“What the hell is a geniza?” my wife exclaimed, upon seeing the title of the article on the dinner table, where I was (re) reading it in preparation for this review.

“Exactly!” I laughed.

Ultimately – and remember that although this issue is in the slightly-desported list of lowest total sales, it’s at the top of that list, and not terribly far from being only a single standard deviation from the mean sales for individual Pyramid issues – I suspect that one of the reasons that this issue isn’t in the middle of the pack for individual issue sales is that the title, while evocative, is utterly useless at informing the reader of what’s in it.

This article is 25% of the content of the issue, and there’s really no telling what it is. Perhaps that’s not fair, though – The Deadly Spring and The Last Gasp aren’t exactly informative either.

The Golden Geniza of Ezkali ( +Matt Riggsby )

What this article contains is an adventure, something that is often begged for on the forums, and yet where does this issue fall in sales? Well, getting ahead of myself, that’s not Matt’s fault. The adventure presented here in five pages and probably fewer than 4,500 words is eminently mineable for content and ideas. Whatever issues I have with it (and I’ll get to those later), it’s not that it’s bad.

The Philosophical Apparatus

The first section explains the crux of the theory here. That in societies with a strong bent of oral tradition, that there’s going to be some embellishment and story creep that happens, even with really important central myths and legends. Even with legends that are seemingly the same origin, the retelling can be very, very different. Thus the crux of the issue (so to speak): what if there really is only one true story, and that truth is critical to achieving some goal?

The Golden What, Now?

I usually don’t spend a lot of time with boxes, since they’re designed to provide supplemental, but not critical, content that is somewhat outside the flow of a typical GURPS/Pyramid article. They can, theoretically, appear on any page in a manuscript and be understandable by themselves (though SJG Layout Guru Nikki Vrtis always finds the right place for them).

So, that aside: a geniza is defined in this box, and I’ll give it away because frankly, to understand what it is is to understand why a party of adventurers might care to risk life and limb to find it. It’s a document treasure trove, a giant mount of information which is sequestered because of the (often holy, always important) nature of the documents themselves.

Honestly, the merest hint of the existence of such a thing should draw Sages, Wizards, and Clerics (if it’s a holy, rather than magical, geniza) like moths to a flame.

Preparing for the Adventure

A brief set of instructions for how to take the article, make the desired changes, and set up the key conflict and challenges. It’s basically a two-paragraph (but long paragraphs) how-to, and concisely lays out what the GM must do.

The Story of Ezkali

The other somewhat impenetrable part of the title is who the frack Ezkali is. Other than the title itself, this is the first time you hear about him, and it’s in a section designed to be cut out of the article, pasted into your favorite word processing program, and altered so that each PC has a slightly different version of the story. There are thousands of possible versions here, so each PC can have very different versions of the story to work with.

The story is fairly straight-forward, and can probably be altered to fit your gameworld if you don’t wish to plunk it down wholesale.

The Temple of the Golden Geniza

Laying out the principle of this very linear adventure (and that’s a good thing), the PCs will basically be navigating a series of traps. If they can win through, they may claim the geniza.

The nugget here is that Matt lays out, in seven categories, all you need to know about any trap ever. Perhaps it’s already been done, but a random generator based on these seven descriptors would produce millions of potential traps. +Christopher R. Rice may or may not have taken advantage of this when he wrote It’s a Trap! in Pyramid #3/60: Dungeon Fantasy III.

The article then quickly and succinctly lays out the challenges involved in passing through the temple to find and claim the geniza.


The article ends, and then you get four pages of maps, with hex grids, to give you the nuts and bolts of the Temple. These aren’t beautiful, but they get the job done and are an important addition to this article, since the GM would otherwise have to create them himself.

Before I get into my article rating, I wanted to make a few comments of a more holistic nature.

First, the adventure is very, very linear. This is, as far as I can tell, an absolute requirement for such things, either in e23 supplements or Pyramid articles. The entire feel of these adventures needs to be that of a side-quest in your typical MMORPG – something a GM can drop into an existing campaign and not have it wreck everything else. So the linear nature is a feature of the adventure, not a bug.

Overall, the only thing that really bugged me is that the article makes unusually heavy reference to other required works. There are four works referenced: DF2, DF4, DF8, and DFM1. No one will likely do this without at least Dungeon Fantasy 2: Campaigns, but having important bits of info spread through three other books could be a problem. I’d have rather seen the information in the article itself, but referencing other works is important. It drives sales and credits other authors, plus there’s lots out there that you can mine in those books.

Article Scoring

Style, Writing, Execution [-2 to 2 points]: Recall that a score of 0 means “didn’t get in the way,” and doesn’t represent a bad score. I’d call this one a 0, in that it was short, matter of fact, and told you what you needed to know. There wasn’t a lot of rhetorical flourish here, but it definitely did its job. 0 points.

Background, Inspiration, Epiphany [0 to 4 points]: There are several good background elements that provide “a ha!” moments here. The concept of having multiple versions of a story, the linear side-quest for traps, the notion of a big pile of documents as a reward, and the list of stuff that goes into a proper trap. The legend itself wasn’t that inspirational, and mostly served as (useful) fluff informing the choices the PCs will need to navigate the adventure. 3 points.

Drop-in Gaming Utliity [0 to 4 points]: The maps are the obvious bit of drop-in, and I’ll give it high marks for the stand-alone nature. I’m going to dock a point for needing three other DF books, but if you have them, you can run this with probably an hour or less of prep. 3 points if you don’t have the books; 4 if you do.

Overall: 6/10 if you need to go purchase the other volumes referenced, 7/10 if you already have them. This article is a good primer on what a GURPS adventure will look like as presented in Pyramid (and likely e23 as well, and Mirror of the Fire Demon is likewise reputed to be a fairly straight-on challenge that can be dropped into most campaigns.

Would I use it? Likely not exactly as-is, and I’d need to do some work on the particular myth I’m using, but with a few hours of prep, it would make a nice single adventure. The real key would be deciding how much utility one can get from four tons of paper. The utility for me would likely be the overall concept, which is a lot deeper than what is presented in this short article. Circumventing traps as a basic concept, ensuring that even though the PCs have a story, it may not be the right story, and information rather than gold, weapons, and other gear as the quest object? All good stuff.

