Took a new Springfield XDM out for a test drive this weekend. The PPQ has the better trigger, but this thing was plenty accurate. I’m just going to have to stop shooting at five yards; it’s too easy. Still, the bullets go where you tell them to, and 15 rounds in an extended magazine is a lot.

At 10 and 20 yards, things were still respectable, and hopefully I’ll get better with more practice. (Left picture is 15 rounds at 5yds, then 15 at 10 yds, then 10 at 20 yds).

Also went to Schaffer Performance Archery with my wife, who was shooting her new bow. A very, very interesting Hwarang style bow. It’s a 40# draw, but it’s very, very smooth. She let me shoot it, and I was happy.

Interestingly, there was another group there, two girls and two guys. They were talking about how you get a guy, like a football player, who can bench 350 or something, that can’t pull a 50-60# bow, because the training is so sport-specific.

I naturally (and subtly, I thought) agreed, that while doing some research for an article – for gaming – on bows, I’d found the same thing.

“Oh, what game?”
Well, it’s GURPS.
“We LOVE GURPS!!”
Oh, have you ever heard of Technical Grapplng?
“Nope.”
Uhm. The Deadly Spring?
“Yes! That was such a great piece!”
Oh, thanks. I wrote it.

Wackiness ensued. Who knew there were people I could randomly meet who (a) knew RPGing, (b) played GURPS, and (c) had even heard of my work. Fun.

This is a guest blog column by Geoffrey Fagan. He doesn’t have a blog himself, but participated regularly in the GURPS Forums under the username GEF.
Social Traits
GURPS addresses social traits in its game mechanics, comprehensively, in a couple of ways: Those traits that establish existing relationships, and “Reaction Modifiers” that affect the formation of new ones. No matter how great your PC is on paper, the real secret to “power” gaming is your ability to influence the plot, and to do that, you need to have some traction in the setting. That’s what social traits get you.  

Part II: Relationships
Usually, a player
creates his character, and the GM creates everything else, but certain traits
on a character sheet allow a player to take a step into the GM’s domain. By
defining relationships for his character, the player requires that certain NPCs
exist in the setting. As a rule of thumb, think of three relationships for a
starting character’s backstory: Family members, old school chums, the bully who
beat you up, maybe a former mentor. Even a deceased relation can provide a plot
hook, but living relations may be may be represented as traits on your
character sheet
If you have an
existing relationship with another character, then he might be your Patron,
Ally, Dependent, Enemy, or Contact, or if he’s just an old friend, perhaps a
Claim to Hospitality. A single individual can justify more than one of these
traits. If you’re a spy, and you work with a spy for another country, he could
become your friend and yet work against you on a future mission where the
interests of your countries diverge. At least he’ll apologize before he shoots
you. All of these traits require interaction with the GM, for the player
proposes, but ultimately the GM decides, and while it is traditional to let a
player run his character’s Allies, especially in a fight, the GM is free to
co-opt control of any NPC. The decision to do so is ultimately helpful to
players, because it puts their characters in the spotlight.
A sidekick is an Ally
less powerful than you are. For 9 points, he’ll be pretty good, though (75% as
good as you), and he can hang around most of the time (95%). That’s good enough
to be an honorary party member, and he can augment your character with skills
that you can’t afford for yourself. Maybe you’re a cowboy and good with a gun,
and your ally is a half-breed Indian with good Stealth. Even if his skill-set
is similar to your own, it never hurts to have a capable pal watch your back,
and bandage you up if you live through the fight. If your Ally is a loved one,
maybe your little brother, you actually get points back for having him as a
dependent, too! Add the value of Ally and Dependent together to determine the
net cost of the relationship, and that’s what counts against your campaign
limit on disadvantages.
Allies need not be
human. That same cowboy could have a horse as an ally, and that’s the best way
to model a horse with unusual intelligence, training, and loyalty. In a fantasy
campaign, a witch’s familiar is an Ally, and it makes her eligible for a steep
discount on supernatural advantages (Granted by Familiar, 40% off).
A more powerful
character is probably a Patron instead of an Ally, though the defining
difference is the nature of the relationship, not the point cost. An Ally is
there with you in the thick of the action, whereas a Patron helps you out with a
job offer, vouchsafe, supplies, or maybe an extraction when your exfiltration
goes awry. Pay careful attention to the various modifiers that go into the cost
of the advantage: One of the best is to cover the cost (and licensing) of
special equipment. Kit for a medieval knight is expensive, and they two ways to
get it are with Wealth (or some variation, like Signature Gear) or a Patron.
The latter provides a better plot hook, though. Remember that a patron with
money, position, and supernatural powers is of no use if you can’t reach him.
The Patron advantage
is very flexible, for it can model anything from a parent who helps out with
tuition or a senior officer who shepherds your career, to a god from whom you
can call down curses upon your enemies. In the latter form, it’s the ultimate
super power, though quite expensive. Patrons typically come with a duty, though
it’s not mandatory, and you can even have a Secret Patron who helps you for
reasons unknown.
Contacts are
specifically defined as sources of information, the iconic example being a
cop’s snitch. GURPS is somewhat plastic, though, and variants that involve
specific services probably qualify, such as a black marketeer. He doesn’t give
you illegal guns – that’d take a Patron – but if you have the cash, he can set
up the buy. Contacts who capable, ready, and discrete are quite expensive, but
that’s okay, because a less-than-ideal Contact is actually a better vehicle for
driving drama in the story, and that’s the point of the game, after all. Remember
that Contacts are a mutual relationship. Usually thequid pro quo happens
off camera, but the GM is well-justified in using a Contact to start an
adventure or add a complication.
Claim to Hospitality
is the cheapest way to represent a friend, a single point, a perk. Most
realistic characters have at least one! The benefit spelled-out in the rule is
a place to crash, but don’t get wrapped up in that. With merchant house as a
specific example, it should at least extend to introductions to people known to
your host, a guide to the city, or any comparably minor favor. In modern times
it would include access to such conveniences as a phone, computer, and car (if
only when the host is not using them). Remember, you have the claim on a person,
not a rule, and he can do what a person could do, albeit not an adventurous
person (because then he’d be an Ally). Influence skills are appropriate to
determine just how much help you can get, hopefully with a bonus because this
guy’s already your friend, right? Just don’t wear out your welcome.
Dependents are Allies,
but so weak or so dear that they represent a net disadvantage in game terms
(though I would say that a loving, happy family is a net positive in real
life). The big advantage of this disadvantage is that you can get points for it
without being crazy or crippled, and simultaneously you provide the GM with a
plot hook to get you involved. He needn’t threaten Dependents directly; he may
just be able to start an adventure when your character goes to pick up the kids
from school, or leverage a husband’s desire to do well by his wife as
motivation to get involved with a high-stakes venture.
And that brings us to
Enemy, the best bargain in the game! Combat Reflexes gives you lots of benefits
for just 15 points, and attributes make you better at lots of skills, but Enemy
puts your character right in the spotlight and gives you
points back! Yes, your Enemy may hate you, but having one makes you important.
The enemies of your Enemy become your friends. The best Enemy is actually a
variant, a Rival, someone who isn’t trying to kill you, just to outshine you.
He’ll provoke the best from you in turn. If you reciprocate the animosity, that
may suggest another advantage, like Obsession. A Rival can also be an Ally, the
kind with a base cost of 5, because he’s never a mere sidekick. This is an
especially interesting relationship fraught with real role-playing opportunity,
and as with an Ally-Dependent, apply the net cost of the relationship against
the campaign limit for disadvantages. (While an Enemy need not be human, if the
whole universe is out to get you, look at Divine Curse instead.)
Scaling Up
Patron and Enemy both
can represent groups large and small, but what determines the value of these
traits is power, of which the membership roster is only one aspect. Claim to
Hospitality is built to scale into levels that don’t require specifying every friend,
so if you’re the popular kid at school, or a salesman who’s built up an
extensive base of customers who’ll take his call, just spend 5 to 10 points on
Claim to Hospitality. You can’t count more than a couple of Dependents, but
Contact and Ally scale up to groups with a caveat: To be eligible for the bulk
rate discount, they all have to be the same.

