I never regret talking to +Peter V. Dell’Orto. Today were were chatting over Skype, and in a few short moments, a few things he said triggered a flow of ideas that will result in me revamping a long-pending Pyramid article. The article covers three topics. Well, maybe four. Has to do with weapons, using them and misusing them.

I’ve got the core of an idea, but the implementation required too many “well, this is necessary complexity. Trust me!” moments. Peter’s been on me for this for a bit now, and while the rules as written do work, something’s always nagging me that they could work better.

Now, I think, borrowing from a few other concepts already in the article, they will.


I’d say you can’t put a value on that, but you can: about $250. Maybe less once I strip out all of the truly unnecessary stuff out of the article. But in the end, it will provide a level of simplicity relative to what’s there now that will make the article much, much more likely to be actually used in play.

The moral of the story here is simple: Find a constructive critic who will help you pare your work down to bare, pure elements. Find a principle or three, and stick to them.

Three that I’ve learned from Peter?

1. The Rule of Awesome. Live by it.
2. Make sure it works in play. Correlary: If it’s not a problem in an actual game, fuggeddabouddit.
3. Extra die rolls must perish in flames

The third one might be suspended in certain circumstances, such as when you can write a MapTools macro to take a few easy inputs and resolve many rolls automatically. But even so, the dice are there to facilitate the story and to keep things uncertain and risky. Stock option theory tells you that the value of a choice which is absolutely certain is zero. Same thing with dramatic storytelling, and why when (say) +George R R Martin kills off main characters in Book 1, it makes you sit up and take notice. All of a sudden your choices are far more important.

Anyway, I got a page of short notes and a real sense of how the new section is going to turn out. If nothing else, I have to wonder if I need to excise that new bit, plus one more rule, and just send it in. The other bits can wait.

I really can’t do much better than what +Sean Punch wrote in summing up my book, so I’ll just quote it:

Without fine technique,
Strength and flexibility
Are empty treasures
                        — Some hack


Some of the greatest warriors of myth and legend were famed for their aptitude at grappling. Almost every historical culture had a patron god of wrestling (from Hermes to Hanuman) and accounts of heroes adept at the art (Herakles managed to strangle a dragon). Prior to the age of gunpowder, no professional soldier went into battle without some training in what to do when the hostilities moved to very close quarters indeed. Even today, policemen and soldiers learn to grapple, if only because that’s the most instinctive form of combat for human beings.

Despite all this, RPG protagonists tend to avoid holds, throws, and locks in favor of flashy strikes. In GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling, Douglas Cole redresses this imbalance by expanding GURPS Martial Arts in ways that make grappling as exciting – and often as deadly – as gunslinging, swordplay, and fisticuffs. Inside you’ll find the new concept of Control Points (CP), which quantify your ability to twist and mangle your foe . . . and once you rack up enough CP, you can cut loose with all kinds of new combat options, perks, and techniques, whether your goal is to restrain your rival, incapacitate him, or brutally snap his neck.

This supplement contains all the rules and abilities you need to handle every kind of grappling, from ritualistic sumo to scrappy street fighting. It also covers the use of hardware, whether that means exploiting a police baton for extra oomph in an arm lock, entangling your opponent in a net or a kusari, or restraining a captive with rope or handcuffs. It offers optional “harsh realism” rules for everything from body weight to the effects of clothing and sweaty bodies on getting a firm grip. It even has something for fighters who aren’t ordinary humans, addressing Size Modifiers and superhuman abilities, and presenting grappling styles suited to bears, canines, constrictor snakes, and felines.

Why not grab a copy today?


Thus far, it would seem that at least 84 people have grabbed a copy. For that I am grateful!

It’s been more than two years since I got the contract. But it’s out!

I can’t think of a better GURPS Day present, of course.

I’ll be doing a lot of Technical Grappling related posts in the coming days, and I hope that you guys all enjoy the book.

***

So, now that I’ve regained my composure after some gratuitous fist-pumping and victory dancing, I am quite pleased to see that not only are we likely poised for a return to GURPS releases, but that my work was chosen/available to be that first release.

There are some interesting factoids and stories to tell about this manuscript, but I’ll not do that now. One thing I will say is that I’ve got roughly 5,000 words of designer’s notes ready to go, and they will appear in due course, either in some formal venue or on this blog. There will be some good stuff in there, including some content that was removed solely for wordcount reasons, not because they sucked. Well, there will be some of that too.

***

GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling
Available as an e-book on e23!

Written by Douglas Cole * Edited by Jason “PK” Levine

GURPS Line Editor: Sean Punch
51 pages. PDF. * Price $9.99 * Stock number 37-1644
Always Available – Click here to buy!

Master Grappling . . . or Face Defeat!

The canny warrior knows that grappling is fundamental to fighting. Any melee – from a brawl to a swordfight – could suddenly move into the clinch. Some fighters even specialize in such tactics!
This is a hard subject to get a hold on, however; volumes have been written about leverage alone. GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling brings this depth toGURPS. Expansions to the GURPS Basic Set and GURPS Martial Arts rules include:

  • Trained Strength. Discover how technical proficiency complements raw power.
  • Control Points. Transform grappling from an all-or-nothing affair to a matter of degree.
  • Position Revisited. Achieve leverage by jockeying for not only posture, but also facing and orientation.
  • Armed Grappling. Control and entangle your foes with a surprising variety of melee weapons.
  • Combat Options. Narrow your focus with the One Foe option, exploit Committed Attack to force a posture change, pass a limb to trap your opponent, and more.
  • Techniques. More than 30 of them – some new, some modified. Use an Escaping Parry to break a clinch, or Change Position to establish a weight advantage.
  • Fighting Styles. Learn Jacket Wrestling or Shuai Jiao – and distinguish between between bear and lion attacks – with six classic styles plus four specifically for animals.

