows, most real-world specimens cannot do this. So unless you’re a spear or axe guy throwing spears or axes, you’re going to lose your primary attack mode unless you are kept safe.

If you’re a 150-point character, you might look into hiring a Guard template from Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchmen (p. 21) with Sacrificial Block and Shield Wall Training, and (say) Spear and Shield modified to give Spear-11 but Shield-14. That will give you someone with Large Shield (DB+3) who has Block-13 and a Reach 1,2 weapon to help deter pesky melee types.

Finally, you may want to just realize that most of your fighting will be at 30 yards and less. So plan on a maximum of -7 due to range (but try and keep at least 15 yards, or -5, so you have time to run the hell away if someone starts to chase you down) and offset that with Aim if you can.

Rapid Fire specialists are expensive, though. If you need to eat a -7 from range, -3 for vitals, and -3 for Quick-Shooting (and have bought Heroic Archer, Weapon Master, or TBaM to halve that -6 to -3), and still want a 90% chance to hit, you’re looking at needing an effective Bow-27 to pull that off. Yow.

Parting Shot

A “normal” ranged weapon specialist is a hard niche to fill in GURPS at low point values. You tend to be quite the specialist, though with clever choices you can be a very, very good specialist. You’ll want to discuss this with your fellow players, though – one of the ways to get to the kind of skill (Bow-18 and higher, for example) you need to be effective, often, at decent range is to give up nearly everything else.

In practice, you will be shooting infrequently, so you’ll want to make those hits count. Otherwise, go the other way, and grab enough skill to use a heavy thrown or launched weapon that does swing damage a few times, then charge into melee.

This is a combined report of the last two sessions. On hand were +Nathan Joy (GM), +Emily Smirle , +Theodore Briggs , +Mark Langsdorf , and +Kevin Smyth.

Last time, we basically headed out for Tian, journeying north for an epic trek across the frozen top of the world. We got ambushed in a narrow passage, with a 100′ tall cliff of ice and snow to the south, and a frozen fast-moving river to the north. I recall we only had perhaps ten yards of flat ground at the bottom.

We triggered it ourselves, I recall. We thought “obvious place for an ambush,” and Thumvar, I think, was close on hand and probably caused the creature (a three-headed chimera) to trigger his trap, which was a very wide avalanche!

The avalanche raced down the cliff, and those of us in the zone beat feat (on horses) to escape the zone. Well, those of us who could not fly.

That was a bit of a tense moment. Dawn made some epic Light Walk rolls to run up the face of the tumbling snow, and Shiba and Cadmus did a lot of steering horses through a bad snowfall. All in all, we handled that well. Then we noted a horde of undead frozen guys coming for us.

This failed to impress Cadmus.

Thumvar and Staver made really short work of the chimera, since they injured its wing as it made a dive, causing it to face-plant into the turf (leaving a giant blood smear on the map) after a 30-yard full-speed stoop. Splat.

The undead? Yeah, they ran after us in clusters. Cadmus got close to each group and set them on instant-flambe with Smite. One almost dangerous moment was when one leaped up behind me on my saddle, but Shiba shot him down with his bow.

At no real point was the encounter terribly tense, but in fairness, we rolled very well, did a whole bunch of really epic stuff that worked, and we did control the encounter by triggering the ambush ourselves. Actually acted like the bunch of 340-ish point characters we were. Ultimately, the avalanche and river were likely the most serious threats here.

The next session was a whole lot of journeying, followed by a stop at a town that I will not attempt to get right. Uquiqo? Anyway, the entire thing is carved out of rock at the base of a towering ice wall. We are met, offered hospitality that we got to roleplay through (few of us speak the language), and eventually are told three or four salient facts:

  • They were surprised that we did not get attacked and eaten by a White Dragon that has been plaguing the area.
  • The flesh-destroying winter storms never come down as far south as they have at this time of the year
  • Strange black pillars and undead have been seen on the high plains; they think the storms might be related. Or we think the storms might be related.

We’re thus sure we needed to be here, since we have dragons, undead, and flesh-eating storms. Must be Tuesday.