However, there’s a
trick you can play with Ally Group, if your GM permits it. Since this is a
primer, I won’t dwell on the mechanism, but in short it’s Cosmic Modular
Ability with an Accessibility limitation worth -80%: Individual Ally Can’t
Reallocate. Build your allies mostly the same, but reserve some number of
points, say 20%, for personal traits. For 50-point Allies, that’d be 10 points.
Then, divide that number by 2, and each of the mostly-similar Allies can have a
personal touch, worth 5 points in this case. One might have Absolute Direction,
and another might be emotionally Sensitive, and another might be a decent
(IQ+2) Carpenter and dabble (IQ-1) in artistic Woodworking. 

I alluded to a set of house rules that I came up with for shotguns to deal with small shot sizes in my post on Rapid Fire rules and suppression fire.

I had thought I’d posted about them, but looking, I don’t think I did.

Here’s the deal: it’s commonly known that birdshot stinks as a person-killer. Granted, it’s probably better than harsh language, but not by much. The intimidation and suppression value will be large (see Cool Under Fire, Tactical Shooting, p. 34), and in the real world, that ain’t nuthin’.

Anyway, using my article and revised spreadsheet, it’s possible to turn the usual statistics about shotguns into a pretty detailed table.

A note about the previous version that you may have seen. The data was wrong. The lead pellets were too fast (and thus too-high in penetration, even more than they should have been) and the steel pellets were probably too many. I set the lead shot to 1275fps, mostly, except in a few cases where standard 2.75″ loads were different. The #1 Buckshot was only 1250fps; the 00 and 000 Buckshot were a heavy-kicking 1325. Steel shot tended to range from 1400-1550fps, so I settled on 1450, and 1 and 1/8 oz for steel shot, and 1.25 oz for lead, but I made whole-numbers of pellets. All in all, a lot of fiddling.

OK, that’s unreadable. click on the image (or here) to go to the full Excel file.

Point is, the calculated wound modifiers, the things in the squiggly brackets, drop below 0.5 (the value for pi-) pretty fast.