Whether your campaign features athletes wrestling for prizes and honor, lawmen who must control and disarm suspects, or historical warriors trained to fight to the death, Martial Arts: Technical Grappling will add detail and realism to your battles.
This supplement requires GURPS Martial Arts for GURPS Fourth Edition.

We picked up where we left off in +Nathan Joy‘s game.

. . . Cadmus was praying, others were standing or hovering around, and a dragon that could move through ice like it was yogurt was, well, moving through the ice like yogurt.

It burst through right under Shiba ( +Mark Langsdorf ) and Thumvar ( +Theodore Briggs ), both of whom avoided the attack, Thumvar rolling a critical success. The dragon got to roll on the Unarmed Critical Miss table, and went sprawling. Staver shoots arrows at it, laced with alchemical fire. Thumvar does a double attack and totals 27 (2) cut. Shiba pounds it with another exploding arrow and does 9 imp and 10 bu.

Cadmus continues to pray to Pharasma that the dragon not be able to escape and burrow into the ice again. After a few seconds of this, a sense of peace descends on him. He also hears something rattle and hiss off in the direction to his left.

Thumvar nails him with two more blows, and Staver ( +Emily Smirle)   hits with two more fire-arrows. Dragon drags himself off into the fog, and we lose track of him.

After a second or so, the dragon nails us all in a huge cone of solid cold. Cadmus is at the edge, and Dodge and Drops out of range. Thumvar gets out of the way, Shiba blocks the cone with his peshkali shield, and Staver eats 20 cold damage, which amulets and armor modify down so that he’s only at exactly 0 HP.

He doesn’t pass out. He does drink potions.

Thumvar nails the dragon one more time with a Feint and Attack with Shield and Sword, and nails the dragon on the skull for 14 (2) cut, and it falls limply to the ground.

Cadmus? 

Now, for the undead guy. Cadmus stalks forward . . . and the dracolich nails him with a a torrent of black ice. He gets hit for 17 burning damage, but his large-area DR (he learned from previous adventures) is DR 10 (DR 12 on head, neck, and torso; DR 9 on limbs) and he “only” takes 7 burning damage. He’s injured and frosty, but still fighting.

Cadmus recalls (after spending a destiny point to un-biff his roll) that these creatures can’t do their cone attack every second, but they can do it quite a bit. He then attacks the thing’s skull with his axe, but is parried. Meanwhile the dracolich attacks him with both claws and his teeth; cadmus does a riposting parry, a shield block, and a dodge to avoid all three attacks.

Staver tries to attack the skeletal dragon with fine meteoric arrows, but suspects that the impaling arrows won’t hurt his foe much. 8 (2) imp and 11 (2) imp to the vitals, such as they might be on a living dragon. It doesn’t bother to dodge, and doesn’t look like it’s hurt much.

Cadmus takes a turn as his compatriots gather to fight the dragon, and chops at its neck, hitting once for 10 (2) cut. It launches itself into the air, and moves FAST behind Cadmus. Thumvar flies past Cadmus’ field of view. We all overhear Thumvar muttering about how fast the creature is. Meanwhile we hear a loud crash and a sliding sound, as something seems to hit the ice and slide for a long way.

We then all hear a dull, echoing thud from somewhere up ahead, sounding even farther than the sound of the sliding.

Cadmus wonders if it slid into the crevasse like a big bony dummy. We find out that in fact, he body slammed the dead dragon into the crevasse, and either also went in himself, or is no longer anywhere to be found. Staver checks it out:

You look, and other than a carpet of coinage lining the dragon’s former nest, we see fresh blood indicating a large corpse was very recently dragged to the south of the crevasse where it vanishes under the side of the cave wall. Beyond that is a VERY tight fit you are a bit nervous about continuing down.

Strewn with bones, and the very bottom narrows into a wedge so you have to stop before you’re actually at the true bottom. You see a roughly two yard wide semicircular hole that you’re guessing a dragon could fit through if he squeezed. The edges are smeared with blood just beginning to turn tacky.

Cadmus kneels down and prays, long and fervently, to Pharasma to open the way for us. Widen the cave, block the exit, mark the path. Show us the way to this stinking undead for whom you have no tolerance, etc.

Cadmus’ prayer slowly draws to a close. There is a shivering CRACK that seems to come from everywhere at once. You all hear the squealing of ice moving over ice. Followed by a series of pops.From the cave mouth, and the tunnel, you hear another splintering crack, a deep silence for a few seconds, followed by a resounding boom of a large amount of ice hitting something very hard. Thumvar is slighly crouched in the tunnel mouth looking back at Shiba having a conversation with Cadmus, when there is a huge CRACK, and you see fracture lines race up the sides of the wall. You turn to look down the tunnel, and have a slight moment of vertigo as the tunnel seems to tilt slightly.Then the whole of the tunnel starting about a foot past your nose drops away, eerily silent, and in front of you is the main shaft of this chamber. You watch several hundred tons of ice pinwheel away below you to smash on the rocky crags hundreds of feet below. There’s a faint creaking, followed by several smaller pops coming from within the ice.Then silence.

  • Cadmus stands up. He looks satisfied, awed, and determined. All at once.
  • Shiba: “Ah? What is this?”
  • Cadmus: “The Undead are accursed and must be destroyed. Pharasma paves the way for us to meet our destiny. Either that or we’ve just been sealed in the cave to die because I’ve asked too much too fast. You never know.”
  • Shiba: “Oh. It is quite a marvellous miracle, then.” Pauses, works his jaw. “Would you be able to explain to this ignorant one what you have done?”
  • Cadmus: “I have asked Pharasma to open the way for us. Widen the cave, block the exit, mark the path. Show us the way to this stinking undead for whom she has no tolerance
  • Thumvar: “That’s not what I was expecting…”
  • Cadmus:  “Me neither. But then, anticipating Her Holiness is never wise. She delights in her games at times.”