I suspect that this is an overlooked gem for many DF gamers, and if the concepts I describe here are of interest, this one’s worth picking up.

+Peter V. Dell’Orto , +Mark Langsdorf , +Christopher R. Rice , and +Jason Packer have been dutifully adding to the tally of posts in the Melee Academy and GURPS 101 sections, which is awesome.

However, and this is key: we write this stuff because we know each other, we like the system, and whatnot.

That being said: we’re far from the only ones who play GURPS, nor are we the only ones with stuff to say on the topic.

So this is an open invitation. Have you written, or seen, a good blog post that would fit into one of these categories? Yes? Let me know! If it’s yours, just hit me up with the link and note you’d like it to be hosted on one of the two pages.

GURPS 101 is designed to be introductory notes concerning everything but fighting with muscle-powered weapons. The topics can be as basic (the articles on ST and HP and the forthcoming ones on the basic stats) or advanced (“Remedial” Ritual Path Magic) as you like.

Melee Academy is all about skills, tactics, weapons, and armor in hand fighting in GURPS. While it will tend to be, I think, focused on TL0-4, there’s no reason it needs to stay that way. One thing to not do here is stuff on guns and blasters. If we start to see another good chunk of these crop up, I’ll go ahead and create

The Firing Range: how-to and how-not-to content about firearms and ultra-tech weapons for ranged combat. Lightsabers would go in Melee Academy. But again, skills, tactics, weapons and armor, talking about firearms and their higher technology brethren.

Also, if articles overlap between Melee Academy and The Grappling Mat, that’s cool. I’ll link through twice.

So . . . any suggestions or additions? Please, do pile on!

The Fine Print: There will be a bit of a screening process, though. I will likely shy away from “GURPS is broken” posts, and I’m going to focus the content on Rules-as-Published, which means if you’ve got an awesome alternate weapon skill system with a linked damage progression, that’s great, but it’s not Melee Academy or GURPS 101 (house rules are at least GURPS 201, possibly GURPS 404, that course that you tack on the last half of your senior year). 

In the past, I’ve done posts on the meaning and value of skills, both for ranged and melee combat. When chatting with my fellow GURPS bloggers, for some reason we hit on going through the basic attributes and their derived abilities, and commenting.

This is the start of a multi-blog series on the basic and secondary attributes in GURPS. If you’re new to the system, what are some things you’ll want to think about? If you really want some good stuff, go visit +Peter V. Dell’Orto‘s entry for this GURPS 101 subject – his extensive experience with DF gaming, where the templates and power-ups encourage a lot of variation in ST (and monsters! don’t forget monsters!) makes for better insights as to breakpoints and the value of HP, especially. 

Look for other GURPS 101 discussions of ST and HP at . . . 

Ravens N’ Pennies: GURPS 101: Mass and Power – What ST/HP Means To My Players
Dungeon Fantastic: Strength and Hit Points
RPG Snob: GURPS 101: An overview of Strength

Still, here were my own notes on the subject:

This week, we’re talking ST and HP.

The Value of ST

In lower tech games, ST is pretty much awesome, I think. It’s inexpensive at 10 points per level. And it gives you several things.

Damage: people love to focus on this one, and indeed, Striking ST is 5 points per level, and is basically buying extra points of damage. So that’s super-cool, right? Half the value, right there?

We’ll get back to it.

The other two things ST gets you in the usual breakdown are Lifting ST (3/level) and HP (2/level). We’ll cover HP later, so I’ll come back to that.

Lifting ST is interesting. Canonically, it buys encumbrance. If you use The Deadly Spring, it also gets you the ST used to draw bows and span crossbows, while if you also use Technical Grappling, Lifting ST is your Grappling ST, the figure used to do Trained ST. And since Trained ST/Lifting ST give control points (another variant on damage, but for restraining people), this is also good.

It’s thrust-based, though, where striking ST is often able to do swung damage, so it’s just better from that perspective.

Lifting ST, and the encumbrance it buys, is the unsung hero, I think, of lower TL games. Your Lifting ST 16 lugnut has basic lift of just over 50 lbs. That means he can stack up 50 lbs of gear and be unencumbered, at full Move and Dodge. Our ST 10, BL 20 lb. guy? That same 50-lbs of gear has him at Medium encumbrance, or -2 to Dodge and 0.6xMove.

So for 18 points worth of Basic Lift (and yes, you probably can’t just go buy that straight-up), you have just avoided something like 30 points of dodge penalty (+1 to Dodge being 15/level) and +2 to Move (worth 10 points). And since that 50 lbs (or double down, and make it 100 lbs, which would be Heavy encumbrance (3) at ST 10, but Light (1) at ST 16) is likely something like “a weapon and 45 lbs of armor and shield” the value of that ST is pretty clear.

In fact, when playing Cadmus, my Warrior Saint, I find the mobility loss especially is nice to avoid, because with the relatively frantic pace of GURPS combat, it keeps you in the fight, actually having fun, rather than plodding along hoping that by the time you get to the bad guys, it’s not all over.

So at least to me, the more ST the merrier at TL 0-4 at least, especially if you pair that with enough delving skill or Wealth to survive to afford 90 lbs of armor (Cadmus sports DR 12 on his head, neck, and torso, and DR 9 everywhere else. It weighs about 84 lbs, requiring ST 14.5 to have him at light encumbrance, and ST 20.5 to have him at No Encumbrance. He has ST 14 at the moment, so a 3-point spend on Lifting ST (or just find another +1 to ST somewhere) would be well worth it (actually, you’d want to push it up a bit so that you can carry all your fight gear).

At higher TLs, damage tends to be deprecated at melee, because, well guns. When you can toss out 5d or more a few times per second, at range, well, ST doesn’t seem to mean as much.

I’m not sure that’s right, though. If you look at The Modern Warrior’s Combat Load , the minimum weight a soldier heads to a fight with is about 60-70 lbs. You need ST 13 to hump that (and the full load is over 120 lbs) and being able to run around while being shot at (or near) is still important. And (thanks to +David Pulver ) it wasn’t any better in WW2, either.

That brings me to the other side of the ST coin, which is . . .

Hit Points

I’m of two minds about HP. I almost always just leave it where it is. I know one of +Peter V. Dell’Orto‘s players has bought his HP up to 25 or so.