What I do is to cluster real pellets into “effective” pellets by ensuring every wound modifier rounds up to a full pi-. so everything smaller than #2 Lead Buckshot (1d+1 pi-) has an effective RoF lower than the number of pellets actually thrown. The clustering of pellets (and therefore damage and effective RoF, and therefore Rapid Fire bonus) means that there really are only a few different types of shot that are worth of GURPS’ resolution.

They are:

Every lead or steel example from 1d and lower has a more-or-less equivalent variant in the other material. So if you want to have a lead-free world, or steel shot hasn’t been invented yet, you can swap the materials for equal stats.

As shown in my musings about rapid fire, targeting, and using suppression fire to mimic scatter around a target, the relatively higher hit percentages using the corrected Effective RoF mean the number of pellets in a shot that actually strike home will go up to more sensible values.

Some notes on the table(s)

I tried to give a reasonable selection. A point change in damage was enough to get a row by itself, which explains down to 2 Buck. The rest, I collapsed all the identical rapid fire bonuses into one, but allowed differentiation by damage or, in one case, range. So #3 lead buckshot does 1d pi- but has a 1/2D of nearly 70 yds. Steel F shot also does 1d pi-, but the lighter pellets only have a 1/2 of 40 yards, but you get +1 to hit because there are more of them. So there’s a legit choice there.

+Hans-Christian Vortisch picked on my Max Range numbers, so I fiddled a bit. I set the program to calculate where the average penetration falls to a ludicrously low 0.017 points of damage. That put the actual max range for 00 Buckshot closer to his real-world number, and I just let the math roll from there.

The penetration/damage figure only takes into account projectile energy and cross-section. No mushrooming or funky stuff. It tends to get a bit wonky at low projectile cross-sections, because the low cross-sections force the penetration numbers up to an unrealistically high value. Regardless of what the KE/cross-section numbers look like, these low-mass, low sectional density projectiles won’t penetrate deeply. The wound channel modifiers (values in squirrely brackets) correct for that somewhat.

Still might produce unrealistically exaggerated penetration values, so another way to figure this is that zeros actually count as zero when rolling for damage. So if you roll a 1, 2, or 3 on 1d-3, you do no damage, not the usual “minumum 1 for pi.” This table has zero-penetration hits built into it. If you want to re-convert to the usual “minimum piercing roll is a 1,” then you map it this way:

1d 3.50
1d-1 2.67
1d-2 2.00
1d-3 1.50
1d-4 1.17
1d-5 1.00

So our 12G #9 Birdshot (1.07 points of damage) would be 1d-5 instead of 1d-3. The average damage on 1d-5 (minimum 1) is 1. The average on 1d-3 (minimum 0) is also 1. Either way can work; you probably will sort out different choices than those I picked above.

Parting Shot

This table started life as a super-detailed look at shotguns. It ended with what I think are better estimates of the effective RoF and damages of these loads for those who need them. The condensed table provides the right amount of choices (not stupid-high, but enough to differentiate) without useless detail.

Hope you enjoy!

In my comments on Rapid Fire and Shotguns in GURPS Fourth Edition, Roger Bay-West’s GURPS 101 post, I noted that he didn’t touch on hit location.

This is a bit of an oddity in the GURPS rules if you think about it too much. If I fire a birdshot load with (say) #6 steel shot at a target, technically I can aim at the vitals. Let’s say my foe is 30 yards away, and I’m pretty good, with Guns (Shotgun)-15. 30 yards is -7, and I aim for a bit, giving me +3 for Acc and another +1 for taking my time. Toss in +1 more for AoA(Determined). That’s a net of -5 including -3 for the vitals, but then we figure the RoF bonus for 317 pellets. That’s another +8 to hit, netting me a skill roll of Guns-18.
Shotguns have Rcl 1, so an average roll will hit with 9 pellets. Technically, all in the vitals.

Now, I’ve got a house rule around here somewhere tamping that down, because the 2.8mm, 1.4 grain pellets just aren’t going to wound well. In my rules, instead of 317 pellets, each of which should do something like 1d-5 {0.1} damage, I aggregate them into clusters of pellets that each can do a real pi- {a 0.5 multiplier} and that becomes RoF 57 instead of 317, and does 1d-5 pi-. Basically, you group them into about 5.5 pellets per effective hit. So instead of Shotgun-18, hitting 9 times, you’d have Shotgun-16, hitting 7 times, which really represents about 39-40 pellets that strike home.

But I digress. The point is . . . if I managed to put nine pellets on target (or 40, it almost doesn’t matter) . . . what happened to the other wholes-a-bunches of pellets? They miraculously missed the entire guy?
I mean, if the pattern is roughly circular, it’ll be about 30″ in diameter at 30 yards, more or less. If it’s a pretty good pattern, that’s about 2-3 square inches per pellet. Since some pellets hit the vitals, which is pretty well dead center on a human target, at worst you’re probably looking at slicing a chord of a circle from the edge to about a quarter way in.
Just looking and playing with the drawing, the body occupies about 1/4 of that circle, which is supposed to represent about 30″ in diameter. Again, with an even spread, you’re looking at about 80 pellets hitting just spreading it out. 
So with a shot like this, something crazy sort of has to happen – though less crazy with my house rules, which would give about half of the pellets hitting the vitals (though that would also be with the circle more centered, I think, since the roll was made by 6).
So, what about the rest of the shots?
All Suppression, All The Time