We stare at the new geography, and wonder where our two dead dragons went. They could be anywhere in the complex, or buried hundreds (thousands?) of feet below in tons of ice.

We decide to break until next week to let the GM draw new maps!

Movement in GURPS combat is incredibly generous. Every turn, you may begin from a standing stop, travel in one second (or a part of it) up to your Move, which may be 4-7 yards, and wind up perfectly still and balanced, ready to either not move, continue your pace, turn, accelerate to attack speed, or whatever.

Is this realistic? Well, Usain Bolt in his first second of one of his world record sprints managed to cover about 40% of his assumed Move, which was calculated as his max velocity during that race divided by 1.2, to account for his sprint bonus. So even the best sprinter on the freakin’ planet should probably be limited to Move/2 for acceleration in realistic games.

Also, that kind of stop/start is tiring. You can easily exhaust yourself vibrating all over a sparring arena at the equivalent of a healthy jog (Move 4 is about 8mph, or an 7.5 minute mile; Move 6 is a 5 minute mile pace even without a sprint bonus!).

Anyway, so The Last Gasp has costs for movement that are, in a word, punishing. To do a run-around attack as described in the Basic Set can cost something like 8-9AP due to all of the movement and sharp turns, plus the attack itself.

So despite the emergent behavior that fights slow down a bit to allow people to recover their wind, the fact of the matter is there’s a huge disincentive for a character to stir from his starting spot at the beginning of combat.

There are two versions of the movement costs presented in the article, though the wording is (shame on me) not entirely clear. One version is that you pay for every step, at a cost of something like 1 yard for free, and 1 AP for each additional 20% of your Move. Or something like that. The other version is that you pay for acceleration, but further maintenance of that velocity is free. So you still can encounter the phenomenon of “activation energy,” where players won’t want to make the AP spend to get going.

So despite the Lulls and Flurries that are an observed emergent behavior of the Action Point rules, the battlefield might not be as mobile as you’d like.

Keep it Simple, Keep it Safe

So, what to do? Well, one suggestion on the forums was to make a “movement only” AP regeneration pool. That’s certainly one way to go, and probably adds the right level of points to the character sheet for those who have reduced movement costs. But if we try and keep it simple, I’d do something like this:

AP Costs

  • Acceleration up to Move/2 is similar in concept to an Attack. It costs 1 AP. You still get your first step for free, and beyond that, any acceleration up to Move/2 costs that single point.
  • Acceleration up to Move is like an All-Out Attack, and costs 2 AP. Again, you get the first step for free.
  • Acceleration from full Move to Sprint speed costs 1 AP.
  • Deceleration from movement other than a step costs 1 AP if you were moving up to your full Move, and 2 AP to stop dead from a sprint. That should probably involve a DX and/or HT roll to see if you can do this without injury. You may decelerate at up to 20% of your Move per second for free; sort of an anti-step.
  • Facing changes can either be entirely free, or cost 1 AP for 2-3 facing changes in a move action, or 2 AP for 4+ changes within a move.

AP Maintenance Costs

Moving about is still tiring, but one way to deal with this is that at the beginning of each turn, if you’re moving more than one step at a time and wish to maintain that speed, make a HT roll. Succeed and the AP cost of your movement goes down by 1; succeed by 5+ and the AP cost of your movement goes down by 2. On a critical failure, you slow down by (say) 20% of your move, while on a critical success, you need not spend any AP to continue your speed next turn.

Another way to go, which is more in line with some of my original thoughts many moons ago, would be that you roll HT (or Running) every turn for sprinting, while at lower speeds, you roll every N turns (and I’d probably try and invoke the Speed/Range progression here somehow).

Parting Shot

To create a mobile battlefield, there needs to be a lack of disincentives to move. If you can easily translate from place to place with limited AP spend, but actual fighting is AP intensive and creates incentives to pause, evaluate, and generally chill out, then you have created a situation where players and NPCs can come to each others aid, and repositioning doesn’t simply deliver an exhausted combatant to be ground to dust.

The current movement rules don’t help create that mobile battlefield, and may even be too restrictive even in a realistic mode. Flat-out lowering the AP costs for movement should go a long way to encourage people to fight for position as well as strength of arms.

The other thing that changing AP cost avoids that requiring something like AP Recovery advantage does not is that it can be dropped into existing games with existing characters. You don’t need some expensive (and some of the AP recovery rates are very expensive, on the order of a hundred points or more) advantage to be suddenly tacked on to your character. You just change the costs and go.

That being said, if one were looking for a switch, to allow differentiation between “can move about the battlefield like a ferret on crack” and “everyone else,” I’d probably tack on something equivalent in point cost to Trained by a Master. At 30 points, that’s like getting a 2/3 discount on recovering 5-10 AP per second for use only in movement. So if you’re looking for a design toggle:

New Advantage: Ferret on Crack

30 points
This advantage lets you alter the AP costs for movement to a lower value, as described above. In games where the GM has decided that the AP costs above are just right for realistic characters too, perhaps this halves AP costs (round up), so that it only costs 1 AP to move anything beyond your step, and gives +5 to HT when rolling to avoid AP loss when maintaining speed.

Will it work in play?

No idea! Lowering AP costs for movement seems like a good step in general to enable a more mobile battlefield, and keeping AP costs to the 1 AP for effort and 2 AP for strong effort theme in the original article makes a lot of sense.