Then a crazy old priest of the winds starts yelling at us from outside. We step out, initially thinking dragon-attack, but it’s just a torch-and-pitchforks party against us, the faithless strangers.

We try a group Intimidate, which doesn’t work very well. Cadmus, not amused at being described as Faithless, calls on a visage of Pharasma (invokes Holy Glory), which does, in fact, knock nearly all the bystanders (and Staver) either down or wobbly. The priest disappears in Body of Air. A massive warrior approaches, his guards start tossing civilians around, and we get ready for a fight.

He then has a spectacular argument (of the non-violent kind) with his wife, our host. Ah, a domestic thing. We back off, and our host sadly tells us we need to sleep outside.

Brrr. That’s going to be cold.

Cadmus starts to pray for some guidance and warmth and to make Staver smell less bad. He keeps getting distracted, though, and bemusedly walks, praying loudly and confusing the hell out of his companions, towards a cliff face, which seems to have a line through it that no one else can see.

He reaches out and touches it, and it opens, revealing a passage and tunnel to the high cliff above.

We end there, and at least we know that if God tells us to climb the stairs, paraphrasing the immortal words of Bill Murray: “We go up.”

Here was a bit cut out of the upcoming GURPS: Technical Grappling. There are several reasons.

  1. It’s a grappling book, not a striking book
  2. I was using Size Modifier as a direct proxy for height. That’s wrong.
  3. First See Rule #1.
I also found this excised portion of the rules terribly complicated, and we ditched the concept of grappling “regions” of the body in favor of using regular hit locations. All in all, it was a good cut, but see later for why I even bother to bring it up now!

Continue reading “Falling Down – head kicking for fun and profit in GURPS”

Over on the forums, Icelander asked if anyone had ever converted slings to a system like the one I used to do The Deadly Spring:

Has anyone had any luck modelling slings in a slightly more plausible manner than the current one?Can one plug them into Douglas Cole’s The Deadly Spring in any way?
                                                                                                  – Icelander

I’ve not seen anything like that, but if I were to do it, here’s what would happen.

The key bit to model this is a calculation that would turn ST, skill, and lever arm (for sling vs. staff sling) into energy somehow. Then we could turn that fairly easily into damage.

For range, you’d take the weight of the stone and figure a velocity, and from that work out the likely arc.

We could potentially adjust penetration up slightly as a function of smaller projectile diameter, as for bullets, perhaps even using the same function (or a simplified version) of that used in my old ballistics article.

So, let’s start there . . .


The trick would really be getting some estimate of, for a given energy of impact, what armor DR could be penetrated. That would give you a baseline from which to adjust damage as a function of impact energy.

The site I usually go to for slinging seems to suggest that the staff sling (presumably a six-foot pole and a 1-yardish sling vs a roughly 1-yard sling) only increases velocity – and thus in GURPS, damage – by perhaps 10-20%. The staff seems to get longer range through the higher start point.

However, I looked around a bit, and Chris Harrison presented some numbers that suggested sling bullets could hit as fast as 90 m/s.

That’s a lot more than the 38 m/s provided by a staff sling in Richardson’s website. I will admit I find 90 m/s somewhat optimistic, but some of the ranges claimed by slingers (and the actual Guiness Book world record of over 437m with a 52g projectile from a 51″ sling) suggest an impressive ability. Using a simple trajectory calculator, this could be achieved at a 45-degree release angle at just above 65m/s (no air resistance), or as little as a 16 degree angle at 90 m/s.

Let’s assume a 50g projectile at 75 m/s, then. That’s about 140J and an effective diameter on the order of 18.5mm.

Penetration by my firearms model would be 1d (3.5pts) and the wound modifier would be north of 3.6, so if we call it 1d pi++ that probably understates the impact a bit.

Right. That guy.

I’d suggest an armor multiplier vs rigid armor, though. Probably (0.5) or even more.

For the 30-40m/s and 28g that Thom Richardson usually throws down, you’d be in the neighborhood of 1.2 points on the average; call it 1d-2 pi++

So if the higher-end limits are to be believed, against an unarmored man, you would look at an average of about 3.5*3.5 = 12 points, with an upper end on the order of 21 points, enough to reduce an average man to -HP in one shot at the extreme, and KO him on the average with a “torso” hit. That breaks the RAW max of pi++ for GURPS, though. more rationally, you’d only approach the upper end on a vitals hit. Possible that David spent a few Destiny points to buy a critical success.