Thinking about it, though, someone with that many HP can take 16 HP before flirting with the HP/3 loss of secondary attributes. That’s more damage than Cadmus can take before he’s playing “try to stay standing a second at a time,” and 16 HP is an average roll on 3d+5/4d+2. That’s a lot, and against more mundane foes, that might swing for 2d+2 or so, you can take a few shots (even out of armor) before you hit death spiral territory.

The death spiral in GURPS is real, and a true “feature” of the game, so avoiding it is a good idea. I haven’t played enough high-end DF to experience HP higher than ST by more than +3/30%, though, so I’m not the best to comment.

Parting Shot

All in all, I think my call here is “ST is awesome, buy lots of it at TL0-4. At TL 6+ when you’re dealing with decent guns raher than swords and spears, buy half as much.”

For HP, I’d probably ignore them unless you can exceed the normal extra, like in a game like DF. In that case, they’re good . . . but HT is probably better.

Reviews of past Pyramid issues was one of the things that came up in my “what to next” blog post.

Before I take up the challenge of issue reviews of Pyramid magazine, I thought I’d do a bit of analysis and see which issues I’d review.

Of course, we can all go to the What’s Hot page and do the usual sort: show me all of the Pyramid issues sorted by either Average Customer Rating or Number of Sales.

OK, fine, take the best five and worst five, and have at.

Right? Maybe not. There have been 61 issues since the restart of the magazine in its third incarnation. In the overall sort, we have certain implicit information. How long ago it was released is a function of the issue number, and we know they come out once a month, like clockwork.

We also get the average customer rating, the number of issues sold individually. The 12-month subscriptions more or less add a certain number to this, and that number isn’t constant, but varies depending on how many subscriptions are active. Still, I’m going to neglect that, despite it being the highest sales number of all. If I really wanted to dig into things, I’m sure I could extract number of 12-month subscriptions by month, by doing 61 individual searches.

I don’t care that much. I’m just looking for overall trends in the data.

So, are there any?

Unsurprisingly, yes.

Stand Up and Be Counted

If I were to just look at the average customer rating to tell me which issues were the most popular, would that work? Well, that depends on who’s voting and how many vote. Let’s take a look at how many bother to register their approval or disapproval of each issue.

Each big purple line (hey, I’m from Minnesota) represents 12 issues, or one year. To me, it seems like I can draw two conclusions. People really got excited about the new Pyramid volume in the first six months, and after that stopped voting.

As you can see by Steven Marsh’s comment below, the real conclusion is that there were a LOT of people who got six-month subscriptions to volume 3, and that drove up the numbers.

After that, the expected number of votes on an issues could be seen to decrease by roughly one vote per four or five months. So perhaps issues of interest are those with the highest percentage increase of votes more than expected, and the issues that were disliked or ignored are those with the lower deltas.The first six issues are excluded from this, because of the “new and cool” effect.

+Steven Marsh, Pyramid Editor and e23 Guru, was foiled by Blogger’s comment page (alas). But he did email me to note:

 As a reminder (or background in case you weren’t aware), with the changeover from Volume 2 to Volume 3, we gave everyone who had ANY time left on Volume 2 a six-month subscription to Volume 3. This explains why some statistics are so much higher on those first six issues; hundreds of more people had those issues compared to any other.

What are the best and worst in this case?

Best 10
Issues: % Votes from Expected
Worst 10 issues: % Votes from
Pyramid #3/33: Low-Tech (best) Pyramid
#3/32: Fears of Days Past
Pyramid #3/36: Dungeon Fantasy Pyramid
#3/42: Noir
Pyramid #3/44: Alternate GURPS II Pyramid
#3/53: Action
Pyramid #3/34: Alternate GURPS Pyramid
#3/11: Cinematic Locations
Pyramid #3/54: Social Engineering Pyramid
#3/35: Aliens
Pyramid #3/50: Dungeon Fantasy II Pyramid
#3/46: Weird Science
Pyramid #3/13: Thaumatology Pyramid
#3/27: Monsters in Space
Pyramid #3/43: Thaumatology III Pyramid
#3/14: Martial Arts
Pyramid #3/52: Low-Tech II Pyramid
#3/49: World-Hopping
Pyramid #3/41: Fantasy World-Building Pyramid
#3/61: Way of the Warrior (worst)

So, “best” in this case really means “encouraged more people than usual to go out and vote on it at all, regardless of whether this is a good vote or a bad one. Pyramid #3/33 would thus win if a record number of people logged on to say how much they hate it. Pyramid #3/61 (the most recent, which may count against it) might be the worst because, well . . . it’s still being read, and not enough time has gone by for people to read and digest it.

One last thing: are issues that sell well more likely to be rated at all? A quick plot of Vote count vs. Sales shows that yes, the more who buy it, the more vote. Not terribly surprising there, and what you see is that while there seems to be a floor of about ten or fifteen votes, roughly one person bothers to vote on the issue for each 23 people who buy the issue.

Actual Customer Feedback

Well, number of votes might be interesting, but you get to rate an issue when you vote, from 1-5 stars. So a couple things here. No issue has received an average rating less than 3.29 (Pyramid #3/02, the Superheroes one). One is currently sitting at a perfect 5.0 (#3/60, Dungeon Fantasy III).

OK, fine, let’s just quickly look at trends

One again, we see the first year as an anomaly. The “worst 10 rated issues” and “the first ten published issues” are one and the same. The best of these 10 is #3/04: Magic on the Battlefield, and even that one lags behind all the others by a smidge.

Once you get out of the first ten issues, overall, the ratings get better by a touch over time, but it’s not a strong function. But perhaps that’s because the new issues get favorable ratings first, and the not-so-good ratings come in later. What do we think? Number of votes gets larger with time (duh), but do ratings get worse as the number of votes increase? Well, yes.

The first thing we note is that the first six issues greatly skew any potential answer. So let’s throw them out, and see what we see.

OK, so yeah, the more votes you get, the more that you expect the pool to go down. So which Pyramid issues buck this trend? Which are the most above expectations, and most below?