When +Hans-Christian Vortisch wrote Tactical Shooting, we came up with the Minute of Angle rule, which states that the maximum skill you can have with a firearm, including all modifiers except for range and size, can’t exceed 22 + 2*Acc. This was a calculation where I looked at the typical spread of a weapon in bench-rest mode, and converted it to a round target, usually at extreme range. As it turns out, if you know the spread of a weapon, you know it’s Acc, and there’s a very straightforward correlation between the two. Acc 5, for example, is about 1.5″ of shot spread at 100 yards.

And as a matter of fact, you can simply find the spread of a shot pattern at 100 yards by looking up -2*Acc on the Size table. Acc 4 firearm? Look up -8, and find that equivalent (in this case, 3.6″, or 0.1 yds) and that’s the circle that 90% of the shots will be in. Note that this means that the SM of that target is actually -10, but with +2 for being circular.

Showing the full work: 22+2*Acc = 22+2*4 = 30

At 100yds = -10 range penalty; Target Size penalty = X

90% chance to hit is 14 or less

So 30 – 10 + X = 14; X = -6

SM of -6 is a 3.6″ circle, because the SM of something 3.6″ in dimension is -8, +2 for being circular, thus -6. Therefore, the shot spread of an Acc 4 weapon is 3.6″ at 100 yds.

OK, so given that, how big is your burst (say, from a shotgun, where all the pellets are released at once) at any given range?

No problem. The spread can be found by taking -1* (10+2*Acc+Range Modifier) and looking that up on the Size table.

Acc 5 at 200 yards? (10+10-12 = 8*-1 = -8; SM -8 = ) 3.6″.

Acc 1 at 30 yards? 10.8″

Acc 2 at 25 yards (typical benchrest accuracy for a self-defense pistol of mediocre quality)?

It’ll produce a 5.4″ group (a little smaller, actually, but 25 yds rounds up to 30 yds on the Range table).

What does that have to do with anything?


Well, there’s a huge thread over in the SJG GURPS Forum about controlled bursts, shot spread, and all the usual stuff. As I ponder this, I think that the natural place to start is to figure out how disperse your bullets are, somehow compare that to the SM of your target, and roll to see if you hit.

Now, of course, combat isn’t about clamping a gun into a perfectly stiff and firm mount and pulling the trigger. Skill enters into it, and recoil, and motion, and . . .

But if we abstract all of that into a degradation of skill, perhaps what we wind up with, instead of using the Rcl mechanic, is an expression for the size of the burst due the inherent spread of the weapon, plus spread due to waving the thing around (control of recoil and steadiness, or purposeful lack of steadiness, of the mount), offset by a margin of error for misplacing the centerpoint of the target. Then you might compare that number to the SM of the target, which would give you a percentage of overlap between the shot pattern and your target. That should be a fairly straight-forward table lookup, perhaps. That would give you the percentage chance to hit with any one shot, and you could then find the chance to hit with many shots by rolling 3d6.

I actually did this in excel a while ago. So if, for example, you find that your pattern overlaps your target by 35%, and you fired three shots, you hit with one shot on a 12-, two shots on 8- and all three on a 5-.

If you fire 60 shots in one second (!!), you’ll hit with 13 shots on the worst roll of 17, all the way down to rolling a 3 and hitting with 31 shots.

The trick is to come up with the right way to get spread and displacement from the ideal aimpoint, and convert that to a hit chance. Then it’s just math.

Would you REALLY do this in play?


Not without a computer, no. But then, that’s getting more and more common, and all of this is just easy if what you’re entering into your tablet is a skill, a weapon (for Acc), a Range, and a number of shots for the attacker, and the SM of your target region for the defender.

Figuring out where specific shots hit would be a secondary complication, but that’s actually fairly doable. I’ve done something like it in the past, with an overlay that shows (with a d12 roll, sorry) where a shot might go depending on margin of success of a shot. That really only works for single shots, though.

Parting Shot


Finding a mechanic that is both playable and realistic is tricky. What I might try and do is invoke agency, and players could perhaps take a penalty to skill to purposefully widen or narrow (!) their shot pattern (which might increase your odds of even being able to roll a hit, or compensate for a high-recoil/high-spread gun), and then the actual die roll is for how close the center of aim is to the target. You’d still wind up with, for rapid fire, multiple die rolls (bad), but I think you’d wind up with fewer edge cases. Open up on a SM+13 battleship, you’ll hit with every shot unless you completely biff the roll. You’ll even know how far from the ideal aimpoint you diverted, and how spread out your shots were. Assuming you care.

High skill individuals might purposefully take a penalty to spread shot around (saturation fire, hoping for suppression using the Fright Check rules from Tactical Shooting) or to control the shot spread, tightening the burst. Instead of Rcl being a MoS factor, it would be an increase in spread that occurs on multiple shots as a penalty to skill. You’d have to burn skill to compensate for it, which would impact your ability to keep your center of aim where you want.

Clearly this needs more fleshing out, probably tons of issues with it, etc. But it’s a potentially viable approach to the matter. I’ll have to see where this goes.

And just for fun, here’s the Acc to MoA table, which might be useful

With special guest star +Peter V. Dell’Orto

Amazing what you find on your computer. Your work computer no less. This file was dated from 2002.

I’m not sure the Quad ST idea will really have legs. Too mathematically intense, perhaps.