In short, if your weapon is capable of suppression fire (RoF 5+) then you get a chance to do some effective suppression fire. Take all the shots that miss, and roll again, this time at 8+ the RoF bonus (Guns-16 or Guns-14, depending on RAW or my house rule). Typically, that will give another 7 or 5 hits, representing another 7 or 28 pellets, respectively. These are each a random location.
Total hits is thus the original hits to the targeted location, and the bonus random hits.
  • Using RAW: 9 of 317 pellets hit the vitals, another 7 hit random locations, and 299 continue onward.
  • Using my house rule: 7 of 57 pellet clusters (representing 39 real pellets) hit the vitals, and another 5 pellet clusters (representing 28 more real pellets) hit random locations. Total 67 real pellets hit, or 12 of 57 pellet clusters, thus threatening friends and neighbors with 45 clusters.
Actually, this makes my house rule look pretty good, since the target number of 80 pellets is about right.
All shots that don’t hit by targeting or by chance go on to menace anyone in the firing path of the bullets (at least, in my games).
Note that while the first case is a bit artificially inflated, the typical 3600 rounds per minute Gatling gun is well represented by the second case without inflating for pellet clusters. You fire roughly 60 shots downrange, but at Rcl 2 rather than 1. Acc 5, though. Braced, Aimed, etc is probably something like Gunner-20, for 11 hits to the targeted location, and then another 2-3 hits to random locations. So about a total of just shy of 25% hit rate, of course most of those are to the target, rather than some smaller number.
Parting Shot
I like the idea of resolving shots that don’t hit the target directly as suppression fire first on the target itself (thus achieving some number of random hits), then with the threat of hitting anyone crossing the firing path.
One thing that would be interesting is to resolve these attacks the other way. When using targeted autofire like that, the smaller hit number will always be that at the targeted location, while the larger is resolved for random shots. That would make opening up at a person’s vitals with a ginormous machinegun more prone to have a smaller number of shots hit the vitals, a larger number hit randomly, and a still larger number scatter across the landscape.
I’ll have to test this more.

Looks like things are getting more interesting. Geoffrey Fagan made some notes on Social Traits in GURPS, with three more parts on the way (to appear weekly). Also, Roger Bell-West has started a blog of his own, and has penned an article on Rapid Fire and Shotguns in GURPS 4th edition.

Responding to both!

Social Traits Part 1 of 4


Social Traits

No matter how great your PC is on paper, the real secret to “power” gaming is your ability to influence the plot, and to do that, you need to have some traction in the setting. That’s what social traits get you. 

I think this is a nice point made here, in that while combat skills and other typical PC-sheet skills and abilities are an awful lot of fun, your place in society and your ability to use that (or be used by it) is dictated by these social notes.

Part I: Clout
GURPS has 3 traits that address social standing: Rank, Status, and Social Regard/Stigma. If you have any of these traits, you have a “place in society” that defines existing relationships with many other people.

Hmm. I think that there are ways to broaden this out considerably. Reputation can certainly dictate your place in society, or at least boost it (or detract from it, for that matter). Allies and Patrons can likewise count here; knowing that your foe has a Patron in the Guild of Messy Assassination might certainly give one a different appreciation of his place in society.

Furthermore, one big one missing is Wealth. +Sean Punch has elaborated at what Wealth entails thusly:

Wealth is a highly complex, abstract social advantage that encompasses about as much as IQ does, including but not limited to starting money, job qualifications, social connections, credit rating, land, and a hidden economic parallel to Status.

also

Wealth only changes if you specifically invest the required capital – taking it out of play – to buy, bribe, and insure your way to a social position where future changes in fortune won’t alter the respect and credit accorded to you. This is the big difference between somebody who keeps their winnings as liquid assets and uses them for trips, cars, and homes, and somebody who invests their winnings in nonliquid assets that will continue to make them money in the future. The former only requires cash; the latter also calls for points, which represent the work done to build networks.

As such, Wealth is an extremely Social trait and bears considering.

 If you are part of an organization, you have Rank…even if it’s just Rank 0, and even low Rank defines your character, be he a private in the army, journeyman of the Coopers’ Guild. The decision to make a character with Rank will guide your choices with respect to attributes, skills, talents, and other traits, usually including a duty. If you have any rank at all, you can request that the resources of your organization be allocated to your purposes (roll Administration), and the higher your Rank, the more of those resources fall under your direct command.

It would be a good idea to buy and read GURPS: Social Engineering to get the full take on Rank and what it can do. There are mechanics presented (the Assistance Roll) on pp. 51-52 of that book. Further, a guideline for how many people you have under your command (though I disagree in some of the particulars) is also presented on p. 14: The Arithmetic of Rank.

 In addition, Rank provides a reaction modifier within your organization, even for member outside your direct chain of command.

I had to go look this up – I’d need a better citation, but I think this isn’t true. It’s true if Rank replaces Status (the 10 points per level version of Rank), but the thing about Rank is it’s pretty absolute. Someone is either in your chain of command, in which case they obey you or suffer some degree of consequences, or they are not, in which case your Rank (but not your Status!) is mostly irrelevant.