Best 10
Issues: % Rating Adjusted by Votes
Worst 10 issues: % Rating
Adjusted by Votes
Pyramid #3/33: Low-Tech Pyramid #3/43: Thaumatology III
Pyramid #3/60: Dungeon Fantasy III Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay
Pyramid #3/34: Alternate GURPS Pyramid #3/07: Urban Fantasy
Pyramid #3/52: Low-Tech II Pyramid #3/14: Martial Arts
Pyramid #3/31: Monster Hunters Pyramid #3/56: Prehistory
Pyramid #3/54: Social
Pyramid #3/23: Action Adventures
Pyramid #3/30: Spaceships Pyramid #3/22: Banestorm
Pyramid #3/50: Dungeon Fantasy
Pyramid #3/10: Crime and Grime
Pyramid #3/13: Thaumatology Pyramid #3/08: Cliffhangers
Pyramid #3/59: Conspiracies Pyramid #3/09: Space Opera

The blue ones appear in both “best” lists. The only issue common to the bottom of both of these analysis is poor, lamented Martial Arts.

Overall, though, it’s probably a better metric to look at deviations from the expected performance over time (the second list) than who rushes out to vote for anything (the first one).
But what is perhaps the best metric of all? Gotta be . . . 
Sales, Glorious Sales

You have to read the description, read the title, maybe read some reviews, and then run out and buy this issue on an individual basis (as opposed to a subscription) to count here, so there are some definite issues. If you see an issue that makes you so happy that you buy a subscription, well, that removes you from the running going forward.
Still, a straight-up plot of Sales versus Issue number (which is also a proxy for time) should tell us something here . . . 
The first thing, just eyeballing it, is that it takes something like 6-12 months (really 6-9, I think) for an issue to saturate. After that time, you see what’s popular, and what’s not. But a simple sort on sales is what’s going to tell the tale here.
But, before we do that . . . surely the number of sales is highest for the best-rated articles!
Pretty meaningless. In fact, rating is so uncorrelated with sales that I’ll just go ahead and call those ratings utterly pointless. I noted before that other than those first six issues, you basically get an extra vote per 23 sales (dun dun DUN!!!!!).
So all of that noise later, and what do we get? 
Best 10
Issues: Total Sales
Worst 10 issues: Total sales
Pyramid #3/34: Alternate GURPS Pyramid #3/14: Martial Arts
Pyramid #3/33: Low-Tech Pyramid #3/38: The Power of Myth
Pyramid #3/13: Thaumatology Pyramid #3/27: Monsters in Space
Pyramid #3/12: Tech and Toys Pyramid #3/17: Modern Exploration
Pyramid #3/07: Urban Fantasy Pyramid #3/23: Action Adventures
Pyramid #3/44: Alternate GURPS II Pyramid #3/42: Noir
Pyramid #3/15: Transhuman Space Pyramid #3/05: Horror & Spies
Pyramid #3/25: Epic Magic Pyramid #3/49: World-Hopping
Pyramid #3/21: Cyberpunk Pyramid #3/32: Fears of Days Past
Pyramid #3/28: Thaumatology II Pyramid #3/02: Looks Like a Job for . . . Superheroes

Which issues were taken out of the running (and how many sales)?

Pyramid #3/56:
Prehistory (165)
Pyramid #3/57: Gunplay (215)
Pyramid #3/58: Urban Fantasy II (167)
Pyramid #3/59: Conspiracies (121)
Pyramid #3/60: Dungeon Fantasy III (155)
Pyramid #3/61: Way of the Warrior (95)

So none of these break into the top 10 (yet), which starts at 325 sales. Two are “dead last,” but Gunplay has already climbed out of the 10 Lowest category. 

Ballistic’s Report

What’s the point of all this? Mainly, it was hacking at the individual sales data to see if anything popped out. Of the lists provided, the Alternate GURPS and Thaumatology titles, plus Low-Tech, showed up repeatedly.
On the other hand, five of the best-selling issues were not in either list: Tech and Toys, Urban Fantasy, Transhuman Space, Epic Magic, and Cyberpunk. Note that two of these are probably maigc-oid (Urban Fantasy and Epic Magic), while the rest are sci-fi and (especially) gear and flash.
Of the least well performing, Martial Arts, Monsters in Space, Action Adventures, Noir, World-Hopping, and Fears of Days Past showed up in multiple lists, while The Power of Myth, Modern Exploration, Horror and Spies, and Looks Like a Job for . .  Superheroes have sold very poorly but didn’t show up on any of the “normalized” lists.
Future Reviews
So, fishing around in the data, I’m going to do some whole-issue reviews. 
First, I’ll take those that sold poorly but would not have been “predicted” to do so by other metrics:
Pyramid #3/38: The Power of Myth
Pyramid #3/17: Modern Exploration
Pyramid #3/05: Horror and Spies
Pyramid #3/02: Looks Like a Job for . .  Superheroes

Then, what about the surprising (perhaps) successes?

Pyramid #3/12: Tech and Toys
Pyramid #3/07: Urban Fantasy
Pyramid #3/15: Transhuman Space
Pyramid #3/25: Epic Magic
Pyramid #3/21: Cyberpunk
It should come as no surprise that the issues that do well are Alternate GURPS (nifty rules and explorations in a mechanics-heavy generic system), and fantasy, low-tech, gear, and magic. The best-selling genre and ifs offshoots.
More surprising are the issues that have done poorly. Perhaps there are some traps to avoid in looking at those.
Mostly, though, I take from this that the Customer Rating and number of votes are mostly meaningless numbers. We need a better way to dig into issues and articles and understand why they succeed and fail, and these quantities (at the level they’re reported) aren’t it.
Finally, one interesting last-minute thought: The low ratings of the first year might be related as much to “it’s not Volume 2!” as anything particular to the first twelve issues. “Not what I’m familiar with” is a real effect.

One of the core nifty bits of the Judo Throw in GURPS is that you can damage people with it. A damaging throw can be used to inflict (more or less) thrust-ish damage to a location of your choice.

On the other hand, you can also use a grappling skill to obtain a joint lock, and then use Throws from Locks in Martial Arts/Technical Grappling to do freakin’ swing damage to that joint. An original comment in the TG manuscript noted that a throw from a Head Lock (which effectively does 1.5x swing damage to the neck location) is likely the most damaging grappling attack in GURPS.

However, one thing that is missing is a damaging takedown. As anyone who’s ever been knocked down and stunned/winded can attest, getting taken down hurts, or at least can hurt. If a bully (or a giant, or a giant bully) picks you up and throws you to the ground, it can hurt.