(Heave…HO!)2
Quadratic Strength for GURPS
by Douglas Hampton Cole and Peter V. Dell'Orto
 
     There has been a long-running debate over how to handle lifting and strength in GURPS for a long time.  The original GURPS 3ed rules, which were that you could lift a certain multiple of your ST depending on how many hands were used, and how braced you were, had the benefit of simplicity.  You can pick up up to 25 times your strength if you lift with both hands.  Extra effort rules allowed you to lift more than this:  for each -1 to the success roll (made against ST), you could bump your lift up by 10%.  
     However, even with this methodology, it can sometimes be a bit difficult in GURPS to whip out an NFL lineman or pro-wrestler type…or even someone who spends quite a bit of time in the weight room.  While they're not found in every household in greater Woebegon, we probably know personally at least a few people who can fairly casually bench press well over 300lbs, and these people are not professional athletes.  This makes figuring things out a bit problematic.  If you declare that this lift is using the "extra effort" rules, how is it they whip out sets of ten?  If you declare that's a two handed lift, that's about ST12!  Implying that Joe Average can bench press about 250. Suddenly I feel the need to go to the gym.
     The difficulty is simply traced--real world lift ability varies by more than a factor of two from "average" to "upper limits of human potential," which is what strength scores of 20-25 are supposed to represent.  Linear ST (where lift is a multiple of the ST stat) doesn't quite have the range to cover human variation.
     One of the more popular alterations to how lifting ability is calculated in GURPS is to calculate lift based on the square of the ST score.  Referred to as "Quadratic ST" or "Quad ST," it has the advantage of being a bit more grounded in real-world physics, but more importantly expands the range of lift that "normal" humans can hoist.  Instead of ST20 lifting twice as much as ST10, your budding bodybuilder can lift four times as much (twice the stat yields four times the lift).
 
Lift Basis and Real World Lifting
 
     All the calculations of lift ability, and also encumbrance (the two primary bits that are derived from the ST score that would change using Quad ST) are currently based on the ST score directly.  To move to Quad ST, it will be useful to define a number that replaces ST in all the lift calculations, called "Lift Basis," equal to ST x ST / 10.  By itself, this small change allows much more diversity at the extremes of ST scores, while keeping the "average" character much the same as they always were. 
    Now that you've done that, how much can you actually lift?  The basic would indicate that "one handed lift" is six times Lift Basis, and "two handed lift" is 25 times Lift Basis.  While those are good generic descriptions, they don't necessarily connect well to what people might do in a weight room--it might be fun to be able to tell your fellow players "my character can easily curl over a hundred pounds…in one hand!"
   So how much can a character lift?  Here are some guidelines, based on 
 ***
     

> 1. The Quad ST formula and “lift basis” methodology

Okay, cool. The “Designer’s Notes” on why 6xST for one handed lift and 25xST for two-handed lift imply Benching X or Squatting Y would be very useful.

> 2. Extra effort rules and options (base off of HT, ST, DX; what
> happens when you fail)

Fine with me. Naturally, I like HT.

> I’d also like to incorporate your suggestion that Extra Effort be limited in most circumstances to a relatively small amount, but include the “scale” for super-heroic lifting – which fits in as well for Conan as for Superman.

An explicit mention that EE in the article can be substituted in Linear ST games would be nice – just takes a sentence, and I’m pretty sure it works there. I’m using it now, and it is working fine.

> 3. Some simple examples of real-world weightlifting records 4. Equipment used to set those records and what it does to the HT roll (I”m assuming HT because I like it best)

Yeah, me too. I’ve been swayed away from ST, and I was never really convinced on DX (too many lifters are big, blocky guys who couldn’t outlumber a slug but could pick up a house…). I also like the effect having one roll determine both success and possible injury, which is another pointer towards HT.
We should do this the same way I suggested last time this came up – you be the primary author, so you get the final word on what goes in or not. It works better if someone can end things with “I like it this way so it stays.” Since you’ve done most of the work, it’s only fair that you get to yea/nay parts of it.

***


In his weekly update on all things GURPS, +Sean Punch notes:

We made the final text corrections to GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling, by Doug Cole (douglascole). We still have art wrinkles to iron out, however.

Depending on how much you know about the internal production process, this may be cryptic. This is good news, though. I know what the text corrections are (not surprising) and they are good, since the mighty Kromm has reduced further the potential “special cases” that some of the more oddball rules expansions and clarifications could have introduced.

The “art wrinkles” thing will receive no further explication from me at this time, other than to say if they’re what I think they are, I’m very happy that all systems are not go just yet.
Other than that wrinkle, I’m quite pleased with the art that I’ve seen. It’s a rules-dense book, and much of the breakup in the flow of text is taken up with pull-quotes, many of which are rules excerpts from the book itself. I had my playtesters go through and help me pick out the most crucial new rules and concepts, and we tried to use those. That doesn’t always work with layout, but where it did, they were used. We also have the usual assortment of fun quotes, from Lee to Fiori, from Chaucer to Talhoffer, from Silver to Solo. And more.
And for what it’s worth, I also have about 5,000 words of Designer’s Notes that are ready to go if needed. If they don’t appear in “official” print, I’ll post them here. Depending on how such things are handled, I might be able to do both.

This is starting to feel almost real. Yay!

Welcome to the August installment of Melee Academy, which as always is a fine way to celebrate the fact that Thursday is GURPS-Day.

Today’s topic was inspired by a pretty long forum thread on using reach weapons, and the impact of the Wait maneuver providing what seemed to be a sure-fire way of closing to combat range with a Reach 1 weapon. We’ll assume for the same of simplicity that Fighter 1 has a Reach 1 weapon, a broadsword, axe, or something similar, and Fighter 2 is wielding a Reach 2 weapon, usually conceived as a spear (with a thrusting mode only for imp damage, a tip slash for a small amount of cutting damage, or using the butt to smash). However, it could just as easily be a naginata (sw cut) or dueling halberd (many effective modes) or other polearm, which could conceivably have swing or thrust modes that do impaling, cutting, or crushing damage.

Still, the principles here probably can be said to apply to any reach discrepancy, whether it be our Reach 1 vs. Reach 2 (or likely 1,2) example above, but could also apply to a punch (Reach C) vs kick (Reach C,1) fight.

But before we get into that, what are the sources of reach advantage?

Size: Larger creatures may well have larger reach, or be able to (as +Mark Langsdorf notes in his own entry on shield walls) simply negate a reach advantage by walking over it.