For 5 points, a level of Rank means that up to a dozen people take orders from you; now tell me again how HT is undercosted! For 10 points, Rank 2 comes with a free level of Status. Remember that you pay for Rank you can actually use; if the sergeant really runs the platoon, then his Rank advantage equals what a lieutenant should theoretically have, while his boss only has Courtesy Rank!

The bolded bit isn’t correct, I think, by the rules in the Basic Set, nor its expansion in Social Engineering (p. 13). If you have the authority, regardless if you use it, you have honest-to-Kromm Rank. If you used to have formal authority, and now only get the trappings and courtesy of your former Rank, but cannot actually command obedience (though you may be able to get obedience thorugh successful use of influence skills), you have Courtesy Rank.

A good test: can the people you’re trying to get to do what you want be punished if they don’t obey your orders? You have higher Rank than they do. Can those people be punished for actually obeying your directions? You have Courtesy Rank!

Status attends power, which is why you get some free with Rank and Wealth, but you can be powerful in other ways, perhaps a mighty wizard. The source of power is a separate advantage, but Status represents the perks, which are setting-dependent but should include partial exemption from his society’s Control Rating

Possible, but a setting-driven switch; this may or may not be true in any given campaign.

 and always includes reduced social friction: Higher Status means your character has more time to be productive. He calls on the mayor and walks right in; other folks have to wait, even if they had an appointment. Perhaps it’s less formal, and he gets face time with the mayor on a golf course, which helps explain why Status comes encumbered with a higher Cost of Living. The cost is warranted though, because Status also counts as a Reaction Modifier.

Now, this one is definitely true, though I had to go look it up. Conveniently, it’s under Status as a Reaction Modifier, p. B29.

Exemptions
If the usual laws don’t apply to you, then you have Immunity, Legal Enforcement Power, or Security Clearance. What all of these advantages have in common is that they can be revoked by others, so the PC must exercise good judgment in their utilization, or else produce such good results that his superiors will excuse abuses.
Immunity amounts to easing of social friction (a lot), so if you already have high Status, you shouldn’t have to pay for Immunity separately.

This might or mightn’t be true – the examples listed on p. B65 charge points for Legal Immunity and give the examples of a medieval bard, abbot, or duke – but it’s not RAW. If you can break the law to any extent, you must buy this, by RAW. Status does not give you an exemption to the law (though it might allow you to influence the end game, what you’re doing is still illegal for you).

 Suppose your campaign takes place in Eastland, and your character is the ambassador from Westland. Back in Westland, he’s a high Status individual, so take that as a perk equivalent to Courtesy Rank. Here in Eastland, nobody cares about barbarian honors, but the ambassador still has diplomatic Immunity.

This is a good, but very campaign specific example, and does not define the rules, but applies them with judgement. Now, that’s exactly the GM’s job! But a French Diplomat who also happens to be a high GURPS Status Duke and is currently in England will damn well reap the benefits of both Status (at the full level that includes Rank, likely) and any immunity he gets as an ambassador, probably at the 5 to 10 point level.

Similarly, Security Clearance is one of the benefits of Rank; take the advantage only if you have no Rank, or if your clearance exceeds that nominally associated with your Rank. A good example is the civilian contractor working on a secret weapon; since he has no Military Rank, he needs Security Clearance. Having one is a good way to get in on the action, or to get more intel once the action starts.

I’d probably phrase this as “Security Clearance can be one of the benefits of Rank.” Need to Know applies to even people of high rank, so just because you’re a General doesn’t mean you have instant access to The Dark Phoenix Files or The Manhattan Project. If you want that specifically, you probably have to pay for it.
Parting Shot #1


I found this about 4/5 on the GURPS 101 scale. Most of the advice is quite solid, but there are some rules interpretations here that, while justifiable/understandable, are not strict RAW. They make great house rules, though, and in some places there’s enough leeway in the rule itself that some of these are just points of discussion. No one would blink twice if told “Yeah, you’re a Status 6 nobleman, so no one of lesser status can charge you with a crime.”

The overall point that in genres apart from DF, where “Murder Hobo” is all the Status you need, is still quite applicable: points spend in useful social advantages are points well spent.


Rapid Fire and Shotguns in GURPS 4th edition

The first GURPS 101 article for Roger Bell-West, he tackles automatic fire ably and succinctly. Not much more to add. He doesn’t touch on hit location when using automatic fire, but I don’t think the basic rules for non-spray fire are any different. If your hit roll succeeds (and your foe fails to defend) your bullets go to the location you wanted them to. All the others miss by the basic rules.