I was thinking 90m/s was pretty darn optimistic, and certainly “world record” is upper end. But it does suggest that imparting such energy is feasible (and a strong bow is on that order as well).

GURPSifying the Calculations

What I might do as a start is to take the user’s ST, and increase it based on relative skill level, as I did in my article The Last Gasp through the concept of the “Training Bonus.”

You’ll see that again hopefully Real Soon Now. 🙂

Anyway, if relative skill level provides an increase in ST and a staff sling increases that further by 20%, what you probably have is something like

Damage = Constant * ST * Skill Multiplier * Staff Multiplier

So let’s say that our world record was set by someone with a sport-specific ST of 20 or so, with a 50% skill modifier, giving him a net ST 30. That’s a lot, but hey, world record.
That basically says, in round numbers, take the net ST and divide by 8 to get points of damage, or by 30 to get dice.
Let’s take a more-usual warrior type. ST 12, from a default (-30% ST!) would be about 0.28d, or 1 point on the average. 1d-3, with zero being a possibility. 
Train that guy up to DX, and you’re at about 1.4 points of damage, which is about 1d-2. Get him up to DX+4 and give him the equivalent of Arm ST +2 for special exercises, and a staff sling, and you’re ST 14 * 1.2 * 1.2 = ST 18.5, or 2.35 points, somewhere about 1d-1.
You’re not doing a lot of damage here.
Projectile Weight and Range

The thing is here, much with bows, there’s going to be an “optimum” weight stone that gets you the most delivered energy. Too heavy, and you can’t get it to max V. Too light, and you waste energy that you can’t couple into the projectile.
So if Mr. Effective ST 30 can fling a sling into the ring at 437m (475yds), figuring max range at about 16x your effective ST would be a quickie estimate.
Our typical guy at roughly ST 12? 134 yards. Practiced warrior with DX+4, Arm ST +2, and effective ST 18.5 would be just shy of 300 yds.
Parting Shots

This turned rapidly into an exercise in game mechanics. ST, skill multipliers to ST, and flat multipliers to effective ST for range.
Still, that might not be all bad. Basic Lift is related to the square of ST, and is a force (pounds). If energy is more or less a force times a distance – some sort of arc over which that force is applied – then the square root of energy is related to ST, and the square root of energy is how GURPS measures penetration. So a flat ST basis with multipliers is reasonably physics-based, and makes for easier math.
We handwave projectile size and weight quite a bit here. Still, if our ST 9 slinger vs our ST 30 slinger might be tossing stones with mass proportional to the effective ST you can deliver, perhaps. That would put Joe Casual at about 15 g (probably too light), Mr Warrior at 31g (almost exactly the historical average of about an ounce, or 28g), and Mr Expert at 50g or so. Just to figure out how much lead you have to haul around.


Bronco makes a nice point below, and if you don’t click on the comments, here are my thoughts after his note about the severity of the impact, as well as that the ancient guys would inscribe their sling stones with personal messages to their foes:

Yeah, I’d forgotten about the inscription thing. I should have linked to a picture of a missile with nose art, though a quick google didn’t find any (wrong terms, I’m sure).
Having the penetration be based on swing damage means that at an effective ST 14, you equal the penetration of a .45 ACP, and in a practical case matches a .380 ACP in both penetration and wounding.

The 50g sling stone at 90m/s can be compared relatively to a 145g baseball at 45m/s – a war stone compared to a major-league fastball. It’s got 1/3 the mass, but 2x the velocity. So the stone has 4/3 more energy but 2/3 the momentum . . . and a much smaller diameter. So the tendency to break stuff (and people) will be on that same order – perhaps a bit more by up to half, I’d hazard, but not a LOT more.

Still, getting beaned by a major-league (100mph fastball) is No Fun, and due to the smaller diameter and higher density of the stone, should be more likely to break stuff.
I think this is another case where the damage should be relatively large, crushing rather than piercing, but mitigated with a HT roll.