Weapon: The easiest way to get a longer reach is (obviously) to pick up a long weapon. Spears, polearms, some longer swords, two-handed axes and flails, and the ever popular staff all have at least Reach 2, and some are even Reach 2,3. Some pikes can be Reach 6, but those are not exactly practical adventurer-level gear.

Maneuvers: There are a few different ways of picking up an extra hex of Reach above and beyond the natural one for your weapon of choice.

All-Out Attack (Long) gives you a flat-out extra yard of reach, at the low-low cost of all ability to defend. The possibly suicidal nature of All-Out Anything has been discussed before!

Committed Attack is an interesting one, since it allows an extra step, which can explicitly be used to step into range, and then step out (called in the text ‘attack and fly out’). The trick to watch for here is that your defensive option are quite limited. To quote the text:

The attacker cannot parry with the hand(s) he used to attack, block if he attacked with his shield or cloak, or dodge if he kicked. He can use any other defense, but at -2. He cannot retreat.

So when doing this, you really need to be a bit careful, since if you declare Committed Attack and then press into someone’s Wait, you have precluded, by maneuver selection, a retreat.

This does not add extra reach, but might make it easier to leverage a reach advantage. +Peter V. Dell’Orto talks to this in his own discussion of how to keep a reach advantage.

Wait, Wait!

Many interesting but frequently futile discussions arise when conducting thought experiments that feature two fighters on an infinite featureless plain. In our case the forum thread pointed out that if Reach 2 decides to be aggressive and attacks into Reach 1’s Wait by closing to a two-yard distance (optimum striking range for his pole weapon), Reach 1 can have his Wait trigger on Reach 2’s step, which means he can step instantly to a 1-yard distance, and attack Reach 2 first, seemingly bypassing Reach 2’s spear. Just like magic.

As Peter points out, and as +Sean Punch noted in two replies, this is somewhat reflective of the spearman being aggressive. He’s not taking the right steps that can guarantee him the first shot – largely using the Wait himself.

Who’s waiting for Godot?

For the consideration of reach, there are really four situations that can be dealt with here, looking at two combatants, flat featureless terrain. So, with that:

Both Waiting


This one can be not terribly interesting, in a way. Both fighters are effectively immobile, unless one or both of the house-rule Step-and-Wait, or even Wait-and-Step are available. This can last a long time- effectively forever, unless some external factor pushes the decision. The Step-and-Wait / Wait-and-Step might trigger cascading waits (Martial Arts, p. 108).

Now, the Cascading Waits situation is interesting, because it largely means the more skilled fighter wins, with Reach breaking ties according to A Matter of Inches (Martial Arts, p. 110, in the box).

But there really isn’t – and frankly, I don’t think there should be – a way for the spearman to enter into a Wait (meaning it triggers) and automatically defeat the Waiting guy.

The Wait-and Step is an interesting option, basically invoking Cascading Waits any time the entering character wants. That’s cheesy, so perhaps you shoud treat that as sort of a Committed Wait, where you take -2 in the Contest to see whose Wait triggers first, and/or suffer some of the penalties associated with a Committed Attack.

Reach 2 is Waiting


Nightmare for Reach 1, and this is the way most people figure this should work anyway. The guy with the long weapon Waits until Reach 1 steps to three yards away, then Reach 2 steps and attacks. This is a nice place to use “attack and fly out,” since it puts you back to 3 hexes distance, and Reach 1 has already used his step – he may have even retreated back to Reach 4! He’s going to have to do something desperate to get inside of you – possibly a Move and Attack (max skill capped at 9) or if allowed, Heroic Charge, which still must deal with the spearman’s Wait, but if he lives, can close the distance perhaps to strike.

Reach 1 is Waiting


This is the case that bugs people where Reach 2 guy has a hard time stepping into attack range (2 hexes) without triggering Reach 1’s wait. Of course, Reach 2 gets to defend, so proper investment in Grip Mastery and/or Form Mastery, to allow claiming that +2 to Parry for using a spear like a staff helps a lot. You can use All-Out Attack (Long) to jab at your foe from a distance that he can’t reach, but it sets you up, if you fail, to receive a pretty ugly Heroic Charge or even just a Committed Attack with two steps, which will close from Reach 3 to Reach 1 to split your skull.

Neither is Waiting


Well, you don’t have to worry about triggering a Wait, so Reach 2 will want to use Attack and Fly Out a lot, to step to Reach 2, attack, and then back off to Reach 3. That forces Reach 1 to also use a Committed Attack (two steps) or All-Out Attack (Long) himself, if he doesn’t resort to Heroic Charge or the skill-capped Move and Attack. All-Out Attack will also close the distance up to half move, but we’ve already discussed why that’s a bad idea.

For the Reach 1 guy, if he’s not entering into a Wait, he’s still going to need a way to deal with moving through the threatened area, which really is the multiple-step options above, Committed Attack being the go-to here.

Bring Friends


The infinite featureless plain with only two combatants on it? Yeah, that doesn’t happen much. The reason why some of the Wait strategies make a lot more sense in a more real environment is that all of these individual combatants are really worried about the random arrow from the small cluster of orcs downrange, or the other skirmisher running around trying to flank them. Once that wait is triggered, for example, the guy can act . . . but what if he runs into another spearman who is also Waiting, with a longer weapon, protecting his brother? Alternating who Waits and who advances might be one way of dealing with the Reach 1 guy with the uncanny ability to bypass the spear tip.

Mark lays out all of this and more in his post, where the more friends, the merrier, and he really gets into stacking the deck to the point where the Reach 2 guys are not foolish to All-Out Whatever.