I think there are two ways using the rules to try and simulate this.

Damage From Thrown Objects

The first way to do it is to treat certain attacks as effectively throwing the foe to the ground, using the thrown objects rules in the Basic Set (p. B355). If a Trained ST 14 (BL 40) fighter wants to fling his 160-lb. foe to the ground (4xBL), he’ll do thrust damage, at -1 per 2d, rounding down. This is 1d-1 for ST 14.

I’d probably treat this as follows: You must execute a Force Posture Change to force your foe prone, and this should be an All-Out Attack (Strong) . . . but you don’t get the bonus for it, that’s the cost of admission to the thrust damage. You must have (and spend) Control Points to set the max damage, as well as impart any DX penalties to throw him and have him land badly. Your foe may reduce damage with Breakfall.

That’s not a complete rule, but that’s the concept. For most humans, you’re talking about thrust-1 which is basically striking damage.


The other way to do it is to simulate this as a collision with the ground, probably from roughly half the height of either the grappler or the target. Let’s say the target (I’ll get to why in a moment). This would typically be falling from 1 yard against a hard object, which means typically you’ll be suffering based on the falling velocity of 5 yards/sec, so 10 HP x 5 yds/sec x 2 = 1d.

That means that the thrown object or falling rules seem about the same for human scale. Not sure if it matters, then, which you use.

As is usual in the rules, Acrobatics or Breakfall can be used to mitigate the damage from a fall, and breakfall defaults to Wrestling or Judo. Certain games that involve a lot of collisions and being thrown to the ground, like football, hockey, and rugby, might buy a Technique Adaptation perk to allow Breakfall to default to the appropriate Sports skill.

Again, the attacker would spend Control Points to set the max damage.

Attack and Defend, Injury or Stun

In many cases, the damage from a takedown is likely incidental. This would be the plain-vanilla case of a usual Force Posture Change, where you roll 1d-3, and 50% of the time, there’s no impact to absorb. But I’ve seen enough people get landed on, or fall badly, and get winded or even concussed from takedowns that were emphatically not judo throws to desire a mechanic.

Now, this could just be a bad roll on the Grappling Critical Misses Table from Pyramid #3/61. After all, it doesn’t happen every match. I suspect, though, that given how relatively easy it was to take someone down and have it end badly for them when they did not know what they were doing, or anticipate the fall, that most of the time, such a takedown is not damaging because either the grappler doesn’t want to make it damaging (spend CP) and risk hurting a friend or getting disqualified in a competition, or the defender is reasonably trained and can mitigate damage with a Breakfall roll (see Martial Arts, pp. 68-69).

How many HP?

The nice thing about basing the takedown damage on the target is that each character can pre-calculate how much he risks taking when being taken down. It’s just 2 x HP x Falling Velocity/100 from half your height.

For SM +0 critters, that’s 1 yard, which means you will take damage equal to 0.1 x HP in dice. That’s just nice and easy.

First, though, you’re going to want to know if your HP are from weight or grit. Here are some guidelines for this for fleshy critters:

This will set rational limits on how much damage you can take from a fall if your character has HP disproportionate to his mass. Note that rounding conventions make this even easier to figure damage: if you are falling from 1 yard, 7-9 HP takes 1d-1, 10-12 HP takes 1d, 13-15 HP takes 1d+1.  That’s about it.

Fleshbag HP are just 2xcube root of weight in lbs, and the velocity from a fall is on p. B431 for non-humans.

If you decide to add your own weight to the fall, an All-Out Attack that has you matching posture, you may claim the +1 per die or +2 bonus for AoA(Strong), and figure HP as if you and your foe’s mass were added together. So if our 250-lb guy wanted to drop the hurt on a 160-lb. foe, velocity stays 5, but weight is now 410lbs, for 15 HP, adding in AoA(Strong) to get 1d+1, +2 for strong, is 1d+3. This can still be mitigated by breakfall, but could be quite painful.

Parting Shot

I think in general this rule is for those who really think you should be able to hurt people on a takedown. Like maybe this guy. who notes that you can’t really do a damaging takedown in GURPS with Wrestling.

Having this be a freebie with a takedown using GURPS RAW isn’t probably cool. The disadvantages of being taken to the ground are legion in GURPS, and that’s probably reward unto itself.

Still, being tossed to the ground while (say) wearing 100 lbs of steel should probably suck. Likewise, there are lots of ways to be kinda evil when you do a takedown, which you can maybe model with either a Dual-Weapon Attack or Rapid Strike (the usual way of ensuring you don’t get a freebie in GURPS is to take large penalties to get it done).

Anyway, this was on my list of things to cover for a while, and the comment I linked to above reminded me.

There are a few ways to model it, but it will add some die rolls if you allow it willy-nilly. With Control Points, though, you have to give something up (the CP, by spending them) to injure someone badly, which means you have to work for it.

On, one last thing: I’d only use the Damage From Thrown Objects rule for flinging someone down after a Pickup, when you’re actually throwing them. Otherwise, I’d use falling.

Thursday is GURPS-Day, and release day! We get more goodness today with Loadouts: Low-Tech Armor.

I had a hand in this one, as you cans see – I was listed as Lead Playtester. Interestingly enough, this title, so to speak, came last.

I was approached by +Steven Marsh a while back to see if I could potentially check up on the loadouts. Sure, I thought.

Then I got the manuscript. Holy. Crap.

Over twenty different historical warrior-types, each with anywhere from just a few to nearly two dozen individual pieces of armor, each written up, sometimes a bit cryptically, using +Dan Howard‘s Instant Armor style. All in all I think I calculated that there were something like four hundred individual pieces to validate. A lot of work went into this.

Yow. I needed help, and I knew it. I solicited the help of the six people who joined me in this task – mostly from the Technical Grappling playtesters, who’d been so very helpful to me during my own project. Then I divided up the loadouts into piles, each with an approximately equal number of pieces. I played manager, and when the first round of commentary was done, finished up all unvalidated pieces.

I then, just to be sure, scrambled the piles again, and a new person double-checked the loadouts.

Many comments were made, but that wasn’t really our job. We had plenty of time, since the Ogre was in the way, but we checked nearly 400 pieces of armor – twice each – in about three months.