Actually, thinking about this for a moment, I just came up with a fun idea. Awesome – a new blog post with actual content!
This is a guest blog column by Geoffrey Fagan. He doesn’t have a blog himself, but participated regularly in the GURPS Forums under the username GEF.
Social Traits
GURPS addresses social
traits in its game mechanics, comprehensively, in a couple of ways: Those
traits that establish existing relationships, and “Reaction Modifiers” that
affect the formation of new ones. No matter how great your PC is on paper, the
real secret to “power” gaming is your ability to influence the plot, and to do
that, you need to have some traction in the setting. That’s what social traits
get you.  
Part I: Clout
GURPS has 3 traits
that address social standing: Rank, Status, and Social Regard/Stigma. If you
have any of these traits, you have a “place in society” that defines existing
relationships with many other people. If you are part of an organization, you
have Rank…even if it’s just Rank 0, and even low Rank defines your character,
be he a private in the army, journeyman of the Coopers’ Guild. The decision to
make a character with Rank will guide your choices with respect to attributes,
skills, talents, and other traits, usually including a duty. If you have any
rank at all, you can request that the resources of your organization be
allocated to your purposes (roll Administration), and the higher your Rank, the
more of those resources fall under your direct command. In addition, Rank
provides a reaction modifier within your organization, even for member outside
your direct chain of command. For 5 points, a level of Rank means that up to a
dozen people take orders from you; now tell me again how HT is undercosted! For
10 points, Rank 2 comes with a free level of Status. Remember that you pay for
Rank you can actually use; if the sergeant really runs the platoon, then his
Rank advantage equals what a lieutenant should theoretically have, while his
boss only has Courtesy Rank!
Status attends power,
which is why you get some free with Rank and Wealth, but you can be powerful in
other ways, perhaps a mighty wizard. The source of power is a separate
advantage, but Status represents the perks, which are setting-dependent but
should include partial exemption from his society’s Control Rating and always
includes reduced social friction: Higher Status means your character has more
time to be productive. He calls on the mayor and walks right in; other folks
have to wait, even if they had an appointment. Perhaps it’s less formal, and he
gets face time with the mayor on a golf course, which helps explain why Status
comes encumbered with a higher Cost of Living. The cost is warranted though,
because Status also counts as a Reaction Modifier. Likewise,
negative Status increases social friction, but the benefit is a reduced Cost of
Living. [Note: It is possible to have Status derived from someone else’s power,
perhaps parents, but then you’d still have a Patron on your character sheet. In
a setting where Status is determined by birth, such as one with a caste system
or hereditary nobility, then Status effectively includes Rank and costs 10
points per level.]
Social Regard is like
a little bump in Status that doesn’t increase Cost of Living. It’s mainly a
reaction modifier, but based on group affiliation rather than personal
reputation. Doctors may be high Status individuals because of their skills, but
if they’re more respected than other professionals, then they have Social
Regard, too. They’re members of an exclusive club with small but concrete benefits,
be they formal or informal, again campaign-dependent, and an obligation to act
in a manner that won’t result in censure by their peers. Social Stigma is the
negative version of Social Regard, but it still makes you a member of a group.
There’s always demand for capable members of a stigmatized group, and there’s
always a benefit when recruiting fellow members from your group (specifically
called out for Minorities), whether you’re forming the Ladies’ Historical
Society (when ladies are Second-Class Citizens) or the 42nd Street
Gang (when the predominant ethnicity along 42nd St is a
Minority and/or Outlaws).
Remember, having low
Status or a Stigma doesn’t preclude you from wielding wealth and influence, but
it may require you to do so from the shadows.
Exemptions
If the usual laws
don’t apply to you, then you have Immunity, Legal Enforcement Power, or
Security Clearance. What all of these advantages have in common is that they
can be revoked by others, so the PC must exercise good judgment in their
utilization, or else produce such good results that his superiors will excuse
abuses.
Immunity amounts to
easing of social friction (a lot), so if you already have high Status, you
shouldn’t have to pay for Immunity separately. Suppose your campaign takes
place in Eastland, and your character is the ambassador from Westland. Back in
Westland, he’s a high Status individual, so take that as a perk equivalent to
Courtesy Rank. Here in Eastland, nobody cares about barbarian honors, but the
ambassador still has diplomatic Immunity.
Similarly, Security
Clearance is one of the benefits of Rank; take the advantage only if you have
no Rank, or if your clearance exceeds that nominally associated with your Rank.
A good example is the civilian contractor working on a secret weapon; since he
has no Military Rank, he needs Security Clearance. Having one is a good way to
get in on the action, or to get more intel once the action starts.

Legal Enforcement
Power is not normally an automatic benefit for Rank and Status. If a medieval
knight has the low justice (ability to punish criminals from the lower
classes), then he should pay for Legal Enforcement Power in addition to Rank,
Status, and Wealth. It gives adventurers a right to interrogate people and even
shoot them, things they’ll probably want to do.
Instant Marksman: Just Add Walther
15 rounds at 15′

Jesse Ventura (in)famously said: “If you can put two rounds through the same hole at 25m, that’s gun control!”

I recently had the opportunity to fire a friend’s new Walther PPQ in 9mm.

The very first time I handled the gun, I was impressed. The trigger is simply superb, and the recoil and ergonomics are such that my friend commented that firing the gun was “instant marksman, just add Walther.” After firing the gun for the very first time, I had to agree. You can see the results. 15 shots in one ragged hole from 5 yards.

GURPS Me


OK, so let’s take a look at that. That’s about a circle 1.5-2″ in diameter. Call it 2″ (it’s not more than that). The way I do accuracy practice is to fire one shot more or less at the area of the target I want to shoot at, then try and repeatedly hit that same bullet-hole. The first two shots I fired were through the same hole. With a gun I’ve never handled before. The next 13 proved that wasn’t luck: the gun just worked for me.