Parting Shot

Having a long weapon can be a real advantage. But it’s sort of the equivalent of a minor attack or defense bonus. It’s not the decisive fight-ending aspect, and one has to be tactically wise in how it’s used in order to keep it in the “win” column. Especially when certain weapons are awkward to use at Reach 1 (long weapons in Close Combat can get tricky, as well), some tactical effort and ideally, help from friends is a good idea. Aggressively closing the distance is not a good way for the spearman to preserve a reach advantage! Further, having a long weapon is no guarantee that a shorter-weapon guy can’t get inside your guard.

The “good” news is that Waits are obvious. So you should never be surprised when you step into range and short-weapon-guy’s Wait gets triggered. You know it’s coming, and you also know that he can close two hexes of Reach or take two steps with the right choice of maneuver. If you approach with a Reach 1,2 weapon to a Waiting foe at that distance, well, you know what you’re getting into.

Another trick here is to make that attack against you that you know he’ll get into something a bit less serious. Employ a Defensive Feint on approach (Martial Arts, p. 101), lower his attack roll, then step into range. His attack is more likely to miss, making your reduced defenses from an Attack and Fly Out less severe. Using a Setup Attack of some sort (Defensive Setup Attack?) might be an interesting option as well, but would require further house rules.

After a very long absence, we returned to discuss . . . dragons.

+Nathan Joy, the GM, says: “So, you have mariskos to the East, blocking the Path of Aganhei, weird things to the North that may have been heavily forshadowed in the windy pit o’ mean shaman, and a dragon that has recently been harassing the hell out of the village (and probably would be a PITA if you tried to head North without dealing with.)”

This naturally leads us to discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of white dragons. We establish that they get more powerful as they age (Cadmus: OK, kill ’em while they’re young. Oops. Too late.). They have many abilities dealing with snow. They can see through heavy snow as clear as day and they’re immune to cold. They can fly, swim, run, and burrow (through snow or ice especially fast), and are generally big, strong, heavily armored, and fast. Shiba also can fill in that have a freezing breath weapon, and can sometimes do wind and fog related stuff pretty much at will. And tend to be magic resistant. Shiba DOES note that their defenses are supposedly less effective against fire, but he’s not sure HOW less effective that is.

Village People. I hate these guys.

Hrm. We then go get an interpreter and some village people. We show them the windy pit of doom, and they come to the conclusion that their shaman was nuttier than a squirrel’s nest. And hey, those dead guys used to be our friends and neighbors. I thought the dragon took them!

We spend a bit of time speculating whether the dragon egg shards might have been a sacrifice or magical component for a spell. But move on from that (I mean, hey – fighting dragons is a genre staple) and learn that they don’t know anything in particular about the pictograms, aside from the fact that this symbol is that of Sithhud, demon lord of blizzards and the frozen dead, that the black stones seem to represent the weird black monoliths that hunters have been reporting up north, and that the towers surrounded in blue are the Nameless Spires, an ancient ruined city on the North Pole. Further,white mountains behind the single tower are definitely the Alabastrine Peaks, which are off to the

south of the pole, and the fanged arms are definitely the traditional representation of Morozkos. They find some really bad scrawled love poems next to the picture of the winged woman that says “Katiyana, who speaks to me on the winds from her tower in the storm.”

Shiba thanks them for their time and how they’ve completely solved all of our problems forever. Fortunately, sarcasm doesn’t translate well.

They do confirm that a dragon has definitely been attacking the village (game on!), and roughly where it is, about 60 miles north of the village, on the High Ice.

Shiba, ever the tactician (or is that +Mark Langsdorf ?) summarizes the plan:

Kill the dragon, get the dogsleds, go to Unaimo and shop, then turn to the left and head to the Peaks, put paid to the tower, and finally have the dramatic confrontation at the Nameless Spires and hope we’ve figured out how to come back by that point?

On the other hand, a fairly amusing Out-of-Character conversation ensues about the wisdom of following what seem to be the plot hooks of the adventure path:

[6:27:52 PM] crakkerjakk: I would strongly encourage the party to go epic and drag the whole damn caravan north via dogsled.
[6:27:59 PM] Emily Smirle: Heading out late in the season because you’re afraid it’ll get blocked is officially Stupid.
[6:28:03 PM] Emily Smirle: Just kinda saying.
[6:28:17 PM] Emily Smirle: But.
[6:28:20 PM] crakkerjakk: Because pathfinder assumes the party is idiots, and this is Nate Reads From A Book.
[6:28:35 PM] Emily Smirle: Why didn’t you say so in the first place? 😀
[6:28:44 PM] Douglas Cole: Figured it was obvious?
[6:28:51 PM] Theodore Briggs: true, also, Staver needs to BUY MORE HEALING POTIONS AT THE CARAVAN
[6:28:52 PM] Mark Langsdorf: None of us are especially going to argue if Ameiko or the caravan master overrule us.
[6:28:56 PM] crakkerjakk: Well, if you really want to leave the caravan back, I can wing something, I suppose.
[6:29:03 PM] Douglas Cole: I mean, “Please, dive into the frozen like to fight the water creatures in their natural element” is a freakin plot point
[6:29:08 PM] crakkerjakk: Cause that makes A LOT MORE SENSE>
[6:29:11 PM] Emily Smirle: Staver DOES need to buy more healing potions at the caravan!
[6:29:34 PM] Theodore Briggs: get the big ones, or at least not the smallest ones
[6:29:35 PM] Emily Smirle: I can do taht right now though. I have money. >.>
[6:29:36 PM] crakkerjakk: I’m kinda hesitant to make you do shit that’s too stupid.
[6:29:53 PM] Mark Langsdorf: We embrace the script, Nate. It’s cool.
[6:30:02 PM] crakkerjakk: Alright, thanks guys.
[6:30:05 PM] Emily Smirle: Gimme dat tasty worm on dat phishook.