I hope you guys all run out and buy the book, and if you like it, I’m sure there could be more. Loadout lists are like +Hans-Christian Vortisch infamous Big Lists of Guns. They might get a bit of eyebrow-raising here and there (‘did you really just publish 300 guns whose stats are nearly indistinguishable?’) but when the very next moment there’s a post on the forums saying “Hey, I have this gun here, which is a 5.56x45mm gun with a 20” barrel, but has a different name, what are it’s stats?” rather than just using the darn listing for the M16, you can see how players (or maybe just GURPS players) eat this stuff up.

With that, here’s the juice from the product page:

GURPS Loadouts: Low-Tech Armor
Available as an e-book on e23!

Written by Dan Howard * Edited by Jason “PK” Levine
Illustrated by David DayDan Howard, and Shane L. Johnson

GURPS Line Editor: Sean Punch
49 pages. PDF. * Price $9.99 * Stock number 37-1581
Always Available – Click here to buy!

Gird for Battle in Any Era

For as long as mankind has engaged in violence, we have sought ways to make the sticks, stones, and swords hurt just a little less. GURPS Low-Tech and GURPS Low-Tech: Instant Armor provide the bits and pieces needed to customize your defenses . . . but when you care about historical accuracy, want a provencombination of defensive gear, or are simply short on time, GURPS Loadouts: Low-Tech Armor has you covered.

  • Equip your warrior with any of 40 ready-to-use loadouts, each with precalculated statistics (including total cost, weight, and don time) and collected notes on variable DR (partial coverage, damage type, etc.).
  • Take advantage of new gear, including rhinoceros-hide armor, pectorals, Roman “scale mail,” Japanese face protection, padded jacks, and a wide range of shields and horse barding.
  • Add detail to your battles with expanded hit location tables for the face and abdomen, rules for the restrictive effects of rigid leg and neck armor, new options for arming doublets, and more.
  • Learn how the cultures discussed actually fought: the attacks they expected to face, the types of warriors on the field of battle, and the intent behind their choice of protection.

Whether you’re playing a historical game or one of pure fantasy, GURPS Loadouts: Low-Tech Armor makes equipping your hero a snap – and helps the GM quickly armor hordes of nameless NPC warriors – all in a realistic and believable way. Spend less time poring over equipment lists and more time using that gear to prove your mettle on the battlefield!

In Pyramid #3/61: The Way of the Warrior, we see a very, very focused set of articles: six articles plus +Steven Marsh‘s intro and Random Thought Table, contributed by five authors . . . and the lead article was co-authored!

That being said, this one was interesting. “How about a theme issue,” said Steven. BAM! And stuff rolled in. Lots and lots of it. The fact that we have two Martial Arts Designer’s Notes articles in here – long ones – only highlights the fun that is the other six.

This is the second issue I’ve done an article-by-article review on, and yes, that might have something to do with my having two pieces in it. Still, it’s very good, and very on-topic for me. So, here we go.

You can find my commentary on the first articles, More Power to Dungeon Warriors, Takedown Sequences, The Devil’s Fist, and Fusion Styles of Ytarria in previous posts.

Coming to Grips with Realism ( +Douglas Cole )
This article contains the Designer’s Notes for the relatively new release GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling. I will likely cover this briefly; reviewing my own Designer’s Notes for my own book is a bit too recursive for my tastes.
This is a relatively long article at over 5,200 words, and opens with a long quote from TV Tropes, expounding on why grappling is so very different than regular combat. 
Hogwash, in short.
Mission Statement

In this chapter – and yes, this article is long enough to effectively have chapters, or at least major subsections denoted by using the GURPS Style Guide’s B-HEAD – I laid out the mission for TG, and where I was allowed or encouraged to wander, and where I chose to avoid.
The new stuff is pretty straight-forward: Control Points and optional bits on stability and weight-based penalties. The expansions and clarifications flow from those concepts pretty directly. Lots and lots on weapons, important stuff on posture and position, and the very important concept of Trained ST. Plus a bunch more on how to use all your limbs to grapple. 
Technical Alternatives

The article presents two ways to ease yourself into TG without some of the perhaps-fiddly mechanics. Though Control Points and their effects aren’t that much different than damage and the lingering impact of getting nailed with a sword, some mighn’t want to bother, and a rule for penalties imparted by a grapple that work for ST 8 and higher is presented.
Of course, the reader is left to work out that penalties are zero for ST 7 and lower, which is an oops here. The simplest thing in that case is use Control Points. But for ST 8 and larger, you can use variable penalties for grappling instead of the flat -4 to DX.
The other alternate rule, which did receive playtesting for a while, so it should work well, is to disallow the spending of CP to affect the outcome of Contests. That’s a big part of the TG rules changes, but it can successfully be done away with with a few other tweaks.

There are effectively five different cut bits of different quality and importance. The first was a drive-by at using the Trained ST progression with other skills, including Melee skills (I covered this in more detail in Trained ST and Striking on Sept 10, 2013). Most of the cuts are inconsequential, which is, of course, why they were cut.
Critical Hits and Misses

This one was fun to get printed, and provides far more detailed critical hit and miss tables, based on the Unarmed Combat criticals, for use with TG. Lots and lots of the critical hit entries just multiply your CP by up to a factor of four, while the miss entries are more interesting and varied.
Final Submission

A quick summary of take-aways from the playtest, including the surprisingly awesome results possible with cinematic action using the new Control Point rules.
Parting Shot

As I said, this one was quick. The Designer’s Notes were extant for a long time prior to publication of both the manuscript and the two rounds of errata, but that didn’t change much in them. Overall, between the DN, the new Takedown Sequences article, and the content on the Grappling Mat, I think TG is getting good support, at least from me.
Well, it took a while, but someone actually wrote a review of Technical Grappling, and posted it on the GURPS Forums

To quote from his conclusion:

Shall I rate the book with X out of Y stars? That doesn’t seem a helpful approach. Let me say instead that this book is highly useful if you have a campaign that fits any of these descriptions:
1) It uses styles from martial arts
2) It features close range combat gamed out turn-by-turn
3) It features any player characters who are supposed to be highly skilled in close combat
4) It challenges player characters with animals or bestial monsters or aliens
It also fairly useful to a GM who uses more of a minimalist, narrative style to run the occasional fight as it crops up, if that GM has little personal experience with grappling arts to base the narration upon.