So, what would it take to put two shots through the same hole in GURPS, purposefully?

Well, the size modifier for a 9mm hole is -14, +2 because it’s spherical, for a net of -12.
The 2″ pattern I hit above would be about -8 (the eye is -10 because it’s on a moving head, not because of the absolute size).

The range penalty for 5yds is -2.

So I had to overcome -14 in penalties.

What about the upper end? Well, modern firearms have a limit, and the Walther shoots 6-10 MoA from a bench rest, which is solidly Acc 3. This gives a maximum of all positive things of 22 + 2*Acc = 28.

Let’s back off the two rounds in one hole thing for a moment, and think about 15 rounds in 2″.

That’s a total modifier of -10 for range and size. Maybe my 16th shot would have been a flier. Dunno. But my Skill, Task Difficulty Modifers, Aim and time spent, less the -10 penalty should wind up about 15, so that about one shot in 20 might miss. So I needed a net of skill 25.

Well, it’s an indoor range, plenty of time, and certainly no stress, well lit, etc. Pretty much +8 to +10 based on Tactical Shooting, p. 9. Acc 3 and an extra +2 for time to aim is another +5. That’s +13 to +15 right there, which means my Guns skill would need to be 10 to 12 to pull this off, at a miminum.

Ok, so with that skill, could I put two in one hole? Well, with Guns-12 and +15 in bonuses, less -14 for range and size . . . two rounds in one hole should happen about 85% of the time. Even with Guns-10 I could do it about two times in three.

Huh . . . and I thought I was a good shot. Turns out that trick isn’t that hard with the right gun and all the time in the world.

Parting Shot


I’m actually pretty good on the move and with time pressure also, judging by limited but decent performance with a couple visits to the local IPSC shoots. Still, what the stuff above shows is that close-in shooting with a high-quality modern handgun, on the range, is deceptively easy. I can’t wait to get out to try the PPQ in .40, as well as perhaps a Springfield XDM, and see how I do at longer ranges and with more practice.

The other thing this shows is just how fantastic higher levels of Guns skill can be. Give a character time, a good range setting, and a fairly stock Acc 5 rifle, and a guy with Guns-15 can look at a net positive skill of something like Guns-32 in an indoor range, or Guns-30 on an outdoor one. That means you can probably hit, 90% of the time (net Skill-14), a skull-size (-7) target at 70 yards. That’s a lot of dead zombies, if they’re slow zombies.

Some of the regular GURPS bloggers and I have been doing more-or-less monthly features that highlight certain aspects of GURPS.

The first was called Melee Academy (click for the master link list). It was a bunch of article on fighting and fight tactics, with a focus on melee/fantasy combat.

The second feature is GURPS 101 (which had an installment yesterday). For those seeking a grounding in GURPS, this is a great place to start for some of the system’s features.

Have you checked them out lately? If so, what are we missing?

We continue the discussion of the basic stats and derived attributes in GURPS with the final pair: HT and Fatigue Points.

Honestly, I’m going to have a hard time with this one, in that I said a lot of what I would otherwise say about HT in my post The Price of Fitness. 

Go read it.

Back? Good. Now I’ll give you the rest.

HT

HT is likely deliberately undercosted. It’s priced at a relatively paltry 10 points per level, which includes 5 points of Basic Speed and 3 points for a fatigue point. All the extra goodness about Death Check, KO checks, reistant to poison, and all the HT-based skills are thrown in the balance there.

Now, I don’t believe in HT! or that all components of an attribute should sum to the attribute cost, but still, HT is a steal in many ways for several combinations of its component parts.

So, the real question then, other than “how much can you afford?” is given a certain point budget, how much should you get?

Some options:

HT 10 or less: If you’re going to be in a fight, don’t go here. It will likely be no fun.

HT 11: A measly +1 to HT is only 10 points, and at this level, I think what you’re buying is the boost from 50% to 62% success for one-time checks like Death Checks, as well as the skill boost. The extra FP is nice, but ephemeral, and the “roll every turn” stuff like Knockout rolls only buys you one extra second of action on the average.

HT 12: This to me is the basic “start here” level for warriors and anyone who wants to stay in a fight. You’ve got three chances in four of surviving a flat HT roll, and this means only one time in four will you succumb to a HT roll for physical stun, which is an often one-way ticket to being incapacitated or killed. You’ve also got a nice default start at Skill-11 for any HT/A skill out there for only one point. That’s not a great skill level, but it’s credible.

HT 13: This is now over 80% chance to resist stunning and death. Your 1-point skill level is now a pretty respectable 12, which is where a lot of my Warrior Saint’s non-combat skills sit, fairly happily. My Perception of 12 for that character is in the “not bad, not bad” category. For only 30 points, this puts you in the “high enough HT to often not worry about worrying about HT” category. You will, on the average, get about an extra four seconds of action before you drop unconscious from being at negative HP beyond the base from HT 10 (meaning about six seconds of up and at ’em). This is a great level for a highly capable, heroic fighter.