And, the Hand of Plot moves us:

Shiba: Nods as Ameiko, Sandru, and Koya tell us they want to dogsled across the Pole ’cause they’re in a tearing hurry or something. Oni of the 5 Winds, the Seal box has been opened, it all makes sense.

Well, as long as we’re going white dragon hunting, we go for Fine climbing gear, alchemist’s fire, and stuff to present snow blindness. They are sadly lacking in magebane, flaming weapon consumables, napalm, and stuff to let us fly or see through snow. Alas.

Staver picks up 10 major healing potions and manages to coat 20 arrows with explody alchemist’s fire thanks to a double Scout! destiny point spend. We all shop for a while (too long, probably), and then finally head north having doused +Emily Smirle‘s character, Staver, in Worstershire sauce to attract the dragon.

Not really. Cadmus does keep floating that plan though.

After two days of northerly travel, the guides slow down as we start passing larger and larger skeletons of various large mammals, and at the end of the third day you draw close to a large rift in the glacial icepack. We see a rift about 30 yards long, and about 9 yards wide at it’s widest point. You see claw marks on the edge of the rift here and there, that look like they were made by claws the size of swords.

Won’t this be fun?

We spend a lot of time looking through lists of party expendables, and come up with “don’t notice me” ninja potions, a potion of fire breathing, a ring of distant blow, and a few other things squirreled away. Like a wand of exploding fireball arrows.

The GM wonders if the dragon will last more than a round.

Staver and Thumvar take flight, with Staver checking out the opening. We see a slightly-melted edge, and a seven-yard drop to a gash in the glacier. Shiba falls back and casts Walk on Air on both himself and Cadmus (crit success on one of us). So now we’re all airborne.

Mark has all the cool spells. As he says, he doesn’t have many, so he chooses carefully.

Gonna need one of these . . . 

Staver flies down the deep shaft, at least 100 yards to the bottom (yikes). He can make out the bottom of the shaft. It looks like it’s covered in a series of rocky crags, and he thinks he sees something sprawled among them. To make it out so clearly, it must be fairly large. Looks like a body, quadripedal and with wings. On the side of the shaft are a couple openings. There’s two to one side, one about 20 yards below the other, and another opening on the opposite side in between the two. The top one is a cave entrance about 10 yards wide. The floor is littered with broken eggshells.

Littered? Oh, that does not sound good. +Theodore Briggs reminds us all of Dragonslayer.

You see a stone hammer laying amound the remains of the eggshells that you would guess was made by one of the local human tribes by it’s construction, and you see something whitish-blue underneath one of the fragments of eggshell. You brush aside the eggshell carefully, trying not to make too much noise. Underneath is an amulet, made out of remorhaz scales. It looks very similar to the friendship tailsman that Ulf had, that the local tribes use to mark favor with outsiders.

The draconic shape at the bottom of the shaft turns out to be a large dragon corpse. So much for the surprise attack.

We cross and descend to the next cave mouth down, which is a wide and deep cavern in the ice. We see signs of repeated passage by something large with big claws through this one. Given the ripples in the ice at least a foot below the surface, you’re guessing it’s been used for at least decades, if not centuries. There are some fairly fresh tracks, too. Days, maybe. We proceed down the shaft, finally on the main combat map.

Or was that too metagame?

So, this whole cave slopes gently down towards the opening to the shaft. There’s a fairly large crevase in the middle of it, and beyond that it curves upwards and to the north.

The floor is fairly slick, strewn with rocks and bones, and on the other side of the crevasse is what looks kind of like a nest of some kind, with a bunch of busted up ice in a rough circle.

As we cautiously approach, Cadmus notices a solid wall of fog approaching. Much like the one we fought in last time. Alas. Shiba casts Purify air, which clears a patch of fog in the middle of the cavern, as we hear a scraping sound coming from behind Staver. Of course. We move closer to the open area made by Shiba, but we continue to hear the sound of something large moving in the direction of the nest.

Staver launches an arrow laced with alchemist’s fire towards the sound on general principle. Beingn appropriately heroic archer, he hits, but what the burning arrow reveals does not please anyone. Dragon! The good news is that the illumination of the flaming arrow (1d6 burn for 30 seconds with 1/5 DR) will last a while, and gives us a valid target. There is likely still the pesky priest from last game kicking around (this fog is his stock in trade, I think), but at least we have one bad guy marked, and lots of fire-based attacks.

W. T. F?!

Thumvar fast-draws his sword and makes a Heroic Charge at the dragon, with his full flying Move 11.  The dragon is visibly surprised, shouting “WTF?” in draconic as Thumvar does 16 (2) cut to one of its wings, and it rears back, screaming “Srsly, WTF?!”

No, I did not make that up. Blame Nate. 🙂

Shiba’s turn, and he looses an arrow – the previously prepared 6d exploding fireball arrow, one might note – at the dragon. “The Arrow Knows the Way!” he shouts, using Homing (Imbuement) and trusting that Thumvar is heavily armored enough to shrug off the blast. 20 burn damage if successful. Dragon dodges and drops, so he can get out of the way, successfully. He’s on fire, confused, and angry. Cadmus uses his ring of distant blow to the torso, biffs his activation roll, spends a destiny point, but critically succeeds for 10 (2) cut to the torso.

The dragon is not amused, and seemingly in a great deal of pain.

A crack appears along its scales, they are the color of polished ice, edged in silver.The dragon screams something at us in draconic, then pushes downward with some powerful claws. Ice cracks and fountains upward, and the dragon slips down into the glacier. He moved through solid ice as if it were yogurt.

Thumvar waits for the inevitable reappearance of the dragon, while Shiba concentrates to make the arrow come around for another pass. Patriot Arrow, baby.

Regrettably, internet connection issues caused us to end the session there. More dragon-fighting next week!