His primary criticism was really organizational in a way, as it took him a while to get through it enough to realize that it seemed more complex than it played, I think:

The main issue with Technical Grappling isn’t its useability, but the challenge of wrapping your head around it in the first place, if grappling sports are foreign. But it’s a lot easier than a course in Gracie Jiu-Jutsu, I’d reckon. The secondary issue is that business I mentioned about fluctuating ST scores, and to some extent DX. These are manageable if you know the system: 2 levels of DX is a level of parry/block, and 4 levels of DX is a level of Dodge. Likewise 4 levels of ST is a die of swing damage, and 8 levels of ST is a die of thrust damage, at least in the human range, and in the super-human range, 10 levels of ST is a die of damage either way. Keep these system elements in mind and use them to estimate modifiers in play; don’t pause the action to consult tables or calculators, and you’ll find that Technical Grappling enhances your combat scenes without bogging them down.

Read the whole thing, and then go buy the book if you haven’t already (can’t blame me for the gratuitous plug, can you?).

And thanks to Gef for taking the time to actually write something down. Like it or hate it, it’s good to hear feedback!

Edited to Add: The poster munin chimed in with some helpful negative feedback about the structure and presentation of the document. Blog posts will follow. Oh, yes.

In Pyramid #3/61: The Way of the Warrior, we see a very, very focused set of articles: six articles plus +Steven Marsh‘s intro and Random Thought Table, contributed by five authors . . . and the lead article was co-authored!

That being said, this one was interesting. “How about a theme issue,” said Steven. BAM! And stuff rolled in. Lots and lots of it. The fact that we have two Martial Arts Designer’s Notes articles in here – long ones – only highlights the fun that is the other six.

This is the second issue I’ve done an article-by-article review on, and yes, that might have something to do with my having two pieces in it. Still, it’s very good, and very on-topic for me. So, here we go.

You can find my commentary on the first articles, More Power to Dungeon Warriors, Takedown Sequences, and The Devil’s Fist in previous posts.

Fusion Styles of Ytarria ( David Thomas Moore)
Once again, this issue contains support for a recently released GURPS product, this time GURPS Martial Arts: Yrth Fighting Styles
While this is sort of in the nature of a Designer’s Notes type article, that part of it takes all of one sentence for David to cover: he loves Banestorm as a setting, has played games set it in often, and has written about Ytarrian martial arts in the past. So when a Banestorm-related item showed up on the wish-list, he screamed and leaped.
His first thought was to include non-human martial arts, and the playtest discussion on the SJG author’s forum was filled with discussion of “what would an elf martial art look like, when for an immortal or near-immortal being, “dabbling” might mean ‘I only spent 100 years studying the sword.”
So you’ve got all kinds of non-human arts in the main book. What does this mean for the article? he includes six styles that are born of the interesting and ahistorical mix of peoples and cultures found on Yrth as a result of the Banestorm.
In this review, I’ll say a short bit about each style. Fair warning, though: despite writing a book on martial arts myself, I’m not huge into styles. I see their utility, and as +David Pulver so ably demonstrated in the previously reviewed article, The Devil’s Fist, a well-presented style, with history and the more-human, less game-mechanical elements highlighted instead of the usual “N points in Ass-Kicking” focus, can really enhance a character’s background and the player’s immersion.

Cardien Saif-and-Buckler School
 This is a straight-up and well balanced sword-and-buckler fencing style, but focusing on the light Hazi scimitar, the saif. 
The style gives fighting advice as well – what kinds of maneuvers are favored by practitioners, and lists an interesting combination of Attack, Defensive Attack, and (Long) attacks, which seem very appropriate for a fencing-based style.
Defence Boxing

This one represents a style that grew up to counter another style, in this case the Orcish martial art Smasha. A brutal style, in training and execution, all of the skills are the traditional stand-up stuff when it comes to GURPS. Boxing and Brawling to allow effective use of all limbs and bits of improvised nastiness, plus Judo for the more-mobile parries and retreats, plus an ability to throw and utilize Disarming to ensure that a foe doesn’t have the advantages that weapons bring. 
Combined with a focus on mobility and swing-based or enhanced-damage techniques (Wrenches and stomps), this is not a style designed to make you popular or pretty. It may, however, keep you alive.
Your choice.
Goblin Swordplay

I find this style interesting, as it’s effectively an offshoot of another style in the book, called Harmony. But with an entirely different twist.
For the small-statured Goblin race, this is a shortsword-and-wrestling style, and I notice David really likes to include Brawling in his style’s technique lists. Can’t blame him.
This one is straight-forward, with an array of techniques suited to the sword and close-in fighting, and some interesting surprises for foes if the GM lets you take cinematic skills.

This style, if you’ll forgive the shameless plug, would be way, way better using the rules in Technical Grappling, and even more so using the optional Destabilizing Strike included in this very issue (#3/61, p. 18).

Even so, this is a complete martial art, with striking via Karate and grappling via both Judo and Sumo Wrestling, which makes it unusual for actually including this skill, which is often overlooked.

It focuses on strength, which is cool, and would make a nice novel addition to any character whose background could include it and who also is very strong. Judo is almost certainly in there because of the emphasis on Sweep, though Wrestling and Sumo Wrestling, both with their ST bonuses (and again, even more so using TG) would be better. Actually, thinking about it, Wrestling would have been a better choice for everything but dealing with weapons – but the style is explicitly listed as a fusion of Te and the native art, and Te was built around dealing with enweaponed people while unarmed. Te also has a monster Technique list, so if one can read this style and think “kitchen sink Technique list,” it is also worth bearing in mind that Te is one of the candidates listed as a good “Ultimate Style” (Martial Arts, p. 144) and so it’s expected to have a lot of coolness to it. As such, Kicizapi does not disappoint.

Nomad Chain Fighting

This one’s interesting if only because it’s so very odd. Chain and entangling weapons are not usually a go-to for GURPS players – but as was pointed out in the TG playtest, they should be.

You can grapple from a distance, inflict a follow-on crushing attack, and because the basic attack mode isn’t penalized, Kusari skill neatly dodges the usual -4 to base skill for throwing an entangle. You only need to worry about the location penalties.