HT 14: This is the point beyond which diminishing returns really starts to set in. You have a 90% chance to make a one-time HT roll such as avoiding stunning. At this point you really have better than 50% chance to survive any death check down to your auto-death point of -5xHP. You default HT-based skills to a not-awful 9, and with a point invested are rockin’ Skill-13. Things like Running and Lifting and Swimming and Hiking . . . and Kiai! . . . are now fairly routine unless penalized. A few extra points and you’re really quite good at them. This is a signature attribute level (and 40 points is a non-trivial budget expenditure, even for Dungeon Fantasy) and will make you “the guy who always stays up.”

HT 15-16: This is the middle of diminishing returns land, but there’s a huge jump beween 14 and 15 for the average number of turns you get to stay active when rolling for unconsciousness. It jumps to something like 20, which is effectively “will never fall down.” 20 rounds of combat is longer than most will ever take.

So, if you expect to see combat, hit up at least an extra point in HT. If you’re a front-line type, 12-13 is great. I’d think hard about HT 14 before you go there, and HT 15-16 is pretty freaky. For GMs, if you push your bad guys into this range, you’re telling the PCs “I’m a giant pile of hit points and will not stop, ever, until I’m a Frederickburger.”

Fatigue Points


I wrote an 8,000-word article about a different way to use fatigue in GURPS with stronger consequences for spending FP.  Some of that is because honestly, without that, the only thing I’ve seen FP represent is the pool of which you may spend just shy of 2/3 of in order to do really cool stuff with Extra Effort.

They do make a difference for spell casters, though. And some sort of energy reserve is usually a really good thing.

They recover fast, though, unless your GM harries you with wandering monsters or reasons to sprint from one encounter to the next.

The usual allotment of extra FP is 30% over your starting level, which is 3-4 more Heroic Charges or Feverish Defenses. That can be pretty life saving, and likely worth the points.

Parting Shot


Yeah, I’d pretty much slap down 9 points for +3 FP and another 20 for +2 HT as one of the first things I’d do when I say “Warrior type who’s allowed to spend Extra Effort.” If you want to go HT 13 and no FP for more or less the same price, that’s a better call if EE isn’t encouraged.

Ultimately, though, you will not regret spending points on HT if you have a physically-dominated character type who expects to hit and get hit a lot in the HT 11 through HT 13 regime, while HT 14+ is in the “this is characteristic of the kind of awesome I am” range.

Note that a lot of grappling attacks allow rolls vs. HT, and a very high HT can render you very, very resistant (nearly immune) to anyone but the strongest and most skilled. The percentages are extreme enough to make me almost want to waive the “spending Control Points can never drop your foe’s resistance roll lower than HT” that we introduced in Technical Grappling to prevent an epidemic of crippled limbs!

As +Peter V. Dell’Orto noted, I’ve spent a lot of time this vacation writing. An exchange we had on passing back the twenty-third revision of one of the two projects we’ve been collaborating on made me appreciate for the Nth time the value of playtesting, and also what “simple” means.

I do a lot of spreadsheet work when developing rules. It helps me ensure that there’s a logical consistency in my mechanics, and when I do the right spreadsheet work, it helps to ensure that the work I do is scalable. Does this rule work for a human? A human with the strength of a T-Rex (supers)? A T-Rex with the Strength of a human (disadvantages)? Works for Mice, Men, and Godzilla?

So, when I do this, I often make use of Excel, and the ROUND, ROUNDUP, ROUNDDOWN, and TRUNC functions. Picking the right function helps me keep the breakpoints where I want them.

However, after this recent project with Peter, I will way, way more often make a final pass, and ask the Very Important Question: if you’re doing this three hours into a four-hour game session, having imbibed three glasses of wine, countless Doritos, and no small amount of bad pizza . . . and you have to make a GM call for the fiftieth NPC that your players must defeat . . . can you still do it?

I mean, having the breakpoints for (say) a ST progression go from 18-22 (centered on 20, what you get with ROUND(N/5,0) might be a beautiful mathematical thing . . . but if in the middle of play you have a new ST 23 NPC, does it make you swear loudly and have to choose between pulling out a calculator or pulling out your hair?

Yeah, OK, I can learn. Nearly everyone can reckon by fives. Why use 18-22 when 20-24 would do?

The lesson learned here is the value of a gaming group. Without one, you don’t really realize when the wonderful rule you’ve created makes your friends want to blast you with d4s loaded into a 6-gauge shotgun. Or, after pulling out a book, a computer, and smiling as you get the answer you wanted, you look up and five guys and gals are giving you the “the pizza’s getting cold and my one-second action has now taken me fifteen seconds to say and fifteen minutes for you to fiddle with” look.

Anyway, playing your rules with a group (even solo with a friend) will point out the flaws in things. My evening once spent Fighting with Peter pointed out some major issues with my book. The rules there weren’t bad (though there were a couple of hidden Murphys), but they couldn’t be easily explained in play, and ultimately, this resulted in important errata for Technical Grappling.

Playing your rules with actual people means you have to explain them quickly and clearly. It means doing it under time pressure. And it means ensuring that they work in actual play. And that means having done such playtesting, you’re more likely to put in print stuff that’s Awesome.