Since you can also entangle a weapon with it, it makes for a powerful way to deal with those with long reach. The fusion comes in by combining the Kusari skill with Brawling, Wrestling, and Knife, which makes this a very ugly style, and that’s meant in the nicest possible way. Not mentioned would be carrying several kusari, perhaps some with blades at the end, some not, so you could entangle a weapon, either disarming or rendering it harder to use, drop that one, and re-engage at a closer range with a new chain, entangling the legs, going for a takedown, and then finishing with the knife.


This is a cross of Silat and Savate, which makes it a dangerous pairing of entirely unusual martial arts. This art, with its blend of punches, kicks, and knife techniques, plus a body of spells, makes for a potent mix.

Highly aggressive and highly dangerous, this fusion style is not just a fusion of martial arts moves, but a nice fusion of religions and cultures as well, as the Hindu and Christian elements are mixed in a nifty jambalaya here.

Parting Shot

David was probably right to cut these, since we all must bow to the Gods of Wordcount, but he was also right to seek to have them published. This article spends perhaps a half-moment on the “how did this book come about?” part of a Designer’s Notes entry, and focuses entirely and usefully on the outtakes.

This makes for a great stand-alone article, and it asks the question, and answers it repeatedly, “what would happen if styles X and Y, which never met in the real world, were to encounter each other, and be taught side-by-side.”

It’s a good read.

In Pyramid #3/61: The Way of the Warrior, we see a very, very focused set of articles: six articles plus +Steven Marsh‘s intro and Random Thought Table, contributed by five authors . . . and the lead article was co-authored!

That being said, this one was interesting. “How about a theme issue,” said Steven. BAM! And stuff rolled in. Lots and lots of it. The fact that we have two Martial Arts Designer’s Notes articles in here – long ones – only highlights the fun that is the other six.

This is the second issue I’ve done an article-by-article review on, and yes, that might have something to do with my having two pieces in it. Still, it’s very good, and very on-topic for me. So, here we go.

You can find my commentary on the first articles, More Power to Dungeon Warriors, and Takedown Sequences in previous posts.

Eidetic Memory – The Devil’s Fist ( +David Pulver )

The Devil’s fist is a martial arts style – but inverted. Sure, the style part of it is there, tucked into the last section of the text. But that’s not the point of this column.  The article is in five sections, four historical and one dedicated to the style itself. Each of the four historical sub-sections could be used to provide a grounding for using that style in the game-world for a particular era.

in a fun bit of color, each section seems to more-or-less end with someone involved with the art being dead. Mwa ha ha, etc.

Renaissance Origins: Ialporim Iadna Qvasb

Let’s get one thing out of the way first here: I have no idea how to pronounce Qvasb. There we go.

The first section talks about the legend of the founding of the style. The importance and prominence of the legend of how a martial art is founded is almost always vitally important (to practitioners) and a matter of great pride and often controversy. Insult the founder, start a fight. (Seen They Call Me Bruce? No? Too bad; that’s what I’m talking about.)

So during this period, an 80-year history of the underpinnings of the art in question, there’s actually no practitioners.

This is a fun bit of detail that could have been glossed over with one sentence, but I’m glad it wasn’t.

Devil Boxing

The dark and  evil manuscript must eventually be found, and the second section talks about that discovery and the establishment of the art. It covers only 15 years, but they’re 15 years in the heart of the early pulp and Victorian era setting, so that makes it great inspiration for a style for bad guys. Can’t you just see a buddy of Moriarty practicing this?

The Ordo Satanica and The Pugno del Diavolo

The next section brings the style into the present, with a violent satanic cult being formed around the rediscovered style. It’s got all the requisite creepy elements: the charismatic leader dabbling in mysticism (maybe more than dabbling!), the brushes and investigations by The Proper Authorities, and enough mysterious happenings to lend credence to all sorts of secret histories.

Conrad Bacon and the Dirty Warlock Dojo

Ah, factionalism! Something seemingly no martial art can be without. This chapter deals with an offshoot branch of the art where a disgruntled practitioner decides to take it “mainstream.” Wackiness ensues.

Marketing, memetics, and a violent challenge between two practitioners who may or may not be actually in congress with the Devil?

Bring it on.

Pugno del Diavolo

The final section is the style itself. In truth, it’s not much. Th basics of the style are Brawling, Karate, and Wrestling for unarmed elements, and Interrogation and Whip as additional primary skills, owing to the oddball and nasty nature of the teachings.

It focuses on the damage dealing capabilities quite a lot, with Wrench (Limb) and Neck Snap being prominent, which means you’re going to want to be strong to make use of this. Naturally, Power Grappling features prominently on the Perk list, and if your ST is higher than DX, you’ll take this.There’s also an intresting focus on bting.

The optional stuff is where it gets interesting and appropriately weird, with swords, magery, occultism, and theology all featured strongly.

As a style, it’s a bit of a grab-bag. As an outgrowth of the fairly lavishly described history, it fits perfectly.

Parting Shot

This is a fairly interesting approach to a style, one I’ve not seen before in GURPS. My own real-world style, Hwa Rang Do, has a fairly interesting history, which starts – according to our internal legends – with the Hwarang knights around 1,500 years ago. The style legend is an important part of it, and the history and “lineage” is as important to some as whether it’s “effective” or “technical” or “pure.”

David traces the lineage of this fictional martial art from its theoretical creation to final form in the present day. This gives great color, for artists and stylists to argue about, to form the basis of in-character discussion and argument, and to provide campaign seeds.

The internecine conflit described in The Devil’s Fist is as much a part of the history of martial arts as the style itself. Many arts – even such a non-confrontational art like Aikido! – split into factions and sub-styles. The Korean arts are quite the muddle this way, for example, with several attempts to unify the disparate arts falling apart for various reasons.

The article shows how much color can lie behind a style, even not dealing at all with the fighting and game-mechanical elements themselves. In fact, the history of the style as an organzation, rather than a fighting method, is the real meat of the article. The style itself, especially without the mystical elements, isn’t much.

Treat this as a subtle lesson in world-building. Take the exact same style (Te, for example, or Hapkido – absent from GURPS 4e – or even better, Kendo/Kenjutsu) and wrap different organizational histories around them, and you will have a different feel to each one. Take this history difference in conjunction with some choices in how a PC fights, and you have just more than tripled the depth inherent in the choices made.